humanity

Living to Die & Dying to Live

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Trust is to human relationships what faith is to gospel living. It is the beginning place, the foundation upon which more can be built. Where trust is, love can flourish.

Barbara Smith

A chicken and a pig came upon a church building and read the advertisement on the billboard out front, which read, “Help Us Feed the Poor.” Immediately the chicken suggested they help feed the poor with bacon and eggs. The pig thought for a moment and said, “There is one thing wrong with feeding bacon and eggs to the poor. For you it only requires a contribution, but for me it requires total commitment.”

Many in the church today do not want to be totally committed to the Lord because it demands too much of them.

Webster’s Dictionary says “To commit oneself says one is to speak or act in such a manner as to bind oneself to a certain line of conduct.”

Commitment to Jesus Christ is more than a definition: it requires my life, my soul, and my all. But too often find ourselves lingering between being committed and uncommitted.

In the following scripture passages the life of the uncommitted and the committed are presented to us.

1. Are you Uncommitted?

Matthew 19:16-22
16 “Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
17 So He said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, ” ’You shall not murder,’ ’You shall not commit adultery,’ ’You shall not steal,’ ’You shall not bear false witness,’
19 ’Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Those that are Uncommitted focus on Self rather than the ways and work of God. (vs.16)

“What good thing shall I do that I may have…”

Self-centeredness is the hallmark of our society today. The only thing that people seem to care about is their own desires, their own wishes, their own satisfaction no matter what the cost or the consequences.

Most marriages dissolve because of the self-centered attitude of the married couple. Neither is willing to give themselves completely to the other, but each wants to live their own lives as a single but still be married. Marriage still requires surrendering our own desires and wants to the will of God and to make the relationship work at all costs.

Our self-centered attitudes have spilled over into every realm of life:

Our children are disrespectful of parents or any form of authority because they have been told that whatever they want they can have and no one has the right to stop them or to punish them.

Our Representatives and Senators have become so self-centered concerning their own jobs and popularity that they will sell out the security of our nation if it is necessary to win a few votes.

Our leaders are so wrapped up in their own plans and desires for political and financial gain that they no longer seem to be concerned about our nation and rush headlong into making decisions that fly into the face of God as if to say we want no part of you anymore.
Those that are Uncommitted focus on Keeping laws and legalistic works rather than the Word of God.

“All these things I have kept …”

Its not about keeping a bunch of do’s and don’ts. Its about keeping the laws of grace and mercy and obeying the commandments to live a holy life.

We get so caught up in judging others that we forget about the sin in our own lives.

Those that are Uncommitted focus on Riches of the here and now rather than the riches of Heaven.

“Go and sell and follow Me.” – Treasure and heart issues

The Bible tells us that where our treasure is, that’s where our heart will be also. In a world that is so caught up in materialism and self-gratification, it’s no wonder that people don’t have a heart after God.
It has been my experience that it does not matter whether you are rich or poor, whether you have a lot or very little of this world’s goods, you can still be materialistic.

If you get more upset over your car getting scratched, or your new carpet getting stained, or you new clothes being ruined than you do over the sin in your life then you are materialistic.

If we set our hearts on the things of God and lay up our treasures in Heaven, those little situations won’t mean nearly as much to us.

Those that are Uncommitted focus on Keeping rather than giving.

“He had great possessions”

Mark 8:36 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?
What good will houses and lands and all the possessions of this world do you when this life is over.

I have never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul! You can’t take it with you. You came into this world with nothing and you will go out of it with nothing.
The only things that will follow you are the souls that you have won to Jesus and the good works that you did for the Lord with the right heart. Everything else will be burned away.

How about you and I?

Are we part of the uncommitted always focusing on self rather than God?

This man who came to Jesus was looking for a better method of getting what he wanted rather than wanting God to make him a better man.

We are prone to look to God for greater ways and means to accomplish our goals … whereas God is looking for us to surrender our lives and give our soul to accomplish His goals.

Jeremiah 7:3-8
3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.
4 “Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ’The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.’
5 “For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor,
6 “if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt,
7 “then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. 8 “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit.
God never gives up on the uncommitted.

He is always calling and challenging the uncommitted to commit to Him.

2 Timothy 2:11-13 This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. 12 If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. 13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself

2. Are you Committed?

Matthew 10:34-39
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
35 “For I have come to ’set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’;
36 “and ’a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
37 “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.
38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
39 “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

1)Those who are Committed focus on Inner Peace rather than a temporal peace of man. (vs.34)

Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

This is peace that no amount of troubles can take away. This is peace that will be with you in the middle of every storm.

I don’t know how people who don’t know the Lord can survive in this world. It is no wonder than so many are committing suicide or end up in a mental institution. Without Jesus there is no real peace.

2)Those who are Committed focus on Relationship with Christ rather than with family and friends. (vs.35-36)

Certainly, family and friends are important and must have a high priority in your life, but nothing must come before your relationship with God.

Jesus still holds us to the commandment that says thou shalt have no other God’s before me. Anything and anyone who separates us from God or who stands in the way of our relationship with God becomes an idol to us.

If we focus first on a relationship with Jesus, then all of our other relationships will be far greater because of the Love of God that will be made manifest in us.

3)Those who are Committed focus on Love worth finding rather than selfish love of man. (vs.37)

What is real love anyway? Most people confuse lust with love, or physical attraction with love, or the feeling that this is right with love. None of those these have anything to do with love. They only have to do with two people with an uncontrollable lust.
Love is really found when we still care about someone after we have seen them at their worst.

When the dirty clothes are stacked to the ceiling, the dirty dishes beg for your attention, the sick babies are crying in you ears and pulling on your leg, the creditors are ringing your phone every 20 minutes and we haven’t even had time to brush our teeth or comb our hair. If you can still look at one another after all of that and feel love, then you can say we truly have love one for another.

Love is also giving without expecting anything in return.

Love is doing all you can do for someone else, and when you are feeling totally exhausted and can’t seem to take another step, love will get up and go another mile if asked to do so.

4) Those who are Committed focus on Discovering the Source of Life rather than being the source. (vs.39)
Proverbs 16:3 Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts will be established.

We are to be Committed to God first of all.

Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus said to him, ” ’you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the first and great commandment.

Those who are committed to God will not have trouble meeting any of their other commitments. The pure love of God and our pure love for Him will keep us on the right path.

Secondly we should be Committed to Church.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

How can we say that we love the Lord and yet fail to attend the services where God can speak to us and through us?

No man is an island. We need each other to grow, to have strength for the battle.

How can we say we love God and yet fail time and again to come together to meet with Him and to be around the people of God?

How long would your marriage last if there was no togetherness and no communication?

How can we say we love God when we don’t even care what goes on at God’s house?

Is your commitment to Jesus Christ and the truth that leads you into a loving peaceful relationship with Him?

Are you willing to die to the things of this life that you may live in Christ and obtain a life that is far more peaceful and fulfilling than the life the world offers?

Conclusion:

An African Pastor was threatened by rebels who demanded that he renounce his faith or die. He refused. The night before they took his life, he wrote the following lines on a scrap of paper:

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals!

