Sometimes you got to hurt something to help something. Sometimes you have to plow under one thing in order for something else to grow.
There are no bonds so strong as those which are formed by suffering together.
Harriet Ann Jacobs
Reflecting on the divine purpose in hardship can help us respond to trials in a God-honoring way as we seek to understand the lessons He wants us to learn through life’s dark moments.
The disciples experienced several “mountaintop moments” in their time with Jesus. But when a storm arose while they were out on the Sea of Galilee, fear took over. Amidst the roaring waves and with the boat rocking, Jesus’ chosen ones failed to recall the lessons they had learned about the power and purposes of their leader. Even the appearance of Christ walking on water didn’t bring immediate relief (Matt. 14:26).
When trouble strikes, we sometimes forget our knowledge of God, too. We struggle to recall past answers to prayer, specific guidance provided by the Holy Spirit, and lessons learned in previous crises. Only the present seems real. Our minds spin with future implications, and our troubled emotions inhibit clear thinking.
In our own strength, we lack sufficient resources and abilities to meet life’s challenges. So God provides what we need. Our suffering is never a surprise to the Lord. He knows everything we are going through. More than that, He’s orchestrating our circumstances for His glory and our benefit, according to His good will.
Reflecting on the divine purpose in hardship can help us respond to trials in a God-honoring way. Let’s take a moment to fix our attention on the Lord and seek to understand four lessons He wants us to learn through life’s dark moments:
1. One purpose for hardship is cleansing. Because of our own “flesh” nature and the self-absorbed world we live in, it’s easy to develop selfish attitudes, mixed-up priorities, and ungodly habits. The pressures that bear down on us from stormy situations are meant to bring these impurities to our attention and direct us to a place of repentance. Our trials are intended to purify and guide us back to godliness, not ruin our lives.
2. A second reason we face difficulty is so we’ll be compassionate and bring comfort to others. God’s work in our lives is not intended solely for us. It’s designed to reach a world that does not recognize or acknowledge Him. The Lord uses our challenges to equip us for serving others. As we experience suffering, we will learn about God’s sufficiency, His comforting presence, and His strength to help us endure. Our testimony during times of difficulty will be authentic. Those to whom we minister will recognize we know and understand their pain. What credibility would we have with people in crisis if we never experienced a deep need?
3. Third, God promises usHe’ll provide a path through any trialwe face. The disciples probably wondered how long the storm would last and whether they would make it safely to shore. Most likely, they wished it never happened. But, had they somehow avoided this storm, they would have missed the demonstration of Jesus’ power over the sea and wind. The frightening situation was transformed into a revelation of the Savior’s divine nature. God wants to make His power known through our trials, as well.
4. The most important thing He gives us isanawareness of His presence. At first, the disciples believed they were alone in a terrifying storm. When they initially spotted Jesus, their fear increased. They thought He was a ghost. But as they recognized Him, their fear changed to relief and hope. Similarly, we may not sense God’s presence during a crisis. But He has promised to always be with us (Heb. 13:5-6). The assurance that the Lord will never leave provides immediate comfort, an infusion of courage, and a sense of confidence to endure.
No one enjoys suffering. But in the hands of almighty God, trials become tools. He uses hardship to shape believers into the people He intends them to be. Jesus allowed the disciples to experience the fear and anxiety of being in a boat on a raging sea. He permitted them to suffer because He had something far more important to teach them. He wanted the disciples to recognize their own helplessness, His sufficiency, and their dependence on Him.
Ask God to reveal His abiding presence in the midst of your trouble. And remember—He always provides for your spiritual needs to help you both endure and grow stronger in your Christian faith.
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.
Why is context so important in studying the Bible? What is wrong with looking at verses out of context?
The main reason it is important to study the Bible in context is in order to obtain a correct understanding of the passage. Misunderstanding a portion of the Bible can lead to misapplying it in our lives as well as teaching something wrong to others. These are quite the opposite of God’s desire for our lives, which includes knowing His Word accurately, applying it in our own lives, and teaching it to others, following the example of Ezra, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).
Another concern with taking the Bible out of context is the temptation to make the Bible say what we want rather than what it originally meant. Those who have taken this misguided approach have used Scripture to “prove” a wide variety of practices as “biblical.” However, a practice is only biblical if it is based on an accurate understanding of Scripture that includes studying the context surrounding a passage.
For example, some have taught that slavery was biblical since this practice can be found in the Bible. However, while it is true slavery is found in the Bible, the New Testament did not teach Christians to enslave one another. On the contrary, in Paul’s most personal letter regarding this issue, he wrote to Philemon with the intention that Philemon should free his runaway slave Onesimus (Philemon 1).
In addition, Genesis 1:27 speaks of men and women being created in God’s image. Christians are called to love neighbor as self (Mark 12:31), a practice that would certainly contradict the practice of modern slavery. Further, a close examination of slavery and servanthood in first century times shows that it often differed widely in application from modern slavery. A doulos (Greek word for servant) could have a servant of his or her own and held much responsibility. While there were certainly masters who treated their servants poorly in that time, slavery then was not practiced exactly as slavery has been in modern times. Without studying the context of biblical passages on this topic, however, past generations have used Scripture to support the most tragic of interpretations regarding the enslavement and mistreatment of people.
Scripture encourages readers to study the full counsel of God. In Acts 20:27, the apostle Paul told the elders in his presence, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Our lives are to follow this same practice of studying all of God’s Word to accurately understand its teachings and apply them to our lives. Second Timothy 2:15 is clear, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
For God So Loved the World
Someone recently submitted a comment saying in part, “God is love PERIOD…Are you sure YOU know God?”
I had to admit, as I read the person’s comment that it was abundantly clear we didnot serve the same God. The idol god they endorsed was someone completely alien to the Father, because their perversion of “love” does not involve obedience to God’s commands. In this erroneous perspective, sin is of no consequence because God is love. Holding to God’s truths are merely academics in “biblical knowledge” which has nothing to do with a Christian’s call to “show love.” Somehow, I don’t think this is what God meant when He said that love covers a multitude of sins. God is love, but God is also Truth. You cannot separate the two without perverting who God is.
Christianity itself is being redefined to be about tolerance (of sin), diversity (of sin), and unity (with thosewillfully in sin). Anyone who speaks about sin is therefore “judging” and “unloving.” The hatred coming against those who speak against sin has indeed become palatable.
Let me say unequivocally that I am not a servant of this idol “god of love” promoted by many in the churchworld which shies away from addressing sin and uses the grace of God to promote lasciviousness. If that makes me your enemy, so be it.
Churches today are filled with people who hold to a faith that does not save. James referred to this as a “dead faith”-meaning a mere empty profession (James 2:17, 20, 26). Paul wrote to the people in the church at Corinth to test or examine themselves to see if they were truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). As important as it was in Paul’s day, how much more important it is for people in our churches today to put their faith to the test and to make sure they have not been deceived.
But where do we start? By what criteria do we determine true from empty faith? What are the distinguishing marks of genuine saving faith? Surprisingly, there are a number of popular standards or tests that really don’t prove the genuineness of one’s faith one way or the other. So before we look at the tests that prove genuine faith, let’s take a look at some popular tests that neither prove nor disprove the genuineness of one’s faith.
Here is a list of seven conditions that do not prove or disprove the genuineness of saving faith. One can be a Christian and possess these things or one may not be a Christian at all and still possess them. While they don’t prove or disprove one’s faith, they’re important to know and understand so you will not be deceived.
Seven conditions that do not prove or disprove genuine saving faith.
1. Visible Morality
There are some people who just seem to be good people. They can be religious, moral, honest, and forthright [trustworthy] in their dealings with people. They may seem to be grateful, loving, kind and tenderhearted toward others. They have visible virtues and an external morality. The Pharisees of Jesus day rested on visible morality for their hope and yet some of Christ’s harshest words were directed at them for this very thing.
Many who possess visible morality know nothing of sincere love for God. Whatever good works they appear to possess, they know nothing of serving the true God and living for His glory. Whatever the person does or leaves undone does not involve God. They’re honest in their dealings with everyone-but God. They won’t rob anyone-but God. They’re thankful and loyal to everyone-but God. They speak contemptuously and reproachfully of no one-but God. They have good relationships with everyone-but God. They are like the rich young ruler who said, “All these things [conditions] have I kept, what do I lack?” Their focus is on visible morality, but that visible morality doesn’t necessarily mean salvation. Jesus told one of the Pharisees “you must be born again” (John 3:6), not “you must put on an external morality.” People can “clean up their act” by reformation rather than regeneration-so reformation in itself is not a mark of saving faith.
2. Intellectual Knowledge
Another condition that can be misleading is intellectual knowledge. People can possess an intellectual understanding and knowledge of the truth and yet not be saved. While the knowledge of the truth is necessary for salvation, and visible morality is a fruit of salvation, neither of these conditions by themselves translate into true saving faith. People can know all about God, all about Jesus, who He was, that He came into the world, that He died on the cross, that He rose again, that He’s coming again, and even many details about the life of Christ-and still turn their backs on Him.
That’s what the writer of Hebrews was warning against in Hebrews 6:4-6. There were people in the church who knew all about God and understood gospel truths. They even had a measure of experience with gospel truth. They’d seen the ministry of the Holy Spirit at work in people’s lives-and yet knowing all of that, they stood in grave danger of turning away and rejecting Christ.
In Hebrews 10 the writer warns this kind of man that he is treading underfoot the blood of Christ by not believing what he knows to be true. There are many people who know the Scriptures but are on their way to hell! A man cannot be saved without the knowledge of the truth, but possessing that knowledge alone does not save.
3. Religious Involvement
Religious involvement is not necessarily a proof of true faith. According to Paul there are people who possess an outward form (a mere external appearance) of godliness but who have denied the power of it. They have an empty form of religion. Jesus illustrated this when He told of the virgins in Matthew 25. They waited and waited and waited for the coming of the bridegroom, who is Christ. And even though they waited a long time, when He came they didn’t go in. They had everything together except the oil in their lamps. That which was most necessary was missing. The oil is probably emblematic of the new life; the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They weren’t regenerate. They had religious involvement but were not regenerate. A person can be visibly moral, know the truth, be religiously involved, and yet not possess genuine saving faith.
4. Active Ministry
It is possible to have an active and even a public ministry, and yet not possess genuine saving faith. Balaam was a prophet who turned out to be false (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). Saul of Tarsus (later becoming the apostle Paul) thought he was serving God by killing Christians. Judas was a public preacher and one of the twelve disciples of Christ-but he was an apostate. In Matthew 7:22-23 Jesus said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” Those whom Jesus spoke of had been involved in active and public ministry-but Jesus said he never knew them. Sobering words indeed.
5. Conviction of Sin
By itself, even conviction of sin is not a proof of salvation. Our world is filled with guilt-ridden people. Many even feel badly about their sin. Felix trembled under conviction at the preaching of the apostle Paul, but he never left his idols or turned to God (Acts 24:24-6). The Holy Spirit works to convict men of sin, righteousness, and of judgment, but many do not respond in true repentance. Some may confess their sins and even abandon the sins they feel guilty about. They say, “I don’t like living this way. I want to change.” They may amend their ways and yet fall short of genuine saving faith. That’s external reformation, not internal regeneration. No degree of conviction of sin is conclusive evidence of saving faith. Even the demons are convicted of their sins-that’s why they tremble-but they are not saved.
6. The Feeling of Assurance
Feeling like you are saved is no guarantee you are indeed saved. Someone may say, “Well, I must be a Christian because I feel that I am. I think I am one.” But that is faulty reasoning. If thinking one is a Christian is what makes one a Christian, then no one could be deceived. And then, by definition, it would not be possible to be a deceived non-Christian, and that doesn’t square with the whole point of Satan’s deception. He wants people who are not truly saved to think they are. Satan has deceived multiplied millions of religious people into thinking they are saved even though they are not. They may say to themselves, “God won’t condemn me. I feel good about myself. I have assurance. I’m ok.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean a thing.
7. A Time of Decision
So often people say things like: “Well, I know I’m a Christian, because I remember when I signed the card,” or “I remember when I prayed a prayer,” or “I remember when I walked the aisle” or “went forward in church.” A person may remember exactly when it happened and where they were when “it” happened, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Our salvation is not verified by a past moment. Many people have prayed prayers, gone forward in church services, signed cards, gone into prayer rooms, been baptized, and joined churches without ever experiencing genuine saving faith.
These are seven common conditions or tests that don’t necessarily prove or disprove the existence of saving faith. What then are the marks of genuine saving faith? Are there some reliable tests from the Word of God that enable us to know for certain whether one’s faith is real? Thankfully there are at least nine biblical criteria for examining the genuineness of saving faith.
Nine conditions that prove genuine saving faith.
1. Love for God
First of all a deep and abiding love for God is one of the supreme evidences of genuine saving faith. This gets to the heart of the issue. Romans 8:7 says “the carnal mind is enmity [hostility, hatred] against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Thus, if a man’s heart is at enmity with God there is no basis for assuming the presence of saving faith. Those who are truly saved love God, but those who are not truly saved resent God and His sovereignty. Internally they are rebellious toward God and His plan for their life. But the regenerate person is set to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. His delight is in the infinite excellencies of God. God is the first and highest affection of his renewed soul. God has become his chief happiness and source of satisfaction. He seeks after God and thirsts for the living God.
By the way, we must be careful to distinguish the difference between that kind of true love for God that seeks His glory from the kind of self-serving love that sees God primarily as a means of personal fulfillment and gain. True saving faith doesn’t believe in Christ so that Christ will make one happy. The heart that truly loves God desires to please God and glorify Him. Jesus taught that if someone loved their father and mother more than they loved Christ, they were not worthy of Him. In Matthew 10:37-39 Jesus put it like this: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).
The question then is this: Do you love God? Do you love His nature? Do you love His glory? Do you love His name? Do you love His kingdom? Do you love His holiness? Do you love His will? Is your heart lifted when you sing His praises-because you love Him? Supreme love for God is decisive evidence of true faith.
2. Repentance from Sin
A proper love for God necessarily involves a hatred for sin that leads to repentance. That should be obvious. Who wouldn’t understand that? If we truly love someone we seek their best interests. Their well being is our greatest concern. If a man says to his wife, “I love you but I could care less what happens to you,” we would rightly question his love for her. True love seeks the highest good of its object. If we say that we love God, then we will hate whatever is an offense to Him. Sin blasphemes God. Sin curses God. Sin seeks to destroy God’s work and His kingdom. Sin killed His Son. So when someone says, “I love God, but I tolerate sin,” then there is every reason to question the genuineness of his love for God. One cannot love God without hating that which is set to destroy Him. True love for God will therefore manifest itself through confession and repentance. The man who loves God will be grieved over his sin and will want to confess it to God and forsake it.
In examining our faith we should ask: “Do I have a settled conviction concerning the evil of all sin? Does sin appear to me as the evil and bitter thing that it really is? Does conviction of sin increase in me as I walk with Christ? Do I hate it not primarily because it is ruinous to my own soul or because it is an offense to the God I love? Does the sin itself grieve me or am I only grieved over the consequences of my sin. What grieves me most-my misfortune or my sin? Do my sins appear to me as many, frequent and aggravated? Do I find myself grieved over my own sin more than the sins of others?” Genuine saving faith loves God and hates what He hates, which is sin. That attitude results in real repentance.
3. Genuine Humility
Saving faith is manifested through genuine humility. Jesus said blessed are those who are poor in spirit, and those who mourn [their sin], and those who are meek, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:3-6)-all marks of humility. In Matthew 18 Jesus said that “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). True saving faith comes as a little child-humble and dependent. It is not the man who is full of himself who is saved, but the man who denies himself, takes up his cross daily and follows Christ (Matthew 16:24).
In the Old Testament we see that the Lord receives those who come with a broken and contrite spirit (Psalm 34:18; 51:17; Isaiah 57:15; 66:2). James wrote: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). We must come as the prodigal son, broken and humble. Remember what he said to his father-“Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21). Those possessing genuine saving faith do not come boastfully to God with their religious achievements or spiritual accomplishments in hand. They come empty-handed in genuine humility.
4. Devotion to God’s Glory
True saving faith is manifested by a devotion to God’s glory. Whatever believers do, whether they eat or drink, their desire is to see God glorified. Christians do what they do because they want to bring glory to God.
Without question Christians fail in each of these areas, but the direction of a Christian’s life is to love God, hate sin, to live in humility and self-denial, recognizing his unworthiness and being devoted to the glory of God. It is not the perfection of one’s life but the direction of a life that provides evidence of regeneration.
5. Continual Prayer
Humble, submissive, believing prayer is mark of true faith. We cry “Abba, Father” because the Spirit within us prompts that cry. Jonathan Edwards once preached a sermon titled, “Hypocrites are Deficient in the Duty of Secret Prayer.” It’s true. Hypocrites may pray publicly, because that’s what hypocrites want to do. Their desire is to impress people-but they are deficient in the duty of secret prayer. True believers have a personal and private prayer life with God. They regularly seek communion with God through prayer.
6. Selfless Love
An important characteristic of genuine saving faith is selfless love. James wrote, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well” (James 2:8). John wrote, “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).
If you love God you will not only hate what offends Him, but you will love those whom He loves. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14). And why do we love God and love others? Because this is the believer’s response to His love for us. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Jesus said we will know that we are His disciples by our love for each other (John 13:35).
7. Separation from the World
Positively, believers are marked by a love for God and for fellow believers. Negatively, the Christian is characterized by the absence of love for the world. True believers are not those who are ruled by worldly affections, but their affection and devotion is toward God and His kingdom.
In 1 Corinthians 2:12 Paul wrote that “we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” In 1 John 2:15 we read: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15). True saving faith separates one from the pursuits of this world–not perfectly, as we all fail in these areas, but the direction of a believer’s life is upward. He feels the pull of heaven on his soul. Christians are those whom God has delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of His Son. The believer is marked by the absence of love or enslavement to the satanically controlled world system (Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 1:13; James 4:4).
8. Spiritual Growth
True believers grow. When God begins a true work of salvation in a person, He finishes and perfects that work. Paul expressed that assurance when he wrote in Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
If you are a true Christian, you are going to be growing-and that means you are going to be more and more like Christ. Life produces itself. If you’re alive you are going to grow, there’s no other way. You’ll improve. You’ll increase. The Spirit will move you from one level of glory to the next. So examine your life. Do you see spiritual growth? Do you see the decreasing frequency of sin? Is there an increasing pattern of righteousness and devotion to God?
Obedient living is not one of the optional tracks given for believers to walk. All true believers are called to a life of obedience. Jesus taught that every branch that abides in Him bears fruit (John 15:1-8). Paul wrote that believers “are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). That speaks of obedience. We are saved unto the obedience of faith (see 1 Peter 1:2).
How can we know our faith is genuine? Examine your life in the light of God’s Word. Do you see these characteristics in your life? Do you have a love for God, hatred for sin, humility, devotion to God’s glory, a pattern of personal and private prayer, selfless love, separation from the world, the evidence of spiritual growth and obedience. These are the real evidences of genuine saving faith.
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.”
― Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version
“Interpersonal relations” is not usually thought of as a Bible topic, but advice about dealing with other people makes up a large part of the teachings of Jesus and His apostles as well as the wisdom books of the Old Testament. Whether dealing with parents, children, spouses, family, friends, co-workers, strangers or even enemies, the Bible’s advice is spiritually sound and effective for promoting peace and harmony.
The Greatest Commandment
All of the New Testament teachings on interpersonal relations follow from Jesus’ commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was most important, He replied,
The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. (NRSV, Mark 12:26-31)
The English word “love” has many different meanings, but this “Christian love” of the Bible comes from the Greek word agape which means respect, good-will and benevolent concern for the one loved. It is deliberate, purposeful love rather than emotional or impulsive love. The King James Version of the Bible often uses the word “charity” for this kind of love.
“Love your neighbor” was not a new commandment (Leviticus 19:18), but the people of Jesus’ time had developed a rather narrow view of who should be considered a “neighbor.” In HisParable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus corrected that view and teaches us that a “neighbor” is anyone we come in contact with, regardless of race, nationality, religion or other distinctions..
No one is perfect; we are all sinners in our own ways (Romans 3:21-24, 1 John 1:8). If we treat people we consider to be “sinners” with scorn, or think we are better than they are, we are guilty of the sin of self-righteousness:
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great self-confidence and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.” (NLT, Luke 18:9-14)
Self-righteousness is one of the hardest sins to avoid because it is so much easier to see other people’s faults than to see our own faults. But, judgment of a person’s character must be left to God (Romans 2:1-4, James 4:11-12). Rather than look for faults in others, we should look for the good in others and try to correct the faults within ourselves. Rather than criticizing other people, we should concentrate on living holy lives, ourselves. Jesus’ comical parable of a person with a log in his eye trying to see to remove a speck from another’s eye reminds us that we probably have bigger faults within ourselves (including self-righteousness) than the faults we like to criticize in others:
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (NRSV, Matthew 7:1-5)
This does not mean, however, that all sin should be ignored:
But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. (NAS, Matthew 23:11-12)
An attitude of humility is the key to dealing with other people in a Biblical way. Humility or humbleness is a quality of being courteously respectful of others. It is the opposite of aggressiveness, arrogance, boastfulness and exaggerated pride. Humility is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs of others. Why do qualities such as courtesy, patience and deference have such a prominent place in the Bible? It is because a demeanor of humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons. Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self worth. Rather, it affirms the inherent worth of all persons.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (NIV, Luke 6:31)
The Golden Rule, spoken by Jesus, is possibly the best-known quote from the Bible and is the standard Jesus set for dealing with other people. If we wish to be loved, we must give love. If we wish to be respected, we must respect all persons, even those we dislike. If we wish to be forgiven, we must also forgive. If we wish others to speak kindly of us, we must speak kindly of them and avoid gossip. If we want happy marriages, we must be faithful, forgiving and kind to our spouses. If we wish to be fulfilled in our lives, we must share generously with others.
“Under the laws of Moses the rule was, ‘If you murder, you must die.’ But I have added to that rule and tell you that if you are only angry, even in your own home, you are in danger of judgment! If you call your friend an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse him, you are in danger of the fires of hell. (TLB, Matthew 5:21-22)
No one makes us angry. Anger is our own emotional response to some action or event. More often than not, our angry feelings are based on a misinterpretation of what someone said or did or on our own exaggerated sense of pride. Angry words and actions escalate hostilities and block communication rather than solve problems. Whether between parent and child, spouses, siblings, friends, or nations, expressions of anger divide us and drive us toward open hostility.
