Month: March 2015

~What’s Hindering Your Attendance @ Church?~

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The drive to church is too far when compared to what I leave church with. I am to busy with activities that bring me great gratification when measured to success. My wife takes too long to get ready and I am frustrated with the financial strain it places on me trying to keep gasoline. I can go on and on why I sometimes find it hard to be faithful at a church that’s a distance from where I reside or local. This church is too worldly, it resembles a night club. The pastor is a comedian and I need dogma that is teaching holiness and the excuses go on and on……

“What is this one trend? It’s that your most committed people will attend worship services less frequently than ever in 2015. [Emphasis added.]

“What does this mean? Simply that people who use[d] to attend 4 times a month may only attend 3 times a month. Members who used to come twice a month will only come once a month.”

Why are so many Christians choosing to spend less time with a community of believers on Sunday? Mancini suggests that there are many causes, but he specifically cites three:

  • Increased involvement in kids activities: parents eschew church to let their kids participate in club sports
  • More travel for work: more business “road-warrioring” means less time for church
  • Online church: people stay home and watch church on their tablets, Apple TVs, and phones

That doesn’t mean pastors and local churches should just go down without a fight. In particular, Mancini thinks this trend actually presents us with opportunities—if we know how to make an impact. He gives three pointers:

1. Add value not venues.

Instead of just adding more and more activities, find ways to beef up the value of what’s already there. Work with existing small groups to provide better training, for example.

2. Think training over teaching.

Your congregation can get inspirational teaching on the Internet. In fact, online churches often have better follow-up than some small congregations. What they can’t get is solid training that helps them grow in their faith on a personal level.

3. Design for ministry ends not means.

We have lots of programs, but not nearly enough discipleship. Doing more as a church doesn’t necessarily mean that people are growing. The trend toward less attendance may have much to do with us missing the point of what church is supposed to be about: helping people follow Jesus better.

On a recent post on ChurchPastor.com, Pastor Erik Raymond provided 3 keys for church survival that hit on the same notes as Mancini’s article:

“Jesus gave the command that ought to characterize everything the church does. This is her mission. Everything the church does is to promote people coming to know Christ and grow in him. As a result, the church must be intentionally involved in evangelism. This involves the church at large and the individuals within the church. The mood of the church needs to be evangelistic.“The church also must be a training church. People need to grow in their understanding and application of biblical truth. This comes in many shapes and sizes from preaching to classes to community (fellowship); but it must be there.”

Now, it’s your turn. Do you attend less frequently now days than you used to? If so, what made you stop going as much? Are you seeing less involvement? How has your church overcome this?

Here are just five measures of American religion reported annually by Gallup that each show the same thing: religion in America is on the decline.

One of the most important measures is the rise of the so-called “nones.” This is the growing segment of Americans you say “none” when asked what their religion is. Two decades ago, only one-in-twenty Americans said they weren’t part of any religion. Today, it is at least three times that level, with the “nones” becoming one of the largest religious groups in the country.

GallupAttendance

It’s tough to get Americans to accurately report whether or not they attend church. Regardless, even a measure that may over-report attendance is showing a decline. This graph shows the percentage who report attending more often then “seldom” or “never” (so, once a month or more). The average has moved from the low-60 percentages to nearly 50 percent (a twenty percent drop).

GallupMembershipupdate

Both the decline in people identifying with religion and attendance is related to membership. Even people who never attend church may be a member of a religious community. Twenty years ago, seven-in-ten Americans said they were members of a church or other religious group. Today, it’s less than six-in-ten.

GallupImportance

Ok, so maybe it’s not a decline of religion per se but a decline in “organized religion.” Gallup and other pollsters get around this by asking about how important religion is people’s lives.  As with the other measures, this measure of religion is moving downward. It, too, has dropped about ten points since the early 1990s.

GallupRelevance

How about this measure: is religion relevant for today’s problems or is it out of date?  The percentage of people who think religion is relevant for today is down from 80 percent to 70 percent.

GallupAverage

There are more sophisticated ways of combining these measures, but here is combination that puts them into one graph. This is simply the average of all the measures for each year.  In the early 1990s, this average was hovering around 78 percent. From 2000 onward, the measures have been in decline, reaching 69 percent last year.

~PTCS: Has The Church Cause You Discomfort?~

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Do you or have you experienced discomfort at your place of worship? Has someone bruised you or denied you an opportunity to use your talents and gifts within the ministry? There are so many ways to take offence with the leadership or fellowship of a church. In my quest to be better equipped to minister and be an epistle to the world and the church I sincerely study the word of God and read relevant articles to increase my awareness of the “Bait of Satan”.Offence is his number one weapon to create discord. Although there is a spirit that tries to even use our becoming mature to his devices within a particular vessel against us that is practicing  denial or transference to deceive the elect.

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome- have you heard of it? I hadn’t, until I read Reba Riley’s post on Patheos describing her own struggle and eventual self-diagnosis of this spiritual condition. What is PTCS?

According to Reba, PTCS is “a severe, negative — almost allergic — reaction to inflexible doctrine, outright abuse of spiritual power, dogma and (often) praise bands and preachers.” She lists both emotional and physical symptoms, such as withdrawal from all things religious, failure to believe in anything, depression, anxiety, loss or desire to walk into a place of worship. Physically, sufferers of PTCS may have sweats, nausea, heart palpitations—as she notes, “the symptoms are as varied as the people who suffer them.”

In her article, Why I Stopped Going to Church, Jennifer Maggio echoes these ideas. She felt judgment from her Christian community after having two children outsidemarriage, and the pain she felt drove her away. She writes:

My excuses were many:

The church is full of hypocrites.

I don’t fit in. There’s no one else like me.

I have a close relationship with God and don’t need church.

I study the Bible on my own at home.

The church will judge me.

The longer I stayed away from church, the easier it was for me to continue to do so. And the truth is, my journey back into God’s house was a long, hard one. It was only after examining my life at a very dark and lonely time that I made the decision to return. Even then, the urge to withdraw was strong.”

Eventually, Jennifer did make her way back to the Church and now has a thriving ministry for single mothers.

So, what should you do if you think you suffer from PTCS? I appreciate Thabiti Anyabwile’s thoughts in his article, Should We Stop Saying, ‘The Church Hurt Me’? He counsels those who have been hurt in the church to remember that it is sinful, flawed people who have hurt them, and to not give up on God and his plan for the Church. He writes, “Do realize that not every church hurt you and people are not “all the same.” Find a local church you can join. Start slow if you need to. But let the Lord’s manifold grace come to you in the fellowship of His people. That’s normally how He comforts us in our trouble and pain (2 Cor. 1:3-5).”

Reba Riley is hoping that the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: the primary text used by doctors to diagnose psychological conditions) will officially pick up her idea and recognize it in the latest addition. Do you think PTCS should be a recognized disorder? Lets have a conversation about it…….

Are riches deceitful? Mammon rules the world and unfortunately, much of the church. The word ‘mammon’ refers to wealth and riches — but the word is rooted in deceitful self-reliance and on the unredeemed soulish accomplishments that leads to a false or man-made reputation (idolatry).

When Jesus told the disciples not to serve God and Mammon (Mat. 6:24), He was not telling them to be poor, but rather, instructing them to not place their trust or allegiance in mammon (self reliance and self accomplishments can be deceitful). God opposes you when you TRUST in money as your SOURCE or objective of life.

“Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth (mammon), who will entrust the true riches to you? (Lk. 16:11). Those NOT faithful in unrighteous wealth (mammon) will not be entrusted by God to use righteous wealth!

~Best Practices Pursued In Private are Good For Public Change~

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I never imagined my struggles as an ex-offender would one day be used as a way to adopt Best Practices in the calling of offering re-entry services to a disenfranchised populous of individuals. I never imagined I would be before a room of professionals speaking on this topic. If God could use anything, let it be me is my prayer this afternoon.

The adoption of these five elements will increase the chances of successful inmate reentry:

• Standardized Objective Assessment,

•  Appropriate Classification

• Programming,

• Community Service

• Research

Research on Reentry and Correctional Programming Based on literature reviews of reentry research and correctional programming the key components of effective reentry initiatives include the following components: Standardized Assessment. Research indicates that standardized assessment can help with the referral of inmates to appropriate programming (Serin 2005). Assessments that identify inmates’ needs help administrators understand which types of programs to offer inmates and therefore promote the chances of more successful reentry to the community.

Work Release/Job Training. Several studies have looked at the benefits of work release and job training for inmates. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy found that job training, vocational education programs, and work release produce modest but statistically significant reductions in recidivism (Aos, Miller, and Drake 2006).1 In a descriptive study of reentry participants in Baltimore, Visher, LaVigne and Travis (2004) of The Urban Institute cite how inmates who took part in work-release jobs, received job training, and worked as a condition of supervision are more likely to have a job post release. Educational Programming. Research shows that educational programming has demonstrated lasting positive effects on inmates. Research finds if classes improve inmates reading and language skills, they are less likely to be rearrested after release (Piehl 2002). A report by the Reentry Policy Council recommends that correctional facilities teach basic skills and literacy to inmates who are cognitively capable of learning. The Council states that it should be a goal to enable most inmates to read at a minimum of an eighth grade level, and correctional facilities should make GED programs available to interested inmates (Reentry Policy Council 2006). The Washington State Institute for Public Policy states that inmates involved in education programs have reduced rates of recidivism (Aos, et al. 2006). 

Community Component. The Reentry Policy Council advocates that correctional staff allow for and encourage inmates to participate in community service. Community service that helps inmates build or improve productive skills is ideal (Reentry Policy Council 2006). Continuity of Programming Pre- and Post-Release. Research points to the important link between programs offered during incarceration and follow-up programs recommended for inmates after release. According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) article, initial studies of The Delaware Key/Crest Program3 state that the link between therapeutic programs during incarceration and follow-up programs in the community may be the most important piece of that program (Mathias 1995). In an article on correctional treatment where the principles of correctional programs are discussed, Gaes, Flanagan, Motiuk, and Stewart (1999) talk about the importance good coordination between correctional programs and aftercare programs. Researcher Involvement. As part of their guiding principles of effective correctional programming, Gaes, et al. (1999) highlight researcher involvement with program development and implementation. Researchers can play a valuable role at translating national best practices for the specific reentry needs of a local jurisdiction

Key Principles of Correctional Programs A literature review of research articles identified principles of effective programs. Based on a review of research articles, Gaes, et al. identified eight key principles of correctional programs. The following is a brief summary of those principles. 1. Criminogenic Needs. Programs should address such things as pro-criminal attitudes, pro-criminal associates, impulsivity, weak socialization, below average verbal intelligence, risk seeking, weak problem solving and self control skills, early onset of antisocial behavior, poor parental practices, and deficits in educational, vocational, and employment skills. 2. Multimodal Programs. Ideally, programs should treat all the criminogenic deficits of an inmate. Inmates often have multiple deficits and therefore are at an increased risk of recidivism. Addressing only one or two deficits for inmates with many deficits reduces a program’s effectiveness. 3. Responsivity. Program administrators should consider the learning styles of inmates and match those with the teaching styles of the staff. 4. Risk Differentiation. Programs should target the higher-risk inmates, who have the most criminogenic needs because they are more likely to benefit from programs than lowerrisk inmates. 5. Skills Oriented and Cognitive-Behavioral Treatments. Programs should teach social learning principles and skills that help individuals resist anti-social behavior. 6. Implementation and Continuity of Care. There should be coordination between correctional programs and aftercare programs. Programs that started in a correctional facility will be more effective if they are continued after release. 7. Dosage. Although there is limited research that specifically addresses the issue of dosage (i.e., exactly how much programming is the right amount of programming), it is generally agreed that programs should be of sufficient duration. 8. Researcher Involvement. When researchers are involved in program development, implementation, and evaluation, programs have been found to be more effective. Examples of how researchers can be beneficial include designing programs that are based in best practices, enhancing the integrity of implementation, tracking progress to help make mid-course corrections, and evaluating whether the programming is working as intended. Targeting dynamic risk factors should be the focus of programming that attempts to follow best practices.

