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Motivation

~Ebb and Flow of Grace while in The Storms of Life~

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Sometimes you got to hurt something to help something. Sometimes you have to plow under one thing in order for something else to grow.

Ernest Gaines
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There are no bonds so strong as those which are formed by suffering together.

Harriet Ann Jacobs
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Reflecting on the divine purpose in hardship can help us respond to trials in a God-honoring way as we seek to understand the lessons He wants us to learn through life’s dark moments.
The disciples experienced several “mountaintop moments” in their time with Jesus. But when a storm arose while they were out on the Sea of Galilee, fear took over. Amidst the roaring waves and with the boat rocking, Jesus’ chosen ones failed to recall the lessons they had learned about the power and purposes of their leader. Even the appearance of Christ walking on water didn’t bring immediate relief (Matt. 14:26).

When trouble strikes, we sometimes forget our knowledge of God, too. We struggle to recall past answers to prayer, specific guidance provided by the Holy Spirit, and lessons learned in previous crises. Only the present seems real. Our minds spin with future implications, and our troubled emotions inhibit clear thinking.

In our own strength, we lack sufficient resources and abilities to meet life’s challenges. So God provides what we need. Our suffering is never a surprise to the Lord. He knows everything we are going through. More than that, He’s orchestrating our circumstances for His glory and our benefit, according to His good will.

 

Reflecting on the divine purpose in hardship can help us respond to trials in a God-honoring way. Let’s take a moment to fix our attention on the Lord and seek to understand four lessons He wants us to learn through life’s dark moments:

 

1. One purpose for hardship is cleansing. Because of our own “flesh” nature and the self-absorbed world we live in, it’s easy to develop selfish attitudes, mixed-up priorities, and ungodly habits. The pressures that bear down on us from stormy situations are meant to bring these impurities to our attention and direct us to a place of repentance. Our trials are intended to purify and guide us back to godliness, not ruin our lives.

2. A second reason we face difficulty is so we’ll be compassionate and bring comfort to others. God’s work in our lives is not intended solely for us. It’s designed to reach a world that does not recognize or acknowledge Him. The Lord uses our challenges to equip us for serving others. As we experience suffering, we will learn about God’s sufficiency, His comforting presence, and His strength to help us endure. Our testimony during times of difficulty will be authentic. Those to whom we minister will recognize we know and understand their pain. What credibility would we have with people in crisis if we never experienced a deep need?

3. Third, God promises usHe’ll provide a path through any trialwe face. The disciples probably wondered how long the storm would last and whether they would make it safely to shore. Most likely, they wished it never happened. But, had they somehow avoided this storm, they would have missed the demonstration of Jesus’ power over the sea and wind. The frightening situation was transformed into a revelation of the Savior’s divine nature. God wants to make His power known through our trials, as well.

4. The most important thing He gives us isanawareness of His presence. At first, the disciples believed they were alone in a terrifying storm. When they initially spotted Jesus, their fear increased. They thought He was a ghost. But as they recognized Him, their fear changed to relief and hope. Similarly, we may not sense God’s presence during a crisis. But He has promised to always be with us (Heb. 13:5-6). The assurance that the Lord will never leave provides immediate comfort, an infusion of courage, and a sense of confidence to endure.

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No one enjoys suffering. But in the hands of almighty God, trials become tools. He uses hardship to shape believers into the people He intends them to be. Jesus allowed the disciples to experience the fear and anxiety of being in a boat on a raging sea. He permitted them to suffer because He had something far more important to teach them. He wanted the disciples to recognize their own helplessness, His sufficiency, and their dependence on Him.

Ask God to reveal His abiding presence in the midst of your trouble. And remember—He always provides for your spiritual needs to help you both endure and grow stronger in your Christian faith.

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A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

Martin Luther King, Jr
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~Color Forward In Spite Of Challenges~

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What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”
Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

What is the biggest barrier facing the formerly incarcerated as they try to reintegrate into society?
To us, the biggest barrier is the lack of critical legal information that people need in order to overcome barriers in reentry. We see the major issues as:

—Enormous legal and practical barriers to stability and success, including an inability to get an ID or open a bank account, enormous court debt, denials of employment, housing, and public benefits

—A complete lack of legal advocates, knowledge and navigational resources about these barriers

—An infrastructure of people and agencies who already support and work with those in reentry—including family and loved ones, social services agencies, housing facilities, legal advocacy groups, education programs, religious institutions, substance abuse facilities, corrections departments and government agencies—that lack the legal guidance necessary to navigate critical and often crippling issues

The lack of an integrated, knowledgeable and supported reentry infrastructure undermines the spirit and intent of reform efforts to reduce incarceration levels. The “Roadmap to Reentry” guide illuminates pathways to stability and success post-incarceration by educating people on how to navigate enormous legal and practical barriers.

In terms of the legal barriers, there are many—which is why the guide covers nine areas! Reentry is so unique to each individual, so we see that people experience very different issues, much of it dependent on their life circumstances and goals. The biggest issues that we see are court-ordered debt and fees that have amounted over time, which leads to an inability to get an ID; housing and employment discrimination; trouble reunifying with children and loved ones upon release; and unlawful parole conditions that can overly restrict where people can live and work.

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What is the most important thing families can do to ease the transition?

Plan, prepare and do research! Family has access to phone and Internet, so they can help the loved one make plans and goals and then research opportunities in the area they are returning to—including housing, employment, education and support services. If you know your loved one’s goals and have a timeline for completion, you can help to set them up for success before they get out. If the county to which they are returning doesn’t have the right resources, they can help their loved one understand the process to transfer counties, either before or after release. Also, I would say that families can help their loved one in reentry by helping them do research on the law—reading manuals like ours to help their loved one understand whether they are actually banned from public housing or public benefits, and what kinds of jobs they can get—because many myths persist. So family can help a huge amount by educating themselves, getting a ton of resources and then empowering their loved one with that information.

The other thing that I think is critical for family members is to take care of themselves. If you find your loved one a support group, find one for yourself too. Families are often the support structure for a person in reentry, but of course they do not have the education of a case manager, therapist or social worker, yet they are playing that role. So having support for families who are helping someone through the ups and downs of reentry is critical.

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The United States criminal justice system is the largest in the world. At year end 2011, approximately 7 million individuals were under some form of correctional control in the United States, including 2.2 million incarcerated in federal, state, or local prisons and jails.1) The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, dwarfing the rate of nearly every other nation.2)

Such broad statistics mask the racial disparity that pervades the U.S. criminal justice system. Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. African-American males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males and 2.5 times more likely than Hispanic males.3) If current trends continue, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino males—compared to one of every seventeen white males.4) Racial and ethnic disparities among women are less substantial than among men but remain prevalent.5)

The source of such disparities is deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination. The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and minorities. The former is the system the United States describes in its report: a vigorous adversary system replete with constitutional protections for defendants. Yet the experiences of poor and minority defendants within the criminal justice system often differ substantially from that model due to a number of factors, each of which contributes to the overrepresentation of such individuals in the system. As Georgetown Law Professor David Cole states in his book No Equal Justice,

These double standards are not, of course, explicit; on the face of it, the criminal law is color-blind and class-blind. But in a sense, this only makes the problem worse. The rhetoric of the criminal justice system sends the message that our society carefully protects everyone’s constitutional rights, but in practice the rules assure that law enforcement prerogatives will generally prevail over the rights of minorities and the poor. By affording criminal suspects substantial constitutional rights in theory, the Supreme Court validates the results of the criminal justice system as fair. That formal fairness obscures the systemic concerns that ought to be raised by the fact that the prison population is overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately black.6)

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“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems

~Consider Your Ways~

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“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.”― Ezra Taft Benson

I have spent a great part of my  life searching for the one trait all successful people share. I found in my quest for this knowledge”The Common Denominator of Success” revealed successful people’s common characteristic was not hard work, good luck, or astute human relations, although these traits were important. The one factor that seemed to transcend all the rest was the habit of putting first things first. I observed, “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either, necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.”

The Book of Haggai, the second shortest in the Old Testament, communicates this same message: Put first things first. It was written to people like us, who would say that God must be first. But they had drifted away from this truth. They lived with misplaced priorities. Haggai was sent to help God’s people get their priorities in line with what they knew they should be.

Haggai spoke his message to Jews who had returned to Jerusalem after living in captivity in Babylon. As you recall, Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple some 70 years earlier. When the Jews returned from exile they faced the daunting task of rebuilding. The first returnees made preliminary attempts to clear the debris and lay the foundation for a second temple. Their Samaritan neighbors offered to join in the work, but the Jews refused them. The Samaritans, in turn, threatened the workers and sent men to Persia to lobby against the Jews, bringing the work to a halt.

As years passed, slowly but surely, Jerusalem came to life again. Homes were built, stores opened, commerce established, fields planted, crops harvested, and life began to resemble normalcy. Israel, however, got used to life without the Temple. The foundations were overgrown with weeds. They stood as a mute reminder of the Jews’ failure to take care of God’s house. Fourteen to 16 years passed, and then Haggai appeared on the scene with one prevailing message: It’s time to finish rebuilding the Temple.

It was a message of priority: Put first things first. The Temple was the center for worshiping God. It represented the heart and soul of the Old Testament religion. Although God is everywhere, the Temple was the place on earth where God dwelled in a special sense. For the Temple to lie in ruins was to neglect the worship of God. It was a testimony of misplaced priorities. It was an embarrassment to God and a blemish on his reputation.

Haggai’s message was blunt. He pulled no punches and wasted no words. Haggai spoke like a foreman on a construction project. With a hardhat and tool belt, walking around the construction site, he bellowed out orders. Found here are a few practical steps about putting first things first.

I. Stop making excuses

First, Haggai confronted excuses for the Temple lying in ruins. “The LORD of Hosts says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt” (Haggai 1:2, HCSB). They intended to build God’s house, but just hadn’t got around to it yet. If you were to ask them about it, they would probably say, “I’m all for building the Temple. It is a great cause. But God wants us to take care of our own families first. Times are hard. Jobs are scarce. We need to pray about it some more. We will eventually build it, but not now.” They made excuses.

Billy Sunday defined an excuse as “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “I never knew a man who was good at making excuses who was good at anything else.”

It is always easy to make excuses when you don’t want to obey God. We can always find rational justification for not doing what God wants us to do: The time is not right. I’ve got family responsibilities. My kids need me now. When things settle down at work, then I can do something. The first step to putting first things first is to admit our responsibility.

II. Cease being selfish

Closely aligned with excuse making is a selfish mindset that permeates everything. Haggai challenged the people’s selfish behavior. “The word of the LORD came through Haggai the prophet: Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:34, HCSB). Paneled houses can mean “covered” or “roofed,” but the point was that it represented the finishing touches. Their homes were not “in process.” No weeds were growing around their unfinished foundations. Their homes were complete while the Temple remained nonexistent.

Please understand: Nothing is wrong with having a nice home. This statement is not an attack on riches or big houses. What’s wrong is to own a nice home while God’s house lies in ruins. What’s wrong is spend all your money on selfish needs while ignoring the things of God. What’s wrong is to spend one’s time, one’s best hours, and one’s talents on selfish pursuits while the things of God are left undone. It is an indictment of misplaced priorities.

It is easy to drift away from God’s agenda to our own. It is easy to pursue selfish desires while ignoring God’s. In fact, it is the default mode of our lives. If we give no thought to how we are living, we will naturally live for ourselves. The bent of our hearts and is always toward selfishness. This is what happened to the Jews Haggai addressed.

Like William Cowper, the hymn writer and pastor, penned: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” That is what happens when we don’t persistently and consistently seek God first.

III. Don’t miss God’s blessings

As a consequence of their excuse-making and selfish living, the people in Haggai’s day experienced hardship. He continues: “Now, the LORD of Hosts says this: Think carefully about your ways: You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough to be satisfied. You drink but never have enough to become drunk. You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm. The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it” (Haggai 1:5-6, HCSB). They sowed plenty of seed, but there was a drought and the crops didn’t yield as much as they had hoped. They had active lifestyles but were not experiencing satisfaction. They were laboring but showing no profit. No matter how hard they tried, they seemed to be spinning their wheels. No matter how much money they made, they could not keep it. Do you know how that feels?

Because of their selfishness the people missed God’s blessings. Haggai points out a sobering reminder: What happens in your heart affects every other part of your life. Because the people had pushed God out of the center, they suffered in every area.

What they did not see was that God caused their predicament. They hadn’t stopped to consider that God was trying to tell them something. Haggai screamed: “Hey! It’s God who controls the rain and the harvest. He is withholding his blessing because your priorities are not right. Put his house first and he will bless you.” Jesus said the same thing: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matthew 6:33, HCSB).

Blessings come through obedience. If we want to experience God’s blessings we will put him first.

IV. Take time to evaluate

With this strong indictment and devastating predicament, the people realized they had caused their own calamities. The people were ready to evaluate their situation. Twice Haggai instructed the people, “Consider your ways” (1:5, 7.). The word consider means to give careful thought to. It was time for the people to do some serious self-examination before the Lord. Haggai wanted the people to stop long enough in their busy schedules to evaluate their life in light of God’s Word. He wanted them to measure the consequences of their actions.

