Knowledge is a subject with many interesting characteristics. For instance, it is handed down from one generation to the next and in this way can survive for thousands of years. This handing on can happen in many different ways, be it a father telling his son, folk songs narrating stories, written on scrolls or a certain sequence of zeros and ones on a computer drive.
But knowledge not only duplicates but it multiplies. Marie Freifrau von Ebner-Eschenbach, a German author who lived around the turn of the twentieth century, inspired an meaningful quote which goes as follows: “Knowledge is the only good that multiplies when you share it.”
And one of mankind’s greatest characteristics is its pursuit of sharing knowledge. One very recent account of this will of human beings to share and spread it with as many as possible is the emergence of Internet. So knowledge of things, ideas and workings has always been of importance and was sought after very much. This made it important to also think about the concept of knowledge itself. Over millennia people have tried to figure out the nature of knowledge and find an appropriate definition for it, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates being one of them. Before him and after his time many others thought about the topic as well, following on his ideas or coming up with completely different understandings of the concept of knowledge. But much as this was discussed in earlier times, it is of just as much importance today.
The knowledge I have acquired from being ignorant of the consequences the devices I used to get into prison offered me is the very knowledge I desire to use to empower a targeted group of people called ( Ex-Offenders). Society is suffering as a whole from this disingenuous correctional business. I say business because it offers no corrections, just incarceration. In my stays within the correctional systems I never was offered rehabilitation. May 25th 2010 I found happiness through receiving my vision of “Second Chance Alliance”. I am asking my fellow citizens to think hard about donating to my wife and I cause because we really believe it will make a difference in our communities we are apart of. Socrates cajoling his fellow citizens to think hard about questions of truth and justice, convinced as he was that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” While claiming that his wisdom consisted merely in “knowing that he knew nothing,” Socrates did have certain beliefs, chief among them that happiness is obtainable by human effort. Specifically, he recommended gaining rational control over your desires and harmonizing the different parts of your soul. Doing so would produce a divine-like state of inner tranquility that the external would could not effect. True to his word, he cheerfully faced his own death, discussing philosophy right up to the moments before he took the lethal hemlock. Through his influence on Plato and Aristotle, a new era of philosophy was inaugurated and the course of western civilization was decisively shaped.
Socrates has a unique place in the history of happiness, as he is the first known figure in the West to argue that happiness is actually obtainable through human effort. He was born in Athens, Greece in 460 BC; like most ancient peoples, the Greeks had a rather pessimistic view of human existence. Happiness was deemed a rare occurrence and reserved only for those whom the gods favored. The idea that one could obtain happiness for oneself was considered hubris, a kind of overreaching pride, and was to be met with harsh punishment.
Against this bleak backdrop the optimistic Socrates enters the picture. The key to happiness, he argues, is to turn attention away from the body and towards the soul. By harmonizing our desires we can learn to pacify the mind and achieve a divine-like state of tranquility. A moral life is to be preferred to an immoral one, primarily because it leads to a happier life. We see right here at the beginning of western philosophy that happiness is at the forefront, linked to other concepts such as virtue, justice, and the ultimate meaning of human existence.
The price Socrates paid for his honest search for truth was death: he was convicted of “corrupting the youth” and sentenced to die by way of Hemlock poisoning. But here we see the life of Socrates testifies to the truth of his teachings. Instead of bemoaning his fate or blaming the gods, Socrates faces his death with equanimity, even cheerfully discussing philosophy with his friends in the moments before he takes the lethal cup. As someone who trusted in the eternal value of the soul, he was unafraid to meet death, for he believed it was the ultimate release of the soul from the limitations of the body. In contrast to the prevailing Greek belief that death is being condemned to Hades, a place of punishment or wandering aimless ghost-like existence, Socrates looks forward to a place where he can continue his questionings and gain more knowledge. As long as there is a mind that earnestly seeks to explore and understand the world, there will be opportunities to expand one’s consciousness and achieve an increasingly happier mental state.
The costs of incarceration stretch far beyond prison walls, meals, and guards:
The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.
It costs over $26,000 to incarcerate one federal prisoner for one year — more than the average cost of one year of college education.
American taxpayers spend over $60 billion each year on prisons.
Half of all federal prisoners and one in five state prisoners are there for a drug offense — and it’s usually a nonviolent one.
Men who have served time in prison earn 40% less each year than men who have not been in prison.
One in every 28 children under age 18 has a parent in prison.
Long mandatory sentences have led to overcrowded, unsafe prisons
that are less cost-effective than alternatives like treatment and drug courts.
When Raynard Reaves left the North Carolina prison system last year after 32 years behind bars, he left with a bus ticket and the clothes on his back. But he also had something less tangible, something unavailable to most of North Carolina’s prison population: A support system provided by Winston-Salem’s Project Re-entry.
Now he’s a success story, a family man and productive employee with 15 unblemished months of freedom.
The man he is today is a far cry from the 19-year-old heroin addict who committed armed robbery and landed in Raleigh’s Central Prison, a maximum-security institution notorious for its tough inmate population.
Reaves said he credits Project Re entry for much of his success on the outside. The program starts inside prison with a 12-week curriculum of life skills classes. Once they’ve been released, ex-prisoners who’ve successfully completed the 12-week pre-release program are eligible to receive services and employment on the outside. It’s the only pre- to post release re-entry program in North Carolina and serves nine facilities including the Forsyth and Guilford correctional centers.
“I think they should make it mandatory for everyone who is in prison to go through the re-entry program,” Reaves said. Rebecca Sauter, director of Project Re-entry, measures the program’s accomplishments by employment statistics. Every program graduate who goes on to take and keep a full time job and doesn’t re-offend is considered a success. Now the city of Winston-Salem is considering contributing to that success by actively committing to employ graduates of the program, which started in the Forsyth Correctional Center in 1999. City Councilwoman Vivian Burke, who represents the city’s Northeast Ward, said Winston-Salem should be an example for area businesses by implementing an employment program for ex-offenders. Right now, the city doesn’t have a policy either barring or encouraging the employment of ex-offenders. A proposal working its way through committee would encourage departments to hire ex-felons who have successfully completed programs like Project Re-entry.
Click the link below to view our proposed model for Riverside County and donate one dollar or as your heart leads. Thanks for your time in viewing our content and dreams.
One day I bought an inexpensive model of the solar system for my son. Installing it required me to suspend each planet from the ceiling. After bending up and down several times, I was lightheaded and tired. Hours later, we heard a “plink” as Jupiter hit the floor.
Later that night, I thought about how our flimsy replica fell apart, yet Jesus sustains the actual universe. “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col. 1:17). The Lord Jesus holds our world together, maintaining the natural laws that rule the galaxy. Our Creator also upholds “all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus is so mighty that He keeps the universe in order simply by commanding it to be so!
As amazing as this is, Jesus is more than a cosmic caretaker. He sustains us too. He “gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need” (Acts 17:25 NLT). While Jesus sometimes provides for us differently than we might expect, our Savior keeps us going whether we are brokenhearted, in need of money, or enduring illness.
Until the day He calls us home, we can trust that the One who keeps Jupiter from falling is the One who holds us up as well.
Awesome is our God and King, Who upholds the stars above; We now bow before His throne, Thanking Him for His great love. —D. De Haan
What am I to do? I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good work, therefore, any kindness, or any service I can render to any soul of man or animal let me do it now. Let me not neglect or defer it, for I shall not pass this way again.
t isn’t the thing you do, dear,
It’s the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you the bitter heartache
At the setting of the sun;
The tender word unspoken,
The letter you did not write,
The flower you might have sent, dear,
Are your haunting ghosts at night.
The stone you might have lifted
Out of your brother’s way,
The bit of heartsome counsel
You were hurried too much to say;
The loving touch of the hand, dear,
The gentle and winsome tone,
That you had no time or thought for,
With troubles enough of your own.
These little acts of kindness,
So easily out of mind,
These chances to be angels,
Which even mortals find
They come in night and silence,
Each chill reproachful wraith,
When hope is faint and flagging,
And a blight has dropped on faith.
For life is all too short, dear.
And sorrow is all too great,
To suffer our slow compassion
That tarries until too late.
And it’s not the thing you do, dear,
It’s the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you the bitter heartache, At the setting of the sun.
Give what you have; to someone it may be better than you dare to think.
No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
In my quest to understand sexual sin I went back to the years of my youth. I compared television and movies of yesterday, I looked at technology then verses now and I found that I am without excuse because the spirit has always been there to tell me how to walk, but I haven’t always followed it’s promptings. Being true to myself and my confession hasn’t come without failure. I solicit us all to perform 1 Corinthians 9:27 to make our body, mind and soul heed to the calling upon our life.
For the last twenty years thousands of men from across America struggling with sexual sin have come across my path. In the various men’s groups I have facilitated and most of the our fathers and husbands struggle with being holy in thoughts and deeds, Over half were pastors and missionaries.
I wish our experience was unique.
Several years ago a seminary professor told me: “We no longer ask our entering students if they are struggling with pornography, we assume every student is struggling. The question we ask: ‘How serious is the struggle?’”
One missions agency told me that 80% of their applicants voluntarily indicate a struggle with pornography, resulting in staff shortages on the field.
Pornography is just one level of sin, a form of visual sex, or heart adultery. Physical adultery includes an affair, multiple affairs, prostitution, and homosexuality. Other sexual behaviors within the ministry are such heinous “unfruitful works of darkness . . . it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret” (Ephesians 5:11–12). To face the crisis we must correctly understand the nature of the problem, ask God to search our own hearts, and be committed to restore each one caught in sexual sin “in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1).
I have pondered long and hard two questions: Why do people repeatedly return to sexual sin and why do people turn away from sexual sin?
Lured Toward Sin
First, I would say that after two decades of helping set free those held captive by sexual sin, I’m convinced that the concept of sexual addiction as a disease does not fully identify the seriousness of the problem. If we are going to get serious about the problem in the church we can ill afford to be misled in our thinking. The real problem is hidden deep within. The least bit of lust is an indication of vast corruption in the human heart. It is an enslavement that cannot be broken through any form of behavior management, recovery program, or counseling. The inside is so ravaged by sin that we can do nothing to change it.
When one is held in the grip of sexual sin, there is no hope of self-reform or self-efforts, for those living according to the “passions of their flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind” (Ephesians 2:3). To put it bluntly, those living in habitual sexual sin are “dead in their trespasses and sin” (verse 1). Dead, in a loss of spiritual life. Dead to finding satisfaction with God. Dead to living for his purpose. Holiness is dead. Wisdom is dead. Purity is dead. Love is dead. Like David, the sexual sinner has sinned “against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13), and in so doing has “utterly scorned the Lord” (verse 14). The horrible fact is they are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).
I believe addictionology plays down the seriousness of sin and the necessity of the work of God when it encourages the sexual addict to accept the theory that recovery will only be successful when they begin to believe that they are a good person at the core and just have a disease.
Diagnoses always determine the method of treatment. So ‘good’ people only need to get serious, follow the steps of recovery, and remain in recovery. The opposite is true. When dealing with sexual sin we must hold fast to the teaching of Jesus Christ, “For from within, out of the heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, . . . adultery” (Mark 7:21).
By nature and by choice we satisfy ourselves, rebel against God, and have no accurate understanding of the depth of our problem. The heart is deceptive, and without supernatural change it will grow worse. The only hope is “the grace of God . . . training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11–12).
Look closely and you will see that the sexual sinner is disappointed with pleasure in their pursuit of what is essentially false intimacy. As one pastor, who was living in two adulterous relationships, put it: “This was the insanity; I no sooner finished the sexual act and immediately broke into tears, devastated by what I had done, but I only returned again and again to the same sinful relationship.”
As sinners we are created with desires for intimacy and for delight. Therefore, “The way to fight lust is to feed faith with the precious and magnificent promise that the pure in heart will see, face to face, the all-satisfying God of glory” (Future Grace, 338).
Yet the sexual sinner, finding no pleasure in real intimacy with God, ultimately finds no pleasure in false intimacy. Real intimacy has both pain and pleasure; false intimacy offers the illusion of no pain, but in the end there is no real pleasure! A part of exchanging the “truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:25) is that you end up with pleasure now, pain forever!
Deception runs deeper than we think. Deception is inherent to the problem of sexual sin on two levels.
First, there is the double life with clandestine liaisons, endless hidden hours on a computer, or the misuse of unaccounted time away from the office or home. The behavior is carefully hidden from view, but there are lies, then more lies to cover the lies. Face the facts: the motive for secrecy is to keep doing it. But secrecy of sexual sin also indicates a person’s commitment to flee from the light. “And people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19).
The second level of deception is self-deception. If the heart is deceitful, it impacts the way we want to see the secret things in our lives, particularly secret sexual sins. The missionary can justify going to nude beaches; a pastor sees the value of an affair because it makes him happy; going to a prostitute on Monday is just a reward for hard work on Sunday.
When you say, “I will keep this part of my life a secret,” what are you hiding?
Hidden from view is a scandalous behavior that would certainly horrify any congregation or spouse. It is also a calculated contradiction of one’s public image that if revealed would bring ruin. It also may be a relationship that you believe is so fulfilling you can’t imagine ending it.
Everyone thinks they are hiding their acts of sin: lust, cheating, porn, and adultery. Such thinking makes it easier to justify the secrecy for the greater good of one’s marriage, family, ministry, job, and future. Such rationalization is universal to all secret sexual sin. “After all, a lot of people would be hurt if they knew what I was doing.” As one pastor put it, “I was in a six month affair, at the same time preaching and counseling against adultery, and telling myself that God didn’t care because the church was growing.”
In reality, it is not the behavior alone that is hidden.
Secret sexual sin is an invasive poison to the soul, mind and the body. It is a poison deep within the recesses of the soul that keeps one from finding satisfaction in God and meaningful intimacy with others. This is a poison that will kill not only in this life, but also life eternal! “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure . . . has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5). Sexual behavior that is indistinguishable from the unbelieving world may indicate a person is not truly a child of God.
The Turn From Sin
Why do people turn away from sexual sin?
In thousands of cases that I have counseled, only about one-percent of the men have come to us voluntarily and preemptively. Ninety-nine percent of the men were caught.
Getting caught in sexual sin doesn’t change the heart.
I can’t prove it, but I believe that God will providentially expose the secret sexual sin of his children.
It staggers our finite imagination that God will allow his chosen ones to go deep into brazen sexual sin, live in it for many years, and have so many people badly hurt. And no matter how difficult it is for spouses and church members to see it in the moment, God is at work when a pastor’s sin is exposed. Exposure is a sovereign act of God. God’s ways are not our ways! In all the vileness and rebellion against God that is a big part of sexual sin, exposure is showing us the perfect patience of Christ.
Many times I’ve been asked, “How can you keep dealing with such sinful men?” There are two reasons: First, I have seen over and over again the power of God to change the darkest sinner. Second, restoration with God is more important than anything. It is more important than career or marriage. God cares more for you, your soul, and your wife than he does your gifts and calling. You are his child before you are a pastor or a husband.
After secret sexual sin is exposed we can make the mistake of focusing on the actions and attempt to eliminate behavior. We may be inadvertently feeding a false conviction rather than aiding true conviction.
False conviction is a reflex reaction caused by self-disgust, a sorrow over the consequences of sin. True conviction is an abiding sorrow over the offence against God, and while not the natural response, it does demonstrate that God has begun a good work that he will complete. True conviction is followed by true repentance. False conviction is followed by counterfeit repentance that only sees the consequences of sexual sin and the pain it caused others. Often this leads to a temporary change in behavior without a heart change.
Heart change is critical, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexual immoral (Gk. porneia) or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater) has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5). There is no room for error when it comes to dealing with sexual sin. There is a demand to either repent or perish (Luke 13:3, 5). So there must be inner transformation of the heart because it is “deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Christians must take severe measures in killing this sin. This is the real danger: “Every unclean thought would be adultery if it could” (John Owen). “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality . . .” (Colossians 3:5).
The cross isn’t a recovery program, the place to improve on what good is already there. It is a place to die. It is not a question of giving up sexual sin, but of giving up one’s rights!
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17–18). As dead sinners we lived “in the passion of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Ephesians 2:3). Deceived, we foolishly think we can use our bodies as we choose when we are in love, when it brings us pleasure, when it makes us a whole person or feeds our spiritual well being. The truly repentant sexual sinner begins to grasp, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
True repentance is radical change from the inside out. “The basic meaning of repent is to experience a change of the mind’s perceptions and dispositions and purposes” (What Jesus Demands, 41). Repentance is not just becoming sexually pure, but an inward change, “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). Inward change leads to sexual purity. Repentance happens on the inside where heart change includes the development of an ingrained attitude to flee sexual immorality.
Don’t Wait To Get Caught
Some time ago I met a pastor who told me that he had two or three affairs in each of the several churches he had pastored. He said, “My reputation in my denomination is to take a small struggling church and see it grow, only to again take another small church and see it grow. I’ve made that move three times, but in fact, I was only moving to a new church before I got caught in those affairs.” That man has no reason to expose his sexual sin or leave the ministry. Why should anyone know?
Why should anyone turn from sexual sin before being caught?
First, don’t let yourself be deceived. “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil . . . No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:8, 9). While not completely free from sin, the heart of the true believer has been transformed, and they cannot live in a pattern of continual sexual sin.
Second, the exhortation is to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Third, fear is not a virtue. Yes, exposure will be costly, but right now you are dying on the inside. It may not feel like dying right now, but you are, you are slowly killing yourself, your spouse, your family, and your congregation.
Fourth, if secret sexual sin has severe consequences, it is worth dealing with before the devastation occurs. Obvious examples come to mind to get help before: your Internet browsing history is discovered and shared; the prostitute turns into an uncover police women and you are arrested for soliciting; you contract an STD; or you are publicly exposed, humiliating yourself, your spouse, your family, and your congregation.
Fifth, it will come out. God is never mocked. “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness” (Romans 11:22).
Sixth, getting caught shatters trust and honesty in marriage, embarrasses your spouse, and makes reconciliation more difficult.
Seventh, there is hope. It begins with facing the truth. It is never just a struggle with your thought life; like all sexual sin, it is evil. If there is an old self to put off, there must be a new self to put on; that is the gospel.
Hear the Better Word
Christ bears the wrath that will come for all sexual sin. If you are a true believer and real change has occurred, you are called to put off the old and put on the new. Killing sexual sin starts with exposure; it ends with no longer being enslaved (Romans 6:6). Exposure is painful, but it is better to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” than to hear, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
If you are a pastor stuck in sexual sin, no matter how well you have attempted to cover those sins with layers and layers of lies, I plead with you, step out from the darkness of those sins. Step into the light. Get help. You will never find life in the shadows.
We all have core concerns – life defining and life controlling values and/or issues. These ‘concerns’ can be personal, social and/or cultural, yet the cultural core concerns distinguish people groups. Generally, the societal norms and protocols are oriented to the dominant culture. Because of this, the cultural core concerns of the sub-dominant culture tend to be left unaddressed. In the African American culture, these concerns are related to empowerment, namely, dignity, identity and significance.
To apply all of God’s word to life is to “do theology.” Therefore, theology tends to be historically and culturally determined. Witness the great creeds and confessions of the church; each of these was formulated in response to a challenge the church was facing at the time. The context in which theology develops plays a formative role. Doing theology can be approached in two ways: cognitively involving conceptual knowledge, and intuitively involving perceptual knowledge.
The conversation is always sad, always tragic. The pastor who left his church after a two-year affair with another church member. The student pastor who has been out of vocational ministry since he had a brief sexual encounter with his assistant.
I have spoken with countless numbers of these men and women. And each time I am reminded of how much I need to love God with all my heart, and to be totally devoted to my wife.
Though the conversations are both sad and tragic, I do learn from them. And after dozens, perhaps a few hundred, of these conversations, I see patterns. These patterns become warning signs for any of us, lest we be so naïve to think we have no vulnerabilities.
Because the conversations were informal, I cannot say for certain which among them were the most frequent warning signs. So I provide them in no particular order.
“I neglected my family.” Church work can become a deceitful mistress (I struggle to find the male equivalent of the word). We become so consumed with our ministry that we neglect our families. But 1 Timothy 3:5 is clear that our families are our first ministries.
“I had no system of accountability.” Unfortunately, most churches do not have clear guidelines for accountability. That does not excuse any of us from making sure that we have such self-imposed guidelines, and that our spouses know about them as well.
“It began in counseling.” Sometimes the word “transference” is used to describe what can happen in counseling. The counselor or counselee becomes the object of attraction instead of one’s spouse. One or both of the parties see the other as something his or her spouse should be.
“My co-worker and I began to confide in one another on a deep level.” The conversations between two people who work together become ones that should be restricted to the marital relationship. At this point, an emotional affair has already begun. Physical intimacy is usually not far away.
“I began neglecting my time in prayer and daily Bible reading.” I am reticent to make a blanket statement, but I have never met a person who was praying and reading his or her Bible daily that became involved in an affair. Prayer and time in the Word are intimacy with God that precludes inappropriate intimacy with someone of the opposite gender.
“He or she made me feel so good about myself.” In marriage, neither party thinks the spouse is perfect; at least it is rare. The danger happens when one becomes a hero to someone of the opposite gender. The good feelings that come with accolades or even adulation can become sexual attractions and traps that end in an affair.
“It began on a trip together.” When a man and woman travel to the same destination for a work event, conference, or a convention, safeguards need to be established at the onset. A system of accountability, whether informal or formal, can break down when a man and woman are out of town together. Call me old fashioned, but I won’t ever travel in the car alone with a woman other than my wife (even at my old age).
The conversation is always sad, always tragic. And do you know what the most common theme I’ve heard in all of these conversations?
For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness (Galatians 5:5, RV).
There are times when things look very dark to me–so dark that I have to wait even for hope. It is bad enough to wait in hope. A long-deferred fulfillment carries its own pain, but to wait for hope, to see no glimmer of a prospect and yet refuse to despair; to have nothing but night before the casement and yet to keep the casement open for possible stars; to have a vacant place in my heart and yet to allow that place to be filled by no inferior presence–that is the grandest patience in the universe. It is Job in the tempest; it is Abraham on the road to Moriah; it is Moses in the desert of Midian; it is the Son of man in the Garden of Gethsemane. There is no patience so hard as that which endures, “as seeing him who is invisible”; it is the waiting for hope.
Thou hast made waiting beautiful; Thou has made patience divine. Thou hast taught us that the Father’s will may be received just because it is His will. Thou hast revealed to us that a soul may see nothing but sorrow in the cup and yet may refuse to let it go, convinced that the eye of the Father sees further than its own.
Give me this Divine power of Thine, the power of Gethsemane. Give me the power to wait for hope itself, to look out from the casement where there are no stars. Give me the power, when the very joy that was set before me is gone, to stand unconquered amid the night, and say, “To the eye of my Father it is perhaps shining still.”
I shall reach the climax of strength when I have learned to wait for hope. –George Matheson
Strive to be one of those–so few–who walk the earth with ever-present consciousness–all mornings, middays, star-times–that the unknown which men call Heaven is “close behind the visible scene of things.”