It is all too easy to react to life’s annoyances and disappointments with anger. It is far more challenging, but much better, to react with understanding and empathy. In this way, we can quickly settle disputes and avoid turning minor incidents into major battles:
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. (NRSV, James 1:19-20)
Holding a grudge can consume us with hatred, blocking out all enjoyment of life. A grudge clouds our judgment and may lead us to an act of revenge that can never be undone. The Old Testament law specified equal revenge for equal wrong: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Exodus 21:23-25, Leviticus 24:19-20), but that rule was too harsh for the new age of the kingdom of God. Jesus said the right thing to do is to take no revenge at all:
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. (NRSV, Matthew 5:38-42)
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NLT, Matthew 6:14-15)
We should always be willing to forgive others and not hold any ill will against them. Holding a grudge and seeking revenge have no place in the lives of those who truly love their neighbors. Jesus calls us to remember that we are all God’s children. Just as He loves all His people and is willing to forgive their sins, we should be willing to forgive also.
A good person produces good words from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil words from an evil heart. And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak. The words you say now reflect your fate then; either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned. (NLT, Matthew 12:35-37)
The words we say or write have tremendous power for good or evil. Words can promote love and understanding or inflame prejudice and hatred. It is words that make or break marriages and other relationships. Words can make peace or make war. Our words should always show a spirit of Christian love.
A lie is any false statement made with the intent to deceive someone. We must always be honest in our dealings with other people. The Bible strongly condemns any attempt to deceive with the intent to hurt someone or gain unfair advantage:
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (The Ten Commandments, NRSV, Exodus 20:16)
Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit. (NRSV, 1 Peter 3:10)
Gossip or slander is an act of hostility intended to harm someone’s reputation. We must avoid the temptation to misrepresent someone’s character or actions:
An evil man sows strife; gossip separates the best of friends. (TLB, Proverbs 16:28)
The Assumptions Underlying Racial Profiling
Defenders of racial profiling argue that it is a rational response to patterns of criminal behavior.
In the context of street-level crime, this argument rests on the assumption that minorities—used in this context to refer to African Americans and Hispanics—commit most drug-related and other street-level crimes, and that many, or most, street-level criminals are in turn African Americans and Hispanics. Thus, the argument continues, it is a sensible use of law enforcement resources to target African Americans and Hispanics in this context. This assumption is false.
The empirical data presented in Chapter III (A) of this report reveal that “hit rates” (i.e., the discovery of contraband or evidence of other illegal conduct) among African Americans and Hispanics stopped and searched by the police—whether driving or walking—are lower than or similar to hit rates for Whites who are stopped and searched. These hit rate statistics render implausible any defense of racial profiling on the ground that African Americans and Hispanics commit more drug-related or other street-level crimes than Whites
Well, the problem is that the profile many people think they have of what a terrorist is doesn’t fit the reality. Actually, this individual probably does not fit the profile that most people assume is the terrorist who comes from either South Asia or an Arab country. Richard Reid didn’t fit that profile. Some of the bombers or would-be bombers in the plots that were foiled in Great Britain don’t fit the profile. And in fact, one of the things the enemy does is to deliberately recruit people who are Western in background or in appearance, so that they can slip by people who might be stereotyping.
I am not amazed at how God will change your whole message and how He will use a little force to drive a “BIG” idea. I am thankful for our partners ICUC and PICO who allowed us to support them as they support “Second Chance Alliance” and it’s desire to drive change within the Inland Empire.
“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
― E.B. White
My name is Aaron Pratt and I am one of the founders of Second Chance Alliance a reentry facility that is still at vision stage.
I have been given this opportunity to support (ICUC) Inland Congregations United for Change on behalf of AB-953. I want to personally welcome you all to this life changing, relationship building and accountability voice of togetherness event.
The reason this event is so imperative is because unless we all take a look at the issue of racial profiling and make suggestive interventions to stop it we will live unfulfilled lives. Our world as we know it is without social accountability; which stands the reason Inland Congregations United for Change has arranged this press conference to lift our voices together so that Governor Brown can hear the herald of a community that desires social accountability that relies on civic engagement with law enforcement agencies throughout the Inland Empire and abroad to unite ordinary citizens and/or civil society organizations who participate directly or indirectly in exacting accountability with law enforcement.
Racial profiling was alive and well three thousand years ago. God hated it then as He does now, because He made all mankind of one blood and in his own image Acts17:26.
Racial profiling can been seen clearly in the text of old chirography 2 Samuel 18:19-21 and verse 20 tells the “TRUTH”
According to the Sentencing Projects Manual on Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System for Practitioners and Policymakers (2000) there are four key aspects to addressing racial disparity in the criminal justice system and they are as follows:
(1) Acknowledge the cumulative nature of racial disparities. The problem of racial disparity is one which builds at each stage of the criminal justice continuum from arrest through parole, rather than the result of the actions at any single stage.
2) Encourage communication across players in all decision points of the system. In order to combat unwarranted disparity, strategies are required to tackle the problem at each stage of the criminal justice system, and to do so in a coordinated way. Without a systemic approach to the problem, gains in one area may be offset by reversals in another.
3) Know that what works at one decision point may not work at others. Each decision point and component of the system requires unique strategies depending on the degree of disparity and the specific populations affected by the actions of that component.
4) Work toward systemic change. System wide change is impossible without informed criminal justice leaders who are willing and able to commit their personal and agency resources to measuring and addressing racial disparity at every stage of the criminal justice system, and as a result, for the system as a whole.
Please click this link to view our petition for hiring practices of ex-offenders-https://t.co/oN0a7fK1dC
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A Christian view of work is distinctive in the way it insists that human work ultimately derives its meaning from God’s character and purposes. It is who God is and what God does that shape the way we see the world, our place and work in the world, and the values that we take to work. Fundamental to this understanding is recognition that God is at work in the world and we are workers made in the image of God and invited to work as partners in God’s continuing work. We work to further God’s purposes through our work and to reflect God’s character in the way we work. It is our understanding of this reality that injects distinctive Christian perspectives into our view of workplace ethics. But we begin with some more general observations about ethics.
Christian ethical living is concerned with “…ordering our steps in every situation of life according to the fundamental faith commitments we share as Christians.” Or, according to another definition: “Christian ethics is the attempt to provide a framework and method for making decisions, that seeks to honor God as revealed in Scripture, follow the example of Jesus and be responsive to the Spirit, to achieve outcomes that further God’s purposes in the world.”
The command approach asks, “Is this action right or wrong in itself, according to the rules?” It is often called the deontological approach (from the Greek deon for duty or rule.It is based on the proposition that actions are inherently right or wrong, as defined by a set of rules or duties. This set of duties/rules may be given by divine command, natural law, rational logic or another source. In Christian ethics, we are interested in commands given by God or logically derived from God’s self-revelation in the Bible.
The consequences approach asks, “Will this action produce good or bad results?” It is often called the teleological approach (from the Greek telos for end because it says that end results decide what is the morally correct course of action. The most moral course of action may be decided by:
What will result in the greatest good? One well-known example of the teleological approach is called Utilitarianism, which defines the greatest good as whatever will bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people.
What advances one’s self interest best? For example, the system known as Ethical Egoism assumes that the most likely way to achieve what is in the best interests of all people is for each person to pursue their own best interest, within certain limits.
What will produce the ends that are most in accord with God’s intent for his creation? This approach can focus on subordinate goals, e.g., gaining a better quality of life for a disabled person, or an ultimate goal, such as glorifying God and enjoying him forever. In the case of complicated circumstances, this approach tries to calculate which actions will maximize the balance of good over evil.
Because neither happiness nor self-interest seem to be the highest results God desires for his creation, neither Utilitarianism nor Ethical Egoism are generally considered Christian forms of ethics. But this does not mean that consequences are not ethically important to God, any more than the fact that there are unbiblical systems of rules means that ethical commands are not important to God.
This approach asks, “Is the actor a good person with good motives?” In this approach, the most moral course of action is decided by questions about character, motives and the recognition that individuals don’t act alone because they are also part of communities that shape their characters and attitudes and actions. This is often called virtue ethics. Since the beginning of the Christian era, virtues have been recognized as an essential element of Christian ethics. However, from the time of the Reformation until the late 20th century, virtue ethics — like consequential ethics — was overshadowed by command ethics in most Protestant ethical thinking.
But how do these three different approaches apply to Christian ethics?
The Bible is the basic source for the commands we are to obey, the consequences we are to seek, and the characters we are to become as followers of Jesus Christ. Although the Bible’s commands may be the first things that come to mind when we think about Christian ethics, consequences and character are essential elements of Christian ethics too. For most of us, the most effective way to become more ethical is probably to give greater attention to how our actions and decisions at work are shaping our character. The best ethical decisions at work and elsewhere are the decisions that shape our character to be more like Jesus’. Ultimately, by God’s grace, “we will be like him” (1 John 3:2).
Becoming a Christian requires change. We must remove old habits and develop new ones. This study considers Bible principles to help us improve ourselves: faith, love, repentance, Bible study, prayer, avoiding temptation, and patience. God’s word is the best source of guidance for self-help and motivation for self-improvement.
Have you ever had difficulty trying to change a habit? Human beings are creatures of habit. We tend to continue acting as we have acted in the past. Like a river flowing through a canyon, the longer a habit continues, the more deeply it becomes ingrained, and the harder it is to change. This is true of all habits, good or bad.
Ephesians 4:22-24 shows that major changes must occur when we are converted to serve God. Old practices and attitudes must be replaced by new ones. Christians must learn good habits like Bible study, prayer, love, faith, patience, attending church meetings, giving, teaching others, etc. We must also eliminate bad habits like foul language, uncontrolled temper, gambling, drugs, smoking, drinking, gossip, lying, pornography, sexual promiscuity, etc.
Knowing what changes to make is not enough. We also need to know how to make them. Change does not come easily. Since the Scriptures provide us to all good works (2 Timothy 3:16,17), they give all the guidance we need. God’s word is the best source of guidance for self-help and motivation for self-improvement.
Let us study 12 specific, practical steps the Bible gives to show us how to change and improve our selves to become what God wants.
Step1: Change Your Purpose in Life.
Before people are willing to act, they must be motivated. A sound sleeper is more likely to get up in the middle of the night if the house is on fire than if he remembers he did not brush his teeth! Christians have some of the strongest possible motives for changing. Consider some:
Love and Dedication to God
Romans 12:1,2 – Christians are transformed (changed) by renewing their minds (cf. Eph. 4:23). To live differently, we must think differently. We must not seek to be like the world but to use our bodies in God’s service.
The Macedonians practiced generous giving because they first gave themselves to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5). Changing our conduct becomes much easier when we are totally dedicated to God’s service. (See also Ecc. 12:13; Matt. 6:33; 16:24.)
1 John 5:3; 4:19,9 – What motivates us to obey God? Our love for Him. What motivates us to love Him? The fact that He loved us. How do we know He loved us? Because He gave His Son to die to save us.
Love is one of the strongest forces in existence. It can move a woman to rescue her children from a burning building or a man to lift an automobile that has crushed a loved one. If you are having difficulty changing yourself, you need to learn to appreciate God’s blessings and mercy. (See also 1 John 2:15-17; Matt. 10:34-37; 22:37-40; John 14:15; 2 Cor. 5:14-17.)
Imitation of Christ
The desire to be like someone we admire is another powerful motivation. Sports heroes inspire young people in athletics. Washington and Lincoln are models for patriotic citizens. So godly people like Abraham, Noah, Ruth, and Mary motivate us to serve God. But the greatest example of all is that of Jesus.
Matthew 10:24,25 – A disciple seeks to be like his master. Christians are disciples of Jesus (Acts 11:26). We should follow His steps because He left us a sinless example (1 Peter 2:21,22).
As we face each decision in life, we should ask, “What would Jesus do?” This will give us strong motivation to change our lives. (See also Gal. 2:20; Matt. 16:24; Col. 3:10).
Desire for Eternal Life, Not Eternal Punishment
1 Corinthians 9:25 – Athletes control their habits so they can win a temporary, earthly honor. Christians have an even stronger motive. We seek the crown of eternal life (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10). We should set our minds on our eternal reward, not on earthly things (Col. 3:1-6; 2 Peter 1:10,11; 2 Thess. 1:8,9).
Lack of motivation is a major reason people do not change to please God. They do not have sufficient desire to change. Instead they want to please themselves or their friends and family. Often they are too concerned with the things of this life. Until our motives are right, little else in this study will help us. But when we are determined that serving God is our most important purpose in life, then we will find the means to make the necessary changes.
When we lack the motivation to change, let us think about why we should love God, think about the importance of being like Christ, and think about our eternal destiny.
Step2: Believe You Can Change with God’s Help.
Proverbs 4:23 – Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. The way you act is determined by your attitudes and intentions. People and circumstances may influence you, but you do not have to give in. You do what you decide to do (cf. Matt. 15:18,19; 12:34-37).
1 Corinthians 10:13 – God will not allow temptations that are beyond your ability to bear. He will always make a way of escape. “God is faithful.” He will always keep this promise. It follows that you can break any bad habit and develop any good habit according to God’s will.
Philippians 4:13 – We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. This includes changing to please Him. If we trust our own strength, we will fail. Satan can defeat us. If we use Christ’s strength we will succeed, because Satan can never defeat Him. Perhaps we have failed in the past because we have trusted our own power instead of using Christ’s.
People sometimes convince themselves, “I just can’t change. It’s too late. Besides, I’m only human.” They are not just belittling themselves; they are denying God’s word. They will fail simply because they will give up instead of persisting to use God’s power.
Psalm 37:5 – If you commit yourself to the Lord and trust Him, He will accomplish His will for you. No matter how strong a temptation you face, no matter how long you have practiced a sin, if God says to change, you can change. (See also Eph. 6:10-18; 3:20,21; 2 Cor. 9:8; Josh. 1:5-9.)
Step 3: Study the Bible about Your Habit.
Joshua 1:8 – To succeed in God’s work, meditate on God’s word. List the pertinent Bible passages about each habit you need to change. List reasons why you should change. Meditate on these verses daily, filling your mind with them. (Cf. Psalm 1:2; 119:11.)
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 – Frequently remind yourself of these verses. Write them and place them where they will remind you: on your bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door, on your table at mealtime, on the TV knob.
Matthew 4:1-11 – Jesus overcame temptation by quoting Scripture. But this worked only because He knew the Scripture. Memorize verses about your habit so that, when you are tempted, they will come to mind and strengthen you. Quote them to yourself and to those who tempt you. (See also Prov. 3:5,6; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; Eph. 6:17; Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12.)
Step4: Repent of Sin.
Acts 8:22 – Sin requires repentance. Repentance is a change of mind – a determined commitment to cease sin and obey God (see Matt. 21:28,29; Acts 17:30; 11:23). Before one can change his conduct, he must change his mind.
Proverbs 28:13 – Do not cover up your sin, deny it, excuse it, or blame someone else. Admit the error and be truly sorry (2 Cor. 7:10). But sorrow is not enough. We have truly repented only when we are so sorry that we determine to change our conduct.
Most other achievements in life require about 10% ability and 90% just plain determination and hard work. In spiritual matters, every accountable person has the ability to please God; so changing to please God is 100% determined by our choice. God has provided everything we need. The decision is ours.
We will never change until we make up our minds to pursue the means God provides until we succeed. The decision to do this is repentance, and no one will change to please God without it.
Step 5: Develop a Plan of Action.
Proverbs 14:22 – We must devise to do good, not evil. God’s example demonstrates the importance of planning. He purposed man’s redemption (Rom. 8:28), the church (Eph. 3:10,11), the temple (Heb. 8:5), etc. (cf. Gen. 12:1-7). Likewise, God’s servants need to have a plan to succeed in His service (Luke 14:26-33; Dan. 1:8; Psalm 17:3; Acts 11:23; 2 Cor. 9:7).
In what other important endeavors will we succeed without a plan? Consider the forethought needed to build a house, run a business or a household, program a computer, etc. Worthwhile activities, to be successful, need planning.
Likewise, to change your life, you need a specific, practical checklist of steps you will take to change. Analyze the circumstances or causes that lead you to fail to do right, then plan how to avoid those causes. It may help to write your plan down and modify it as needed. This plan will include some specific points we are studying plus other points that fit your specific problem.
Many people fail to change to please God because they never planned to succeed. They did not plan to fail, but they failed to plan!
Step 6: Pray Regularly.
Prayer is essential in two ways.
A child of God should pray for forgiveness.
If you are not yet a child of God, you need to believe in Jesus, repent of sins, confess Christ, and be baptized to be forgiven of sins (Mark 16:16; Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 2:38; 22:16). When you have done those things, you become a child of God (Gal. 3:26,27; Rom. 6:3,4; 1 Peter 1:22,23). If you sin afterward, you need to pray for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:8-10; Prov. 28:13; Matt. 6:12).
Then pray for God’s help.
Matthew 6:13 – Ask God to “deliver us from evil” (cf. Matt. 26:41). Tell God exactly what your problem is. Pray often and regularly (1 Thess. 5:17; Col. 4:2). Pray especially at the moment when you face temptation (Matt. 26:36-46).
God has promised that, if you ask His help, He will hear and answer (1 Peter 5:7; Phil. 4:6,7; Eph. 6:11,13,18).
Step 7: Seek Help from Other Christians.
James 5:16 – Christians should confess their faults to one another so they can pray for one another. We should bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). If our sins have harmed specific individuals, we should apologize to them (Matt. 5:23,24).
When we are fighting an especially difficult habit, it may help to choose one or two special counselors to talk with regularly. They can give us Bible passages and good advice about how to change. They can encourage us. It may motivate us just to know that others are aware of our problem. And they can surely pray for us.
Public church meetings are especially designed to give encouragement (Heb. 10:24,25; 3:12,13; Eph. 4:15,16). We need to attend regularly for many reasons, but especially we need encouragement as we try to become what God wants us to be.
Step 8: Diligently Practice What is Right.
1 Corinthians 15:58 – Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work. Abundant, steadfast work is needed.
We have discussed several steps to prepare us to change, but none of them can substitute for hard work and dedicated effort. All the good attitudes in the world will not get the job done until we follow through with action. God does not promise change will be easy, but He promises it is possible if we work diligently according to His word.
James 1:22-25 – Be doers of the word, not just hearers. Habits are formed by repeated action. We learn to ride a bicycle by forcing ourselves to practice, even when it feels unnatural and uncomfortable. But repetition produces a habit that then feels natural and enjoyable.
So we change to serve God only when we compel ourselves to do what we know is right and repeat it until it becomes “second nature.” (See also Rom. 6:1-23; Matt. 7:21; Luke 6:46.)
Step 9: Substitue Good Habits for Bad Ones.
Ephesians 4:22-32 – Do not just put off theold man. Put on the new man. Note the examples: Speak truth instead of falsehood (v25), work and give to others instead of stealing (v28), speak good instead of evil (v29), show kindness and forgiveness instead of anger and bitterness (v31,32).
Matthew 12:43-45 – A demon left a man but later found the man’s life still empty. He moved back in bringing seven other demons with him! Jesus applied this to Israel, but it is a general principle.
“Nature hates a vacuum.” Remove the air from a bottle, and it will try to get back in. Fill the bottle with something substantial, and the air stays out. So your life cannot stay a spiritual void. It will fill with good or evil. Replace bad habits with good and the bad is less likely to return.
For example, suppose you determine to watch less TV, so you turn it off, but sit in front of it with nothing else to do. Soon you will turn it on again. But if you become actively involved in family activities, Bible study, etc., soon you will replace it with other habits.
For every bad habit you “put off,” find some useful activity to “put on” in its place.
Step 10: Avoid Temptation.
Matthew 6:13 – We should pray, “lead us not into temptation.” If we pray this, surely we obligate ourselves to avoid people, places, and situations that tempt us (cf. Rom. 13:14).
1 Corinthians 15:33 – Evil company corrupts good habits. Note: “Do not be deceived.” Many people think they can return to bad company without returning to bad habits. They are deceived!
Many habits – such as drinking, smoking, drug abuse, gambling, and sexual promiscuity – are begun and continued because of “peer pressure.” Breaking such habits by themselves is hard enough, but it is far more difficult when “friends” urge us to continue them (1 Peter 4:3,4; Prov. 13:20; Ex. 23:2).
Psalm 26:5 – We should hate the congregation of evildoers. Too often people say, “I won’t drink (or dance or gamble, etc.). I’ll just go to the tavern (or dance hall or casino) to be with my friends.” When people have gathered together for the purpose of practicing sin, Christians belong somewhere else! (Cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Eph. 5:11.)
You cannot change a bad habit while continuing to run with the “crowd” that caused the habit. Changing the habit will require changing your friends because the “friends” are part of the habit!
Step 11: Face One Day at a Time.
Matthew 6:33,34 – Do not worry about tomorrow. Today’s temptations will be enough to handle today. Handle tomorrow’s temptations tomorrow – if tomorrow comes.
Often people quit trying to serve God because they are overwhelmed by the sacrifices required to live the rest of their lives for God. But ask yourself this: “Can I practice what is right today – just today?” Of course you can. So when you get up each morning, promise yourself and God, “I will live today for God.” Don’t worry about handling tomorrow. If it comes, you can handle it the same way you will handle today.
Two men were climbing a steep path up a tall mountain. One looked to the top and asked, “How will we ever make it?” The other replied, “One step at a time.” And that is the only way for you to change yourself.
Step 12: Be Patient.
Romans 2:7 – We receive eternal life if we continue patiently in well doing. We must be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work (1 Cor. 15:58).
Galatians 6:9 – Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Your habits did not develop overnight and will not likely disappear overnight. It will take time. If you fall, repent, and ask God’s forgiveness. But get up and go on. Do not give up. (1 John 1:8-2:2)
2 Peter 3:18 – Becoming a mature Christian is a process of growth. You are born again as a baby and gradually grow up in Christ. You may look at mature Christians and think, “Why can’t I be like them?” But they probably took years to mature. Do not be impatient with yourself.
As a child grows, you may notice small changes from day to day. But look at pictures from years ago and you will see amazing differences. So you may not see much change in your service to God today compared to yesterday. But if you diligently apply the steps taught in God’s word, after a period of 5, 10, or 20 years you will see significant changes compared to where you began.
By using the means God provides, you can change to be what He wants. He gives motivation, guidance, and encouragement. All that is left is for you to determine to follow His will and then diligently act on that decision. He provides the tools. You must use them. What choice will you make?
Christian Lifestyle – Unchanged
What’s the purpose of living a Christian lifestyle? Choosing to make Jesus Christ the Lord of our life changes our lifestyle dramatically. Friendships, activities, and even health issues receive careful evaluation. While we formulate reasons for the way we live our Christian lives, God’s purpose for our lives never changes.
To remain connected to God through Jesus Christ (John 15:4–8). A life that’s cut off from God withers and dies — physically as well as spiritually. God desires to reproduce His Son’s life through our fruitfulness.
