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#leanintogether

~ Are You For Sale?~

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Question: “Is it possible to sell your soul to the devil?”

Answer: In the fanciful tale of Dr. Faustus, a man makes a deal with the devil: in exchange for his body and soul, the man is to receive supernatural power and pleasures for 24 years. The devil agrees to the trade, and Dr. Faustus enjoys the pleasures of sin for a season, but his doom is sealed. At the end of 24 years, Faustus attempts to thwart the devil’s plans, but he meets a frightful demise, nonetheless. This legend works well as a morality tale and as a metaphor for the wages of sin, but the details of its plot are not biblical.

The Bible has no instance of a person “selling his soul” to Satan, and it never implies that making a bargain with the devil is possible. Here is some of what Scripture does reveal about Satan:

1) Satan has power enough to oppose even the angels (Jude 9; Daniel 10:12-13).

2) Satan seeks to deceive by masquerading as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

3) God has provided the means of defending ourselves against Satan’s attacks (Ephesians 6:11-12).

4) Satan’s power is limited by God’s will (Job 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 10:13).

5) As “the god of this world,” Satan has dominion over those who live without Christ in the world (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Surely, there are those who suffer under direct satanic control, such as the young medium of Philippi (Acts 16:16-19). And there are those who have devoted themselves to the devil’s work, such as the sorcerers Simon (Acts 8:9-11) and Elymas (Acts 13:8). However, in each of these three examples, the power of God prevails over Satan’s slavery. In fact, Simon is offered a chance to repent (Acts 8:22). Obviously, there had been no irrevocable “selling” of Simon’s soul.

Without Christ, we are all under condemnation of death (Romans 3:23). Before we are saved, we are all in bondage to the devil, as 1 John 5:19 says, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Praise the Lord, we have a new Master, One who can break the chains of any sin and set us free (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Mark 5:1-15).

~What did re-entry to society of prisoners look like in Jesus day?~

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Our mission at Second Chance Alliance

We believe that no life is beyond the reach of God’s power, and we envision a future in which countless prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families, are redeemed, restored, and reconciled through the love and truth of Jesus Christ. We equip local churches and thousands of trained volunteers to spread the Gospel and nurture disciples behind prison walls, so that men and women become new creations in Christ – not repeat offenders. We prepare Christian inmates to become leaders of their families, communities, and churches once they are released back into the community. We support inmates’ families, helping them become reconciled to God and one another through transformative relationships with local churches.

Throughout the long history of corrections, religious persons and religious institutions have greatly influenced the treatment of offenders.  For centuries, churches were among the first institutions to provide asylum for accused criminals. The actual establishment of prisons and penitentiaries was a religious idea to that allowed the offender to obtain penance for his crimes, make amends, and convert while being isolated from others.  But probably the most significant influence was the establishment of a regular chaplaincy. Correctional chaplains were among the earliest paid non-custodial staff and were the first to provide education and counseling for inmates. Currently, many correctional inmates practice their religion on an individual basis or within the structure of an organized religious program.  Religious programs are commonplace in jails and prisons and research indicates that one in three inmates participates in some religious program during their incarceration.

Historical Background

The influence and practice of religion in the correctional setting is as old as the history of prisons.  Initial entry of religion into prison was probably carried out by religious men who themselves were imprisoned.  The Bible stories of such prisoners include Joseph and Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and John the Baptist, Peter, John, and Paul in the New Testament.   Beginning in the days of Constantine, the early Christian Church granted asylum to criminals who would otherwise have been mutilated or killed.  Although this custom was restricted in most countries by the fifteenth century, releasing prisoners during Easter time, and requests by Church authorities to pardon or reduce sentences for offenders, remained for centuries with the latter still in existence in a modified form.

Imprisonment under church jurisdiction became a substitute for corporal or capital punishment.  In medieval times, the Roman Catholic Church developed penal techniques later used by secular states such as the monastic cell that served as a punishment place for criminal offenders. In 1593 the Protestants of Amsterdam built a house of correction for women, and one for men in 1603. In Rome, what are now the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, built correctional facilities for women, and in 1703 Pope Clement XI built the famous Michel Prison as a house of correction for younger offenders with separation, silence, work, and prayer emphasized. As late as the 18th century, the Vatican Prison still served as a model prison design for Europe and America.

Early settlers of North America brought with them the customs and common laws of England including the pillory, the stocks and the whipping post.  During the 18th century isolating offenders from fellow prisoners became the accepted correctional practice.  It was thought that long-term isolation, combined with in-depth discussions with clergy, would lead inmates to repent or become “penitent”—sorry for their sins.  Thus the term “penitentiary” was derived.   West Jersey and Pennsylvania Quakers were primarily responsible for many of the prison reforms. They developed the idea of substituting imprisonment for corporal punishment and combining the idea of the prison with the workhouse.  The prototype of this regime was the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia that in style reflected the Quakers’ belief in man’s ability to reform through reflection and remorse.