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or burn up till I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops.

And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear.
How about you?

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Are you living to die? Or, are you dying to live?

If we will live this life in search of the truth of the Gospel, in search for the true love of God, in search of the peace that passes all understanding and in search of commitment to Jesus as Lord, then we will be ready for that life which is yet to come. At the moment of our death we will enter into the Glories of Heaven.

If we live this life in our own way, forgetting God, forsaking and rejecting His great salvation, then we are already walking dead in our sin. The end of this life is only a step down into a deep dark and terrible eternal death where we will be always dying but never really die.

Come to Jesus – ONLY THEN CAN YOU REALLY EXPERIENCE WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT.

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42-Michael Jordan- Martin Luther King Jr. Courage in Adversity

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America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

Barack Obama

Not so long ago, black athletes were segregated from participating with white athletes due to the Jim Crow Laws established after the Plessy V. Ferguson (1896) Supreme Court case.

Black athletes, as were their non-athletic brothers and sisters, were seen as racially inferior and not worthy of socially mixing with whites.

However, these purely promoted brave athletes slowly but positive social change against the racism and later racial prejudice in this country by their heroic example both in and out of the athletic arena.

Jackie Robinson didn’t choose baseball. Baseball chose him — and in more ways than the mere fact that Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey plucked Robinson from obscurity in the mid-’40s, making him the first African American major league baseball player.

Robinson tried his hand at several sports before eventually stumbling upon an opportunity to play pro baseball.
Robinson met a former player for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League as his military tour was coming to an end. (After he refused to sit at the back of an Army bus, Robinson was transferred to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, where he became an athletics coach. Shortly thereafter he was honorably discharged.) Robinson was convinced by the former pro athlete to try out and wrote to Monarchs’ co-owner Thomas Baird. A few months later, in early 1945,

Robinson accepted a contract, paying him $400 per month — a good amount of money for him at that time.
“He just happened to be playing for the Monarchs when the Dodgers just happened to be looking for a guy,” Dodgers team historian Mark Langill told Yahoo! Movies of Robinson’s good fortune. “It’s not like he dreamed of being in the majors. They found him instead of the other way around,” Langill added.
Langill contends Robinson chose that contract with the Monarchs because he was about to get married and simply needed the money. And when he got recruited to the Brooklyn Dodgers soon afterward, Negro league players grumbled: Robinson wasn’t considered as good as Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, who were deemed the best pure ball players of the time.

In the United States since World War II, the world of sport has undergone dramatic changes. The first decade after the war witnessed the resurgence of baseball as the national sport, particularly with the return of hero-athletes, the formation and development of the National Basketball Association, and the transformation of professional football into a powerhouse organization vying with baseball as the national sport. That competition continues to this day, with the profound irony that in some quarters the Black athlete is now seen as “saving” baseball1.* In the pre-World War II years, the Black athlete was restricted from competition in all the professional sports. Only in the Olympics, because of its international nature, were Black athletes allowed to compete unrestricted.

This situation reversed the mores of the later 19th and early 20th centuries, where in football, basketball, and horse racing, for example, black and white athletes competed against each other. But as Black athletes increasingly began to dominate their sports, as was clearly the case in bicycling and horse racing, white athletes and managers decided to ban interracial competition. The contemptuous posture and defiance of superb Black heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson only fanned the flames of fear and resentment among whites. After his defeat in 1915, white champion boxers refused to fight a Black man until 1936 when Joe Louis defeated Jimmy Braddock to become boxing’s world champion.

To mask the real fear of loss to Black competitors in sports and elsewhere, the white population fabricated a number of myths about Black people, claiming Blacks suffered from low intelligence, criminal tendencies, and inferior physicality. These sick myths that served white skin privilege began to explode when Eddie Tolan and Ralph Metcalfe, distinguished themselves in the 1932 Olympics, as did Jesse Owens (most famously), and Metcalfe, among other Black athletes were to in the 1936 Berlin games, where Nazis were, like many White Americans, claiming to be of a superior race.

It was bitterly ironic, perhaps even farcical, that these Negroes should disprove abroad the very theories that confined and oppressed them at home. Yet nothing at home changed upon their return — except that no longer could the myth of Black people’s laziness and lack of ambition be promoted unimpeachably, since the historical record was clear internationally.

Consequently, when Joe Louis defeated Primo Carnera in 1935, a reporter wrote, “Something sly and sinister and, perhaps, not quite human, came out of the African jungle, last night, to strike down and utterly demolish the huge hulk that had been Primo Carnera, the giant.”.2*

In addition, the New York Sun noted that the “American Negro was “a natural athlete.”.3*

It is perhaps symptomatic of the times that a syndicated newspaper columnist, Hugh S. Johnson wrote, in 1938 , “The average of white intelligence is above the average of Black intelligence, probably because the white race, is several thousand years farther away from jungle savagery. But, for the same reason, the average of white physical equipment, is lower. .4*

Similarly, in the Atlanta Journal, commenting on Jessie Owens’ exploits at the Berlin Olympics, O.B. Keeler wrote, “Our fastest runners are colored boys, and our longest jumpers and highest leapers. And now, our champion fighting men with the fists is Joseph Louis Barrow.”.5*

It is testimony to the pervasive view of the Black athlete as somehow subhuman, that both Northern and Southern U.S. newspapers and commentators shared the view that the “new” strong Black athlete was now so because of his jungle ancestry. That view is still largely held, but perhaps better concealed amidst intonations that Black athletes are simply, naturally “athletic,” as opposed to being intelligent, critically astute practitioners of an intense work ethic which makes possible their excellence in the aesthetics of athletic play and competition.

Even as recently as September, 1995, Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four minute mile barrier, was reported to have said that Black sprinters “have certain natural anatomical advantages.”.6*

While the position of Black athletes at the college ranks is not as well studied and documented as that of professional athletes, the most cursory inspection shows that all colleges and universities, except for marginal, and perhaps, denominational schools have to some degree integrated since 1960. In all these areas, Black college athletes have excelled in tandem with their counterparts in professional sports. There are more Black quarterbacks in college football than ever before. Although there is a prejudice in the professional ranks against Black quarterbacks, many argue that the greater numbers of them in the National Football league draft will increase pressure to change the current, fearful attitude toward Black men in leadership roles. Significantly then, in this year’s championships of college basketball, the majority of the players there who reached the Sweet Sixteen and the Final Four, were overwhelmingly Black. The Most Outstanding Player in the final game between the University of Kentucky and Syracuse University, Tony Delk, is a Black player. In track and field, particularly in the coming Olympics, the overwhelming number of Black American athletes in proportion to white Olympians is radically disproportionate to the Black population in overall U.S. society.

