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~I know His Voice, Do “You”?

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When do we know that the Holy Spirit or God has spoken to our heart? How do we know we are doing God’s will and not our will?

These two questions are common and not so easily answered in a specific manner.  There are, however, general principles by which we can know we hear the Holy Spirit.  I offer the following guidelines not as a formula and not as a guarantee but as a means to help people understand and recognize when the Holy Spirit is speaking to and through them.

  1. Become a Christian
    1. John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
    2. It should go without saying that we should be Christians before we seek to hear from the Holy Spirit.  Though there are many non-Christian groups such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and aberrant Christian groups like Roman Catholics, the necessary first step is that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God through receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. This can only occur if a person is saved from God’s judgment by trusting, through faith alone, in the work of Christ alone.  Of course, this means that we must understand and know that Jesus Christ is God in flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, that he died for our sins, and that he was physically risen from the dead.
    3. Therefore, you must be indwelt by God before you can hear from him.
    4. Therefore, in order to hear from the Holy Spirit, you must first be saved.
  2. Read the Bible to know how to pray and recognize false impressions
    1. 2 Tim. 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
    2. We cannot claim to be in the will of God, and thereby hearing the Holy Spirit if we are believing or acting in a manner contrary to the revealed Word of God.  We need to study the Bible.  It is God’s inspired word, and it guides us so that we might know how to pray and also so that we can discern whether what we think we hear from God really is or is not true.
    3. Take for example the Mormons.  They pray about the Book of Mormon and believe that the Holy Spirit tells them that Mormonism is true.  However, Mormonism clearly contradicts the Bible since it teaches there are many gods, people can become gods, there is a goddess mother in heaven, etc.  What they think they are hearing from God the Holy Spirit really is not from him at all.
    4. Therefore, by reading God’s Word we can at least eliminate any suspected communication from the Holy Spirit should it prove contrary to the Bible.

  1. Pray in accordance to God’s will
    1. 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
    2. We discover the will of God by conforming our lives, our thoughts, and our actions to the words of Christ and the apostles as taught in the New Testament.  But, it is in prayer that we enter into the presence of God and seek to hear from him.
    3. Therefore, we need to hear from God’s Word, and we need to be in prayer for God’s will.
  2. Confess your sins
    1. Psalm 66:18, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”
    2. We cannot claim to walk with God and yet abide in unrepentant sin.  If you want to be in the will of God and hear the Holy Spirit work in your heart and life, you must confess your sins and repent of them.  You cannot hear from the Lord if you are willfully living in a manner contrary to the holiness of God.
    3. Therefore, if there are sins in your life from which you have not turned, then you need to confess them before the Lord and be cleansed.
  3. Wait upon the Lord.
    1. Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.”
    2. Sometimes the answer to prayer takes longer than we expect.  This is why hearing from the Holy Spirit requires that we be patient.  When we ask of God and when we seek his will, we can know instantly what his will is in many cases by reading the Bible.  But in those areas where the Bible is not specific and we ask God something about life’s direction, who to marry, what job to take, etc., we must wait in order to hear from the Holy Spirit.
    3. Oftentimes, we can discern the will of the Holy Spirit by the becoming aware of an increase or decrease of desire in our hearts as we repeatedly pray and wait on him.  In other words, God often puts a desire into our hearts that increases over time as we pray about something.  If that desire is in agreement with scripture, then it is most probably from the Lord.  If the desire in your heart decreases, it may be that the Lord is not speaking to you on that topic.  Look at it this way.  Pray and ask the Lord to increase desires in your heart that are from him and decrease those that are not.  And, always make sure your desires are in accordance with the Bible.
    4. Therefore, be patient and give the Lord the opportunity to answer you–to speak to your heart.

In these principles, you can find how to hear the Holy Spirit–how to recognize his work in you.  Be filled with the Spirit in salvation.  Study what the Bible says so you might recognize truth.  Pray for his will. Confess your sins and be patient.  The Lord answers, but sometimes he has to prepare the groundwork before the answer can come to fruition.

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~Recalcitrant Government, Police Forces, And Citizens~

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We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 

In my viewing of the spiritual warfare at hand today I chose to study the word recalcitrant. I was enlighten in several ways of exactly who the recalcitrant individuals are. We have recalcitrant’s within the GOP Congress, Democrats, our policing agencies and citizens. Most people of America are oblivious to the reason all this is occurring because the news is the number one source of information for most Americans today. Our society has become one of  anxiety and being in a hurry. Everything is instantaneous and at a rapid pace. It seems that the only ones relaxing at present is our Congress. They have refused to act on several subjects related to our public safety to our national security which makes them recalcitrant public officials. The police force of Ferguson is reluctantly responding with truth and any real information about this police officer who is responsible for the senseless killing of Michael Brown which in turn is being met by many recalcitrant citizens of Ferguson,which by the way are (Black). 