To remain faithful through persecution and to resist false doctrine (2 Timothy 3:12–17). The apostle Paul expected situations to become worse as worldly pressures increased. Our testimony and knowledge of the Scriptures arm us against any deceivers or deceptive ideals.
To present the Good News to a lost world (Mark 16:15-16; 1 Timothy 6:12) Like an athlete or soldier, we present our best efforts to further the faith. Our transformed lives compel us to share the Gospel’s impact not just for our “today,” but for our eternity.
Christian Lifestyle – Rules
Are there specific guidelines that constitute a Christian lifestyle? From theologian to theologian, any “lifestyle” list would differ. Drinking, movies, music, dancing, politics, fashion, education . . . to what degree do we shape our choices so we maintain a Christian lifestyle? “Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do…” (Romans 12:2). For one year A.J. Jacobs attempted to obey more than 700 rules and prohibitions found in the Bible. At the end of one year he confessed, “I started the year as an agnostic, and now I am a reverent agnostic.” A Christian lifestyle should never become a list of rules. We must take our attention off mandates and focus on the Man. To paraphrase, “What did Jesus do?”
Christian Lifestyle – Inside Out
What are the outward and inward evidence of a Christian lifestyle? You can present an outward appearance of holiness daily and still serve as a poor Christian witness (Matthew 23:27-28). To live as a Christian requires having the character of Christ. A transformation must occur, as a result of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling (Galatians 5:24-25).
When we truly practice a Christian lifestyle, the inward evidence becomes obvious. God’s glory and power pours out upon all those around us. Our faith in the midst of turmoil flows from a heart given to a loving Father. Every breath carries words of compassion and affirmation to a hurting world. Those who live the Christian lifestyle live a confident life on the inside and outside.
“This High Priest [Jesus Christ] of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
WHAT DO YOU THINK? – We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to theBible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, “Jesus is Lord,” you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.
We believe that no life is beyond the reach of God’s power, and we envision a future in which countless prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families, are redeemed, restored, and reconciled through the love and truth of Jesus Christ. We equip local churches and thousands of trained volunteers to spread the Gospel and nurture disciples behind prison walls, so that men and women become new creations in Christ – not repeat offenders. We prepare Christian inmates to become leaders of their families, communities, and churches once they are released back into the community. We support inmates’ families, helping them become reconciled to God and one another through transformative relationships with local churches.
Throughout the long history of corrections, religious persons and religious institutions have greatly influenced the treatment of offenders. For centuries, churches were among the first institutions to provide asylum for accused criminals. The actual establishment of prisons and penitentiaries was a religious idea to that allowed the offender to obtain penance for his crimes, make amends, and convert while being isolated from others. But probably the most significant influence was the establishment of a regular chaplaincy. Correctional chaplains were among the earliest paid non-custodial staff and were the first to provide education and counseling for inmates. Currently, many correctional inmates practice their religion on an individual basis or within the structure of an organized religious program. Religious programs are commonplace in jails and prisons and research indicates that one in three inmates participates in some religious program during their incarceration.
The influence and practice of religion in the correctional setting is as old as the history of prisons. Initial entry of religion into prison was probably carried out by religious men who themselves were imprisoned. The Bible stories of such prisoners include Joseph and Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and John the Baptist, Peter, John, and Paul in the New Testament. Beginning in the days of Constantine, the early Christian Church granted asylum to criminals who would otherwise have been mutilated or killed. Although this custom was restricted in most countries by the fifteenth century, releasing prisoners during Easter time, and requests by Church authorities to pardon or reduce sentences for offenders, remained for centuries with the latter still in existence in a modified form.
Imprisonment under church jurisdiction became a substitute for corporal or capital punishment. In medieval times, the Roman Catholic Church developed penal techniques later used by secular states such as the monastic cell that served as a punishment place for criminal offenders. In 1593 the Protestants of Amsterdam built a house of correction for women, and one for men in 1603. In Rome, what are now the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, built correctional facilities for women, and in 1703 Pope Clement XI built the famous Michel Prison as a house of correction for younger offenders with separation, silence, work, and prayer emphasized. As late as the 18th century, the Vatican Prison still served as a model prison design for Europe and America.
Early settlers of North America brought with them the customs and common laws of England including the pillory, the stocks and the whipping post. During the 18th century isolating offenders from fellow prisoners became the accepted correctional practice. It was thought that long-term isolation, combined with in-depth discussions with clergy, would lead inmates to repent or become “penitent”—sorry for their sins. Thus the term “penitentiary” was derived. West Jersey and Pennsylvania Quakers were primarily responsible for many of the prison reforms. They developed the idea of substituting imprisonment for corporal punishment and combining the idea of the prison with the workhouse. The prototype of this regime was the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia that in style reflected the Quakers’ belief in man’s ability to reform through reflection and remorse.
Even during the 19th century when daytime work was initiated by the Auburn System, solitary confinement at night was still the norm in correctional practice. The forced solitary confinement was thought to serve the same repenting purpose as the older penitentiary. Belief in education as a tool for reducing criminal activity also assisted in the growth of religion in prison. Because of the limited budgets of correctional institutions, Chaplains were often called upon to be the sole educator in many American prisons. The “schooling” often consisted of the chaplain standing in a dark corridor with a lantern hanging from the cell bars while extolling the virtues of repentance.
Volunteers also have a long history in corrections that can be traced back to the beginning of prisons. In the last 200 years many religious groups have entered correctional facilities to provide religious services to inmates. One of the most famous advocates for volunteers in corrections was Maud Ballington Booth, the daughter-in-law of William Booth who founded the Salvation Army. Today, volunteers are vital to religious programs and without them inmate participation would surely be limited. Faith representatives would be unable to minister to the large number and variety of inmates.
Many older correctional institutions are being refurbished or destroyed; replaced with facilities designed for better observation and security. Yet the initial influence of religion on the philosophy and the design of the penitentiary will surely remain in correctional history.
To provide ministry to those that are incarcerated.
To provide aftercare ministry to those released from jail or prison.
To provide ministry to the families of those incarcerated.
Many inmates leave prison as Christians and have a strong desire to participate in a Christian based aftercare program where they can develop relationships with other believers and continue to grow in faith. They need to know that they have a place in the body of Christ, where they are accepted, loved and nurtured.
Why should the community be concerned about the aftercare of ex-offenders?
In the United States, approximately 1,600 people will leave state and federal prisons every day. Most will start their journey back into society with “gate money” ($20 – $200), a one-way bus ticket and little else. Many will be drug abusers who received no treatment for their addictions, sex-offenders who received no counseling and illiterate high school drop-outs who took no classes, and acquired no job skills.
Only about 13 percent of prisoners will have participated in any kind of pre-release program to prepare them for life outside of prison. Nearly 25 percent will be released with no supervision. Nearly two-thirds will return to just a few metropolitan areas in their states where they will be further concentrated in struggling neighborhoods that can ill-afford accommodate them.
Almost all prisoners get out eventually. What happens when they do, however, is not a topic that has held the interest of legislators who passed mandatory sentencing laws, abolished parole boards and eliminated funding for prisoner education and training. As a result, prison sentences have grown longer, while prisons have done nothing to prepare inmates for life outside of prison. A study sponsored by the Virginia Department of Correctional Education tracked recidivism rates for inmates who had pursued an education, and found the rate was 59 percent lower than those who had not. Ironically, even as the evidence in favor of such programs mounts, willingness and capacity to fund them continues to shrink.
Ex-offenders leaving prison have cause to fear the wrath of “free-world” residents, much like Onesimus had cause to fear his former master. In a society that casts a jaundiced eye toward the “usual suspects,” men with limited job skills, who are trying to rebuild their lives with few resources can relate to Onesimus’ situation.
Paul urged Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ. Onesimus Ministries urges people to help ex-offenders get a fair shot at rebuilding their lives. Onesimus Ministries began as one man ministering to men in a city jail. It has grown to include two residency locations, a bus ministry and other outreach efforts to people with criminal convictions. With a waiting list of 6-12 months for acceptance into the training center, the need is great and growing greater. In our approach to gain leverage and exposure to the various prisons,We are studying Onesimus Ministries brand and operational procedures and submitting to being a alternative facility for those who can get transfers. Please keep our vision before God….
Question: “Why did Jesus ask Peter ‘Do you love me?’ three times?”
Answer: Jesus asked Peter three times,“Do you love me?” as recorded in John 21:15–17. This occurred when Jesus was having breakfast with His disciples soon after His resurrection. Jesus used this opportunity to encourage and exhort Peter about his upcoming responsibilities and even to prophesy the manner in which Peter will die. By asking Peter, “Do you love me?” three times, Jesus was emphasizing the importance of Peter’s love and unswerving obedience to his Lord as necessary for his future ministry.
Jesus begins by questioning Peter about His love for Him, and each time Peter answers in the affirmative, Jesus follows up with the command for Peter to feed His sheep. His meaning is that, if Peter truly loves his Master, he is to shepherd and care for those who belong to Christ. His words reveal Peter’s role as the leader of the new Church, the Body of Christ there in Jerusalem that will be responsible for spreading the gospel after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
It is possible that by His repeated question Jesus is subtly reminding Peter of his three denials. There’s no doubt those denials and how he felt when Jesus turned to look at him at that moment were seared deeply into Peter’s mind (Luke 22:54–62). It wasn’t lost on Peter that Jesus repeated His question to him three times, just as Peter previously denied Him three times.
There is also an interesting contrast when you look at the Greek words for “love” used in John 21:15–17. When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” in John 21:15–16, He used the Greek word agape, which refers to unconditional love. Both times, Peter responded with “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you,” using the Greek word phileo, which refers more to a brotherly/friendship type of love. It seems that Jesus is trying to get Peter to understand that he must love Jesus unconditionally in order to be the leader God is calling him to be. The third time Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” in John 21:17, He uses the word phileo, and Peter again responds with “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you,” again using phileo. The point in the different Greek words for “love” seems to be that Jesus was stretching Peter to move him from phileo love to agape love.
Whatever the reason for the three-fold “do you love me?” question, Jesus was impressing on Peter how important his new role of tending the flock of Christ’s followers would be. When someone repeats instructions to us over and over, we quickly understand that it’s extremely important for us to heed them. Jesus wanted to make sure Peter understood this vital charge He was tasking him with and the ultimate reason for it, to follow Him and glorify God (John 21:19).
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalms 34:18). It is encouraging to read what King David wrote in the previously quoted psalm. We can be healed and delivered from a broken heart.
A broken heart can happen when we lose a loved one such as a spouse or a child or even a beloved Friend or stranger. Metaphorically, it is that emotional aching in your chest that happens when you are deeply disappointed or grieved over a life circumstance.
The Lord is Strong; Do not Fear
Psalms 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I would also like to answer the question why? Why this Sandra Bland, Michael Brown and this list since 2015 click the link to view how many black lives since 2015 http://killedbypolice.net/? Why these many black people? I cannot tell you, and I encourage you to resist anyone who offers a confident answer. God himself did not answer that question for Job, nor did Jesus answer why questions. We have hints, but no one knows the full answer. What we do know, with full confidence, is how God feels. We know how God looks on this nation called ‘America” right now because God gave us a face, a face that was streaked with tears. Where misery is, there is the Messiah.
Not everyone will find that answer sufficient. When we hurt, sometimes we want revenge. We want a more decisive answer. Frederick Buechner said, “I am not the Almighty God, but if I were, maybe I would in mercy either heal the unutterable pain of the world or in mercy kick the world to pieces in its pain.” God did neither. He sent Jesus. God joined our world in all its unutterable pain in order to set in motion a slower, less dramatic solution, one that involves us.
One of our neighbors said to me, have you ever read a book ” book called Where Is God When It Hurts,?” Yes. “Well, I don’t have much time to read. Can you just answer that question for me in a sentence or two?” I thought for a second and said, “I guess I’d have to answer that with another question: ‘Where is the church when it hurts?'”
The eyes of the world are trained on this predicament. You’ve seen satellite trucks parked around town, reporters prowling the grounds of your schools. Last week we visited Los Angeles , We were invited to the Ezell Ford wrongful death hearing. As happened here, reporters from every major country swarmed the streets of LA county, looking for an angle. They came to report on evil and instead ended up reporting on the church. The advocates and church leaders were not asking, “Where is God when it hurts?” They knew where God was. With our long history of persecution, the black leaders weren’t for a minute surprised by an outbreak of evil. They rallied together, embraced the killer’s family, ministered to each other, and healed wounds by relying on a sense of community strengthened over centuries.
Something similar has taken place here in Hemet Ca. and abroad. You have shown outrage against the evil deed, yes, but you’ve also shown sympathy and sadness for the family of the one who committed all of these atrocities on black life. Every one of the police involved in these since-less deaths , too, has a memorial on our hearts and in our ministry.
The future lies ahead, and you’re just awakening to the fact that you are an independent moral being. I speak to our youths now, Until now, other people have been running your life. Your parents told you what to do and made decisions for you. Teachers ordered you around in grammar school, and the pattern continued in high school and even into college. You now inhabit a kind of halfway house on the way to adulthood, waiting for the real life of career and perhaps marriage and children to begin.
What happened in Harris County, Texas demonstrates beyond all doubt that your life—the decisions you make, the kind of person you are—matters now. There are countless students and member families who have no future in this world due to the illness called hatred.
That reality has hit home more than ever since we have attempted to pursue our vision of Second Chance Alliance. So many doors have shut just because we want to help those who have been hit with the mass incarceration epidemic. Watching human life be denied employment they are truly qualified for because they’ve done the same work in Prison for several years and now that they are free no one wants to believe in them. We watch and record the devastation this draconian practice has on a human being.
Samuel Johnson said when a man is about to be hanged, “it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” When you’re homeless and broke without a community to return to that will assist you in the necessities of life, it concentrates the mind. When you survive another day of brutality and separation due to stigma’s, it concentrates the mind. I realized how much of my life focused on trivial things. During my seven months of captivity in Lybia and prison terms severed , I didn’t think about how many books I could write about these issues or what kind of car I drove (it was being confiscated by the feds ). All that mattered boiled down to four questions. Whom do I love? Whom will I miss? What have I done with my life? And am I ready for what’s next? Ever since that day, I’ve tried to live with those questions at the forefront.
You know, too, that the world has fallen. Here in America, you know that as acutely as anyone on this planet.
I ask you also to trust that the world, your world, will be redeemed. This is not the world God wants or is satisfied with. God has promised a time when evil will be defeated, when events like the shootings Thursday’s movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana and every black life will come to an end. More, God has promised that even the scars we accumulate on this fallen planet will be redeemed, as Jesus demonstrated to Thomas.
I once was part of a small group with a Christian leader whose name you would likely recognize. He went through a hard time as his adult children got into trouble, bringing him sleepless nights and expensive attorney fees. Worse, my friend was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Nothing in his life seemed to work out. “I have no problem believing in a good God,” he said to us one night. “My question is, ‘What is God good for?'” We listened to his complaints and tried various responses, but he batted them all away.
A few weeks later, I came across a little phrase by Dallas Willard: “For those who love God, nothing irredeemable can happen to you.” I went back to my friend. “What about that?” I asked. “Is God good for that promise?”
I would like to promise you an end to pain and grief, a guarantee that you will never again hurt as you hurt now. I cannot. I can, however, stand behind the promise that the apostle Paul made in Romans 8, that all things can be redeemed, can work together for your good. In another passage, Paul spells out some of the things he encountered, which included beatings, imprisonment, and shipwreck. As he looked back, he could see that somehow God had redeemed even those crisis events in his life.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us,” Paul concluded. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39). God’s love is the foundational truth of the universe.
Clinging to Hope
Trust a God who can redeem what now seems unredeemable. Ten days before the shootings on this Virginia Tech, Christians around the world remembered the darkest day of human history, the day in which evil human beings violently rose up against God’s Son and murdered the only truly innocent human being who has ever lived. We remember that day not as Dark Friday, Tragic Friday, or Disaster Friday—but rather as Good Friday. That awful day led to the salvation of the world and to Resurrection Sunday, an echo in advance of God’s bright promise to make all things new.
Honor the grief you feel. The pain is a way of honoring those who died, your friends and classmates and professors and prisoners. It represents life and love. The pain will fade over time, but it will never fully disappear.
Do not attempt healing alone. The real healing, of deep connective tissue, takes place in community. Where is God when it hurts? Where God’s people are. Where misery is, there is the Messiah, and on this earth, the Messiah takes form in the shape of his church. That’s what the body of Christ means. Remember each of you reading this post is a (CHURCH).
Finally, cling to the hope that nothing that happens, not even this terrible tragedy, is irredeemable. We serve a God who has vowed to make all things new. J. R. R. Tolkien once spoke of “joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” You know well the poignancy of grief. As healing progresses, may you know, too, that joy, a foretaste of the world redeemed.
“As I have said, the Bible consistently changes the questions we bring to the problem of pain. It rarely, or ambiguously, answers the backward-looking question “Why?” Instead, it raises the very different, forward-looking question, “To what end?”We are not put on earth merely to satisfy our desires, to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.We are here to be changed, to be made more like God in order to prepare us for a lifetime with him. And that process may be served by the mysterious pattern of all creation: pleasure sometimes emerges against a background of pain, evil may be transformed into good, and suffering may produce something of value.”
I have never seen a statue erected depicting Jesus as a man of sorrow, but still we worship
“We feel pain as an outrage; Jesus did too, which is why he performed miracles of healing. In Gethsemane, he did not pray, “Thank you for this opportunity to suffer,” but rather pled desperately for an escape. And yet he was willing to undergo suffering in service of a higher goal. In the end he left the hard questions (“if there be any other way . . .”) to the will of the Father, and trusted that God could use even the outrage of his death for good.”
“Bear one another’s burdens, the Bible says. It is a lesson about pain that we all can agree on. Some of us will not see pain as a gift; some will always accuse God of being unfair for allowing it. But, the fact is, pain and suffering are here among us, and we need to respond in some way. The response Jesus gave was to bear the burdens of those he touched. To live in the world as his body, his emotional incarnation, we must follow his example. The image of the body accurately portrays how God is working in the world. Sometimes he does enter in, occasionally by performing miracles, and often by giving supernatural strength to those in need. But mainly he relies on us, his agents, to do his work in the world.We are asked to live out the life of Christ in the world, not just to refer back to it or describe it.We announce his message, work for justice, pray for mercy . . . and suffer with the sufferers.”
We have gathered in my home today still trying to make sense of what happened in Harris County, Texas , still trying to process the unprocessable. We come together in this place, as a Christian community, partly because we know of no better place to bring our questions and our grief and partly because we don’t know where else to turn. As the apostle Peter once said to Jesus, at a moment of confusion and doubt, “Lord, to whom else can we go?”
In considering how to begin today, I found myself following two different threads. The first thread is what I would like to say, the words I wish I could say. The second thread is the truth.
I wish I could say that the pain you feel will disappear, vanish, never to return. I’m sure you’ve heard comments like these from parents and others: “Things will get better.” “You’ll get past this.” “This too shall pass.” Those who offer such comfort mean well, and it’s true that what you feel now you will not always feel. Yet it’s also true that what happened on July 21, 2015, will stay with you forever. You are a different person because of that day, because of one troubled young man’s actions.
I remember one year when three of my friends died. In my thirties then, I had little experience with death. In the midst of my grief, I came across these lines from George Herbert that gave me solace: “Grief melts away / Like snow in May / As if there were no such cold thing.” I clung to that hope even as grief smothered me like an avalanche. Indeed, the grief did melt away, but like snow it also came back, in fierce and unexpected ways, triggered by a sound, a smell, some fragment of memory of my friends.
So I cannot say what I want to say, that this too shall pass. Instead, I point to the pain you feel, and will continue to feel, as a sign of life and love. I’m feeling the same pain as the whole community of mourners across America today. because of our broken hearts from all the death and devastation of blacks in the most power nation in the world. For the first few hours of intercession in behalf of our country and communities that suffer from this atrocity I refuse to not let the crucible of life’s pain to not be felt because I wanted the host of gathers to see my pain so I could hear their response to it. My wife May r kept probing, moving my limbs, asking, “Does this hurt? Do you feel that?” The correct answer, the answer both she and I desperately wanted, was, “Yes. It hurts. I can feel it.” Each sensation gave proof that my limbs had not been severed. Pain offered proof of life, of connection—a sign that my body remained whole.
Love and Pain
In grief, love and pain converge. I don’t want to render or pass judgement on the arresting officers or the Texas police, but I don’t see any signs of them feeling any grief behind Sandra Bland’s death the video shows they felt no love for her. You feel grief because you did have a connection. We as human beings of color are very connected Some of you had closer ties to the victims of police brutality, but all of you belong to a body to which they too belonged. When that body suffers, you suffer. Remember that as you cope with the pain. Don’t try to numb it. Instead, acknowledge it as a perception of life and of love.
Sandra Bland’s death has officially been ruled a suicide, according to an autopsy conducted by officials in Harris County, Texas. Warren Diepraam, a prosecutor for Waller County, Texas, where Bland was arrested and later died in police custody, laid out how this cause of death was determined:
“There were no bite marks or other injuries on her face, on her lips, on her tongue, which would be consistent with a violent struggle,” he said.
If there had been a violent struggle, the prosecutor said, examiners would most likely not expect to see a uniform and consistent mark around Bland’s neck — which is what they, in fact, observed. They also did not observe damage to her trachea and esophagus, which they might expect to see if there had been a violent struggle, he said.
Diepraam also mentioned cuts on her wrists and back, which could be consistent with how she was handled during her arrest, or that she tried to harm herself. The prosecutor also mentioned that Bland had marijuana in her system, which could’ve been a factor in her suicide.
Medical students will tell you that in a deep wound, two kinds of tissue must heal: the connective tissue beneath the surface and the outer, protective layer of skin. If the protective tissue heals too quickly, the connective tissue will not heal properly, leading to complications later on. The reason my home and other ministries around the world offer counseling and hold services like this one we are holding is to help the deep, connective tissue heal. Only later will the protective layer of tissue grow back in the form of a scar.
We gather here as Christians, and as such we aspire to follow a man who came from God 2,000 years ago. Read through the Gospels, and you’ll find only one scene in which someone addresses Jesus directly as God: “My Lord and my God!” Do you know who said that? It was doubting Thomas, the disciple stuck in grief, the last holdout against believing the incredible news of the Resurrection.
In a tender scene, Jesus appeared to Thomas in his newly transformed body, obliterating Thomas’s doubts. What prompted that outburst of belief, however—”My Lord and my God!”—was the presence of Jesus’ scars. “Feel my hands,” Jesus told him. “Touch my side.” In a flash of revelation, Thomas saw the wonder of Almighty God, the Lord of the universe, stooping to take on our pain.