~Education For Liberation of Black America~

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Now’s the Time for a National Black Education Agenda

Sisters and Brothers in Education,

We all know the dire state of Black Education in every sector: preK-16, public and private. We all may not agree on how we got into this state of education emergency. We all, therefore, not agree on how we can stop this downward spiral. But we all can agree that we gotta do something NOW!

I suggest that we have an opportunity to start on that hard, bumpy spiraling road to victory with a set of unprecedented historical convergences: Obama becoming president of the US, the economic crisis, the environmental crisis and the national educational team assembled under Sister Prof. Linda Darling Hammond.

Obama’s presidency has inspired millions of Blackfolk to come out of a decades long political slumber. Among these millions are millions of young Blacks 35 and under who are directly or indirectly inspired to see themselves in a more positive light. It may not be an immediate effect, but positive effect it will be. Hence, over the next few years, there will be great opportunities to recruit more Black men and women into the education field.

The economic and environmental crises are hiliting the need for the US to take bold economic steps in the field of public works on rebuilding the US infrastructure and new forms of producing energy. The fallout from the US auto industry will also bring new industry- but not as labor intensive as auto production. President-elect Obama has proposed a 2.5 million jobs producing economic stimultant that will require thousands of educators in all education levels.

In order for us Blackfolk not to repeat history and continue to be on the edges of major social and educational reform, we a need to put together a bold vision of we can be at the very center- and, at times, its leadership -of the educational developments needed to support this economic and environmental challenge.

It is in this context that I offer an outline for us to discuss and build upon to present to our Good Sister Prof Linda Darling Hammond and her transition team. She knows, like you and I, there are many great Black minds out here who have thought thru and implemented brilliant educational policies. I think in this historical moment (and that’s all we have- a moment) we can find a way to maximally tap into those great Black minds and deliver a proposal from national united body of Black Educators to her transition team who would have no option but to incorporate all or major parts of our proposal into the nation’s challenge to make education relevant to reversing the economic and environmental crises and to bring antiracist reform directly into US education policy.

What we should present to Prof. Linda Darling Hammond (and I’m sure you have many other proposals!);

•  Repeal the NCLB Act

•  Education is a Human Right. Have US policy abide by the International Declaration of Human Rights mandates around education

<http://nesri.org/fact_sheets_pubs/Right%20to%20Education.pdf&gt;

•  Create an African American Education Commission/Dept/Working Group that would create and oversee policy relevant to the education goals and needs of people of African Descent in the US. It would be a distinguished group of scholars, education activists, students, public school teachers and administrators. This would be a permanent and fully funded group within the US Dept of Education (Obviously, this implies a Latino/Asian/Native American groupings as well- even tho Native Americans already have theirs)

•  Mandate the teaching of Black History/Latino History a central curriculum core from PreK to 16

•  Create a Black History/Latino History Teacher Training & Curriculum Development Department that links to Education schools (public and private)

•  Institutionalize and fully fund the Urban Teacher Residency Effort over the woefully inadequate and racist Teacher for America program

•  Create a national Urban Science & Technology Department that:

(a) institutionalizes the recruitment and retention of Blacks/Latinos from preK to 16 to join the teaching and/or industry sectors of science and technology

(b) brings skilled science and technology jobs and training to the Black and Latino neighborhoods

•  Fully support the HCBUs with more federal funding and policies that guarantee their continued existence

•  Guarantee that our HBCUs get First Call on all of the above efforts by having them represented at all levels of the National Program (the “Devil’s in the Details” here)

Like I said, there are obviously a lot more national proposals we can and should add on. And there are a lot of complex details that need to be worked out. We have the Black Talent to do this. I am suggesting that we submit to Prof. Darling Hammond a proposal that has the necessary skeleton to be fleshed out within the US Dept of Education.

Our time is very short. We need to submit our proposal while the Transition Team is still working. This means we have about two or three weeks of deliberation to do among ourselves. Then, by the first week in January, have it in the hands of Prof. Darling Hammond with signatures of all those individuals and organizations who support this proposal.

No matter who is the next Secretary of Education, we need this proposal. Even more, OUR Children need to know that we progressive Black Educators came together, discussed, argued, united and created a powerful National Black Education Mandate for the First Black President.

http://www.bnyee.org/blackhistorymaterials.htm

White House Initiatives

A number of committees and other groups assist and advise the U.S. Department of Education in carrying out its mission. Comprised of individuals who are knowledgeable of education in elementary and secondary schools or postsecondary and adult education institutions, these groups provide valuable guidance to the Department on policy and program issues. The President appoints Commissions to advise him on matters of national importance, including education. Additionally, the Secretary of Education establishes Commissions that advise both the President and the Department of Education.

Center Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

White House initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education

In 1972, the Federal Advisory Committee Act (Public Law 92-463, 5 U.S.C., App) was enacted by Congress. Its purpose was to ensure that advice rendered to the Executive Branch by the various advisory committees, task forces, boards, and commissions formed over the years by Congress, the President and Government Agencies, be both objective and accessible to the public. The Act not only formalized a process for establishing, operating, overseeing, and terminating these advisory groups, but also created the Committee Management Secretariat (MS), an organization located within the General Services Administration (GSA) whose task is to evaluate and monitor Executive Branch compliance with the Act.

For detailed information on budget, charter, members, accomplishments, meetings, and reports on all government advisory committees, go to the GSA FACA (Federal Advisory Committee Act) Database

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~N-Word~

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The n-word is unique in the English language. On one hand, it is the ultimate insult- a word that has tormented generations of African Americans. Yet over time, it has become a popular term of endearment by the descendents of the very people who once had to endure it. Among many young people today—black and white—the n-word can mean friend.

Neal A. Lester, dean of humanities and former chair of the English department at Arizona State University, recognized that the complexity of the n-word’s evolution demanded greater critical attention. In 2008, he taught the first ever college-level class designed to explore the word “nigger” (which will be referred to as the n-word). Lester said the subject fascinated him precisely because he didn’t understand its layered complexities.


©Jason Millstein

“When I first started talking about the idea of the course,” Lester recalled, “I had people saying, ‘This is really exciting, but what would you do in the course? How can you have a course about a word?’ It was clear to me that the course, both in its conception and in how it unfolded, was much bigger than a word. It starts with a word, but it becomes about other ideas and realities that go beyond words.”

Lester took a few minutes to talk to Teaching Tolerance managing editor Sean Price about what he’s learned and how that can help other educators.

How did the n-word become such a scathing insult?
We know, at least in the history I’ve looked at, that the word started off as just a descriptor, “negro,” with no value attached to it. … We know that as early as the 17th century, “negro” evolved to “nigger” as intentionally derogatory, and it has never been able to shed that baggage since then—even when black people talk about appropriating and reappropriating it. The poison is still there. The word is inextricably linked with violence and brutality on black psyches and derogatory aspersions cast on black bodies. No degree of appropriating can rid it of that bloodsoaked history.

Why is the n-word so popular with many young black kids today?
If you could keep the word within the context of the intimate environment [among friends], then I can see that you could potentially own the word and control it. But you can’t because the word takes on a life of its own if it’s not in that environment. People like to talk about it in terms of public and private uses. Jesse Jackson was one of those who called for a moratorium on using the word, but then was caught using the word with a live mic during a “private” whispered conversation.

There’s no way to know all of its nuances because it’s such a complicated word, a word with a particular racialized American history. But one way of getting at it is to have some critical and historical discussions about it and not pretend that it doesn’t exist. We also cannot pretend that there is not a double standard—that blacks can say it without much social consequence but whites cannot. There’s a double standard about a lot of stuff. There are certain things that I would never say. In my relationship with my wife, who is not African American, I would never imagine her using that word, no matter how angry she was with me. …

That’s what I’m asking people to do—to self-reflect critically on how we all use language and the extent to which language is a reflection of our innermost thoughts. Most people don’t bother to go to that level of self-reflection and self-critique. Ultimately, that’s what the class is about. It’s about selfeducation and self-critique, not trying to control others by telling them what to say or how to think, but rather trying to figure out how we think and how the words we use mirror our thinking. The class sessions often become confessionals because white students often admit details about their intimate social circles I would never be privy to otherwise.

What types of things do they confess?
In their circles of white friends, some are so comfortable with the n-word because they’ve grown up on and been nourished by hip-hop. Much of the commercial hip-hop culture by black males uses the n-word as a staple. White youths, statistically the largest consumers of hip-hop, then feel that they can use the word among themselves with black and white peers. … But then I hear in that same discussion that many of the black youths are indeed offended by [whites using the n-word]. And if blacks and whites are together and a white person uses the word, many blacks are ready to fight. So this word comes laden with these complicated and contradictory emotional responses to it. It’s very confusing to folks on the “outside,” particularly when nobody has really talked about the history of the word in terms of American history, language, performance and identity.

Most public school teachers are white women. How might they hold class discussions about this word? Do you think it would help them to lay some groundwork?
You might want to get somebody from the outside who is African American to be a central part of any discussion— an administrator, a parent, a pastor or other professional with some credibility and authority. Every white teacher out there needs to know some black people. Black people can rarely say they know no white people; it’s a near social impossibility. The NAACP would be a good place to start, but I do not suggest running to the NAACP as a single “authority.” Surely there are black parents of school children or black neighbors a few streets over or black people at neighboring churches. The teacher might begin by admitting, “This is what I want to do, how would you approach this? Or, how do we approach it as a team? How can we build a team of collaboration so that we all accept the responsibility of educating ourselves and our youths about the power of words to heal or to harm?” This effort then becomes something shared as opposed to something that one person allegedly owns.

How might a K-12 teacher go about teaching the n-word?
At the elementary level, I can imagine bringing in children’s picture books to use in conjunction with a segment on the civil rights movement, because students talk about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Look at some of the placards [held by white people at 1960s civil rights] protests and see if some of them have been airbrushed or the messages sanitized. Talk about language, about words and emotion, about words and pain. Consider the role of words in the brutal attacks on black people during slavery, during Jim Crow, during the civil rights movement. Consider how words were part of the attacks on black people.

Depending on how old the students are, a teacher might talk about the violence that involved lynching and castration, and how the n-word was part of the everyday discourse around race relations at the time. Then bring in some hip-hop, depending again on the age. If these are middle school students or high school students, a teacher can talk specifically about hip-hop and how often the n-word is used and in a specific context. … There are many ways that a teacher can talk about the n-word without necessarily focusing on just one aspect—like whether or not Huck should have used the n-word when he references Jim [in Huckleberry Finn]. Any conversation about the n-word has to be about language and thinking more broadly.

What should teachers keep in mind as they teach about the n-word?
Remember the case of the white teacher who told the black student to sit down and said, “Sit down, nigga.” And then the teacher is chastised by the administration and of course there is social disruption. He said, “I didn’t say ‘Sit down, nigger,’ I said ‘Sit down, nigga,’ and that’s what I hear the students saying.” I’m thinking, first, you are an adult, white teacher. Secondly, do you imitate everything that you see and hear others doing or saying? At some level, there has to be some self-critique and critical awareness and sensitivity to difference. Just because someone else is doing it doesn’t mean that I do it even if and when I surely can.

In my courses, I’m more interested in raising questions than in finding answers to them. I think the questions lead to potential self-discovery. It’s not about whether or not a person uses the n-word. I try to move the class beyond easy binaries—“Well, blacks can use it, but whites can’t.” That line of thinking doesn’t take us very far at all. What we are trying to do, at least the way I have conceptualized and practiced this discovery, is so much more. The class strives to teach us all manner of ways to talk about, think about and to understand ourselves, and each other, and why and how we fit in the rest of the world.

~Work That Pays Off In Human Life Restoration: It’s Worth It!!!!~

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MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization based in New York City and Oakland, CA. MDRC mounts large-scale demonstrations and uses randomized controlled trials to measure the effects of social and educational policy initiatives.

Former Prisoners

The driving force behind MDRC is a conviction that reliable evidence, well communicated, can make an important difference in social policy.

People who have spent time in prison often have difficulties finding work and establishing independent lives after their release. MDRC is testing the effectiveness of programs to help former prisoners overcome barriers to employment and reduce their chances of rearrest.