Apart from numbers in the professional leagues, one index of the changing status of Black professional athletes is their income. In the 60s and 70s, the case could be argued that the Black athlete was financially and otherwise undervalued to a point that made arbitration and serious salary negotiations impossible. The dean of American sports writers, Sam Lacy, sports editor of the Baltimore Afro-American, noted in 1967 that “the African American player was much quicker to sign a contract than white players, and in comparison, was woefully under paid.”.14*. During the 1980s and 1990s, the situation changed dramatically. In 1991, for example, Sports Illustrated noted that Eric Dickerson of football’s Indianapolis Colts had just signed a $10.65 million dollar contract over a four year period, making him one of the highest paid players in football..15*In 1990, the twelve highest paid players in National Basketball Association were all Black. In baseball another story has unfolded in the 1980s and 90s.

In 1990, the number of Black professional baseball players continued to decline, reaching only 17% in 1992 while Black attendance also declined. But of the remaining Black players, a significant number commanded more than ordinary salaries. In 1991, Dwight Gooden signed a contract with the New York Mets for three years and $15.4 million to become baseball’s second-highest paid player. Since 1991, at least 4 Black players have exceeded Gooden’s salaries. For example, Cecil Fielder, Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, and now Ken Griffey, Jr. all earn in excess of $7 million annually in multi-year contracts. The average of Griffey’s salary earnings, spread over his 4 year current contract, is $8.5 million per year, making him the single highest paid baseball player in history..16*

Salaries alone do not tell the entire story. Increasingly, an expanding group of African American athletes receive additional income far in excess of their salaries for endorsing products from breakfast cereals to automobiles. This was not always the case. In fact, the first Black athlete of the football Chicago Bears, Walter Payton, did not appear on the Wheaties box until 1986. Now, in 1996, Michael Jordan of basketball’s Chicago Bulls and sports’ highest paid athlete is expected to earn 90% of his $40 million through endorsements. While this situation does not characterize the majority of Black athletes, it does include a significant number, and is in happy contrast to the 1960s and before, when the picture of an African American on a breakfast cereal box was simply unthinkable.

Today the United States observes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to honour the life and work of the great civil rights leader.

King is most famously remembered for his legendary “I have a dream” speech, and his leadership in the non-violent civil disobedience for civil rights for African Americans.
And rightly so. King was a transformative figure and a once-in-a-generation kind of leader. King deservingly holds the distinction of being the only individual American with a current U.S. holiday named after him.
But what’s often forgotten when most think of King — and certainly isn’t taught to my generation or portrayed in the mainstream media’s depiction of him — is that he was a champion not only of civil rights and racial equality, but also of labour rights and economic equality.

By the end of his life, King came to the belief that mere legal equality between black and white Americans was inadequate.

A Family in Trouble

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If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.

Abdul Kalam

Malachi 4:4-6

New International Version (NIV)

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Matthew 1:1-2

New International Version (NIV)The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

1 This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Luke 1:16

New International Version (NIV)
16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.

Many of America’s thirty million white-tailed deer find themselves endangered not by guns, but by the cars of our expanding suburbs. I was reminded of their plight when a mature doe dashed through traffic just ahead of me. As I watched, I wondered what had driven her to take such a chance, and why she then stopped on the other side and gazed and saw two small fawns looking helplessly at their mother across the busy street. Instead of following, they turned and walked back into the woods.

This family is not alone. We too can find ourselves in circumstances of separation and danger we did not anticipate. Reading Malachi and Matthew reminds us that we are troubled children of troubled parents who desperately need the help of our Father in heaven. Sometimes we need His help to see and avoid repeating the sins of our fathers( Nehemiah 9:2-3). Sometimes we need His help to turn back to the example and care of loving parents (Luke15:18).

Only from our heavenly Father can we find the perfect forgiveness, example, and inner grace we need. He knows we are fallen children of fallen parents, and even now He offers us the help of His Spirit and the rescue of His Son.

Each day we learn from yesterday
of God’s great love and care;
And every burden we must face
He’ll surely help us bear.

It’s never too soon to turn back to God.

Evil has Its Purpose

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Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

When tragedy strikes, when chaos reins, when calamity turns lives upside down, people ask questions. In their anger and their grief some of the most common questions are about God, even from people who otherwise ignore or even claim to disbelieve in Him.

“Why does God let bad things happen?” “If God is loving and fair, why does He allow hateful and unfair things happen to good people?” In some cases they’re even blaming God for the tragedy.

Now as a Christian it is easy to become upset with people who ask these kinds of questions and call God’s character into doubt with their insinuations and their faithlessness.

But then we have to remind ourselves that they are asking in ignorance, and it is we, as believers in Christ, who are supposed to have some sort of answer for them. Not that we always have the answers ourselves, but the fact is, if they are asking they deserve some kind of response.

With that in mind we must be careful that we give them a proper and helpful response, and in order to be in position to do that we must think things through for ourselves first.

But in the wake of the events of the past week in our own country, and with the memories of the collapsed bridge in Baghdad, the multiple suicides by out teens, and the terror being advocated by North Korea, and the tsunami in Indonesia being so fresh in all of our minds, I felt that I should address this issue to some degree at least.

I know there will be a lot of good sermons out there in these upcoming weeks about grief and tragedy and how to deal with horrible times and I know many of them will give comfort.

Here, I want to come in a slightly different door and hopefully give the reader some food for thought, and perhaps a word or two to share with inquiring minds.

When Adam sinned in the garden, and by saying Adam I mean both he and Eve, they died spiritually, they began to die physically, and if they rejected God’s promise of a Redeemer they died eternally. I personally believe there is ample evidence that they did believe in that promise, but that’s another discussion.

The point is, since all of mankind was in Adam’s loins when he sinned, therefore all of mankind inherited a sin nature (or a ‘fallen nature’) from Adam. (Romans 5:12-15)

That fallen nature in us is diametrically opposed to anything Godly, since it is the nature of the flesh and contrary to God.

This is not meant to be a sermon on basic Bible doctrine, but this point must be understood so that the reader will know what I mean when I say that our natural thinking is backwards in relation to God and everything about Him.

It is only when we are given spiritual life by the Holy Spirit and He begins to lead us into truth that we begin to think rightly at all about spiritual truth; it is only then that we begin to any degree to think like God.

Therefore, when people, sometimes even Christians, ask questions like what purpose does evil serve? The first thing we need to realize is that the question itself is backwards.

Instead of rambling all over the intellectual countryside trying to formulate an acceptable response to these questions, we could save ourselves a great deal of stress and discomfort and more than a little looking foolish, if we recognize that the whole ‘who’s to blame’ approach is backwards, as it comes from the fallen nature which is fundamentally ignorant of the truth of God.

I believe the only proper response to faithless questions, whether they be from someone else or floating around in our own mind, is to go to the Bible, see what the Bible says about God, and evaluate the circumstances in light of what the Bible says He is like, rather than evaluating God in light of the visible and temporal circumstances.

The next thing we must do then, is to determine what our own response and reaction is going to be to the circumstances in light of what we have learned about God.

So I want to take a brief look at two people in the Bible and their reactions to adversity, and the outcome of their reactions. Then I want us to go to just a couple of places that talk about the nature of God and what our response should be to that information, and then I’ll be done.

Here is Daniel 1:1-8
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, 4 youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. 6 Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego. 8 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.