God doesn’t exempt even himself from pain. God joined us and shared our human condition, including its great grief. Thomas recognized in that pattern the most foundational truth of the universe: that God is love. To love means to hurt, to grieve. Pain is a mark of life.
The Jews, schooled in the Old Testament, had a saying: “Where Messiah is, there is no misery.” After Jesus, you could change that saying to: “Where misery is, there is the Messiah.” “Blessed are the poor,” Jesus said, “and those who hunger and thirst, and those who mourn, and those who are persecuted.” Jesus voluntarily embraced every one of these hurts.
So where is God when it hurts? We know where God is because he came to earth and showed us his face. You need only follow Jesus around and note how he responded to the tragedies of his day: with compassion—which simply means “to suffer with”—and with comfort and healing.
Joseph had a lot of things going his way in life at first. He was handsome. He was the first son born to Jacob through Rachel, and therefore, he was his father’s favorite son. He had great dreams that made him feel good about himself. But then one day his entire life changed. Can you imagine how it must have felt to know your brothers hated you so much that they would sell you out of their lives? He was forced to leave the comfortable life he had known, full of love from his parents, and go forth into the unknown. How frightening that must have been for a boy of 17. Yet, God had His hand on Joseph. God had a divine purpose for this young man. Joseph didn’t know why God had chosen this path for his life until the very end, yet he never seemed to waver. God was always in control. Joseph kept his eyes on God, and He used Joseph greatly. What an encouragement to us. Let God use you where you are. Let Him use you in the hard times, as well as the good times.
The story of Joseph spans many chapters, Genesis 37-50. We could actually do an entire study just on the life of Joseph, but because of time limitation, we will just focus on the key events in his life.
“Lord, thank you for the lessons you teach me through Joseph’s life. Encourage me through his life to seek you more intimately and to trust you for every situation that comes into my life. Keep me mindful that you are always in control.”
1. How would you describe Joseph’s relationship with his brothers?
2. Could Joseph have prevented the jealousy of his brothers? Why or why not?
3. How would you describe his relationship with his father Jacob?
4. In verses 21-27 Reuben and Judah came to Joseph’s defense. Why would these two, of all the brothers, try to save Joseph?
5. How do you see God’s sovereign hand at work throughout this chapter?
6. How do you see God’s hand at work in your own life?
We are told in Genesis 37:3 that Jacob made Joseph a varicolored tunic. What was the significance of this tunic and what impact might that have had on his brothers?
How was God already developing Joseph’s gifts at the age of 17?
God “broke” Joseph by taking him out of comfortable circumstances
and stretching him. God often has to “break” us before He can use us.
How has God “broken” you? How did it “strengthen” you?
Are you willing to let God do whatever He needs to in your life to make you usable to Him? If not, why? Be honest with the Lord, and ask Him to make you willing, trusting His loving and sovereign hand in your life.
DAY 2: Joseph’s Early Life in Egypt
Chapter 38 seems like an “interruption” to our story of Joseph in Egypt, but it is a narrative of what took place back in Canaan during this time, especially concerning the life of Judah. We pick up our narrative of Joseph in Chapter 39.
1. The king’s cupbearer and baker offended him, resulting in their being thrown into prison with Joseph. What do you learn about Joseph from the way he responded to them in prison?
2. The rest of the chapter tells of their dreams, Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams, and how the interpretations were later fulfilled. In Genesis 40:14-15 and 20-23, how was life once again “unfair” to Joseph?
Genesis 41:1-8 tells us of Pharaoh’s dream and his inability to find someone able to interpret it. In verses 9-14, the cupbearer finally remembers Joseph and his interpretation of their dreams in prison, and Pharaoh called for Joseph to come and interpret his dream. Joseph interpreted the king’s dreams, which foretold of the coming seven years of great abundance in Egypt (41:29) and the following seven years of famine (41:29). Joseph proceeded to tell Pharaoh what should be done (41:32-37).
3. Why did Pharaoh place Joseph in charge of Egypt (41:38-45)?
4. How old was Joseph at this point (41:46)?
5. How had God worked in Joseph’s life during his captivity (see 40:8 and 41:16)?
6. How can you keep a proper perspective when you know you have been “wronged” by others and you are paying the unjustified consequences?
Who are some other people in the Bible who had “delays” in their lives?
There is no mistake in where God has you.
Allow Him to use you where you are.
How are you allowing God to use you right where you are?
There is often a delay before seeing God work through us.
Delays are a necessary time of spiritual preparation.
How do you see God’s hand in the “delays” in your life?
Josephs’ life teaches us that disappointments are vital to spiritual growth
because they demand faith and resting all hope upon God.
V. Raymond Edman wrote, “Delay never thwarts God’s purposes;
it only polishes His instrument.”1
1. Jacob sent his sons, with the exception of Benjamin, to Egypt to buy grain during the famine. When his brothers came before Joseph, why didn’t he just tell them who he was and why do you think he recognized them but they did not recognize him?
2. Why do you think Joseph responded to his brothers in the way he did?
3. Describe what his brothers were feeling in verses 21-23?
In Genesis 42:29-38, the brothers returned to Canaan to retrieve their younger brother Benjamin, having left Simeon back in Egypt. Jacob first refused to let them take Benjamin, but after all the grain was eaten, he sent his sons back to Egypt with Benjamin (43:1-15). When Joseph saw Benjamin, he responded with emotion (43:16-34). In Genesis 44, Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan and played a little trickery on them. He “threatened” to keep Benjamin as his slave, and Judah pleaded with him to keep him instead of Benjamin. This brings us to Chapter 45, when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers.
4. What was Joseph’s perspective on what his brothers had done to him when he was seventeen?
5. What emotions were his brothers most likely experiencing when they realized this was indeed Joseph?
6. How do you view painful or hurtful events in your life? How have hurtful events molded your life?
7. How is one able to gain the type of perspective that Joseph had about his life?
Read the entirety of Genesis 42-45. Trace Joseph’s actions throughout these chapters toward his brothers. Why did he do what he did?
We must trust God with our emotions when we are
face to face with those who have hurt us deeply.
Is there someone who has wounded you deeply? How have you handled it? Can you trust God’s sovereign hand in the midst of it?
Is there someone you need to forgive?
DAY 5: Joseph’s Last Days
In Genesis 46-47 Jacob moved his family to Egypt. God once again spoke to him, encouraging him to not be afraid to go to Egypt and reminding him of His promise to make him a great nation (Gen. 46:1-4). Genesis 48-49 records Jacob’s final days. Today we look at Joseph’s last days after his father Jacob died.
What was Joseph trying to convey to his family in verse 24?
Why would he want his bones carried back to Canaan?
God is in control even when it seems that your world is
spinning madly out of control.
Is there something going on in your life today that is hard for you to understand? Take it to the Lord and trust His hand.
God uses even the negative motives of others to bring about His perfect purpose.
Meditate on Genesis 50:20. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Joseph had a divine purpose. His life was not always easy and was filled with ups and downs. Yet Joseph found favor with God and he allowed God to use him wherever he went. Where does God want to use you? What is His divine purpose for your life? Are you focused on Him, or are you focused on your circumstances and the situation in which you find yourself? Let God use you to accomplish His divine purpose through you.
We are submitting our request to partner with several agencies this month to assist outreach for this specific populous of individuals. There are several resource that we are willing to carry the torch and advertise and link others with to expose the options that are available. If you are a non-profit or church that has veterans and teens with challenges please consider attending this event.
In order to effectively approach homelessness, a community needs a clear, deliberate, and comprehensive strategy. In The Ten Essentials, the Alliance outlines the ten components necessary in a successful plan to end homelessness. The Ten Essentials covers the most important strategies for success: prevention, re-housing options, access to housing and services, and efficient use of data, among others.
Devise a plan of action. The Alliance’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness is a good place to start – a comprehensive, systematic approach to addressing the different facets of homelessness. While planning, it is important to have representatives and input from all the groups affected by this social issue: government officials, business leaders, community activists, and the like. Every solution starts with a plan.
Before moving forward, it’s imperative to fully understand the problem. With homelessness, that can be a tall order, as the social problem is influenced by the economy, geography, transportation, and a host of other elements. Luckily, most communities conduct a biannual point in time census and have a Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS), required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HMIS collects data about those who interact with the homeless assistance system, and this information can be helpful in understanding the homeless population better and addressing their specific needs.
As with most things, the most economical and efficient way to end homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Consider enacting programs and policies that will do just that. Many existing social programs connect vulnerable populations with emergency services, temporary cash assistance, and case management. Consider ways to integrate with these existing systems or adopt your own.
Many people who fall into homelessness do so after release from state-run institutions, including jail and the foster care system. Still others come to homelessness from mental health programs and other medical care facilities. By creating a clear path to housing from those institutions—in the form of case management, access to services, or housing assistance programs—we can reduce the role that state-run institutions play in creating homelessness.
An important role in ending homelessness is outreach to people experiencing homelessness. A key ingredient to this outreach is the ability to connect the homeless population to housing and services. When considering outreach efforts, it’s important to understand that many people living on the streets exhibit mental illness, substance addiction, and other negative behavior patterns. As such, it’s important to consider low-demand housing that does not mandate sobriety or treatment.
A successful homeless assistance program not only works to end homelessness, but minimizes the length of stay in shelter and reduces repeat homeless episodes. In order to do this, assistance programs must align resources to ensure that families and individuals have access to the services necessary to achieve independence as quickly as possible. This often requires immediate access to housing, home-based case management, and incentives embedded into the homeless assistance system to promote these outcomes.
Navigating the housing market, especially on behalf of clients with lower incomes and higher needs, is a difficult task. A successful homeless assistance program has housing staff that help with just that. Housing locators search local housing markets and build relationships with landlords. Successful program components include incentives to landlords to rent to homeless households, creative uses of housing vouchers and subsidies to help homeless individuals and families afford their rental unit, and links to resources to help clients maintain their housing.
Services are actually more accessible than they sound – many of them already exist in the community. By and large, homeless individuals can access mainstream programs, including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, and other existing federal assistance programs. Connecting families and individuals exiting homelessness to these programs is imperative to ensuring their continued independence.
At its root, homelessness is the result of the inability to afford and maintain housing. Remember that any plan to end homelessness must incorporate an investment in creating affordable housing. This includes supportive housing, which is permanent housing coupled with supportive services. This is often used for the chronically homeless population – that is, people experiencing long-term or repeated homelessness who also have mental or physical disabilities.
In order to maintain housing, people exiting homelessness must have income. Cash assistance programs are available through federal and state government, and career-based employment services can help formerly homeless people build the skills necessary to increase their income. Mainstream services, including the Workforce Investment Act, should be used for this purpose.
On June 25, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Safe, Accountable, Fair, Effective (SAFE) Justice Act (H.R. 2944). This bill is massive, a whopping 144 pages long, and touches almost every single part of the federal criminal justice system, from trial to sentencing to life after release. This legislation would limit the application of federal drug mandatory minimum sentences to only the most high-level crime organizers and kingpins. Judges would have more flexibility to sentence people below mandatory minimum drug and gun possession offenses when the person has a minor record or the crime was driven by addiction or mental illness. It would also allow for federal prisoners to earn time off their sentences for good behavior and completing rehabilitative programming.
The best part: many of these reforms would be retroactive, affecting people who are already in prison, and reducing prison overcrowding and high prison costs for taxpayers.
Lawmakers know the criminal justice system is flawed from top to bottom. They recognize the injustice, and many speak out about it. But we want them to do more than talk, we want them to vote to change the system. They need to hear from you, their constituents.Tell your U.S. Representative to support the SAFE Justice Act today. The more members of Congress who support the bill, the more likely it is that we’ll get them to act on it this year!
Thanks for your support of our work and for telling Congress it’s time for action!
WASHINGTON – A Detroit man sentenced to life in prison on drug offenses in 1999 is among nearly four dozen federal inmates who had their sentences commuted today by President Barack Obama as being too harsh.
Patrick Roberts, 65, is currently incarcerated in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., according to corrections records, and has lost several previous attempts to have his sentence reduced.
Federal court documents say he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine and marijuana and was sentenced to life imprisonment, under rules which were in place at the time, because of his four prior drug convictions.
Obama today commuted the sentences of 46 federal prisoners convicted on drug charges, ordering their terms to end Nov. 10 of this year. Roberts’ was the only one from Michigan.
The president has issued nearly 90 commutations in all during his two terms in office, most of them to nonviolent offenders sentenced for drug crimes under old sentencing rules which, had the crimes been committed today, would have resulted in shorter sentences.
The president sent each prisoner a letter confirming the commutation and asking each to make the most of the opportunity he or she was being given.
In a video message, Obama explained his decision, saying the inmates “were not hardened criminals but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years.”
“Their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” Obama said in the message.
“I’ve made clear to them that re-entering society is going to require responsibility on their part and hard work and smarter choices,” the president continued. “But I believe that at it’s heart, America’s a nation of second chances and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”
Administration officials said they expect Obama will issue additional commutations and pardons before the end of his term in January 2017. On Tuesday, the president was also expected to discuss, in an address to the NAACP, ways of bringing “greater fairness to our criminal justice system while keeping our communities safe,” White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said in a blog post.
In a statement from the U.S. Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates said today’s commutations grew out of Obama’s request a year ago that the agency develop criteria for identifying prisoners who were nonviolent, low-level offenders who received overly harsh sentences.
“The President’s decision to commute the sentences of 46 more individuals today is another sign of our commitment to correcting these inequities,” she said.
April 7th 2015 :
President Obama commuted the sentences of 22 convicted federal prisoners Tuesday, shortening their sentences for drug-related crimes.
Eight of the prisoners who will have their sentences reduced were serving life sentences. All but one of the 22 will be released on July 28.
The White House said Obama made the move in order to grant to older prisoners the same leniency that would be given to people convicted of the same crimes today.
“Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement. “Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years—in some cases more than a decade—longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime.”
In issuing the commutations Tuesday, Obama has more than doubled the number he’s granted in his presidency. Before Tuesday, he had issued just 21 and denied 7,378 commutations in his more than six years. It was the most commutations issued by a president in a single day since President Clinton issued 150 pardons and 40 commutations on his last day in office.
And it could represent the crest of a new wave of commutations that could come in Obama’s last two years in office. Last year, the Justice Department announced a new clemency initiative to try to encourage more low-level drug offenders to apply to have their sentences reduced. That resulted in a record 6,561 applications in the last fiscal year, at least two of which were granted commutations Tuesday, according to the Justice Department.
SERMONS should have real teaching in them, and their doctrine should be solid, substantial, and abundant. We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk’s sake; we have instructions to convey important to the last degree, and we cannot afford to utter pretty nothings. Our range of subjects is all but boundless, and we cannot, therefore, be excused if our discourses are threadbare and devoid of substance. If we speak as ambassadors for God, we need never complain of want of matter, for our message is full to overflowing. The entire gospel must be presented from the pulpit; the whole faith once delivered to the saints must be proclaimed by us. The truth as it is in Jesus must be instructively declared, so that the people may not merely hear, but know, the joyful sound. We serve not at the altar of “the unknown God,” but we speak to the worshippers of him of whom it is written, “they that know thy name will put their trust in thee.” To divide a sermon well may be a very useful art, but how if there is nothing to divide? A mere division maker is like an excellent carver with an empty dish before him. To be able to deliver an exordium which shall be appropriate and attractive, to be at ease in speaking with propriety during the time allotted for the discourse, and to wind up with a respectable peroration, may appear to mere religious performers to be all that is requisite; but the true minister of Christ knows that the true value of a sermon must lie, not in its fashion and manner, but in the truth which it contains. Nothing can compensate for the absence of teaching; all the rhetoric in the world is but as chaff to the wheat in contrast to the gospel of our salvation. However beautiful the sower’s basket it is a miserable mockery if it be without seed. The grandest discourse ever delivered is an ostentatious failure if the doctrine of the grace of God be absent from it; it sweeps over men’s heads like a cloud, but it distributes no rain upon the thirsty earth; and therefore the remembrance of it to souls taught wisdom by an experience of pressing need is one of disappointment, or worse. A man’s style may be as fascinating as that of the authoress of whom one said, “that she should write with a crystal pen dipped in dew upon silver paper, and use for pounce the dust of a butterfly’s wing”; but to an audience whose souls are in instant jeopardy, what will mere elegance be but “altogether lighter than vanity”?
Is there any harm in Christian charismatic leadership? Most everyone will agree that having some charisma in one’s personality is desirable. This same thought tends to prevail among many Christian leaders and their followers in matters of the gospel which are often pushed back in favor of charismatic leadership.
Christian preachers, teachers, and ministers, famous and unknown, often seek to entertain their audience as they deliver their sermons and Bible lessons. Jokes are told, statements are made to incite laughter and tantalizing, attention-getting keywords are employed to shock listeners in order to have their full attention. Facial expressions, body posture, and movements along with the often unnecessary raising of the voice all play a part in the performances of many who are considered Christian leaders. Such people include pastors, Sunday school teachers, television evangelists, and many others with positions of leadership within the church. Sensationalism is also seen among Christian writers.
Is there any harm in one’s sermon, Bible lesson or Christian article containing sensationalism? Is there anything wrong with a Christian preacher, teacher, or author taking a charismatic approach in the delivery of the gospel message to others? According to biblical scripture, there’s plenty of harm that can be done in the life of not only the Christian leader but also of his audience.
Each side would do well to ask himself a few questions to evaluate his real intentions. This is biblical instruction from the scripture of 1 Corinthians 11:28 which reads, “…let a man examine himself….”
The apostle Paul said that he was given a messenger of Satan, known as his “thorn in the flesh”, to buffet him so that he wouldn’t be lifted up in pride (2 Corinthians 12:7). Paul received many revelations directly from God. It is his writings that teach the Christian more about the meaning of the work of Jesus than those of the other apostles. God knew the danger of self-pride taking root in Paul which would have surely been his downfall.
There’s a joke that speaks of the irony of the fact that there are many Christian leaders who are very proud of how humble they are. In the examination of oneself, the Christian leader may ask himself if his true intent is to give glory to God in the delivery of his sermon or lesson, or glory to himself. Each member of the audience of that same charismatic and sensational leader may ask himself if his true intent is to learn the word of God or to be entertained.
There’s always spiritual harm to be done when one is in opposition to the will of God. To use the gospel to entertain or to be entertained is not in agreement with the scriptures. Every true preacher of the gospel should be able to declare in sincerity the same that the apostle Paul and those who accompanied him declared. In 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6, Paul wrote, “but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness. God is our witness. Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others….”
This blessed Sabbath weekend was a very powerful enlightening one. I had to change my sermon to address some foolishness taking place amongst the ranks of teachers and preachers and for the most part I was fine, but when God took over it felt like I was getting a whipping also.
Thanks Lord for the opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy your creation this weekend. We appreciate home, but what a time it was to gaze upon Your beauty while worshiping You O’Lord and You alone. May the word spoken today at Bishop Rally’s render a breakthrough to leaders and alike….#Third Baptist Church San Francisco- His best for our life weekend-Please click to view the beginning….
Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There’s a philistine and an aesthete (a person who has or affects to have a special appreciation of art and beauty) in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don’t reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.
Almost without exception, people and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Though we should know better, we continue to manufacture worries and nurse fears. Yet anxiety is nothing more than wasting today’s time and resources to clutter up tomorrow’s possibilities with yesterday’s struggles. In spite of that, it remains for some a continual preoccupation. This post will takes a straight look at this energy-draining reality. By seeing it at work in another’s life, we may gain sufficient perspective to get through the tough stuff of anxiety. Stands the reason of my joy about my wife success thus far. She has suffered anxiety of life in wanting to complete school, she has suffered turmoil due to wanting to feel the sensationalism of operating as a substance abuse counselor and Psychology clinician within her own company “Second Chance Alliance”. She experiences anxiety from going to class under adverse challenges all the while wanting to cross the finish line of graduation. I am so proud of her holding her position in Christ as a mom and wife and grandmother that is a full time student trying to breakthrough the stigma’s of a unforgiving society and create change for her family and others.
I am Innocent until proven guilty… Maymie Chandler-Pratt Bio 7/9/2015 2:46:23 PM
Hello Instructor Dougherty,
My name is Maymie Chandler-Pratt and I am 53 years young. I currently reside in Southern California where it never rains, it is always sunny, and the crime rate is high and our court systems are overrun with all types of cases, mostly drug cases. I have been married for many years to the same man, my husband Aaron who is an ex Navy Seal with many issues stemming from his 13 years of service and nine campaigns and 7 months as a POW in Libya and has been diagnosed with PTSD and Schizo-affective Disorder. I too was in the Army and even though I saw no war, because of my husband’s issues I too have been diagnosed with PTSD and Schizo-affective disorder by association, Together we share a total of 10 children, 2 are deceased, two are in prison; our daughter Parris for life with no possibility of ever getting out and our son Lee who was sentenced to 15 years with an L. The other 6 are working, and attending college. Our youngest son is 19 and 6′ 6″ tall.
I started attending Argosy in 2011 and in January 2016 I will graduate with my BA in psychology with and emphasis on Substance Abuse Counseling. I chose this career because of my 20 plus years of being addicted to crack cocaine and my own stint in prison for 7 years due to my addictive behaviors. After being released from prison I was placed in a 1453 state mandated drug program where I met up with my counselor who had also been in prison with me. While there she told me that I too should become a substance abuse counselor. My belief after witnessing the healing power of “My higher power” in which I choose to call God, I was convinced that if I could do it then I could help others like me to do it too.
I feel that with my extensive criminal background, I have a lot of experience with the criminal court systems, but I am no expert and I want to be even more enlightened now as a professional as I was as a criminal. I look forward to working with you over the next five weeks.
See you on the boards…May Pratt
Five months until this temptation to sin by having anxiety will be a hurdle we both are excited to jump..Thanks to all who have been apart of this journey.
Several years ago the National Anxiety Center in Maplewood, New Jersey, released the “Top Ten Anxieties for the 1990s.” The list included AIDS, drug abuse, nuclear waste, famine, and the federal deficit. Since then, in the light of September 11, 2001, the center has revised its list to put “global terrorism” as the leading source of anxiety. Today, we could add the worries of a full-scale war, the threat of nuclear attack from North Korea or China, the risk of losing a good job, and maybe the disquieting thoughts of growing old alone and unwanted.
We all have different lists, but our deep, relentless worries carry a similar effect. They make us uneasy. They steal smiles from our faces. They cast dark shadows on our futures by spotlighting our shameful pasts. They pickpocket our peace and kidnap our joy.
What is anxiety?