MDRC is committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation — from reducing poverty and bolstering economic self-sufficiency to improving public education and college graduation rates. We design promising new interventions, evaluate existing programs using the highest research standards, and provide technical assistance to build better programs and deliver effective interventions at scale. We work as an intermediary, bringing together public and private funders to test new policy-relevant ideas, and communicate what we learn to policymakers and practitioners — all with the goal of improving the lives of low-income individuals, families, and children.

Today’s blessings are the opportunities we embrace while in hot pursuit of performing ministry and acquiring full alignment with partners and other organizations who are caring about ex-offenders and their families. The many veterans who are displaced and substance abusers are apart of our focus groups as well. We are happy to share with you that Second Chance Alliance is not an all knowing entity, but we are a humble wanting to gain leverage in our approach to effective re-entry solutions in our present community. We are in a work group for the next two weeks called (CHAMPS)

Changing Attitudes and Motivation in Parolees (CHAMPS) Evaluation

Project Overview

With 750,000 people released from prisons each year, there is a pressing need for rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of reentry strategies. Former prisoners face a range of challenges to successful reentry into the community, including low levels of employment and substance abuse problems, all of which impact recidivism rates. Although the prisoner reentry issue has attracted substantial attention and funding in recent years, very little is known about the components of effective reentry programs. It is unknown what in-prison activities are best able to prepare offenders for the return to the community, what works best to stabilize people after they are released, and what long-term efforts are needed to help former prisoners become productive citizens. One avenue for affecting outcomes may be through parole, but little is known about what parole practices are most effective for whom and how additional services aimed at improving offenders’ cognitive and behavioral functioning can complement the work of parole officers.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance, in a collaborative effort with the National Institute of Corrections and the National Institute of Justice, is implementing an innovative parole-based intervention with a well-known cognitive behavioral therapy program as part of a Demonstration Field Experiment on prisoner reentry, known as Changing Attitudes and Motivation in Parolees (CHAMPS).

The National Institute of Justice has selected MDRC and its partner, George Mason University, to conduct a multisite random assignment study to test this reentry model intended to: (1) improve offenders’ motivation to change; (2) address cognitive and behavioral functioning regarding crime-prone thoughts and behaviors; and (3) address core factors that affect offender performance while under community supervision following release from prison.

We are elated to be apart of this training group because it solidifies our platform to be successful model that will be in position to offer a comprehensive focus group of professionals to assist us in our vision objectives at Second Chance Alliance.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

The overarching goal of this study is to test the effectiveness of parole supervision strategies and a targeted cognitive behavioral intervention to improve outcomes and reduce recidivism for parolees. The evaluation will use a random assignment research design to measure the impact of the following interventions:

  • The National Institute of Corrections’ Next Generation relationship and desistence model, which is designed to improve the techniques used by parole officers in supervising and interacting with offenders. The model stems from a relationship theory as well as risk-need-responsivity framework where services are recommended to address risk factors that may create problem behaviors for offenders. Selected parole officers will deliver this model after receiving training.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy consisting of Motivational Enhancement Therapy sessions followed by Thinking for a Change sessions. Treatment providers, not parole officers, will deliver this intervention.
PARTNERS
Ralph Serin, Carlton University
Caleb Lloyd, Carlton University
Boosting the Life Chances of Young Men of Color
Despite progress on many fronts, young men of color still face many obstacles to success in American society and suffer disproportionately from economic and social disadvantage. In recent years, foundations and state and local governments have launched major initiatives to address this pressing issue. For example, in 2011, the City of New York created the Young Men’s Initiative, a $42-million annual program, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Open Society Foundation, to invest in the success of the city’s young men of color. In February of this year, the Obama Administration announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” a multimillion-dollar push by the government, foundations, and businesses to “build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color.”
In light of the momentum building to improve the fortunes of young men of color, Second Chance Alliance is engaged in taking a look at what is known about this population and highlight programs that are shown by rigorous research to be making a difference. Our research will first examine the special challenges and struggles of young men of color in the labor market, including problems related to their disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system and their experiences in the educational system. Young men of color have become increasingly disconnected from the positive systems, institutions, and pathways designed to help people achieve success — high school diplomas, enrollment in and completion of postsecondary education or training, and ultimately career ladders leading to well-paying jobs. Given these facts, the natural next question is: What can be done? Does this group of young men constitute, as some have labeled them, a “lost generation”?2 Or are there interventions that can provide real hope and real results? Is there, in fact, a way to move away from deficit-focused characterizations of young men of color to ones that recognize and build on their resilience and strengths?3 Policy interest in assisting young men of color has waxed and waned over the years, and not enough has been learned from past efforts to build better policies and programs. For instance, in the late 1970s, the Department of Labor funded the Youth Incentive Entitlement Pilot Projects (YIEPP), which guaranteed part-time and summer jobs to all young people in particular neighborhoods or cities as long as they stayed in or returned to school. The results were very encouraging: YIEPP virtually erased the large gap in unemployment rates between white and black youth.4 But the program was cut short in the early 1980s, when policy interest in this topic receded, and there was little follow-up. It is hoped that current efforts to improve outcomes for young men of color will include a robust documentation and learning agenda to ensure that the knowledge base of successful strategies grows larger. This stands the reason of our attempts to forge alliances and gain knowledge from all who are in this field of study so we can formulate best practices into information and models for our “YOUTHS”.
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~ Beware of the Spirit of Complacency~

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“Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with things as they are. The second is rejection of things as they might be. ‘Good enough’ becomes today’s watchword and tomorrow’s standard. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new. Like water, complacent people follow the easiest course — downhill. They draw false strength from looking back.”

The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.

Benjamin E. Mays

Sometimes Christians entertain very foolish and dangerous thoughts such as;

Don’t get too concerned, keep things as they are, let someone else take care of it, set back, relax, and see what is going on. After all God will work things for us, or don’t get to involved if you can avoid it. When life is good, easy, and comfortable. God becomes a God of last resort.

When we are in need, we usually take God more seriously. But when we are comfortable, and at ease, and prosperous, it is easier to become complacent about God and his kingdom.Satan is more than willing to keep us complacent, to keep us lazy.

An ancient story recalls how Satan once summoned his top three aides to plan how to stop a group of dedicated Christians from effective missionary work.

One of the lieutenants, Rancor, said to Satan, “We should convince them that there is no God.” Satan sneered at Rancor and replied, “That would never work. They know that there is a God.”

Another of Satan’s aides, Bitterness, spoke up. “We’ll convince them that God does not really care about right or wrong.” Satan toyed with the notion for a few moments, but rejected it because he knew that too many Christians know that God does care.

Malice, the third satanic helper, came up with his idea. “We’ll let them go on thinking that there is a God and that He cares about right and wrong. But we will keep whispering that there is no hurry, there is no hurry.”

Satan howled with glee. He advanced Malice higher in his malevolent organization. Satan knew that he would find this stratagem successful with many, many Christians.

Zeph 1:12-13 NKJV
12 And it shall come to pass at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
And punish the men Who are settled in complacency, Who say in their heart, ’The LORD will not do good, Nor will He do evil.’Zeph 1:12 NASU
12 “It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, ’The LORD will not do good or evil!’

Zeph 1:12 TLB
12 “I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to find and punish those who sit contented in their sins, indifferent to God, thinking he will let them alone.

Prayer:
A “stagnant, indifferent, complacent Christian” is an abomination to Christ. He calls upon the God for a self-righteous satisfaction. He calls upon God for blessings, and in times of trouble. But he has no intention of making Jesus the lord of his life, the purpose of his life, his way of life.

Our Lord said He would rather a man be cold, utterly without profession to be Christian, rather than medium, lukewarm, “moderate.”

* Remember that “average” is simply the best of the poorest and the poorest of the best.

Being settled in complacency leaves us weak for Satan’s evil, immoral attacks

A parable told by a Haitian pastor to illustrate to his congregation the need for total commitment to Christ.

A certain man wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man wanted very badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn’t afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.
After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So first the owner went out found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.

The Haitian pastor’s conclusion: “If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ’s habitation.”

Complacency is that Peg!

Dale A Hays, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 2.

WHEN WE HAVE SETTLED INTO COMPLACENCY, IT BECOMES A CANCER THAT NOT ONLY WEAKENS BUT DESTROYS IN TIME

1. Lowers your determination

Judg 16:16-17 (NLT) day after day she nagged him until . . . Samson told her his secret.

Samson had become so complacent about his God-given responsibility as a leader that he gave in and told Delilah the secret to his strength. He thought it wouldn’t matter; he thought everything would still be just fine. Samson’s complacency was a sin, because he disobeyed God’s command not to let his hair be shaved, and he let down his entire nation.

2. Lowers Gods standards

1 Kings 11:1-4 (NLT) Now King Solomon loved many foreign women . . . The LORD had clearly instructed his people not to intermarry with those nations . . . Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway . . . And sure enough, they led his heart away from the LORD . . .

Solomon’s complacency toward God and God’s commands led him into sin and its devastating consequences.

3. Lowers your morals, and behavior

2 Sam 11:2-5 NKJV 2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.”

David’s complacency toward him to sin, caused him to tolerate the very thing he ounce knew better to do.

4. Lowers are level of personal expectation

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, told a story about a goose who was wounded and who landed in a barnyard with some chickens. He played with the chickens and ate with the chickens. After a while that goose thought he was a chicken.

One day a flight of geese came over, migrating to their home. They gave a honk up there in the sky, and he heard it. Kierkegaard said, “Something stirred within the breast of this goose. Something called him to the skies. He began to flap the wings he hadn’t used, and he rose a few feet into the air. Then he stopped, and he settled back again into the mud of the barnyard. He heard the cry, but he settled for less.”

5. Lowers our thinking; no responsibility, that it will be O.K.

Zeph 1:12-13 NKJV

12 And it shall come to pass at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
And punish the men Who are settled in complacency, Who say in their heart,
’The LORD will not do good, Nor will He do evil.

6. Lowers our relationship with God

Rev 3:15-17 (NLT) I know all the things you do; that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!

Hell is the result

7. Lowers our spiritual power in life

Complacency is robbing God, and his church of many energetic and consecrated, sanctified servants.

What causes us to grow complacent?

1. When the danger is past, we often forget the God who helped us.

Hos 13:5-6 (NLT) I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. But when you had eaten and were satisfied, then you became proud and forgot me.

2. Not only forgetting the past, but forgetting God’s warning.

A warning not to forget Deut. 6:10-13 NKJV

10 “So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant–when you have eaten and are full– 12 then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

3. We don’t like to move out of our comfort zone

4. We are self sufficient

Wise is the person who remembers God daily in times of both need and prosperity

Overcome complacency with a complete surrender, with praise and thanksgiving, and humility

Understand the importance the scripture play in you life:

1 Thes. 5:18 KJV

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1. In giving thanks to God we receive us an understanding our own identity, and responsibilities.

2. In giving thanks to God we gain a greater incentive to live our lives in holiness and consecration, and sanctification.

3. In giving thanks to God we grow in wisdom, knowledge and understanding of God and His purposes.

4. In giving thanks to God we gain a greater glimpse of God’s will, way and word.

5. In giving thanks to God we gain a greater maturity in all the dimensions of life

A well driller found water at 95 feet but insisted he ought to drill deeper because there was not enough water. He found water again at 120 feet. He was not satisfied and wanted to drill deeper. There was plenty of water at 120 feet, but it was not pure enough. He drilled deeper still until he found water that was both abundant and pure. Are our lives too shallow?

Have you settled for just enough to get by on?

* The mature believer is a searching believer.

* Maturity is pressing toward the mark; and seeking Gods will, where as immaturity is complacency and self-satisfaction.

* Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself

A vessel that grows as it is filled will never be full. If a bin able to hold a cartload grew while you were dumping your load in it, you could never fill it. The soul is like that: the more it wants, the more it is given; the more it receives, the more it grows.

To overcome complacency read 2 Chron 7:14: (NIV)

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Come let us Pray up, reach up, and wise up, so God can build us up!

~What You Need To Know About Risk Assessment~

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A recent Associated Press story on risk assessments, performed to determine the likelihood that someone involved in the criminal justice system will re-offend, contains several common misunderstandings. By taking a closer look at a few of these misconceptions, we hope to clarify some major points about risk assessment overall.