Judea, the southern Kingdom, had finally filled up her cup of iniquity with her idolatry and ungodly living, so God gave her into the hands of her enemy for a time of discipline and cleansing. Even then He promised His nation would once more be restored.

In the meantime however, here was Daniel, a young man at the time, forcibly taken into captivity and removed from his homeland. In all of it though, Daniel was faithful to his God, and obedient and prayerful.
Why? Because Daniel was prepared for adversity by his faithfulness and obedience to God in times of relative peace and comfort.

Daniel was blessed and protected by God and to make a long story short, the Bible does not record one fault of Daniel. It does not record one instance in which Daniel wavered in his faith and God used him greatly.
Next let’s go to Genesis 19:1, 2
1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 And he said, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” They said however, “No, but we shall spend the night in the square.”

Peter, in his second letter, called Lot ‘righteous’. In a seeming contrast we see Lot here, sitting in the gates of Sodom. Now that means he was doing business with the inhabitants of the city, perhaps exchanging philosophies with them, maybe politicking a little. The city gate was where these things took place.
So Lot might have been righteous in that he was religious and did all the right religious stuff, but he was living in tandem with an evil society and being affected by its evil thinking and its evil world view.

Verse 29 of Genesis 19 tells us that it was because God remembered Abraham’s request that He saved Lot and his family out of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But what we see of Lot is that he had become so embedded in the lifestyle of Sodom that the angels preferred to sleep in the city square than to come into his house.
In addition, His thinking was so tainted that when the men of the city came banging at the door wanting to have sexual relations with Lot’s visitors, he thought that giving them his two virgin daughters would be the solution to the problem.

As if that is not bad enough, when he escapes to the mountains with his daughters he gets drunk and commits incest with them, generating the Moabites and the Ammonites.
Why? Because Lot wasn’t prepared to face adversity and handle it properly and in a Godly way, because instead of staying near to God and pursuing holiness he pitched his tents toward Sodom, (first step) and eventually found himself in the city gates (second step) and even living amongst them in the city (third step).

What about God destroying the cities with fire? Well, He was willing, at Abraham’s request, to spare them all if He could only find 5 righteous men there. That I think is where our focus should be.

Instead of blaming God for the evil that men do, and then blaming Him when He acts against evil, we need to take note that He is patient and loving and not willing that any should perish.
Read Matthew 5:43-48 and remember this is Jesus speaking:
Matthew 5:43-48 (NASB95)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Two things to note from this portion. One, God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He shows no favoritism; He is fair and just in all He does.
Second, and backing up a step in the passage, note that Jesus said, “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven” The point being, that is what God is like. Loving, interceding, even for His enemies. We are to be like Him in that respect.

One final passage:
1 John 4:15-19
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us.

God is love, says John, and then he says that as God is so are we in this world. Read this passage several times. Let it sink in.
Then, having the truth about God freshly in mind, go back and look at the circumstances of Katrina, or the Baghdad bridge, or the Indonesian tsunami, or 9/11 or the Columbine shooting and all the other ‘Columbines’, or just the adverse circumstances of your own life, and assess them in the light of what the Bible says about who God is.
If you can do this honestly, if the people you talk to who have these questions can do this honestly, perhaps you can begin to see the times of trouble with a different perspective, knowing that everything about God’s plan for the ages has as its result the end of evil, and the conforming of men to the image of His Son Jesus if only they will come to His cross for forgiveness and to His empty tomb for life eternal.

Instead of trying to second-guess God and instead of trying to answer questions that come from a faithless heart, we should all be more concerned with whether we are close enough to Him, and desiring holiness and justice and righteousness so that when adversity comes we will respond with Godliness and Christ-likeness instead of faithlessness and failure.

The Winds of Fate

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the self-same winds that blow;
’Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
That tells them the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the winds of fate
As we voyage along through life;
’Tis the set of the soul
That decides its goal
And not the calm or the strife.

— Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The Truth about Being Black in America

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Effects of Slavery

African Americans or Black decedents of Slaves are one of two groups of unique minorities in the United States of America–the other being the American Aborigine or Native American.

The peculiarity of African Americans has nothing to do with the origin of this minority constituting about 13 to 15 percent of the US population–even though the origins of this group in general is myopic–or the physical characteristics that identify Blacks.

What distinguishes the Blacks of America from other groups who immigrated to the United States of America? Blacks did not enter the US by choice. Every other group of America can reverence the memory of pioneer ancestors who traveled bravely across the ocean or the plains willing to forge a new life and build something unique–putting aside old culture and adapting to new. Other heritages that made the US great gave up their language to become Americans.

Irish immigrants spread across Pennsylvania and Italians dominated New York creating new American versions of the old country. What of the African?

The fact that African Americans are called African at all is an indication of the limited explanation of this group’s history. The nationalities of Black American ancestors are a mystery for the great majority of the group. Slavery stripped this group of the choice to decide to merge with American culture. Slaves were cattle to the slavers, and treated as such.

There would be no Walimi Americans or Bangelima Americans, just African because the tribes and nations were intermixed preventing camaraderie through language. There would be no melting pot of exotic names because the tribes people were renamed and branded as nonhuman and soulless.

There would be no unique motherland identity. There would be no mingling of heritages other than the rape of tribes-women and breeding of tribes-people to make them bigger and stronger.

What is Black Heritage in America? Slavery. No identity other than a vast continent and no heritage other than what the slavers provided their ancestors and what little enslaved forebears etched out of the residue of similarities they could put together following the emancipation up until the Civil Rights Movement.

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Second Class Heritage

Following slavery, there existed about 20 years of prosperity for the newly free people of color before the new form of slavery became social law–racism. The social idea that any person of mixed slave ancestry constituted a Colored person created a singular class of people regardless of differing ethnic identity, Black–no matter the color of skin.

This concept survived from slavery where it was used to prevent mixed race people from claiming freedom based on European heritage or gaining a foothold after slavery as a more preferred class–though that occurred anyway.

After many generations of slavery and second-class citizenship, the sociological impact on this group created a people with no past to glorify as other Americans and little reason to love a country that did not guarantee constitutional rights. Generation X may be the first group of Blacks that actually experienced a more level social experience since slavery.

The psychosocial impact on African American cultural developed into what I call Collective Social Regard or CSR. No matter where a Black person originates in the country and above all political and social ties race is the definition of this group. CSR is based in the humanistic approach of Carl Rogers, specifically unconditional positive regard in reference to the client-center approach to therapy. Black Americans in general may not accept the action of those claiming Black heritage; however, this group tends to regard others within the group, owning the fellow members racial sameness without accepting necessarily the individuality. This provides a default group of identity for all Black Americans.

CSR is the perspective of African American social interaction derived from a shared ethnic experience based on heritage and race. Black people accept other Black people regarding them as brothers or sisters–due to the cattle like breeding during slavery–no matter the percentage of tribal ancestry. All an individual needs is to claim African heritage to be included as Black.

During slavery the slaver could trade away slave offspring at-will creating the need among these mixed tribes-people to form non-genetic connections of familial relationships that continue in Black tradition presently where many Blacks consider relatives removed by many degrees of separation or family friends close kin. .