Evaluation is a good thing. That is why teachers give tests and employers hold job reviews. Socrates wrote: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Each day we need to evaluate how we spend our time and our money, and how we use our talents. We should examine who we choose as friends, what we set as goals, and where we are going. If God is not first, guess who removed him from his rightful place?

The failure to make constant corrections each day is like a pilot who does not make slight course adjustments in flight. The plane will end up hundreds of miles off course later. The failure to take the proper precautions today will result in severe consequences tomorrow.

When we stop making excuses, cease being selfish, seek God’s blessings, and take time to evaluate, we can see God work in powerful ways. This is what happens when first things are first, when God is first in our hearts. How will we know that we have put first things first? How will we know that God is first place? Here are three indications.

A. We are active in the right things

“Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house. Then I will be pleased with it and be glorified, says the LORD” (Haggai 1:8, HCSB). In all of life there is a time to talk and a time to act, a time to consider and a time to do. Those who put first things first are up and doing the right things: spending time with God daily, serving people, honoring him with their time, talents, and financial resources. For the Jews living in Jerusalem, it meant cutting down trees to build God’s house.

B. God is glorified

Why should the Temple be built? That God may be glorified. When God is not first we are indifferent to his glory—his fame and his reputation being spread. But when God is first revealing his glory is first on our minds. In fact, everything we think, say, and do is to honor God and bring credit to him. Whatever your occupation, the chief business of every Christian is to bring glory to God.

C. God blesses us

When the people obeyed, God sent word: “I am with you” (1:13). When God is first, he blesses us. And the sure sign of his blessing was his manifested presence. If God seems distant in your life, perhaps your priorities have gotten mixed up. When you put God first, you experience a new awareness of his presence. That is true blessing.

Conclusion

An instructor at a time-management seminar told the participants to prepare for a quiz. He reached under the table and took out a wide-mouthed gallon jar and set it on the table. Next to the jar were a number of fist-sized rocks. He asked the group, “How many of these rocks do you think we can get inside this jar?” The participants made their guesses. The instructor said, “Let’s find out.” One by one he began to put as many fist-sized rocks as he could into the jar until the rocks inside were level with the top of the jar.

The instructor then asked, “Is the jar full?” All the participants looked at the jar filled with rocks and said it was.

But then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar. The gravel filled the spaces between the big rocks. He grinned and asked again, “Is the jar full?”

The participants were not about to be fooled a second time. They said that the jar was probably not full.

The instructor nodded and said, “Good. You are catching on.” He next took out a bucket of sand and poured it into the jar. Slowly the sand filled the gaps between the rocks and gravel. After the sand settled, the instructor once again asked, “Now, is the jar full?”

The audience roared, “No!”

He said, “Good.” He was pleased that they understood an important principle. The instructor poured a pitcher of water into the jar. At this point he stopped and asked the group, “What’s the point of this?”

Somebody said, “Well, there are always gaps, and if you work at it, you can always fit more into your life.”

But the instructor said, “No, the point is this: If I hadn’t put in those big rocks first, I would never have gotten them in at all.”

What should be your big rocks? God and his house. Put them into your life first.

~What voice do You Hear?~

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“You cannot arrive at your life’s purpose by starting with a focus on yourself. You must begin with God, your Creator. You exist only because God wills that you exist. You were made by God and for God – and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end.”
Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?

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The Bible tells us that we need to be led by the Holy Spirit (see for example Romans 8:12-14 and Galatians 5:16-25). Therefore, it must be possible for every one of us to discern the promptings and guidance of the Holy Spirit within us!

You can hear the voice of God, and this article will teach you how.

It is not the purpose of this article to go into all of the different ways in which God speaks to us, such as dreams, visions, tongues and interpretation, prophecies, and so on, but this article will give you practical guidance in how to discern God’s usual “voice” which He often uses to speak to us.  Jesus Did It!

The Four Voices We Hear  

There are actually four types of “voices” which we hear speaking to us, and it is important that we learn to distinguish each one so that we are able to discern the true voice of God:

 

  • The voice that is perhaps the most obvious is our own voice. In addition to our speaking voice, we also talk to ourselves inside our heads, we see images and pictures inside our heads, we have emotions and feelings and desires, and so on. Our minds tell us what we think, our wills tell us what we want, and our emotions tell us how we feel. The Bible refers to our minds, wills, and emotions as our “flesh nature,” and this article will give you a better understanding of the “voice” of the flesh.
  • Another type of voice which clamors for our attention is the “voice” of other people. Sometimes people say things which are true, noble, and good, and sometimes people say things which are just the opposite. This article will provide some guidance to help you discern what you are hearing from the “voice” of other people.
  • The third type of voice is the “voice” of the devil. The devil has crafty ways of speaking to us which he has perfected over the millennia. He does not appear before us in a red, cloven-hoofed suit and speak out loud to us, he is much more subtle than that. What he does is to throw thoughts into our minds like flaming arrows, and he speaks to us through the worldly ideas and viewpoints that he has injected into other people. By the time you finish this article you will have a better understanding of how to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).
  • The fourth and final type of voice is the most important, but it is also the most subtle. It is the voice of God. God does not speak to us in our minds, He speaks to us in our spirits because that is where the Holy Spirit lives. Unfortunately, we tend to spend most of our thought life in our heads, in other words in “the mind of the flesh” (Romans 8:7, AMP), focused on the sensory world around us where our physical senses and our thoughts, feelings, desires, and emotions are constantly being bombarded and stimulated in worldly, carnal, fleshly ways. We tend to live on the shallow surface, so to speak, rarely venturing deeper where the Spirit of God lives within us. The result is that many of us do not know where our spirits are nor how to hear and be led by our spirits. Because of this we leave ourselves wide open to fall for the many deceptions of the devil. This article will help you to begin recognizing the leadings and promptings that are coming from your spirit, and how to be more Spirit-led.  Jesus Did It!

 

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These are the four types of voices that we hear, and in the next several sections we will examine each of these more closely. Hearing from God is not a science, so I have tried to offer plenty of examples from my own experience to help describe some of the ways that God speaks to us. Please don’t let this mislead you, however. In order to “teach by example,” it is obviously important to offer examples of the times when I believe that I have heard from God. However, the danger in doing so is that it might give the impression that I am some kind of “spiritual giant” who always hears from God clearly and accurately and never makes any mistakes. Believe me, that’s definitely not the case! How I wish I could hear God speaking out loud every day, telling me exactly how I can be obedient to Him and serve Him and honor Him! But that’s not how He does things, and I’ll elaborate more on this throughout the article. Like everything else in the Christian walk, hearing from God is a journey, and we are all at different places along the way. The journey never ends and no-one ever “arrives,” and just like everyone else I still have a long way to go in this area of hearing God’s voice. All I have to offer are some things I have learned so far on my journey, which may help you on your journey. I hope that my experiences and examples are helpful in describing some of the ways that God speaks to us, and I am trusting God that soon you will have plenty of your own examples to help someone else who feels frustrated in his or her journey of trying to hear and obey God’s voice.

“The Mind of the Flesh”

Our greatest enemy

Here’s an interesting question for you: Who is our greatest enemy? If you said it’s the devil, you’re wrong! Our greatest enemy is our minds, our wills, and our emotions, which the Bible sometimes refers to as our “sin nature” or our “flesh.” Consider that if we did not have a sinful flesh nature then the devil would have no hold on us. For example, Jesus had a body made of flesh and blood but He did not have a sinful flesh nature as we do, and therefore the devil had no hold on Him (John 14:30).

1 Thessalonians 5:23 says that we are made up of “spirit, soul and body.” Your body is aware of the physical world around you, your spirit is aware of God within you, and everything else is your soul, which is aware of “self.” Your soul is made up of your mind (what you think), your will (what you want), and your emotions (what you feel). Our spirits were “regenerated” (made alive) the moment we were saved (see for example John 3:3-8), and our bodies will be made immortal when Jesus returns for us (1 Corinthians 15:51-53), but we must wage a daily battle against our “flesh nature.” For example, how often do we say or hear things like, “I know I shouldn’t say this, BUT” or “I know I shouldn’t do this, BUT” or “I know I probably shouldn’t eat this, but I’m going to eat it anyway”? Our “flesh nature” pushes us to do what it wants to do, and we often obey our “flesh” even when we know better!  Jesus Did It!

Our flesh is unGodly

You see, the problem is that our “flesh” is unGodly, it is our sin nature, and that’s why the Bible tells us to “crucify” our flesh (as we’ll see in the next section).

For example, try telling Jesus every day, “Jesus, You are my Lord and I am desperately in love with You. I will do anything and everything You say, without questions or hesitations or reservations. I will say what You want me to say, I will go where You want me to go, I will do what You want me to do. I am all Yours, Lord, live Your life through me and receive great glory and honor by my devoted, loving, and unswerving obedience.” Isn’t this the attitude that He wants us to have? Then why do we find it so difficult to say this and to live this way? It’s because we are afraid of what He might call us to do! For instance, you might have a great job and make lots of money and have an affluent lifestyle, but God might call you to leave all of that and to go spend the rest of your life ministering in remote African villages. He has done this before! You might be a shy, self-conscious stutterer, but God might call you to hold large healing and/or evangelism crusades all around the world where you will be speaking in front of thousands and thousands of people. He has done this before! You might be a comfortable, middle-class person successfully climbing the corporate ladder and enjoying the “status” of being a member of the “right” clubs or social circles, but God might call you to turn your back on all of that and to begin spending your evenings or weekends in the “slum” areas of town ministering to the homeless or ministering among youth gangs. He has done this before! You might be a small-town housewife with a high school education, but God might call you to go on the road most of the year preaching several times a week in churches, universities, conferences, and so on. He has done this before! God has done every one of these things in certain people’s lives, and there is always the possibility that He might do it in our lives as well. Now, be honest, some of these things just scare the daylights out of us, don’t they? We are afraid to completely give ourselves over to God’s plan for our lives because we are afraid that we might be called on to do things which might embarrass us or stretch us out of our comfort zones. Our flesh doesn’t like the idea of having to go through these sorts of things, even though God will only call us to do things which are best for us. God always has our best interests at heart, but our flesh wants to cast its vote and make its wishes and desires known, and we tend to follow what our flesh wants rather than what God wants. Isn’t it fairly clear that our “flesh nature” tends not to want to obey God?

What does the Bible say about our “flesh”?

Now let’s take a close look at what the Bible has to say about our minds, our wills, and our emotions:

 

  • “And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].” (Luke 9:23, AMP)
  • The Amplified Bible is often a useful study tool because it provides various shades of meaning to help us more fully understand what the original Greek words mean. According to these shades of meaning in the original Greek, Jesus was saying that we must follow His example by denying ourselves and our own agendas, by disowning ourselves, by forgetting ourselves and our own agendas, by losing sight of ourselves and our own agendas, by refusing ourselves and our own agendas, and by giving up ourselves and our own agendas! This is what it means to “take up [our] cross daily.” This is because our natural interests are contrary to the will of God, our natural feelings are contrary to the will of God, and our natural reasonings are contrary to the will of God. The cross is a place of death, which means that we should daily lose sight of ourselves (as in the verse above) in order to hear and obey God.  Jesus Did It!
  • the mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it cannot submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot. So then those who are living the life of the flesh [catering to the appetites and impulses of their carnal nature] cannot please or satisfy God, or be acceptable to Him.” (Romans 8:7-8, AMP)
  • The apostle Paul said that the mind of the flesh has carnal (worldly, sinful) thoughts and purposes, and that it is hostile to God and cannot submit to God! Paul went on to say that if we are living according to our “flesh nature” then we cannot please God.
  • “The Lord knows the thoughts and reasonings of the [humanly] wise and recognizes how futile they are.” (1 Corinthians 3:20, AMP)
  • God says that our human thoughts and reasonings are futile!
  • walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh [of human nature without God]. For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other]” (Galatians 5:16-17, AMP)
  • The apostle Paul tells us that our “flesh” is our Godless human nature, and that our natural desires are opposed to the things of the Spirit and are continually in conflict with the Spirit. The solution, Paul says, is to walk and live habitually in the Spirit, always being responsive to and controlled by and guided by the Spirit within us. When we are busy analyzing things in our minds and trying to figure out the solutions to our problems and so on, it hinders us from hearing the Lord clearly.  Jesus Did It!
  • Now, obviously we need to use our minds and reasoning abilities throughout the day in order to do many of the things that we need to do, but the problem is that we tend to use our reasoning abilities almost exclusively and never bother to consult God on any of the decisions that we make.
  • “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
  • Paul said that his “flesh nature” had been crucified and that he no longer lived for himself. Instead, he allowed Christ to live His life through Paul, and this is the attitude that all of us should have.
  • “Those who belong to Christ Jesus, the Messiah, have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires.” (Galatians 5:24, AMP)
  • “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24, NIV)
  • Once again Paul said that our “flesh” (which is made up of our minds, wills, and emotions) is our Godless human nature and our sin nature, which must be crucified with Christ. Jesus Did It!
  • Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. … But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:5-10)
  • Here Paul said that it is up to us to put to death whatever belongs to our “flesh” (our earthly nature).