Throughout my more than 40 years of christian ministry, whenever I’ve taught or spoken on the topic of anxiety, I’ve always highlighted the relevant counsel of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians. Type the words worry or anxiety into the search engine of my heart, and Philippians 4 quickly flashes on my mind:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:4-7).
Reading this passage, we immediately discover a four-word command that could be rendered, literally, “Stop worrying about anything!” The word translated “anxious” comes from the Greek verb merimnao, meaning “to be divided or distracted.” In Latin the same word is translated anxius, which carries the added nuance of choking or strangling. The word also appears in German as wurgen, from which we derive our English word worry. The tough stuff of anxiety threatens to strangle the life out of us, leaving us asphyxiated by fear and gasping for hope.
Jesus used similar terms when He referred to worry in His parable of the sower inMark 4. The Master Illustrator painted a picture in the minds of His listeners of a farmer sowing seed in four types of soil. In that parable He mentions a seed being sown among thorns. While doing so He underscores both the real nature and the destructive power of anxiety. Jesus said, “Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop” (v. 7; emphasis added). Later, when the disciples asked Jesus about the meaning of the parable, He interpreted His own words. Regarding the seed sown among thorns, He explained, “These are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (vv. 18-19).
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!WORK IT OUT “JESUS”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
According to the gospel accounts, here are the miracles Jesus performed. Though this is an incomplete list according to John 21:25
: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
Question: “What is the significance of a red heifer in the Bible? Is a red heifer a sign of the end times?”
Answer:According to the Bible, the red heifer—a reddish-brown cow, probably no more than two years old which had never had a yoke on it—was to be sacrificed as part of the purification rites of the Mosaic Law. The slaughtering of a red heifer was a ceremonial ritual in the Old Testament sacrificial system, as described inNumbers 19:1-10. The purpose of the red heifer sacrifice was to provide for the water of cleansing (Numbers 19:9), another term for purification from sin. After the red heifer was sacrificed, her blood was sprinkled at the door of the tabernacle.
The imagery of the blood of the heifer without blemish being sacrificed and its blood cleansing from sin is a foreshadowing of the blood of Christ shed on the cross for believers’ sin. He was “without blemish” just as the red heifer was to be. As the heifer was sacrificed “outside the camp” (Numbers 19:3), in the same way Jesus was crucified outside of Jerusalem: “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:11-12).
The Bible does teach that one day there will be again be a temple of God in Jerusalem (Ezekiel chapters 41-45). Jesus prophesied that the antichrist would desecrate the temple (Matthew 24:15), and for that to occur, there obviously would have to be a temple in Jerusalem once again. Many anticipate the birth of a red heifer because in order for a new temple to function according to the Old Testament law, a red heifer would have to be sacrificed for the water of cleansing used in the temple. So, when a red heifer is born (which is quite unusual) it might be a sign that the temple will soon be rebuilt.
Rarely seen, never heard is how many churches prefer to treat teenagers, confined to separate ministries. But I also know of a traditional church where teenagers sat front and center each week. It’s no coincidence the senior pastor had been a youth minister and often addressed those teens specifically.
If we’re serious about passing the gospel to the next generation, what do we need to learn from youth about how we preach? Here are six suggestions youth would offer to their pastors.
1. We don’t know what sanctification means, but we know about the process of growing in grace.
I’m a word person. I majored in Latin and English and enjoyed SAT prep vocabulary flashcards. (Yes, I was a really cool kid.) I like big words, especially in the realm of theology. A mentor listened to a talk I gave to students and had a list of about seven theological terms the kids probably did not know. Kids mentally check out when they hear abundant, arcane jargon and the presumption that everyone knows what it means. Students need to learn how to define terms like justification, sanctification, imputation, and substitutionary atonement.Preachers should not shy away from using Christian terminology, but they should make sure to explain the terms in a way that is not condescending toward those who do not know it.
2. If you are personally vulnerable, we will listen to what you have to say.
In homiletics, many debate the level of vulnerability pastors should exercise. If you share too much, you risk sounding self-absorbed. If you never share any personal stories, you may appear aloof. Regardless, I can say with confidence that teenagers of this generation embrace people with a willingness to share their story, particularly those parts that reveal the preacher is an imperfect person with whom students can identify.
3. We can’t hear you when you’re yelling.
One week in Sunday school we discussed how we relate and minister to those of other religions. I showed video from a cable news network debate about whether Christians should participate in a certain exercise. The program featured a conservative pastor, with a penchant for yelling, and a somewhat liberal pastor with a mellow demeanor. Before showing the video I asked students about their view on the topic. For the most part, they sided with the the conservative preacher. However, after showing the video, most said they agreed with the liberal preacher. Upon further cross-examination, the students admitted that they generally would reject what the yelling preacher had to say because of his tone and volume. Meanwhile, they would be inclined to agree with and embrace a person with a calm, gentle, controlled tone.
Keep in mind that we get yelled at more as teenagers than any other season in life. Whether it is their parents, their football coach, or the store-owner at the mall, teenagers receive much static from adults (and sometimes provoke it). They naturally reject a strident voice without even considering the validity of the statements, while they give a “nice” tone the benefit of the doubt.
4. Sometimes you talk as if we are not in the room.
Kids often say they feel as if the sermon exclusively addresses the adults in sanctuary. But the truth of God’s Word and the gospel have universal relevance and applications, regardless of the age or context of the audience. Rarely, though, when listening to sermons online or in person do I hear a preacher make life-application examples that appeal to adolescents. Usually, pastors evoke examples related to adult matters, such as financial insecurity, marital conflict, job loss, anxiety over children, and so on. A pastor can win serious rapport with his teenage audience by using a life-application example that relates to teenage experience, such as the stress of exams, conflict with parents, or fear about seating arrangements on the first day of school.
5. We are all postmodern, unlike many of our pastors.
The greatest disconnect I see between older pastors and the teens in their pews relates to the massive difference in cultural worldview under which they have been socialized. Many pastors (including me) were raised with a modernist mindset. We moderns think in terms of evidence, logic, and proofs. The evidences of the resurrection along with some Josh McDowell sold me on Christianity.
The teenagers to whom I minister do not think like most of my preacher friends. While volumes can (and have) been written about the difference between postmodern teens and their modernist neighbors, I would say simply that pastors must engage the postmodern kid in heart and mind. Biblical exegesis and doctrine alone edify and feed me. For postmodern teens, they need stories and questions that appeal to experience and emotions and that illustrate the biblical truth being proclaimed.
6. Tell me how this affects me right now.
Instant gratification may be the worst trend in this generation of teenagers. They evaluate everything on how it immediately affects them. By contrast, most pastors grew up in a world where we had to wait for mom and dad to take us to the movies (or the movie store) to watch a flick. We had to wait our turn to use the phone. Not these kids. They can watch a movie . . . on their phone. They can dial up whatever they want on demand. While this trend has deleterious effects on teens, we cannot ignore their context. Insane it may sound, but offering teenagers salvation and eternal life when they die does not hardly resonate with them. To connect to their teenage constituency, pastors also must explain the realized benefits we enjoy in this life from following Jesus in addition to the deferred ones we enjoy upon death.
Answer:Spiritual adultery is unfaithfulness to God. It is having an undue fondness for the things of the world. Spiritually adultery is analogous to the unfaithfulness of one’s spouse: “‘But like a woman faithless to her lover, even so have you been faithless to me, O house of Israel,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 3:20; see alsoIsaiah 1:21;57:8;Ezekiel 16:30).
The Bible tells us that people who choose to be friends with the world are an “adulterous people” having “enmity against God” (James 4:4–5). The “world” here is the system of evil under Satan’s control (John 12:31;Ephesians 2:2;1 John 5:19). The world system, with its contrived and deceitful scheme of phony values, worthless pursuits, and unnatural affections, is designed to lure us away from a pure relationship with God. Spiritual adultery, then, is the forsaking of God’s love and the embracing of the world’s values and desires (Romans 8:7–8;2 Timothy 4:10;1 John 2:15–17).
Spiritual adultery includes any form of idolatry. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel tried to mix the worship of other gods such as Baal with that of God (Judges 3:7;1 Kings 16:31–33;Jeremiah 19:5). In doing so, Israel became like an adulterous wife who wanted both a husband and another lover (Jeremiah 9:2;Ezekiel 6:9;16:32). In the New Testament, James defines spiritual adultery as claiming to love God while cultivating friendship with the world (James 4:4–5). The person who commits spiritual adultery is one who professes to be a Christian yet finds his real love and pleasure in the things that Satan offers. For believers, the love of the world and the love of God are direct opposites. Believers committing spiritual adultery may claim to love the Lord, but, in reality, they are captivated by the pleasures of this world, its influence, comforts, financial security, and so-called freedoms.
The concept of spiritual adultery against God is a major theme throughout the Old Testament (Isaiah 54:5;Jeremiah 3:20;Ezekiel 16:15–19). This theme is illustrated especially well in the book ofHosea. The prophet’s wife, Gomer, symbolizes the infidelity of the children of Israel (Hosea 2:2–5;3:1–5;9:1). Hosea’s commitment to Gomer symbolizes God’s faithful, patient love with His erring people.
Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). The Bible exhorts us, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:15–16). Believers must echo the words of the old hymn: “The world behind me, the cross before me; no turning back.”
“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14–16). Spiritual adultery is like trying to straddle the fence with one foot in the world and the other heaven. We cannot have both. As Jesus warned the church inLaodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15–16).
The love of the world is primarily an attitude of one’s heart, and we can cast away worldliness by cultivating a new affection. To avoid spiritual adultery, “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2, KJV).
16 But I say, vwalk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify wthe desires of the flesh. 17 For xthe desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, yto keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are zled by the Spirit, ayou are not under the law.
This love is not optional. It is commanded. And it is very radical: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, we are called in our freedom to desire and seek the happiness of others with the same zeal that we seek our own. But if you take this command seriously, it is so contrary to our natural inclinations that it seems utterly impossible. That I should get up in the morning and feel as much concern for your needs as for my own seems utterly beyond my power. If this is the Christian life — caring for others as I care for myself — then it is hard, indeed, and I feel hopeless to ever live it out.
Paul’s answer to this discouragement is found in Galatians 5:16–18. The secret is in learning to “walk by the Spirit” (v. 16). If the Christian life looks too hard, we must remember that we are not called to live it by ourselves. We must live it by the Spirit of God. The command of love is not a new legalistic burden laid on our back; it is what happens freely when we walk by the Spirit. People who try to love without relying on God’s Spirit always wind up trying to fill their own emptiness rather than sharing their fullness. And so love ceases to be love. Love is not easy for us. But the good news is that it is not primarily our work but God’s. We must simply learn to “walk by the Spirit.”
So I want to build today’s message around three questions: What? Why? And, how? What is this “walking by the Spirit”? Why is it crucial to walk by the Spirit? And, how, very practically, can we walk by the Spirit?
What Is Walking by the Spirit?
First, what is this “walking by the Spirit”? There are two other images in the context which shed light on the meaning of “walk by the Spirit.” The first is in verse 18: “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.” If Paul had said, “If you follow the Spirit you are not under law,” it would have been true, but in using the passive voice (“If you are led”) he emphasizes the Spirit’s work, not ours. The Spirit is not a leader like the pace car in the “Daytona 500.” He is a leader like a locomotive on a train. We do not follow in our strength. We are led by his power. So “walk by the Spirit” means stay hooked up to the divine source of power and go wherever he leads.
The second image of our walk in the Spirit is in verse 22: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc.” If our Christian walk is to be a walk of love and joy and peace, then “walk by the Spirit” must mean “bear the fruit of the Spirit.” But again, the Spirit’s work is emphasized, not ours. He bears the fruit. Perhaps Paul got this image from Jesus. You recall John 15:4–5: “Abide in me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” So “walk by the Spirit” means “abide in the vine.” Keep yourself securely united to the living Christ. Don’t cut yourself off from the flow of the Spirit.
So in answer to our first question, What is this walking by the Spirit? we answer: It is “being led by the Spirit” and it is “bearing the fruit of the Spirit.” The work of the Spirit is emphasized, yet the command is for us to do something. Our wills are deeply involved. We must want to be coupled to the locomotive. We must want to abide in the vine. And there are some things we can do to keep ourselves attached to the flow of God’s power. But before we ask how to walk by the Spirit let’s ask . . .
Why Is It Crucial to Walk by the Spirit?
Why is it crucial to walk by the Spirit? The text gives two reasons, one in verse 16 and one in verse 18. In verse 16 the incentive for walking by the Spirit is that when you do this, you will not gratify the desire of the flesh. The RSV here is wrong when it makes the second part of verse 16 a command instead of a promise and says, “Do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” All the other major versions are right to make it a promise because this particular Greek construction has that meaning everywhere else in Paul. The verse should be translated, for example with the NASB, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” So the first reason we should walk by the Spirit is that when we do, the desires of our flesh are overcome.
In recent messages I’ve tried to define the flesh as Paul uses it. Most of the time (though not always, see below) it does not simply refer to the physical part of you. (Paul does not regard the body as evil in itself.) The flesh is the ego which feels an emptiness and uses the resources in its own power to try to fill it. Flesh is the “I” who tries to satisfy me with anything but God’s mercy. Notice Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Now compare with this Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” In 2:20, “flesh” is used in its less usual meaning referring to ordinary bodily existence, which is not in itself evil (“I now live in the flesh”).
But the important thing to notice is that in 5:24 the “flesh“ is crucified and in 2:20 “I” am crucified. This is why I define the flesh in its negative usage as an expression of the “I” or the “ego.” And notice in 2:20 that since the old fleshly ego is crucified, a new “I” lives, and the peculiar thing about this new “I” is that it lives by faith. “The life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” The flesh is the ego which feels an emptiness but loathes the idea of satisfying it by faith, i.e., by depending on the mercy of God in Christ. Instead, the flesh prefers to use the legalistic or licentious resources in its own power to fill its emptiness. As Romans 8:7 says, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law.” The basic mark of the flesh is that it is unsubmissive. It does not want to submit to God’s absolute authority or rely on God’s absolute mercy. Flesh says, like the old TV commercial, “I’d rather do it myself.”
It is not surprising, then, that in verse 17 there is a war between our flesh and God’s Spirit. It is a problem at first glance that there is a lively war between flesh and Spirit in the Christian, according to verse 17, but the flesh is crucified in the Christian, according to verse 24. We’ll talk more about the sense in which our flesh is crucified when we get to verse 24. For now, let’s give Paul the benefit of the doubt and assume that both are somehow true, and focus on this war within: our flesh versus God’s Spirit.
God’s Spirit Conquers Our Flesh
Verse 17 says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other to prevent you from doing what you would.” The main thing to learn from this verse is that Christians experience a struggle within. If you said to yourself when I was describing the flesh, “Well, I have a lot of that still left in me,” it does not necessarily mean you aren’t a Christian. A Christian is not a person who experiences no bad desires. A Christian is a person who is at war with those desires by the power of the Spirit.
Conflict in your soul is not all bad. Even though we long for the day when our flesh will be utterly defunct and only pure and loving desires will fill our hearts, yet there is something worse than the war within between flesh and Spirit; namely, no war within because the flesh controls the citadel and all the outposts. Praise God for the war within! Serenity in sin is death. The Spirit has landed to do battle with the flesh. So take heart if your soul feels like a battlefield at times. The sign of whether you are indwelt by the Spirit is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them!
But when you take verses 16 and 17 together, the main point is not war, but victory for the Spirit. Verse 16 says that when you walk by the Spirit, you will not let those bad desires come to maturity. When you walk by the Spirit, you nip the desires of the flesh in the bud. New God-centered desires crowd out old man-centered desires. Verse 16 promises victory over the desires of the flesh — not that there won’t be a war, but that the winner of that war will be the Spirit.
In fact, I think what Paul means in verse 24, when he says the flesh has been crucified, is that the decisive battle has been fought and won by the Spirit. The Spirit has captured the capital and broken the back of the resistance movement. The flesh is as good as dead. Its doom is sure. But there are outlying pockets of resistance. The guerrillas of the flesh will not lay down their arms, and must be fought back daily. The only way to do it is by the Spirit, and that’s what it means to walk by the Spirit — so live that he gives victory over the dwindling resistance movement of the flesh. So the first reason why we must walk by the Spirit is that, when we do, the flesh is conquered.
God’s Spirit Creates Law-Fulfilling Fruit
The second reason to walk by the Spirit or be led by the Spirit is found in verse 18: “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.” This does not mean you don’t have to fulfill God’s law. You do. That’s what verses 13 and 14 said, “Through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” And Romans 8:3–4 say, “God condemned sin in the flesh in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Therefore, not being under law does not mean we don’t have to fulfill the law. It means that, when we are led by the locomotive of the Spirit, we cruise on the railroad track of the law as a joyful way of life and are not left to climb it like a ladder in our own strength from underneath. When we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the punishment or the oppression of the law because what the law requires the Spirit produces; namely, love. Notice verse 22: the first and all-encompassing fruit of the Spirit is love, which verse 14 says fulfills the whole law.
And to confirm that this is just how Paul is thinking, he ends the list of the fruit of the Spirit in verse 23 with the words, “against such there is no law.” In other words, how can you be under the oppression or punishment of the law when the very things the law requires are popping out like fruit on the branches of your life? So the second reason to walk by the Spirit is really the same as the first. Verse 16 says, do it because you get victory over the flesh when you walk by the Spirit. You nip temptation in the bud. Verse 18 says, do it because then you are free from the oppression and punishment of the law, because the fruit the Spirit produces fulfills the law. The Spirit is the fullness that overflows in love. Therefore it conquers the emptiness that drives the flesh, and it spills out in acts of love which fulfill the law.
How Do You Walk by the Spirit?
But the $60,000 question is, How do you walk by the Spirit? All of us have heard preachers say, “Let the Spirit lead you,” or, “Allow the Spirit to control you,” and have gone away puzzled as to what that means practically. How do you allow the Spirit to control you? I want to try to show you that the answer is, You allow the Spirit to control you by keeping your heart happy in God. Or to put it another way,You walk by the Spirit when your heart is resting in the promises of God. The Spirit reigns over the flesh in your life when you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you and now is working everything together for your good.
Here’s the fivefold evidence from Galatians. First, Galatians 5:6, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” Genuine faith always produces love, because faith pushes out guilt, fear, and greed and gives us an appetite to enjoy God’s power. But Galatians 5:22 says love is a fruit of the Spirit. So if love is what faith necessarily produces and love is a fruit of the Spirit, then the way to walk by the Spirit is to have faith — a happy resting in the promises of God is the pipeline of the Spirit.
Second, notice Galatians 5:5, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness.” How do you wait for Jesus “through the Spirit”? “By faith!” When you keep your heart happy in God and resting in his promises, you are waiting through the Spirit and walking by the Spirit.
Third, look at Galatians 3:23, “Now before faith came, we were confined under the law.” The coming of faith liberates a person from being under law. But what does 5:18 say? “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.” How, then, shall we seek to be led by the Spirit? By faith. By meditating on the trustworthiness and preciousness of God’s promises until our hearts are free of all fretting and guilt and greed. This is how the Holy Spirit fills and leads.
Fourth, see Galatians 3:5, the clearest of all: “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing of faith?” The Spirit does his mighty work in us and through us only by the hearing of faith. We are sanctified by faith alone. The way to walk by the Spirit and so not fulfill the desires of the flesh is to hear the delectable promises of God and trust them, delight in them, rest in them.
Finally, consider Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Who is the Christ who lives in Paul? He is the Spirit. As 4:6 says: The Spirit of God’s Son has been sent into our hearts. And how, according to 2:20, does the life of the Son produce itself in Paul? How does Paul walk by the Spirit of the Son? “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”
Day by day Paul trusts the Son. Day by day he casts his cares on God, frees his life from guilt and fear and greed, and is borne along by the Spirit. How, then, do we walk by the Spirit? The answer is plain. We stop trying to fill the emptiness of our lives with a hundred pieces of the world, and put our souls at rest in God. The Spirit will work the miracle of renewal in your life when you start meditating on his unspeakable promises day and night and resting in them. (See also Romans 15:13, 2 Peter 1:4, and Isaiah 64:4.)
The Secret of Walking by the Spirit
Yesterday at 5:30 a.m. I was in Pasadena, California, standing in the kitchen of my beloved teacher Daniel Fuller talking to his wife Ruth. One of the things I will never forget about that kitchen is that over the sink are taped four tremendous promises of God typed on little pieces of paper. Ruth puts them there to meditate on while she works. That’s how you walk by the Spirit.
I keep a little scrap paper by my prayer bench, and whenever I read a promise that can lure me away from my guilt and fear and greed, I write it down. Then in dry spells I have a pile of promises to soak my soul in. The fight of faith is fought with the promises of God. And the fight of faith is the same as the fight to walk by the Spirit. He works when we are resting in his promises. George Müller wrote (Autobiography, pp. 152–4):
I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. . . . Now what is the food for the inner-man? Not prayer but, the Word of God.
George Müller learned the secret of walking by the Spirit: Meditate on the precious truths of the Word of God until your heart is happy in God, resting in his promises.
Hudson Taylor had learned it too. He received word one day of rioting near one of the inland mission stations. In a few moments George Nichol, one of his evangelists, overheard Taylor whistling his favorite hymn, “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting in the Joy of What Thou Art.” Hudson Taylor “had learned that for him, only one life was possible — just that blessed life of resting and rejoicing in the Lord under all circumstances, while he dealt with the difficulties inward and outward, great and small” (Spiritual Secret, p. 209).
I say to you, brothers and sisters, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. You will have victory over temptation and know the guidance of the Lord if you keep your heart happy in God by resting in his promises.
Atheists often argue against God’s existence from the problem of evil. Their argument goes as follows: If God is all loving, He would have prevented evil from entering the universe; if God is all powerful, He could have prevented evil; evil exists, therefore there is no such God.
On the contrary, I will argue as follows: If God is all loving, He would allow evil to enter the universe; If God is all powerful, He could allow evil without being guilty of evil Himself, and He could make evil work for the greatest good; therefore we have great reason to praise the God who exists!
Clarifying the Issue of Evil
There are two errors that must be avoided concerning the problem of evil. The first error would be to believe that God is the source of evil. This terrible error would blame God for evil and hold that evil was produced by God out of His own nature. The second error would be to believe that evil occurred apart from God’s sovereign plan. This position would hold that evil entered the universe because God was helpless to prevent it, and thus it overthrew the purposes of God. The position the Scriptures seem to teach is that mankind is to be blamed for and is the source of evil, while nonetheless the entrance of evil into the universe was ordained by God as part of God’s plan from the beginning. God could have prevented evil from entering into the universe had He desired to, but chose not to prevent it for wise and holy reasons.