I want to unearth the cultural assumptions that underpin hyper-incarceration, beginning with the image of the dangerous black man. This frequently plowed ground is particularly relevant here — from the recalcitrant slave in general to Nat Turner in particular, from lynching to locking up the drug dealer on the corner, the dangerous black man has been a constant in American history. (One could argue, though I will not, that to many Barack Obama is merely its latest incarnation.) Certainly, there is no doubt that the black man is dangerous to the maintenance of the Republican majority. That explains the drive to suppress minority participation in the last election.

I grew up In Washington D. C. and I would Board the X2 bus at Lafayette Square opposite the White House and travel its 5-mile route eastward across Washington and there was a very good chance that more than half the African-American men who were your fellow passengers  have been in prison at some point in their lives. The X2 bus, to the extent that white Washingtonians are aware of it, has a reputation as dangerous, prone to passenger fights and occasional shootings. The X2 is a subject perhaps of white curiosity but no real concern, and few white Washingtonians use it. Yet the X2 is a symbol of the white segregation from and blindness to the devastation of hyper-incarceration that my wife and I are trying to explore in our approach to assist ex-offenders in California.

The Scandal of White Complicity underscores the point that the image of America as a postracial, colorblind society based on meritocracy and individual choice impedes a deeper understanding of the way in which white America is implicated in the systematic deprivation of the African-American community. It is a deprivation that drains that community of the economic and social capital that can break the cycle in which sons of imprisoned men too often meet their fathers behind bars.

Merton wrote “that American society has to change before the race problem can be solved.” Pfeil believes hyper-incarceration by its very nature will not end without a complete societal change. Citing James Baldwin’s warning that “history is literally present in all that we do,”

Mikulich frames white America within the imprisonment prism’s four walls:

  • White separation and white isolation from African-American society leads to a loss of empathy for the effects of hyper-incarceration;
  • The illusion of innocence leads to the delusion that whiteness and white neighborhoods are the norm to be desired and that black neighborhoods represent segregation;
  • This amnesia and its accompanying anesthesia lead to a distortion, if not an outright erasure, of history;
  • Power and privilege ensure that a “white-dominated legal system effectively protects, indeed renders invisible, unconscious racism on behalf of police, prosecutors and judges as it stigmatizes blacks.” (Not to mention the fact that the formerly incarcerated are often denied the right to vote.)

Rap and hip-hop emerge as the latest manifestation of the dangerous black man, but I find in the early days of this genre a positive attempt to rescue black history on the part of young black men through “perfecting the craft of orality.” What started out as a positive movement morphed into a caricature and merely reinforced the dominant image. My long time mentor Dr. Emmanuel Franks, drawing on the work of Johann Baptist Metz, argues that history is essential to Christian life, beginning with the constant remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. Metz called this a “dangerous memory” because it commands Christians to remember the suffering of others. Returning to the theme of white amnesia, Dr. Emmanuel Franks says that amnesia deprives Christians of the power to act, to change.

Confronted by hyper-incarceration, Pfeil asks how Christians respond. Following Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, Gandhi, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Pfeil looks to the message of the Sermon on the Mount to understand the personal and communal relationship to the world of materialism. The beatitudes envision a different world, one that exalts a wealth of spirit over a wealth of things.

Because of our deep immersion in this world in which we consciously or unconsciously benefit from a system of oppression, both historical and contemporary, it is difficult to effect the change that is necessary. Instead of the hapless question what can I do, one should ask what needs to change.

“A great force of suffering accumulated between the basement of heaven and the roof of hell…”

In their quest for absolute political hegemony in the United States, some elements of the Right now dare to claim to share with blacks – if not common cause – common conclusions about the state of race relations in America. In a January 8, 2006 piece weighted with the full freight of centuries of white supremacist delusions, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto claimed that BC‘s January 5, 2006 Cover Story, “Katrina Study: Black Consensus, White Dispute,” showed that BC and the WSJ agree that African Americans and whites see the world quite differently. “BlackCommentator.com, which describes itself as a source of ‘commentary, analysis and investigations on issues affecting African Americans’ and has a harshly left-wing outlook has an analysis of a poll on racial attitudes.

The BC story was based on a small slice of an important, soon to be released study by University of Chicago political scientist Michael Dawson. Dr. Dawson’s team’s study shows what every conscious Black person already knows: there is a yawning chasm between white and black perceptions of life, politics and opportunity in 21st Century America.