Generally Blacks have not integrated into the main stream culture because most stand out due to physical differences and subjective distrust of Whites due to past dealings as a group–viewing attacks on any Black person irrespective of circumstance as evidence that there exists some institutionalized conspiracy that targets minorities secretly while publicly assuring equal protection and felicity under the law.

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Implications

As a community of Blacks without a specific African cultural heritage beyond slavery and having to depend on MOSTLY each other socially for many years until recently, it must purge the idea of Black against White.

It must not disregard the shared heritage as the descendants of slaves and second class citizens with attempts to convert to the majority culture and pretend color does not matter.

White America is a choice purposely forged with the benefit of continuity of culture from homelands. Blacks have no choice but to accept the ambiguity of connections to Africa and the reality of livestock-like breeding in America.

The breeding of American slaves allows for the exploration of promiscuity among present-day Blacks and a possible connection between high percentages of single mothers with large families due to father absenteeism The suggestion that there may be a link is only that, a suggestion based on little evidence and no facts–more a philosophical reasoning than a sociologically assumption.

Many descendants of American slaves are attributed stereotypical physical characteristics of tall, large muscular men and thick wide-hipped women. At one point in history, the description could describe the humans slavers used to breed the other slaves. There may be some connection to the assumption that Blacks excel at sports at a higher rate than not.

This would also justify the stereotype that American slaves’ descendants are inherently intellectually inferior–a premise that most would not accept in modern psychology. No scientific justification for such a view is forthcoming, but culturally the idea was considered and is slowly diminishing along with the physical stereotypes.

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Racial Disparity: Why can’t Blacks Just Get Over it?

Because of the cultural effects of slavery and persecution for many generations in any given situation, a Black individual must cycle through introspection that few other groups tend to consider.

For instance, a White man may experience a bad day at work and speak rudely to a Black store clerk who may think, “Did that person behave curtly because I am Black?” Because of the implication of his or her culture handed down from generations of oppressed Black people, those thoughts flash through the minds of many Blacks and are filed away by rationalization.

The same applies to women–especially minority women who must add to the mental reflection the question of their gender.

This introspection is applicable to anyone that does not identify with the majority culture completely including homosexuals, obscure religious groups, etc, but mostly for Blacks because Black culture is uniquely tied to America since that group is alone being forced to the states and forced to give up culture.

This all translates that as a group, Blacks think that the prisons are full of Black men and women because Blacks have no choice but to fight through the American system even if they have a more level playing field in today’s society.

it means, Obama is the president because “THEY”(WHITE PEOPLE) want Blacks to stop using the excuse that Blacks cannot get ahead in society because of racism–the hidden kind, conspiracy.

Blacks who think differently may deny heritage, or are denying heritage unawares–hurting themselves by disassociating with the social aspects of most African American culture. Whites do not need a race to identify with, but Blacks seem to need race collectively and not individually–to account for those of whose cultural experience has allowed them to adjust to mainstream American society, which is growing number.

Not enough time has passed since the Civil Rights Movement. Possibly, in three to five generations Blacks will think about race as do most Caucasians –meaning race does not define their heritage. Yet, it is also intriguing that a entire ethnic group of Americans exist whose only identity stems from American origins, a uniquely American creation.

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Moving Beyond The Past

It is not the purpose of this article to persuade Americans of African heritage to forget the struggles of the American slave. Contrarily, Black Americans must remember and embrace the shared American heritage of struggle. All Americans have struggled to some degree for the right to be in America. The United States of America is culturally diverse with groups that successfully etched a place in the American landscape. Whether the struggle began with a fight for equality or a fight for independence, all Americans share the same single trait to persevere until the work has completed and the situation controlled.

American descendants of the African slave are distinguished as captives and slaves in the nation, but share the glory of overcoming with other groups. Granted, the descendants of slaves may have a greater deal to overcome because of the oppressive past; however, such a past does not constitute a handicap. The determination of the change-makers of the past has diffused in the genetic core of all Americans. As diverse as America is, it is the common heritage that makes it great, and not the diversity alone.

Unforgiveness in American Society

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The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Mahatma Gandhi


Today I am perplexed beyond measure about the unforgiveness of America’s society. A felon has paid his dues and expects to return to society with full pledge opportunity to reintegrate into the community. My wife and I have found this to be not so true as countless others are experiencing in our culture. We have been given grace to not harbor ill feelings to these unjust practices, we have strength to forgive those who are not forgiven knowing our fate is in “The Almighty God.”

World hunger and save the whales and all other advocacy for inhumane treatment are taking on real momentum while the plight of the “felon” is not related to being just as valuable. To not be allowed to get employment is a slow death designed to keep the individual oppressed.

People who commit a crime and are brought before a court to be sentenced expect to face a prison term or at least probation, and perhaps a fine. If this is their first brush with the justice system, they have a general sense that they will experience a degree of social opprobrium, the so-called stigma of conviction. But it is an article of faith for most Americans that people who violate the law will in time pay their debt to society and be welcomed back to its good graces.

President George W. Bush called us the “land of second chance,” and President Barack Obama famously congratulated the Philadelphia Eagles for letting Michael Vick walk from prison back into the team’s starting line-up. But the reality for people of ordinary abilities is very different. The following story (drawn from an article in the spring 2011 Howard Law Journal) illustrates the new normal in American punishment, in which the so-called collateral consequences of conviction are numerous, severe, and very hard to avoid or mitigate.
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/an-UDsAbuutuhbbnY/despicable_me_2010_background_ch

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A Second-Chance Story
At the time Darrell Langdon came to public attention in the summer of 2010, he had just been turned down for a job as a boiler-room engineer with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) under a state law barring anyone with a drug conviction from working in the public school system. Langdon’s conviction for drug possession was minor and dated, and he had gotten a court order relieving the legal impediment. Still, CPS refused to give him a chance. It was Langdon’s good fortune that a reporter from the Chicago Tribune took an interest in his story: “Darrell Langdon made a mistake more than two decades ago. A Cook County judge believes Langdon deserves a second chance. Until Monday, Chicago Public Schools officials didn’t—but, in response to my questions, they’re taking a second look.” Dawn Turner Trice, CPS: Good Conduct Certificate Not Good Enough, Chi. Trib., July 29, 2010, at 10.

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What made Darrell Langdon’s case unusual was that he had worked successfully for CPS years before. In fact, he had been employed by CPS in 1985 when he was caught with a half gram of cocaine and sentenced to six months’ probation. He had kept his job then but struggled with his addiction. Finally, in 1988, CPS sent him to its employee assistance program for drug treatment. It was a turning point. Langdon later reported, “I did so well that I was eventually called on to tell my story and help others with their addictions.”

Langdon’s recovery was remarkable, and he became a responsible family man and well-respected member of his community. In 1995, he left CPS to work in real estate, but thirteen years later the market downturn led him to reapply for his old job with the school system. By that time he had been sober for two decades, raised two sons as a single parent, and mentored many others through Alcoholics Anonymous. CPS interviewed him three times over a sixteen-month period, gave him various tests to determine his engineering aptitude and skills, and finally offered him the job. Then came the background check. There would be no possibility of hiring him with his record.