Many have sought to discover the minimal Christianity required of them to “still be Christian”. “How much of the world can I love, or how much of my agenda can I pursue and still be okay with God?” they ask. Or, “Just how sinful, casual, or lukewarm are we allowed to be and still be saved?” Of course the Bible isn’t much help in answering these questions. The whole tenor of Scripture disallows such thinking. On the contrary, Christ assertively commands his people to love the Triune God “with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your strength, and all of your mind” (Luke 10:27). The Apostles plead with the people of God to “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). There is no assistance in describing minimalism because Christianity is all about maximal, whole-life, wholehearted devotion and commitment to Christ. We must come to realize that radical Christianity is normative Christianity. Sure, we are still subject to and plagued with periodic bouts of sin and failure, but the new life Christ gives sets in every regenerate heart a passion to live fully for our Creator and King. The Holy Spirit doesn’t add to sinners a new set of ancillary interests; he radically transforms hearts to voraciously and eternally seek the glory of their Maker. So may we never be heard asking, “What can I get away with?” but instead may we perpetually ask, “How might I love God and more perfectly serve him today?”
What’s your excuse for not serving God?
In the last six months I have asked that question due to my frustration of having to be still so many hours and especially not being able to move as I want to and fro. My discipline in Christ was disconnected and I was flapping in the wind. Brothers there is no room for compromise in Jesus. The word is clear and concise on what is expected of us. Paul withstood not only the tests that came while active in his service to Christ but also the test of during captivity. We may be able to withstand the strain of most intense labor, even if coupled with severe suffering, and yet completely break down if set aside from all Christian activity and work. This would be especially true if we were forced to endure solitary confinement in a prison cell.
Even the most majestic bird, which soars higher than all others & endures the longest flights, will sink into despair when placed in a cage, where it is forced to helplessly beat its wings against its prison bars. Have you ever seen a magnificent eagle forced to languish in a small cage? With bowed head and drooping wings, it is a sad picture of sorrow of inactivity. My beloved of the brethren my countenance was in this same condition, no prayer meeting, no men’s group activity no interaction with the church family I had began to droop in my appearance and my personal prayer life was not as effective my work performance to me was substandard. I contemplated this question every waking moment of my existence in the world of rush and hurry and compromise and rental obligations and bills “How might I love God and more perfectly serve him today?
To see Paul in prison is to see another side of life. Have you noticed how he handled it? He seemed to be looking over the tops of his prison wall and over the heads of his enemies. Notice how he even signed his name to his letters—not as the prisoner of Festus, nor of Caesar, and not as a victim of the Sanhedrin, but as “ a prisoner for the Lord” ( Eph.4:1). Through it all, he saw only the hand of God at work. To him, the prison became a palace, with its corridors resounding with shouts of triumphant praise and joy.
Paul was forced from the missionary work he loved so well, He had to built a new pulpit— a new witness stand. And from his place of bondage arose some of the most encouraging and helpful ministries of Christian liberty. What precious message of light came from the dark shadow of his captivity. Brothers we all face some type of prison but keep this in mind while going through “ What’s Required”?
If God would have wanted us to live in a permissive society He would have given us Ten Suggestions and not Ten Commandments. – Zig Ziglar
What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter (John 13:7).
We have only a partial view here of God’s dealings, His half-completed, half-developed plan; but all will stand out in fair and graceful proportions in the great finished Temple of Eternity!
Go, in the reign of Israel’s greatest king, to the heights of Lebanon. See that noble cedar, the pride of its compeers, an old wrestler with northern blasts! Summer loves to smile upon it, night spangles its feathery foliage with dewdrops, the birds nestle on its branches, the weary pilgrim or wandering shepherd reposes under its shadows from the midday heat or from the furious storm; but all at once it is marked out to fall; The aged denizen of the forest is doomed to succumb to the woodman’s stroke!
As we see the axe making its first gash on its gnarled trunk, then the noble limbs stripped of their branches, and at last the “Tree of God,” as was its distinctive epithet, coming with a crash to the ground, we exclaim against the wanton destruction, the demolition of this proud pillar in the temple of nature. We are tempted to cry with the prophet, as if inviting the sympathy of every lowlier stem–invoking inanimate things to resent the affront–“Howl, fir tree; for the cedar has fallen!”
But wait a little. Follow that gigantic trunk as the workmen of Hiram launch it down the mountain side; thence conveyed in rafts along the blue waters of the Mediterranean; and last of all, behold it set a glorious polished beam in the Temple of God. As you see its destination, placed in the very Holy of Holies, in the diadem of the Great King–say, can you grudge that “the crown of Lebanon” was despoiled, in order that this jewel might have so noble a setting? That cedar stood as a stately prop in Nature’s sanctuary, but “the glory of the latter house was greater than the glory of the former!”
How many of our souls are like these cedars of old! God’s axes of trial have stripped and bared them. We see no reason for dealings so dark and mysterious, but He has a noble end and object in view; to set them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His Heavenly Zion; to make them a “crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of our God.”
I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see–
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand,
And follow Thee.
SuEllen Fried, 80, is a far cry from your typical grandmother of seven. Every week, she visits prisons in Kansas, where she meets with inmates who range from drug and sex offenders to murderers facing life sentences. They’ve all committed crimes, and they all want to turn their lives around.
“I’m addicted to personal transformations,” Fried tells The Huffington Post.
It’s an addiction that has led Fried — an anti-bullying activist and the founder of Reaching out from within (ROFW), a volunteer program that teaches Kansas prison inmates the principle of nonviolence — to build a life that revolves around helping others, particularly those who have been abused or marginalized, reach their highest potential.
During her visits to the state’s 18 prisons, the Prairie Village, Kan., resident talks with inmates and listens to them participate in weekly ROFW meetings, which offer coaching in stress relief, nonviolence, kindness and empathy. The meetings operate in a manner comparable to Alcoholics Anonymous. The inmates elect their own officers to lead meetings, and each starts with the group’s recitation of a nonviolence mantra:
We believe that no one has the right to hit anyone. We believe in using alternatives to cope with stress and anger. We believe in advocating a violence-free lifestyle. We believe that, even though we are incarcerated, we can help those in need. We believe in the importance of caring for humanity.
The participants then go around and share stories, listen to one another, and discuss any relevant topics of interest — child abuse and anger management are two that come up frequently — following the program’s “Blue Book” curriculum.
“The discussions are always extremely lively, and they just learn so much from each other,” Fried says. The level of honesty and authenticity in the discussions is astounding, she added.
And the effects linger when the meetings end: “When fights break out, the members of our group are always a calming, diffusing influence — and others in the prison begin to notice how they handle situations differently,” Fried says.
Fried co-founded ROFW 30 years ago with a prison inmate as a way to offer help to prisoners who wanted to change their ways. The program’s impact on recidivism rates has been enormous: Going through the program dramatically reduces the likelihood of an inmate repeating illegal behavior after being released from prison, Fried says. Over 40 percent of American prisoners released in 2004 returned to a state penitentiary within three years of being released, according to a 2011 Pew study. Among inmates who attend between 20 and 40 ROFW meetings, the recidivism rate drops to 23 percent, according to Fried, and it further decreases to just 8 percent among inmates who attend a minimum of 60 meetings.
Working with the inmates and watching their incredible personal transformations has also been a transformative experience for Fried.
“Some of the people I came to have the most respect and appreciation for are the ones who have committed horrible crimes,” she says.
Fried’s program is now in every prison in the state of Kansas, and ROFW will soon open its first out-of-state chapter in a North Carolina correctional facility. Fried says that her longtime dream is for the program to exist in every state in the U.S.
Giving back has long been a way of life for Fried, and even now her drive to improve the lives of others is tireless. Since 1976, Fried has worked as a bullying prevention activist, penning five books on the topic, four of which were co-authored with her daughter Paula, a Kansas psychologist. Through her foundation BullySafeUSA, Fried and has helped thousands of students and teachers in schools across the country.
“She is one of those indomitable spirits who has transformed more lives than even she can know,” Lynn Hinkle, Fried’s friend and the president of the International Women’s Forum in Kansas, tells HuffPost. “SuEllen looks at people in their most humane form and sees the best in them, whether they are an incarcerated individual, a bully, a victim, or the president of a company or a country. When she says she believes in you, it feels so true that you feel compelled to believe in yourself too.”
So what has a lifetime of working with bullied children and prison inmates taught Fried? Patience, non-judgment, and — above all else — compassion. Fried explains the need for compassion using an analogy from Dr. Karl Menninger’s The Human Mind: A group of fish are swimming around in a pond when they notice one fish lying on its side with its tail flapping, and they decide to get away as quickly as possible from the weird fish — never noticing that the reason for its behavior is that it has a hook in its mouth, and the fish was just doing the best it could.
“Every day, we come in contact with people who have invisible hooks that we can’t see,” Fried says. “But if we could see those hooks and understand what those people are going through, we might appreciate that they are doing the best they can considering the circumstances that they are in.”
To continue spreading compassion outside the walls of Kansas state penitentiaries, Fried wears a pin every day that reads, “Power Of Kindness.” In the course of the day, she gives it away to someone she sees performing an act of kindness.
“I carry a bunch in my purse to give away,” she says, laughing. She often gives them away on plane trips when she sees someone give up a good seat for a worse one so that a family can sit together, Fried says.
Recognizing and celebrating acts of kindness, Fried explains, is the best way to spread a spirit of giving and encourage others to act with empathy.
“We need more than just random acts of kindness,” Fried says. “We need intentional acts of kindness.”
A criminal record is usually not the kind of qualification most employers have in mind when looking for new hires.
But some managers know that formerly incarcerated employees can add value to their companies.
Mark Peters, CEO of Butterball Farms Inc, a national supplier of specialty butters, regularly hires former prisoners and says companies should consider giving these workers a chance.
He’s launching a study and wants other companies to participate in it to examine the benefits and challenges of those who have spent time behind bars, according to WWMT3.
While many employers remain skeptical about hiring ex-offenders, others extol the benefits of adding these members to your staff. Here are four reasons, in addition to the social benefit, why you should consider rehabilitated offenders.
1. They’ll be looking out for you since you looked out for them.
Since most people who have spent time in prison find it difficult to get jobs and re-enter society, they’ll likely be extremely grateful and loyal to any employer who gives them a chance.
“There’s plenty of people I can hire that don’t care if they work for me or the guy down the street,” said Peters. “I’d rather have somebody who’s really engaged and helping my organization be successful. So if I help someone else be successful, they’re a lot more interested in helping me be successful.”
2. The training they received in prison may be transferable to your job.
Many people who spend time behind bars are able to receive vocational training and participate in certification programs for GEDs and college degrees, which can help prepare them for employment and provide valuable skills that transfer across fields. It might also mean they are familiar with discipline and hard work.
3. They’ll stay with you longer.
People who have been incarcerated greatly value their jobs when they get hired, according to the Travis County Offender Workforce Development Program in Texas. Their website says, “The ex-offenders in our program have demonstrated a commitment to leading an honest and responsible life. Finding employment is not easy for them–once hired they are not likely to quit–they are highly motivated to become long-term employees.”
4. There could be tax incentives for employers.
Business who hire ex-felons within one year after they are convicted or released from prison may qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit which gives employers a maximum of $2,400 for each adult hired. Read the fact sheet here for more information.
Mass incarceration is a massive system of racial and social control. It is the process by which people are swept into the criminal justice system, branded criminals and felons, locked up for longer periods of time than most other countries in the world who incarcerate people who have been convicted of crimes, and then released into a permanent second-class status in which they are stripped of basic civil and human rights, like the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to public benefits.
It is a system that operates to control people, often at early ages, and virtually all aspects of their lives after they have been viewed as suspects in some kind of crime.
Give me a sense of what’s happened over the last 40 years in terms of the numbers of people in prison, in terms of how it’s affected specific communities, whether it’s very high turnover or people coming on now.
For a very long time, criminologists believed that there was going to be a stable rate of incarceration in the United States. About 100 of 100,000 people were incarcerated, and that rate remained constant up until into the early 1970s. And then suddenly there was a dramatic increase in incarceration rates in the United States, more than a 600 percent increase in incarceration from the mid-1960s until the year 2000.
An exceptional growth in the size of our prison population, it was driven primarily by the war on drugs, a war that was declared in the 1970s by President Richard Nixon and which has increased under every president since. It is a war that has targeted primarily nonviolent offenders and drug offenders, and it has resulted in the birth of a penal system unprecedented in world history.
So America has a higher incarceration rate than other nations. Do they have a higher crime rate than other nations?
No. The United States actually has a crime rate that is lower than the international norm, yet our incarceration rate is six to 10 times higher than other countries’ around the world.
It’s not crime that makes us more punitive in the United States. It’s the way we respond to crime and how we view those people who have been labeled criminals.
You said it started with Nixon. Give me a sense of the progression and how through each president since Nixon the incarceration system has been ramped up, and sometimes in unexpected ways. …
Some of our system of mass incarceration really has to be traced back to the law-and-order movement that began in the 1950s, in the 1960s. …
Segregationists began to worry that there was going to be no way to stem the tide of public opinion and opposition to the system of segregation, so they began labeling people who are engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience and protests as criminals and as lawbreakers, and [they] were saying that those who are violating segregation laws were engaging in reckless behavior that threatens the social order and demanded … a crackdown on these lawbreakers, these civil rights protesters.
This rhetoric of law and order evolved as time went on, even though the old Jim Crow system fell and segregation was officially declared unconstitutional. Segregation[ists] and former segregation[ists] began using get-tough rhetoric as a way of appealing to poor and working-class whites in particular who were resentful of, fearful of many of the gangs of African Americans in the civil rights movement.
Pollsters and political strategists found that thinly veiled promises to get tough on “them,” a group suddenly not so defined by race, was enormously successful in persuading poor and working-class whites to defect from the Democratic New Deal coalition and join the Republican Party in droves.
Unfortunately, this backlash against the civil rights movement was occurring at precisely the same moment that there was economic collapse in communities of color, inner-city communities across America.
In an excellent book by William Julius Wilson, entitled When Work Disappears, he describes how in the ’60s and the ’70s, work literally vanished in these communities. Hundreds of thousands of black people, especially black men, suddenly found themselves jobless.
As factories closed, jobs were shipped overseas, deindustrialization and globalization led to depression in inner-city communities nationwide, and crime rates began to rise. And as they rose and the backlash against the civil rights movement reached a fever pitch, the get-tough movement exploded into a zeal for incarceration, and a war on drugs was declared.
So there was a rising crime rate at that point, but over the last 40 years, the incarceration rate has pretty much been exponentially up. Has the crime rate remained high as well through that time?
Many people imagine that our explosion in incarceration was simply driven by crime and crime rates, but that’s just not true. That is sheer myth, although there was a spike in crime rates in the 1960s and 1970s. During the period of time that our prison population quintupled, crime rates fluctuated. …
Today, as bad as crime rates are in some parts of the country, crime rates nationally are at historical lows, but incarceration rates have historically soared. In fact, most criminologists and sociologists today will acknowledge that crime rates and incarceration rates in the United States have moved independently [of] each other.
Incarceration rates, especially black incarceration rates, have soared regardless of whether crime is going up or down in any given community or the nation as a whole. …
Ironically, at the time that the war on drugs was declared, drug crime was not on the rise. … President Richard Nixon was the first to coin the term a “war on drugs,” but it was President Ronald Reagan who turned that rhetorical war into a literal one.
At the time President Reagan declared his war on drugs in 1982, drug crime was on the decline. It was not on the rise, and less than 3 percent of the American population identified drugs as the nation’s most pressing concern.
So why would he declare an all-out war on drugs at a time when drug crime is actually declining, not on the rise, and the American public isn’t much concerned about it? Well, from the outset, the war on drugs had much less to do with … concern about drug abuse and drug addiction and much more to do with politics, including racial politics.
President Ronald Reagan wanted to make good on campaign promises to get tough on that group of folks who had already been defined in the media as black and brown, the criminals, and he made good on that promise by declaring a drug war. Almost immediately after his declaration of war, funds for law enforcement began to soar.
“I think the way in which we respond to drug abuse and drug addiction in these communities speaks volumes about the extent to which these are people we truly care about.”
But the crack epidemic hit after this declaration of war, not before. Many people assumed that the war on drugs was declared in response to the emergence of crack cocaine and the related violence, but that’s not true. The drug war had already been declared, but the emergence of crack cocaine in inner-city communities actually provided the Reagan administration precisely the fuel they needed to build greater public support for the war they had already declared.
So the Reagan administration actually launched a media campaign to publicize the crack epidemic in inner-city communities, hiring staff whose job it was to publicize inner-city crack babies, crack dealers or so-called crack whores and crack-related violence, in an effort to boost public support for this war they had already declared [and to inspire] Congress to devote millions more dollars to waging it.
The plan worked like a charm. Millions more dollars flowed to law enforcement. There was the militarization of law enforcement of the drug war as the Pentagon began giving tanks and military equipment to local law enforcement to wage this war. And Congress began giving harsh mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug offenses, sentences harsher than murderers receive, more than [other] Western democracies.
And soon Democrats began competing with Republicans to prove they could be even tougher on them than their Republican counterparts, and so it was President Bill Clinton who actually escalated the drug war far beyond what his Republican predecessors even dreamed possible.
It was the Clinton administration that supported many of the laws and practices that now serve millions into a permanent underclass, for example. It was the Clinton administration that supported federal legislation denying financial aid to college students who had once been caught with drugs. It was the Clinton administration that passed laws discriminating against people with criminal records, making it nearly impossible for them to have access to public housing. And it was the Clinton administration that championed a federal law denying even food stamps, food support to people convicted of drug felonies.
So we see, in the height of the war on drugs, a Democratic administration desperate to prove they could be as tough as their Republican counterparts and helping to give birth to this penal system that would leave millions of people, overwhelmingly people of color, permanently locked up or locked out.
How does George W. Bush fit into this narrative? …
I would say the Bush administration carried on with the drug war and helped to institutionalize practices, for example the federal funding, drug interdiction programs by state and local law enforcement agencies, and the support for sweeps of entire communities for drug offenders, communities defined almost entirely by race and class.
So the drug war was born by President Richard Nixon and President Ronald Reagan, but President Bush, both of them, as well as President Clinton, escalated the drug war. And sadly we see today, even with President Obama, the drug war being continued in much the same form that it [was] waged back then.
… Why should we care? Why should we pay attention to this?
I think most Americans have no idea of the scale and scope of mass incarceration in the United States. Unless you’re directly impacted by the system, unless you have a loved one who’s behind bars, unless you’ve done time yourself, unless you have a family member who’s been branded a criminal and felon and can’t get work, can’t find housing, denied even food stamps to survive, unless the system directly touches you, it’s hard to even imagine that something of this scope and scale could even exist.
But the reality is that today there are more African Americans under correctional control in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the civil war began.
More black men are disenfranchised today as a result of felony disenfranchise[ment] laws. They were denied the right to vote in 1870, the year the 15th Amendment was ratified, prohibiting the laws that denied the right to vote on the basis of race.
There are 2.3 million people living in cages today, incarcerated in the United States, and more than 7 million people on correctional control, being monitored daily by probation officers, parole officers, subject to stop, search, seizure without any probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
This is a massive apparatus, and that system of direct control of course doesn’t even speak to the more than 65 million people in the United States who now have criminal records that are subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives.
The impact that the system of mass incarceration has on entire communities, virtually decimating them, destroying the economic fabric and the social networks that exist there, destroying families so that children grow up not knowing their fathers and visiting their parents or relatives after standing in a long line waiting to get inside the jail or the prison — the psychological impact, the emotional impact, the level of grief and suffering, it’s beyond description. And yet, because prisons are typically located hundreds or even thousands of miles away, it’s out of sight, out of mind, easy for those of us who aren’t living that reality to imagine that it can’t be real or that it doesn’t really have anything to do with us.
What is it like for someone leaving prison? Talk me through the restrictions, the monitoring, the things they are locked out of for the rest of their lives.
I think most people have a general understanding that when you’re released from prison, life is hard. You have to work hard to get your life back on track, get it together. But I think most people imagine if you really apply yourself, you can do it. It just takes some extra effort. The people who believe that rarely have actually been through the experience of being incarcerated and branded a felon.
When you’re released from prison in most states, if you’re not fortunate enough to have a family who can support you and meet you at the gates and put you up and give you a job, if you’re like most people who are released from prison, returning to an impoverished community, you’re given maybe a bus ticket, maybe $20 in your pocket, and you return to an impoverished, jobless community.
You’re now branded a criminal, a felon, and employment discrimination is now legal against you for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter how long ago your conviction occurred. It doesn’t matter if it was five weeks, five years ago, 25 years ago. For the rest of your life, you have to check that box on employment applications asking have you ever been convicted of a felony.
Hundreds of professional licenses are off limits to people who are convicted of a felony, and sometimes people will say, well, maybe they can’t get hired, but they can start their own business; they can be an entrepreneur. In some states you can’t even get a license to be a barber if you’re convicted of a felony. Can’t get a job. Can’t find work in a legal economy anywhere.
Housing discrimination is perfectly legal against you for the rest of your life. In fact, you can be denied access to public housing based only on a [reference], not even convictions. Discrimination by private landlords as well as public housing projects and agencies, perfectly legal. You’re just out on the street.
Discrimination in public benefits is perfectly legal. In fact, under federal law, you’re deemed ineligible for food stamps for the rest of your life if you’ve been convicted of a drug felony. Fortunately many states have now opted out of the federal ban on food stamps, but it remains the case that thousands of people can’t even get food stamps, food support to survive, because they were once caught with drugs.
What are people who are released from prison expected to do? … Apparently what we expect people to do is to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees, fines, court costs, accumulated child support, which continues to accrue while you’re in prison. And in a growing number of states, you’re actually expected to pay back the cost of your imprisonment, and paying back all these fees, fines and court costs can actually be a condition of your probation or parole. What do we expect those [people] to do?
When you take a look at the system, when you really step back and take a look at the system, what does the system seem designed to do? It doesn’t seem designed to facilitate people’s re-entry, doesn’t seem designed for people to find work and be stable, productive citizens.
No, if you take a hard look at it, I think the only conclusion that can be reached is that the system as it’s presently designed is designed to send people right back to prison, and that is in fact what happens the vast majority of the time.
Most people who are released from prison return within a few years, and the majority in some states return in a matter of weeks or months, because the challenges associated with mere survival on the outside are so immense.
We’ve been working in Kentucky, where felons have been disenfranchised for life. Tell me about how that works and also what it means, what it signifies.
There is no rational reason to deny someone the right to vote because they once committed a crime. We live in a democracy, of the people by the people, one man, one vote, one person, one woman, one vote. In other Western democracies, prisoners are allowed to vote. There’s actually voting drives that are conducted inside prisons. But here in the United States, it’s not only [that you are] being stripped of the right to vote inside prison, but you can be stripped of the right to vote permanently in some states like Kentucky because you once committed a crime.
“When you take a look at the system, when you really step back and take a look at the system, what does the system seem designed to do? It doesn’t seem designed to facilitate people’s re-entry.”
Many people say: “Well, that’s just not a big deal. So you can’t vote. What’s the problem with that?” Denying someone the right to vote says to them: “You are no longer one of us. You’re not a citizen. Your voice doesn’t count. You’re relegated to a permanent second-class status, do not matter. You’re not a person to us, a person worth counting, a person worth hearing.”