Misconception 1: Low Risk = No Risk

A common misconception is that people deemed to be at a low risk of reoffending have no risk of doing so. The AP report highlights stories of three individuals assessed as low risk who were ultimately rearrested for committing violent crimes. One story involved Milton Thomas, described by the AP as having been “in and out of Arkansas prisons since 2008 for nonviolent crimes, including check fraud.” Thomas told the reporters he had been evaluated low risk by the state of Arkansas.

Thomas is currently awaiting trial for the alleged sexual assault of a 70-year-old woman.

Assuming that Thomas actually was assessed as low risk (although the article seems to rely only on Thomas’s word only), it’s important to note that low risk does not mean no risk. In fact, we know with certainty that for every group of low-risk individuals, some portion will go on to reoffend, albeit at asignificantly lower rate than individuals in moderate- and high-risk groups. Risk assessments are absolutely, statistically better at determining risk than the old ways of doing things (e.g., basing decision on a “gut instinct”), which were often less useful than flipping a coin.

When risk assessments are performed on individuals, they really tell us what risk group someone belongs to, rather than their individual risk of re-offense.

Misconception 2: All Assessments Are Created (or Conducted) Equally

The AP story reports that “an Arkansas consultant said a majority of male parolees and probationers were classified as low risk by the state’s Department of Community Correction but 46 percent were rearrested within 18 months.”

Another common misconception is that all assessments are of equal quality and efficacy and are conducted with equal skill. If the AP story is correct and 46 percent of these low-risk individuals were rearrested, it is almost certain that the risk assessment tool is being used incorrectly or has not been validated on the population to which it is being applied. Or administrators may simply have set cut-off scores that are unlikely to create any meaningful distinction between low-risk and high-risk groups. There are many examples of states and jurisdictions where risk assessments are being used properly, are properly validated, and where low-risk groups have recidivism rates of 5 percent or less.

The AP story also states:

…before Thomas was released the parole board assessed him as a high risk to commit more crimes. But a second risk assessment, conducted by the state’s community supervision agency, found him to be a low risk, Thomas told the AP. Thomas said he has no recollection of answering questions from the lengthy survey.

Again, the story gets information directly from Thomas, but assuming the information is true, it seems likely the risk assessment was not conducted appropriately.

It’s important to note, too, that some assessments don’t measure general risk; rather, they measure propensity for specific types of behavior (domestic violence, for example). Because we don’t know much about the assessments Thomas underwent, it’s difficult to explain or verify what actually happened. Understanding that not all assessments are created (or conducted) equally, though, is crucial to understanding risk assessment overall.

Misconception 3: Risk Assessments Prevent Crime

Another frequent misconception is that risk assessments themselves prevent crime. The AP story identifies another extreme case in which a crime occurred despite the use of risk assessments, and they seem to suggest that risk assessments are somehow meant to prevent crime.

Had Vann scored higher on the Static-99R [a risk assessment], Texas would have sent postcards to the community where he was living—if he was living in Texas. But Vann moved to Indiana after his release.

About one year later, 19-year-old Afrika Hardy was found dead in a Motel 6 bathtub 20 miles southeast of Chicago.

Risk assessments by themselves do not prevent crime. And it’s a mistake to suggest not only that flawed risk assessments lead directly to tragic crimes, but also that sending postcards to a community—or any specific intervention—can directly prevent such crimes.

Misconception 4: Risk Assessments Are Responsible for Bad Data

It’s important to know that risk assessments are only as effective as the data being used to develop them.The AP story refers to a Florida teen who completed a risk-assessment questionnaire (the PACT) and was deemed low risk to commit another crime. One mitigating factor was the teen’s self-reported “good group of friends,” the story reads. But when a prosecutor took a closer look, she determined this group of friends had “attempted a drive-by shooting of [the teen’s] house because they said he owed them money.” The story continues:

The assessment “is completely flawed,” Schneider [the prosecutor] said in court. “They were obviously depending just on the information this young man was providing himself”…

The case is a perfect example of “garbage in, garbage out,” Schneider said in an interview. “I continue to see where the PACT does not reflect the reality.”

 Schneider is absolutely correct in her “garbage in, garbage out” judgment. Yet, this doesn’t indicate that risk assessments themselves are flawed but that they can be fed bad data. Most structured assessments require the assessor to verify information in available records, including criminal history, disciplinary records from prison, assigned prison programming, past supervision, etc.

When jurisdictions are following best practices, bad data should rarely find their way into an assessment leaving us with increased confidence in the outcomes of these tools.

What The Story Gets Right

Despite containing several common misconceptions, the AP story still got a few things right. For instance, Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trust’s Public Safety Performance Project, said:

“States and localities and all the jurisdictions that are working on risk assessment right now, they’re in different places with respect to their ability to implement a good risk assessment. But it’s absolutely critical that they do.”

He couldn’t be more correct. Not every jurisdiction that uses risk assessment uses it perfectly, but it’s crucial that every jurisdiction work toward that end. U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) told the AP:

“I think you ought to have some assessment and do the best you can and keep updating it based on the research. But you ought not be afraid of a system that’s working on average because of one anecdote.”

There will always be instances in which an individual judged to be low risk goes on to commit another crime—as mentioned above, we know this will be the case. This doesn’t invalidate risk assessment in general, though, which, as Rep. Scott says, are crucial components in a triaging system that does much good, though there continues to be productive discussion about how and where risk assessments can be best used.

Solomon Graves, the administrative services manager of the Arkansas Parole Board (not, as the report claims, a member of the state parole board), told the AP: “Over time the tools will become more dependable. ‘We’re never going to have a 100-percent predictive tool,’ he said. ‘We’ll never be there.’”

This is absolutely true: No tool will ever be 100 percent accurate. But Graves makes an important point—that continuing to improve assessments will only make them, and the system overall, better.

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~Become The Choice To Curve the Violence~

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As parents, teachers, pastors,ministers and school administrators and mentors, it’s important we have as much insight as possible to understand why young people today might be interested in joining gangs so we can be better equipped to speak to our children.  The following is a compilation of articles that address some critical issues, including:

Understanding Why Your Children Might Join Gangs

• General Reasons For Gang Membership
• Personal Reasons for Gang Membership
• Characteristics of Gangs
• Gang Recruitment Tactics
• Consequences of Gang Involvement
• Early Warning Signs
• What You Can Do
• Gang-Fighting Tips
• Parent and Teacher Intervention
• Helping Your Child Resist Gangs
• How To Discourage Them From Joining A Gang
• Gang-Free Homes

Try to Understand Why Your Children Might Join Gangs

Many times children feel they have no choice. They may prefer to not become a gang member but they cannot see any other way to avoid the situation. Children may be living in fear on a daily basis and see joining a gang as a solution to problems. The pressure to join a gang may be very strong. Parents must provide children with a safe loving home environment plus help them get to school safely. It is also the parents’ responsibility to seethat school is a safe place to learn and play.

Children may join a gang as a means of protection from rival gangs. Children may view their neighborhood gang as a solution to the torment and threats from other gangs. Parents must work to see that the neighborhood is safe place for their children to play, learn and live. Parents need to work together to monitor children and provide law enforcement with information to help keep the neighborhood safe. If children get into trouble with law, parents must let their children suffer the consequences for illegal behavior. Protecting children from the law does not teach responsibility.

Children often choose to join gangs if their friends or family members belong. In order to “fit in” with other gang members, children may also begin to wear certain colors or other types of clothing associated with gangs. They may wear distinctive hairstyles, use gang terminology, and get involved with gang activities. If a parent notices any of these indicators it is a signal that the child is interested in a gang or has already joined.

Children often have unsupervised time. If this becomes excessive, children will search for something to do to prevent boredom. Gang activities can fill the excess time. Parents should be involved in coordinating and sponsoring activities for their children. More activities and parental involvement will decrease the strength a gang has in the neighborhood. Parents should form community groups that are willing to supervise children’s activities. It is also important to know where your child is at all times. Make them accountable for their time and actions.

Gang activities appear exciting to children. Children, especially teens, like to take risks. Gangs provide many opportunities to take risks and find excitement. Make sure your children are involved in sports, clubs or other activities that provide healthy risk taking opportunities. Get children involved with community work to help make neighborhoods safe.

The appeal of obtaining money fast can be overwhelming for children. We live in a society that advocates immediate gratification at any expense. Gangs are involved in drugs and other criminal activities that give children opportunities to get money quickly. Children may be offered more money for delivering a package or being a lookout than their parents can earn in a week. Children must understand the risks and realize that consequences will be enforced. They must also realize that they are being used by older gang members who do not want to get caught.

Teach your children to have pride in their accomplishments and to legitimately earn money. Parents must encourage the system to be consistent and to support the legal system. Report related activities to the police. Encourage children to stay in school in order to be qualified for a job. Give children responsibilities around the house, encourage work ethics and encourage children to seek jobs in the community.

Children who feel valuable and important in the home will feel more comfortable with others. Parents need to teach children how to share, compromise and take turns, how to listen to what others have to say, and how to be a group member. Since the gang may be the most active organization in the neighborhood, parents must provide the opportunity for participation in youth organizations and athletic teams in order for children to practice group skills. If organizations do not exist in the neighborhood, parents must be willing to get involved to manage them. Also, set a good example for your children when you participate in group settings.

Children may feel that they do not have a sense of purpose in life and seek gang activities to reinforce their self-esteem. Parents must strengthen children’s sense of purpose by setting expectations for their personal behavior. Expect your children to have respect for others, to obey authority, to be honest and to do one’s best. Help children set realistic goals so they feel a sense of accomplishment. Challenge your children to expand their interests. Work with the school to determine what opportunities are available for children. Keep communications open with school authorities and teachers.

Children may join a gang to retaliate for personal injury or damage to friends or family. Parents must develop a support group in the community that can deal with children’s sorrow or frustration. If necessary there are agencies and school employees who are capable of helping children to deal with these feelings of anger.

General Reasons for Gang Membership

The primary age group of gang members ranges generally from 13 to 21 years. Interviews of gang members indicate that joining a gang is seldom understood by the gang members themselves, but can vary from brotherhood to self-preservation as listed below.

1. Identity
Gang members cannot achieve an identity in their environment, so they gain it in the gang culture. They often visualize themselves as warriors against the outside world, protecting their neighborhood.

2. Protection
Joining a gang in a community with several gangs offers considerable protection from violence and attack from rival gangs.

3. Fellowship
Studies indicate that a tight family structure is lacking in the home environment. Gang activity offers that closeness, that sense of family that is often lacking in the home.

4. Intimidation
Membership can become very dangerous at this level of “recruitment.” New members are forced to join by threats, violent beatings, and initiations in order to increase membership.

No ethnic group or geographical location is excluded. Unlike gangs in the past, we are seeing mixed ethnic and socio-economic groups making up gangs. There is an on-going struggle for territorial control and the lucrative drug market among gangs in our community. School personnel, parents and community members need to be aware of these dynamics in their schools, homes, and in the community at large.

Personal Reasons for Gang Membership

There are a variety of personal reasons for young people joining gangs.

These include: the excitement of gang activity, the need to belong, peer pressure, attention, financial benefit, family tradition, and a lack of realization of
the hazards involved. This also is a way students with poor self-concept increase their self-esteem. These young people seek to attain recognition for their activities, whether criminal or not. Gangs supply that extra pat-on-the-back that they might not receive at home or at school.

Parents need to be aware of what’s going on in their child’s life. If young people cannot communicate their concerns and problems to someone significant at home or at school, they could make a negative decision to join a gang, which would affect them for the rest of their lives.

Characteristics of Gangs

Characteristics in gang behavior can range from a poor general attitude to clear-cut personality disorders that can at times parallel the criminal mind. Caution is wise when thinking one can place all gangs into one behavioral category.

A gang member on his/her own “turf” in school or in the community may be openly hostile. Outside the turf, the gang member may seem likable, open and friendly. But he/she has his/her own code and sense of fairness and can easily turn on one when the code is violated. This can often result in sudden noncooperation, or worse, violent retaliation.

The gang member is a good con artist and can easily manipulate his/her environment as it suits his/her needs. Appearance can be very deceiving. But, a gang member can also display poor internalizing skills, be chronically angry, resentful of authority, and can be an accomplished liar.