Even during the 19th century when daytime work was initiated by the Auburn System, solitary confinement at night was still the norm in correctional practice. The forced solitary confinement was thought to serve the same repenting purpose as the older penitentiary.  Belief in education as a tool for reducing criminal activity also assisted in the growth of religion in prison. Because of the limited budgets of correctional institutions, Chaplains were often called upon to be the sole educator in many American prisons.  The “schooling” often consisted of the chaplain standing in a dark corridor with a lantern hanging from the cell bars while extolling the virtues of repentance.

Volunteers also have a long history in corrections that can be traced back to the beginning of prisons. In the last 200 years many religious groups have entered correctional facilities to provide religious services to inmates.  One of the most famous advocates for volunteers in corrections was Maud Ballington Booth, the daughter-in-law of William Booth who founded the Salvation Army.  Today, volunteers are vital to religious programs and without them inmate participation would surely be limited. Faith representatives would be unable to minister to the large number and variety of inmates.

Many older correctional institutions are being refurbished or destroyed; replaced with facilities designed for better observation and security.  Yet the initial influence of religion on the philosophy and the design of the penitentiary will surely remain in correctional history.

MISSION STATEMENT

  • To provide ministry to those that are incarcerated.
  • To provide aftercare ministry to those released from jail or prison.
  • To provide ministry to the families of those incarcerated.

Many inmates leave prison as Christians and have a strong desire to participate in a Christian based aftercare program where they can develop relationships with other believers and continue to grow in faith. They need to know that they have a place in the body of Christ, where they are accepted, loved and nurtured.

Why should the community be concerned about the aftercare of ex-offenders?

In the United States, approximately 1,600 people will leave state and federal prisons every day. Most will start their journey back into society with “gate money” ($20 – $200), a one-way bus ticket and little else. Many will be drug abusers who received no treatment for their addictions, sex-offenders who received no counseling and illiterate high school drop-outs who took no classes, and acquired no job skills.

Only about 13 percent of prisoners will have participated in any kind of pre-release program to prepare them for life outside of prison. Nearly 25 percent will be released with no supervision. Nearly two-thirds will return to just a few metropolitan areas in their states where they will be further concentrated in struggling neighborhoods that can ill-afford accommodate them.

Almost all prisoners get out eventually. What happens when they do, however, is not a topic that has held the interest of legislators who passed mandatory sentencing laws, abolished parole boards and eliminated funding for prisoner education and training. As a result, prison sentences have grown longer, while prisons have done nothing to prepare inmates for life outside of prison. A study sponsored by the Virginia Department of Correctional Education tracked recidivism rates for inmates who had pursued an education, and found the rate was 59 percent lower than those who had not. Ironically, even as the evidence in favor of such programs mounts, willingness and capacity to fund them continues to shrink.

Ex-offenders leaving prison have cause to fear the wrath of “free-world” residents, much like Onesimus had cause to fear his former master. In a society that casts a jaundiced eye toward the “usual suspects,” men with limited job skills, who are trying to rebuild their lives with few resources can relate to Onesimus’ situation.

Paul urged Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ. Onesimus Ministries urges people to help ex-offenders get a fair shot at rebuilding their lives. Onesimus Ministries began as one man ministering to men in a city jail. It has grown to include two residency locations, a bus ministry and other outreach efforts to people with criminal convictions. With a waiting list of 6-12 months for acceptance into the training center, the need is great and growing greater. In our approach to gain leverage and exposure to the various prisons,We are studying Onesimus Ministries brand and operational procedures and submitting to being a alternative facility for those who can get transfers. Please keep our vision before God….

~I need a word from my Lord today~

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Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

Carl Jung

This day is the most difficult day of the year for me (Mother’s Day). I imagine Father’s Day will take it’s toll on my peace as well, but I fell a sleep in so much pain last night that when I finally found rest I remember some key incidents that occurred while sleeping, I began to dream. My dream started off with desiring a word from above. The need for a word from God was pressing on my mind so heavily that I quoted every scripture my inner man could remember. All of a sudden I was at the grave-site of my mom. while I was meandering about what to say and in full suspense about this portion of the dream I saw my son Demir arise above the head stone of my mom’s grave and shortly after that I saw Audrey my daughter appear and then my brother Christopher appeared and no one said a word. My whole thought before falling asleep was that I needed to hear from my God about issues that are causing me great pain, I need a word……..