That message is a powerful one, and it’s not lost on the people who are forced to hear it. We say that when people are released from prison we want them to get back on their feet, contribute to society, to be productive citizens, and yet we lock them out at every turn. We don’t allow them to vote, we don’t allow them to serve on juries, so you can’t be part of a democratic process. …
Now, if we adopt this attitude, we can’t pretend then to really care about creating safe communities. We can’t pretend that this system that we devised is really about public safety or serving the interests of those we claim to represent.
This system is about something else as currently designed. It’s more about control, power, the relegation of some of us to a second-class status than it is about trying to build healthy, safe, thriving communities and meaningful multiracial, multiethnic democracy. …
Tell me what effects locking up so many people from one small community has on that community and what horizons and possibilities it then presents to the youth coming up in that community.
Some scholars have actually argued that the term “mass incarceration” is a misnomer, because it implies that this phenomenon of incarceration is something that affects everyone, or most people, or is spread evenly throughout our society, when the fact is it’s not at all.
Mass incarceration in the United States isn’t a phenomenon that affects most. It’s concentrated in extremely small pockets, communities defined almost entirely by race and class, and in these communities it’s not just one out of 10 who serve time behind bars. No, often one out of three are likely to do time in prison.
And in communities of hyperincarceration that can be found in inner-city communities, in [Washington], D.C., in Chicago, in New York — the list goes on — you can go block after block and have a hard time finding any young man who has not served time behind bars, who has not yet been arrested for something.
And in these communities where incarceration has become so normalized, when it becomes part of the normal life course for young people growing up, it decimates those communities. It makes the social networks that we take for granted in other communities impossible to form. It makes thriving economies nearly impossible to create. It means that young people growing up in these communities imagine that prison is just part of their future. It’s just part of what happens to you when you grow up.
And the behavior of the police in many of these communities only reinforces it as they stop, frisk, search people no matter what they’re doing, whether they’re innocent or guilty. It sends this message that you’re going to jail one way or another no matter what you do, whether you stay in school or you drop out, or if you follow the rules or you don’t. You’re going to jail just like your uncle, just like your father, just like your brother, just like your neighbor. You, too, are going to jail. It’s part of your destiny.
And it affects one’s mindset. It affects people emotionally. It’s growing up not knowing and forming meaningful relationships with their relatives, their parents. But it’s also devastating for people who come out and want to do the right thing by their family and aren’t able to find jobs and support them.
I can’t tell you how many young fathers I have met who want nothing more than to be able to support their kids, maybe get married one day, but they have no hope of ever being able to find a job, [no] hope of doing anything else than cycling in and out of jail.
So we’ve decimated these communities, and we’ve destroyed all hopes of anything like the American dream. …
You could look at the numbers and say, OK, crime rates are at historic lows in the United States; incarceration rates are at historic highs — great, it works. Locking all these people up has bought crime rates down. So if you view this as the great prison experiment, as an effort to eradicate crime, has it been successful?
Many people imagine that mass incarceration actually works because crime rates are relatively low now, so hasn’t this worked? Hasn’t this been a grand success story?
The answer is no. We have decimated millions of people’s lives, locked up and locked out millions of people, but in the places where the war on drugs has been waged with the greatest intensity, places where we have locked up the most people, gone on the most extraordinary incarceration binges, crime rates remain high and have actually increased.
You take communities like Chicago, New Orleans and in this neighborhood in Kentucky where the drug war has been waged with just extraordinary, merciless intensity and incarceration rates have soared as crime rates have soared. When you step back and actually look at the data on crime and incarceration, you don’t see a neat picture of incarceration rates climbing as crime rates are declining. No, in fact in many of the places where crime rates have declined the most, incarceration rates have fallen the most. …
In places like Chicago, in New Orleans, in Baltimore, in Philadelphia, where crime rates have been the most severe, incarceration has proved itself to be an abysmal failure as an answer to the problems that need to be addressed.
[There] seems to be something almost counterintuitive going on here, that once you start locking up too many people, you can actually start to destroy the social fabric of a community to the point where it creates the conditions for crime rather than prevents crime, which one would assume was in some people’s minds the point of incarceration.
One might assume that the more incarceration you have, the less crime you would have. The research actually shows, though, that quite the opposite is the case once you reach a certain tipping point.
When you begin to incarcerate such a large percentage of the population, the social fabric begins to erode. … When you reach a certain tipping point with incarceration, crime rates rise, because the community itself is being harmed by the higher levels of imprisonment. It can no longer function in a healthy manner. Incarceration itself becomes the problem rather than the solution. …
More than half of the people locked up in the community we’re focused on are locked up for selling drugs. Does locking up people selling drugs stop the drug trade in a neighborhood?
… Since the war on drugs was declared, there has been an exponential increase in drug arrests and convictions in the United States. Between 1985 and 2000, more than two-thirds of the increase in the federal population and more than half of the increased state prison population was due to drug convictions alone.
Drug convictions have increased more than 1,000 percent since the drug war began. To get a sense of how large a contribution the war on drugs has made to mass incarceration, think of it this way: There are more people in prisons and jails today just for drug offenses then were incarcerated for all reasons in 1980.
Does it work?
Arresting people for minor drug offenses in this drug war does not reduce drug abuse or drug-related crime. It is common sense and conventional wisdom that if you arrest one drug dealer, there will be another dealer on the street within hours to replace him. …
We have seen that today, 40 years after the drug war was declared, illegal drugs in many respects are cheaper and more readily available than they were at the time the drug war was declared. It’s difficult these days to find politicians who will openly defend the drug war on the grounds that it’s actually worked or that we are any closer to winning it than we were 40 years ago. And yet the war goes on.
It goes on and on, and every day people are arrested for minor drug offenses, branded criminals and felons, and then locked away and then relegated to permanent second-class status. Simply arresting people for drug crimes [does] nothing to address the serious problems of drug abuse and drug addiction that exist in this country.
The war goes on, as you said, but there are efforts underway in various states … to start to change things. … The aim is to reduce the jail population to save money. The idea in principle is to pump that money back into treatment and, in theory, things that will help prevent crime rather than exacerbate it. Could you talk to me about what is good about these initiatives underway in various states but also about their limitations?
It’s encouraging that in states like Kentucky and Ohio and in many other states around the country, legislation has been passed reducing the amount of time that minor, nonviolent drug offenders spend behind bars. It’s a step, a positive step in the right direction.
The concern, though, is that these reforms are motivated primarily because of money, fiscal concerns. State budgets have been struggling to meet basic expenses for prisons, [and] these bloated prison budgets have created a situation where politicians either have to ask taxpayers to pay up, pony up more money, raise taxes, or downsize our prisons somewhat.
And because these reforms have been motivated primarily out of concern about tax dollars rather than out of genuine concern about the communities that have been decimated by mass incarceration, people who have been targeted in this drug war and their families, the reforms don’t go nearly far enough.
We may reduce the size of prison population in some states somewhat by reducing the length of time some people spend behind bars, but as long as people, when they’re released from prison, still face legal discrimination in employment and housing, are still denied food stamps, are still denied financial aid and access to education to improve themselves, they’ll be back. That revolving door will continue, and they may stay for a shorter period of time, but that castelike system that exists will remain firmly intact.
“By the year 2000, there were more people incarcerated just for probation and parole violations than were incarcerated for all reasons in 1980.”
If we don’t do something to reform our probation and parole systems and turn them into systems that are actually designed to support people’s meaningful re-entry in society rather than simply ensnare people once again into the system, we can continue to expand the size of our prison population simply by continuing to revoke people’s probation and parole and keep that revolving door swinging.
In fact, the problems associated with our probation and parole system became so severe that by the year 2000, there were more people incarcerated just for probation and parole violations than were incarcerated for all reasons in 1980.
So without major, drastic, large-scale change, this system will continue to function much in its same form. The question is whether we have the political will to do what is required.
If we were to return to the rates of incarceration we had in the 1970s, before the war on drugs and get-tough movement really kicked off, we would have to release four out of five people who are behind bars today. More than a million people who are currently employed by the criminal justice system would need to find a new line of work.
Most new prison constructions employ predominantly white rural communities, communities that are struggling themselves economically, communities that have come to view prisons as their source of jobs, their economic base. Those prisons would have to close down.
Private prison companies now listed on the New York Stock Exchange would be forced to watch their profits vanish if we do away with the system of mass incarceration.
This system is now so deeply rooted in our social, political and economic structure, it’s not going to just fade away, downsize out of sight with a little bit of tinkering of margins. No, it’s going to take a fairly radical shift in our public consciousness, … and that is going to be a change of mind, a change of heart that will be a hard one, but it’s necessary if we’re ever going to turn this system around.
The long list you gave me there of obstacles to reform felt insurmountable as you were going through them. What can be done? What is being done other than this tinkering, as you say, to move things in a more just direction?
Despite the extraordinary obstacles, I remain hopeful and optimistic that a movement against mass incarceration is being born in the United States. It exists in communities large and small. Nationwide, young people are organizing against mass incarceration on campuses. Formerly incarcerated people are organizing a movement to abolish all the forms of discrimination against them, voting and housing and employment, access to public benefits.
There is a movement for major drug policy reform as well as a movement for restorative justice, to shift away from a purely punitive approach to dealing with violent offenders to a more restorative one that takes seriously interests of the victim, the offender and the community as a whole.
So there is a movement being born, and while the obstacles are great, I have to remember that there was a time when it seemed that slavery would never die. There was a time when people said segregation forever, Jim Crow will never die, and the Jim Crow system was so deeply rooted in our social and economic and political structure and all aspects of social, political and public life, it seemed impossible to imagine that it could ever fade away.
And yet the movement was born. People who recognized the gap between what we were doing, who we are, and who we wanted to be as a nation and were willing to fight for it, to make sacrifices for it, to organize for it, to speak up and to speak out even more than when it was unpopular, that kind of movement is being born again.
So I’m hopeful that as people begin to learn the truth about what is happening, and as the curtain is pulled back, that we will learn to care more about the folks in and beyond and commit ourselves to doing the hard work that is necessary to end mass incarceration and to ensure that no system like this is ever born again in the United States. …
… Talk to me about youth detention and how that affects life chances and the chances of being incarcerated later in life as well.
In communities where there are very high rates of mass incarceration, communities that have been hit hardest by the system of mass incarceration, the system operates practically from cradle to grave.
When you’re born, your parent has likely already spent time behind bars, maybe behind bars at the time you make your entrance into the world. And at a very young age, you find that you are going to be viewed as suspicious and treated like a criminal.
No matter who you are, what you’ve done, you’ll find that you’re the target of law enforcement suspicion at an early age. You’re likely to attend schools that have zero-tolerance policies, perhaps where police officers patrol the halls rather than security guards, where disputes with teachers are treated as criminal infractions, where a schoolyard fight results in your first arrest rather than a meeting with the principal and your parents.
You find that a very young age, even the smallest infractions are treated as criminal. You’re criminalized at a young age, and you learn to expect that that’s your destiny. You, one way or another, are going to jail.
When we think of criminals, we typically think of the worst kind of rapists or ax murderers or serial killers, or we conjure the grossest caricature of what a criminal is and think that is who’s behind bars, that is who’s filling our prisons and jails, when the reality is that most people’s introduction to the criminal justice system when they live in these ghetto communities is for something very small, something minor.
Maybe they were stopped and searched and caught with something like weed in their pocket. Maybe they got into a fight at school, and instead of having a meeting with a counselor, having intervention with a school psychologist, having parental and community support, instead of all that, you got sent to a detention camp. Suddenly you’re treated like a criminal, like you’re worth nothing. You’re no good and will never be anything but a criminal, and that’s where it begins.
Then we feign surprise that these young people then wind up very often with serious problems, emotional problems, act out in violent ways. We act surprised, and yet what have we done? What messages have we sent? How have we treated them? What forms of violence have actually been perpetrated by us, the state, the government, us collectively, upon them?
I think we ought to spend a lot more time thinking about how young people are criminalized at early ages rather than just imagining that a life of crime is somehow freely chosen. Many young people find they are criminalized long before they ever are able to make choices about who they want to be in our society.
… What effect does locking up so many people from one concentrated neighborhood have on that neighborhood?
Locking up extraordinary numbers of people from a single neighborhood means that the young people in those neighborhoods imagine that incarceration is their destiny. They have no reason to believe otherwise. All evidence suggests that that is in fact their fate.
It also means that in these communities, the economic structures have been torn apart. There are very few people who are able to work because they’ve been branded criminals and felons.
The economic base in those communities is virtually nonexistent. Jobs are often nonexistent in these communities. Housing is often difficult to come by or tenuous. People find themselves rotating from home to home, sleeping on couches or trying to find places to stay because they can’t get access to basic housing. Getting access to education or public benefits is very difficult.
When this happens on a large scale, when most people in the community are struggling in precisely this way, the social networks are destroyed. And it is a virtual statistical inevitability that if you’re raised in that community, you too will someday serve time behind bars.
Why is there so much drug abuse in Beecher Terrace?
Drug abuse and drug addiction is not unique to poor communities of color. It is like this everywhere in America, but how we respond to drug abuse and drug addiction in poor communities of color is radically different than how we respond to it in more privileged communities.
If you’re middle class, upper-middle class, living in the suburbs, and your son or daughter becomes dependent on drugs, experimenting with drugs, the first thing you do is not call the police. The first thing you do is figure out, how can I get my child some help?
If you’re a schoolteacher working in a suburban school, and you come to discover that a child in your school may be struggling with drugs or have a drug abuse problem, the most likely response is not to call the police. The most likely response is to get them help.
And in fact, if you’re struggling with depression in a middle-class, upper-middle-class community, you can get prescription drugs, lots of them, lots of legal drugs to deal with your depression, your angst, your anxiety.
But in ghetto communities, where there is more than enough reason to be depressed and anxious, you don’t have that option of having lots of hours in therapy to work through your issues, to get prescribed lots of legal drugs to help you cope with your grief, your anxiety.
No, people in these communities have little choice but to self-medicate, and when they do, when they decide to turn to marijuana or turn to cocaine or turn to some type of substance we’ve designed, we’ve decided is prohibited, is off-limits, then rather than responding to these people with drug treatment and say[ing], “How can we help you cope with your crisis and help you through this period of time and help you deal with your drug addiction?,” instead we say: “Oh, the answer for you is a cage. We’re going to put you in a cage, lock you in a literal cage, treat you like an animal, and when you’re released, we’re going to make it almost impossible for you to find work or housing or care for your children.” That’s our answer to drug abuse and drug addiction in these communities.
If we really cared about people who lived there, would that be our answer? I think not. I think the way in which we respond to drug abuse and drug addiction in these communities speaks volumes about the extent to which these are people we truly care about.
Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel; but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul (Psalms 106:12-15).
We read of Moses, that “he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Exactly the opposite was true of the children of Israel in this record. They endured only when the circumstances were favorable; they were largely governed by the things that appealed to their senses, in place of resting in the invisible and eternal God.
In the present day there are those who live intermittent Christian lives because they have become occupied with the outward, and center in circumstances, in place of centering in God. God wants us more and more to see Him in everything, and to call nothing small if it bears us His message.
Here we read of the children of Israel, “Then they believed his words.” They did not believe till after they saw–when they saw Him work, then they believed. They really doubted God when they came to the Red Sea; but when God opened the way and led them across and they saw Pharaoh and his host drowned–“then they believed.” They led an up and down life because of this kind of faith; it was a faith that depended upon circumstances. This is not the kind of faith God wants us to have.
The world says “seeing is believing,” but God wants us to believe in order to see. The Psalmist said, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Do you believe God only when the circumstances are favorable, or do you believe no matter what the circumstances may be?
Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe. –St. Augustine
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz praised President Barack Obama for commuting the sentences of eight crack cocaine offenders Thursday, and said he should begin using the process more.
Obama has not used his commutation and pardon power much during his presidency, and chose to do so in these cases because of the disparity of sentences between crack and powder cocaine. Most convicted of using crack cocaine are black, while most convicted of using powder cocaine are white.
The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 cut those disparities, but the people whose sentences where commuted on Thursday were convicted prior to the law’s enactment. They likely would have gotten shorter sentences if convicted under the current law.
Thirteen others received pardons from Obama.
Okay, thank you President Obama… Now what do we do with these people who have been or will be released from prison?
Church looked exactly the way he thought it should. The ushers were in position. The people were assembling. The armorbearers were ready and waiting to serve. Yes, everything seemed just fine… until he stepped up to the podium to preach the word of the Lord.
That’s when he started to feel invisible discouraging forces attacking his mind. “Where is this coming from?” he thought just before he opened the service in prayer. Suddenly he remembered his spiritual maturity message called “grow up” from the week before and the warfare that followed. “He is too demanding! He doesn’t love us,” were among the thoughts raging against his mind — accusations from religious pew warmers.
So while the preacher had expected to find a crowd willing to receive him and the grace of God on his life, to his perplexity he entered a combat zone of religious mindsets, full of offenses, power plays and the traps and tricks of rebellious born again unbelievers. Despite the discouragement and in the face of rejection, he boldly preached his message and lovingly prayed for all the people at the altar call, including those who had complained about last week’s “grow up” call.
As he later reflected on this fervent Sunday morning service, he couldn’t help but feel the pain of being resisted by those he loved and so wanted to see spiritually grow in Christ. The battle was on in his mind, saying: “What’s the use of all this preaching? What am I doing all this for? They’re not taking hold of what God is saying.”
Sound familiar? When the “what’s the use?” thoughts in the mind hits the pastor several subtle symptoms manifest. First comes demoralization, a loss of spiritual identity where one no longer sees the benefits of laboring. It is called burnout, an exhaustion caused by a lack of progress that leads to feelings of ineffective leadership and a sense of failure. With hope deferred, the imagination “what’s the use?” begins to battle his mind.
Discerning the Signs of Burnout
Because of the feelings of rejection and being unappreciated, those affected by the “what’s the use” burnout find solace in isolation in order to protect themselves from others in ministry – especially those that may have attributed to the “what’s the use” spiritual attack.
Another attachment is apathy, a lack of desire to do the work of the ministry and that comes in the form of thoughts about shunning once-loved responsibilities. Lastly, defeatism manifests with feelings of having been beaten and abused and is part and parcel with the “what’s the use?” burnout.
If you’ve felt this way, then you may have been the prey of a carefully designed attack by the enemy to weaken and drain you and other Christian leaders of their spiritual fight and zeal. Although Kingdom Christian leaders are strong visionaries, this spiritual attack hits core convictions and is a cunning strategy of the enemy to get them to doubt their own callings and effectiveness in ministry.
The lack of finances, the frustration of leading an army of volunteers who are unwilling to submit to training, the pressure to somehow get it all done anyway – even if you have to do it yourself – and being taken for granted by those who are too familiar with you, are overwhelmingly discouraging.
From the bless-me-but-do-not-correct-me mentality to the spiritual warfare that rages in the heavenlies, a Kingdom leader has to contend on many fronts. He challenges the immaturity and instability in believers, even if it is uncomfortable. He brings correction, instruction, reproof and lovingly rebukes them as a father would his own children. This can make him the target of unfair abuse.
Paul, speaking of them said, “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death… ye are honourable, but we are despised… And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it. Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).
Not a pretty picture of ministry, yet a Christian leader endures all this to equip a single believer being motivated by love.
Lessons in Quick Forgiveness
Despite it all, he has the ability to press through and overcome the subtle warnings signs of spiritual burnout. He learns a lesson of quick forgiveness from Stephen, who prayed for his persecutors while he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:60).
Quick forgiveness doesn’t take the time to meditate on abuse. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs in the hidden compartments of the mind. By quickly forgiving his abusers the leader can keep himself unspotted by the “what’s the use” devil and steer clear from spiritual burnout.
Isolation is one of the symptoms attached to spiritual burnout. But what did Peter and John do when the religious council threatened them, charging that they should no longer speak to anyone in the name of Jesus? They found strength and refreshing in their own company. The Scripture says, “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them… And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:23-31). Like Peter and John, you can connect with those of the same heart and spirit and be stirred to go at it again and again, even in the face of religious persecution.
Encourage Yourself in the Lord
Sometimes, unfortunately, more often than not, leaders must learn to stand alone. So what do you do to keep from getting discouraged by the “what’s the use” burnout when no one is there to back you up, or to lend you support and comfort? One can glean from King David. In the midst of great distress, having lost everything, and having his own men seek to stone him, David encouraged himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6). He became strong in his spirit and acted valiantly on behalf of his people. He had two choices: succumb under pressure or lead the people into victory to recover all that was stolen from them. David made the right choice and so can you.
Running with Vision
Being the visionary that he is, the Christian leader must keep his eyes on God’s vision for him when standing face to face with the “what’s the use” spiritual burnout. The way Christ overcame the religious abuse against Him, is the same way the Christian leader can overcome it and its various symptoms. Scripture declares, “Looking unto Jesus… who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:2-3). The joy set before the Christian leader is the vision and mandate God gave him to accomplish – to perfect the saints for the work of the ministry. Seeing the joy of the fulfillment of that vision will sustain him through the hardest of times.
Like the fervent preacher in our story, Christian leaders have a heart of love for the people. Yes, they want to see them blessed, prosperous, healed, but also matured and as he put it “grow up.” In order for him to be most effective, believers can allow him to be and to do what he is graced to do, which is to equip them for the work of the ministry.
Perhaps believers play an important role in combating the “what’s the use?” spiritual burnout. Think about it. If Christians in the Sunday morning service had done their part, then there would be no place for this spiritual attack in the mind of their preacher. Then, one would only come to an encouraging conclusion: Church is exactly the way he thought it should be.
The aim of 100 Black Men of USC is to build strong, focused, positive role models who are held in high esteem on USC’s campus and the surrounding community.
Liquor stores on every corner, communities infested with drugs and saturated with weapons. Oppression due to broken homes and the marginalization of the black man. Space exploration is more important than reformation and reparation of Black America. Every race that has ever been wronged in America has been compensated even the Jews in Germany are getting compensated for the acts of a few. After going into the military to escape Washington D.C. and it’s disparity I begin to see clearer how this problem for black men was to unfold. These guns and drugs were to help us start the process of killing ourselves. I watched black men die in Beirut, Libya and Desert Shield, we have served in every war for this nation only to return home to a war on ourselves. I really am determined to make a difference in the second half of my life to empower and exude positive biblical living to help whoever I see needs the help to get free from the society I now know means to kill steal and destroy human being with the influx of mass incarceration and disenfranchisement of a endangered species ( Black America).
Your Kingship was God’s original intent – and He hasn’t changed His mind. From the moment Adam lost his kingship and was expelled from the Garden of Eden God has been working all things after the counsel of His will – to restore YOU and this world and everything in it back to Himself.
Luke records God’s plan in Acts 3:19-21: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Who the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.
— Deuteronomy 15: 12–15
Besides the crime which consists in violating the law, and varying from the right rule of reason, whereby a man so far becomes degenerate, and declares himself to quit the principles of human nature, and to be a noxious creature, there iscommonly injury done to some person or other, and some other man receives damage by his transgression: in which case he who hath received any damage, has, besides the right of punishment common to him with other men, a particular right to seek reparation.