The more violent gang member can be callused, remorseless, lack realistic long-term goals, be prone to easy boredom and have poor impulse control.

Today in many mature, modern criminal street gangs violence is often a means to an end. Material profit, through drug trafficking and other criminal activities, is the prime objective.

Studies in modern gang behavior indicate that violent gangs have a strong capacity to deal with fear and are therefore not easily intimidated by authority. They have cut fear off. They experience excitement at every stage of a crime, are concrete thinkers, have little interest in responsible performance or a display of ownership.

They consider themselves basically decent human beings, and therefore justified in what they do. Each gang member wants to be in charge, but often has poor leadership skills, is chronically angry and defensive, cannot be structured or do tasks for a protracted period of time.

Gang Recruitment Tactics
Gangs pressure kids into gangs by using the following methods:

• Peer pressure, offer protection.
• Threaten safety of friends or family members.
• Offer money for what appears to be simple activities.
• Challenge kids to take risks.
• Attend parties where gang related activities are occurring.
• Family members already belong to a gang.

Consequences of Gang Involvement

Short Term:
• In trouble with the law
• Drop out of school.
• Withdrawal from family.
• Risk of injury in a “jump-in” by your own gang.
• Drug trafficking/weapons.
• Involvement in “dirty-work.”

Long Term:
• Lose opportunity for education and employment.
• Spend time in jail or prison.
• Possibility of losing family and friends.
• Risk of personal injury.
• Risk your own family’s life.
• Endless amounts of threats, assaults and drive-by shootings.

Early Warning Signs
Graffiti is a clear marking of territorial boundaries which serves as a warning and challenge to rival gangs. It is also used to communicate messages between gangs.

Youth hanging out around public parks, high schools, fast food stands, convenience stores and other hang outs for teenagers. Frequent use of public phone booths by people who actually receive calls there.

Increase in crime – Gang related acts such as vandalism, assaults, burglaries, robberies, and even random drive-by shootings.

What Can You Do?

1. Get involved!
Become aware of what’s going on in your neighborhood and community. When incidents occur such as vandalism, loitering and drug activity, report them to the police immediately.

2. Get rid of Graffiti!
Graffiti serves as a territorial marker to gang members. When you see graffiti on block walls, houses and sidewalks, report it to law enforcement officials, and remove it immediately, after taking photographs.

3. Parental Intervention
Be aware of changes that occur with your children such as dress changes, selection of friends, truancy, violence and disregard for persons or property. Also be aware if your child has purchased new and expensive items or if your child has extra money that cannot be accounted for.

Changes in behavior and dress can be a normal part of adolescence or an indication of inappropriate identification and association. Know the difference by being an involved parent.

Parent, neighborhood and law enforcement involvement is the only way gang activity will be curbed. Remember, this is your community–not that of the gangs!!!

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“Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27)

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~Sponsorship and Ministry Alliance that Build Ropes not Strands~

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Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.

Gail Devers



We have confirmed our sponsors and ministry alliances today. There will be a coalition of churches in Menifee  and Hemet California that will partner with Second Chance Alliance to perform evangelistic outreach and prison ministry in the inland empire. This meeting opened a vast amount of resources for us to make the public aware of our vision to empower our communities with assistance with re-entry services and disciple making for the Kingdom of God.

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We’ve all been there. The business announces an exciting new project. You organize an implementation team. The team’s excited, the kick-off is great, the first stand-up meetings rock. Then, fast forward three months and the team is struggling. Decision makers are hard to find or uninvolved in the day-to-day. Business decisions still haven’t been made. Stakeholders are fighting for their political ‘must haves’ that were hardly mentioned at the start.

What happened? This is a team that was not set up to succeed at the start of the project.

When we talk about “setting up teams to succeed — from the start,” we mean it is crucial to build a common vision of project success.  This is the strongest kind of business alignment there is. The better job we do on this, the better chance a project has to succeed.

Hanging on by a single thread?

Building common vision is like creating a shipyard rope. When you manufacture rope, you first spin fibers into yarns.  Next, the yarns are formed into strands by twisting.  Finally, you intertwine those strands further to create — Voila! — rope.

An individual fiber is easily broken when you pull it hard. Strands, while stronger, can be easily cut. By the time you have transformed those same strands into rope, however, you have created something exponentially stronger, capable of towing ships thousands of tons in weight.

A project vision owned by one person is like that individual strand. It is vulnerable to the stresses of the “project shipyard.”  One person’s project vision doesn’t benefit from the diverse knowledge and perspectives brought by team members from different organizational areas.  And, if that single person is absent, progress slows and decisions get second-guessed.

Compared with teams unified by a clear, common understanding of project goals, single-vision projects often miss key requirements, suffer from unpredictable project rhythms and often have difficulty adapting to change. Therefore, it is vital that the project sponsor actively engage with the team to help them take ownership for the project vision.

The strength is in the twisting

When done well, the process of building common vision meshes a team’s understanding of the initiative into a single narrative.  This collaboration creates a clear story line that both leadership and team grasp because they all contribute to it.  Because the vision belongs to the team, team members remind each other and reinforce the project “raison d’être,”(the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence)while overcoming the real world challenges that all projects encounter.

The process of building common vision encourages clarity and a consensus view of project success. For this reason, building a shipyard-tough project vision usually includes structured face-to-face discussions that ensure the tough questions are asked. Those most  affected by the decisions can contribute their perspectives. The decisions the team makes based on these talks drive downstream requirements.

This is why we say building common vision is the best kind of alignment.  Common vision connotes collaboration and transformation. For example, front-line staffers learn and internalize the reasons why the project exists in the first place. Abstract-thinking managers learn about probable customer or quality side effects of their envisioned change. Specialists contribute little-known knowledge that can make the difference between successful adoption and user avoidance.

Even the hard-driving project sponsor becomes sensitized to important nuances he may have overlooked. Together, team members work through and address each obstacle. The give and take builds a bond. The experience transforms the group in a way not easily replicated by going straight to the details of written requirements.

Is your project shipyard tough?

Ask these questions and you’ll know:

  1. Has the project sponsor set out clear “must do” business outcomes for the project?
  2. Have business members of the team articulated a vision of project success in non-technical language?
  3. If you ask three project members to define the project’s success criteria, do you get the same answer?
  4. Does the business understand what they are getting in a way that gives them insight into progress?
  5. Has the business sponsor actively worked with the project team to discuss and address challenges and obstacles they see in achieving the project’s purpose?

The team with a strong common vision, like the shipyard rope, is resilient because its diverse interwoven strands bring the strength of diversity, but ultimately twist tightly in the same direction. Many strands melded into one become a strong, durable force for achieving a successful outcome.

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Second chance Alliance has asked the tough questions for the overall project and we have asked the tough questions about short term projects for the coming months. We will be working in Beaumont Ca, with Our greenhouse and garden project at the Ray Strebe Center (home of Pass Resource Center and the Beaumont work center) – has blossomed this year and is now a small nursery offering over 32 varieties of tomatoes including black, green, yellow and orange tomato plants. The purpose of this endeavor is to raise public awareness about healthy eating and to present to the public  our “Brand”. We will also be heading up a health clinic and free grooming and clothing outreach with ‘The Rock” church in Hemet and Riverside at Fairmount park in April and May for more information stay tuned to our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MayandAaronSecondchancealliance.

There is also in the planning a revival to offer families the opportunity to link up with our vision as volunteers and disciples for the common cause to build community and to advance the building up of the kingdom of God. We will be looking for professionals in the Mental Health field and substance abuse. We have a vast amount of early child care development specialist coming out of the Corner Stone church and the Rock church, but we desire community involvement with the same opportunities our partners and sponsors have aligned themselves with.

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We will also be heading up a Community Culture consideration initiative that will offer our young adults the platform to speak out about what keeps them from engaging the ministry for support and family ties. All that participate will receive a twenty five dollar gift card to Target and a Second Chance Alliance tee-shirt or hat. The picture above will be used on the flyers. Please pray our strength and successful outcomes with all our ministerial aspirations.

~Can “We” Live??????????~

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More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.

Incarceration Rate by Gender and Race

America has the world’s highest rate of incarceration, currently 738 per 100,000. Our nearest competitor for this dubious distinction is the Russian Federation with 607 and Cuba with 487. “The USincarcerates at a rate 4 to 7 times higher than other western nations such as the United Kingdom,France, Italy, and Germany and up to 32 times higher than nations with the lowest rates such as Nepal, Nigeria, and India.”

Despite possible protestations that this is because we have the best law enforcement, my sense is that the reasons lie more in the system, than those who enforce it. No one ever lost an election in America because of the perception they “were tough on crime”. http://www.civilrights.org/publications/justice-on-trial

“Race: Black males continue to be incarcerated at an extraordinary rate. Black males make up 35.4 percent of the jail and prison population — even though they make up less than 10 percent of the overall U.S population. Four percent of U.S. black males were in jail or prison last year, compared to 1.7 percent of Hispanic males and .7 percent of white males. In other words, black males were locked up at almost six times the rate of their white counterparts.” 

These two sets of statistics when viewed together tell a terrible tale of how racial oppression still exists in this country despite our Black President and Black Attorney General. This Administration hasn’t caused of this problem, but they  don’t seem to have made any progress dealing with it. We do know that there has been a widespread effort to play down the racial division that continues to plague this country. This continues despite Civil Rights Laws, Martin Luther King’s Birthday and TV beer commercials that always include at least one black male friend enjoying the camaraderie. Clearly there is a disconnect between how we Americans want to see ourselves and the reality for many Black males. I’m focusing on the problem of black males in this piece, rather than the general oppression of Black people, because the effect of this process is a function of the general racist climate of this country and is a major contributor to the continuance of this oppression. There have often been discussions on this blog about the devastating effects of the “War on Drugs” and this quote is illustrative of the tenor of theses discussions.“Nationwide, black males convicted of drug felonies in state courts are sentenced to prison 52 percent of the time, while white males are sentenced to prison only 34 percent of the time. The ratio for women is similar – 41 percent of black female felony drug offenders are sentenced to  prison, as compared to 24 percent of white females. With respect to violent offenses, 74 percent of  black male convicted felons serve prison time, as opposed to only 60 percent of white male convicted felons. With respect to all felonies, 58 percent of black male convicted felons, as opposed to 45 percent of white men, serve prison sentences”.         

           

It is clear to me that racism exists today in America, despite supposed gains and that this disparity in the treatment of race is not only devastating to Black people, but its continuance is disastrous for our entire society. The degeneration of our political system during the last five decades may not be solely due to racial prejudice, but those who have helped bring it about certainly have used racism to empower their viewpoints, even as their rhetoric has shifted from overt to covert. I’m moved to write this because I believe that unless this problem becomes accepted in our public consciousness, there will be no escape from the downward trend of our nation towards political and economic disaster.

I’ve presented enough evidence of the racialist tendency of our system and the reader either will accept what it suggests, or substitute their own pre-judgments of what these statistics mean. My discussion focuses on how this reality impacts upon Black people in America and thus impacts us all, despite our race and/or ethnicity. What set me off thinking about this was a TV Program called “Our America” with Lisa Ling. The episode was entitled “The Incarceration Generation”. http://www.oprah.com/own-our-america-lisa-ling/our-america-video.html

Personally, this episode brought up an admixture of tears and anger as I watched. It showed the life arcs of some Black males about to be released from prison, the effects on their families of their incarceration and then by their release. The premise, which I endorse, is that this generation of jailed Black men will, and has already impacted on the coming generation of Black men. The message was we must somehow stop this cycle, but the solution to stopping the cycle is not clear macro-cosmically and too slow if change is measured person by person.