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Determined to get his old job back, Langdon sought help from Cabrini Green Legal Aid, where he found an advocate who was familiar with various relief provisions in Illinois law. Beth Johnson advised him against trying for a governor’s pardon because it would take too long to get his request considered. While he was eligible to have his record sealed, that would not benefit him in applying for school employment. But the Illinois courts had recently been authorized to issue a Certificate of Good Conduct that lifted statutory barriers to employment, including those applicable to employment at CPS, for someone determined by a court to be “a law-abiding citizen and . . . fully rehabilitated.” With only one conviction so long ago and a strong record of rehabilitation, Langdon was an excellent candidate for this relief.

Johnson filed a petition in Cook County Circuit Court, attaching letters attesting to Langdon’s two decades of sobriety and dedicated service to others in recovery, his steadfast commitment as a parent despite many difficulties, the respect and affection of his neighbors and business associates, and even his talents as a cook. At a hearing before Judge Paul Biebel, Langdon spoke movingly about his journey to sobriety in the 1980s, and how he had maintained his sobriety over the years. Judge Biebel, satisfied that he met the statutory standard, issued him the certificate.

This should have been the end of Langdon’s story because CPS was no longer legally barred from hiring him. But he ran into that bureaucratic aversion to risk that people with a criminal record frequently encounter. A CPS official explained to the Chicago Tribune: “We have to ensure we’re hiring people who won’t put our children in jeopardy.” A policy of blanket rejection was safe and easy to administer. But the media attention provided the necessary encouragement for CPS to consider Langdon’s application more seriously, and eventually he was offered his old job back under a new hiring policy developed with his case in mind.

In many ways, Darrell Langdon’s story is fairly typical in terms of the difficulties faced by people with a criminal record seeking employment: Even where there are no disqualifying legal barriers, and even with convincing evidence of ability and good character, they may be excluded without rational explanation. In other ways, Langdon’s story is happily atypical: He had a skilled advocate for his cause, a legal system that was well-suited to his particular need, and a sympathetic and determined reporter to tell his story and to shame a risk-averse employer into doing the right thing. Most people are not so lucky.

Langdon’s fight to regain his old job with CPS shows how hard it is these days to overcome a criminal record, even one that is dated and minor. And if the law poses no obstacle to advancement, there remains the fear and loathing that a criminal record inspires. But Langdon’s story also shows that the system is capable of change. The following discussion puts the story into a larger context.
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50139876n
Modern Civil Death
From colonial times, the American legal system has recognized the reduced status of a convicted criminal, derived from the ancient Greek concept of “infamia,” or “outlawry,” among the Germanic tribes. The idea that criminals should be separated from the rest of society led to “civil death” in the Middle Ages, and to exile by transportation in the Enlightenment. A half century ago, Chief Justice Earl Warren observed that “[c]onviction of a felony imposes a status upon a person which not only makes him vulnerable to future sanctions through new civil disability statutes, but which also seriously affects his reputation and economic opportunities.” It is this semi-outlaw status more than any prison term or fine that is frequently a criminal defendant’s most serious punishment.

In 1960, the phenomenon that Nora Demleitner has described as “internal exile” had a limited impact on American society because conviction was comparatively rare, criminal records were hard to access, and official forgiveness was relatively easy to obtain. Chief executives still treated pardoning as an integral part of their job, and the Model Penal Code reflected the new fascination with judicial restoration of rights through vacatur or expungement. The reformers of the era thought permanent branding inhumane and inefficient.

In 1967, the President’s Crime Commission called for the wholesale reform of “the system of disabilities and disqualifications that has grown up” because it interfered with rehabilitative efforts. Other reform groups, including the American Bar Association (ABA), called for the abolition of mandatory status-generated sanctions, favoring “an informed and restrained exercise of discretion.” As late as 1981, the ABA confidently predicted that “collateral consequences” were on their way to extinction: “As the number of disabilities diminishes and their imposition becomes more rationally based and restricted in coverage, the need for expungement and nullification statutes decreases.” We will see just how wrong that prediction was.

The modern era of escalating prison populations that began in the mid-1980s saw a retreat from the forgiving spirit of the earlier period. In the past two decades, the status imposed by conviction has become increasingly public, the sanctions generated by it have become ever more severe and hard to mitigate, and the number of people trapped in that status—usually for life—has ballooned. Promulgated indiscriminately over three decades in the War on Crime, and administered rigidly in the risk-averse post-9/11 environment, collateral sanctions now mandate exclusion of people with a criminal record from a wide range of benefits and opportunities.

A minor drug conviction like Darrell Langdon’s, for instance, can make a person ineligible for welfare benefits, public housing, a driver’s license, student loans, insurance, voting, government employment, and hundreds of different types of jobs requiring a license. It can also lead to mandatory deportation for a noncitizen. Sex offenders may be effectively barred from living in urban areas because they cannot reside near schools, playgrounds, or even bus stops where children congregate. Repeat offenses can result in designation as a “career criminal” and harsh recidivist or three-strikes sentences. In August 2010, as part of a federally funded study, the ABA Criminal Justice Section identified 38,000 laws and regulations imposing collateral penalties.

Beyond legal obstacles, there is social stigma. A recent study of online job ads posted on Craigslist in five major cities noted widespread use of blanket policies excluding from consideration anyone with any type of conviction in entry-level jobs such as warehouse workers, delivery drivers, and sales clerks. People of means are not exempt from this chill, as government procurement officials and private insurance companies steer clear of businesses that employ people with a record. Law firms and human resource consultants counsel their clients (“just to be safe”) against hiring anyone whose background includes any brush with the law.

As collateral penalties have proliferated in legal codes and administrative rules, the mechanisms for overcoming them (such as executive pardon) have atrophied. Background checks are routine even for volunteer jobs in the community, and criminal records are available online for as little as $15. (It is now surprisingly easy to delve anonymously into someone’s past: A Google name search may bring up an unsolicited offer from a private screening company to do a criminal background check on a neighbor, coworker, or teacher for a nominal fee.)

And, of course, more and more people are caught up in the dragnet of the criminal justice system. Most don’t go to prison, but all face a modern civil death, in law and in fact. That people of color are disproportionately branded and ostracized is particular cause for alarm. That was the new reality facing Darrell Langdon when he tried to get his old job back.

Today there are more than 90 million Americans with a criminal record who cannot hope to pay their debt to society. If we still like to imagine our country as the “land of second chance,” and rejoice at Michael Vick’s redemption, as a practical matter, our laws and attitudes point in the opposite direction.

Countervailing Trends and Influences
There are the beginnings of resistance to a regime of exclusionary laws and policies, as policymakers understand that degraded status and lost opportunities exact a high price in public safety and taxpayer burden, quite apart from considerations of fair play for the individuals affected. When people returning from prison are barred from jobs and housing, they are more likely to slip back into a life of crime. It is the goal of reentry programs to see that this doesn’t happen. When people like Darrell Langdon continue to experience discrimination decades after their rehabilitation is secure, they may reasonably ask what the point was in trying.