 

As we can see, God has some pretty strong things to say about our “flesh nature,” and none of it is good! In the passages above we are told to deny ourselves and to lose sight of our own agendas. We are told that our minds and thoughts and purposes and impulses and desires are naturally hostile to God! We are told that our reasonings are futile and that our natural desires are antagonistic to and opposed to and constantly at war with the desires of the Spirit. We are told that our “flesh” is our Godless human nature and our sin nature and that it should be crucified and be put to death on a daily basis.

Those are some pretty strong words from the Lord, but the way to begin hearing God better is to quit listening to our flesh so much. That’s not an easy thing to do, but in order to hear God it is important to turn off our reasoning and to put our emotions into neutral when we are listening for an answer from God. Our flesh is always going to cast its vote on what it thinks we should do, but we need to ignore all of that voting and listen to our spirits instead. For example, if we are determined to do something no matter what anyone says, then we might not hear God when He is telling us not to do it. If we have weighed the pros and the cons and we have made the choice which seems to be the most rational to our minds, then we might not feel the need to ask God about it (even though He might guide us to an even better decision). If we really, really want to do something, then our emotions can drown out God when He is trying to prevent us from making a mistake. This illustrates how our wills, our minds, and our emotions can hinder us from hearing the voice of God.   Jesus Did It!

Jesus was “dead to self”

Jesus heard from God better than anyone who ever lived, and one of the main reasons is because He chose to deny His own opinions, interests, goals, thoughts, and so on, and He only did what the Father told Him to:

“Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”” (John 5:19)

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30)

“So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”” (John 8:28)

“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)

What it boils down to is that “the mind of the flesh” tends to be unGodly and tends to be directly opposed to the things of God. The reason I have been emphasizing this so strongly is because we are living in a war zone, and to a large degree the battle against the devil takes place in our minds. If we are led by our own reasonings and our own feelings when we make important decisions then it can leave us wide open to be deceived by the devil, and our lives might end up being useless for the kingdom of God.  Jesus Did It!

The Voice of the World

As I said, we are living in a war zone on planet earth. As Christians, we don’t belong to the world, we are aliens and strangers here (John 15:19, 17:15-17, James 4:4, 1 Peter 1:1, 17, 2:11). We are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) serving as ambassadors here (2 Corinthians 5:20). The whole world is under the control of the evil one (1John 5:19), and we should be very careful not to become ensnared in the world’s ways of thinking and the world’s ways of doing things.

The devil speaks to us through worldly views  Jesus Did It!

In the world we are bombarded by loose morality, by various forms of spiritualism and the occult and New Age philosophies, and by other worldly, unGodly messages. This is why the Bible tells us to guard our hearts and minds from being contaminated by the world (see Acts 20:30-31, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Philippians 4:7, 1 Timothy 6:20, 2 Timothy 1:14, 4:14-15, 2 Peter 3:16-17). We live in the world but we are not of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12, 7:31, James 4:4, 1 John 4:4-5), and we should be very careful about what we are hearing in our daily lives. This is why it is important to be well-grounded in the Word of God.

Sometimes it is easy for the devil to deceive us simply because we do half the job for him by not reading our Bibles in a prayerful, honest, thorough, unbiased way, and we help the devil by being complacent in our Christian life. It is my prayer that by the time you finish this article you will be better equipped to listen with discernment to the Spirit of God within you as you study His Word. Even your pastor is not immune to these biases and “filters,” which is why it is important for you to develop your own spiritual sensitivity and to study the Bible for yourself, allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate to your spirit whatever He chooses to reveal. We should be careful not to let our feelings or our logical reasonings or other people’s opinions be our source of “truth,” but instead we should read the Word of God and listen to His Spirit within us. That is why God gave us both of these things!

The devil can speak to us through Christians!  Jesus Did It!

It is so natural for us to become caught up in what makes sense to us that we forget that often the things of God are far above our understanding. This makes it easy for the enemy to speak to us even through the voice of well-meaning Christian friends, family, pastors, and so on. For example, when God called me to this Internet teaching ministry, I wasn’t sure at first what the call was. I began applying to missionary organizations to see if that was the direction God was leading me, but when I mentioned this to Christians that I knew they sometimes tried to talk me out of it by saying things like, “Why would you want to be a missionary and maybe end up in some remote part of the world?” People mean well, but remember that they are not sensing the same call that you are sensing, so you should be careful sometimes about telling other people, even strong Christian friends, about what God is speaking to your heart.

Here’s an example from the apostle Paul’s life. In Acts 20:22-24, Paul said that he was being compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. However, in Acts 21:10-15 a prophet told Paul that he would suffer in Jerusalem, and Paul’s traveling companions pleaded with him not to go there. Paul knew that he was being compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem, yet all of the Christians around him kept trying to talk him out of it. If Paul had allowed himself to follow his own reasonings and opinions and to be swayed by what other Christians thought, then he would have disobeyed God.

Another example in the Bible concerns the apostle Peter. In Galatians 2:11-14 the apostle Paul said that Peter was swayed by the opinions of others into separating from Gentile Christians, and in turn Peter swayed other Jewish Christians to do the same. In this case, an apostle was led astray by the “voice” of other Christians, and an apostle led other Christians astray! It is easy for us to be deceived, which is why we need to know how to discern whether or not our spirits are bearing witness with what we are hearing from the “voice” of other people (more on this in a later section). All of us have preconceived biases which act as “filters” when we read the Bible, and therefore even your pastor or my pastor can be deceived and teach us things that are incorrect. If an apostle can be deceived then certainly a pastor can! This is why it is important for each one of us to study the Bible for ourselves every day and to ask God for discernment so that we can recognize the Truth when we see it.

Here’s another example. When Jesus told the apostles that He would suffer and die, Peter took Him aside and tried to talk Him out of letting this happen. Do you remember Jesus’ reply? He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:21-23). The devil was speaking through an apostle! Peter was not possessed by the devil, of course, but he was still choosing to follow his own thoughts and reasonings and opinions and emotions, and these are the very things that the devil uses to deceive us. In the very next verse, Jesus then told the disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Only by choosing not to be slaves to our own reasonings and emotions can we win the battle for our minds and begin hearing the voice of God within us.  Jesus Did It!

God can speak to us through other people

In examining the “voice” of the world, we should recognize that God speaks to us through other people as well, but the only way to know that it is God is if we are listening for discernment deep inside ourselves. For example, after the Lord taught me about healing and I had begun writing the articles in my Healing Training Course, I was at a friend’s house and as I was leaving I saw that their 10-year-old daughter had a cold. I debated within myself whether I should offer to lay hands on her or not because I didn’t know how well the idea would be received, and I missed my opportunity to possibly relieve her of her cold and to give Jesus glory. When I got home, my three-year-old son (Michael) wanted to show me something in his room, but he walked right past the light switch without turning the light on. Normally he is proud that he is now big enough to turn on the light, but that day he began whining that he couldn’t do it, even though he had come back and was standing right next to it and could easily have turned it on. There was a flash of discernment within me which caused me to see that as Michael was whining, “I can’t do it, I just can’t do it, I don’t know how to do it,” it was God’s way of showing me that this was how I was behaving when I debated with myself about laying hands on the 10-year-old girl. I could easily have done it and she might have been healed, but I allowed my mind to talk me out of it. In this case, it seemed that God was speaking to me through my child. On another occasion I was trying to teach Michael something, and I realized that he wasn’t quite old enough and mature enough to grasp what I was trying to teach him. Once again I got that flash of discernment within me, as if God was telling me that as I become more mature in the Lord then I will be laying hands on people when the opportunities arise. These are just a couple of examples of the way that God might speak to you through other people (even if they don’t realize that God is speaking through them), but it requires being sensitive to your spirit within you in order to recognize that God is speaking to you.

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“This is the responsibility we all owe to ourselves– that the purpose of our existence be to positively affect others with our gift and this does not begin when we feel we have become “something”. It begins when we decide to pick our gift and align it with it’s purpose.”
Chinonye J. Chidolue

 

~A vision taught by way of adversity~ (Phillip Buchanon shares drawbacks of new found wealth)

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My wife and I were in a pickle two years ago, in a very negative environment and it was very toxic. Our number one goal was to get out of that mind-set and place. We are now ready to heal and get on with our life, to start anew. Yet there are no positives just yet to build on. It takes tenacity and strength to move past a negative stage in life, and we’ve successfully done so. And we are very proud about ourselves. :) 

Where does one begin with nothing at all? A common question many of us ask ourselves is this – How do I get from where I am to where I want to be if there is nothing to build on in the first place?

For example, you want to start a business, but you have no experience in business development. You want to shift to a different career field, but you don’t have knowledge in the area. You want to be the top in what you do but you have no know-how. You want to let go of your past and start on a new journey, but there is nothing for you to start off with. It’s like a catch 22 situation. Like a potter who needs his tools and clay, you can’t create something if there is nothing. And if you can’t create something, you can’t get anything.

Everyone Starts From Nothing

The first thing I want to point out is that everyone starts from nothing. Rich people, poor people, successful people, non-successful people, top achievers, non-achievers – all these people start from a place where they had nothing. Forget about family background, because these aren’t determinants of success – there are as many successful people in this world from poor families as there are from rich families. Let’s focus on one’s personal achievements and knowledge, because these are arguably what one uses to build future success. Let’s take a look at Phillip Buchanon.

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Phillip Buchanon is sharing what it’s truly like to become rich — and targeted — in the NFL.

I don’t want to do anything and everything. I want to be a brand that, every time I leverage my name, I want people to feel sure that it’s going to be something good – so whether it be my movies, my perfume, my restaurant, my musical, it’ll be good work, good food and good everything.

Shilpa Shetty

Buchanon, a former first-round NFL Draft pick of the Oakland Raiders, played nine years in the NFL and experienced it all; family turning on him, friends stealing from him, and even a robbery that nearly took his life.

But Buchanon survived, and decided that he wants to help the next NFL rookies, who will hopefully avoid all the pitfalls.

This week, Buchanon released his first book, “New Money: Staying Rich“, an in-depth, and at times very scary account of what it’s like to be a professional athlete. Buchanon discusses everything that comes with life in the NFL, and most importantly, what it’s like dealing with the pressures of family members and friends who think that just because you made it big, they did, too.

“When I got to the NFL, I was all dollars and no sense,” “I want to make sure the next generation of athletes doesn’t make the same mistakes.”

The book is the latest venture for Buchanon, who also wrote a comic book on the same subject, and who is continuing to do whatever he can to educate a younger generation. As a matter of fact, he thinks more people in similar situations should also write books.

“I encourage everyone to do stuff like this,” he said. “More people who’ve had success in all fields should be writing these kinds of books.”

Here is Buchanon, discussing how his relationship changed with his mother, once he made it big:

Soon after the draft, she told me that I owed her a million dollars for raising me for the past 18 years. Well, that was news to me. If my mother taught me anything, it’s that this is the most desperate demand that a parent can make on a child. The covenant of having a child is simply that you give your child everything possible, and they owe you nothing beyond a normal amount of love and respect. There is no financial arrangement. If you get old and infirm, and your kids are around to help you out at that point, then you’re lucky. It’s not written in the social contract. The mothers and fathers of the world have been rearing their kids for generations — in every culture imaginable — and it’s a one-way street when it comes to money. If they pay you back someday, and you really are going through hard times, then that’s just a bonus, a gratuity for being a great mother or father.

My mother had said my debt to her was a million dollars before, but this time she was more serious than ever. If you do the math, one million dollars divided by 18 years of raising me was approximately $55,555.55 a year in restitution. Except, at age 17 I decided to move out of my mom’s house, choosing to live with a close friend and his father because I no longer felt secure in my own home. Why, you ask? Because my mother let people come in and out of our house and take what they wanted. So technically, even if we went by her logic, I only owed her $944,444.44 for her services over 17 years.

Is it petty that I’m knocking a year off her calculation? The fact that I have written this paragraph enrages me, merely because I’m entertaining the thought that her argument had any logic at all. Maybe if I had become super rich, I could have written the check and been done with it. But, like blackmail, there is never any end, is there?

Please do not think I’m being ungrateful or cheap. I had already followed the unwritten rule of any NFL New Money Millionaire: I bought my mother a house. I also advised her to sell the old one I grew up in when I put a new roof over her head, but my mother had other plans. Instead of selling my childhood home, she decided to rent it to my aunt. So I had to finance my mother, the budding landlord. Only this wasn’t an investment. It was an encumbrance, because I didn’t share in my mother’s profit-making scheme. For the next seven years, I continued to make mortgage and maintenance payments on both homes.