As much as I’m prone to pontification, I really can see only one way that this continued racism is ever going to change. To the possible delight of our more conservative and/or libertarian commenter’s, I don’t believe that the first step towards this change would benefit from government intervention via legislation or fiat. While the original issue decided in “Brown vs. Board of Education“, that Blacks and Whites were receiving unequal schooling due to segregation and unequal funding, the general judicial remedy which became School Busing was not only in hindsight a failure, but actually increased tension between races and diminished White support for Civil Rights. It was a decision that tried to solve the problem cheaply, rather than first ensuring that the funding for Black and White (indeed all) schoolchildren was equivalent. How much more elegant to have hoisted the segregationists on their own petard of “separate but equal”, than to have demanded and overseen that they indeed provided equal funding

and support to Black schools. I understand that this was not the remedy being requested in this suit, but looking back it might have been a far more effective strategy. All of the gains in White sympathy for the struggle of Black people for their Constitutional freedom, were negated when the sad results of hundreds of years of slavery was dumped upon the educational systems specifically of the working classes. It resulted in the “Southern Strategy” that got Richard Nixon elected, using code words in place of outright racist rhetoric. Fighting crime became the code for cracking down on Blacks and the upward spiral of the incarceration of Americans began with the inception of the ridiculous “War on Drugs”. When people are steeped in false, bigoted notions of the “other”,  reinforced by a corporate media that finds sensationalizing crime garners profits, minds won’t be changed by legislation.

Certainly, steps must be taken to end the “War on Drugs”, to deal with racist law enforcement issues and to ensure that each American, regardless of skin color and/or ethnicity, is afforded equal rights under our Constitution. But first, before any palliatives are presented by our politicians, the problem of America’s continuing racism and its disproportionate effect on Black males must be brought into the open, discussed and hopefully acknowledged. Without that nothing changes since racism cannot be obliterated by enforcement, it merely morphs underground where it nevertheless festers. It is preferable to directly know ones’ enemies by their words, than to have those beliefs covered up.

Among the great ironies of modern America is how bigots have learned to couch their bigotry in terms that are inherently dishonest, yet provide them verbal cover when challenged. At times, among the less controlled public voices like Limbaugh or Beck it, their bigotry comes through, but even then they will cry foul if they are called on it and pretend that charging them with bigotry is absurd and bigoted in itself. When people are accused of “playing the race card”, the accuser is probably racist, knowingly or unknowingly. I think that many refuse to personally acknowledge their own bigotry, knowing rationally it is wrong, yet they find comfort and cover in the hypocrisy of code words and denial, from even themselves.

The other effect of incarceration of Black men disproportionately, is that it then becomes extremely difficult to obtain jobs after their release. As one man put it on the Lisa Ling show “Would you hire a former felon?”. We’ve set up a system where recidivism is the norm for all prisoners and this is mainly because after serving ones sentence, there are far less opportunities to find gainful employment. I know this from personal experience since my father served time for a “white collar” crime before my birth and his whole working/economic life was affected until his death 20 years later. He was White, had a massive vocabulary and a dynamic personality. He could never get credit and a family member had to co-sign in order to get a mortgage for our house. My father earned a good living as a car salesman, but his many attempts at starting his own business was affected by an inability to obtain adequate financing due to his prior incarceration. My father had many advantages over many black men with criminal histories, but the primary one was his skin color

When you perpetuate a system that incarcerates such a large swath of the Black male population, sentences them disproportionately to other racial/ethnic groups and prevents them from going straight after they’ve served their time, you create instability and chaos within the Black community. The evil history of slavery and racism remains with us today. Until we acknowledge the reality of how it perpetuates itself, it will never cease and our country will continue its’ downward spiral of economic disparity and debilitating racial/ethnic tension.

What you are about to see is happening in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural. It’s not fair. It’s not making us any safer. It’s wasting valuable resources. And it’s taking a toll on thousands of lives every year.

~Moving Re-entry Forward with Second Chance Alliance~

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As federal and state correctional institutions steadily release record numbers of ex-offenders each year, the communities into which prisoners are released are unprepared to sustain the economic and social burden of the massive reentry movement. As a result, reentering ex-offenders lack the support needed to reintegrate themselves into society and to lead productive, law-abiding lives. This blog first explores political trends that account for the increase in incarceration rates over the last two decades and the resulting social, legal, and economic challenges of reentry both ex-offenders and their communities face. Only recently has the government begun to respond to these problems by establishing reentry courts that specialize in ex-offender transition, support, and supervision. After questioning the efficiency and institutional competence of reentry courts, the Article suggests two alternative ways in which the legal community might help to manage ex-offender reentry. First, public defender offices could evolve into a less specialized and more integrated role through which they could represent ex-offenders in a variety of matters related to reentry. Second, law schools could provide students with clinical opportunities through which to explore creative, non-traditional solutions to representation of ex-offenders. Ultimately, collaboration between lawyers and communities will be necessary to provide ex-offenders with the resources they need for successful reintegration.

The distance between a prison and an ex-offender’s home community generally can be traversed by bus. But this conventional form of transportation masks the real distance the ex-offender must travel from incarceration to a successful reintegration into her community. Indeed, in many ways, the space that she must cross is more akin to what one imagine takes place in time travel. The ex-offender, of course, remains the one constant throughout the trip across time. She/He possesses the personal strengths and weaknesses that she/he has always had. But because time has effectively stood still for her, she has no real frame of reference for the changes she will encounter. Armed with little more than her own instincts and innate abilities, she is thrust instantaneously into a world that is at once foreign and intimidating in its differences and complexities. Her home community barely resembles that which she left behind. Yet, more than physical changes await her. The community that she enters has undergone significant economic, technological, and social changes that perhaps its insider now takes for granted, but that will be all too apparent to our time traveler—the outsider. The insider will be familiar with the norms of conduct, the formal and informal structures that exist in this environment, and the relationships that govern how residents interact and thrive. The outsider will not know the rules. And yet, we will expect the ex-offender—the quintessential stranger in a strange land—to enter this dramatically different environment and simply fit in without information, without significant support, and without meaningful preparation. If she does not manage to succeed on her own, she must then face the ultimate consequence—a return to her own time, a return to prison.

Second Chance Alliance has two ex-offenders that have traveled this road. We are proud to say that having this testimony has afforded us the knowledge needed to assist others. We are well on our way to be a positive motivating force within our surrounding communities as a solution to the re-entry dilemma for ex-offenders. We have a series of work shops coming out in April to inform the chosen populous of individuals. We will be hosting hair cuts and clothing, food baskets for the individuals and families. We will also have several of our partners hosting dental screenings and health awareness workshops. There are several job referrals and educational initiatives for the offering also.

Community Emergency Shelter

Single Men & Women 

This shelter is a 30-60 day program that serves adults by providing temporary housing along with assistance in obtaining important documents, job readiness, computer workshops, counseling, meals, hygiene supplies and bible studies. This program holds 129 beds for qualified single men and women with separate dormitories for each gender. This facility is managed by Shelter Director Toni Adkins, who leads a paid staff of 17 full and part-time employees to facilitate this year-round emergency shelter.

 

Address:

2840 Hulen Place, Riverside, CA 92507 (951) 683-4101

Hours of Operation:

4:00 pm-8:30 am. Initial intake and screening Mon, Wed, Fri at 1:00 pm

Family Emergency Shelter

Families

This 60-90 day program is offered to single parents with children, couples with children and single women. It offers a safe haven to help families move toward self-reliance, where case management focuses on rapid re-housing, employment and increased income. It is a dormitory setting with 50 beds. Proof of custody, social security numbers for all members and identifications for adults are required for entry. Clients are provided with life skills workshops, meals, showers and laundry facilities. Case managers can also assist with finding housing and employment, identifying income issues and starting a savings plan. This facility is managed by Shelter Director Toni Adkins, who leads a paid staff of 10 full and part-time employees.

Address:

2530 Third Street, Riverside, CA 92507 (951) 275-8755 (951) 275-8755 Hotline

Hours of Operation:

4:00 pm-7:45 am

recovery-homes

Recovery Homes

Single Men & Women

This 12-24 month program is designed to help men and women recover from homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction and other dysfunctional behaviors. Its focus is a year of discipleship recovery with an optional additional year of  “re-entry.” Using a biblical curriculum to help expose the underlying roots of addiction, the program brings healing and closure to the past and builds a new foundation for the future. Staff members provide reinforcement in the participant’s decision to change his or her lifestyle, requiring them to attend anger management, life skills and marriage/family counseling in a Christian-based 12-step program. There are 3 sober living recovery homes with a total of 60 beds. These programs are managed by Program Director Juan Salinas who oversees these homes with the assistance of each location’s live-in Resident Manager.

Address:

The men’s recovery home is located in Murrieta, CA, while the women’s home and men’s re-entry home are located in Riverside, CA

Hours of Operation:

24 hours a day

HIM

Healthcare Services

Path of Life is the only organization in the Riverside area offering healthcare services to the homeless. We offer our healthcare services at sites where homeless people congregate without regard to their ability to pay. These sites include shelters, soup kitchens, and drop-in centers. We also have a fully mobile RV equipped with two exam rooms we call ‘Health in Motion’. Finally, we offer a Street Medicine Program that sends a medical team straight to the locations that the most hard to reach and vulnerable homeless individuals congregate. We provide basic primary care, chronic disease management, cancer screening, laboratory services for testing, pharmaceuticals, eye care, and dental. Over 35 physician and nurse volunteers offer their services in this program, led by Medical Director Dr. Moses.

Address:

17 locations throughout Riverside County

Hours of Operation:

Varies by location and program

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~ A Work In Process By The Loving Hand Of God~

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There’s a time in your life where you’re not quite sure where you are. You think everything’s perfect, but it’s not perfect… Then one day you wake up and you can’t quite picture yourself in the situation you’re in. But the secret is, if you can picture yourself doing anything in life, you can do it.

Tom DeLonge

My imperfect state;

Crocked smile,round belly, ingrown toe nails, negative thoughts, pridefulness, stubbornest, jealousy, envy, over compulsion disposition,impatience,unforgiving,addictions to foods and other things not good for me or my temple. There are many more issues with me that I care not to be transparent about at this time.

Most of the world’s successful models are pencil thin and for ads in magazines and posters, their faces and bodies are touched up so that they look perfect. Sadly, millions of girls and women measure themselves against these impossible standards and come up short. We saw this recently in America the Beautiful, a documentary by Darryl Roberts. He notes that in 2004 alone, Americans spent 12.4 billion dollars on cosmetic surgery. Mothers are now putting children as young as five on diets or paying for breast implants for their 15-year-old daughters. In Korea, facelifts and other surgeries have reached epidemic numbers. These are but a few of the indicators of a worldwide obsession with physical perfection fueled by the fashion and entertainment industries.

During the Olympic Games in Beijing, we realized that the sports world is also fixated on perfection. Most of the stories focused on a few stars who managed to win Gold Medals with nearly flawless performances. We felt sorry for the other competitors who had worked hard and deserved their time in the spotlight just for showing up.

Is there another way of looking at all this? The Western ideal of beauty usually salutes things that are perfect, pretty, lasting, or spectacular. But in Japan, there is an emphasis on wabi-sabi, an aesthetic stemming from Taoism and Zen Buddhism that honors the simple and the unpretentious (wabi) and the beauty that comes with age or much use (sabi). In this view, simplicity, naturalness, and fragility are valued. Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, defines it as “a beauty of all things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is the beauty of things modest and humble. It is the beauty of things unconventional.”

We all have objects in our home that are imperfect and beautiful: an old chair that has been with us for years, a faded tablecloth brought out for special occasions, a piece of jewelry that has been repaired. They all have wabi-sabi. In Dwellings, Linda Hogan recognizes the beauty of imperfection in an old rake:

“My own fragile hand touches the wood, a hand full of my own life, including that which rose each morning early to watch the sun return from the other side of the planet. Over time, these hands will smooth the rake’s wooden handle down to a sheen.”

What an incredible image of beauty: a rake handle worn down through use over the years. We think of other images that make the same point: cancer patients with bald heads, elders with plenty of wrinkles, a dog hobbling valiantly on three legs. We also salute groups of nonprofessionals who are far from perfect but whose spirit is carried in their performance: church choirs, amateur theater troupes, school bands, and local crafts groups. They are living examples of what poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen says in Stranger Music:

Ring the bells that can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

In many spiritual traditions, artists deliberately leave a mistake in a handmade object to signify that they know that they cannot make perfection; only God is perfect. We’ve heard this about Navajo rings and Persian rugs. Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh reverences the beauty in garbage. Following his lead, Barbara Ann Kipfer offers this gatha:

“In the garbage, I see beauty. In beautiful things, I see the garbage. One cannot exist without the other.”