“I sat down utterly baffled” (Ezra 9:3, Living Bible)

empty-church-pewsWhen Ezra learned that the leaders had defaulted to the pagan mindset of the surrounding nations, and had by their example permitted the people to believe and behave in manners that were directly opposed to God’s Word – “he sat down utterly baffled.”

As indeed he should have. For they were in the midst of a historic move of God; a great revival of epic proportions. And now, their indifference to the ways of God threatened the entire thing!

Have you ever been faced with a situation that left you utterly baffled? I have; many times over the course of my life.

In times like these I go to the only source of life and love I know to be sure and unchanging — I go to the Lord. And I seek from Him a word that will enlighten my darkness, and empower me through the difficulty of any situation. And God is faithful — He speaks, and the entrance of His words bring light and hope.

I thought it would be of benefit to you for me to tell you the steps I take when ever I need a word from God.

First, I get quiet. By shutting out all other voices, I can zero in on the one Voice that truly matters.

Then, I get alone. Often the distractions of familiar things can preoccupy my thoughts and prevent me from actually listening for the still, small voice of the Lord.

Next, I open the Bible. It is the Great Lexicon of God’s language, a complete panorama of His astounding Vocabulary. Somewhere in these worn and proven pages there awaits for my searching eye a life-impacting word from the Lord.

Then I open my heart. God speaks to our heart far more clearly than He speaks to our heads. It is not knowledge that I am seeking; it is revelation. And that can only happen when the eyes of my heart are opened.

The next thing: I look and listen as I read. I am in no hurry, and I take in all the sights as I stroll through the passage of Scripture. I pay close attention to every word, pondering both its obvious and deeper meaning; ever waiting for that flash that comes when the Lord turns on the lights.

Then, I write what I see and hear. This is important; for the Lord may indeed have much to say to me, and if I trust all to my feeble memory I will do a great dis-service to my soul.

Afterwards, I reflect upon it. I mull it over and over in my mind; and as I do so, each pass seems to unpack even more insights than I at first had gleaned.

And then I tell it to others. This is one of the great secret of the Kingdom — if you want to keep something that the Lord has given to you, give it away to others! For by doing so you not only bless them with fresh bread from heaven, but you solidify the word in the depths of your own soul as well.

Get quiet and get alone. Open your Bible, and open your heart. Look and listen as you read, and write what you see and hear. Reflect upon it, and tell it to others. That’s it. This process has served me well now for over forty years of following Jesus. I encourage you to try it for yourself, and you will find that it works for you also!

~Nobody Issues: Who are we and what is our purpose?~

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To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

e. e. cummings

The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
—James Baldwin, Afro-American novelist and essayist

It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.  We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.
—Frederick

The following is a scene from a famous movie scene, can you name the movie? “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” Comes from the classic film On the Waterfront (1954) when Terry Malloy, the character played by Marlon Brando, complains to his brother over a fight he was asked to throw so the local union boss played by Lee J. Cobb could win more money. Terry had been a promising young boxer but that night ended his dream and set the course for his whole life. Nobody wants to be a nobody. We all want to feel that our lives matter, that we are important to someone, that we can make a difference. In Jesus, God expresses ultimate love and concern for us, and God’s affirmation makes life worth living. Nobody is a nobody! One way of summarizing and emphasizing the powerful, life-changing meaning and message of Jesus is just this – Nobody is a nobody! In this well-known and powerful passage in John 3 we see and hear Jesus unpacking His own selfunderstanding of what it meant and means for Jesus to be human and live among us and for us. Jesus tells us very, very clearly that His purpose, was not – repeat – was not, to scare us into compliance with the divine will. Instead, Jesus describes His coming in which all are offered the joy, the wonder, the hope within which God wants all Creation to dwell. Jesus came to say and show that God does not want us to continue to hurt each other and the rest of creation, and that when we turn from our own ways, abundant life will overflow for us. God’s goal in the coming of Jesus was not to denounce and condemn the world, not to repeat the Flood, something God promised never to repeat. God’s goal is all about God loving, and saving the world. Amidst all our imperfections and sin, even among the best of us, Jesus still speaks of God as loving the world, not hating or destroying. God came in the flesh to save us not by taking us out of our flesh, but by teaching us to live in our flesh. God came in the flesh not to make us other than human, but to teach us how to be human – bearing in our living the image of God, the image in which we are made.

The God we meet in Jesus Christ is not the disinterested, dispassionate god of Greek speculation. The God we meet in Jesus is a lover, the divine lover. This God, this Jesus-God is a passionate, committed, faithful, devoted, tireless, reckless, shameless, wanton lover, who loves and accepts even the unlovely. God’s love is freely offered and as it is freely accepted, by people like you and I, this love, this God, given and received love, starts to change us, bringing about in us, God’s new birth. Being born again, being born from above, is not something we do for ourselves. Instead, being born anew, born from above, being born again, is all about what God brings about in us as we receive God’s love, we are changed by God’s Love and forgiveness. This rebirth is not only relevant to the afterlife, it is all about changing us and bringing us hope and describing how we are to live in this life.