I learned from this expensive lesson that big-ticket purchases for family members, such as houses and cars, should be evaluated with the following questions in mind: If you were unable to make payments for these purchases, would that particular family member be able to make the payments? Twenty years from now, who will be paying the upkeep on the house? You or your family member?

hen there’s the respect part of the equation. Are these family members respecting the gifts you give? For years, my mother left the lights on in the house without a thought as to how much I paid for electricity. This is a corollary of an old cliche that I’ve heard many times, that your kids won’t turn out the lights when leaving a room until they grow up and have to pay their own utility bills. It used to refer to kids, but in my case it fit right in as applicable to my family of Adult Abusers.

Anger built up inside me as my mother collected rent from our old house and never offered a cent to offset the expenses. It got to a point that I had to kick her boyfriend out. She accused me of messing up her life. What she didn’t see was that her boyfriend was pimping her and me out. He wasn’t bringing anything to the table, just taking.

When I told my mother she would have to take care of the maintenance after I paid off the mortgage on her house, she told me she would not be able to afford the upkeep on a house that big. In fact, she made it seem like it was my fault for picking out a house that big. In part, she was right. I bought her a house with my luxury taste and no real wisdom behind it. It was an uneducated purchase. Many NFL players choose a wiser route: they buy a reasonably sized home, pay for it in cash, keep it in their name, but gift it to their mother.

I tried giving my mother that option the second time around. I offered to buy her a comfortable house in my name for her to live in. This way she wouldn’t have to take out any loans or put my little sister and brothers in a situation where the roof over their heads could be taken away. She’d move out of the house that was too big for her and into this new one. Instead, she opted for $15,000 cash. She told me that if the new house didn’t have space for two living room sets, she didn’t want it.

Here’s what she really meant: She did not want to be embarrassed by downsizing from the home I’d originally bought for her. She was stubborn (a trait I get from her) and decided to take the cash despite my advice. I told her that if I gave her the $15,000, not to come calling when she got into trouble. Needless to say, she ended up calling. And, what’s worse, she lost the house.

I found it ironic that my mother thought she could manage my finances better than I could, yet she could not provide proof of making any money from the schemes she had set up. One day I let my anger get the better of me and asked her, “If you’re so smart, why haven’t you put together a plan to make money off of the money that you are saving from the expenses you aren’t paying?” The year I became a New Money Millionaire, I took every expense off of her hands except for food and fun money. This led her to challenge me to a money-making contest. “Oh, so you think you Phillip f*****g Buchanon? Since you think you’re smarter than your mother, we’re going to have a competition,” she said. “You give me a certain amount of money and you budget yourself a certain amount, and we will see who makes the most money from it.” I laughed, giving her credit for another attempt (a creative one at that), but she tried to fool me again. She even played upon my weaknesses because she knew that I rarely turned down a competition. Of course, I never went for this little scheme because I knew there was no way I could win. My mother would never win either because she’d simply go through the cash in a hurry. Then she’d need another clever idea to get another check. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.

I eventually learned how to deal with the numerous “family emergencies.” Early on, I found myself in too many situations where some relative would come to me and claim they needed something fixed. So I’d write them a check; of course, the problem never got fixed. The check, however, always got cashed. By trying to fix a problem, I created an additional one for myself.

I finally learned how to cope with this type of request. I paid the bills directly to the company or handyman doing the work. It was amazing to see how my family responded when I told them I would take care of it. They tried to lay the heaviest guilt number on me. I can still hear their muttering tones with tinges of disgust: “Nah, man, I’m cool. Forget about it.” This response meant they knew I was on to what they were up to. I had caught them red-handed, committing an act of adult abuse.

It took hundreds of thousands of dollars, far more than the cost of an Ivy League education, to learn this lesson. I can at least attribute it to my mother. It’s true; mothers have a way of making you learn the most important lessons in life.

~His Purpose and Plan for our life as Children~

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“What is God’s 
plan for my life?”

in this culture, your children have three basic hungers: truth, identity, and meaning.

TRUTH

               — Students are looking for truth, something that they can latch on to. The fact that sometimes truth is difficult to find at church shouldn’t surprise us. The Barna Group discovered that only half of today’s pastors express confidence in the truth of basic Christian doctrines. Untethered from these doctrines, Christianity stands mute in answer to life’s ultimate questions. In fact, less than 10 percent of born-again Christians possess a Christian worldview (also according to Barna).

While we’d never recommend using this logic to prove scripture’s accuracy or inspiration, we should acknowledge that Jesus declared the Word of God to be truth. The most stable foundation for any discussion about truth includes a healthy dose of scripture. But as a parent, you may likely hear questions like, “Does truth exist?”

IDENTITY

                              — Most people define their identity in terms of success: income, possessions, and reputation. However, at a deeper level, as bearers of the Imago Dei, we find ourselves tempted by two idols that poison our sense of direction.

1. The first idol is persona. Today’s online world makes it possible  — easy, really — to transcend our circumstances and project an image of our perfect selves. Is this projection an illusion or reality? Do we even know, and would we admit if we did?

2. Second, we are tempted by the idol of tribe. Wrapping our identities around hobbies, musical taste, athletic ability, or some other cultural preference we share with those we approve of or whose approval we hope to win. Ironically, we root ourselves in that which cannot last while uprooting that which can.

Through persona and tribe we come to believe that we are what we appear to be. But this train has only one destination: purposelessness, and it’s most acute among the young. Helping a young person find purpose is a process of cultivating rather than revealing. The best methodology we’ve discovered is asking questions.

 Deep questions aren’t necessarily the best. The best questions open 
up a process of discovery:<br /><br />
Have you had experiences that thoroughly captured your imagination? What do you think was happening then? What are some experiences where you’ve accomplished something that gave you a tremendous sense of satisfaction and returned energy to you?<br /><br />
What kinds of things do you like to work with (ideas, tools, people, etc.) and in what situations?<br /><br />
Be on the lookout for what they like to work with and in what situations. There’s no 
right or wrong answer here. Understanding and awareness are your aim.

MEANING

               — Layered over with strips of paper-mache optimism and the water glue of self-confidence, our outer forms become a way to hide the emptiness we feel inside. Sometimes our quest for meaning is one of the things preventing us from finding it. There is a reality we have to confront: The hunger for meaning will be met, either by truth and beauty or by their counterfeits, self-obsessions incapable of giving to others or receiving from God.

Our experience at Second Chance Alliance continues to prove out that meaning is defined through relationships. The only way to show rising generations that the Church is something you are, not something to go to, is to make it personal.

Truth, identity, and meaning aren’t fluffy subjects. When you speak from the position of biblical authority, you can speak to the heart of a young person who is seeking after truth.

“What is God’s 
plan for my life?”Resources to guide the conversation with your child about identity in Christ.

“Why does 
 God allow 
 bad things to happen?”

As a matter of logic, the problem of pain is not a good rebuttal to theism in general nor to Christianity in particular. If somebody wants to say, “How can you believe in an all-powerful, all-loving God when there is so much evil and suffering in the world?” one possible answer for a theist is simply to say that your God is not all-loving nor all-powerful. After all, there are plenty  of religions in the world that have their gods at war with each other, throwing, fighting, plotting, and scheming — not exactly portraits of all-loving gods. But for a Christian in particular, we simply have to acknowledge the rest of His attributes.

If we are going to say that the Christian God is all-loving and all-powerful, then we must also note that he is all-knowing. The omniscience of God dovetails with his omnibenevolence and omnipotence and says that not only does God love perfectly and work perfectly, he sees perfectly. That being the case, it is simply not reasonable to look at an all-knowing God and object to how he is running things. Rather, it is reasonable to say, “If I were as good as God is, if I were as powerful as God is, and if I knew as much as God knows, I would be doing exactly what he is doing.”

But the reality is quite different. The complication with the problem of pain is that it’s not about what’s reasonable; it’s about what’s painful. In other words, the question is not, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” but rather, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to me? Or to people I care about? Or to people I see on the news?” Anyone who has spent any time with humans knows the depth of their sorrow and bondage of their pain. While it is important to know the apologetics and theology, it is important that we obey the command of Romans 12:15, “weep with those who weep,” while we wait to be “set free from [creation’s] slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God”(Romans 8:21).

Answering this question is not easy. Often the most theologically accurate answer feels least satisfying. This video will answer some of those tough questions.

~One Gospel Is Required~

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Two Questions, Three Positions

Three positions abound today on the question of whether Christ is the only way to salvation. All three can be detected by how each answers these two fundamental questions: First, Is Jesus the only Savior? More fully: Is the sinless life of Christ and his atoning death and resurrection the only means by which the penalty of sin is paid and the power of sin defeated? Second, Is faith in Christ necessary to be saved? More fully: Is conscious knowledge of Christ’s death and resurrection for sin and explicit faith in Christ necessary for anyone to become a recipient of the benefits of Christ’s atoning work and so be saved?

Pluralism answers both questions, ‘No.’ The pluralist (e.g., John Hick) believes that there are many paths to God, Jesus being only one of them. Since salvation can come through other religions and religious leaders, it surely follows that people do not have to believe in Christ to be saved.

Inclusivism answers the first question, ‘Yes,’ and the second question, ‘No.’ To the inclusivist (e.g., Clark Pinnock), although Jesus has accomplished the work necessary to bring us back to God, nonetheless, people can be saved by responding positively to God’s revelation in creation and perhaps in aspects of their own religions. So, even though Christ is the only Savior, people do not have to know about or believe in Christ to be saved.

Exclusivism answers both questions, ‘Yes.’ The exclusivist (e.g., Ron Nash, John Piper, Bruce Ware) believes that Scripture affirms both truths, first, that Jesus alone has accomplished the atoning work necessary to save sinners, and second, that knowledge of and faith in Christ is necessary for anyone to be saved. The remainder of this article offers a brief summary of some of the main support for these two claims.

Only One Way? The Exclusivity of Jesus Christ and the Gospel

Jesus is the Only Savior

Why think that Jesus is the only Savior? Of all the people who have lived and ever will live, Jesus alone qualifies, in his person and work, as the only one capable of accomplishing atonement for the sin of the world. Consider the following ways in which Jesus alone qualifies as the exclusive Savior.

1. Christ alone was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:26), and as such, he alone qualifies to be Savior. Why does this matter? Only as the Holy Spirit takes the place of the human father in Jesus’ conception can it be true that the one conceived is both fully God and fully man. Christ must be both God and man to atone for sin (see below), but for this to occur, he must be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a human virgin. No one else in the history of the world is conceived by the Spirit and born of a virgin mother. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.

2. Christ alone is God incarnate (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:1; Philippians 2:5; 1 Timothy 2:5), and as such, he alone qualifies to be Savior. As Anselm argued in the 11th century, our Savior must be fully man in order to take the place of men and die in their stead, and he must be fully God in order for the value of his sacrificial payment to satisfy the demands of our infinitely holy God. Man he must be, but a mere man simply could not make this infinite payment for sin. But no one else in the history of the world is both fully God and fully man. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.

3. Christ alone lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 2:21; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:23; Hebrews 9:13; 1 Peter 2:21), and as such, he alone qualifies to be Savior. As Leviticus makes clear, animals offered as sacrifices for sin must be without blemish. This prefigured the sacrifice of Christ who, as sinless, was able to die for the sins of others and not for himself. But no one else in the history of the world has lived a totally sinless life. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.

4. Christ alone died a penal, substitutionary death (Isaiah 53:4; Romans 3:21; 2 Corinthians 2:21; Galatians 3:10), and as such, he alone qualifies to be Savior. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And because Christ lived a sinless life, he did not deserve to die. Rather, the cause of his death was owing to the fact that the Father imputed to him our sin. The death that he died was in our place. No one else in the history of the world has died because he bore the sin of others and not as the judgment for his own sin. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.

5. Christ alone rose from the dead triumphant over sin (Acts 2:22; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 1 Corinthians 15:16), and as such, he alone qualifies to be Savior. The Bible indicates that a few people, other than Christ, have been raised from the dead (1 Kings 17:17; John 11:38), but only Christ has been raised from the dead never to die again, having triumphed over sin. The wages of sin is death, and the greatest power of sin is death. So, Christ’s resurrection from the dead demonstrates that his atoning death for sin accomplished both the full payment of sin’s penalty and full victory over sin’s greatest power. No one else in the history of the world has been raised from the dead triumphant over sin. Therefore, Jesus alone qualifies to be Savior.

Conclusion: Christ alone qualifies as Savior, and Christ alone is Savior. Jesus’ own words could not be clearer: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And the Apostle Peter confirms, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These claims are true of no one else in the history of the world. Indeed, Jesus alone is Savior.

Faith in Christ is Necessary to be Saved

Why think that faith in Christ is necessary to be saved? The teaching of the apostles is clear, that the content of the gospel now (since the coming of Christ) focuses directly upon the atoning death and resurrection of Christ, and that by faith in Christ one is forgiven of his sin and granted eternal life. Consider the following passages that support the conviction that people are saved only as they know and trust in Christ as their Savior.