The wabi-sabi things of our lives are spiritual teachers opening our eyes to our own impermanence and mortality. You probably have a teapot, a treasured ornament, or some other family heirloom that has been passed down through the generations. It has, as the saying goes, “seen better days,” but it still has the ability to touch your heart.

As a spiritual practice, take one of those items and reflect upon it. What makes it beautiful? Is it a shape, a color, a texture? Do you admire it because it is worn smooth with age? Or is it beautiful because it evokes certain feelings in you? Perhaps it reminds you of the person who gave it to you or shared it with you?

“Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else,” writes Koren. “Beauty can spontaneously occur at any given moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.”

An experience of beauty can also usher us into an amplified appreciation of the divine presence, that “something more” in our existence. Yes, God’s handiwork is evident in the glorious vistas of nature and the beautiful people and things that literally take our breath away. But God is also evident in and through the imperfect, the humble, the modest, and the unconventional. Indeed, these things may be the most accessible samples of divine grace.

God selected Jacob and chose him to be His expression as a prince of God, and Jacob went through a long process of transformation and maturity to become one who not only wrestles with God but also is a prince of God, expressing God and representing Him on earth.

It is amazing to see in the life of Jacob how a supplanter and a cheater was dealt with and broken to become a prince of God, someone honorable, mature, and lofty. All his life, Jacob struggled: he struggled with his brother even from his mother’s womb, he struggled to get the birthright and the blessing, he struggled with Laban to get Rachel and was cheated by Laban, etc.

Outwardly Jacob was struggling with people and situations, but inwardly he was actually struggling with God. As one who struggled with God, Jacob was dealt with and broken to be transformed and become Israel, the prince of God (Gen. 32:28).

God’s purpose in dealing with Jacob was to transform him into Israel, one who bears God’s image to express Him and exercises His dominion to represent Him (Gen. 1:26; 32:28).

In our Christian life we also have many struggles – we struggle with people, situations, education, things, etc but actually we struggle with God. Our Christian life is a life of struggling with God to be transformed by God into a prince of God, a corporate man who expresses God with His image and represents Him with His authority (Rom. 12:2; 5:17).
1 Pet. 2:4-5 Coming to Him, a living stone, rejected by men but with God chosen and precious, you yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

God’s purpose in His selecting us, predestinating us, and calling us is to transform us (the pitiful sinners) into royal sons so that we may reign with Him as kings (Rev. 22:5). For this, we need to go through a long process of transformation to have the natural life replaced with the divine life of Christ by the continual dispensing of the life-giving Spirit into all our soul, so that we may be made in the same image as Christ from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).

God doesn’t want us to have a change in behavior or outwardly correct our living but to metabolically transform us by the addition of the divine element to our being and the removing of our natural element so that Christ would be living in us!

~Being Different Takes Courage~

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It’s amazing how death will rob some people of vital core values and simple compassion for another human being. Having been raised by a man of tremendous “Pedigree” and ethics, I am very proud and thankful for his determination to em-plant honor and values within the woven fabric of my being and my siblings. It has been a month since his great sleep, but I am still trying to put pieces together from the painful ordeals that took place on this day of blessing for Johnny Pratt, but a tragedy for me. To see the behavior of my sibling really enhanced the death of my dad. Watching my brother have no honor in his conduct towards me and his Great God, who blessed him with a great Father was almost as horrible as watching my team of white brothers wearing a trident and American flag on their shoulders just like me, took the same oath and served with honor until one night while deployed they looked at me and said, now nigger who will protect you now?

My brother called me three days after my fathers passing, he wouldn’t even allow me to eulogize my father, nor would he. Our dad was a great man who instilled determination and education into our lives. He talked about being black in America and what’s expected of us during family dinners. As he would retire to the family den with us following close behind to have current events and synergizing talks he would always start with the pledge of allegiance and then state without fail that “honor” can be taken to eternity. He would remind us that no matter where we go in life that our conduct against racism will help those who hate and that it would allow them to see what a patriot of black culture looks like. My dad always spoke about having faith and trusting the only “Truth” there is and that is the Good News of the gospel.

Good news invades the dark spaces. Good news invades the bad spaces and sheds light where there isn’t any at all. This is the nature of the gospel. It’s what it does. On a thousand different topics, what the gospel does is invade brokenness, mistrust, anger, unforgiveness, hate, fracturing of relationships, and it enters into that brokenness and reconciles.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded the little nation of Kuwait. Saudi Arabia, knowing it would be next on Saddam’s hit list, called Washington and asked for help. Regardless of your political persuasion, you would have to agree on that occasion, then President Bush was at his best. Because President Bush picked up the phone and he called England and Canada and Spain and France, Italy, Turkey and numbers of other countries around the world and built the famous Coalition.

Men and women from different backgrounds, races, classes, cultures and personalities all gathered in the Gulf with one singularly focused agenda—to draw a line in the sand. To serve notice on this madman that not only could he not take more territory, he would have to relinquish the territory he had already taken. The Coalition was to serve notice on him that his days of rule in the Gulf were over.

Now there is another mad person in history and he’s called the devil. He’s come on territory that he has not created and does not own. He has brought with him death and disease and destruction. But God has responded by building his own coalition, made up of black people and white people and red people and yellow people; made up of tall people and short people; made up of people from various classes and backgrounds, to draw a line in the sand. To serve notice on this mad one that not only can he not take over more territory, he must relinquish the territory he already has. That coalition is called the church.

Our soldiers showed up with new, high-tech weaponry. Now, when Saddam looked across and saw five hundred thousand men and women with all this high-tech weaponry, you know his momma ain’t raised no dummy. He said, “I need a Plan B.” That’s when he launched scud attacks on Israel. His strategy was to draw Israel into the war in order to split the Coalition, believing that if he could draw Israel into the war his Arab brothers would not fight against another Arab brother alongside their archenemy, Israel. So he launched scud attacks to split the Coalition. Of course that’s when the heroes of the war showed up—Patriot Missiles. They were electronically released from their silos and met the scuds in heavenly places. And because the Coalition held, the war ended in just a few days.

You see, when you are in a war you don’t care about the color or class or culture of the man fighting next to you, as long as he is shooting in the same direction you are. If you know
Jesus Christ, you are in a war. This army that we are a part of is made up of people who are different from you, different from me. We may have all come over here on different ships but we are in the same boat now.

Modeling multi-ethnic community

The problem we face is that 11:00 on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America. The problem that we face is that the people of God are not holding the standard of God high enough. That society can see that God has created one body with a lot of different looking faces. Unless we are willing to transcend, unless we are willing to rise above the efforts and intimidations of the enemy to allow history, background, culture, class and all the other human idiosyncrasies to divide the common call of Christ, then we will never see the impact of the church in reclaiming the culture.

Make no mistake about it—it won’t come because of your political affiliation. For God doesn’t ride the back of donkeys or elephants. The solutions to our problems won’t be delivered on Air Force One. It reminds me of a story of Joshua when he was in battle array, ready to go to war, inJoshua chapter 5. He came across this man who was getting ready to go into battle himself. He was a huge guy. He was captain of a large army. Joshua looked at him and said “Whose side are you on? Before I go to war I need to know whose side you are on, because if you are on their side then we are going to lose. If you are on our side then we have help to win, so whose side are you on?”

The man looked at him and said “Obviously you are thoroughly confused. I am neither on your side, nor am I on their side. I’m captain of the Lord’s Army. I did not come to take sides. I came to take over.”

That’s God’s agenda. He did not come to distinguish between Baptists and Methodist and Episcopalians and Pentecostals. He came to take over. He came to set a whole new agenda that all of his armed forces must operate under. It’s amazing how when we come to a gathering like this, we can be one in the name of Christ. But when we leave, we go back into our own uniqueness, not understanding that there is only one army here. Not understanding that God has called a coalition to operate in his unified way. Because, brothers and sisters, the test of the power in this room is not measured inside this room.

Whether you are black or white, Hispanic or Asian, Baptist or Methodist … whether you have an outgoing personality or an ingrown personality, there’s only one color that matters. That’s the color red, the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

Identifying the rot of racism

Peter was a man who had to come face to face with this problem. This problem of diversity. This problem of difference. This problem of unity. Peter was a staunch Jew. He was a super Jew. He was proud to be Jewish. Committed to being Jewish and was faithfully Jewish. One day while having devotions on the top of his roof, God gave him a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all manner of food on it. Peter said, “Not so Lord. Not so. I can’t eat that unclean food, the food that the Gentiles eat.”

God then gave him a lesson of a lifetime. “Don’t call unclean what I call clean. Don’t use your past standards to govern your present actions. This is a new ballgame now. I’ve created a new entity called the church.” He was then sent down to the home of Cornelius, where he introduced Gentiles to the new reality of a King. This cross-cultural experience made such a great impact that he even went over to dine with the Gentiles on their side of town.

That dinner event is recorded for us in Galatians 2. Finally, he had the chance to eat Gentile “soul” food. So he crosses the railroad tracks and goes dining at the “Soul Shack” where the Gentiles were living. He’d always wanted to taste pig feet and hog moths and chittlin’s. He always wanted to know what fat back and pork chops and ham tasted like. There he had his opportunity, ordained by God.

And so we find him dining with the Gentiles. Finding out he could have fellowship with people who are different than he was. Finding out what all the hoopla was all about regarding their background, their history, their worldview, and their diet. What he was finding out was all the good cooking he had been missing in all of his years as a Jew. That’s what he found out.

And so in Galatians 2, we find him dining with the Gentiles, enjoying a glorious, sumptuous, marvelous, magnanimous meal. In fact, he had even brought some of his Jewish friends with him and they were all seated and dining together. But a problem occurred in verse 12. It says, “For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they came he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof fearing the party of the circumcision.”

Peter, the Super Jew, was there dining with his new brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gentiles. All was fine until some of his homies from the hood showed up. Some of the boys from the hood showed up. Some of his Jewish friends sent by James, who are castigating him for what he was doing. “How dare you, Peter, our leader!” “How dare you! Don’t you know we don’t do that in this neighborhood? Don’t you know that in this neighborhood we don’t fraternize. I know we are all one in Christ and all that, but that’s theology. Let’s get practical. In this neighborhood we don’t do that. How could you Peter?”

And Peter was afraid of the circumcision, the text says—he was afraid of what his other brothers in Christ thought. What the rest of the family of God felt. He disregarded the truth of the Word of God told to him in Acts chapter 10. And it says that he withdrew himself. Now you have to understand this is no small withdrawal. This is Peter really withdrawing.

Whenever you see the list of disciples in the New Testament, Peter’s name is always first. Because he was the leader of the disciples. So when he withdrew, it says in verse 13, that the rest of the “Jews joined him in his hypocrisy.” With the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. Peter is the leader. We all know that a mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.

When he fails as a leader to lead centered on the Bible, his congregation follows. The great tragedy of our day is that our pulpits have failed to deal with the issue of diversity, so our pews don’t know what to do about the issues of diversity. Because the church has not come to grips with this issue, the people of God have failed to be inclusionary when it comes to the oneness of the body.

And he withdrew; the rest of the Jews went with him. It’s interesting that the text says, “Even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.” Not my boy Barnie. I mean anybody but Barnabas. You see, Barnabas was raised in Cyprus. Cyprus, of course, is a Gentile colony. So he was raised with Gentiles, went to school with Gentiles, played ball with Gentiles. That’s how bad racism is. It can take a good man and make him bad.

Calling sin what it is

Barnabas, the encourager, is now one of the ones to withdraw because of the pressure, the power, the potency of failed Christianity. Led by Peter, influenced by his own race. He would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for one thing. Paul wanted some pork chops too. The text in verse 11 says that Paul showed up and when “Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” He says in verse 14, “And when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of them, ‘If you being a Jew, live like the Gentiles, and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews.'” He says, “You’ve got inconsistent Christianity.”

Now, notice his response. How did he deal with racism, classism, culturalism, whatever the dividing issue is in the neighborhood where you live, the area where you minister? How did he deal with it? Did he have a workshop on race relations? Did he have a seminar on unity?

No. The text says, “When I saw him I opposed him to his face. I opposed him personally. I opposed him publicly. I opposed him biblically.” You see, we have failed to treat this issue as a sin. We called it a cultural orientation. We called it a historical backdrop. We have given it names of heritage in history, but we have not called it is, what Paul called it, “sin.