— John Locke, “Second Treatise”
By our unpaid labor and suffering, we have earned the right to the soil, many times over and over, and now we are determined to have it.
— Anonymous, 1861
Restoration is the act of restoring to the rightful owner something that has been taken away, lost or stolen. The word “restitution” in this Scripture comes from the Greek word apokatastasis, meaning “to return this Earth back to its perfect state before the fall.” God has been working to restore the Earth to its perfect state and to restore man’s kingship for thousands of years.
Kingship was God’s original intent
In the beginning, we know that God created Adam in His own image, in His likeness and with His nature (Genesis 1:26). The Word says that “God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed life (not air) into his nostrils and man became a living soul with purpose – to fellowship with God and have dominion over this Earth (Genesis 2:7; 1:26).
In the original creation Adam was perfect. He lived out of his spirit. He communed with God out of his spirit. He was connected to God through his spirit. He named the animals from his spirit. He tended the garden from his spirit. He exercised his kingship, or dominion, over the Earth from his spirit.
Scripture tells us that God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. He also gave Adam a command: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2). Of course, Adam did not immediately die when he ate of the fruit. He lived to be 930 years old. God was talking about a spiritual death.
Some time after this we read the testimony of Eve’s deception by the serpent. That old serpent told Eve that the reason God didn’t want her to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was because her eyes would be opened and she would be like God (Genesis 3:5). The reality was that Adam and Eve were already like God. They were created with the very nature of God, in the image of God, blessed by God, and given dominion over the Earth by God.
We all know the sad conclusion, Eve partook and Adam did, too. Sin entered the Earth and Adam’s spirit died because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Adam’s disobedience caused a communal disconnect between his spirit and the Spirit of God. Adam and Eve began to live out of their souls instead of their spirits. (Your soul is your mind, will, intellect, reasoning, imaginations and emotions.) They were led by their five senses – touch, hearing, sight, smell and taste – instead of their spirits. Before the fall they simply knew what they needed to know. They could draw any knowledge they needed directly from God’s Spirit. Their fall was the genesis of soulish education.
Which brings me back to this:
“A heavy account lies against us as a civil society for oppressions committed against people who did not injure us,” wrote the Quaker John Woolman in 1769, “and that if the particular case of many individuals were fairly stated, it would appear that there was considerable due to them.”
As the historian Roy E. Finkenbine has documented, at the dawn of this country, black reparations were actively considered and often effected. Quakers in New York, New England, and Baltimore went so far as to make “membership contingent upon compensating one’s former slaves.” In 1782, the Quaker Robert Pleasants emancipated his 78 slaves, granted them 350 acres, and later built a school on their property and provided for their education. “The doing of this justice to the injured Africans,” wrote Pleasants, “would be an acceptable offering to him who ‘Rules in the kingdom of men.’ ”
Edward Coles, a protégé of Thomas Jefferson who became a slaveholder through inheritance, took many of his slaves north and granted them a plot of land in Illinois. John Randolph, a cousin of Jefferson’s, willed that all his slaves be emancipated upon his death, and that all those older than 40 be given 10 acres of land. “I give and bequeath to all my slaves their freedom,” Randolph wrote, “heartily regretting that I have been the owner of one.”
In his book Forever Free, Eric Foner recounts the story of a disgruntled planter reprimanding a freedman loafing on the job:
Planter: “You lazy nigger, I am losing a whole day’s labor by you.”
Freedman: “Massa, how many days’ labor have I lost by you?”
In the 20th century, the cause of reparations was taken up by a diverse cast that included the Confederate veteran Walter R. Vaughan, who believed that reparations would be a stimulus for the South; the black activist Callie House; black-nationalist leaders like “Queen Mother” Audley Moore; and the civil-rights activist James Forman. The movement coalesced in 1987 under an umbrella organization called the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA). The NAACP endorsed reparations in 1993. Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a professor at Harvard Law School, has pursued reparations claims in court.
But while the people advocating reparations have changed over time, the response from the country has remained virtually the same. “They have been taught to labor,” the Chicago Tribune editorialized in 1891. “They have been taught Christian civilization, and to speak the noble English language instead of some African gibberish. The account is square with the ex‑slaves.”
Not exactly. Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and under educated.Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, “Never again.” But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.
Don’t worry if you have haters; Jesus Christ was perfect, and they still hated him! What should we expect being imperfect?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on therighteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I think it’s important to first say a little about why loving your enemies is necessary. Jesus gives us the answer in verse 48. Based on everything that has gone before in this chapter (as well as the concept of loving your enemies), Jesus says you cannot be perfect without it. The word perfect in verse 48 comes from the Greek word “teleios.” And while “perfect” is a good translation, I think it distracts from the meaning here. Another way to translate teleios is “complete” or “mature.” So what I think Jesus is trying to say here is if you wanted to be a complete person, or a fully mature human being, loving your enemies is something that you have to do.
“They hating on me!” or “Haters are going to hate!” are common phrases that some use to justify reasons why someone or a group of people have an unfavorable opinion of them or their activities. The term “haters” has become popular in the last few years to describe others, but can you actually “hate” on yourself? Read some ways the person hating on you could be in the mirror.
1. Comparing Yourself to Others – If you are constantly comparing what you have or don’t have to what others do or don’t have, then you may be borderline hating on yourself. Comparisons may ignite low self-esteem and depression and have been one of the top five causes of why relationships end.
2. Not Listening to Your Inner Voice – Your inner voice, your conscience, or whatever you prefer to call it can be your saving grace for so many reasons. Usually, your conscience is based upon your mind and body’s history and best practices in each situation. Sometimes your natural reaction may not be your best reaction and it’s that inner voice that tells you to do differently. Listen.
3. Doing Just Enough to Get By – With the exception of trust fund babies, “self-made” successful people usually have a story of sacrifice, hard work, perseverance and dedication. The only person “doing just enough” hurts is yourself. When you can, do more, give more, show how much “more” you are than people realize.
4. Not Being a Man or Woman of Your Word – One of the quickest ways to get “realistic” haters is to lie about who you truly are. Saying one thing and not following through gives a false representation of who you truly are. Don’t allow others the satisfaction of misinterpreting you. Give them the real “say-what-i-do-and-do-what-i-say” self.
5. Not Believing In Your Ability – We can sometimes be our own worst enemy. Saying that you “can’t” or that something “never” happens to you is speaking to your own downfall. Use words like “I can” and “I will” to verbally affirm your current and future positions. Research has shown that those who visualize their goal on a consistent basis are 33% more likely to achieve those goals.
6. Saying That You Have Haters (When You Really Don’t) – Be honest with yourself: are people really “hating” on you or are they telling you the truth? Sometimes the truth hurts, but can lead to healing. It may do you good to take a look at what the person says (not how they say it) and see if it’s true. If it’s true, do what you need to do to be better. If it’s false, do what you need to do to stay strong.
Remember, announcing that you have haters rarely does anything to help your case, as nearly everyone has haters nowadays. The differentiating factor is how you rise above despite your obstacles.
The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9).
God is looking for a man, or woman, whose heart will be always set on Him, and who will trust Him for all He desires to do. God is eager to work more mightily now than He ever has through any soul. The clock of the centuries points to the eleventh hour.
“The world is waiting yet to see what God can do through a consecrated soul.” Not the world alone, but God Himself is waiting for one, who will be more fully devoted to Him than any who have ever lived; who will be willing to be nothing that Christ may be all; who will grasp God’s own purposes; and taking His humility and His faith, His love and His power, will, without hindering, continue to let God do exploits.
“There is no limit to what God can do with a man, providing he will not touch the glory.”
In an address given to ministers and workers after his ninetieth birthday, George Mueller spoke thus of himself: “I was converted in November, 1825, but I only came into the full surrender of the heart four years later, in July, 1829. The love of money was gone, the love of place was gone, the love of position was gone, the love of worldly pleasures and engagements was gone. God, God alone became my portion. I found my all in Him; I wanted nothing else. And by the grace of God this has remained, and has made me a happy man, an exceedingly happy man, and it led me to care only about the things of God. I ask affectionately, my beloved brethren, have you fully surrendered the heart to God, or is there this thing or that thing with which you are taken up irrespective of God?
I read a little of the Scriptures before, but preferred other books; but since that time the revelation He has made of Himself has become unspeakably blessed to me, and I can say from my heart, God is an infinitely lovely Being.
Oh, be not satisfied until in your own inmost soul you can say, “God is an infinitely lovely Being!”
I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian. I know “I AM” is nearer than I think, richly present in all my moments. You are connected to me by Love-bonds that nothing can sever. However My Lord, I sometimes feel alone, especially in performing the work “You” have called me to perform. Your Being is invisible which makes our union invisible, so I ask that “You” open my eyes to “Your” presence and I will feel safer to continue to trust “Your” calling associated with the work and visions “YOU” have predestined me for. This isn’t some sort of escape from reality; it is tuning in to ultimate reality. You are far more Real than the world I can see, hear, and touch. Faith is the confirmation of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality, perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.
I will be still, and I will behold in my dwelling place (Isaiah 18:4, RV).
Assyria was marching against Ethiopia, the people of which are described as tall and smooth. And as the armies advance, God makes no effort to arrest them; it seems as though they will be allowed to work their will. He is still watching them from His dwelling place, the sun still shines on them; but before the harvest, the whole of the proud army of Assyria is smitten as easily as when sprigs are cut off by the pruning hook of the husbandman.
Is not this a marvelous conception of God–being still and watching? His stillness is not acquiescence. His silence is not consent. He is only biding His time, and will arise, in the most opportune moment, and when the designs of the wicked seem on the point of success, to overwhelm them with disaster. As we look out on the evil of the world; as we think of the apparent success of wrong-doing; as we wince beneath the oppression of those that hate us, let us remember these marvelous words about God being still and beholding.
There is another side to this. Jesus beheld His disciples toiling at the oars through the stormy night; and watched though unseen, the successive steps of the anguish of Bethany, when Lazarus slowly passed through the stages of mortal sickness, until he succumbed and was borne to the rocky tomb. But He was only waiting the moment when He could interpose most effectually.
Is He still to thee? He is not unobservant; He is beholding all things; He has His finger on thy pulse, keenly sensitive to all its fluctuations. He will come to save thee when the precise moment has arrived.
Whatever His questions or His reticences, we may be absolutely sure of an unperplexed and undismayed Saviour.
O troubled soul, beneath the rod,
Thy Father speaks, be still, be still;
Learn to be silent unto God,
And let Him mould thee to His will.
O praying soul, be still, be still,
He cannot break His plighted Word;
Sink down into His blessed will,
And wait in patience on the Lord.
O waiting soul, be still, be strong,
And though He tarry, trust and wait;
Doubt not, He will not wait too long,
Fear not, He will not come too late.
Christ’s love creates unity in the midst of diversity.
Too long. Too short. Too big. Too small. Too tight. Too loose. These words describe most of the clothes I try on. Finding the perfect fit seems impossible.
Finding a church that is a “perfect fit” poses similar problems. Every church has something that’s not quite right. Our gifts aren’t recognized. Our talents aren’t appreciated. Our sense of humor is misunderstood. Certain attitudes, beliefs, people, or programs make us uncomfortable. We feel as if we don’t fit. We struggle to find our place.
We know, however, that God wants us to fit together with one another. The apostle Paul said we are being “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives” (Eph. 2:22 NIV).
The believers in the church today, like the tabernacle in the days of Moses (Ex. 26) and the temple in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 6:1-14), are the dwelling place of God on earth. God wants us to fit together—for there to be no divisions in His church. This means that we, the building blocks, are to be “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).
No church will be a perfect fit, but we can all work at fitting together more perfectly.
Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son… I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven; …because thou hast obeyed my voice (Genesis 22:16-18).
And from that day to this, men have been learning that when, at God’s voice, they surrender up to Him the one thing above all else that was dearest to their very hearts, that same thing is returned to them by Him a thousand times over. Abraham gives up his one and only son, at God’s call, and with this disappear all his hopes for the boy’s life and manhood, and for a noble family bearing his name. But the boy is restored, the family becomes as the stars and sands in number, and out of it, in the fullness of time, appears Jesus Christ.
That is just the way God meets every real sacrifice of every child of His. We surrender all and accept poverty; and He sends wealth. We renounce a rich field of service; He sends us a richer one than we had dared to dream of. We give up all our cherished hopes, and die unto self; He sends us the life more abundant, and tingling joy.
And the crown of it all is our Jesus Christ. For we can never know the fullness of the life that is in Christ until we have made Abraham’s supreme sacrifice. The earthly founder of the family of Christ must commence by losing himself and his only son, just as the Heavenly Founder of that family did. We cannot be members of that family with the full privileges and joys of membership upon any other basis.
We sometimes seem to forget that what God takes He takes in fire; and that the only way to the resurrection life and the ascension mount is the way of the garden, the cross, and the grave.
Think not, O soul of man, that Abraham’s was a unique and solitary experience. It is simply a specimen and pattern of God’s dealings with all souls who are prepared to obey Him at whatever cost. After thou hast patiently endured, thou shalt receive the promise. The moment of supreme sacrifice shall be the moment of supreme and rapturous blessing. God’s river, which is full of water, shall burst its banks, and pour upon thee a tide of wealth and grace.
There is nothing, indeed, which God will not do for a man who dares to step out upon what seems to be the mist; though as he puts down his foot he finds a rock beneath him. Please have faith with us that Second Chance Alliance will become a reality in God’s time. Click the insignia to view the cause and offer your prayer if not your talents or treasures.
Luke vii.2-9. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
There is something puzzling in this speech of the centurion’s. One must think twice, and more than twice, to understand clearly what he had in his mind. I, indeed, am not quite sure that I altogether understand it. But I may, perhaps, help you to understand it, by telling you what this centurion was.
He was not a Jew. He was a Roman, and a heathen; a man of our race, very likely. And he was a centurion, a captain in the army; and one, mind, who had risen from the ranks, by good conduct, and good service. Before he got his vine-stock, which was the mark of his authority over a hundred men, he had, no doubt, marched many a weary mile under a heavy load, and fought, probably, many a bloody battle in foreign parts. That had been his education, his training, namely, discipline, and hard work. And because he had learned to obey, he was fit to rule. He was helping now to keep in order those treacherous, unruly Jews, and their worthless puppet-kings, like Herod; much as our soldiers in India are keeping in order the Hindoos, and their worthless puppet-kings.
Whether the Romans had any right to conquer and keep down the Jews as they did, is no concern of ours just now. But we have proof that what this centurion did, he did wisely and kindly. The elders of the Jews said of him, that he loved the Jews, and had built them a synagogue, a church. I suppose that what he had heard from them about a one living God, who had made all things in heaven and earth, and given them a law, which cannot be broken, so that all things obey him to this day — I suppose, I say, that this pleased him better than the Roman stories of many gods, who were capricious, and fretful, and quarrelled with each other in a fashion which ought to have been shocking to the conscience and reason of a disciplined soldier.
There was a great deal, besides, in the Old Testament, which would, surely, come home to a soldier’s heart, when it told him of a God of law, and order, and justice, and might, who defended the right in battle, and inspired the old Jews to conquer the heathen, and to fight for their own liberty. For what was it, which had enabled the Romans to conquer so many great nations? What was it which enabled them to keep them in order, and, on the whole, make them happier, more peaceable, more prosperous, than they had ever been? What was it which had made him, the poor common soldier, an officer, and a wealthy man, governing, by his little garrison of a hundred soldiers, this town of Capernaum, and the country round?
It was this. Discipline; drill; obedience to authority. That Roman army was the most admirably disciplined which the world till then had ever seen. So, indeed, was the whole Roman Government. Every man knew his place, and knew his work. Every man had been trained to obey orders; if he was told to go, to go; if he was told to do, to do, or to die in trying to do, what he was bidden.
This was the great and true thought which had filled this good man’s mind — duty, order, and obedience. And by thinking of order, and seeing how strength, and safety, and success lie in order, and by giving himself up to obey orders, body and soul, like a good soldier, had that plain man (who had certainly no scholarship, perhaps could barely read or write) caught sight of a higher, wider, deeper order than even that of a Roman army. He had caught sight of that divine and wonderful order, by which God has constituted the services of men, and angels, and all created things; that divine and wonderful order by which sun and stars, fire and hail, wind and vapour, cattle and creeping things fulfil his word.
Fulfil God’s word. That was the thought, surely, which was in the good soldier’s mind, and which he was trying to speak out; clumsily, perhaps, but truly enough. I suppose, then, that he thought in his own mind somewhat in this way. ‘There is a word of command among us soldiers. Has God, then, no word of command likewise? And that word of command is enough. Is not God’s word of command enough likewise? I merely speak, and I am obeyed. I am merely spoken to, and I obey. Shall not God merely speak, and be obeyed likewise? There is discipline and order among men, because it is necessary. An Army cannot be manoeuvred, a Government cannot be carried on, without it. Is there not a discipline and order in all heaven and earth? And that discipline is carried out by simple word of command. A word from me will make a man rush upon certain death. A word from certain other men will make me rush on certain death. For I am a man under authority. I have my tribune (colonel, as we should say) over me; and he, again, the perfect (general of brigade) over him. Their word is enough for me. If they want me to do a thing, they do not need to come under my roof, to argue with me, to persuade me, much less to thrust me about, and make me obey them by force. They say to me, ‘Go,’ and I go; and I say to those under me, ‘Go,’ and they go likewise.
And if I can work by a word, cannot this Jesus work by a word likewise? He is a messenger of God, with commission and authority from God, to work his will on his creatures. Are not God’s creatures as well ordered, disciplined, obedient, as we soldiers are? Are they not a hundred times better ordered? A messenger from God? Is he not a God himself; a God in goodness and mercy; a God in miraculous power? Cannot he do his work by a word, far more certainly than I can do mine? If my word can send a man to death, cannot his word bring a man back to life? Surely it can. ‘Lord, thou needest not to come under my roof; speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.’
By some such thoughts as these, I suppose, had this good soldier gained his great faith; his faith that all God’s creatures were in a divine, and wonderful order, obedient to the will of God who made them; and that Jesus Christ was God’s viceroy and lieutenant (I speak so, because I suppose that is what he, as a soldier, would have thought), to carry out God’s commands on earth.
Now remember that he was the first heathen man of whom we read, that he acknowledged Christ. Remember, too, that the next heathen of whom we read, that he acknowledged Christ, was also a Roman centurion, he whom the old legends call Longinus, who, when he saw our Lord upon the cross, said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’ Remember, again, that the next heathen of whom we read as having acknowledged Christ, he to whom St. Peter was sent, at Joppa, who is often called the first fruits of the heathen, was a Roman centurion likewise.
Surely, there must have been a reason for this. There must be a lesson in this; and this, I think, is the lesson. That the soldierlike habit of mind is one which makes a man ready to receive the truth of Christ. And why? Because the good soldier’s first and last thought is Duty. To do his duty by those who are set over him, and to learn to do his duty to those who are set under him. To turn his whole mind and soul to doing, not just what he fancies, but to what must be done, because it is his duty. This is the character which makes a good soldier, and a good Christian likewise. If we be undisciplined and undutiful, and unruly; if we be fanciful, self- willed, disobedient; then we shall not understand Christ, or Christ’s rule on earth and in heaven. If there be no order within us, we shall not see his divine and wonderful order all around us. If there be no discipline and obedience within us, we shall never believe really that Christ disciplines all things, and that all things obey him. If there be no sense of duty in us, governing our whole lives and actions, we shall never perceive the true beauty and glory of Christ’s character, who sacrificed himself for his duty, which was to do his Father’s will.
I tell you, my friends, that nothing prevents a man from gaining either right doctrines or right practice, so much as the undutiful, unruly, self-conceited heart. We may be full of religious knowledge, of devout sentiments, of heavenly aspirations: but in spite of them all, we shall never get beyond false doctrine, and loose practice, unless we have learned to obey; to rule our own minds, and hearts, and tempers, soberly and patiently; to conform to the laws, and to all reasonable rules of society, to believe that God has called us to our station in life, whatever it may be; and to do our duty therein, as faithful soldiers and servants of Christ. For, if you will receive it, the beginning and the middle, and the end of all true religion is simply this. To do the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven.
As I sit before my computer to write this post I am thankful to God for His sense of humor. I was very down-trodden today from the 3 o clock twilight hours up until the time I forced myself to delve into His presence and find some type of solace and joy. My downward spiral was due to the burden of the vision of getting Second Chance Alliance off the ground. I keep on asking my God why would “You” place such a task on a man of my substance and mental challenges? I received my release today by way of searching His scriptures.
“The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.”—Proverbs 14:10
“A cheerful heart is a good medicine.”—Proverbs 17:22
I remember one day resolving to do arduous work in 2 Chronicles. Studiously plowing through the reigns of Solomon through Jehoshaphat, I came to 2 Chronicles 21:20 and laughed outright. The text reads, “Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings” (italics added). Being a wordsmith myself, I smiled at this bygone scribe relieved at this monarch’s death. Evidently Jehoram was not well liked. The editorial statement provides a light touch—comic relief, if you will—to the Chronicler’s usually routine kingship formula.
As I study and teach, I find I read the Bible ever more slowly, and as I do, I smile more and more frequently. I listen for its humor. My emotions span sorrow, understanding or joy as I empathize with the characters who cross its pages. I chuckle at many passages, even while acknowledging the sadness they may contain. Consequently, I believe it’s possible to read many verses, stories and even books through the lens of humor, indeed to see portions of the Bible as intended to be very funny. An appropriate response is laughter. I’ve come to this conclusion: Humor is a fundamental sub-theme in both testaments.
Let’s start with an umbrella verse, Ecclesiastes 3:4: “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” The Biblical text, always practical, acknowledges human emotions and makes boundaries for their proper use.
God’s Laughter in the Hebrew Bible
Let’s look at God’s laughter. After all, he’s the creator.
Consider Psalm 37:12-13: “The wicked plot against the righteous, and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that their day is coming.” Laughter here shows the impotence of the wicked and the futility of their plots and gnashings against the righteous. Why? Because, as the psalm answers, those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land and the Lord knows the wicked face a reckoning.
God directs the same kind of laughter toward earthly hotshots who think their power exceeds his. Psalm 2:2, 4 declares that when “the kings of the earth take their stand,” marshalling themselves “against the Lord … and against his Anointed One,” then “the One enthroned in heaven laughs.”
But Zephaniah 3:17 illustrates joy, a different aspect of God’s laughter and character, one more consistently expressed throughout the Biblical text: “He will take great delight in you … he will rejoice over you with singing.” My colleagues often are amazed that the idea of rejoicing carries with it the idea of physical activity. The verse presents this possibility: God’s delight can entail joyful songs and public dancing.
Who Is Responsible?
One story that makes me laugh is the conversation taking place somewhere on Mt. Sinai between God and Moses. The recently-released Hebrew slaves are sinning by worshipping a calf made of gold and declaring that it, not the Lord, led them out of Egypt (Exodus 32:4-6). Neither God nor Moses wants these rowdies at this moment. Like a hot potato, responsibility for the former slaves passes back and forth between them.