The Supreme Court has been an unexpected change agent, giving lawyers and judges new reason to concern themselves with how collateral sanctions are imposed and how they may be avoided. In its groundbreaking decision in Padilla v. Kentucky (130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010)), the Court held that a criminal defense lawyer was constitutionally required to advise his noncitizen client considering a guilty plea that he was almost certain to be deported as a result. Characterized by the concurring justices as a “major upheaval in Sixth Amendment law,” Padilla’s rationale is hard to confine to deportation consequences alone but potentially extends to other status-generated penalties that are sufficiently important to a criminal defendant to influence his willingness to plead guilty.

Because of Padilla, competent defense lawyers will now advise their clients about collateral penalties and incorporate them into negotiations over the disposition of criminal charges. Judicious prosecutors will take steps to protect against post-conviction challenges based on consequences no one was aware of and may be more open to alternative dispositions that do not result in a conviction record. And courts will no longer declare collateral consequences to be “none of our business” just because they do not control their imposition.

The Padilla decision suggests that forgiveness has a constitutional dimension as well. In finding a constitutional obligation to warn, the Court emphasized that deportation is a “virtually inevitable” consequence of a guilty plea because Congress has eliminated judicial and administrative mechanisms for discretionary relief. Lower courts have held that the availability of relief from collateral sanctions in post-conviction proceedings is relevant in constitutional challenges to the imposition of these sanctions in the first instance, under the ex post facto and due process clauses.

Reinventing Pardon
In The Federalist No. 74, Alexander Hamilton argued that “humanity and good policy conspire to dictate that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed.” He spoke of the “necessary severity” of the criminal code that required “an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt.” As Hamilton expected, pardon functioned as a fully operational part of the justice system from the earliest days of the Republic. Pardon was useful not only to cut short mandatory prison sentences, but also to remove legal disabilities and signify an individual’s good character. Until quite recently, the routine availability of pardon after service of sentence meant that a convicted person could look forward to a full and early reintegration into free society—with the same benefits and opportunities available to any other member of the general public—free of unwarranted collateral penalties and the stigma of conviction. Expungement and set-aside statutes, enacted as a substitute for pardon, relieved minor offenders of the need to report their convictions.

In the past thirty years, the old routes to official forgiveness have become impassable. Pardon has come to be regarded as a bothersome and politically dangerous anachronism. Relief premised on concealment has become increasingly unreliable and unpopular in the face of technological advances and a public appetite for full disclosure. Systemic efforts to avoid threshold rejection, like “ban-the-box” legislation or limits on pre-employment inquiries, have driven discretion underground.

Yet, as we have seen, the idea of official forgiveness finds new policy support in efforts to reduce recidivism through reentry programming and new legal support in the reasoning of the Padilla decision. If the pardon power cannot be reinvigorated, as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy urged at the 2003 ABA Annual Meeting, perhaps it can be reinvented.

It happened that just two days after Justice Kennedy delivered his now-iconic speech, the ABA House adopted a set of standards that proposed a new template for limiting and rationalizing the collateral consequences of conviction. Among other things, the Criminal Justice Standards on Collateral Sanctions and Discretionary Disqualification proposed that forgiveness should be an important responsibility of the court that imposes punishment. Borrowing the framework proposed some forty years earlier in § 306.6 of the Model Penal Code, the ABA Standards provided that “timely and effective” relief from mandatory collateral sanctions should be available as early as sentencing itself, to alleviate impediments to successful rehabilitation.

Conclusion
Collateral sanctions have been recognized as an impediment to successful reentry and reintegration of persons with a conviction record, but very few jurisdictions have developed an effective way of avoiding or mitigating them. Many years after conviction, these legal barriers frequently serve only as irrational punishment, not reasonable regulation. Even if a convicted person is not legally barred from eligibility for some benefit or opportunity, decision makers are frequently reluctant to take a chance on someone with a criminal record, even with evidence that conviction is a poor predictor of future criminality after an extended period of law-abiding conduct.

The law provides little by way of encouragement or support for those otherwise willing to recognize redemption. This is as systemically short-sighted as it is unfair to the individuals involved. That is why, so many years later, Hamilton’s observation about the conspiracy of humanity and good policy still rings true. Unless we as a society are comfortable living with a growing class of “internal exiles” who have no way to pay their debt to society and return to its good graces, with its attendant public safety risks and moral dilemmas, we should be looking for a more effective way of giving convicted individuals a fair chance to become fully productive members of society. As lawyers, it is our job to make the law forgiving.

O’ Where-O’ Where has my America Gone-O’ Where can It Be?

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We have two American flags always: one for the rich and one for the poor. When the rich fly it means that things are under control; when the poor fly it means danger, revolution, anarchy.

Henry Miller

What in the world is happening to America? The things that you are about to see in the videos posted in this article are so disturbing and so violent that it is hard to believe that it is actually Americans that are doing this to one another. Once upon a time, Americans generally conducted themselves with humility, grace, civility, honor and with a tremendous amount of respect for others. Sadly, those days are now long gone. Now, large numbers of people in this country are just going wild. Unfortunately, the videos you are about to watch are not isolated incidents. Stuff like this is going on all over the country. So what is going to happen when the economy collapses and shortages begin? What kind of violence and rioting should we expect to see at that point? Just recall what we witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Sadly, if the videos below are any indication, the thin facade of civilization that we all take for granted every day could completely disintegrate in the event of a major economic catastrophe.

Today, society actually teaches our young people to be disrespectful and rude. Arrogance and violent behavior are glorified in our movies, on television and in our music. Our culture is literally degenerating right in front of our eyes. The whole country seems to become more selfish, more self-centered and more greedy every single day. In such an environment, is it any wonder that our young people are exhibiting such extreme behaviors?

The violence that you are about to see is very disturbing because it is real. If you spend most of your time isolated in your own little world, these scenes of brawling and violence will probably come as a great shock to you. But this is what is really happening in the United States of America today.

If people are willing to go so wild while times are still relatively good, what in the world is going to happen if a major disaster strikes or the economy collapses and they have been without food for two or three days?

This is something that we all really need to consider. In the United States today, there are millions of people with no jobs, no hope and no future. The mainstream media keeps promising that an “economic recovery” is right around the corner and most Americans are desperately hoping that 2013 will be better, but you can almost feel the frustration of the American people rising.

We live in a country today that is very frustrated and very angry. Some of that anger and frustration is rational, but a whole lot of it is irrational. Most Americans have been brought up to believe that they are entitled to “a good life”, and when that doesn’t happen they start behaving like spoiled little brats.

If some major emergency comes along that pushes the U.S. economy over the edge, it could cause massive societal upheaval. There wouldn’t be close to enough law enforcement personnel in the entire country to be able to handle the rioting and looting that we could potentially see.

Back during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the American people were able to pull through because our citizens still possessed a great deal of character. But today many Americans are incredibly spoiled. Many Americans believe that they are entitled to everything and that life is all about them. They are in love with themselves, they are in love with money and wealth, they are arrogant and boastful, they don’t respect their parents, they are addicted to entertainment, they have very little self-control and they have very little love for others.