1. Jesus’ own teaching shows that the nations need to hear and repent to be saved (Luke 24:44). Jesus commands that “repentance and forgiveness of sin should be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). The people Jesus here describes are currently both unrepentant and unforgiven. To be forgiven they must repent.  But to repent they must hear the proclamation of Christ’s work in his name. And this is true for all the nations, including Jews who haven’t trusted Christ. Jesus does not envision the “nations” as already having saving revelation available to them. Rather, believers must proclaim the message of Christ to all the nations for people in those nations to be saved.

2. Paul teaches that even pious Jews, and everyone else, must hear and believe in Christ to be saved (Romans 10:1).  Paul’s heart’s desire and prayer is for the salvation of his fellow Jews. Even though they have a zeal for God, they do not know that God’s righteousness comes only through faith in Christ. So these Jews, even though pious, are not saved. Whoever will call upon the name of Christ (see Romans 10:9along with Romans 10:13) will be saved. But this requires that someone tell them. And this requires that those are sent. Missions, then, is necessary, since people must hear the gospel of Christ to be saved.

3. Cornelius’s story demonstrates that even pious Gentiles must hear and believe in Christ to be saved (Acts 10:1, Acts 10:38; Acts 11:13; Acts 15:7). Far from being saved before Peter came to him, as some think, Cornelius was a pious (Acts 10:2) Gentile who needed to hear of Christ, and believe in Christ, to be saved. When Peter reports about the conversion of the Gentiles, he declares that only when he preached did Cornelius hear the message he needed to hear by which he would “be saved” (Acts 11:14; cf. Acts 15:8). Despite his piety, Cornelius needed to hear the proclamation of the gospel of Christ to be saved.

Conclusion: Jesus is the only Savior, and people must know and believe in Christ to be saved. May we honor Christ and the gospel, and manifest our faithfulness to God’s word, by upholding these twin truths and living in a manner that demonstrates our commitment to them.

~What Fashions “Your” Beliefs and Thinking?

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In an attempt to improve ourselves and our calling to perform ministry May & I have embarked upon volunteering three days a week at a local church/substance abuse center. We are also performing phase 2 of peer-counseling to enhance our adapting skills to the mission we have been called to perform in our community. Association with many groups has opened our eyes to Social Psychology and how it is used to fashion and shape peoples behavior.

We have ceased to think theologically about the ministry. Instead, we characterize it almost exclusively in functional or institutional terms. There are at least two reasons for this shift in emphasis. On the one hand there are the new developments in clinical psychology and counseling procedures, and on the other the requests of parishioners, the denominational programs, and the culture of the local community.

 

How is it that so many people started saying “Awesome!”, or started wearing Uggs?

These are examples of how individuals’ behavior is shaped by what people around them consider appropriate, correct or desirable. Researchers are investigating how human behavioral norms are established in groups and how they evolve over time, in hopes of learning how to exert more influence when it comes to promoting health, marketing products or reducing prejudice.

Psychologists are studying how social norms, the often-unspoken rules of a group, shape not just our behavior but also our attitudes. Social norms influence even those preferences considered private, such as what music we like or what policies we support or even what beliefs we entertain as it relates to denominational choices of churchs. Interventions that take advantage of already-existing group pressures, the thinking goes, should be able to shift attitudes and change behaviors at less cost in effort and resources.

Norms serve a basic human social function, helping us distinguish who is in the group and who is an outsider. Behaving in ways the group considers appropriate is a way of demonstrating to others, and to oneself, that one belongs to the group.

But surprisingly little is known about how attitudinal norms are established in groups. Why do some people in a group become trendsetters when it comes to ideas and objects?

“The questions are among the most challenging” in the field, said H. Peyton Young, a professor at the University of Oxford in the U.K. and at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Dr. Young studies how norms influence economic behavior. “It’s definitely a big open research area where there’s a certain amount of dispute.”

One question is whether there is always a leader that sets or changes the norm, or whether norm change occurs organically over time, even in the absence of a strong leader.

What is Christian Counseling?

What is Christian Counseling?

Christian counseling focuses on intertwining the disciplines of faith and psychology to provide an approach to mental and emotional health that pulls from biblical teachings. Practitioners of this style of counseling incorporate religious scripture and teachings to guide you through challenging life issues. When facing turbulent life events, incorporating and strengthening your faith may be the missing piece in finding proper treatment.

Origins of Christian Counseling

Rooted deep within biblical accounts, this form of therapy places an emphasis on fundamental values and beliefs that comprise the framework of modern Christianity. Ministers, Reverends, and other religious figures must seek licensed training and accreditation to provide this service to you, much like a secular clinician. In 1968, Christian counselors officially formed the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation to provide a model for current and future counselors. These counselors are bound not only to religious code, but secular standards of ethical practice as well.

Social psychology is “the study of the ways in which the imagined, implied or actual presence of others affects our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. As an African American growing up in Washington D.C. (at the time one of most diverse cities in America), My first brush with social psychology was on my neighborhood streets. “On my block alone, there were nine different nationalities represented. “I was used to growing up with all sorts of different kids, dealing with cultural conflicts, celebrating everyone’s different holidays and special occasions—that was the norm for me.”

When I was in third grade, My mom took us to a  multiethnic church comprising four equally proportioned groups: African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and whites. There, I listened to songs and prayers in languages far beyond English. We also had racial slurs hurled at us in a local church’s Vacation Bible School. These and other experiences piqued my interest early on about fundamental questions of social psychology, such as, “Why don’t groups get along?” and “Why do they perceive each other inaccurately?”

Much has been written about various aspects of pastoral theology, but there is a remarkable scarcity of literature that explores the theological issues that lie behind it. The doyen of modern pastoral methods, Seward Hiltner, has said:

Most American ministers—scholars though they may be—are functionalists at heart… . We think and feel or work our way into even the most recondite of theoretical matters only by first exploring them in relation to our functions of ministry.

Much of modern pastoral psychology is an abandonment to this American pragmatism. It is an aping of American scholarship as it demonstrates its pragmatic motivation. There seems to be a disdain for a careful study of the biblical view of the ministry.

Such is the minister’s dilemma. He is faced on the one hand with the traditional biblical definitions (though often poorly developed and frequently caricatured) and on the other with the set of functional expectations by which his service is judged. In addition he is strongly influenced by the attractiveness of new developments in clinical psychology and counseling procedures. Therefore he faces basic ambiguities in performing his task.

The minister serving in today’s secular culture is also confronted with an eroded image of the pastor. He is no longer the most educated man in the community or the one who elicits the mental image of a paragon of virtue. One is more likely to think about Elmer Gantry(Elmer Gantry is a novel written by Sinclair Lewis in 1926 that satirically represents aspects of the religious activity of America within fundamentalist and evangelistic circles and the attitudes of the 1920s public toward it) or to recognize that a recent Gallup poll showed that only eight percent of the population recommended the role of the clergyman as the preferred profession, far behind the doctor, engineer-builder.

Today , May and I are diligently looking for the reconciling benefits of social psychology, working with groups to raise our awareness of their social mis-perceptions and bringing conflicting groups together to find ways to collaborate. We are reading( Disunity in Christ) Christena Cleveland, a social psychologist, is helping churches and faith-based groups transcend deep-seated divisions. it explores how social psychology reveals fragmentation in the body of Christ. Filled with many personal stories, the book highlights, among other things, how differences become divisions, and how the prevailing marketing culture feeds unhealthy competition between groups.

“The cognitive processes that drive categorization are most powerful when they are hidden from sight we have found this to be true within various church communities we frequent. “Once individuals become consciously aware of these processes . . . the processes begin to lose their power.” May and I had the opportunity to witness another facet of cognitive processes helping groups to recognize those assumptions. It was practiced  while working with a Young Life group in a, low-income, mostly African American neighborhood in Riverside Ca., after noticing the divisive ways that the group (8 to 10 African American girls) talked about Somali girls at their school. The facilitator began asking the girls questions that helped them see their assumptions. “When you give people the opportunity to see how others misperceive them, “it makes them more interested in seeing how they misperceive others.”

More Than ‘Unity Events’

As May and I launched our campaign to perform outreach we scheduled several meetings to obtain buy in from various denominations. The joint venture began well, we had gained support to utilize one pastors 501c3 to obtain the needed resources and another pastor support to allow us the use of his church to process the recipients.  “The joint venture began well but soon ended quite poorly, leaving behind a trail of distrust, negative emotions, and bruised egos.”

We shifted our focus of  work with the pastors to explore what happened:

After hearing each pastor’s side of the story, it became clear to me that . . . each pastor had very different ideals about what a leader does and does not do, and each pastor projected his ideals onto the other pastor and negatively evaluated him based on criteria that pertained to those ideals. Essentially, each pastor gave the other a failing grade on leadership because they had very different criteria for evaluating leadership.

By working with us, the pastors uncovered their differing concepts of leadership and how that had led to misunderstanding and failed collaboration.

reconciliation books to read 2014

These are the ten books we plan to read along with an intense daily devotional for 2015.

Cleveland’s work awakens us to the language we use, particularly the ways in which we draw boundaries between us and them. “We must take active steps to expand our category of us, “so that they are now included in us. We’ve learned that the mere act of categorizing Christian groups into smaller, homogeneous groups leads us to devalue, misperceive, and distance ourselves from them.”

Once a divide goes up between groups,  they tend to exaggerate each other’s differences—and cause further division in the body of Christ. Churches, “tend to rely most on our smaller, cultural identities and ignore our larger, common identity as members of the body of Christ. . . . Christianity has been turned into a marketplace in which you can make money off your brand.” Pastors and churches are pressured to distinguish themselves from others, as we compete for the loyalty of members and seemingly scarce resources. We need a theology, deeply rooted in our essential unity in Christ that acts and speaks accordingly, seeking commonality and emphasizing shared characteristics between groups.

Instead of deepening the chasms between groups, we need sustained conversation. I would like to go one  one step further, noting that one-time cross-cultural unity events are “not the way to go.” Although well-intentioned,  such events tend to squeeze minority groups into the majority culture. Rather, healing and witness to unity in Christ comes from the long, messy work of naming issues of power and privilege. What we need are “long-term, ongoing partnerships that are proximal and mutually engaging.”

Alongside sustained conversations, we need ministries on which our groups can collaborate. I recall how many churches in Washington D.C. ran VBS programs with the exact same curriculum at different times. “It’s our empire approach to doing church,”  that fuels such redundant behavior. I also maintain that it’s better for a church to pick a single church of a differing social group (race, ethnicity, or even political inclination) and to deeply partner with that church rather than to host sporadic events with many churches. My experience has shown that churches who immerse themselves in this kind of cross-cultural partnerships never regret it. “Yes, it’s hard,”  “but it’s so much richer.”

The call to follow Jesus, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded us, is a costly one. The way of Christ is undoubtedly difficult as we lose ourselves, but as we follow in it, we find the abundant shared riches of God’s kingdom. Cleveland’s work rouses us from the patterns of speech and action that we mindlessly fall into within the confines of a homogenous social group. It points us toward healing: the healing of the church, the healing of our neighborhoods, and ultimately the healing of our own fragmented souls. May we have the courage to follow her lead.

~We Are Precious In “His” Sight~

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I felt compelled to share this gift with the world. I received this word for the soul purpose of interviewing for a assistant pastor position that I was fortunate to present to their board and a few of their young adults. I used this video along with some of my testimony to illustrate what it would look like on a Sunday or Thursday night with me as a instrument of God chosen to present the word. It went well, but none of my prerequisites were considered and so I still shine and move in my God to pursue our vision while He harbors us in His nailed scared hands until He exalts us into full operation.

If there is a God, as I believe there is, and if he rules the world in his sovereignty, as the Bible says he does, and if he will bring human history to a close according to his plan and appoint to every person his eternal destiny, as Jesus taught that he will, then two of the most important questions for any human being to answer are these:

1) What is God’s goal in creating and governing the world?

2) How can I bring my life into alignment with that goal?

For if we don’t know his goal and our lives are not in alignment with it, then we will find ourselves at cross purposes with God and excluded from his kingdom in the age to come. It is a fearful thing to be at cross purposes with your maker! But on the other hand, nothing inspires courage and endurance and pluck for daily living like knowing the purpose of God and feeling yourself wholeheartedly in harmony with it. Nothing has nourished the strength of my Christian faith like knowing God’s ultimate goal for creation and discovering how to bring my heart and my behavior into alignment with that goal.

God’s Goal in Creating Israel

So this Thursday sermon and next Sunday I want to talk about these two questions. First, What is God’s goal in creating and governing the world, especially in creating and overruling humanity? Then next Sunday, How do we bring our lives into harmony with that goal?