The Lord swaps first, telling Moses the reveling Israelites are “your people” (v. 7) (italics added). But Moses quickly catches on. He declines association with them. As far as Moses is concerned, these people are not his! Morphing into intercession mode and speaking in what no doubt is a respectful tone, Moses rejoins, “O, Lord, why should your anger burn against your people, whomyou brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?” (v. 11) (italics added). He reminds the Lord of his promise to his servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel to make their descendants “as numerous as the stars in the sky” (v. 13). This scene’s humor softens the chapter, which ends sorrowfully. The Israelites’ sin leads quickly to the deaths of many by plague, and thus the chapter ends (Exodus 32:35). The chapter’s structure incorporates dialogue, rebellion, crisis, and punishment.
Biblical Humor Through Innuendo
Consider Genesis 18:10-15, wherein God informs Abraham and Sarah they will have a son by “this time next year” (v. 10). Sarah openly laughs, thinking she is worn out and now will have sexual pleasure again (v. 11). After all, she is about 89! We learn later that Abraham, probably about 99, also thought along sexual lines. He believed God could give him and Sarah descendants and make them parents even though he—as a man—was “as good as dead” (Hebrews 11:11-12). The idea of fathering a child at his age struck him as funny.
Humorous Books in the Hebrew Bible
Whole books in the Hebrew Bible have strong elements of humor. An ongoing humorous element in the Book of Esther is the number of banquets it mentions. There number at least 10, thereby forming the book’s structure and carrying much of its action. One wonders: Do these rulers do anything except dine and wine and plot and whine?
We are meant to laugh and learn throughout the Book of Jonah. Yes, we can laugh at Jonah’s open disobedience of going west to Tarshish when God commands him to go northeast to Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-3); at Jonah’s “time out” to think about things in the belly of the great fish (1:17a); at his pouting, obstinate silence for three days while being digested (1:17b); at his being vomited by the great fish on dry land—somewhere probably in the Mediterranean world (2:10); at his terse, seven-word sermon to Nineveh (3:4); at his anger over the success of this sermon, the repentance of the entire city (4:1). But the laughter is sometimes tinged with sadness, for Jonah’s anger prevails and he never understands God’s compassion for those who do not know him and for their cattle (4:11). Indeed everything in the Book of Jonah—the sailors, sea, big fish, gourd vine, hot wind and the Ninevites—obeys God. Everything and everybody except one: Jonah. God shows his colors of compassion and mercy—and Jonah disdains them.
Humor in the New Testament
The New Testament, similarly, abounds with laughter. Jesus must have been a compelling personality to keep the attention of crowds for days and the steadfast loyalty of at least twelve disciples for three years. In addition to being a riveting teacher whose words brought life, he was likely the kind of personality that was just fun to be around.
For example, a crowd numbering about 5,000 men followed him to a solitary place (Mark 6:30-44). Jesus’ teaching evidently made people forget to eat, bring food or worry about work.
In his classic work The Humor of Christ, Elton Trueblood lists thirty humorous passages in the Synopic Gospels. In one way or another, they’re all one liners, parables or stories Jesus told. Trueblood thinks Jesus’ audience would have laughed at the image of those who loudly proclaim their righteous actions to others (Matt. 6:2) because it was all too prevalent. An audience would have found the idea of rulers calling themselves benefactors ludicrous (Luke 22:25)—because the working folks knew all too well it wasn’t so. No doubt the audience chuckled when Jesus commended the vociferous, obstreperous widow for her persistent pestering of the unjust judge and cited her as a successful model of prayer (Luke 18:1-8).
Paul employs humor in his letter to the new church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). He addresses several problems reported to him. The problems—pride, exclusivity and attitudes of “I don’t need or want you”—could destroy the new church, for they counter the love Jesus taughtInstead of singling out by name troublemakers in Corinth, he allegorizes the situation in a humorous, non-threatening, open way: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, I don’t need you’” (v. 12:21). Paul affirms the need of all parts, and their need to function in unity, in the Body of Christ.
In the home of Jairus, a synagogue ruler, Jesus uses practical knowledge to break a tense situation. Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter just died. Jesus, three of his disciples and the child’s parents fill the room (Mark 5:40). Jesus goes to the body, picks up the girl’s hand, says to her, “Talitha koum!” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” (v. 41). The girl immediately gets up and walks around the room (v. 42a). Mark records the reaction of those in the room as “completely astonished” (v. 42b); in other words, they’re probably stunned and silent. Jesus responds with something practical: He tells them to give her something to eat (v. 43). A natural human reaction—when grief is turned to unexpected joy as when a dead girl is brought back to life—is something loud like laughter or shouting. Here, Jesus cracks a joke by reminding everybody that a girl who has been sick, experienced death, and is now alive is hungry! Of course she needs to eat! All twelve year-olds have ravenous appetites! This practical, timely and kind statement from Jesus breaks all the tension, pent-up grief and amazement present in the room among the girl’s parents and Jesus’ three disciples. I read this scene as Jesus’ cracking a joke. And the proper appreciation of a joke is laughter.
Thanks for letting me feel good by way of sharing this study with you. In your contemplation after reading this post please pray for our cause and our strength to see it become a reality. Click the insignia to view.
Larry Smith jail in Banning from Highway 243 in Banning on April 23, 2013. Over the next five years, virtually every cent of new revenue flowing into Riverside County coffers will go to building and staffing jails and boosting deputy patrols in unincorporated areas.
Adding jail beds and boosting deputy patrols in Riverside County could eat up projected gains in revenue over the next few years, leaving little or nothing to restore code enforcement, animal control and other departments hit hard by the economic downturn.
Jail expansions could potentially max out the county’s self-imposed limit on debt payments by 2020, according to a recent analysis. Even then, the county likely can’t erase its jail bed shortage without going well beyond the limit.
The Board of Supervisors last month held a workshop on budget-related matters, including a five-year spending plan for jails and a plan to hire more deputies for unincorporated areas. The board voted to hire a consultant to further assess the jail crunch, and supervisors want a closer look at non-jail options, such as road crews and fire camps for low-level offenders.
After losing $215 million in tax revenue since 2007, county finances are starting to modestly perk up, and property tax revenue is expected to grow as the real estate market rebounds. But as more money comes in, the county faces massive new spending obligations, jails being the largest.
Jail crowding has been a problem for years. Since 2000, the county’s population grew 45 percent while the number of jail beds grew just 31 percent, according to a county staff report. A long-standing federal court order requires the county to release inmates early when there aren’t enough beds.
Under court pressure to shrink California’s prison population and relieve crowding, state lawmakers in 2011 passed public safety realignment, which shifted to counties the responsibility for inmates convicted of nonviolent, nonserious and non-high risk sexual offenses. Those offenders are now sent to jails instead of state prison.
The county’s five jails, which have 3,906 beds, filled up in January 2012. Almost 7,000 inmates got early releases in 2012, and the number is expected to exceed 9,000 by the end of this year. Roughly 18 percent of jail inmates – 693 – were there due to realignment as of Aug. 31, county staff said.
“Because of what the state has done, we will need to distort what would otherwise be our county priorities in order to do what must be done, which is to build jails to house people that used to be in prison,” county Chief Financial Officer Ed Corser told supervisors during the Sept. 23 workshop.
To curtail early releases, the county plans to add more than 1,200 beds to the 353-bed Indio jail by 2017. The $267 million project – a state grant covers $100 million – doesn’t include the cost of moving county offices to accommodate the expansion.
The county is applying for another $80 million in state funding to add as many as 582 beds to the 1,520-bed Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning. Officials see potential there for a total of 1,600 additional beds.
Grants don’t cover the cost of running bigger jails. The new Indio jail, called the East County Detention Center, will require 406 sheriff’s personnel to be hired at a cost of $37.9 million annually by 2017, according to Corser’s figures.
In all, supervisors have committed to $97.5 million in new, annual public safety expenses by 2017, Corser’s numbers show. He expects revenue growth to cover the new costs.
But the $97.5 million doesn’t include higher labor costs that could come when the sheriffs’ union contract expires in 2016.
And it doesn’t address potential new funding requests from the district attorney’s office, the public defender, the Fire Department and probation. The county also is trying to boost its rainy day fund from $140 million, an amount described by one bond rating agency as “barely satisfactory,” Corser said.
Altogether, those additional requests could add up to $118 million by 2017, Corser said. Of that, $91.3 million would have to be found somewhere.
Prop. 172 passed in 1993 created a special public safety sales tax. But Corser said any growth in Prop. 172 revenue should go to the Indio expansion.
The Sheriff’s Department estimates the county needs 4,000 new jail beds now and 10,000 by 2028. Adding to Indio and Larry Smith would still leave the county short of that long-term goal.
Plans for a “hub jail” outside Palm Springs – 2,000 beds in phase one, 7,200 at buildout – have been discussed for years, and the county spent more than $22 million preparing for the project. But supervisors shelved the hub jail in 2011 amid cost concerns and opposition from Coachella Valley residents, who worried a jail seen from Interstate 10 would hurt the area’s image.
Even if supervisors revived the hub jail, a county staff analysis casts doubt on the ability to pay for it in the short term.
County policy dictates that no more than 7 percent of general fund spending go to paying off construction debt, a ratio meant to appease rating agencies that grade the county’s credit-worthiness. Adding 1,600 beds to Larry Smith brings the county to that threshold by 2020, the analysis shows.
The threshold would be shattered by 2025 if the county tries to add 10,000 beds now, according to the analysis. The Indio jail and other approved projects will double the county’s annual debt payments to $40 million by 2016, according to the analysis.
Deputy County Executive Officer Christopher Hans, who presented the analysis to supervisors, noted the projections are less accurate the farther they go out.
NOTHING BUT JAILS?
But assuming the numbers are true, there’s practically no room in the general fund – the county’s main piggy bank – for non-jail construction projects.
In the past, the county could use redevelopment money to pay for new infrastructure. But that option vanished in 2011 when the courts upheld the abolishment of California redevelopment agencies.
The Riverside County Transportation Commission, a multi-jurisdictional agency, does have its own funding for transportation infrastructure. It’s also possible to pay for construction through developer impact fees, state and federal money and other sources.
Right now, 20 percent of the county’s $590 million in discretionary general fund revenue goes to corrections. Jail spending would make up more than 40 percent if 1,600 beds are added to Larry Smith and more than 80 percent if a 6,000-bed jail is also built.
The five supervisors committed in April to improving the ratio of deputies to residents in the county’s unincorporated areas, which aren’t part of cities. The ratio stood at 1.2 deputies per 1,000 residents before the recession and fell to 0.75 per 1,000 in 2012. It should rise to 1 per 1,000 by the end of 2013.
To reach 1.2 per 1,000, Corser said the sheriff would have to add 148 deputies by 2018 at an annual cost of $21.4 million. Actual costs could vary depending on how long it takes to screen and train new hires.
During the workshop, Supervisor John Tavaglione questioned whether the 1.2 ratio is feasible. During tough times in prior years, budgets for the animal control and code enforcement departments were slashed, and supervisors had to restore them, he said.
“Now we’ve obliterated those departments,” Tavaglione said. “And we’re going to have to rebuild them again.”
Public safety departments have seen their budgets cut 3 percent in recent years, but other departments took hits of at least 15 to 19 percent, Corser said. Factoring in non-county funding, code enforcement and animal control budgets since 2007 have dropped 33 and 18 percent, respectively.
In September 2007, supervisors beefed up code enforcement staffing in the unincorporated areas to 90 officers and supervising staff, up from 40 the year before. The number is 44 now.
Tavaglione stressed he supports the Sheriff’s Department and said he would love to see a 1.2 ratio.
However, “To think that we can just, for the next five years, focus every single dollar that we have on only the Sheriff’s Department and nothing else … that we’re not going to be able to provide the other services necessary in our communities to support, that go along with sheriff … it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Supervisor Marion Ashley said without a safe environment, the county won’t realize the economic growth it is expecting.
PRICE FOR SAFETY
Assistant District Attorney Jeff Van Wagenen said the district attorney’s office agrees jail beds are the top priority.
However, he said more prosecutors will be needed as more deputies arrest lawbreakers. Van Wagenen estimates the office is down 15 to 20 lawyers compared to four years ago. In recent years, the office has sought grants and outside funding to offset expenses, he added.
The county also is bracing for possible holes in this year’s budget. The Sheriff’s Department could have a $20 million shortfall and Riverside County Regional Medical Center is looking at a $50 million gap when the fiscal year ends next June, Corser said.
Assistant Sheriff Steve Thetford said his department appreciates the costs associated with expanding jails and hiring more deputies.
“There’s a price for public safety,” he said.
Alternative sentencing Re-Entry programs like Second Chance Alliance for Riverside County will increase public safety and generate revenues for the various community it will serve. Click the insignia to view our vision.
To my family, not my family that we as actors of life perceive as family because they like or love us because we were born in the same blood line, no I am speaking to the family God has gifted me to serve behind the screen of approval or non approval or in the existence of difficulty with no interest of reciprocating love. We all have a part to play as actors or loving compassionate human beings towards making each others life better. Some of us perform the essentials in the early development of one another and some of us take the reigns later on to complete the development. Sometimes we choose who we will allow to make deposits in our life directly and sometime we play a role of excepting others, but nevertheless God is the facilitator of all aspects of our life because His sovereign will has to be performed.
Erika, Keena, my gifts from God, Daughter’s, not step daughter’s, I speak to you, as well as myself and my wife, your mother. Our story as a family is one worthy of a best seller because we have thus far overcome defeat. Your mom and I went to prison in the early stages of your development as young ladies, Keenan your brother was very young and left to be cared for in a very different circumstance than you young ladies. Erika went off to college while we were still serving our sentences, Keena, you were left to grow up in a very adverse circumstance because you chose not to live within the home of your blessed auntie as Keenan and Erika. When we did come home, Keena had a bundle of joy named Jerni awaiting both of us and Keenan your younger brother decided to stay with his auntie in-spite of our many attempts to gain custody, he remained loyal and reverent to his auntie. Keena, now a mom and educator of early childhood development and Erika, a Health Administrator , both of them still college students and May the mom, a devoted “Woman of God” and in February a graduate from Argosy University with her degree in Psychology and substance abuse counseling. Two broken hearted parents that once suffered from drug addictions and riotous living still being allowed to participate in life and watch God be true to His promises and restore what the enemy had stolen.
Now to my girls, I want to salute you in this tribute because against all odds “You” allowed “Your God” to place you in position to help complete the work He began In your brother’s life. The world as we know it is watching to see how we come together to participate in Keenan’s life to become a “Man”. Auntie, Uncle and a host of others did their part, now let us do ours to prepare Keenan for life. Let’s stay in love with one another and run this race with no compromise or ill feelings of the past to create an atmosphere that will propel him into his purpose for being here as you young ladies have discovered. Let’s make him a “Man” that has the Marks of Manhood.
When does a boy become a man? The answer to this must go far beyond biology and chronological age. As defined in the Bible, manhood is a functional reality, demonstrated in a man’s fulfillment of responsibility and leadership.
With this in mind, let me suggest 13 marks of biblical manhood. The achievement of these vital qualities marks the emergence of a man who will demonstrate true biblical masculinity.
1. Spiritual maturity sufficient to lead a wife and children.
The Bible is clear about a man’s responsibility to exercise spiritual maturity and spiritual leadership. Of course, this spiritual maturity takes time to develop, and it is a gift of the Holy Spirit working within the life of the believer. The disciplines of the Christian life, including prayer and serious Bible study, are among the means God uses to mold a boy into a man and to bring spiritual maturity into the life of one who is charged to lead a wife and family.
This spiritual leadership is central to the Christian vision of marriage and family life. A man’s spiritual leadership is not a matter of dictatorial power, but of firm and credible spiritual leadership and influence. A man must be ready to lead his wife and his children in a way that will honor God, demonstrate godliness, inculcate Christian character, and lead his family to desire Christ and to seek God’s glory.
Spiritual maturity is a mark of true Christian manhood, and a spiritually immature man is, in at least this crucial sense, spiritually just a boy.
2. Personal maturity sufficient to be a responsible husband and father.
True masculinity is not a matter of exhibiting supposedly masculine characteristics devoid of the context of responsibility. In the Bible, a man is called to fulfill his role as husband and father. Unless granted the gift of celibacy for gospel service, the Christian boy is to aim for marriage and fatherhood. This is assuredly a counter-cultural assertion, but the role of husband and father is central to manhood.
Marriage is unparalleled in its effect on men, as it channels their energies and directs their responsibilities to the devoted covenant of marriage and the grace-filled civilization of the family. They must aspire to be the kind of man a Christian woman would gladly marry and children will trust, respect and obey.
3. Economic maturity sufficient to hold an adult job and handle money.
Advertisers and marketers know where to aim their messages — directly at adolescent boys and young men. This particular segment of the population is inordinately attracted to material goods, popular entertainment, sporting events and other consumer options. The portrait of young manhood made popular in the media and presented as normal through entertainment is characterized by economic carelessness, self-centeredness and laziness.
A real man knows how to hold a job, handle money with responsibility, and take care of the needs of his wife and family. A failure to develop economic maturity means that these young men often float from job to job, and take years to “find themselves” in terms of career and vocation.
Once again, an extended adolescence marks a huge segment of today’s young male population. Slothfulness, laziness and economic carelessness are marks of immaturity. A real man knows how to earn, manage and respect money. A Christian man understands the danger that comes from the love of money and fulfills his responsibility as a Christian steward.
4. Physical maturity sufficient to work and protect a family.
Unless afflicted by injury or illness, a boy should develop the physical maturity that, by stature and strength, marks recognizable manhood. Of course, men come in many sizes and demonstrate different levels of physical strength, but common to all men is a maturity, through which a man demonstrates his masculinity by movement, confidence and strength.
A man must be ready to put his physical strength on the line to protect his wife and children and to fulfill his God-assigned tasks. A boy must be taught to channel his developing strength and emerging size into a self-consciousness of responsibility, recognizing that adult strength is to be combined with adult responsibility and true maturity.
5. Sexual maturity sufficient to marry and fulfill God’s purposes.
Even as the society celebrates sex in every form and at every age, the true Christian man practices sexual integrity, avoiding pornography, fornication, all forms of sexual promiscuity and corruption. He understands the danger of lust, but rejoices in the sexual capacity and reproductive power God has put within him, committing himself to find a wife, and to earn her love, trust and admiration — and eventually to win her hand in marriage.
It’s critical that men respect this incredible gift, and to protect this gift until, within the context of holy marriage, they are able to fulfill this gift, love their wives and look to God’s gift of children. Male sexuality separated from the context and integrity of marriage is an explosive and dangerous reality. The boy must understand, even as he travels through the road of puberty and an awakened sexuality, that he is accountable to God for his stewardship of this great gift.
6. Moral maturity sufficient to lead as example of righteousness.
Stereotypical behavior on the part of young males is, in the main, marked by recklessness, irresponsibility and worse. As a boy grows into manhood, he must develop moral maturity as he aspires to righteousness, learning to think like a Christian, act like a Christian and show others how to do the same. The Christian man is to be an example to others, teaching by both precept and example.
Of course, this requires the exercise of responsible moral reasoning. True moral education begins with a clear understanding of moral standards, but must move to the higher level of moral reasoning by which a young man learns how biblical principles are translated into godly living and how the moral challenges of his day must be met with the truths revealed in God’s inherent and infallible Word.
7. Ethical maturity sufficient to make responsible decisions.
To be a man is to make decisions. One of the most fundamental tasks of leadership is decision-making.
Of course, a man does not rush to a decision without thought. The indecisiveness of so many contemporary males is evidence of a stunted manhood, consideration or care, but a man does put himself on the line in making a decision — and making it stick. This requires an extension of moral responsibility into mature ethical decision-making that brings glory to God, is faithful to God’s Word and is open to moral scrutiny. A real man knows how to make a decision and live with its consequences — even if that means that he must later acknowledge that he has learned by making a bad decision, and then by making the appropriate correction.
8. Worldview maturity sufficient to understand what is really important.
An inversion of values marks our postmodern age, and the predicament of modern manhood is made all the more perplexing by the fact that many men lack the capacity of consistent worldview thinking. For the Christian, this is doubly tragic, for our Christian discipleship must be demonstrated in the development of a Christian mind.
The Christian man must understand how to interpret and evaluate issues across the spectrum of politics, economics, morality, entertainment, education and a seemingly endless list of other fields. The absence of consistent biblical worldview thinking is a key mark of spiritual immaturity.
A boy must learn how to translate Christian truth into genuine Christian thinking. He must learn how to defend biblical truth before his peers and in the public square, and he must acquire the ability to extend Christian thinking, based on biblical principles, to every arena of life.
9. Relational maturity sufficient to understand and respect others.
Psychologists now talk of “emotional intelligence,” or EQ, as a major factor in personal development. While the world has given much attention to IQ, EQ is just as important. Individuals who lack the ability to relate to others are destined to fail at some of life’s most significant challenges and will not fulfill some of their most important responsibilities and roles.
By nature, many boys are inwardly directed. While girls learn how to read emotional signals and connect, many boys lack the capacity to do so, and seemingly fail to understand the absence of these skills. While a man is to demonstrate emotional strength, constancy and steadfastness, he must be able to relate to his wife, his children, his peers, his colleagues and a host of others in a way that demonstrates respect, understanding and appropriate empathy. This will not be learned by entering into the privatized world experienced by many male adolescents.
10. Social maturity sufficient to make a contribution to society.
While the arena of the home is an essential and inescapable focus of a man’s responsibility, he is also called out of the home into the workplace and the larger world as a witness, and as one who will make a contribution to the common good.
God has created human beings as social creatures, and even though our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, we must also fulfill our citizenship on earth. A boy must learn to fulfill a political responsibility as a citizen, and a moral responsibility as a member of a human community. The Christian man bears a civilizational responsibility, and boys must be taught to see themselves as shapers of the society even as the church is identified by our Lord as both salt and light.
Similarly, a Christian man must learn how to relate to unbelievers, both as witness and as fellow citizens of an earthly kingdom.
11. Verbal maturity sufficient to communicate and articulate as a man.
A man must be able to speak, to be understood and to communicate in a way that will honor God and convey God’s truth to others. Beyond the context of conversation, a boy must learn how to speak before larger groups, overcoming the natural intimidation and fear that comes from looking at a crowd, opening one’s mouth and projecting words.
Though not all men will become public speakers, every man should have the ability to take his ground, frame his words, and make his case when truth is under fire and when belief and conviction must be translated into argument.
12. Character maturity sufficient to demonstrate courage under fire.
The literature of manhood is replete with stories of courage, bravery and audacity. At least, that’s the way it used to be. Now, with manhood both minimalized and marginalized by cultural elites, ideological subversion and media confusion, we must recapture a commitment to courage that is translated into the real-life challenges faced by the Christian man.
At times, this quality of courage is demonstrated when a man risks his own life in defense of others, especially his wife and children, but also anyone who is in need of rescue. More often, this courage is demonstrated in taking a stand under hostile fire, refusing to succumb to the temptation of silence and standing as a model and example to others, who will then be encouraged to stand their own ground.
In these days, biblical manhood requires great courage. The prevailing ideologies and worldviews of this age are inherently hostile to Christian truth and are corrosive to Christian faithfulness.