Fortunately, there are also many Americans that still have good hearts, that are willing to fight for the truth and that are willing to live for something greater than themselves.

This is one of the most extraordinary times in all of human history to be alive, and as I noted in a previous article, it is those that are willing to live life unselfishly that will be pleased with the legacy that they have left behind….

When I was young, someone told me the following: “Life is like a coin – you can spend it any way that you want, but you can only spend it once.” So how are you spending your life? Are you just “killing time” and watching world events go by or are you actively trying to make a difference? When your life is over, will you be proud of the legacy that you have left, or will you be ashamed of what you have done with the time that you were given? None of us can go back now and change what we have done in the past, but the future stands unwritten before us. The remaining chapters of your life can be a beautiful thing – but only if you are courageous enough to seize the day.

We are going to need leaders that are going to be able to keep it together when times get tough in the years ahead. When most people realize that the “good times” are gone forever, they are absolutely going to lose it. Many people are going to totally freak out.

But if you are willing to embrace the challenges ahead instead of letting them swamp you with anger and desperation, then the coming years could become a great time of victory and adventure for you.

So what do you think about the crazy videos that you just viewed above? Do you think that Americans are emotionally prepared for an economic collapse? Why do you think people are suddenly acting so crazy?

In the America that most of us grew up in, most Americans considered themselves to be part of the “upper middle class”, the “middle class” or “the lower middle class”. Yes, there have always been poor people and homeless people, but they were thought to be a very small sliver of the population. Well, today all of that is dramatically changing. America’s emerging “poverty class” is exploding in size at the same time that America’s middle class is rapidly disappearing. You won’t hear it on the mainstream news, but the truth is that the United States has lost ten percent of its middle class jobs over the past decade. Only the top 5 percent of income earners in the U.S. has had their incomes increase enough to keep up with the rising cost of living over the past 40 years. The truth is that today there are a whole lot of people aggressively jostling for the small number of good jobs that are actually available and each year millions more Americans are being squeezed out of the middle class. The number of Americans that are financially dependent on the U.S. government continues to set new records month after month. The number of Americans that are participating in the labor force continues to go down. The sad reality is that the “American Dream” that so many Americans used to take for granted is being ripped away from us. If you still believe that the United States is guaranteed to always have a very large, very prosperous middle class then you really need to read the statistics listed below.

If you told most Americans ten years ago that in 2013 over 43 million Americans would be on food stamps hardly anyone would have believed you.

But yet here we are.

The U.S. economy simply is not producing enough good jobs anymore. Most of those that are able to acquire one of these jobs have been able to cling to middle class status, but for millions upon millions of others economic desperation has become “the new normal”.

In fact, more Americans than ever seem to have just given up. The number of working age Americans that are not even looking for work anymore is at a record high. The number of Americans that endlessly receive government “anti-poverty” benefits continues to go up and up.

Once upon a time America was a nation packed with hopelessly optimistic “go-getters” that were brimming with entrepreneurial spirit. But now we have tens of millions of docile sheep that seemingly have no hope, no future and that apparently have no problem with permanently being dependent on the government.

But of course it must be noted that thanks to “globalism” and thanks to the greed of the gigantic predator corporations that now dominate our economy that it has become extremely difficult to “make it” in today’s economy.

It really is incredible to see what has happened to America. Once upon a time we were the greatest economic machine in the history of the world, but now we are literally being dismantled piece by piece. The poverty that we are witnessing today is only going to become even worse as the U.S. economy continues to decline.

The following are 27 signs that America’s poverty class is rapidly becoming larger than America’s middle class….

#1 Only 47 percent of working-age Americans have a full-time job at this point.

#2 One out of every six elderly Americans now lives below the federal poverty line.

#3 In America today, 8.9 million people are working part-time jobs for “economic reasons”.

#4 During the last school year, almost half of all school children in the state of Illinois came from families that were considered to be “low-income”.

#5 In 2010, more Americans than ever before were living below the official federal poverty line.

#6 The number of net jobs gained by the U.S. economy during this past decade was smaller than during any other decade since World War 2.

#7 The Bureau of Labor Statistics originally predicted that the U.S. economy would create approximately 22 million jobs during the decade of the 2000s, but it turns out that the U.S. economy only produced about 7 million jobs during that time period.

#8 108.6 million Americans are either unemployed, underemployed or considered to be “not in the labor force”.

#9 The United States now has 10 percent fewer “middle class jobs” than it did just ten years ago.

#10 The number of Americans that have become so discouraged that they have given up searching for work completely now stands at an all-time high.

#11 Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.

#12 According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, visits to soup kitchens are up 24 percent over the past year.

#13 Approximately 5 million U.S. homeowners are now at least two months behind on their mortgage payments.

#14 The number of Americans filing for bankruptcy rose another 9 percent in 2010.

#15 In 2009, total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined in the United States.

#16 According to a survey released very close to the end of 2010, 55 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.

#17 Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

#18 The number of Americans on food stamps set a new all-time record every single month during 2010, and now well over 43 million Americans are enrolled in the program.

#19 Even in our nation’s capital stunningly large numbers of Americans are suffering in desperate poverty. Today, 21.5 percent of the population of Washington D.C. is on food stamps.

#20 It now takes the average unemployed American over 33 weeks to find a job.

#21 The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

#22 The number of American families that were booted out of their homes and into the streets set a new all-time record in 2010.

#23 Some formerly great industrial cities are rapidly turning into ghost towns. For example, in Dayton, Ohio today 18.9 percent of all houses are now standing empty.

#24 Ten years ago, the “employment rate” in the United States was about 64%. Since then it has been constantly declining and now the “employment rate” in the United States is only about 58%. So where did all of those jobs go?

#25 A recent study by a law professor from the University of Michigan found that Americans that are 55 years of age or older now account for 20 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States. Back in 2001, they only accounted for 12 percent of all bankruptcies. It is getting really, really hard to live on a fixed income in the United States.

#26 In the United States today, there are over 6 million Americans that have been unemployed for half a year or longer.

#27 One out of every six Americans is now enrolled in at least one anti-poverty program run by the federal government.

In 2011, even more Americans are going to fall out of the middle class and into the poverty class.

The dynamics of the game have changed. Once upon a time if you got a college education and you worked really hard you were virtually guaranteed a ticket to the middle class.

Well, no matter what you may have been promised, those days are now long gone. Now those in the U.S. middle class are trapped inside a really twisted, really bizarre game of musical chairs. If you still have your seat you should be very thankful, because chairs are being pulled out of the game constantly as the middle class rapidly shrinks.

Sadly, the economic decline of America is only going to accelerate as government debt continues to mount and as our jobs and our industries are shipped overseas as part of the new “global economy”.

Our politicians are doing nothing to stop all of the long-term trends that are ripping the middle class to shreds so the poverty class is going to continue to explode in size in the months and years to come.

So if you are still part of the middle class, enjoy it while you can, because the party is ending and they are starting to turn out the lights.