Let’s probe this issue a little further. God is not the author of evil because He created the universe good. In its original state, there was nothing evil or sinful in the universe. Evil first entered God’s creation as a result of the disobedience of the angels who rebelled. Evil then entered the physical universe and human race as a result of mankind’s sin in Adam. God is not the source of evil or sin; evil is a result of the disobedience of God’s creatures. For these reasons, God cannot be blamed for the existence of evil–all responsibility for the presence of sin and evil in the human race falls upon mankind. All responsibility for the presence of evil in the spiritual realm falls upon the angels who rebelled.
But in order to have the full picture, we cannot stop here and conclude that God was powerless to prevent evil. Since God is sovereign and He “works out everything in conformity with the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11), none of His purposes can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Therefore we must conclude that evil did not occur apart from the purpose and plan of God. The ultimate reason that evil occurred is because God planned it, not because His creatures are able to overthrow His plans. These two truths we must hold together even if we cannot fully understand how they fit: man is responsible, yet God is absolutely sovereign and controls all things.
Last of all it is necessary to understand that evil is not permanent. It was defeated at the cross and will be quarantined in hell for eternity at the final judgment. Then God will create a new heavens and new earth where only righteousness and purity will dwell forever.
A Loving God Would Allow Evil
We are now in a position to ask the question, Why did God willingly choose to allow evil into the universe? How is this consistent with His love? Without claiming to exhaust the mystery here, I offer this answer: God allowed evil because the temporary presence of evil in the universe would result in the greatest glory to His name. And since God’s glory is what most benefits His people, it is loving for God to seek His glory to the highest extent in all that He does. Therefore it is loving for God to allow the temporary presence of evil in the universe. Let’s examine these points more closely.
Those whom God has chosen for mercy He loves to the fullest possible extent (John 13:1). Thus, God seeks to fully reveal the greatness of His glory upon them. The glory of God is the shining forth of the splendor and greatness and infinite value of His perfect character. When God glorifies Himself, He is not making Himself more glorious (that is impossible), but calling attention to and displaying His infinite greatness. How does evil seem to fit into God’s plan to glorify Himself? Part of the answer seems to be this: many of God’s attributes can be more clearly and brightly displayed to us if there is sin and therefore evil in the universe.
For example, God’s mercy is His goodness and help shown to those who are in a miserable plight. But God could not show mercy if there was no sin and evil in the universe, because then there would be no one in a miserable plight to need mercy.
In addition, the greatness of God’s mercy is highlighted by the fact that those whom God chooses for His saving mercy are saved out from the most awful and terrifying situation possible–being under the almighty wrath of God. Dr. Daniel Fuller asks us this question: “How could God’s mercy appear fully as his great mercy unless it was extended to people who were under his wrath and therefore could only ask for mercy?” God’s mercy is magnified by delivering us from under His wrath.
Mercy Eternally Magnified By Being Set in Contrast to Wrath
Furthermore, “It would be impossible for them to share with God the delight He has in his mercy unless they saw clearly the awfulness of the almighty wrath from which his mercy delivers them.” Therefore, God prepares not only vessels of mercy, but also vessels of wrath so that the vessels of mercy can fully see and understand the awfulness of the wrath they have been rescued from. For all eternity, God’s mercy will be placed against the backdrop of His wrath in order to fully magnify and display the greatness of His mercy. Through this those who are chosen for mercy can fully share with God the delight He has in His mercy and fully praise Him for what He has done for them.
God’s Justice, Wrath, Power, and Holiness More Fully Displayed
So we see that in the just punishment of sinners, God’s mercy is fully highlighted to those whom He chooses to save. The punishment of sinners (which could not have happened if God had not allowed evil) is also an occasion for God to glorify Himself through the vindication of His justice, demonstration of His wrath, display of His power, and purity of His holiness which will not tolerate sin. This also works to reveal the riches of God’s glory to the vessels of mercy: “What if God, in order to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory…” (Romans 9:22, 23, RSV. cf. Proverbs 16:4, “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil”).
God’s wrath and holiness are related. The wrath of God is the righteous assertion of His holiness against sin. If we could not see that God is so holy that He hates sin and thus reacts against it with His wrath, we would not know as fully the purity and zeal of God’s holiness. For only in contrast to sin (and thus His holiness reacting against this sin as wrath to vindicate His righteousness) is the purity of God’s holiness most intensely highlighted. If there were no sin upon which God could pour His wrath eternally, He could not assert the full range of His holiness because He could not show that, in His holiness, He hates and despises all that is unholy.
Hell Makes the Infinite Value of God’s Glory Crystal Clear
God’s judging of sin and reacting in wrath to punish it eternally in hell demonstrates the infinite value of His perfections. Why? Because the infinite penalty of attacking God’s glory–eternal punishment in hell–reveals the infinite value of the glory that was attacked. Thus, hell is ultimately an eternal display of the infinite value of God’s glory. While this certainly does not mean that God delights in the sinner’s suffering in and of itself, He does delight in it in the sense that it is a vindication of His righteousness and display of His power. This is how Ezekiel 33:11 (“I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked”) fits with Deuteronomy 28:63 (where God tells Israel that if they disobey He “will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you shall be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it”).
A Loving and Righteous God Would Most Magnify His Worth
Having seen that God’s decision to allow sin was for the purpose of fully displaying the greatness of His perfections to an extent that He could not otherwise have done, we are led to look at the next question in greater detail: Why must God display the full range of His character?
This is because doing so most magnifies His worth. If God did not display, for example, His mercy, then He would not be fully magnifying His character because there would be some of His character that is not expressed. And if God did not magnify His character to the fullest possible extent, God would not be acting in perfect righteousness. Why is this? It is because God is the most precious, valuable being in the universe. Therefore, He must delight in and value Himself above anything else. From this it follows that if God did not seek to display His honor and perfections above all else, He would not be placing infinite worth on what is infinitely valuable. He would be putting something before Himself, which would mean putting something less valuable before the more valuable, which would be unrighteous.
Why It Is Loving for God to Magnify His Worth
In fully displaying His glory (which, we have seen, requires sin), God is being most loving. Why? First, if He did not do this, we would not know Him “fully, just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13). Put simply, we wouldn’t know God as well if He did not display who He is to the fullest possible extent. And it seems that it would be most loving for God let us know as much of Himself as He can.
Also, it is truly loving of God to seek His praise to the highest possible extent (which, as we have seen, would require the brilliance of His mercy highlighted by demonstrating His wrath). Why is this? In our lives, there is a pattern that we see: We tend to praise what we prize. Enjoyment of something overflows into praise. Go to a great movie sometime, and when you leave the theater, what are you usually talking with your friends about? How great the movie is! You are praising it. It also seems as if our enjoyment of something is not complete unless we are able to praise it. If your friends said, “Be quiet, I don’t want to hear about it,” your enjoyment of the movie would not be complete. So praise is necessary for full, complete enjoyment.
If God did not seek His praise from us then our enjoyment of Him would not be made full — it would be incomplete since it wouldn’t overflow into praise. The way for God to win the most praise from us is to fully display His character. So if God wants us to fully enjoy Him and prize Him, He must seek His own praise through us so that our enjoyment of Him will overflow into praise and complete our joy. John Piper summarizes these truths well: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” So even in our enjoyment (and resulting praise) God is glorified. Thus, God seeking our good and God seeking His praise are really one and the same pursuit, since our good/joy yields praise to His name.
The Sovereign Freedom of God
Further, in order for us to truly value God’s great mercy and gift of eternal life, it is good for Him to highlight the unconditional freedom He has in bestowing mercy. His unconditional freedom makes it absolutely clear that He owes mercy to no one. If everyone got saved, He could not show His unconditional freedom in showing mercy and it might seem as if we were entitled to salvation. If you think you are entitled to something, it is hard to see it as a free, undeserved gift. And it is hard to be grateful and thankful for it if you think it is owed to you. God’s freedom in mercy rebukes our sense of entitlement and thus evokes gratitude.
Exodus 33 declares the sovereign freedom of God in showing mercy. In this chapter, Moses asks to see God’s glory. God says (among other things) that He will show His glory and that “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” This is a Hebrew expression called idem per idem which stresses the absolute freedom of the agent in doing the action–He can do it however He wants, constrained by nothing outside of himself. Thus, God is saying that one aspect of His glory is absolute freedom to grant mercy constrained by no reason that is outside of His own will. He will give mercy in whatever way He wants. Then God says that He will pass by Moses and proclaim His “name.” To the Hebrews, one’s name was who they were. It was your very identity. When God proclaimed His name, He said that He was “abounding in lovingkindness and mercy.” So one aspect of God’s character, His glory, is that He is merciful. But this also draws us back to 33:19–where it says that God is absolutely free in His bestowal of this mercy. Thus, it is God’s glory and essence to be absolutely free in His giving us mercy by not being constrained by anything outside of His own will. His will alone determines who gets mercy, and therefore His mercy is unconditional.
If God gave mercy to all, it seems that He would not be displaying that His essence is to be absolutely free in giving mercy. And as we’ve said, God’s freedom in giving mercy rebukes our entitlement and evokes gratitude, thus causing us to value heaven as a true gift of grace. Lastly, as we saw earlier, in order for there to be mercy, there must be people in a miserable plight to need it, which requires sin.
Thus, we have seen how God’s love and goodness would cause Him to allow Evil into the universe, for in due time this will lead to truly the best of all possible worlds where God’s attributes are most displayed, God is most glorified, and eternity is truly valued. Perhaps some may be troubled by the fact that even evil, in the long range, results in glory to God. It may be troubling to think that such a terrible thing as evil was permitted by God for His glory. But look at the other option–that evil ultimately worked to defeat the glory of God. Wouldn’t evil truly have the upper hand if God was unable to overrule it for His greatest glory and His people’s greatest good?
Something caught my eye as I was reading newsclips from around the nation. A small item from the Watertown Daily Times (NY). It read:
A Watertown man was sentenced to state prison Thursday after admitting in Jefferson County Court that he violated his Drug Court contract. Paul L. Arndt Jr., 44, was sentenced to 11⁄3 to 4 years in prison for violating terms of the substance abuse rehabilitation program that is designed to serve as an alternative to incarceration. He was referred to the program in April 2009 after admitting he violated probation. He was sentenced to five years’ probation in August 2007 after pleading guilty in May 2007 to fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property for taking radiators that had been stolen from a Watertown business and selling them at a Syracuse recycling center. Information about how he violated Drug Court was not available.
Putting aside the issue of whether the probation violation in question was a particularly serious or dangerous one, I would suggest that sending a drug court participant to prison for a substantial term is almost never good criminal justice policy, good use of government funds, or good rehabilitation &/or treatment strategies . There are more than a few drug courts, that quickly fail drug court participants and spirit them away for substantial prison terms. It may be time to revisit the rationality behind such scenarios. Unless the new offense is one involving violence or the threat of violence, is prison ever a sensible response to a drug court violation?
Tipping Point 2015: Reentry Law Conference & Community Building Forum, Riverside, CA.
Specialized “reentry” courts provide a new tactic to reduce the number of repeat offenders and decrease the cost of handling offenders. In such courts, treatment is based in the community. Drug courts, mental health courts and veterans’ courts are examples of specialized docket courts. Over the last decade, these courts have been scrutinized by independent and governmental agencies and have been found to produce better results than traditional approaches, including incarceration.
Q: What is a reentry court?
A: Built on specialty courts research and experience, a reentry court is a specialized court for offenders who leave prison early and “reenter” society. Its purpose is to make the transition from incarceration to tax-paying citizen more likely.
prisons are at 133 percent of capacity and hold more than 51,000 inmates. Many prisoners have drug and alcohol issues. Unlike those diverted into other types of specialty dockets, those who are incarcerated have a higher risk of reoffending due to untreated emotional and family issues, as well as a lack of education or poor employment history. A significant number of inmates have not graduated from high school and many have learning disabilities.
Reentry courts use an individualized plan and work with each defendant to deal with the underlying issues. The program takes one to two years to complete and requires the offender to take full responsibility for his or her life.
Ninety-seven percent of those incarcerated will be released at some point, and that most will come back to the community where they were first arrested. When higher-risk offenders return to society on parole or post-release control, more than 40 percent return to prison. Overall, between 35 and 40 percent of prisoners released in Ohio, with or without supervision, will return to prison. Reentry courts were created in an attempt to reduce the number of offenders who return to prison.
Q: How does a reentry court work?
A: During the program, the offender is closely supervised by case managers and the court. In the initial phase, the participant reports to court once a week to inform the judge of his or her activities. Thereafter, the participant reports regularly and as necessary, appearing in an open court before the judge and the other program participants.
An offender who violates a program rule is expected to report to court without a lawyer. The offender must accept responsibility for the behavior and receive a sanction. Punishments progress in severity, ranging from community service or increased treatment to jail time or re-imposition of the prior prison sentence.
Q: How does the court determine who is eligible for a reentry court?
A: Not every person in prison will be judicially released into a reentry court. Each sentencing judge has the right to decide if an individual will be released early. Judges will consider efforts the prisoner makes toward improvement while in prison, as well as any write-ups or sanctions he or she has been given. Statements from victims regarding the impact of the crime also are considered. (These are called victim impact statements.) Judges are interested in using reentry courts for prisoners who appear ready to return to society and who have demonstrated good behavior in prison.
Q: Have reentry courts been working?
A: The purpose of reentry court is to intercept offenders before they enter the revolving door back to prison. Early judicial releases with traditional supervision return to the penal system about 45 percent of the time. In contrast, those who successfully graduate from the Summit County reentry court program have a recidivism rate of about 20 percent, based upon the statistics collected since the court was created in September 2006. The cost per participant is in the range of $3,000 per year, which is considerably less expensive than a prison bed, which costs more than $24,000 per year.
This week the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of same sex marriage in all 50 states. My friends, we are witnessing the end of federalism in our nation. In a single vote, 5 folks basically just told the states to “stick it.”
Furthermore, we are in effect nullifying the First Amendment.
Consider this: what happens when a gay couple goes into a church wanting to plan a ceremony and the pastor says no? We now have a conflict between the First Amendment and individual behavior.
Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia summed up his disgust with this ruling in a footnote on page 7 (note 22). He says, “If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”
With this ruling, the Supreme Court is essentially saying individuals have civil rights based on their sexual behavior, and setting up a monumental battle with the free exercise of religion. This could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – that camel being the up till now silent, passive Americans who have been cowed into “tolerating” societal changes that go counter to their fundamental beliefs.
As reported by the Christian Post in April, “The United States Supreme Court may soon liberate the biblically conservative church from old “prejudices” that should have long ago been “jettisoned,” forcing it into “rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity,” in the words of a recent writer in The New York Times.”
“Homosexuality must be removed from the “sin list” and, according to an MSNBC commentator, traditional marriage proponents must be forced “to do things they don’t want to do.” Sadly, this crusade will be like the Marxist “liberation” movements that promised to “free” people, but really were about control and suppression. The culmination may come as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on same-sex marriage cases beginning April 28. By July 1 the Court possibly will issue an official ruling regarding the constitutional right to homosexual marriage. The Court’s decision may impact the form of biblically based churches dramatically. Churches that hold to a strict and conservative interpretation of the Bible’s teaching about gender and marriage may find themselves “Romanized”. The elites of first century Rome would not allow the church an institutional presence in society. “The Christian churches were associations which were not legally authorized, and the Roman authorities, always suspicious of organizations which might prove seditious, regarded them with jaundiced eye,” writes Kenneth Scott LaTourette.”
I found the statement “rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity” as rather odd. And the comments from the MSNBC commentator of “traditional marriage proponents being ‘forced’ to do the things they don’t want to do” as somewhat threatening.
These statements by progressive socialists are indicative of a lack of regard and respect for the First Amendment right of religious liberty. Here is where I see an incredible philosophical battle looming. Now that SCOTUS has ruled there is a constitutional right to marriage – which I fail to see how that could be construed — and the radical gay left decides to push the envelope against churches, it will be a strategic miscalculation for the liberal left.
This is why the solution of civil unions should have been the solution. If the country is “forced” to accept something that goes counter to a traditional value, there will undoubtedly be push back. And that push back will result in a galvanizing issue which I do not believe the liberal progressive left fully comprehends.
t’s simple — in the 2012 presidential election there were some five to seven million evangelical Christian voters who sat it out. They were not inspired and therefore did not participate. However, I believe with this decision, the left has overextended itself — as it has already based on courts overturning electorate decisions – and you will see a social conservative issue that will have greater prominence. Some on the center-right will say, drop it, that’s a bad policy recommendation. This issue will not lend itself to dismissal and cognitive dissonance — there must be a solution. The social conservative issue of marriage will not be thrown upon the ash heap. It shouldn’t be the prominent issue, but it does have cross interest appeal.
The Christian Post postulated, “What happens if local churches that do not embrace same-sex marriage find their legal status shaky or non-existent, as well as parachurch groups, conservative Christian colleges, church-based humanitarian agencies, and all other religious institutions – Christian and otherwise – supporting the traditional view of marriage. Without state-recognized corporate status everything from mortgages and building permits to employment and hiring practices is threatened – all of them essential for institutional function.”
“Journalist Ben Shapiro notes that there is already a movement on the state level “to revoke non-profit status for religious organizations that do not abide by same-sex marriage.” The Supreme Court’s decision could make churches refusing to comply “private institutions engaging in commerce,” and therefore subject to laws already in place. Refusal to perform a same-sex wedding would put a church out of business. Current trends seem to flow against conservative religious institutions. All the elites that set and propagate cultural consensus are aligned in support of same-sex marriage – the Entertainment Establishment, Information Establishment, Academic Establishment, and Political Establishment.”
However, are the entertainment, information (media), academic, and political establishments truly representative of American culture? Or do they just have a more prominent position, making us believe they have a majority opinion?
There has been little talk about how, during the Obama wave of 2008, same-sex marriage ballot proposals in two states did not win as liberal progressives and the gay left had hoped – in Florida and California. The quiet point that no one wanted to comprehend was that countless droves of black voters swarmed to the polls. And as they voted for the “first black president” they did NOT vote to bring about gay marriage in their states. Why? Because of traditional biblical beliefs. Now, in 2008, Obama stated he didn’t support gay marriage — when he decided to flip flop — the hushed-up secret was the anger and disdain this caused with many black pastors and ministers. We all know the Democrats wholeheartedly depend on an obedient black electoral patronage — what if 25 percent of blacks say no? Click to view pt;2 Part 2
All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.
Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong, the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.
But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career. Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.
Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace.
THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.
Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.
The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this. We see that now. And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.
We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it. But God gives it to us anyway and we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.
A Letter From Black America
Yes, we fear the police. Here’s why.
Last July 4, my family and I went to Long Island to celebrate the holiday with a friend and her family. After eating some barbecue, a group of us decided to take a walk along the ocean. The mood on the beach that day was festive. Music from a nearby party pulsed through the haze of sizzling meat. Lovers strolled hand in hand. Giggling children chased each other along the boardwalk.
Most of the foot traffic was heading in one direction, but then two teenage girls came toward us, moving stiffly against the flow, both of them looking nervously to their right. “He’s got a gun,” one of them said in a low voice.
I turned my gaze to follow theirs, and was clasping my 4-year-old daughter’s hand when a young man extended his arm and fired off multiple shots along the busy street running parallel to the boardwalk. Snatching my daughter up into my arms, I joined the throng of screaming revelers running away from the gunfire and toward the water.
The shots stopped as quickly as they had started. The man disappeared between some buildings. Chest heaving, hands shaking, I tried to calm my crying daughter, while my husband, friends and I all looked at one another in breathless disbelief. I turned to check on Hunter, a high school intern from Oregon who was staying with my family for a few weeks, but she was on the phone.
“Someone was just shooting on the beach,” she said, between gulps of air, to the person on the line.
Unable to imagine whom she would be calling at that moment, I asked her, somewhat indignantly, if she couldn’t have waited until we got to safety before calling her mom.
“No,” she said. “I am talking to the police.”
My friends and I locked eyes in stunned silence. Between the four adults, we hold six degrees. Three of us are journalists. And not one of us had thought to call the police. We had not even considered it.
We also are all black. And without realizing it, in that moment, each of us had made a set of calculations, an instantaneous weighing of the pros and cons.
As far as we could tell, no one had been hurt. The shooter was long gone, and we had seen the back of him for only a second or two. On the other hand, calling the police posed considerable risks. It carried the very real possibility of inviting disrespect, even physical harm. We had seen witnesses treated like suspects, and knew how quickly black people calling the police for help could wind up cuffed in the back of a squad car. Some of us knew of black professionals who’d had guns drawn on them for no reason.
This was before Michael Brown. Before police killed John Crawford III for carrying a BB gun in a Wal-Mart or shot down 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland park. Before Akai Gurley was killed by an officer while walking in a dark staircase and before Eric Garner was choked to death upon suspicion of selling “loosies.” Without yet knowing those names, we all could go down a list of unarmed black people killed by law enforcement.
We feared what could happen if police came rushing into a group of people who, by virtue of our skin color, might be mistaken for suspects.
For those of you reading this who may not be black, or perhaps Latino, this is my chance to tell you that a substantial portion of your fellow citizens in the United States of America have little expectation of being treated fairly by the law or receiving justice. It’s possible this will come as a surprise to you. But to a very real extent, you have grown up in a different country than I have.
As Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness, puts it, “White people, by and large, do not know what it is like to be occupied by a police force. They don’t understand it because it is not the type of policing they experience. Because they are treated like individuals, they believe that if ‘I am not breaking the law, I will never be abused.’”We are not criminals because we are black. Nor are we somehow the only people in America who don’t want to live in safe neighborhoods. Yet many of us cannot fundamentally trust the people who are charged with keeping us and our communities safe.
As protest and revolt swept across the Missouri suburb of Ferguson and demonstrators staged die-ins and blocked highways and boulevards from Oakland to New York with chants of “Black lives matter,” many white Americans seemed shocked by the gaping divide between law enforcement and the black communities they are supposed to serve. It was no surprise to us. For black Americans, policing is “the most enduring aspect of the struggle for civil rights,” says Muhammad, a historian and director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. “It has always been the mechanism for racial surveillance and control.”
In the South, police once did the dirty work of enforcing the racial caste system. The Ku Klux Klan and law enforcement were often indistinguishable. Black-and-white photographs of the era memorialize the way Southern police sicced German shepherds on civil rights protesters and peeled the skin off black children with the force of water hoses. Lawmen were also involved or implicated in untold numbers of beatings, killings and disappearances of black Southerners who forgot their place.