It takes great courage for a boy to commit himself to sexual purity and for a man to devote himself unreservedly to his wife. It takes great courage to say no to what this culture insists are the rightful pleasures and delights of the flesh. It takes courage to serve as a godly husband and father, to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It takes courage to maintain personal integrity in a world that devalues the truth, disparages God’s Word, and promises self-fulfillment and happiness only through the assertion of undiluted personal autonomy.
A man’s true confidence is rooted in the wells of courage, and courage is evidence of character. In the end, a man’s character is revealed in the crucible of everyday challenges. For most men, life will also bring moments when extraordinary courage will be required, if he is to remain faithful and true.
13. Biblical maturity sufficient to lead at some level in the church.
A close look at many churches will reveal that a central problem is the lack of biblical maturity among the men of the congregation and a lack of biblical knowledge that leaves men ill equipped and completely unprepared to exercise spiritual leadership.
Boys must know their way around the biblical text and feel at home in the study of God’s Word. They must stand ready to take their place as leaders in the local church.
While God has appointed specific officers for his church — men who are specially gifted and publicly called — every man should fulfill some leadership responsibility within the life of the congregation. For some men, this may mean a less public role of leadership than is the case with others. In any event, a man should be able to teach someone, and to lead in some ministry, translating his personal discipleship into the fulfillment of a godly call.
There is a role of leadership for every man in every church, whether that role is public or private, large or small, official or unofficial. A man should know how to pray before others, to present the Gospel and to stand in the gap where a leadership need is apparent.
In an indirect approach to synergize my gifted kids I pray that this is received in a direct connotation. I am praying to one day be able to spend one on one time with Keenan and his friends as well as the many nephews I have been blessed to share life with. My purpose in life should be apparent. Take a look at my campaign and pray it’s success thank you all in advance.
Someone has defined friendship as “knowing the heart of another and sharing one’s heart with another.” We share our hearts with those we trust, and trust those who care about us. We confide in our friends because we have confidence that they will use the information to help us, not harm us. They in turn confide in us for the same reason. This week the winds of adversity have blown strong with deceit, arrogance, and piety from family and friends alike. I found myself troubled beyond measure today because of all the mess in the world that is more important than some of the family issues and church issues I have had to deal with.
We often refer to Jesus as our friend because we know that He wants what is best for us. We confide in Him because we trust Him. But have you ever considered that Jesus confides in His people?
Jesus began calling His disciples friends rather than servants because He had entrusted them with everything He had heard from His Father (John 15:15). Jesus trusted the disciples to use the information for the good of His Father’s kingdom.
Although we know that Jesus is our friend, can we say that we are His friends? Do we listen to Him? Or do we only want Him to listen to us? Do we want to know what’s on His heart? Or do we only want to tell Him what’s on ours? To be a friend of Jesus, we need to listen to what He wants us to know and then use the information to bring others into friendship with Him.
Sweet thought! We have a Friend above, Our weary, faltering steps to guide, Who follows with His eye of love The precious child for whom He died.
One of the most challenging aspects of pastoral ministry is dealing with difficult people. These are people who need help but seem to challenge you at every turn as you try to provide that help. How should the church respond and minister in these situations? Everyone has to relate to difficult people—and most of us have been difficult people ourselves at one time or another! Therefore, every Christian should know how the gospel guides us in these relationships.
Two passages that guide me in this are 1 Peter 4:8 and Ephesians 3:14-19. In the 1 Peter passage, we are called to “love one another deeply.” The word translated deeply can also mean “constant”. “Keep love constant” would be a good translation. The word describes something that is stretched or extended. The love of the saints keeps stretching, in both depth and endurance. This connects nicely with Ephesians 3 where Paul prays that we would “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” Persevering love grows out of the gospel. You must start here if you are going to find the strength and incentive to go the distance with people.
With these scriptures as guidance, I offer a list of ten pastoral skills that I learned as I discipled one individual who came with many difficult problems.
I will call her Tonya. She is in her 40’s and seems to be a sincere believer in Christ. She is in a bad marriage. She is someone who would classically be labeled bipolar or manic-depressive. She has successfully isolated herself from people in her church because once they get to know her, they become overwhelmed by her. Here is the challenge: How do I love Tonya well? What will it look like to be useful to her in her growth in grace? These lessons have taken me many years to learn—and I am still learning with other “Tonya’s” that God graciously and wisely places in my life. I will speak directly to you, the reader, about the difficult people God calls you to serve. Sometimes I will refer to Tonya in particular and sometimes to difficult people as a whole.
Lesson 1. Pay Attention to the Heart (Yours and Theirs)
The category of the heart must be kept on the radar at all times.
Yours—God has ordained that this person be in your life. The first pastoral exercise is to pay attention to the common temptations to sin that different kinds of difficult people pose to you. Manipulative “borderline personality”? Angry and oblivious? Addicted and deceitful? Unstable “bipolar”? You may be tempted to overpower, or to appease, or to avoid such people. You will likely move typically in one of these directions or bounce back and forth between them in an effort to get some relief. You end up, if you are not carefully attending to your own heart, sinfully responding to the challenges that the difficult person is bringing into your life. If you do this, how then can you call this person to respond to life in godly ways when you aren’t even responding in godly ways? This, by the way, is true of any relationship.
Theirs—As you get to know difficult people, you begin to see the particular types of suffering that each person has experienced. You begin to see typical ways that the person tends to respond. With people who evidence what may be a more physiological component, keep that in mind as you seek to pastor them well. With someone who is manic-depressive, don’t let behavior on either extreme of the continuum fool you. Don’t get hijacked by the momentary emotional state. With Nancy, many elements were at work at any given moment when I would talk with her: a bad day with her husband, children, person in the church, no sleep, fear of the future… or a good day with her husband, children, person in the church, and lots of sleep. Each person is responding in either a godly or ungodly way to events. What patterns do you see as you get to know them and move towards them? What are their typical ungodly ways of dealing with life and what tends to drive those behaviors? There will be opportunities to help a person see these things. Find simple Scripture passages that will provide guidance during these times, and experience the joys of biblical repentance in the midst of the difficulty.
Lesson 2. Clearly Define Who Sets the Agenda
The common language that is often used here is the language of “boundaries”. I think that can be helpful but it does not go deep enough. Who sets the agenda in any relationship? God does. The only difference is what the agenda will be not who sets it. God sets the agenda in all of our relationships and He does here as well. Recognizing this, reminds you that you—the helper—are also under the gaze of God. The language of “boundaries” typically gives the impression that as the helper, you must set boundaries in order to protect yourself from being taken advantage of. If we think of this in terms of God setting the agenda, the end result will be you loving the person well rather than just protecting yourself.
With Nancy, because God set the agenda, there were times when I made sacrifices that were appropriate. Some of these decisions affected my family and lifestyle: the phone call at home late at night, or the sudden appearance at my house or office. Then there were other times that I told her I could not speak with her at that moment but would be willing to talk to her at some later time that we both agreed would work. There were times though, that I was tempted to agree to speak to her immediately because I did not want her to dislike me, or I was fearful that she would tell someone in the church that I had not cared for her like a good pastor should. Saying no at these times was an expression of godliness and love for Nancy. There were instances that I told her to go home and get some sleep and then call me that afternoon at the office. Grace-driven acceptance of a person does not mean open-ended availability.
It is important that you take the initiative to communicate some guidelines for the relationship and to alert the person that there will be many times when you will not be available. Be clear about when and where you may be contacted. Do this with love and then have godly courage to say no a few times early on when you think the person has moved beyond what is appropriate for the moment. If you are too available, it will likely lead to anger in you, because you assume that the person should respect boundaries like other people do. Don’t make that assumption. Another reason to set limits for people is because otherwise it may be too easy for them to go to you before they cry out to God. You, in effect, could be the very person who is making it too easy for them to avoid dealing directly with and depending upon Christ.
Lesson 3. Have Biblically Realistic/Optimistic Goals
Here is a place where your theology of the Christian life means everything. The doctrine of sanctification sees the Christian life through the biblical lens of slow, steady, back and forth progress. It’s realistic: change is incremental. It’s also optimistic: there is progress. For me, as I got a handle on the practical pastoral implications of this biblical understanding of the Christian life, it made all the difference in the world.
When Nancy was really depressed, I was thankful that she was still coming to church and seeking help. When she was particularly upbeat and euphoric, I would avoid being duped and then let down when she was depressed again. Without this leveling view of the Christian life, you will be a manic-depressive enabler!
Lesson 4. Redefine Love
If you do not re-define love biblically, you will be very disappointed if you are called to help other people— especially difficult people. A succinct definition of love is found in I John 3:16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” That’s it. Love means death. Let me nuance that some. Loving people well is the most inefficient thing you could ever do, but according to Jesus, it is the godliest thing you can ever do. I John 3:16 goes on to say, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Another way of thinking about this is exchanging the word “servant hood” in place of the word “success.” We are not called to fix people; we are called to serve them. The sooner we lay hold of this biblical priority, the sooner we will not be undone when someone does not “get better” right away or remains in our lives for a long time. Imagine in John 13, when Jesus washes his disciple’s feet—if he thought in terms of success—he would have kicked the bucket over, screamed at the disciples and stomped out. When you look at the characters in the room that night, success would not have been a word that would come to mind. And yet Jesus served. Paul Miller makes this wonderful observation in his book Love Walked Among Us, “Jesus’ tenderness with people suggested to me a new, less “efficient,” way of relating. Love, I realized, is not efficient.”1
It was through the “Tonya’s” in my life that I realized what it was like to work with people. It’s messy and inefficient and I don’t like that. And yet, it was just where God wanted me. I needed Nancy as much— if not more— than she needed me. I needed her in the sense that I needed to be more like Christ. I needed to see how much I wasn’t like him. I needed to see how desperately selfish I was and that if I did not redefine love along biblical lines, I would continue to be a selfish person who only met with people because I had to.
Lesson 5. Give the Person Hope
For someone like Tonya, change doesn’t seem to be something that is very visible or tangible. There were times when she was so discouraged that she thought suicide was a possible option. One of the practical ways to help someone like Nancy have hope is by clearly defining some things that can reasonably be accomplished and stating these in simple measurable ways.
Ask the person, “What do you want to see God do in your life over the next week?” You will be amazed how this reframes the person’s view of the future. This question encourages them to think about the possibilities of being different and of living differently in the coming week. Maybe their circumstances will not change, but maybethey can change instead. The simpler the goals are— the better. Do this within the context of the gospel and Christ’s covenant love for them.
Lesson 6. Call the Person to Serve
Another critical place a difficult person often needs to grow is in the area of loving others. The Bible says that everyone has been given gifts and can encourage, bear burdens, and be used in the lives of other people. As you attend to the heart issues in a person’s life and as you frame the relationship to serve the sanctifying purposes of God, a hopeful call to loving others is only appropriate.
Nancy had a husband and two children whom she could love and serve. She was surrounded by other wives who were struggling in their marriages. It is not good for difficult people to simply “take” from their families and friends. This is destructive behavior that is not pleasing to God and it is driven by a host of attitudes that God will not bless. Calling people to serve others will move them towards people and outside of themselves. It will help them see that they are valuable members of the body of Christ,and are not the only people who struggle.
Lesson 7. Connect the Person with the Body of Christ
This is important for two reasons. First, it is only within the context of others that difficult people are going to die to themselves. Secondly, it is only within the context of other people that you can adequately help the person. My experience is that difficult people need a host of helpers that are all doing basically the same thing in concert with one another.
I always encouraged Tonya to stay connected. I knew that I was not sufficient for her growth. But that is nothing new, is it? We all need many people around us speaking into and acting in our lives and on our behalf. I would structure contexts for discipleship for her. Thankfully, she would do a lot of this on her own, too. Though sometimes her involvement with others was selfishly motivated, thankfully it was with wise women who knew how to love her well. She was also connected to a small group Bible study where she was surrounded by a group of people who would keep up with her.
Your failure to do this reveals as much about your heart as it does the heart of the difficult person. When people are overly needy, and we do not share the load, it reveals that we may be overly needy of their need of us!
Lesson 8. Work Wisely with Other Helpers
It is inevitable as you work with difficult people that you will be criticized by them. Sometimes they will do this to your face, but most of the time they will do it with others who are reaching out to them. The illustration that I think works here is the illustration of a child. If the child does not get what is wanted from one parent, the child will complain to other parent in an effort to get it. If you are helping a difficult person, chances are you are not the only person in their lives. They are amazingly connected! If you know this from the outset, you can begin to find out who else they depend on. With that information, you can wisely seek appropriate ways to make sure that the various helpers do not get caught between the complaints of the difficult person. When a difficult person complains to you about someone who has not helped them, use this as an opportunity to remind the difficult person that the person they are speaking about does care for them. Encourage the others to do this as well.
There were occasions with Nancy where I would have to remind her of how much God had been good to her by giving her the friends she had. It was also an opportunity to challenge her to learn to love even when she was not getting what she wanted from others.
Lesson 9. Connect the Person to Christ Himself
What could be more obvious and yet what could be least obvious. People need something and someone more than you. They need Christ. If you are not careful, you may be the one person that keeps them from him if you love yourself more than you love the difficult person. One of the temptations in pastoral ministry is to forget who the Chief Shepherd of the sheep is. A gentle reminder: it is not you. I remember being in the midst of a broader family crisis with Nancy. The weight of it all was coming down on me. Sometime that week a friend called me and sensed the weight in my voice. He spoke gently and lovingly to me when he said, “Tim, remember, you are not the ultimate shepherd of the sheep, Jesus is.” His words cut and healed at the same time. They called me to repent of my people, control, and success idolatries. At the same time, they reminded me that Jesus was more concerned for and able to help this person than 1000 pastors working at once. We need to connect people to Christ to remind them as well as ourselves that we are not the Chief Shepherd of the sheep.
Lesson 10. Remember: We are All Difficult People
Finally, a helpful reminder that is always appropriate to remember as we serve difficult people. From God’s point of view, aren’t we all difficult people? Romans 5:8 sums it up nicely when it says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Verse 10 goes on to say, “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.”
These 10 lessons are practical ways that I have grown in wisdom within the context of pastoral ministry. Helping difficult people is challenging but if you see it as extension of the gospel into the everyday lives of God’s people, your path will be clearer and your love more “constant” because it depends less on you and more on the God who calls you to do it.
I served my country well. Nine Campaigns as a Navy Seal and five years on aircraft carriers as an Engineer. I obtained 2 degrees from respected Universities in America. I served Six prison terms because I was sick but denied help or being properly diagnosed when I came home from the last tour of duty. I had no idea why I behaved as I once did until 2013 when I was diagnosed with PTSD and Schitzo affective Disorder. “If I could but forget” , But I can’t and so I live to serve and be a light in this dark and perverse world.I am speaking to someones son, someones daughter and to husbands and fathers of this nation. I am attempting to be as brave in this life I now live as I once was in battle. We have a serious problem as a nation!!!!!
Blacks must fight for their freedom, he said:
Let our enemies go on with their butcheries, and at once fill up their cup. Never make an attempt to gain our freedom or natural right from under our cruel oppressors and murderers, until you see your way clear-when that hour arrives and you move, be not afraid or dismayed. . .. God has been pleased to give us two eyes, two hands, two feet, and some sense in our heads as well as they. They have no more right to hold us in slavery than we have to hold them… . Our sufferings will come to an end, in spite of all the Americans this side of eternity. Then we will want all the learning and talents among ourselves, and perhaps more, to govern ourselves.-“Every dog must have its day,” the American’s is coming to an end.
If I could but forget
The fullness of those first sweet days,
When you burst sun-like thro’ the haze
Of unacquaintance, on my sight,
And made the wet, gray day seem bright
While clouds themselves grew fair to see.
And since, no day is gray or wet
But all the scene comes back to me,
If I could but forget.
If I could but forget
How your dusk eyes look into mine,
And how I thrilled as with strong wine
Beneath your touch; while sped amain
The quickened stream thro’ ev’ry vein;
How near my breath fell to a gasp,
When for a space our fingers met
In one electric vibrant clasp,
If I could but forget.
If I could but forget
The months of passion and of pain,
And all that followed in their train–
Rebellious thoughts that would arise,
Rebellious tears that dimmed mine eyes,
The prayers that I might set love’s fire
Aflame within your bosom yet–
The death at last of that desire–
If I could but forget.
Lawyers Tell 60 Minutes They Were Legally Bound From Revealing Secret
John Little, a former slave, wrote:
They say slaves are happy, because they laugh, and are merry. I myself and three or four others, have received two hundred lashes in the day, and had our feet in fetters; yet, at night, we would sing and dance, and make others laugh at the rattling of our chains. Happy men we must have been! We did it to keep down trouble, and to keep our hearts from being completely broken: that is as true as the gospel! Just look at it,-must not we have been very happy? Yet I have done it myself-I have cut capers in chains.
The United States government’s support of slavery was based on an overpowering practicality. In 1790, a thousand tons of cotton were being produced every year in the South. By 1860, it was a million tons. In the same period, 500,000 slaves grew to 4 million. A system harried by slave rebellions and conspiracies (Gabriel Prosser, 1800; Denmark Vesey, 1822; Nat Turner, 1831) developed a network of controls in the southern states, hacked by the laws, courts, armed forces, and race prejudice of the nation’s political leaders.
It would take either a full-scale slave rebellion or a full-scale war to end such a deeply entrenched system. If a rebellion, it might get out of hand, and turn its ferocity beyond slavery to the most successful system of capitalist enrichment in the world. If a war, those who made the war would organize its consequences. Hence, it was Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves, not John Brown. In 1859, John Brown was hanged, with federal complicity, for attempting to do by small-scale violence what Lincoln would do by large-scale violence several years later-end slavery.
With slavery abolished by order of the government-true, a government pushed hard to do so, by blacks, free and slave, and by white abolitionists-its end could be orchestrated so as to set limits to emancipation. Liberation from the top would go only so far as the interests of the dominant groups permitted. If carried further by the momentum of war, the rhetoric of a crusade, it could be pulled back to a safer position. Thus, while the ending of slavery led to a reconstruction of national politics and economics, it was not a radical reconstruction, but a safe one- in fact, a profitable one.
The plantation system, based on tobacco growing in Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, and rice in South Carolina, expanded into lush new cotton lands in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi-and needed more slaves. But slave importation became illegal in 1808. Therefore, “from the beginning, the law went unenforced,” says John Hope Franklin (From Slavery to Freedom). “The long, unprotected coast, the certain markets, and the prospects of huge profits were too much for the American merchants and they yielded to the temptation.. ..” He estimates that perhaps 250,000 slaves were imported illegally before the Civil War.
As for black preachers, as Genovese puts it, “they had to speak a language defiant enough to hold the high-spirited among their flock but neither so inflammatory as to rouse them to battles they could not win nor so ominous as to arouse the ire of ruling powers.” Practicality decided: “The slave communities, embedded as they were among numerically preponderant and militarily powerful whites, counseled a strategy of patience, of acceptance of what could not be helped, of a dogged effort to keep the black community alive and healthy-a strategy of survival that, like its African prototype, above all said yes to life in this world.”
It was once thought that slavery had destroyed the black family. And so the black condition was blamed on family frailty, rather than on poverty and prejudice. Blacks without families, helpless, lacking kinship and identity, would have no will to resist. But interviews with ex-slaves, done in the 1930s by the Federal Writers Project of the New Deal for the Library of Congress, showed a different story, which George Rawick summarizes (From Sundown to Sunup):
The slave community acted like a generalized extended kinship system in which all adults looked after all children and there was little division between “my children for whom I’m responsible” and “your children for whom you’re responsible.” … A kind of family relationship in which older children have great responsibility for caring for younger siblings is obviously more functionally integrative and useful for slaves than the pattern of sibling rivalry and often dislike that frequently comes out of contemporary middle-class nuclear families composed of highly individuated persons. … Indeed, the activity of the slaves in creating patterns of family life that were functionally integrative did more than merely prevent the destruction of personality. … It was part and parcel, as we shall see, of the social process out of which came black pride, black identity, black culture, the black community, and black rebellion in America.
Old letters and records dug out by historian Herbert Gutman (The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom) show the stubborn resistance of the slave family to pressures of disintegration. A woman wrote to her son from whom she had been separated for twenty years: “I long to see you in my old age.. .. Now my dear son I pray you to come and see your dear old Mother. … I love you Cato you love your Mother-You are my only son. …”
And a man wrote to his wife, sold away from him with their children: “Send me some of the children’s hair in a separate paper with their names on the paper. … I had rather anything to had happened to me most than ever to have been parted from you and the children. . . . Laura I do love you the same….”
Going through records of slave marriages, Gutman found how high was the incidence of marriage among slave men and women, and how stable these marriages were. He studied the remarkably complete records kept on one South Carolina plantation. He found a birth register of two hundred slaves extending from the eighteenth century to just before the Civil War; it showed stable kin networks, steadfast marriages, unusual fidelity, and resistance to forced marriages.
Slaves hung on determinedly to their selves, to their love of family, their wholeness. A shoemaker on the South Carolina Sea Islands expressed this in his own way: “I’se lost an arm but it hasn’t gone out of my brains.”
This family solidarity carried into the twentieth century. The remarkable southern black farmer Nate Shaw recalled that when his sister died, leaving three children, his father proposed sharing their care, and he responded:
That suits me. Papa. . .. Let’s handle em like this; don’t get the two little boys, the youngest ones, off at your house and the oldest one be at my house and we bold these little boys apart and won’t bring em to see one another. I’ll bring the little boy that I keep, the oldest one, around to your home amongst the other two. And you forward the others to my house and let em grow up knowin that they are brothers. Don’t keep em separated in a way that they’ll forget about one another. Don’t do that, Papa.
Also insisting on the strength of blacks even under slavery, Lawrence Levine (Black Culture and Black Consciousness) gives a picture of a rich culture among slaves, a complex mixture of adaptation and rebellion, through the creativity of stories and songs:
We raise de wheat,
Dey gib us de corn;
We bake de bread,
Dey gib us de crust,
We sif de meal,
Dey gib us de huss;
We peel de meat,
Dey gib us de skin;
And dat’s de way
Dey take us in;
We skim de pot,
Dey gib us de liquor,
An say dat’s good enough for nigger.
There was mockery. The poet William Cullen Bryant, after attending a corn shucking in 1843 in South Carolina, told of slave dances turned into a pretended military parade, “a sort of burlesque of our militia trainings. . . .”
Spirituals often had double meanings. The song “O Canaan, sweet Canaan, I am bound for the land of Canaan” often meant that slaves meant to get to the North, their Canaan. During the Civil War, slaves began to make up new spirituals with bolder messages: “Before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be saved.” And the spiritual “Many Thousand Go”:
No more peck o ‘ corn for me, no more, no more,
No more driver’s lash for me, no more, no more. . . .
Levine refers to slave resistance as “pre-political,” expressed in countless ways in daily life and culture. Music, magic, art, religion, were all ways, he says, for slaves to hold on to their humanity.
One summer day in 1830, David Walker was found dead near the doorway of his shop in Boston.