~The Lambs Book Is True~

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The Bible does not tell us who writes these names in the Book. There is a little truth that I believe about this question. I believe this is one of the breath-taking tasks of the Holy Ghost. Malachi spoke of a “Book of Remembrance” that was written “before the Lord” or in His presence. The Holy Ghost is the revelator of all truth so He is joined in this task with the Lord. “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.” (Malachi 3:16) Different opinions may be given and that’s okay. It certainly is a task of divine importance and I see it as part of our Triune God’s great actions.

This Book is never spoken of in the plural. It is a single book. If as many as one billion souls from all times, back to the Garden of Eden are written in this Book, it is a mammoth Book. One thousand names on each page would require one million pages. Ten million names in the Book of Life would require ten thousand pages. There have been billions of people since Adam with today’s population now over seven billion. Remember that Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) Without a doubt this is a Heavenly Book.

The magnificent city of Jerusalem is prepared for every name written in this Book. Those that live in the city and those that live in the Nations outside the city all have their names in the “Lamb’s Book of Life.” “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:24-27) The saved of the many multitudes living in these cities will be welcomed to visit those that live in New Jerusalem. The highest reward is to be part of the Bride of Christ and occupy a mansion in the city.

I KNOW THY WORKS
STUDY TEXT: Rev. 2:1-7
– A letter was written by the Lord to each of seven churches about their conduct and to either commend their actions or condemn them with a call for repentance.
– In the introductory part is the comment “I know thy works”. Every one’s works are open to God and known by Him. It is foolishness for anyone to think that he will do something under the sun without God knowing about it. Both our actions and our motives behind those actions are known and weighed by God.
– Our works are critically evaluated and accurately documented, so that reference could be made to them at any time. These are what will form the books of records that will be used in judgment on the last day, and that will determine whose name will be found in the book of life.
– Commendations are given where the works are found acceptable unto God as an encouragement and motivation for consistency. Any good thing we are approved for, we should seek to grow and improve on them and not be weary in well doing.
– Condemnations are issued as a call to genuine repentance and godly amendment. God would prefer a turning away from sin and a turning unto His will at any time. If your actions are condemned, it is to give you the opportunity to repent and turn to God. Cain was told that he would be approved if he changes from his wickedness, but rather than repenting, he grew worse. Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
– Let us consider this study under three sub-headings:

1. Critical examination of general conduct.
2. Commendation of faithful conduct.
3. Condemnation of unacceptable conduct.

1. CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF GENERAL CONDUCT
– Our works are critically examined and documented at all times.
– The examination is majorly congregational but specifically individualistic. Revelation 2:20-23: Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
– Individual members within the congregation are examined for their:
1. Faithfulness in living in obedience and holiness unto the Lord. How faithful they are in walking in obedience to the instructions giving in the word of God, and how they are living according to God’s standard of holiness
2. The motives behind all their actions. The motives behind their actions are examined whether they are genuine, of pure intentions or of selfish interest that will not glorify God.
3. Ability to show love and live peaceably with others. Believers are required to follow peace with all men in addition to their holy living unto God. They are also to love their neighbors as themselves. We shall give account of our relationship with men in terms of the love we showed onto them and how effective we can be in living peaceably with others.
4. Commitment to the service of God. They were examined for their faithfulness in the service of God, the sacrifice they could make in making themselves and their money materials available.

– Congregation are examined for their:
1. Faithfulness in teaching the truth of the word of God. How faithful they are in teaching the sound doctrine and guiding against error and falsehood.
2. Vigilance in recognizing satanic agents within the church and resisting them. There are satanic agents creeping into the church unawares and are transforming themselves to angels of light in order to deceive innocent souls. The congregation must be sensitive to identify and resist this hidden works of darkness.
3. Commitment to the preaching of Christ and his gospel to the lost world. Any congregation that is not faithful and committed to the preaching of Christ and Him crucified to the lost world has a name that she is living while she is actually dead.
4. Their ability to maintain intra and inter congregational peace and unity that Jesus prayed for. There must be love flowing among the brethren to show that they actually belong to God, and this must manifest as a peaceful relationship without strife, envy, bitterness, backbiting or hatred.

2. COMMENDATION OF FAITHFUL CONDUCT
– Commendations are given at all times in order to encourage and motivate faithful people to be steadfast in well doing. Many people get carried away when being commended and as a result, they get wearied in well doing or felt they have actually done their best. But when we are being commended by Christ now, it is for the purpose of motivation and to put in much effort in pleasing God the more. This is because the final commendation is still at the Day of Judgment, when all that have done well will enter into the joy of the Lord and all the wicked [people shall suffer under the torment of hell fire.
– Faithful individuals in a failing church were still recognized and commended.Revelation 3:4: Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
– We should not be discouraged by the wickedness of others nor follow the multitude to do evil, but we should rather labor to improve on our good works and not to be weary in well doing, and be waiting for the day that the godly shall be selectively separated from the ungodly.

3. CONDEMMATION OF UNACCEPTABLE CONDUCT
– As there is commendation for the faithful, there is also condemnation to the unfaithful and ungodly people and their conduct. Although this is with a mind of calling them to repentance, but where they failed to repent, the wrath of God will surely come upon them both in this world, and more dangerously in the one to come. We are expected to receive any chastisement or condemnation to day with a humble heart and godly sorrow that will produce a genuine and a lasting repentance in our lives.
– The congregation were condemned for the following unacceptable conduct:
1. Diminishing in intimate personal devotion to Christ.
When a congregation is full of many individual that are not having a healthy personal relationship with God, that congregation will be cold and lack the fire of godly conduct and faithful service unto God. Experiencing individual revival is a great necessity for a notable and long lasting congregational revival.
2. For departing from Biblical faith.
When the congregation start to compromise the truth of the word of God and sound doctrine, people will start to drift away from the Biblical faith. The Bible calls every one to self examination to discover whether one is still in the faith or not. 2 Corinthians 13:5:
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
3. For tolerating immorality among church leader and persons of influence.
It is a terrible thing for a congregation where the leaders that are to uphold godly standards are now the ones that are laying the foundations for immorality and all forms of wickedness. Every child of God who is preparing to go to heaven at the end of life here on earth must look into the lives of the leaders in the congregation he or she finds himself or herself to ensure they are actually following God and obeying His words. If not, those congregations should be left for where they can see godly examples.
4. For becoming spiritually dead or lukewarm.
Whenever there is sin and self indulgence; the congregation will be lukewarm and lack the fire for a faithful service and witnessing unto the Lord. A lot of time will be wasted in settling quarrels among the members while hatred, bitterness, strife and other works of the flesh will be manifesting.
5. For substituting outward success and affluence for real spirituality.
Today people measure success in ministry only by outward qualities such as the size of the congregation, the number of wealthy people and the wealth of the congregation, while real spirituality such as living in holiness, sharing love and being in unity are either relegated or given the second place.
– The essence of condemnation is to call for repentance because God would prefer to receive a repentant soul than to destroy him. Revelation 3:19-22: As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will supwith him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
– The final condemnation will be on the judgment day for any one who refuses to repent and turn unto God before death.
– We need to examine ourselves as individuals and as a congregation by God’s standard. Any area where we are measuring up, we should receive the encouragement and motivation to improve and to continue in doing well, while we take effort to repent and depart from those conduct that are against God’s words and His will. Every individual needs to sincerely examine his or her life and conduct. 2Cor. 13:5.

~It Takes Relationship To Encounter Christ~

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Martin Buber’s book I and Thou was an eye opening experience for me. The book is about two modes of existence, two ways of existing: I-Thou and I-It. Do you see how the I isn’t by itself?; it’s either partnered with Thou or It. Here’s the catch: partnering with Thou makes the I a certain kind of I, and partnering with It makes that I a certain kind of I. Thus, the I is like the shape water takes in a certain container, and the Thou and the It are different shaped containers. And just as water loses all its shape if not related to a container of some kind, the I loses its shape (its very identity!) if not related to either Thou or It. All I want to do in this blog is scratch the surface and whet the appetite, because there is so much more in the book than what I’m about to say. So, what are these modes of existence?

1. I/It – this is the mode of experience. This mode of experience is basically the scientific frame of mind, and you don’t have to be a scientist to have it. The experiencer objectifies what it observes. So, say, you experience and observe a human being. A human being is a species of mammal, homosapien, located at a certain point in space and time. Human being is now classified. Or, say, Einstein experienced and so observed certain data and came up with the Theory of Relativity. Anytime you tally or figure something or classify it or deduce it, you are in this mode. After you figure everything you need to know about it, you can use it for your own ends. After Marx figured out, say, something about how economy works, he was able use that to realize his utopia: humans can be reduced to social units in a class. This mode is necessary to survive and is probably the driving force behind what begot Evolution as not just a theory about our origins but a theory about what we essentially are as humans. It is the mode that begot technology as we know it.

2. I/Thou – this is the mode of encounter and relationships. Buber thinks this is the mode where we are really human. In this mode, you don’t try to know your data to master it, you open yourself to it to encounter it: this is done by relating to it. You can encounter anything: nature, humans, God, art, animals, plants, insects, atoms, architecture. When you encounter these things, you participate in them with every fibre of your self or soul or being. The effect is one of inner transformation, not just of you, but of what you’re relating to as a result. Buber brings up the concept of the dialogical, which is just another way of saying conversation or dialogue, because the encounter happens in the relation between you and the Thou you’re relating to, whereas experience (I/It) only happens within the I – here, you’re not wanting an answer from the It, a conversation with It: you just want to know about it to use it or master it for your ends. But in the dialogical, there is shared metamorphosis, just as the work of art and the artist change and morph and revamp as the work of art manifests. As a result, I don’t see the Thou as a point in the universe to be classified or used, I see the whole universe into and out of the Thou. Do you see how Buber turns the universe inside out through poetic slight of hand? The Thou becomes the universe for me within and because of the dialogical, the encounter, dialogue, conversation, relationship.

Another key difference is that encounter in the I/Thou is in the present, whereas experience in the I/It is in the past. Why? Because encounter, in turning the universe inside out, also turns inside out time and space of which the universe is made up. In encounter, you are released for the moment from the flow of time itself. The key, however, is to not notice it is happening when it happens: the minute you think about it, or reflect on it, you’re whisked back to the realm of experience. That is why these moments of encounter are so passing, so evanescent.

Therefore, Buber believes we can’t know God through this experience and reason, we can only know God through encounter, having a relationship with that which we desire to encounter with all our might. The down side is, because of the nature of what encounter is, you can’t break it down any more clearly using language. It is known by being awoken in consciousness through the encounter itself in a leap of faith. And it is awoken by that which is encountered in the leap with the resulting inner metamorphosis. This is why metaphor pervades Buber’s book. Metaphors aren’t literal language; they point beyond themselves to something other; but a pondering of the metaphor signals an encounter with that something other and the understanding of the spiritual truth is awoken in contemplation by the mutual transformation.

~Resist Resentment~

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Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life.

Joan Lunden

Who said everything would be rosy and to my liking? Who said I had to have my way and no challenges in my life that would stretch my calling and election? Folks life will try you in a myriad of ways. I just got tried by family during the death of my dad. I just got tried in ministry and the body of Christ, I just got tried from my lovely wife and kids, I just got tried from my neighbors. I suggest we all understand this: Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

If you can start the day without caffeine, if you can get going without pep pills, if you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches & pains. If you can resist complaining & boring people with your troubles; if you can eat the same food every day & be grateful for it, if  you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time; if you can forgive a friend’s lack of consideration; if you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you; when, through no fault of your own something goes wrong; if you can take criticism & blame without resentment; if you can ignore a friend’s limited education & never correct him/her; if you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend; if you can face the world without lies and deceit; if you can conquer tension without medical help; if you can relax without liquor, if you can sleep without the aid of drugs; if you can honestly say that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed or color, religion or politics; then, my friend, you are almost as good as your dog.

Almost but not quite!  This message is for two kinds of people: 1) Animal lovers: (2) Those committed to learning & growing.   “Give instruction to a wise man & he will be still wiser, teach a just man, & he will increase in learning.