In the North, police worked to protect white spaces by containing and controlling the rising black population that had been propelled into the industrial belt during the Great Migration. It was not unusual for Northern police to join white mobs as they attacked black homeowners attempting to move into white neighborhoods, or black workers trying to take jobs reserved for white laborers. And yet they strictly enforced vagrancy laws, catch-alls that gave them wide discretion to stop, question and arrest black citizens at will.
Much has changed since then. Much has not.
To a very real extent, you have grown up in a different country than I have.
Last Fourth of July, in a few short minutes as we adults watched the teenager among us talking to the police, we saw Hunter become a little more like us, her faith a little shaken, her place in the world a little less stable. Hunter, who is biracial and lives with her white mother in a heavily white area, had not been exposed to the policing many black Americans face. She was about to be.
n the phone, she could offer only the most generic of suspect descriptions, which apparently made the officer on the other end of the line suspicious. By way of explanation, Hunter told the officer she was just 16. The police called her back: once, twice, then three times, asking her for more information. The interactions began to feel menacing. “I’m not from here,” Hunter said. “I’ve told you everything I know.”
The fourth time the police called, she looked frightened. Her interrogator asked her, “Are you really trying to be helpful, or were you involved in this?” She turned to us, her voice aquiver. “Are they going to come get me?”
“See,” one of us said, trying to lighten the mood. “That’s why we don’t call them.”
We all laughed, but it was hollow.
My friend Carla Murphy and I have talked about that day several times since then. We’ve turned it over in our minds and wondered whether, with the benefit of hindsight, we should have called 911.
Carla wasn’t born in the United States. She came here when she was 9, and back in her native Barbados, she didn’t give police much thought. That changed when she moved into heavily black Jamaica, Queens.
Carla said she constantly saw police, often white, stopping and harassing passersby, almost always black. “You see the cops all the time, but they do not speak to you. You see them talking to each other, but the only time you ever see them interact with someone is if they are jacking them up,” she said. “They are making a choice, and it says they don’t care about you, it tells you they are not here for your people or people who look like you.”
It’s hard to tell what’s really going on in people’s lives. For instance, at church on Sunday mornings,or Saturday worship people smile, greet friends, and tend to look their best. But what if we could see the truth of their interior lives manifested in their physical bodies? We would discover that many of our fellow churchgoers are walking around crippled by pain. We’d know instantly if something was wrong and would do whatever we could to help them.
That’s probably how Jesus perceived people as He sought to minister to them. Although their physical ailments were more obvious, He also discerned the spiritual darkness and emotional hurts that left them fractured within. And while Christ always intervened to heal them physically, His main purpose was to save them from sin and give abundant life (John 10:10).
I wonder how many believers today could honestly say they enjoy that great gift. Sure, they’ve been saved and are going to heaven, but life seems more like a dry desert than an overflowing, vibrant stream. What causes a believer to live this way? It’s certainly not what Christ intends for His followers.
Fragmentation is the result of sin.
Brokenness began when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. It created an immediate separation between mankind and God, produced discord between people, and resulted in illness and death. Because of our fallen environment, we suffer the emotional damage of painful childhoods, broken relationships, and devastating circumstances. However, sometimes we suffer not because of what has happened to us but as a result of our own poor choices. If we allow sin in our lives, we’ll experience internal conflict and division.
The Lord’s desire is to put the pieces back together, and seal them with His love and grace.
Whatever the cause of our fragmentation, it negatively affects every area of our lives—job performance, relationships, health, thought patterns, attitudes, and emotions. The tragedy of this situation is that we’ll never have the abundant life Christ promised if we settle for something less. How the Lord must grieve over the brokenness sin causes. His desire is to heal the fractured areas, put the pieces back together, and seal them with His love and grace.
Jesus came to make us whole.
As we consider what it means to be complete, we must first understand that the Lord created people as trichotomous or “three-part” beings composed of spirit, soul, and body. The spirit enables us to relate to and interact with God. The soul is our innermost being that consists of the mind, will, and emotions. And the body is the physical part of us. When Jesus ministered to people, He dealt with all three aspects of their humanity.
The Spirit. In His encounter with Nicodemus, the Lord explained that the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven was to be born of the Spirit (John 3:5-6). Since we are all born spiritually dead in our trespasses, the only way to be made alive is to receive Christ’s forgiveness (Eph. 2:1-5). Until that need is met, we will never be whole. However, once we are born of the Spirit, He comes to live within us forever. As we yield to His leadership and let Him fill us, the Holy Spirit produces fruit in our character (Gal. 5:22-23).
The Soul. Jesus also focused on the internal issues of the soul. In John 4, the Samaritan woman’s failed marriages and current extramarital affair revealed her deep emotional hurt. Christ offered her living water, the only thing that could truly satisfy and spring up into eternal life (vv. 10, 14). Believing in Him resulted not only in forgiveness but also in her transformation. After she encountered Jesus, her testimony caused many others in that city to believe in Him (v. 39). Christ desires the same for His followers today—He wants to transform us into people who can grow spiritually and become emotionally healthy.
Jesus began restoring us to wholeness with His first coming and, when He comes again, will complete the good work He began.
Do you feel alone, isolated, or out of place even when you’re with others? Do you see yourself as unloved or think no one really cares about you? Are you struggling with feelings of inadequacy or inferiority? If you answered yes to any of these questions, know that you don’t have to live in bondage. Jesus wants to heal your soul so you can live abundantly, fulfilling His plan for your life.
Just consider what He’s already done for you. First of all, He has made you a citizen of His kingdom, a member of God’s family, and a part of His body, the church. No matter what you’ve experienced, you belong to the Lord forever, and He delights in you. Moreover, He sent His Spirit to live within you as your comforter and helper. He walks beside you every moment, giving you the ability and confidence to accomplish whatever He requires of you.
The Body. Ever since Adam and Eve’s disobedience, mankind has suffered with infirmity, sickness, and death. No one can avoid it. Perhaps the question that so often haunts us is why the sick aren’t healed. After all, wherever Christ went, He ministered to physical needs. The Gospels are filled with stories of the blind gaining their sight, the lame walking, and the sick being made well.
The truth is, we don’t always know what causes sickness or why the Lord doesn’t cure every ailment. Although Jesus did restore many people to health, He didn’t heal everyone in Israel. His purpose was to give people a taste of His future kingdom, when He will come to rule on earth as King of Kings. Constant good health isn’t promised in this life. Only after we receive our glorified bodies will we be made completely whole—spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Christ will accomplish His work.
Jesus began restoring us to wholeness with His first coming and, when He comes again, will complete the good work He began. At the moment of salvation, He gives life to our spirits. Then He works to restore our souls through the process of sanctification, whereby He progressively transforms us into His image. The final stage will be glorification, when we are given new bodies that never age, suffer illness, or die (Phil. 3:20-21).
However, until that day arrives, we will continue to deal with brokenness. But we have hope because the Lord never gives up on sanctifying us. His goal is that our spirit, soul, and body “be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23). And as He works in our lives, we discover the boundless joy that comes from being children of the King. Check this out …Discernment
Question: “How can I increase my spiritual discernment?”
Answer: Discernment is defined as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure; an act of perceiving something; a power to see what is not evident to the average mind.” The definition also stresses accuracy, as in “the ability to see the truth.” Spiritual discernment is the ability to tell the difference between truth and error. It is basic to having wisdom.
Arguments and debates surround spiritual truth because it is obscure. Jesus, speaking to His disciples about the Pharisees, said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:11). Satan has “blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4), so God must shed light on the human mind to enable us to understand truth. It is impossible to attain wisdom without God. He gives discernment or takes it away (Job 12:19-21).
Some have mistakenly defined spiritual discernment as a God-given awareness of evil or good spiritual presences—the ability to tell if a demon is in the room. While some people may possess this capability, it is not the biblical meaning ofdiscernment. Spiritual discernment ultimately has to do with wisdom and the ability to distinguish truth from error.
Wisdom is personified inProverbs 1and described as someone that we can “get to know” (vv. 20-33). The Bible says that Jesus Christ is “wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Therefore, wisdom, or spiritual discernment, is something that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. The world’s way of getting wisdom is different from God’s way. The learned of the world gain knowledge and apply reason to knowledge to solve problems, construct buildings and create philosophies. But God does not make the knowledge of Himself available by those means.First Corinthians 1:18-31says the “wisdom of the wise” is frustrated by God who delivers wisdom to the “foolish” and the “weak” by way of a relationship with Jesus Christ. That way, “no human being can boast in His presence” (verse 29). We learn to be spiritually discerning by knowing Him.
It is not wrong to possess knowledge or have an education, and it is not wrong to use reason and logic to solve problems. However, spiritual discernment cannot be attained that way. It must be given by the revelation of Jesus Christ to the believer, and then developed by way of training in righteousness (Hebrews 5:14) and prayer (Philippians 1:9).Hebrews 5:11-14shows how spiritual discernment is developed. The writer speaks to those who had become “dull of hearing,” meaning they had fallen out of practice discerning spiritually. The writer of Hebrews tells them that everyone who lives on “milk” (rather than the “solid food” desired by the mature) is unskilled in the word of righteousness; however, the mature Christian has been “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” The keys, according to this passage, are becoming skilled in the Word of God (by which we define righteousness) and “constant practice” (through which we gain experience).
So, how does one increase spiritual discernment? First, recognizing that God is the only one who can increase wisdom, pray for it (James 1:5;Philippians 1:9). Then, knowing the wisdom to distinguish good from evil comes by training and practice, go to the Bible to learn the truth and, by meditation on the Word, reinforce the truth.
When a bank hires an employee, he is trained to recognize counterfeit bills. One would think that the best way to recognize a counterfeit would be to study various counterfeits. The problem is that new counterfeits are being created every day. The best way to recognize a counterfeit bill is to have an intimate knowledge of the real thing. Having studied authentic bills, bank cashiers are not fooled when a counterfeit comes along. A knowledge of the true helps them identify the false.
This is what Christians must do to develop spiritual discernment. We must know the authentic so well that, when the false appears, we can recognize it. By knowing and obeying the Word of God, we will be “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” We will know God’s character and will. This is the heart of spiritual discernment – being able to distinguish the voice of the world from the voice of God, to have a sense that “this is right” or “this is wrong.” Spiritual discernment fends off temptation and allows us to “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).
Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.
I lost my dad this year and the most painful part about that loss was that I never got the opportunity to reunite with my dad. His method of rearing me and my siblings weren’t accepted, but I truly desired to tell him while He was living that I forgave him for his mistakes in parenting. Although I spoke to him every weekend after I was given the knowledge of his health that was declining rapidly (Dementia), I would try my best to pray with him and tell him of my desires to gain a better relationship with him. He prayed to Allah and I prayed to the King of Kings, I would try to reconcile with my “Father” on several different opinions associated with our divisions and outlooks of life.
Today is Father’s Day. Currently, only one-third of the boys in this country will grow up with their natural father for the important years of their childhood. Some will know their father only occasionally in custody arrangements or meet him only after they have reached their teen years. There is little attention paid to this very important situation for boys. The consequences are immeasurable and since the situation is so recent, we do not know the full impact on our culture of the trend. This much is clear, however: a woman cannot be a father to a boy. Being a father is not a role, like being a mother. Although the natural mother is usually (though not always) best, a male or female can mother a boy, since carrying out functions of feeding, cleaning and providing ongoing emotional warmth is not gender-specific. At the time of identification with one of the sexes during late early and middle childhood, however, the need of a boy for a mature male in his life is profound.
My son in the above picture has quoted me by saying: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein. I attempted to rectify my relationship with him this year by utilizing resources within my church to find him and plead my case with him. To open myself up with him to ask questions and to give him some clarity about what kept us from being a tight unit as Father and son. He said he has no good memories as it relates to us and he doesn’t want to be hurt anymore. The pain of his rejection cuts to the fiber of my being, but I try to understand and still model forgiveness is better than resentment.
Having been absent from my kids life due to riotous living and going back and forth to prison I have seen the hideous consequences that fashion and shape their existence. I have two kids serving prison terms one for life, click the link to view the why pt.1. Aaron Jr. escaped the plight of percentages due to his moms involvement with education and God’s favor. He was traumatized after my untimely fourth prison term. I had attempted to raise Parris and Aaron Jr. in the same home as the then family I had been blessed to share some of my life with. Boys who were raised without fathers fill our prisons. They are slower to launch, being more inclined to stay closer to the home, which is symbolized and embodied by the mother. The father represents the world beyond the boy’s home. Just as important, a father transforms a boy into a son. A male and a female can create a boy, but only a father can create a son. This is a symbolic act. Luigi Zoja, an Italian Jungian psychologist, has written a full account of this in his wonderful book, THE FATHER. Last, consider this: In his relationship with his mother, a boy first learns he is lovable. A mother’s love should be unconditional and infant boys do not respond to this with love, but rather with gratitude. Love for his mother follows in reaction to being loved. In his relationship with his father, however, a boy first initiates loving another human being. He does this as forming a foundation for identifying with a male. A boy identifies only with someone he first loves.
Most fathers respond to this with a love they have not known since the relationship with their own father. It is important to realize that this first proactive loving is the model for a boy (then the man he becomes) in all his relationships of intimacy, with women, friends, and his own children. This is the crucial relationship in a boy’s life. Father’s Day celebrates this. Freud once wrote that the death of a man’s (or boy’s) father is the most important psychological event of his life. Here Freud was certainly spot on. But what of boys who have not known a father and there is none to lose? A world in which males grow up where this is a common scenario is one the like of which we have never known. The only comparable situations are times of war (1914-1918, 1939-1945) when so many men (many young fathers) died. The father as a cultural figure is dying. Think about the consequences of this. Then think of your father. I hope you were fortunate enough to have had one in your life … as I’m happy to say I had. Click here to view Mending Fences with my son .
Whoever you are today that views this attempt of mines to free myself for the unforgiveness of others please know that evil doesn’t win in the promises of God…I am forgiving anyone who has done my kids wrong and I hope this world will forgive me for the wrong I done by abandoning my post as a parent and unleashing any pain that my kids may have caused any one or families affected by their conduct.
Discontentment is trying to penetrate my armor this morning. Trying to steal my worship and thankfulness to God and His wonderful son for delivering me from the spirit of greed and selfishness. When I acquired fame and fortune in this world I never imagined how destructive I became in my inner man. Seventeen cars, 9 houses and 3 companies grossing well over what I could have ever imagined. Time shares and plenty cognac and women. Cocaine and money and of course clothes and 600 pairs of shoes in different homes. Prison and God’s providence showed up to place me in a crucible of restoration and now I am learning what contentment is…
If you belong to Christ, like the apostle Paul you can and should learn the secret of a contented life. When Paul wrote “godliness with contentment is great gain” he wasn’t just speaking philosophically (1 Tim. 6:6). He had learned the secret to contentment in every circumstance of life (Phil 4:11-2). While that secret eludes most people, it need not elude any true believer. For those who are willing to learn, here are six steps to a contented life from the life and teaching of Paul.
First, learn to give thanks in all things. Paul had learned to give thanks in every circumstance and he exhorted all believers to do the same. Thankfulness is first of all a matter of obedience (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 5:18), but it is also a characteristic of a Spirit-filled believer (Eph. 5:18-20).
Second, learn to rest in God’s providence. If we truly know God, we know that He is unfolding His agenda and purpose in our lives. He has sovereignly determined each part of His plan for us so that we’ll be benefited and He’ll be glorified (cf. Rom. 8:28). We should not be surprised or ungrateful when we experience trials because we know that God sees perfectly the end result (cf.1 Pet. 4:12-13).
Third, learn to be satisfied with little. Paul had learned to make the choice to be satisfied with little, and he knew it was important for others to learn to make that same choice. In 1 Timothy 6:6Paul exhorted a young pastor with these words: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” Paul understood that covetousness and contentment are mutually exclusive.
Fourth, learn to live above life’s circumstances. That’s how Paul lived. In 2 Cor. 12:9-10 he wrote, “Most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul didn’t take pleasure in the pain itself, but in the power of Christ manifested through him in times of infirmity, reproach, persecution, and distress. We also should learn to take pleasure in the power of Christ in times of distress.
Fifth, learn to rely on God’s power and provision. The apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”; and Jesus said He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Like Paul, we can learn to rely on Christ’s promise. He faithfully infuses every believer with His own strength and sustains them in their time of need until they receive provision from His hand (Eph. 3:16).
Finally, become preoccupied with the well-being of others. Paul summarized this mindset inPhilippians 2:3-4, where he wrote: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
A self-centered man is a discontented man. But the soul of the generous man, the man who lives for the interests and benefit of others, will find blessing upon blessing in his life (see Prov. 11:24-5;19:17; Luke 6:38; 2 Cor. 9:6).
What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you? What if, for twenty-four hours, Jesus wakes up in your bed, walks in your shoes, lives in your house, assumes your schedule? Your boss becomes His boss, your mother becomes His mother, your pains become His pains? With one exception, nothing about your life changes. Your health doesn’t change. Your circumstances don’t change. Your schedule isn’t altered. Your problems aren’t solved. Only one change occurs.
What if, for one day and one night, Jesus lives your life with His heart?
Your heart gets the day off, and your life is led by the heart of Christ. His priorities govern your actions. His passions drive your decisions. His love directs your behavior.
What would you be like? Would people notice a change? Your family – would they see something new? Your coworkers – would they sense a difference? What about the less fortunate? Would you treat them the same? And your friends? Would they detect more joy? How about your enemies? Would they receive more mercy from Christ’s heart than from yours?
And you? How would you feel? What alterations would this transplant have on your stress level? Your mood swings? Your temper? Would you sleep better? Would you see sunsets differently? Death differently? Taxes differently? Any chance you’d need fewer aspirin or sedatives? How about your reaction to traffic delays? (Ouch, that touched a nerve.) Would you still dread what you are dreading? Better yet, would you still do what you are doing?
Would you still do what you had planned to do for the next twenty-four hours?
Pause and think about your schedule. Obligations. Engagements. Outings. Appointments. With Jesus taking over your heart, would anything change?
Keep working on this for a moment. Adjust the lens of your imagination until you have a clear picture of Jesus leading your life, then snap the shutter and frame the image. What you see is what God wants. He wants you to “think and act like Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
God’s plan for you is nothing short of a new heart.
“You were taught to be made new in your hearts, to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God – made to be truly good and holy” (Ephesians 4:23-24).
God wants you to be just like Jesus. He wants you to have a heart like His.
I’m going to risk something here. It’s dangerous to sum up grand truths in one statement, but I’m going to try. If a sentence or two could capture God’s desire for each of us, it might read like this:
God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.
If you think His love for you would be stronger if your faith were, you are wrong. If you think His love would be deeper if your thoughts were, wrong again. Don’t confuse God’s love with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. Not so with God’s love. He loves you right where you are. To quote my wife’s favorite author:
God’s love never ceases. Never. Though we spurn Him. Ignore Him. Reject Him. Despise Him. Disobey Him. He will not change.
Our evil cannot diminish His love. Our goodness cannot increase it. Our faith does not earn it any more than our stupidity jeopardizes it. God doesn’t love us less if we fail or more if we succeed.
When my daughter Parris was a toddler, I used to take her to a park not far from our home. One day as she was playing in a sandbox, an ice-cream salesman approached us. I purchased her a treat, and when I turned to give it to her, I saw her mouth was full of sand. Where I intended to put a delicacy, she had put dirt.
Did I love her with dirt in her mouth? Absolutely. Was she any less my daughter with dirt in her mouth? Of course not. Was I going to allow her to keep the dirt in her mouth? No way. I loved her right where she was, but I refused to leave her there. I carried her over to the water fountain and washed out her mouth. Why? Because I love her.
God does the same for us. He holds us over the fountain. “Spit out the dirt, honey,” our Father urges. “I’ve got something better for you.” And so He cleanses us of filth: immorality, dishonesty, prejudice, bitterness, greed. We don’t enjoy the cleansing; sometimes we even opt for the dirt over the ice cream. “I can eat dirt if I want to!” we pout and proclaim. Which is true – we can. But if we do, the loss is ours. God has a better offer. He wants us to be just like Jesus.
Isn’t that good news? You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. You aren’t condemned to “grumpydom.” You are tweakable. Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you needn’t worry the rest of your life. So what if you were born a bigot? You don’t have to die one.
Where did we get the idea we can’t change? Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart like his. Can you imagine a better offer?
The Heart of Christ
The heart of Jesus was pure. The Savior was adored by thousands, yet content to live a simple life. He was cared for by women (Luke 8:1-3) yet never accused of lustful thoughts, scorned by His own creation but willing to forgive them before they even requested His mercy. Peter, who traveled with Jesus for three and a half years, described Him as a “lamb unblemished and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19). After spending the same amount of time with Jesus, John concluded, “And in Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5).
Jesus’ heart was peaceful. The disciples fretted over the need to feed the thousands, but not Jesus. He thanked God for the problem. The disciples shouted for fear in the storm, but not Jesus. He slept through it. Peter drew his sword to fight the soldiers, but not Jesus. He lifted His hand to heal. His heart was at peace. When His disciples abandoned Him, did He pout and go home? When Peter denied Him, did Jesus lose His temper? When the soldiers spit in His face, did He breathe fire in theirs? Far from it. He was at peace. He forgave them. He refused to be guided by vengeance.
He also refused to be guided by anything other than His high call. His heart was purposeful. Most lives aim at nothing in particular and achieve it. Jesus aimed at one goal – to save humanity from its sin. He could summarize His life with one sentence: “The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Jesus was so focused on His task that he knew when to say, “My time has not yet come” (John 2:4) and when to say, “It is finished” (John 19:30). But he was not so focused on his goal that he was unpleasant.
Quite the contrary. How pleasant were His thoughts! Children couldn’t resist Jesus. He could find beauty in lilies, joy in worship, and possibilities in problems. He would spend days with multitudes of sick people and still feel sorry for them. He spent more than three decades wading through the muck and mire of our sin yet still saw enough beauty in us to die for our mistakes.
But the crowning attribute of Christ was this: His heart was spiritual. His thoughts reflected His intimate relationship with the Father. “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me,” he stated (John 14:11). His first recorded sermon begins with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me” (Luke 4:18). He was “led by the Spirit” (Matthew 4:1) and “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). He returned from the desert “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).
Jesus took his instructions from God. It was His habit to go to worship (Luke 4:16). It was His practice to memorize scripture (Luke 4:4). Luke says Jesus “often slipped away to be alone so He could pray” (Luke 5:16). His times of prayer guided Him. He once returned from prayer and announced it was time to move to another city (Mark 1:38). Another time of prayer resulted in the selection of the disciples (Luke 6:12-13). Jesus was led by an unseen hand: “The Son does whatever the Father does” (John 5:19). In the same chapter He stated, “I can do nothing alone. I judge only the way I am told” (John 5:30).