Some born in slavery acted out the unfulfilled desire of millions. Frederick Douglass, a slave, sent to Baltimore to work as a servant and as a laborer in the shipyard, somehow learned to read and write, and at twenty-one, in the year 1838, escaped to the North, where he became the most famous black man of his time, as lecturer, newspaper editor, writer. In his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, he recalled his first childhood thoughts about his condition:
Why am I a slave? Why are some people slaves, and others masters? Was there ever a time when this was not so? How did the relationcommence?
Once, however, engaged in the inquiry, I was not very long in finding out the true solution of the matter. It was not color, but crime, not God, but man, that afforded the true explanation of the existence of slavery; nor was I long in finding out another important truth, viz: what man can make, man can unmake. .. .
I distinctly remember being, even then, most strongly impressed with the idea of being a free man some day. This cheering assurance was an inborn dream of my human nature-a constant menace to slavery-and one which all the powers of slavery were unable to silence or extinguish.
The Fugitive Slave Act passed in 1850 was a concession to the southern states in return for the admission of the Mexican war territories (California, especially) into the Union as nonslave states. The Act made it easy for slaveowners to recapture ex-slaves or simply to pick up blacks they claimed had run away. Northern blacks organized resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act, denouncing President Fillmore, who signed it, and Senator Daniel Webster, who supported it. One of these was J. W. Loguen, son of a slave mother and her white owner. He had escaped to freedom on his master’s horse, gone to college, and was now a minister in Syracuse, New York. He spoke to a meeting in that city in 1850:
The time has come to change the tones of submission into tones of defiance-and to tell Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Webster, if they propose to execute this measure upon us, to send on their blood-hounds. … I received my freedom from Heaven, and with it came the command to defend my title to it. … I don’t respect this law-I don’t fear it-I won’t obey it! It outlaws me, and I outlaw it…. I will not live a slave, and if force is employed to re-enslave me, I shall make preparations to meet the crisis as becomes a man. … Your decision tonight in favor of resistance will give vent to the spirit of liberty, and it will break the bands of party, and shout for joy all over the North. … Heaven knows that this act of noble daring will break out somewhere-and may God grant that Syracuse be the honored spot, whence it shall send an earthquake voice through the land!
The following year, Syracuse had its chance. A runaway slave named Jerry was captured and put on trial. A crowd used crowbars and a battering ram to break into the courthouse, defying marshals with drawn guns, and set Jerry free.
I am asking the world that views this post to help me in Riverside California to empower our community with this God inspired vision to not house ex-offenders, but to empower them with the knowledge and skills needed to help make a difference in the dark and perverse world. I am serious about this cause. History is repeating itself in new deceptive ways, let’s change America some how by empowering people.
Loguen made his home in Syracuse a major station on the Underground Railroad. It was said that he helped 1,500 slaves on their way to Canada. His memoir of slavery came to the attention of his former mistress, and she wrote to him, asking him either to return or to send her $1,000 in compensation. Loguen’s reply to her was printed in the abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator:
Mrs. SarahLogue. .. . You say you have offers to buy me, and that you shall sell me if I do not send you $1000, and in the same breath and almost in the same sentence, you say, “You know we raised you as we did our own children.” Woman, did you raise your own children for the market? Did you raise them for the whipping post? Did you raise them to be driven off, bound to a coffle in chains? . .. Shame on you!
But you say I am a thief, because I took the old mare along with me. Have you got to learn that I had a better right to the old mare, as you call her, than Manasseth Logue had to me? Is it a greater sin for me to steal his horse, than it was for him to rob my mother’s cradle, and steal me? . .. Have you got to learn that human rights are mutual and reciprocal, and if you take my liberty and life, you forfeit your own liberty and life? Before God and high heaven, is there a law for one man which is not a law for every other man?
If you or any other speculator on my body and rights, wish to know how I regard my rights, they need but come here, and lay their hands on me to enslave me.. . .
Yours, etc. J. W. Loguen
Frederick Douglass knew that the shame of slavery was not just the South’s, that the whole nation was complicit in it. On the Fourth of July, 1852, he gave an Independence Day address:
Fellow Citizens: Pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?.. .
What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. ‘To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass- fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival… .
Ten years after Nat Turner’s rebellion, there was no sign of black insurrection in the South. But that year, 1841, one incident took place which kept alive the idea of rebellion. Slaves being transported on a ship, the Creole, overpowered the crew, killed one of them, and sailed into the British West Indies (where slavery had been abolished in 1833). England refused to return the slaves (there was much agitation in England against American slavery), and this led to angry talk in Congress of war with England, encouraged by Secretary of State Daniel Webster. TheColored Peoples Press denounced Webster’s “bullying position,” and, recalling the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, wrote:
If war be declared . .. Will we fight in defense of a government which denies us the most precious right of citizenship? .. . The States in which we dwell have twice availed themselves of our voluntary services, and have repaid us with chains and slavery. Shall we a third time kiss the foot that crushes us? If so, we deserve our chains.
As the tension grew, North and South, blacks became more militant. Frederick Douglass spoke in 1857:
Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reforms. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of struggle. … If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will… .
There were tactical differences between Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, white abolitionist and editor ofThe Liberator-differences between black and white abolitionists in general. Blacks were more willing to engage in armed insurrection, but also more ready to use existing political devices-the ballot box, the Constitution-anything to further their cause. They were not as morally absolute in their tactics as the Garrisonians. Moral pressure would not do it alone, the blacks knew; it would take all sorts of tactics, from elections to rebellion.
How ever-present in the minds of northern Negroes was the question of slavery is shown by black children in a Cincinnati school, a private school financed by Negroes. The children were responding to the question “What do you think most about?” Only five answers remain in the records, and all refer to slavery. A seven-year-old child wrote:
Dear schoolmates, we are going next summer to buy a farm and to work part of the day and to study the other part if we live to see it and come home part of the day to see our mothers and sisters and cousins if we are got any and see our kind folks and to be good boys and when we get a man to get the poor slaves from bondage. And I am sorrow to hear that the boat… went down with 200 poor slaves from up the river. Oh how sorrow I am to hear that, it grieves my heart so drat I could faint in one minute.
Recently, God has handed me some pretty big challenges. Challenges, one might question why we are given some of the toughest situations in our every day life. Your life is flowing along smoothly, things are great, one couldn’t ask for more. You tell people “My life could not be any better. God really is taking care of me.” You start to get very comfortable on easy street, so comfortable that you start slacking in three of the most vital importance’s, of one’s life… staying in the word, church/fellowship and prayer.
Suddenly, you have forgotten to praise God when you wake every morning. You forget to thank him for his blessings, comfort and protection as you go through your day. You don’t try to but when one is in their “comfort zone” they begin to turn their focus on earthly things instead of on God above. Then, just when you think that nothing could go wrong, you hit rock bottom. Suddenly, your life is shattered, crumbling before your eyes. Panic sets in and soon you are grieving. You ask “ Why God Why?” “What have I done to deserve this?” You tell God, as in my case, “Have I not suffered enough?”
You see, in my case my life crumbled a year and a half ago. After many years of working hard to keep things together, protect my children and provide a good family life for them. One in which we did not always have. But, for years I thought that Gods plan for me was to keep it together no matter the cost or what kind of destructive effect it had on my life. At that time I was in the word every day, I prayed constantly and was very involved in my church. I found myself screaming at God questioning him and then begging his forgiveness for subconsciously allowing Satan to have an inch of control. I constantly had to remind myself to refocus, that God had a purpose for my suffering and that he had a better plan for me. I remembered my faith and knew that he was just waiting on me. Waiting on me to ask for him. His hope for me was to stop trying to live my life alone, taking care of everyone around me, avoiding any help that I might need and thinking that I could do it myself.
I remember being on my knees one day, tears streaming down my face. I humbled myself before God. I was so tired and fragile. I feared that I no longer had the strength to push on. I can remember crying and telling God that I was sorry for my mistakes, for letting him down and most of all for being upset with the one person who has carried me my entire life, Jesus Christ. I prayed to God that day and said “God, I am so tired. I do not think that I can do this anymore. Please God, tell me what you want me to do? Help me God, please!”
Suddenly, there was such a peace surrounding me, a warmth that radiated through me. And then I heard him. He told me to surrender to him, to give him all of it . To lay it at his feet. Most of all I can remember him telling me to be still, know that he is God, listen and wait. It was amazing at how different I felt at that very moment. Such a weight had been lifted from my life. Slowly, things began to brighten. I was praising God for saving me once again. The sudden changes in my life were amazing. I had gained my strength back, only this time I became not only a stronger, more faithful Christian, I became the strong individual that God had intended for my life.
My life started to get easier. The tears dried up and I was facing things in my life. Facing them with confidence and a strength that I never thought that I had. I started to put my life back together again.
God is merciful and good. He knows us inside and out. And his plan for us is the ultimate plan for anyone’s life. So, I started to get comfortable again. Thanking God everyday for the many blessings in my life. For my peace, my children, Paris and Kenny, and Leander and little Aaron, for my life. Even though I was in God’s word, trying to walk in the paths that he was leading me I began to get back in that “comfort zone”. And before long, my life started to shatter once again. My health was failing, my job was suffering because of my health and the problems of the past began to come back to haunt me once again.
And once again I found myself asking God why. “What am I doing wrong God that I am once again faced with a fear that I can’t understand?”
I found myself re-evaluating myself in wonder as to where my weaknesses lay. And the answers were quite clear. I had to let go and let God.
You see, when we face darkness in our lives we sometimes forget that there is a comfort and a peace that is there waiting for us if only we open our hearts to receive it. Facing life’s trials and tribulations is a mysterious component of our lives that only God understands.
I reflect on a passage from 1 Peter when he speaks to a group of Christians who are suffering their faith. Peter reminds them how much Jesus suffered. Jesus suffered for us that we might have a life of faith and peace. In 1 Peter he tells us that through our faith we are shielded by God’s power until Jesus returns again. He tells us that while we rejoice in this we may have to suffer in all kinds of trials. He tells in 1 Peter 7 “These (sufferings) have come so that your (our) faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Jesus Christ suffered and died for us so that his glories would follow.
We need to trust God. We need to be still and listen to God. He is not going to tell us anything except for at his appointed time. You might ask when? There is a price to pay for every privilege. Life will not always be fun. One cannot go from dating to marriage without struggle. We cannot go from our old ways to a reborn Christian without struggle.
We are to enjoy the season that we are in. Enjoy the journey. When we worry, we cannot enjoy life. Allow God to take care of you. Trust in him and believe in him for all things.
John 7 tells us that we all might think that the timing is always right, but Jesus told those at the feast of the tabernacle that “The right time for me has not yet come, for you anytime is right.” If we take a look at our lives, our expectations of everyday Jesus was right.
Through trial and tribulation we are faced with the challenges that God has set before us. I know that I am guilty of planning first then praying afterwards. This is not God’s plan for us. He wants us to pray first and then plan. To learn to be sensitive to grace. By being sensitive to grace, laying it in the Lord’s hand and then allowing him to do the work, we are filled with peace and enjoyment. Let’s face it, outside of grace, we are miserable. Am I right? It does not work when God is not in it. It ultimately has to be in God’s timing, not ours. In times of trial and tribulation we must remember that God will not be late. He may never be early, but he will not be late. By trusting in him we find that God’s timing is always on time. Trust God for the right time in your life.
When you face your trials in life take a look at those around you. The key to peace about one’s suffering is to put your problems into perspective. Look at the problems that you have, look at those around you and you might just find that you are thankful for the blessings that you have.
So, my friends I leave you with these thoughts to ponder on….. Is it not better to cooperate with God and wait for him. Is he not waiting on us? Should we not remain stable, not get frustrated thus distracting us from Jesus? We should stay focused. Do we not tend to spend our lives running around putting out Satan’s fires? We need to attend to God’s business and he will then attend to ours. I feel that until we can learn to be happy where we are at, we cannot and will not get to the next place that God wants us to be. We need to have a better attitude and learn how to deal with the difficult things that God gives us. If we learn to have the victory during trials and tribulations we can be victorious in God’s almighty grace. Now isn’t that something to give us a hope. A hope of the unknown? A hope that no matter how hard life is at times, God is still right there beside us waiting on us to give it to him.
So often people say to me “How can your faith be so strong with all that you have gone through and continue to go through?” My friends, I tell you that no matter how much it hurts and how many times I ask the question why, my faith carries me through. I don’t like what I have to face in life at times, but I do know that if I remain faithful, God will bless me in the end. He finds a way to bring back my focus on what his plan is for me. He wants me to be victorious in him and in carrying my faith and love and belief for him, I ultimately am victorious. I am becoming the righteous woman that he has set out for me to be.
As I face my uncertainty and fears in life I know that I can face them with the understanding that if I just allow God to take it from me, to trust in him that I can face anything.
I leave you with my love and with this poem that my dear friend gave to me last year in one of the worst trials that I ever had to face. It is a poem that I will read every day for the remainder of my life here on this earth. The words are words that bring me to the peace that God wants for my life. Remember to be still my friends and know that he is God. And that he loves Aaron and us all so very much and will always be there just waiting….. Never ever forget to wake each day thanking God for the blessings that he bestows upon your life You might just find your day a little more peaceful!
The past 30 years have seen enormous changes in the philosophy and practice of sentencing and corrections. The strong emphasis on rehabilitation that existed for the first seven decades of the 20th century gave way in the 1970s to a focus on fairness and justice, by which sentences reflected “just deserts” rather than a utilitarian motive. Sentencing practices later moved toward a crime-control model that emphasized incarceration as a way to reduce crime in the community; this crime-control model
became increasingly popular during the 1980s and 1990s. Discussion of sentencing and corrections in the 21st century must begin with a review of these changes and their impact on the criminal justice system.
The historical changes in sentencing and corrections policies and practices can be characterized, in part, by the emphasis on different goals. Four major goals are usually attributed to the sentencing process: retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence, and incapacitation. Retribution refers to just deserts: people who break the law deserve to be punished. The other three goals are utilitarian, emphasizing methods to protect the public. They differ, however, in the mechanism expected to provide public safety.
Deterrence emphasizes the onerousness of punishment; offenders are deterred from committing crimes because of a rational calculation that the cost of punishment is too great. The punishment is so repugnant that neither the punished offender (specific deterrence) nor others (general deterrence) commit crimes in the future. Incapacitation deprives people of the capacity to commit crimes because they are physically detained in prison. Rehabilitation attempts to modify offenders’ behavior and thinking so they do not continue to commit crimes. Although sentences frequently address several of these goals in practice, the emphasis on which goal is the highest priority has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.
At the same time the goals of punishment have been changing, the number of people in the United States who are under correctional supervision has increased enormously. Changes in the practice and philosophy of sentencing and corrections have clearly had a major impact on incarceration rates. However, there is no consensus on what, specifically, has caused the changes, the impact of the changes, or their intended and unintended consequences. This paper explores these issues.Growth of Correctional Populations A dramatic increase in offender populations accompanied changes in sentencing and correctional
philosophy; this increase was unprecedented and followed a period of relative stability (exhibit 1). From 1930 to 1975 the average incarceration rate was 106 inmates per 100,000 adults in the population. The rate fluctuated only slightly, from a low of 93 to a maximum of 137 per 100,000. This was the age of indeterminate sentencing and rehabilitation.
After 1975 incarceration rates grew tremendously; by 1985 the incarceration rate for individuals in State or Federal prisons was 202 per 100,000 adults in the population. The rate continued to grow, reaching 411 in 1995 and 445 in 1997. If local jail populations are also considered, the incarceration rate in 1997 was 652. By the end of 1998, more than 1.3 million prisoners were under Federal or State jurisdiction, and more than 1.8 million were in jail or prison.
The increases in the correctional populations were not limited to jails and prisons. The number of
individuals on probation and parole also grew substantially (exhibit 2) From 1980 to 1997, the national correctional population rose from 1.8 million to 5.7 million, an increase of 217 percent. During the same period, the probation population grew by 191 percent; parole, 213 percent; and the number of prisoners, 271 percent. By 1998, more than 4.1 million adult men and women were on probation or parole, and there were 1,705 probationers and 352 parolees per 100,000 adults in the population.
In 1998 the adult correctional population in Federal, State, and local facilities reached an all-time high of approximately 5.9 million. One in 34 adults, or 2.9 percent of the adult population, were either incarcerated or on probation or parole at the end of the year. The majority of these adults (69.1 percent) were on probation or parole.
Minority males had both the greatest overall rate of incarceration and the greatest increases in rates over time. From 1980 to 1996, the incarceration rate for African-American prisoners in State or Federal prisons grew from 554 to 1,574 per 100,000 U.S. adults (a 184-percent increase). Also during this time, incarceration rates for Hispanics increased from 206 to 609 (a 196-percent increase); rates for whites rose from 73 to 193 (a 164-percent increase).11 When both prison and jail populations are calculated, the rates for African-Americans in 1996 were 6,607 and 474 (per 100,000 U.S. adult residents) for males and females,respectively; for whites the rates were 944 for males and 73 for females. Incarceration rates by gender and racial group, as well as the dramatic increase from 1985 to 1996 for African-American males, are shown in exhibit.
There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in its global reach—and in the destruction of lives.
MAKING AMERICA “THE LAND OF SECOND CHANCES”:RESTORING ECONOMIC RIGHTS FOR EX-OFFENDERS
Virtually every felony conviction carries with it a life sentence. Upon being released from prison, ex-offenders face a vast and increasing maze of mandatory exclusions from valuable social programs and employment opportunities that impede their hopes of success in the free world. These exclusions range from restrictions on the ability to get a driver’s license lifetime ban on eligibility for federal welfare. In adopting this array of civil disabilities, federal, state and municipal governments have endorsed a social
policy that condemns ex-offenders to a diminished social and economic status, and for many, a life of crime. Recently the American Bar Association concluded that the dramatic increase in the numbers of persons convicted and
imprisoned means that this half-hidden network of legal barriers affects a growing proportion of the populace. More people convicted inevitably means more people who will ultimately be released from prison or supervision, and who must either successfully reenter society or be at risk of reoffending. If not administered in a sufficiently deliberate manner, a regime of collateral consequences may frustrate the reentry and rehabilitation of this population, and encourage recidivism.
Three phases are associated with offender reentry programs: programs that take place during incarceration, which aim to prepare offenders for their eventual release; programs that take place during offenders’ release period, which seek to connect ex-offenders with the various services they may require; and long-term programs that take place as ex-offenders permanently reintegrate
into their communities, which attempt to provide offenders with support and supervision. There is a wide array of offender reentry program designs, and these programs can differ significantly in range, scope, and methodology. Researchers in the offender reentry field have suggested that the best programs begin during incarceration and extend throughout the release and reintegration process. Despite the relative lack of research in the field of offender reentry, an emerging “what works” literature suggests that programs focusing on work training and placement, drug and mental health treatment, and housing assistance have proven to be effective. The federal government’s involvement in offender reentry programs typically occurs through
grant funding, which is available through a wide array of federal programs at the Departments of Justice, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. However, only a handful of grant programs in the federal government are designed explicitly for offender reentry purposes.
The Second Chance Act (P.L. 110-199) was enacted on April 9, 2008. The act expanded the existing offender reentry grant program at the Department of Justice and created a wide array of targeted grant-funded pilot programs.
Over 95% of the prison population today will be released at some point in the future. Since 1990, an average of 590,400 inmates have been released annually from state and federal prisons. The Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has estimated that two-thirds of all released prisoners will be rearrested within three years of their release and about half will be reconvicted. Many studies have indicated that reentry initiatives that combine work training and placement with counseling and housing assistance can reduce recidivism rates. It is for this reason May and I are in hot pursuit of a program that will hold the “Brand” stated above. All the ingredients mentioned in this post are what we had at out disposal without a program and are at this stage we are now in our lives. According to the BJS, the average per prisoner cost of incarceration in state prison in 2010 was approximately $28,000 per year. States collectively spent nearly $48.5 billion on their correctional systems in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available. If you think this isn’t affecting you in some way look again.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. —Jeremiah 1:5
When an NFL player, and every one of them is an amazing athlete, gets traded to a new team, he has to learn the playbook. He can’t bring in the playbook of the Dallas Cowboys when he’s been traded to the Chicago Bears. He doesn’t say, “I’m a professional athlete. I don’t need to learn another set of plays.” It’s because he’s such a great athlete that he can learn a new offense, a new defense, and so forth.
Every one of us has a non-Immanuel background. We’ve been traded from some other team. So as we come together and want to score touchdown after touchdown, we have to run the same plays together. What is our playbook? What are the understandings we all need to share together, and how do we “run those plays”? That’s what we’re going to define for several weeks now.
We begin today with this basic question. What is a Christian? Jeremiah 1 tells us something about being a Christian that writes our first play in our playbook. In this passage God says you are a person of destiny, and almost nothing in this world helps you to believe that. The political parties see you as a voting block. Businesses see you as a market niche. Therapists may tell you what a victim you are. But this world knows nothing of your dignity in Christ. You are a person of destiny. That’s what God says. Don’t let anyone but God define you. Receive his call on your life, and go for it. He promises to be with you as you dare to follow him.
You do not have to create your own significance. Many try to. Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, wrote, “We disguise our struggle by piling up figures in a bank book to reflect privately our sense of heroic worth. Or by having only a little better home in the neighborhood, a bigger car, brighter children. But underneath throbs the ache of cosmic specialness, no matter how we mask it in concerns of smaller scope.” Without a God-given sense of cosmic specialness, we sink into, as Becker puts it, “a blind drivenness that burns people up; in passionate people, a screaming for glory as uncritical and reflexive as the howling of a dog.” This is why Jesus said, “Come to me. My yoke is easy.” He has a call on your life, and it will not burn you up. It will cost you. But it will also fulfill you – like nothing else.
Let’s look at the greatness of the call of God upon us.
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” —Jeremiah 1:4-5
The passages narrates Jeremiah’s call as a prophet. But it applies to all of God’s people. In the Old Testament God calls his people “my anointed ones, my prophets” (Psalm 105:15). In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is poured out on all of God’s people so that “they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18). In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says that, if all the members of that church will prophesy, they’ll make an impact (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
What are we talking about? We’re not talking about being prophetic in the sense that I walk up to you and say, “God told me thus and so.” That’s a power play. When I hear that kind of thing, I’m not impressed. God speaks through the Bible. We are prophetic not through hunches but through truth. That’s what we see in the book of Acts during the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit in history: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). That’s being prophetic.
Here’s the wonderful thing we learn from these verses in Jeremiah 1. God personally handmade you and me for this task. We shouldn’t say, “But that isn’t my spiritual gift.” That’s what Jeremiah’s about to say. And it was a pretty good excuse. He really wasn’t the ideal candidate for a prophet. But God called Jeremiah. God called Jeremiah to transcend himself. God called Jeremiah to do hard things for him, things he was unprepared for. And God promised Jeremiah that he would be with him. God even built weakness into Jeremiah, because God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). So here’s the truth. God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called. The call of God is all you need to be confident. His command comes with his promise. If you will obey, you will succeed, because his call upon your life is not just a future challenge; his call started a long time ago and got you to this moment right now. Before you existed in your mother’s womb, God loved you and set you apart to himself and defined your mission in life. He gave you a job to do. He appointed you a voice for the gospel to the whole world today. See yourself that way.