The text I have chosen to focus on is Isaiah 43:1–7. Let’s read it in context:

But now, thus says the Lord, your creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed even whom I have made.” (NASB)

The main point of the passage is to encourage God’s people not to fear what man or nature can do to them. This is the command repeated in verse 1 and verse 5. After each of these commands not to fear God gives his reasons why his people should not fear. In verses 1–4 God argues like this: You should not fear because what I did for you in the past proves my love to you and my care for you. “I redeemed you (from Egyptian bondage), I called you by name, you are mine!” (v. 1). So you can count on me to help you when deep waters and raging fire threaten to destroy you (v. 2). “I am the Lord your God, your Savior, you are precious to me.” Look, have I not subjugated other peoples in order to save you (vv. 3, 4)? So don’t be afraid of the trouble coming upon you.

That is the first argument why God’s people should not fear. Then verse 5 repeats the command, “Don’t fear,” and gives a new argument in verses 5–7. “I am with you! The judgment of being dispersed into captivity away from your land—this is not my final word. I will gather you again. For you are called by my name, I created you for my glory.”

What is it that at rock bottom moves God to help his people? Verse 4 says, “You are precious in my eyes . . . I love you.” Is that the answer? In a sense, yes. When John said, “God is love,” he no doubt meant that no matter how deep we probe into the motives of God, we will never arrive at a layer which is not love.

But this text lures me down, down, down into the heart of God. It raises a question. In order for Israel (God’s chosen people of that era) to be precious in God’s sight, they had to exist. I have three sons and they are precious to me and I love them. But they were not precious to me and I did not love them in 1970; they did not yet exist, they had not been planned nor conceived. So the deeper question is, Why was Israel even conceived or created? Why did God bring into existence a people whom he could regard as precious? What was his motive before there was even a people to love?

Verse 7 gives the answer: God created Israel for his glory. The existence of Israel was planned and conceived and achieved because God wanted to get glory for his name through her. Before we ask just what it is for God to seek his own glory in this way, let’s see if this goal of God has motivated more than just the election of the nation Israel.

God’s Goal from the Beginning

In one sense we can speak of the exodus out of Egypt as the birth of Israel as a nation. At this point God gave her the law to regulate her life as a nation, and this law and covenant have been the backbone of the nation ever since. But if the exodus was the birth of Israel, then the election and call of Abraham back in Genesis 12 must have been the conception of the nation of Israel, and the period of the patriarchs and slavery in Egypt would then have been the gestation period. So when it says God created Israel for his glory, I take it to mean that the purpose of God to be glorified in Israel was the purpose which motivated God at every step: conception, gestation, and birth.

If this is true then we are put onto an interesting link between the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 and the call of Abram in Genesis 12, which will, I think, show us that God’s goal of glorifying himself did not originate at the creation of Israel but that this is what he was up to from the beginning.

Look at Genesis 11. The key phrase to show what caused God to become angry with these tower builders and disperse them comes in verse 4. “They said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.'” Ever since Adam and Eve had chosen to eat of the forbidden tree in order to be like God, independent of him and wise in their own right, the human race has been enslaved to a rebellious heart that hates to rely on God but loves to make a name for itself. The tower of Babel was a manifestation of that rebellion. They wanted to make a name for themselves and reach even to heaven, but God frustrated their designs.

But instead of abandoning the human race God starts a new thing in chapter 12 of Genesis. He chooses one man, Abram, and makes him a promise in Genesis 12:1–3. Listen to what God says and contrast it with what the tower builders said:

Now the Lord said to Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great.”

The people working on the tower of Babel said, “Let us make a name for ourselves!”. God chooses the father of the Jewish nation and says, “I will make your name great.”

Now, what does this show about the goal of God in the world? I think Moses is telling us, as he writes this primal history, that when ancient man refused to align himself with the goal of God, God set about a very different way of achieving that same goal. Man was made to rely on God and give him glory. Instead man chose to rely on himself and seek his own glory—to make a name for himself. So God elected one small person and promised to achieve his purpose through that man and his descendants. He would make Abram’s name great, so that he, and not man, would get the glory.

In other words, the goal of God in creating Israel, namely, for his glory, is not a goal that took effect only at that point in history. It is the goal that guided his creation and governance of man from the start. Man was created from the beginning in God’s image that he might image forth God’s glory. He was to multiply and fill the earth so that the knowledge of the glory of God would cover the sea. And ever since the fall of man into sin, people have refused to align themselves with this divine goal. But all God’s acts have been aimed at seeing it through.

So it is not just Israel but we whom God created for his glory. This is why the New Testament again and again calls us to do all to the glory of God. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). “Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). This is not an admonition to do God a favor. It is a command to align our lives with his eternal goal. He created us for hisglory. God’s great aim in creating and governing the world is that he be glorified. “I created you for my glory. I formed you, I made you.”

What It Means to Be Created for God’s Glory

Now, what then does it mean to say that God created us for his glory? Glory is a very hard thing to define. It is like the word “Beauty.” We all can use it and communicate with it but to try to reduce it to words is very frustrating. It is easier to point to examples. A sunset seen from the top of the I.D.S.—that’s glory. Or the I.D.S. itself almost invisible, like crystal against a grey-blue sky—that’s glory. A perfect performance on the balance beam by Nadia Comaneci—that’s glory. A perfectly executed 30-foot jump shot with one second to go—that’s glory, too.

The glory of God is the beauty and excellence of his manifold perfections. It is an attempt to put into words what God is like in his magnificence and purity. It refers to his infinite and overflowing fullness of all that is good. The term might focus on his different attributes from time to time—like his power and wisdom and mercy and justice—because each one is indeed awesome and beautiful in its magnitude and quality. But in general God’s glory is the perfect harmony of all his attributes into one infinitely beautiful and personal being.

Now when God says that he created us for his glory, it cannot mean that he created us so that he would become more glorious, that his beauty and perfection would be somehow increased by us. It is unthinkable that God should become more perfectly God by making something that is not God. It is a staggering but necessary thought that God has always existed, that he never came into being, and that everything which exists which is not God is from his fullness and can never add anything to him which did not come from him. That is what it means to be God; and it should humble us, O, how it should humble us, when we ponder his reality!

But this means that when God says he made us for his glory, he does not mean he made us so that he could become more glorious in himself. Instead whatIsaiah 43:7 means is that he created us to display his glory, that is, that his glory might be known and praised. This is the goal of God with which we must be aligned in our hearts and actions if we hope to escape his wrath at the judgment.

This becomes clearer as we page through Isaiah. Isaiah 43:20–21 says, “I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” Isaiah 44:23says, “Sing, O heavens for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and will be glorified in Israel.” In response to her redemption Israel will join the skies and valleys and mountains and forests in singing praise to the Lord. The Lord’s glory will be known and praised and displayed to the nations.

But Isaiah 48:9–11 makes even clearer what it means for God to seek his own glory in creating and redeeming his people:

For My name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of My praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you but not like silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For My own sake, for My own sake I do it,
for how should My name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.

What an amazing text this is! How wonderfully un-modern and anti-21st-century this text is! How ugly and repulsive it must appear to the god of this age, the prince of the power of the air. But how sweet, how clean and high and bright and full of allurement to those who really love God above all else.

Even though this text deals with God’s Old Testament people Israel, we have seen that his motives do not change from era to era and so we can apply at least that aspect of this text to the people of God in our day—those who follow Christ as Savior and Lord. Two things cry out to be stressed in our day. First, our salvation is for God’s sake. “For My name’s sake I withhold my anger. For the sake of My praise I restrain it for you.” To be sure, God will save his people, he will bless us infinitely! But it is for his name’s sake, for his praise, for his glory that he does it. “For My own sake, for My own sake I do it, for how should My name be profaned.” Where this perspective is lost, and the magnifying of God’s glory is no longer seen as the great aim of redemption, pitiful substitutes arise—man centered philosophies that exalt human value in a way that distorts the work of redemption and belittles the primacy of God. And surely I don’t have to tell you in detail that this perspective of God-centeredness has been lost in our day, even in the churches. Man is the star in our contemporary drama and his comfort, his prosperity, and his health are the great goals. Of course God is there on the stage, but only as a kind of co-star or supporting actor to round out the picture for religious and cultural expectations.

What a world apart is Isaiah 48:9–11, and even more so Ezekiel 36:21–32. Parts of this text are very familiar promises of the New Covenant, but O, how we need to read what comes before and after these promises, lest we lose the biblical perspective of our salvation.

But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went. Therefore, say to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness, and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, that you may not receive again the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and your abominations. I am not doing this for your sake,” declares the Lord God, “Let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel!” (NASB)

That’s the first thing that needs to be stressed from Isaiah 48:9–11: our salvation is for God’s sake. He created us for his glory!

The second thing that needs to be stressed is this: God will not allow his name to be profaned indefinitely. Though he is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, he will not tolerate forever those who do not give him glory, but instead regard something else as more glorious, more worthy of allegiance. “My glory I will not give to another.” That’s why I said at the beginning, it is a fearful thing to be at cross purposes with your maker. There is a judgment day and the issue for every one of us will be: Have we been with God in his great goal to glorify himself or has his glory been a matter of indifference to us or even animosity?

We are left with two great questions, which I am to answer next Sunday, if God wills. One is: How do we bring our lives into alignment with God’s goal to glorify himself? What sorts of things must we think and feel and do for God to get glory from us? Is it another weight to make us sigh or is it wings to let us fly? And the second question is: Why is it right for God to seek his own glory when he tells us in his Word we should not seek our own glory? How can it be loving and not selfish for God to create us for his glory?

But even before next week when I try to answer these two questions all of us here need to align ourselves more fully with God’s goal. And my assumption is that some are here who up until this very point in your life have lived it at cross purposes with God. I urge you, do not wait until next Sunday to be reconciled to God. Repent and give your life to God for his purposes now. Any help that I can be in that decision, let me know.

~Wait Training:Life’s Most Difficult Lesson~

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Life’s Most Difficult Lesson

Lessons are an ongoing part of life. Although an academic education comes to an end, we never cease learning vital spiritual lessons. The truths that God teaches us are invaluable and practical because they affect our character development, choices, and lifestyle. Their influence reaches beyond our earthly lifetimes all the way into eternity.

One of the most difficult faith lessons we will ever learn is to wait upon the Lord. Maybe you are facing a critical decision and don’t know which way to go. Or perhaps you have been praying about a certain matter, but God is simply not responding. Is a difficult or painful situation wearing you down because there’s just no end in sight?

At such times, the only thing we want is instant relief or immediate direction, yet Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” To wait for the Lord means to remain in your present circumstances or environment until He gives further instruction. Far from encouraging passivity, this verse calls for an active choice to be at rest, trusting in God and His timing. It’s not a cessation of daily activities but an internal stillness of spirit that accompanies you throughout the day.

Why God Lets Us Wait

Waiting is especially tough when a situation is stressful or a decision must be made soon. But understanding why the Lord hasn’t answered our prayers, brought relief, or given direction can help us trust in His wisdom and timing.

Sometimes we are not ready for the next step. God has plans for us, but there are instances when He stops us in our tracks until we do a little “internal housecleaning.” Maybe we have been tolerating a sin in our life or need to deal with bad attitudes or ungodly thought patterns. The Lord has places to take us, and He knows what baggage needs to be left behind.

The delay could also have the purpose of training us for His calling. David was anointed king when he was a young man, but he spent many years in the wilderness, fleeing from Saul. Through all the difficulty, God refined his character and sharpened his leadership skills. When the time was right, He brought him to the throne.

In the same way, God may keep you in an uncomfortable place, a boring job, or a challenging situation. But remember this: He is preparing you for something far better. Cooperate with His training program while you wait, knowing that His plans for you are good.

Perhaps all the details of God’s will are not yet in place. The Lord is the master of time and sovereignly works out all the specifics of His grand design for humanity. No amount of prayer or fasting will move His hand until He is ready. When Moses saw the oppression of the Israelites, he tried to right the situation by killing an abusive Egyptian (Ex. 2:11-12). But the Lord used this situation to redirect him to the desert for 40 years until the king of Egypt died (vv. 23-25). Then He set His plan of deliverance in motion using a much humbler 80-year-old Moses.

At times the Lord’s delays are designed to increase our faith. If He instantaneously gave us everything we wanted, we would never learn to walk by faith. But when we have only a promise from the Scriptures with no visible evidence to rely upon, then our faith is put to the test. Will we believe Him or our circumstances? By confidently clinging to God’s Word and knowing that He has never failed to fulfill His promises, we will eventually see the evidence of His faithfulness every time.

The Lord wants to teach us endurance. Like it or not, the ability to persist under difficult circumstances is an absolutely essential ingredient of the Christian life. Scripture tells us that “tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). Our hardships are designed, not to crush us but to refine us into the image of Christ. When we abide under the pressure with complete reliance on the Lord for His strength and perspective, we come out of the process looking more like our Savior.

Perhaps our attention needs to be refocused on Christ. It’s easy to become so absorbed in our own concerns that we forget about Him, but nothing grabs our attention like a difficult or confusing situation. If God doesn’t rush to give an answer or fix the problem, then we, in our desperation, start to make Him our main focus. However, there is a difference between seeking the Lord and seeking His intervention. If our thoughts are only on what we want Him to do for us, we’ve missed the mark. To wait for the Lord means our focus is on Him, not simply on our desired outcome.