The Heart of Humanity
Our hearts seem so far from His. He is pure; we are greedy. He is peaceful; we are hassled. He is purposeful; we are distracted. He is pleasant; we are cranky. He is spiritual; we are earthbound. The distance between our hearts and His seems so immense. How could we ever hope to have the heart of Jesus?
Ready for a surprise? You already do. You already have the heart of Christ. Why are you looking at me that way? Would I kid you? If you are in Christ, you already have the heart of Christ.
One of the supreme yet unrealized promises of God is simply this: if you have given your life to Jesus, Jesus has given Himself to you. He has made your heart His home. It would be hard to say it more succinctly than Paul did: “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
He has moved in and unpacked His bags and is ready to change you “into his likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul explained it with these words: “Strange as it seems, we Christians actually do have within us a portion of the very thoughts and mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
If I have the mind of Jesus, why do I still think so much like me?
Part of the answer is illustrated in a story about a lady who had a small house on the seashore of Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century. She was quite wealthy but also quite frugal.
The people were surprised, then, when she decided to be among the first to have electricity in her home.
Several weeks after the installation, a meter reader appeared at her door. He asked if her electricity was working well, and she assured him it was. “I’m wondering if you can explain something to me,” he said. “Your meter shows scarcely any usage. Are you using your power?”
“Certainly,” she answered. “Each evening when the sun sets, I turn on my lights just long enough to light my candles; then I turn them off.”
She’s tapped in to the power but doesn’t use it. Her house is connected but not altered. Don’t we make the same mistake? We, too – with our souls saved but our hearts unchanged – are connected but not altered. Trusting Christ for salvation but resisting transformation. We occasionally flip the switch, but most of the time we settle for shadows.
What would happen if we left the light on? What would happen if we not only flipped the switch but lived in the light? What changes would occur if we set about the task of dwelling in the radiance of Christ?
No doubt about it: God has ambitious plans for us. The same one who saved your soul longs to remake your heart. His plan is nothing short of a total transformation:
He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son. – Romans 8:29
You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God. –Colossians 3:10
God is willing to change us into the likeness of the Savior.
Shall we accept His offer?
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What about you? Are you willing to let God have His way in changing you from the inside out into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you about gaining a heart like Jesus’! ~ Devotionals Daily-Are you a tabernacle?-click to view…
Nehemiah 8:10 is an encouraging scripture that says, “…Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (AMP). God wants us to stay joyful no matter what difficulties we face in life, because His joy is our strength. Simply put, it’s the fruit of joy that strengthens us to go through whatever we have to deal with and make it to the end result. That’s why, as Christians, joy should be our normal mood.
Paul was determined to enjoy the journey no matter how many potholes were in the road. In Colossians 1:11, he wrote, “[We pray] that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, [to exercise] every kind of endurance and patience (perseverance and forbearance) with joy” (AMP). Our joy is a weapon. It gives us the ability to not only endure difficulties, but to enjoy life in the midst of them.
Obstacles to Joy
But what happens when you wake up in the morning feeling low, irritated, discouraged or frustrated—and you don’t know exactly why? There has to be a reason. Well, for every “fruit” there is a root. And if you don’t get to the root of a bad mood, you just start blaming everything and everybody for making you feel bad, and focusing only on all the things that are wrong rather than the good God is doing in your life.
It’s amazing how our minds automatically lean toward the negative. That’s our old, unregenerate nature at work. But God’s Word says we are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). And Ephesians 4:24 tells us to “put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness” (AMP). This means we have to deliberately put on Christ’s love, mercy and patience—it’s a choice we make.
Before you start thinking, “But Aaron, you don’t understand how bad things have been and how much I’m hurting,” I want to remind you of an encouraging truth. God never tells us to do something He doesn’t give us the ability to do. Philippians 4:13 (AMP) says, “I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].” The key is to always lean on Jesus for the ability and strength you need to do what you need to do.
Figure Out Why You Feel Bad
If you’re frustrated by a bad attitude and not sure how to begin to overcome it, you need to discover the root of the fruit. Sometimes there are obvious reasons we feel lousy. It may be a bad habit, like not eating right or staying up too late at night. I always feel bad the next day when I eat too much sugar and carbohydrates. The simple solution is to eat healthier and go to bed at a decent time.
On a spiritual level, maybe you care too much about what people think about you to the point you are letting them control you. As a result you always say “yes” to people when you really want to say, “no.” Or you wake up feeling bad because you did something wrong the day before and haven’t repented of it yet. Now you’re reaping the consequences. But 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NKJV).
Is Your Spiritual Gas Tank Empty?
When I do a conference or consulting , I give it my all, and I’m glad to do it. But when I go home, if I don’t take time to get back in the Word, spend quiet time with God and get “filled up” spiritually, I’m bound to get a bad mood and start grumbling and complaining. When I run on empty, I’m a mess!
You must spend daily time in God’s presence if you’re going to live with the joy of the Lord. The more intimate your personal relationship with Him becomes, the better your fruit will be. Isaiah 40:31 (AMP) confirms it:
“Those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.”
If you’re not living with the joy of the Lord, examine the root of your fruit. Spend time with God, study the Word, do what He tells you to do by His grace, and soon your joy will return.
Can you see yourself as a church? What does your tabernacle look like to others?
Read Exodus 25:1-9
In the Creation account, we see the creation of the stars of the universe occur in five words – “He made the stars also.” Interestingly enough, 50 chapters are given over to explain the Tabernacle and its function. This shows us something of the importance of the Tabernacle.
The great lesson of the tabernacle is that God came down to dwell with His people. From Genesis to Deuteronomy we have accounts of God visiting men. These visits culminated in God’s dwelling with men in the Tabernacle or tent. John picks up the same thought and uses the same word “tabernacled,” to describe God dwelling among men in the person of Christ. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled [or pitched His tent] among us.” The Tabernacle served as God’s dwelling place for 500 years among the children of Israel. The Temple superseded it, during the reign of Solomon.
Please note that God could not dwell among His people while they were in Egypt. They must be redeemed (1) by blood and (2) by power. They must be free from the shackles and sin of Egypt. Before God could fellowship with them in this unique way they had to be redeemed and sanctified. [Express practical truth here]
It is important to consider the symbolism of the Tabernacle. One must consider also the physical features of the Tabernacle. When considering some of these we will no doubt consider Hebrews, especially chapters 9-10. The remainder of the lesson is taken up with the materials and the measurements of the Tabernacle. These can be considered at a future reading.
The Tabernacle: Its Immediate Purpose
Read: Exodus 25:1-9 and Exodus 29:39-46. The Word of God makes it quite plain that there is a twofold purpose for the divine conception and the human construction of the Tabernacle. There was an immediate and ultimate purpose. The immediate purpose was to wean the children of Israel away from the base idolatry of Egypt and set before them a pure and noble ideal of worship and witness. The natural tendency of these ancient pilgrims was downward and backward. We see a clear example of this with the worship of the golden calf in Exodus 32.
The worship of the unseen God was something new. All heathen religions had their visible gods. Thus, the immediate purpose of the Tabernacle was the provision of a place of worship. The Israelite came to the door of the Tabernacle to worship God. He could not see Him. He brought his offering – the visible expression of his reverence and awe.
Worship, in essence, is an inward spiritual exercise. Jesus said: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). True worship must originate in the Spirit. [Describe a “tripartite being”] Worship is not only to be in the spirit, but is also to be according to truth.
Consider the established relationship – Exodus 25:8 says, “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” This was an entirely new relationship between God and man. God walked in the garden with Adam. He visited the patriarchs and communicated His will to them, but He never lived on earth until the Tabernacle was built among His redeemed and separated people. In a similar way we can never worship until God dwells in us by His Holy Spirit. See Ephesians 2:22. Finally, the Tabernacle was “the place of meeting” (See Exodus 29:42-43). God met with Moses, Aaron, and the people and revealed Himself to them.
A Place of Witness
Not only was the Tabernacle a “place of worship,” but it was also a “place of witness.” InNumbers 17:7-8 the “tent of meeting” is twice called “the tabernacle of witness.”
A Witness of the Presence of God
The Tabernacle witnessed to all of “the Presence of God.” Exodus 40:33-34 says, “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. The cloud was thereafter the witness of the presence of God among His people.” Exodus 40:38 says, “The cloud of the Lord was upon the Tabernacle by day and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all Israel, throughout all their journeys.”
A Witness of the Purity of God
The Tabernacle witnessed to all of the “Purity of God.” The words “tabernacle” or “sanctuary” carry with them the thought of holiness. Over thirty times in Exodus alone the word holy occurs in relation to the Tabernacle. The plate of pure gold that was attached to the miter worn by Aaron was inscribed “Holiness to the Lord.” The court enclosed by the white linen fence was called “the holy place.” See Leviticus 6:16-26. The first compartment of the Tabernacle was called “the holy place.” See Ex. 26:33. The innermost sanctum was called “the most holy place.” See Ex. 26:34.
A Witness of the Protection of God
The Tabernacle witnessed to the “Protection of God.” While the pillar of cloud and fire stood over the Tabernacle, nothing could touch the people of God! At night they had light to see. During the day they had shade from the tropical sun. The Psalmist describes this protection perfectly in Psalm 121:5-7, “The Lord is they keeper: the Lord is they shade upon they right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve they soul.”
A Witness of the Provision of God
Then finally, the Tabernacle witnessed to the “Provision of God.” God is really behind these symbols. All that the Tabernacle stood for was God’s promise of provision and protection for His people in the wilderness. We today can claim these same promises of provision and protection as we walk the pilgrim way towards heaven and home.
The Tabernacle: Its Ultimate Purpose
Read Hebrews 9:1-12. The ultimate purpose of the Tabernacle is to draw our attention to the Lord Jesus in whom all the types and shadows are fulfilled. The priests of old, as they carried out their duties, must have realized the imperfections and incompleteness of the ritual and sacrifices. Their exercises before the Lord were all so abstract and obscure; they must have felt that there was substance to the shadow somewhere. If this was their reasoning, they were right, for the ultimate purpose of the Tabernacle with its ceremonies was to prefigure Christ.
Let us consider the Tabernacle as it relates to the Person of Christ. “O fix our gaze on Thee, so wholly Lord on Thee, that with Thy beauty occupies.” The writer to the Hebrews, having touched upon the ritual of the Tabernacle, concludes His discourse by saying, “The Holy Spirit thus signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest” (Heb. 9:8).
Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Christ is the perfect tabernacle. He is the fulfillment of all that the wilderness Tabernacle typified and prefigured.
The Structure of the Tabernacle
The gold speaks of our Lord’s deity. The gold was the purest that could be produced, and therefore the most precious metal known to man. The gold is described as beaten gold. It had endured the fiercest fire and had been subjected to the hammer of the refiner and sculptor. This is significant. Not only does it portray the purity of Christ’s deity and His absolute Godhead, it also portrays what Isaiah prophesied. “He was bruised for our iniquities,” in Isa. 53:5. “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him,” in Isa. 53:10.
The golden candlestick was made of pure, solid gold. Signifying the absolute perfection of His Deity. The weight of the Golden Candlestick was 90 talents (which is equal to 95 lbs). At present day prices it would cost approximately $260,000. Perhaps Peter had in mind the golden candlestick and He of whom it spoke, when he penned the significant words, “Unto you who believe He is precious.”
While the gold speaks of the Lord’s deity, the wood speaks of His humanity (think of The Holy Mount and Mount Calvary). There are several unique qualities of the shittim or acacia tree:
1. The wood was virtually indestructible and incorruptible. Think of the following: Herod, the temptation, Nazareth, the storm, and ultimately the death of the “Lord and Christ.” The Lord endured the hatred of men and the judgment of God. The wood being incorruptible typified the holy body of the Lord, which saw no corruption, even in death. [Describe] See also Psalm 16:10.
2. The acacia tree only grew in the wilderness in adverse circumstances. This reminds us of the words of Isaiah saying that the Messiah would be “as a root out of dry ground;” A tender plant, before Jehovah.
3. It was an unattractive tree outwardly – though very valuable. This reminds us of Isaiah’s comments, “He hath no form of comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” With Christ and the Tabernacle, the beauty was on the inside.
Bringing these two great thoughts of the gold and the wood together, we have a picture of the unique Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. John says it all when he writes: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The concept of God and man being in one body battles the intellect. Yet, uniquely and gloriously, Christ was perfect – absolute God and at the same time, the perfect man – Very God of very God. “Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh,” (1 Tim 3:13).
Christ, The Perfect Priest
Christ is not only the perfect Tabernacle, but He is also the perfect Priest.
As Perfect Priest, He exercises:
– The ministry of introduction at the door of the outer court.
– The ministry of reconciliation at the brazen altar.
– The ministry of separation at the laver.
– The ministry of illumination at the golden candlestick.
– The ministry of satisfaction at the table of showbread.
– The ministry of intercession at the altar of incense.
– The ministry of communion at the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies.
In His death, He was the Priest and the Sacrifice, the One who offered and the Offering. So then, the immediate purpose of the Tabernacle was to provide a place of Worship and Witness. The ultimate purpose was that of prefiguring Christ in all the glory of His Person and the greatness of His work.
Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
John Newton was a wild-living sailor and slave-trader who got saved and became a godly pastor and the author of many hymns, including the beloved, “Amazing Grace.” He said late in his life: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”
Even if your past is not as wicked as John Newton’s, you should be growing in your awareness of those two great facts. The longer I am a Christian, the more acutely I am aware of the exceeding wickedness of my own heart. I can identify with the hymn writer, Robert Robinson, who wrote, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.” But, thank God, the more I see my own sinfulness, the more brightly God’s grace shines. As Robinson also wrote, “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!”
The story of Peter’s denials is recorded in Scripture to underscore these two great facts: the weakness and sinfulness of even the most prominent saints; and, the greatness and abundance of God’s love and grace toward those who fail. For those who are walking with the Lord, this story warns us to take heed lest we fall. For any who have fallen, the story holds out the hope of pardon through God’s abundant grace if you will turn back to Him.
Even when we fail the Lord badly, if we will repent God will restore us and use us again in His service.
Before he became a lawyer and prolific supporter of prisoner rights, Daniel Manville spent three years and four months in the slammer for manslaughter. Manville continued to study while incarcerated and eventually earned two college degrees during his sentence. He became enamored with the legal profession and went to law school right after his parole.
He finally passed the bar exams in Michigan and Washington, DC after waiting many years to be approved by the respective boards. Afterwards, Manville worked tirelessly to improve the prison system and represented various inmates and prison guards in civil cases. Nowadays, Manville teaches law at Michigan State University, where he hopes the insights he shares with students inspire them to someday help improve the system as well.
9.The Millionaire Ex-Convict
Uchendi Nwani lived a very Jekyll/Hyde existence during his college years. On the surface, Nwani—raised by his stepfather, who was pastor in one of Nashville’s largest Baptist congregations—played the role of exemplary student to his family and friends. However, Nwani hid a very dark secret underneath that shining exterior: He was a drug dealer, and a very notorious one at that. His greed got the better of him on October 15, 1993, when police caught a million-dollar shipment of cocaine while he was in the middle of an exam during his senior year.
He later turned himself in and did six and a half months of hard labor at a federal boot camp before he returned to finish his studies. To make ends meet, he cut hair at the university salon while living in a halfway house. After he graduated, he opened his own barber shop and school which later became a huge success. Nwani now travels around the country to show that he is living proof that, no matter how low you sink, you really can turn your life around if you don’t give up.
8.The World’s Most Flexible Man
While doing time in prison can be a hardening experience for most people, Mukhtar Gusengajiev used his time there to soften himself up. Gusangajiev was just 17 years old when he fell in with the wrong crowd and was ultimately sentenced to three years for partaking in a fight. While serving his time, Gusengajiev dedicated himself wholeheartedly to practicing meditation and flexibility exercises. After he was released from prison, Gusengajiev did a series of odd jobs before finally ending up in Moscow, where he performed as an artist at a government-owned circus.
Gusengajiev got his big break in 1995 when he was noticed by Jean-Claude Van Damme, who invited him to perform for his movie. Although that movie was ultimately scrapped, that invitation did get Gusengajiev to Las Vegas, where he later became famous for his mind-bending feats of flexibility. Since then, Gusengajiev has performed in several prominent events around the world and taught countless people that discipline can help them achieve their goals in life.
7.Chess Taught Ex-Convict The Right Moves In Life
Chess aficionado Eugene Brown made a lot of questionable decisions early on in his life. Classified as a high-risk youth, Brown frequently mingled with the bad eggs in his hometown of Washington, DC, ending with his participate in a failed robbery attempt and subsequent incarceration in a New Jersey prison. During his stay, Brown met his future mentor, a man named Massey with whom he often played chess. It was during one such game that Brown realized the practical applications of chess to everyday life and how he had been making all the wrong moves up to that point.
After he left prison and went back to his hometown, Brown taught his grandson—who was also experiencing behavioral problems—to play chess, with very positive results. Before he knew it, he had established his own chess club, which became hugely successful teaching young people the right lessons in life. As for Brown, he later became a thriving real estate businessman, but has continued to mentor his young wards in the game of chess and life. A movie based on his story will come out on 2014 starring Cuban Gooding, Jr. in the lead role.
6.From Cocaine To Cuisine
Prior to cooking delicious five-star cuisine, celebrity chef Jeff Hendersoncooked something else entirely dangerous—cocaine. As a teenager, he had manufactured and sold the drug in his native Los Angeles. By the time he was 19, Henderson was earning as much as US $35,000 per week. He was later apprehended and imprisoned for 10 years after one of his men was caught carrying a big shipment. It was in prison that Henderson discovered he had a natural flair for cooking and constantly practiced his culinary skills while on kitchen duty.
After he was released early for good behavior, Henderson worked in some of LA’s top restaurants before he decided to go for broke in Las Vegas. After experiencing many rejections due to his felonious past, Henderson finally managed to land a job at Caesar’s Palace. It was only a matter of time before he finally started getting recognition and awards, including best Las Vegas Chef in 2001. All the fame and success hasn’t gotten to Henderson’s head and he has continued to share his experiences with at-risk youth to show what they can achieve in life with the right choices.
5.The Jewel Thief Who Became An Honorary Police Officer
Most parents would have second thoughts leaving their child alone with the hulking and heavily-tattooed Larry Lawton. After all, he used to be one of America’s most notorious jewel thieves. At one point, he was on top of the FBI’s most wanted list on the eastern seaboard. However, the Lawton of today has entirely focused himself on another mission—to use his own experience in educating and saving young people from a life of crime and imprisonment.
Lawton attributed this incredible turnaround to one moment during his twelve years at federal prison. One of his new-found friends committed suicide in his cell, and Lawton—who was in solitary confinement at the time—felt helpless to save him. After he got out, Lawton established his program, Lawton 911, to help at-risk youth from committing the same mistakes he did. Lawton’s sincere efforts have not gone unnoticed—he wasrecently designated an “honorary police officer” by the local police, the first such ex-convict in the US to receive the honor.
4.From Prison To Poetry
Reginald Dwayne Betts was a classic case of a genius gone awry. Although he was an especially gifted student in his youth, his sass made him difficult to teach, and it was only when teachers gave him books to read that Betts would calm down. For all his smarts, Betts made a pretty dumb error at the age of 16 when he and a friend robbed a man and made off with his car. He was caught, tried as an adult, and sentenced to nine years in prison, where he witnessed the horrors that juvenile prisoners experience mixed in with hardened adult criminals.
To keep his sanity, Betts read almost constantly. He became fixated on poetry when someone slipped him a copy of Dudley Randall’s The Black Poets. After he got out, Betts completed his studies and became an active voice in reforming the juvenile justice system. He also established a reading club for the local young men in his area, which he uses to engender in them a love for reading and poetry.
3.The Founder Of The French National Police
It may surprise some to know that, at one time, the predecessor to the modern French National Police was founded and headed by an ex-convict. Growing up in Napoleon-era France, Eugene-Francois Vidocq lived a very colorful life that saw him charged and jailed for a variety of crimes, such as theft and assuming false identities. After a while, Vidocq offered his assistance to the police and worked as a spy in the criminal underworld. He became so effective in apprehending criminals and solving complex cases that authorities soon created the Surete Brigade, which was later expanded nationwide by Napoleon and renamed Surete Nationale, to assist him.
Under Vidocq’s leadership, the police reduced crime rates significantly. During his stint, Vidocq employed surprisingly modern methods of investigation and even maintained a forensics laboratory, something few precincts did at the time. Although Vidocq would ultimately resign and clash with the police again—largely because he had formed his own private detective agency—such were his legendary exploits that he later became the basis for popular fictional detectives such as Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
2.The Australian Danny Trejo
A lot of movie fans may have already heard about the criminal past life of perennial Hollywood bad guy and anti-hero Danny Trejo, but the Machetestar has a lesser-known Australian counterpart in the form of Mark “Chopper” Read. The Melbourne native grew up with a troubled childhood and started his criminal career by robbing drug dealers. He developed a reputation as a dangerous loose-cannon, accumulating tattoos all over his body and even having most of his ears cut off. He spent time in and out of prison for various offenses such as armed robbery and attempt to abduct a judge.
While in prison, Read wrote several crime novels based on his experiences which later became best-sellers. After his release, Read went on to become a notorious celebrity in the Australian scene, but it was a 2000 movie about his life starring Eric Bana that catapulted Read to worldwide fame. Even when he became clean after his prison time, Read never did let of his mad-dog image—shortly before his death from liver cancer in October 2013, he remarked that he didn’t care if he died as long as he didn’t bleed.
1.The Psychologist Who Received A Presidential Pardon
Noted forensic psychologist Paul Fauteck’s early life can be described as chaotic at best. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Fauteck was a mischievous boy in his youth. His schooling ended abruptly after he was discovered with the wallets of the other boys in the locker room. Afterwards, Fauteck continued to engage in questionable activities, including carrying a concealed weapon and smuggling his Mexican wife into the country. However, what really got Fauteck in trouble was when he joined a group of men who issued counterfeit checks. For that, he was sent to federal prison, where he frequently spent time in solitary confinement for bad behavior.
After a while Fauteck finally decided to go on the straight path, a decision galvanized by his father’s death just before he left prison. He later moved to Chicago, where he eventually ran an advertising agency while he finished his studies in psychology, having been told by his psychologist friend that he had a natural aptitude for helping people. In time, Fauteck became one of Chicago’s most respected psychotherapists. He also became a forensic psychologist for the local justice system, where he worked for more than a decade before he retired. The culmination of Fauteck’s long and arduous road to recovery came in 1992 when he received a pardon from President George H.W. Bush. Although retired at present, Fauteck continues to push for improved rehabilitation programs to give ex-convicts a better second start in life.
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