When you look at your life and say, “For this I was born” – what is it about your life that you’re looking at when your heart says that? Is there anything in your life that makes you say, “For this I was born”? God wants to fill in that blank for you with his true purpose: “I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Do not trivialize your life. God has a call of greatness for you. And Immanuel Church is here to serve you by helping you fulfill your destiny. But following God’s call is not easy for us. It wasn’t easy for Jeremiah. We see that in verses 6-8:
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” —Jeremiah 1:6-8
We can always come up with reasons to say No to God, because what he calls us to do is impossible. The will of God stretches us to the limit and beyond. But throughout the Bible we see people just like us who accomplish things they never dreamed possible. Why? Because when we step out to obey God, he goes with us: “I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”
Jeremiah’s excuse was “Lord, I’m young, I’m inexperienced, I’m untrained. There are some really smart people out there. I won’t know what to say.” That is not a profound objection. Isaiah at least had a profound objection. When God called him, he said, “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). He was saying, “I’m too sinful to speak for you” – a pretty good point. But God touched Isaiah’s mouth and said, “Your guilt is taken away; your sin is atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7). So, what’s your excuse? Our minds will always come up with reasons to put God off. Let’s not be shocked when we find ourselves screaming defeat even as we’re standing in victory. It’s how we sinners think, and it feels somehow logical.
What does God do about that? How does God respond to our inadequacy? God doesn’t say to Jeremiah, “No, Jeremiah, you really are impressive. You even make me feel complete. Jeremiah, I feel so much better with you on my side.” No, Jeremiah was right. He was inadequate. And Isaiah was sinful. But God is just changing the subject to himself and his grace. Look in this passage how God insists on a positive new God-focus in your life:
I formed you, I knew you, I consecrated you, I appointed you, I send you, I command you, I am with you to deliver you.
What does God tell Jeremiah to do? Just two things: “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth,'” and “Do not be afraid.” The whole tilt of the passage leans toward how much God does for Jeremiah and how little Jeremiah does for God. What does God want Jeremiah to do? “Stop telling me who you are. I know that already. What matters for you to fulfill your destiny, Jeremiah, is not who you are but who I am, not your ability but my purpose.” Let’s get our eyes off ourselves. Self-focus will paralyze a church. The whole point of the gospel is that we are no longer limited to ourselves. We are freed from our pettiness and smallness. We are now living in union with Christ in all his grandeur (1 Corinthians 1:30). The key to your becoming a prophetic voice for Christ is Christ – Christ before you, Christ over you, Christ in you, Christ with you. He is sending you. He is commanding you. If you will obey, you will succeed and your life will make an impact to the ends of the earth.
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” —Jeremiah 1:9-10
What matters is not your mouth but whose word is in your mouth. Billy Graham might be a better evangelist than you, but his gospel is no better than yours. The gospel you have to share has all the same power of God to create a new human race. All you have to do is receive God’s words into your mouth, and then let them out of your mouth. I remember an old friend named Wilbur Smith telling me years ago about Billy Graham sitting down with the president of some foreign country and Graham’s first comment to this world leader, as they sat down for dinner, was not “What a lovely country you have” but “What do you think of Jesus Christ?” That is the all-important question we must ask everyone we can: What do you think of Jesus Christ? God orchestrated and launched and is supervising all of human history for this one reason: to display his glory in Christ. Therefore the central question for every life throughout the length of human history is not about politics or economics or race; the primary question is, What do you think of Jesus Christ? And God will use any believer, however timid, whose mouth will open up for his glory.
St. Francis of Assisi was famous for saying, “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.” That is wrong. Sure, we want our lives to line up with what we say. But a life without words is not enough. What does God do here? God puts his words into Jeremiah’s mouth – not just his character into Jeremiah’s heart or his deeds into Jeremiah’s lifestyle but his words into Jeremiah’s mouth. It is gospel words that have the power to bring down strongholds of falsehood and establish new worlds of peace and joy and justice in people’s lives and families and neighborhoods. That’s why the devil wants to silence you. It’s okay with him if you live a “good Christian life,” if you’ll just keep your mouth shut. But when God puts his words into your mouth and you let them out of your mouth, you are prophetic. What did the Sanhedrin tell the apostles not to do? “They charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). And the apostles, who were shaken by that – can you imagine seeing your face on wanted posters all over town? – the apostles went back to the church and they had a prayer meeting. What did they ask God to do? Not to make all the wanted posters disappear. This is what they begged God for: “And now Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). God helped them, and their influence was unstoppable to the ends of the earth.
God can make a worldwide difference through you, beginning today: “See, I have set you this day over nations and kingdoms.” Jeremiah didn’t have to strive for influence; he only had to speak, and God do the rest. When you speak openly for Jesus, his Word redirects the course of human history, one person at a time. You start pushing over dominoes all around you, without even knowing it. And do you see these words of destruction (pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow) followed by words of construction (build, plant)? What’s that about? Francis Schaeffer used to say, “If I had one hour with a modern person, I would spend the first fifty minutes interacting on the problems, on our lostness and emptiness and despair and bondage and guilt, and then the last ten minutes on the good news.”
Schaeffer understood that the gospel first plucks up and breaks down and destroys and overthrows the false hopes we dream of and the fraudulence of our culture, and then it builds and plants with the solid realities of Jesus. Billy Graham said, “The problem is not to get people saved; the problem is to get them lost.” Too many people “make a decision for Jesus” before they know why they need him, and people don’t change that way. They don’t love him. They don’t even want him, not really. They just accept him, to escape hell. Their inner world has never been deconstructed and then rebuilt in Christ. Their minds and hearts are still locked down with well-established structures of pride and fear and error. The gospel sets people free from that. Think of the structure of the book of Romans. Paul explains the gospel in chapters 1-5, in two steps. He starts out in 1:18-3:20 explaining the wrath of God, then in 3:21-5:21 he explains the grace of God. Why? Because the good news starts with bad news. The gospel has some hard things to say to us, harder than anything else we’ve ever heard. And it has sweet things to say to us, sweeter than anything else we’ve ever heard. God breaks down and he builds up. That’s how the gospel changes people – beginning with us.
Now, how should we respond to this passage? From verses 4-5 we can say to God, “Thank you for how you made me. I see that I am not fundamentally a problem to you; I am fundamentally a strategy from you. Thank you. I dedicate my life to doing your will.” From verses 6-8 we can say to God, “Father, I renounce my negative self-focus, and I receive your promise to be with me and deliver me as I speak for you.” And from verses 9-10 we can say, “Lord, I want to become more articulate in the gospel – removing objections, bringing down the obstacles, building and planting new thoughts, new feelings, new reverence in the hearts of my friends as we interact over the gospel.”
So here is the first play in our playbook. Every member of Immanuel Church is trained to be a voice for the gospel. Every member knows how to explain the gospel and is ready and available to explain the gospel with anyone. That’s the play. Let’s run it.
Let me ask you something. What are you doing every Sunday morning at 9:00 that’s more important than learning how to improve your fluency in the gospel? That’s what C. A. Stilwell is helping us to do here every Sunday morning at 9:00. Where are you during that hour? If you’re not here, if you’re somewhere else because you’re good at this already, we still need you here to help the rest of us. And if you’re not here because you need extra rest before work on Monday, is there anything preventing you from going to bed at 10:00 Saturday night, setting your alarm for 7:00 Sunday morning, turning out the lights and getting nine hours of sleep, so that you wake up Sunday morning feeling great, with two hours for a leisurely cup of coffee and newspaper time before you’re here at 9:00? What else do you have to do that’s more important than you fulfilling the call of God on your life?
God said to Jeremiah, “I have consecrated you.” That was good news. It meant that Jeremiah would not waste his life. And that is the call of God on you and me. But there’s better news. Jesus said, “I consecrate myself for their sake” (John 17:19). Your future is not limited to you; your future is opened up by him, because he is committed to you. Trust him. Obey him. He will be with you, you will be prophetic, and your life will count forever.
We are weak. It’s not just that we have moments of weakness now and then. Weakness pervades everything we are. We’re weak in our intellects. We struggle to understand. We don’t think clearly at times. We get confused. We’re weak in our emotions. Not only do we go into emotional meltdown at times when we just can’t take any more, but on the other hand we don’t feel deeply and richly and constantly the wonderful emotions God has for us. A big part of growing in Christ is that we stop feeling some emotions and we start feeling other emotions. We need stronger godly emotions. We’re weak volitionally, in our wills. We give in too easily to temptation, and we lack the decisiveness we ought to have.
Weakness is not one experience we have among others. Weakness is the platform on which we have all our experiences. Remember in The Great Divorce how C. S. Lewis portrayed us, as ghost-like, nearly transparent beings, compared with the massive and solid and muscular and radiant people from heaven. We’ve never known one nanosecond of non-weakness all our lives. But the Spirit helps us in our weakness. I love that word “helps.” I need a Christianity that helps me. I don’t need a Christianity that just dumps on me. Neither do you. And the Spirit helps us in our weakness. How? Let’s find out.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. —Romans 8:22
Paul has just told us how big salvation in Christ is. We have to redefine the English word “salvation.” Ask anybody on the street to define that word, and what will they say? There’s a good chance “salvation” will be about being religious and going to church. That’s not a big category of life. We can be religious and go to church on a completely recreational basis and think we’re “saved.” A lot of people in Riverside County know that Jesus is the savior. Not enough people believe that he’s a big Savior bringing a salvation way too big to fit down inside our little boxes of weekend recreational options. So we have to redefine the word “salvation.” Maybe even replace it. How about “re-creation”? That’s a bigger word, and it’s what Paul is talking about here. God is re-creating the universe. He is re-creating the human race. He is unleashing the renewing power of the resurrection to build a new everything. That is “salvation.” Paul has just told us that, in verses 18-21, so that we won’t chicken out and bail on Jesus. What we suffer to follow him is not worth comparing with the glory he will reveal to us. We know about suffering. What we need to know about is the bigness of what Christ is doing about it. When his work is completed, we want to be there to enjoy it. So don’t be intimidated by the price you’re going to pay to follow Jesus. He’s a big Savior, bigger than all we suffer.
Now we see, in verse 22, that our sufferings in the present are taking us somewhere. Jesus doesn’t save us in spite of our sufferings but through our sufferings. It feels like our sufferings produce nothing but death. But the truth is, our sufferings for Christ are producing new life: “the pains of childbirth,” it says. As we follow Christ, it gets hard sometimes. But verse 22 tells us that our hardships are part of a larger trauma. It’s as if the universe is one vast emergency room. What do we hear in this emergency room? Groaning. The whole creation is groaning together, the Bible says here. Death claims everything, even stars. And nobody, nothing, enjoys dying. Why all this groaning, all this suffering? Only the gospel explains it. Death and suffering and groaning are not some cosmic inevitability. It isn’t a flaw in God’s design. It isn’t that we’re still so low on the evolutionary ladder. What’s wrong is that we have sinned against God. The whole creation is groaning in pain for a moral reason. God created us to rule all things. God created us for authority over the creation. But we sinned, we set in motion forces we didn’t foresee. And now nature, “red in tooth and claw,” as Tennyson put it, throbs with pain everywhere.
But God is doing something about it. God is making all this groaning into the pains of childbirth. And every mom knows, when they lay her newborn baby in her arms, that the pain was worth it. God wants us to know that we’re not in the throes of death but in the pangs of new life, a life we’ve never seen before, a whole new world that only God could create. Christ got involved in our pain. He entered in. He died the worst death of all. And now, with his resurrection power, he is birthing a new universe. He’s creating something new and alive and filled with hope out of the very wreckage we’ve created. Here’s how he gets us involved in that:
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. —Romans 8:23
We groan too, don’t we? What if we didn’t groan? What if we didn’t care? What if all we wanted to do was medicate our pain with TV and credit cards and porn? If you belong to Jesus, he has given you the firstfruits of the Spirit. What does that mean? It means he’s bringing into your experience foretastes of your heavenly home. A person reborn by the grace of God – it’s nothing less than a miracle of God in your heart, it isn’t just you accepting Jesus but it’s God resurrecting your heart from the dead so that you long for him in ways you never dreamed were possible – a person reborn by the grace of God has new life within, a new awareness, the firstfruits of the Spirit, or, to change the metaphor, a down-payment on the whole deal. A person that Jesus is stirring up and getting ready for the new universe feels not less groaning but new groanings. C. S. Lewis taught us that Christians feel an inconsolable longing, an awareness that something wonderful is intensely missing from this world. When God does a new work in your heart, you start groaning inwardly for what nothing in this world can provide. It’s a desire which can pierce your heart at any moment. You just never know when suddenly your heart will be flooded with a yearning to go home, a yearning finally to be complete, a yearning to go and be with Christ. It can happen any time – in church, listening to Handel or Chris Tomlin, holding your newborn baby for the first time, saying goodbye to your wife as you leave town even for a weekend. It’s a kind of nostalgia, but for a future world you’ve never seen. Lewis called it “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” This groaning – Jesus turns the pain of this life into something sweet. He makes this kind of groaning into an “Oh!” in your heart for him that is more intense than any other feeling in your heart. In this bittersweet groaning, he is whispering to you, “Your salvation is not here in this world, but everything here is hinting at it. Don’t be fooled. Set your heart on things above.” We all know what it’s like to be house hunting and to find that house that feels just right, but it turns out to be just a house, and one we’ll move out of someday. We all know what it’s like to meet someone who feels just right, but having that “perfect person” doesn’t make the longing go away. This world, at its best, is tantalizing glimpses.
If you don’t long for Jesus, it’s because your heart is deadened with sin and self-righteousness. You’re too good for him. You need to beg him to save your dead heart. But if you do long for him, the Bible is explaining here what’s going on in your heart. Through the grace of Christ, we have the firstfruits of the Spirit. The incompleteness of this world is not mocking our longings but arousing our longings, so that Jesus can satisfy us. We wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the verse says, the redemption of our bodies. What’s that? It’s the ultimate job promotion, the ultimate recognition and honor and inclusion and completeness, when our whole beings will finally become what God had in mind, in a new world only God can create, and it will never end. This is why Jesus died on the cross. He suffered, to win for you a place in his eternal kingdom and to prepare you for it. Don’t be ashamed of your longings for him. Never let them die. They’re the best part of you. They are the beginnings of the new heaven and the new earth inside you right now. And it has nothing to do with what you deserve. It is all his kindness to you.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. —Romans 8:24-25
I don’t like calling anybody out. But we do not get “our best life now.” That is a false teaching, and it will rob you and trivialize you. The Prosperity Gospel – what if we did get our best life now? What if God so hated you that he gave you a huge salary and a big mansion and a Playboy bunny wife? What if God gave you the whole world but withheld himself, and then you lose it all the instant you die and you have nothing forever? How would your heart feel about that? If your heart would say, “Cool. I’ll settle for that,” then you hate God. You don’t want him. What you want is money and sex. Your desires are downward – what Pascal called “licking the earth.” That’s where the Prosperity Gospel will take you, and it will damn you. But if your heart says, “This world is a nice place. God made it. He’s going to redeem it. But I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I’d rather be his than have riches untold. I don’t mind not having my best life now. My best life is being with Jesus forever. I don’t mind savoring by faith a happiness I can’t see yet. He’s worth the wait. Offer me the whole world, and I still happily choose Jesus.” If that’s how you feel, then he has given himself to you through his cross, and your full enjoyment of him is very certain. And even now, when our desires for him are weak and we feel like quitting, he does not despise us. He helps us:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. —Romans 8:26-27
We’re not the spiritual giants we wish we were. We’re weak. We don’t even pray as well as we should. Jesus prayed all night. We have trouble paying attention in prayer for two minutes. It’s an effort. It’s an effort worth making. But we need God’s help even in prayer, and God gives it.
Back in verse 16 the Bible said that the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Now the Bible tells us something more about the work of the Spirit in our hearts. That’s why verse 26 starts with the word “Likewise.” Paul is linking verse 26 back with verse 16. And now we find out another way the Holy Spirit helps us. He helps us in prayer. That matters. Sometimes life is so overwhelming we can’t even pray. And if we can’t pray, if that link with God is cut off by our weakness, what then? We tend to think that, if things get bad, we can always fall back on prayer. But what if they get so bad not even prayer seems to work? What if we’re driven to such extreme weakness, we don’t even know how to pray? What does God do then?
The Spirit helps us. Here’s how: “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” God himself enters into our groaning and turns it into something of his own. Look carefully here: “He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Do you see it? When we are too weak to pray, we’re crushed by life, maybe even feeling forsaken by God, silenced by the intensity of our sufferings but bowing down before the Lord as our only hope and the one to whom we turn – at that moment, when we cannot speak, God searches our hearts. He doesn’t wait to hear our words. He himself searches our hearts. What does he find there? He finds the mind of the Spirit, who is interceding for us. God himself enters into our groanings and plants there his own heart and will and mind and makes our groanings into his prayers. This is where the heartcry “Abba, Father!” comes from. The Spirit himself gives it to us. We don’t understand this. But we’re grateful for it. It means we’re never alone, never defeated, never helpless, never friendless.
Ole Kristian Hallesby was a theologian in Norway during World War 2 and fought with the underground when the Nazis invaded and did time in a concentration camp. He wrote a book on prayer. He said this:
I have witnessed the death-struggle of some of my Christian friends. Pain has coursed through their bodies and souls. But this was not their worst experience. I have seen them gaze at me anxiously and ask, “What will become of me when I am no longer able to think a sustained thought nor pray to God?” . . . it is blessed to be able to say to them, “Do not worry about the prayers that you cannot pray. You yourself are a prayer to God at this moment. All that is within you cries out to him. And he hears all the pleas that your suffering soul and body are making to him with groanings which cannot be uttered. But if you should have an occasional restful moment, thank God that you already have been reconciled to him and that you are now resting in the everlasting arms.”
When your heart is so broken you can’t even get it out, it doesn’t mean God has abandoned you. It doesn’t mean you are not one of his saints. Just the opposite. The Bible says here, this is God’s way with his saints (verse 27). It’s the saints whom God leads to places where all we have left is need, and God meets us there and fills our emptiness with his fullness.
God not only knows you, he understands you and feels with you and makes you a vital part of his big salvation even in your weakness. So it’s not so bad to be heartbroken. It’s not so bad to need. We’re not bringing to God our success. We come to him as we are. And through the cross of Christ, he receives us. He doesn’t ask us for help. He helps us. He indwells us. He makes us part of his new creation, even in our weakness.
I don’t know how to “apply” this to our lives. It’s not about what we do. It’s all of God. But I think we can say, “Thank you, Lord.”
For a long time the simple idea that a person who is in prison can’t commit crimes has dominated our thinking about crime prevention through incarceration. It’s a straightforward idea, and it makes a lot of sense and is in fact mostly true. That person who is incarcerated, while locked up, will not be committing crimes. But that does not mean crimes won’t be committed.
So there are several problems with the central thesis. One is that most crimes that are committed are committed by young men in groups, and if you take one person out of that group and lock that person up, it doesn’t mean the groups seize up or stop being criminally active.
In an area of drug-related crimes, drug markets for example, there’s incentive to recruit someone into the group who maybe would not necessarily have been involved in it. And when the issue is gun-related drug crime, the idea is you bring a person in who might not have been involved in this way, and you’ll give that person a gun. So the crime rates that the community experiences continue largely unaffected with these one-on-one individuals going through the prison system.
The second thing that’s wrong with this idea is that we sort of have this vision that you locked this person up, that that person’s just locked up. But they’re not actually locked up. They are in prison for a couple of years or three, and then they’re back out again. In these neighborhoods where we have very large numbers of people cycling in and out of the prison system, you have this homeostasis of a bunch of missing men, but some are being removed every month and some are returning every month. …
That community is stable. The men who are missing are missing. The groups who are criminally active stay criminally active. And the incarceration experience has surprisingly little impact on crime.
“We have been growing the prison population whether crime rates went up or went down, whether we were in good economic times or bad, during war, during peace, when the number of young men in the crime-prone age groups was increasing at the same time that it was decreasing.”
Just to say it in another way, in 1972 we had about 200,000 people in prison. We now have about 1.2 million people in prison. We have six times the number of people locked up, and we have basically the same crime rate we had. …
Also, locking people up had a boomerang effect. So, for example, one of the things we know is that going to prison reduces your lifetime earnings by 30 to 40 percent. So if you have a neighborhood where every male has been in prison, you have a neighborhood where the men as a group are earning 40 percent less income.
A number of the men are gone at any given time; they’re locked up. And then the men that are there are not able to produce income to support families, to support children, to buy goods, to make the neighborhood have economic activity to support businesses. So for that neighborhood, the net effect of rates of incarceration is that the neighborhood has trouble adjusting. Neighborhoods where there’s limited economic activity around the legitimate market are neighborhoods where you have a rightness to grow illegitimate markets.
Then there are just dozens of other examples. For example, having a parent going to prison increases the chances of a child ending up in the criminal justice system by about 25 percent. So if you have a neighborhood where all the adult males are going to prison, you have a neighborhood where the children’s risk of going to prison … is about a quarter higher.
So we’re, in a way, in these neighborhoods with high incarceration rates, producing the mechanisms that lead to high crime rates.
I am all for humanitarianism, but I served my country and before I became an ex-offender with two college degrees I was still faced conditions of employment. After my first felony I was really not considered worthy of living in a decent place nor employment. These people are getting flights and ankle bracelets for free, I had to pay $300.00 dollars every two weeks to stay amongest my family. I am fighting various mixed emotions about this subject. We have a failed system no matter which party is in office.
President Obama calls it a “humanitarian crisis.” He has already requested $2 billion in emergency funding from Congress and in an exclusive interview with ABC’s “This Week,” he had this message for parents south of the border.
“Do not send your children to the border,” he said. “If they do make it, they’ll get sent back.”
Is immigration a drain on the welfare state?
Another popular argument for maintaining tough restrictions on immigration is that without strict laws limiting immigration, unskilled workers would flock to America to take advantage of its relatively robust welfare state. The economic literature in this area yields conflicting conclusions and varies greatly depending on the country being studied. Some studies show that immigrants take out more in benefits than they pay in taxes, while other studies show the opposite. But George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan argues that the welfare state in America specifically dissuades folks from coming here purely for welfare benefits. First, writes Caplan:
“Contrary to popular stereotypes, welfare states focus on the old, not the poor. Social Security and Medicare dwarf means-tested programs. Since immigrants tend to be young, they often end up supporting elderly natives rather than ‘milking the system.’ Illegal immigrants who pay taxes on fake Social Security numbers are pure profit for the Treasury. In 2005, Social Security’s chief actuary estimated that without all the taxes paid on invalid Social Security numbers, ‘the system’s long-term funding hole over 75 years would be 10 percent deeper.’”
Second, Caplan points out that most government spending is what economists call “nonrival,” meaning that the government “can serve a larger population with little or no extra cost.” For instance, he argues, the United States military could adequately defend a population of twice the size of America for the same, or just slightly higher, cost. “An even clearer case,” Caplan writes, is “if the population of the U.S. doubled overnight, the national debt (not deficit) would remain the same, and the per capita debt would halve. The lesson: Immigrants can pull their own fiscal weight even if their tax bills are well below average.”