The United States has created wildly different realities for its black and white citizens.  From the unequal availability of prenatal care and early childhood education, through ubiquitous and continuing racially segregated education and racially selective policies of crime control and mass imprisonment, through generations of housing and employment discrimination resulting in huge gaps in the accumulation of wealth between black and white families, to early graves occasioned by differential access to medical care for African Americans, it is clear that for centuries blacks and whites have lived in the same country but in different worlds. 

Fiscal responsibility is a code phrase. It means, Don’t spend money on Black folks. There are several code words in white America media that reflect the chasm of social justice and equality.

“Fiscal responsibility is a code word for whites for anti-Black policy,” said Dawson. “Reagan used it, Bush used it, and the people who overthrew Reconstruction used it. It is one of the oldest code words in American politics. It’s right up there with ‘law and order.'”

Republicans’ rhetorical campaign against lawlessness took off in earnest during the 1960s, when Richard Nixon artfully conflated black rioting, student protest, and common crime to warn that the “criminal forces” were gaining the upper hand in America. As an electoral strategy, it was a brilliant success. But as an ideological claim, the argument that America needed more police and prisons was in deep tension with the conservative cause of rolling back state power. The paradox flared up occasionally, as during the National Rifle Association’s long-running feud with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms during the 1990s. But for the most part, conservatives lived with the contradiction for forty years. Why?

For one, it worked political magic by tapping into a key liberal weakness. Urban violent crime was rising sharply during the 1960s and liberals had no persuasive response beyond vague promises that economic uplift and social programs would curb delinquency. The conservatives’ strategy also provided an outlet for racial anxieties that could not be voiced explicitly in the wake of the civil rights movement. Sometimes, the racial appeals were impossible to miss, as when Ronald Reagan warned that “city streets are jungle paths after dark” in his 1966 California gubernatorial campaign. More often, anti-criminal chest-thumping played into the division of society between the earners and the moochers, with subtle racial cues making clear who belonged on which side.

Meanwhile, the more threatened ordinary Americans came to feel, the angrier they became at elites who appeared to side with the criminals, and the more they revered the people designated as society’s protectors. As a result, conservatives came to view law enforcement the same way they had long seen the military: as a distinctive institution whose mission somehow exempted it from the bureaucratic failures and overreach that beset school districts, environmental agencies, and the welfare office. Yet the two surging wings of the conservative movement—libertarians and religious conservatives—have since each found their own reasons to challenge long-standing orthodoxy about crime.

American streets are much safer today than they were thirty years ago, and until recently most conservatives had a simple explanation: more prison beds equal less crime. This argument was a fulcrum of Republican politics for decades, boosting candidates from Richard Nixon to George H. W. Bush and scores more in the states. Once elected, these Republicans (and their Democratic imitators) built prisons on a scale that now exceeds such formidable police states as Russia and Iran, with 3 percent of the American population behind bars or on parole and probation.

Now that crime and the fear of victimization are down, we might expect Republicans to take a victory lap, casting safer streets as a vindication of their hard line. Instead, more and more conservatives are clambering down from the prison ramparts. Take Newt Gingrich, who made a promise of more incarceration an item of his 1994 Contract with America. Seventeen years later, he had changed his tune. “There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential,” Gingrich wrote in 2011. “The criminal-justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it.”

The encounter in Ferguson that ended with a police officer fatally shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown has spurred police departments in the St. Louis area to do some deep soul-searching. Many hope to avoid the uncertainty of chaotic events by having video to investigate officers’ interactions with civilians.

Video recordings would allow judges and juries to see events unfold, helping to shed light through the often-conflicting or hazy recollections of eyewitnesses.

Nowhere is that more needed than in Ferguson, the north St. Louis County suburb at the epicenter of a racial crisis. The city is now seeking money to outfit its officers with wearable cameras that can be pinned to a uniform or attached to a pair of sunglasses.

The city of Ellisville in west St. Louis County quickly approved a $7,500 expenditure last week to do the same.

“It was an emergency item on our agenda to get officers wearing those cameras immediately,” said Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul, noting that all of the city’s police officers will wear them. “Nobody knows how the grand jury is going to play out. Our officers could respond to calls for service down in Ferguson.”

Just as important as the Ferguson police feel these cameras are to policing and telling the true story, We feel it’s equally important to get funded to assist our human life in Riverside California, There are 6,322 ex-offenders hitting the streets and more than half of them half no support system. Take a look at our interest to assist human being that are in need of a Alternative sentencing/re-entry program to help reduce the rate of recidivism.

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Should We Expect Politicians to Act Like Christians?

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

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

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

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

Obligation of a King

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

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

Not Merely Private Morality

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

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

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

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

Judging Outsiders

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

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

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

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

Still Accountable

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

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

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