My deficiencies in life are all a result of me not having patience and faith in God’s plan for my life. As He has matured me to understand that His word is my strength, knowledge and protection my life has been so much better.

How We Are to Wait

The fruitfulness of our time in God’s waiting room is very dependent upon our attitudes and mindset in the process. Fretting and pacing not only fail to speed things up; they also result in emotional turmoil. The Lord has a better way.

Wait patiently, quietly, and dependently. This kind of attitude is possible only for those who have submitted to the Lord’s authority over them. If we believe and accept that He has our best interests at heart and can work it all out for our good, then we are able to rest in His right to choose the method and timing. When we truly trust Him, there will be no maneuvering, manipulating, or rushing ahead.

Stand upon God’s Word. The Bible is our anchor in times of waiting. One of the wisest things you can do is to read the Scriptures every day, asking God to give you passages which will bring stability to your life. As I look back in my old Bibles as well as in my present one, I see marked verses that carried me through the tough times. Don’t merely rely on prayer when you experience difficulty or require direction. Hang on to a specific word from God that will give you His perspective and promise in your situation. Then you can confidently pray, “Lord, here is what You promised me in Your Word. And You can never go against Your promises, so I will cling to this truth while I wait upon You.”

Wait confidently, believing Him. Having submitted ourselves to God and anchored ourselves with His Word, we can confidently watch for His will to unfold. He knows exactly what to do and when to accomplish it. He has the power to rearrange any detail to bring about His desired plan. All we have to do is believe Him and watch for His intervention or direction.

Hindrances to Waiting

Knowing that the unfolding of God’s will comes to those who patiently wait for Him, why do we so often go our own way instead?

We live hurried lifestyles. Our culture is action-oriented. To be still and wait for direction from God seems counterproductive, so we jump in to get results. Besides, sitting quietly with the Lord takes too much time. We prefer to ask Him for guidance in the car on the way to work. Our schedules are full, and the prospect of spending uninterrupted, unhurried time seeking the mind of Christ seems impossible. But that is the only way to hear His voice and know His heart.

We have a short-term perspective. Fast food restaurants, express checkouts, and drive-through coffee shops are proof of the “have it now” mentality in our society. If you doubt this, watch the impatience of people standing in line at the supermarket or sitting at a traffic light. We want everything quickly, but there’s no fast track to spiritual maturity, and learning to wait on the Lord is a crucial element in the development of godly character. Our demand for immediate gratification has blinded us to the benefits of waiting for a greater reward. By learning to trust the Lord and rely on His timing, we will experience recurring benefits throughout our lifetime and in heaven as well.

We seek the advice of others. Where do you go when you don’t know what to do? If you get on the phone and describe your situation to three or four friends, you will very likely receive different advice from each one. Although the counsel of others can be valuable, it should always be filtered through the truth of God’s Word. Make it a habit to seek the Lord’s guidance before going to any outside source. After all, He alone knows the specific plans He has for you.

We doubt that God will come through for us. When deadlines for decisions loom or unwanted situations remain unchanged, we might begin to wonder if the Lord will ever intervene. Our circumstances shout, “God has forgotten about you!” However, just because we can’t see anything happening doesn’t mean the Lord is uninvolved. His eyes roam throughout the earth “that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chron. 16:9). When your eyes can’t see the evidence, trust what you know is true.

The Results of Waiting

What can we expect from the Lord if we choose to let Him direct our path? First of all, He promises to hear and answer those who wait patiently for Him (Ps. 40:1) and give them clear instructions so they can follow His path (Ps. 25:4-5). They will also experience all the good He has in store for them, since they’ve remained in His will instead of running in their own direction (Lam. 3:25).

One of the most surprising results will be increased strength (Isa. 40:31). Normally,we feel strong when we are actively taking charge, plotting our course, and making things happen. But the Lord’s ways are so different from ours. He promises to strengthen the one who remains still and quiet before Him, actively listening for His voice. He empowers us to endure the wait, and when He finally speaks, He gives us the strength to do what He says.

I don’t know what you are waiting for, but I do know that if you believe what God tells you in His Word and patiently rest in His choice and timing for your situation, you’ll experience a new spirit of joy and confidence. You see, the Lord is always faithful to those who seek Him and watch for His plans to unfold right on schedule. He never fails to come through. Believe His promises and rest confidently in the assurance of Isaiah 49:23: “Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.”

 

Questions for Further Study

To make the most of your time in God’s waiting room, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where is my focus? Where is Jeremiah’s focus in Lamentations 3:19-20? What deliberate change does he make in his thinking, and what are the results (vv. 21-23)? How does this new perspective transform his attitude about his situation and the Lord’s purposes for him (vv. 24-26)?
  2. Where is my strength? Read Isaiah 40:27-31. When it seems as if the Lord has forgotten us, how can the description of Him in verse 28 stabilize our faith? What does He promise to give those who wait for Him? According to Isaiah 30:15-21, where is our strength found? Describe the outcome of refusing God’s way and running ahead of Him in our own strength. What will He do if we wait for Him?
  3. Where is my hope? In Psalm 130:5, where does the psalmist place his hope while he waits? How can we know God will keep His word (Isa. 55:10-11)? How do the preceding two verses (vv. 8-9) reassure us when the delay is long or the process is confusing? What are the benefits of believing God while we wait (Rom. 15:13)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~What Do You Do When Ministry Is Frustrating?~

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Let me ask all of you—have you ever been disappointed when things did not go well? Have you been discouraged to the point of losing hope? Have you ever felt that you should simply quit trying?

A person eager to serve the Lord will often find himself hindered from going into full time service. How should he respond to these situations?

This kind of frustration is not uncommon in the scriptures or real life! I know some people who are scared about being called into the ministry. They are not waiting! They are trying to avoid full time service. Perhaps they have seen what it costs. 

Another group of people are eager to get into ministry. They can’t wait for the opportunity. They have worked through the other issues. Now they are ready, but they can’t go. It seems God isn’t now ready! Fortunately, we have scriptures and His spirit to rely upon.

 

 

David on the Run  1 Samuel 16

Several years ago, I watched some people who never quit trying, who never gave up when they faced disappointment—a group that was down but not out. My wife May and I were in Chicago, and we attended the Northwestern-Michigan State football game. Although we had no allegiance to either team, we were excited about enjoying a cool, crisp fall day at the stadium. For the first half of the game Northwestern dominated, and the second half began the same way. There were 9 minutes and 54 seconds left in the third quarter when they went up on Michigan State by a score of 38-3.

May and I were a bit bored with the game so one-sided. May was getting cold since the wind had picked up and the clouds had rolled in. I wondered if we could leave early without hurting our friend’s feelings. But at that point the game changed. Down by 35 points, Michigan State began to look like a different team, seemingly able to score at will. Their players were convinced that although they were down in the score, they were not out of the game. Their fans, who had been quiet for most of the game, cheered more and more loudly with each scoring drive. With 13 seconds left on the clock, Michigan State kicked a field goal to win by a final score of 41-38.

It was the greatest comeback in NCAA Division One history!

Although they were down, and it looked hopeless for them from where I sat, they never saw it that way. They refused to let the discouragement of being 35 points down take them out of the game. They were down but never out.

As you move into ministry, expect to be down, but don’t let it take you out. Don’t let disappointment and discouragement lead you to defeat. This is my personal battle tonight to abstain from letting frustration and disappointment take me off my God calling.

The apostle Paul’s ministry brought difficulties, disappointments, and even discouragement, but he never quit; he never let it take him out of the work that God had called him to do. At the end of his life he was able to write these words in 2 Tim. 4:6-7: “For I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!”

Knowing that he would soon be executed by Nero, Paul wrote this final epistle to prepare his protégée Timothy to fulfill and complete his own ministry after the passing of his mentor. Through this letter to his young friend, Paul helps prepare us to meet the difficulties, disappointments, and discouragements of ministry as well.

In this letter Paul advised Timothy to expect disappointing and even discouraging situations in the future.

So how is that encouraging? Why would Paul refer to the difficulties of ministry when Timothy needed encouragement? I suggest that unrealistic expectations are often the cause of later discouragement and even defeat. In order to be truly prepared for ministry in the real world—whether on a church staff, as a layperson, or perhaps as a missionary—we must expect ministry to be often difficult and sometimes discouraging.

Rob Bell describes the problem: “To be this kind of person—the kind who selflessly serves—takes everything a person has. It is difficult. It is demanding. And we often find ourselves going against the flow of those around us.”Perhaps that is why Warren Wiersbe observed: “Depression and discouragement are occupational hazards of the ministry.”

When our expectations are unrealistic, we risk losing hope and giving up! So I ask you: Is wanting to perform a ministry for the population called Ex-offenders unrealistic? I have never seen so many ministries afraid to gain leverage in this populous of individuals until I put hand to plow to perform this task. Maybe I should lay out before God for a longer period of time to get a clear and concise direction as to whom and how I should align myself to obtain victory in this calling. My signals must be twisted or I am just getting a lot of opposition from our enemy.

We expect to plant a church that reaches the twenty-some-things and to be loved by those we serve. Or we read the latest book on the “whatever church” and expect the same results. Then, when these things never happen, or at least not as quickly as we would like, our disappointment becomes discouragement, and we determine that we have failed and should quit. Or we just quit trying.

Craig Brian Larson says: “Unrealistic expectations curtail the joy and often the longevity of ministry. They can cause me to give up either in deed or in heart. I don’t have to resign to quit. I can simply decide this job is impossible and it is foolish to try.”iiIf the Michigan State football team had decided that winning were impossible, it would have taken them out of the game although they would have continued playing.

Instead of telling Timothy to be encouraged because his ministry would be a great success, Paul did just the opposite. In 2 Timothy 1:8 he called Timothy to embrace the same kinds of experiences that he was having: “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel.”

What kinds of suffering was Paul calling Timothy to accept and share?

If we had time to study the entire book, we would see that Paul was not only dealing with the difficulty of persecution, but he also faced disappointment with believers who let him down. 1:15 says that everybody in Asia turned away from him. 4:10 mentions that Demas deserted him because he loved the present age, and 4:16 says that all deserted him when he went to court. How discouraging it must have been to look around and see that his co-laborers were no longer there, that his friends were missing in action when the situation became risky!

There were other difficulties as well. Paul warned Timothy about people such as Alexander, Hymaneus, and Philetus who opposed him or strayed from the truth. Ministry was hard; there were people who disappointed him and others who obstructed the work. At the beginning of both chapters 3 and 4 Paul alerted Timothy that things would get even worse in the future.

Hardships confronted Timothy from every side —persecution from outside the church, disappointment with believers—even co-workers, and opposition from within the church. Paul called him to expect them and to be ready to face them.

What about today? What happens in ministry to discourage those of us ministering to others in any capacity? What should you expect in your future ministry?

I asked some co-workers and other friends in ministry this question so that I could help prepare you. In my very unscientific poll, I asked for the 3 most discouraging things in ministry. The #1 answer was disappointment with other Christians. Their lack of commitment, misplaced priorities, self-centered attitudes, and refusal to serve within the church community were very discouraging to those who answered my questions. The conflict and criticism that comes from other believers appears widespread, if those in my survey are representative.

Ranking behind the disappointment with other Christians was the lack of visible fruit in ministry. The people in my friends’ congregations, Bible studies, or small groups act like the rest of the world. It can be hard to believe that God is doing anything when all we can see of the person’s life looks no different year after year.

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~ I Dye So He Can Live In Me~

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The truths gleaned from Romans 6-8 are critical for establishing a strong Christian life. Why is this? What truths are powerfully presented here in Romans?

The Pattern

Paul applies the pattern of Christ’s life to our Christian lives. Paul enables us to get a grasp of this through the picture of baptism – the down and up. Baptism doesn’t mean to sprinkle but to immerse. A Christian does not merely acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, he also follows Christ. He acknowledges both the value of what Christ has done on the cross and the importance on how Jesus redeemed us.

We often focus on what Christ has accomplished through His death. Paul speaks clearly of this in chapters 3 and 4 of Romans. Chapter 5, however, develops the basis of our union with Christ. We are united with Christ by our faith. Starting in chapter 6, we see how this identification with Christ affects our life.

The picture of baptism includes three aspects: the going down, being under and the rising. We might think of rinsing a cloth. We take it from the air, submerge it under water and then bring it out to be used. Humility speaks of the first two steps. Many would like to avoid the implications of these first two important steps. They want to claim to have eternal life with no sense of repentance – no dying. They have not died to themselves. There has been no funeral. This concept is key to living a fulfilled Christian life.

The Problem

Paul seems to have discovered a group of people that claim Christ’s death but deny any real identification with Christ in the death process. Christ merely paid for their sins as some historical fact (which it was of course). They want to forget about their close identification with Christ in this process.