In some comments on this meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus, preacher and author, Will Willimon, wrote: “There are some churches, I hope not ours, that seem to be able to be with Jesus only in the light, never in the night. I tell you, sometimes, there is nothing worse than that bright, “happy church.” Do you know what I’m talking about? Some churches are just so happy, so full of praise and celebration, that they make you feel guilty if you happen to come in with a bit of shadow in your soul. To be someone who is going through a time of darkness or pain and to enter a “happy church” – with grinning clergy, and smiling ushers, and everything so positive, so upbeat, glorious, and grand – can be terribly depressing!” Yes, I think I understand what he is describing… Sure, we never want church to be boring, there is no merit in lack of beauty, joy, or interest, but neither is church only for those who have it all together. Church is not a self-help club with a special divine additive. Church is community, the community of the loved sinners, the redeemed broken ones. As such we are all involved encountering and sharing in the hard, difficult things that people and families endure. Church includes but is not limited to the cheery prospect of, “Welcome to MOES” or “Come inside the Disney Store”. Church is the community of Jesus Christ accepting each other especially in the reality of our need and pain! Church is the community of Jesus Christ stepping outside of our own needs and wishes to stand with and for others who need our support. Church is the community of Jesus Christ together praying, working, serving the least and the lost and the last! I thought the following story was fascinating, and as a story might free us to live more fully and openly: “A few years ago, a young man was discovered hiding in a large church. A maintenance worker discovered him one day. He had been lurking in the church, living in the attic, spending his day in darkness, only venturing forth during the night to prowl about the church, feeding on leftovers from church suppers, moving about in the building only at night, listening in on the daily activities of the congregation. From his secret hideaway in the attic he heard the counseling in the pastor’s office, the discussion at Bible Study, the cries from the nursery, the motions moved and seconded at the Church Board meeting, he even heard the things members were “whispering” about in the hallway!” Do you know anyone who is hiding in this church? Are you or is someone you know, hiding here amongst us? Do you know someone who is present, but not really, someone on the boundary, at the edge? Maybe some who is uninvolved, under-involved, even overinvolved, fearful that if people really knew them that they would be excluded? Someone whose pain is so great that they long to be accepted but fear being encountered? Do you feel like you are a nobody? Do you know someone else who believes or is tempted to imagine that they are a nobody? And if so, what would it take for you, what would it take for that person to come out of the dark into the light? It is my aim, to live as well as possible and to let my struggles be the proving ground that shows how well the God, and Son and Holy Spirit can help us overcome this nobody existence. You know how I know He/they are real? because I am still standing from having this emotion swell up in my inner existence from time to time and I call His name and He heals, strengthens and embraces me with His loving presence.

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~ “Got Jesus?”~

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James 4:7King James Version (KJV)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ”
A.W. Tozer

Life shows up in many facets and arrays. Life deals us some very challenging dilemmas to fight through, but God knows all about them. He has assured me that everything I trust into His hands will be for my good if I would just repent, surrender and remember what He has brought me through as an addict , a fornicator,a greedy person and yes a prideful individual. God has seen me through death and my sinful anxiety and dark thoughts with this very scripture always burning within my spirit. I quoted this scripture behind a many prison walls and laying face up in a hospital bed not knowing if tomorrow was coming to claim my life or give me another chance to serve Him with honor.

In the annals of US advertising history, one of the most efficient slogans ever is the California milk producers’ two-word question, “Got milk?” With that phrase, the group captured almost everyone’s attention. In surveys, the slogan was recognized by more than 90 percent of the people polled.

If “Got milk?” is so good at reminding people to drink “cow juice,” perhaps we can create some two-word slogans to remind ourselves to live more godly lives. Let’s turn to James 4 and try it. This passage gives four specific guidelines.

1. Give in! Verse 7 tells us to submit to God. Our sovereign God loves us, so why not let Him run the show? Submission helps us resist the devil. 2. Get close! Verse 8 reminds us of the value of drawing near to God. It’s up to us to close the gap between us and God. 3. Clean up!Verse 8 also reminds us to make sure our hearts are clean. That happens through confessing our sins to God. 4. Get down! James says we need to be humble before God (v.10). That includes viewing our sin as something to weep over.

Give in! Get close! Clean up! Get down! These pairs of words may not look as good on a T-shirt as “Got milk?” But they sure will look good on us.

  Lord, help me live a godly life Of faith and love and purity So those who watch my life will see Reflections of Your work in me. —Sper
  The most powerful testimony is a godly life.  

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