Humility

If we consider Christ’s death to be all so important (and it is), then we need to realize its effect on our lives. When Jesus died, He not only bore our sins, but He also was, in a final way, saying “no” to sin. After death, sin had no part of His life. He had no earthly flesh that begged to be given special preference.(1) So we, as His disciples, must identify with Christ’s death and resurrection. We must say “no” to our former allegiance to sin through our faith and “yes” to our allegiance to Christ. We now have a new focus on life. Because of this new allegiance, we are not to sin but to live for God.

For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, (Romans 6:10-12).

Pride: Hate it!

We will never be able to die to ourselves unless we are convinced that serving the flesh (our old nature) is totally unprofitable. We have to see that it has absolutely no worth. We need to come to detest its very presence. On the other hand, we must come to love the Spirit’s ways. We are to see the glorious work of the Spirit in contrast to the flesh. By seeing their contrasting ways, we hate one and love the other. We refuse to serve our own self’s preferences and become wholly loyal to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

Pride

We cannot rid ourselves of the flesh on this earth. This is what Jesus referred to in 6:10 when he says, “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin.” It is still there. If we are not careful, we will serve it. But we don’t have to. By voiding our allegiance to our flesh, we can, by Christ’s grace, be set free to serve Christ. How do we void our former allegiance to our flesh? Paul says death is the only means and explains it carefully in Romans 7:1-6.

The point is that unless we are absolutely convinced the flesh is a destroyer, we will continue to listen and follow it. We will, in essence, continue to serve it. As Christians we are technically free from its ruling over us, but we still could serve the old self. The follow up question is whether we really hate the flesh. Are we really convinced? Paul convincingly set forth this case in the last part of chapter 7 and the early part of 8. Whenever he would go by the old nature, he would serve his own self and bear evil results. But he wanted to serve Christ (Romans 7) which bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5). The flesh always brings about death because it is hostile to God (Romans 8). We ought not live for our bodies. We do not need to live for ourselves.

We need to humble ourselves by stating that serving ourselves is not good. In a sense this is what ‘dying to self’ essentially means. We recognize serving self is no good and so we choose to serve the Spirit. These chapters provide a lot of help in convincing us of the horrible nature of the flesh and the glory of the Spirit.

Commitment to saying “no” to the old nature comes only as much as:

   1) we are sure of the old nature’s total rebellion against God and

    2) we desire to serve the Spirit.

Our growth comes as we recognize the complete rebellious nature of the flesh and power of the new life through the life of Christ.

Dying to self means simply a mental check on our determination not to live for oneself and to live for Christ. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:31 say, “I die daily.” This is a regular battle. A daily battle. Paul, as a veteran apostle, witnessing many miracles, seeing a revelation of Christ, still had to personally die to himself. We do too. We cannot afford not to.

Here is a possible prayer for your early morning meditation.

“Dear Lord, my allegiance to You will be tested today. Right now, I am stating my faithfulness to you. You are the One I love forever. At the same time, I will clearly state that I want nothing to do with serving my self. I have had enough to do with that selfish ego of mine that tries to get all the attention it can. Your principles of love and giving are what I want. Radiate in my life through acts and words of kindness. Forgive me of my sin and cleanse me. I make myself totally empty of self so that You can fill me with your precious Holy Spirit. Lead me forth. I will follow in your humble paths of love.”

The Christian needs to acknowledge the flesh, declare its lousy nature, reject its promptings, acknowledge the Lord’s presence, the beautiful nature of the Spirit and affirm one’s total heart and will to the Spirit’s leading.

Christian life is based on humble living. When we are willing to humble ourselves by looking at the facts of what self-service does, then we are willing to walk in that path.

~Forming Partnerships To Enhance Our Platform~

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Having a dream that is bigger than ones self only comes from God. The video testimony of this gospel rapper is very similar to mines. I have been delivered from the hustle and lifestyle of a liar. God has infused me with a desire to serve Him and not mammon. As bad as I desire to shut my naysayers up and begin building a building that will accommodate our God given vision of “Second Chance Alliance” I refuse to compromise. I have had several opportunities to pursue financing my dream by means other than having faith. I have learned in the past three years of going through destitution and captivity how to abide and wait while working my faith by being sensitive to the sweet spirit of Jesus Christ. I am watching the enemy with new vision without activity to his sinful impulses that will nullify my testimony and His purpose for so many ex-offenders.

As pressures on Second Chance Alliance and Faith-Based community organizations  increase and the issues we face become more complex, the idea of partnerships can hold much promise. Through partnerships we can contribute our small part and reap the benefits of everyone’s effort; we can accelerate learning and distribute skills and knowledge; and we can add depth and breadth to our community impact. To make real the promise of partnerships, however, we must be prepared to build, sustain, and evaluate them in a thoughtful way.

This outline will help start-ups and organizations answer several key questions:
ƒ Why are effective partnerships important?
ƒ What are the different forms that partnerships can take?
ƒ What are key steps to establishing effective partnerships?
ƒ What are key steps to managing effective partnerships in order to achieve mutually agreed-upon outcomes?

Why Form Partnerships?

While there are many nationally recognized benefits and advantages to partnership development, the answer to why one seeks to establish partnerships is relatively simple. There is added value in working with other organizations. The benefits of effective partnerships do not appear overnight. Establishing effective and inclusive partnerships takes time, and it is important for you to create the right framework from the start and review the structure and process of the partnership on an ongoing basis to measure its success or failure. What Is a Partnership?
A working definition of a partnership is “a collaborative relationship between entities to work toward shared objectives through a mutually agreed division of labor.”

While this working definition is not very precise, it does help distinguish partnerships from other forms of aid relationships. Partnerships are inherently complex vehicles for the delivery of practical solutions on the ground and at the strategic level. Several studies of how partnerships operate indicate that practitioners manage the complexity by adopting a long-term, flexible, and organic approach. Why organic? During the
course of these partnerships, organizations often evolve as they learn more about effective management, build capacity, and gain valuable experiences. In that sense, partnerships act as learning mechanisms that teach you to be better at what you do and enable you to achieve your goals.If you are considering a potential partnership, you should become familiar with several key components of the most common approaches to partnerships: Leadership Partnerships imply a shared leadership among respected individuals who are recognized and empowered by their own organizations and trusted by partners to build consensus and resolve conflicts.

BARRIERS TO SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIPS:

  • Limited vision/failure to inspire one partner manipulates or dominates, or partners compete for the lead
  • Lack of clear purpose and inconsistent level of understanding purpose
  • ƒLack of understanding roles/responsibilities
  • ƒLack of support from partner organizations with ultimate decision-making power
  • ƒDifferences of philosophies and manners of working
  • Lack of commitment; unwilling participants
  • Unequal and/or unacceptable balance of power and control
  • ƒKey interests and/or people missing from the partnership
  • ƒHidden agendas
  • ƒFailure to communicate
  • Lack of evaluation or monitoring systems
  • Failure to learnƒFinancial and time commitments outweigh potential benefitsƒ
  • Too little time for effective consultation

We making major strides at implementation of our philosophy as a entity and we are networking daily with perspective partners from Safety Alignment of Riverside County to Living Spaces furniture as well as Sams and Costco. Forging partnerships and establishing boundaries for our partnerships are essential as we move towards our goal to be successful and prepared to break ground or move into a building/house that we believe God to be moving us towards.

Common Understanding
A common understanding of the framework, culture, values, and approach of partner organizations needs to exist. Also important is a clear understanding of individual members’ roles and responsibilities regarding the division of labor.
Purpose
A shared common vision and purpose that builds trust and openness and recognizes the value and contribution of all members also needs to exist. Additionally, shared and transparent decision-making processes—extending the scope of influence over and involvement with other services and activities—will prove essential to your partnership. Shared goals and aims, understood and accepted as being important by
each partner, lead to improved coordination of policies, programs, and service delivery, and, ultimately, better outcomes.
Culture and Values
Shared can-do values, understanding, and an acceptance of differences (e.g., values, ways of working) are all key components of a successful partnership. Having respect for the contributions of all partners, combined with an absence of status barriers, will lead to the active involvement of members who are identified as being effective, representative, and capable of playing a valued role in the partnership.
Learning and Development
A healthy partnership promotes an atmosphere of learning. This may involve monitoring and evaluation aimed at improving members’ performance. Investing in partner skills, knowledge, and competence needs to be highly valued within the partnership. This open mindset and spirit of facilitation creates opportunities to shape each other’s work and learn together. In this environment, members can more effectively reflect on both developmental successes and failures.
Communication
If a partnership is going to succeed in the area of communication, strong feedback loops are required.
Effective communication at all levels within the partnership and within partner organizations,
sharing and accessing all knowledge and information, needs to exist.
Performance Management
Management practices and resources are required to achieve the partnership goals and complement the intended purpose of the partnership. Specifically, members must demonstrate accountability for the actions they take and ownership of delivery of the objectives and targets for which they are responsible.You must remain equally aware of key barriers to a working relationship with a potential partner. Furthermore, as relationships evolve, partners must work to resolve any barriers. Below is a list of potential barriers to successful partnerships for you
to consider.

~The Indomitable Joy In Jesus~

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Not Playing Games in Corporate Worship

I have tried these three-a-half years to lead my family and all that worship with me in the experience of sorrowful yet always rejoicing. I turn with dismay from church services that are treated like radio talk shows where everything sounds like chipper, frisky, high-spirited chatter designed to make people feel lighthearted and playful and bouncy. I look at those services and say to myself: Don’t you know that people are sitting out there who are dying of cancer, whose marriage is a living hell, whose children have broken their hearts, who are barely making it financially, who have just lost their job, who are lonely and frightened and misunderstood and depressed? And you are going to try to create an atmosphere of bouncy, chipper, frisky, light-hearted, playful worship?

And, of course, there will be those who hear me say that and say: O, so you think what those people need is a morose, gloomy, sullen, dark, heavy atmosphere of solemnity?

No. What they need is to see and feel indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow. “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” They need to taste that these church people are not playing games here. They are not using religion as a platform for the same-old, hyped-up self-help that the world offers every day. They need the greatness and the grandeur of God over their heads like galaxies of hope. They need the unfathomable crucified and risen Christ embracing them in love with blood all over his face and hands. And they need the thousand-mile-deep rock of God’s word under their feet.

The Thousand-Mile-Deep Rock of God’s Word

They need to hear us sing with all our heart and soul,

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

They need to hear the indomitable joy in sorrow as we sing:

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

If you ask me, Doesn’t the world need to see Christians as happy in order to know the truth of our faith and be drawn to the great Savior? My answer is yes, yes, yes. And they need to see that our happiness is the indomitable work of Christ in the midst of our sorrow — a sorrow probably deeper than they have ever known that we live with every day. They need to see “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

So let’s put some of that rock under out feet now — the rock of God’s word. What John Piper and Jason Meyer think counts for nothing compared to what God thinks. So let’s go to the Bible and see if these things are so.

Why Emphasize “What the World Needs”

We will focus on 2 Corinthians 6:3–10. Why have I put the emphasis on what the world needs? Why have I framed the main point of this sermon as: What the world needs from the church is our indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow? The answer is in verses 3 and 4. Paul says, “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way.”

In other words, Paul is saying: What I am about do in this chapter is remove obstacles and commend our ministry — our life and message. He wants the church in Corinth, and the world, not to write him off, not to walk away, not to misunderstand who he is and what he teaches and whom he represents. He wants to win them. If you want to use the language of seeker-friendly, watch how he does it.

A Seeker-Friendly Apostle

It’s amazing what he does here. Many savvy, church-growth communicators today would have no categories for this way of removing obstacles and commending Christianity. In fact, some might say: Paul, you are not removing obstacles, you are creating obstacles. So let’s watch Paul remove obstacles and commend his ministry. This, he says in effect, is what the world needs.

He does this in three steps: he describes the sufferings he endures; he describes the character he tries to show; and he describes the paradoxes of the Christian life.

The Sufferings He Endures

First, he describes the sufferings he endures for Christ (2 Corinthians 6:3–5):

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.

So be asking yourself: How is this removing obstacles? How is this commending his ministry? Why is this not putting people off rather than drawing them in?

The Character He Shows

Second, he describes the character he tries to show (2 Corinthians 6:6–7):

. . . by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left [probably the sword of the Spirit in the right hand and the shield of faith in the left, Ephesians 6:16–17].

So instead of being embittered and frustrated and angry and resentful by all the afflictions and hardships and calamities and labors and sleepless nights, by God’s grace Paul has shown patience and kindness and love. His spirit has not been broken by the pain of his ministry. In the Holy Spirit, he has found resources to give and not to grumble. To be patient in God’s timing, rather than pity himself. To be kind to people, rather than take it out on others.

The Paradoxes of the Christian Life

And third, Paul describes the paradoxes of the Christian life (2 Corinthians 6:8–10):

. . . through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

When you walk in the light and minister in the power of Holy Spirit, and speak the truth in “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, and love,” some people will honor you and some will dishonor you (verse 8a); some will slander you, and some will praise you (verse 8b). And that dishonor and slander may come in the form of calling you and imposter (verse 8c). You’re not real. You’re just a religious hypocrite.

Remember Jesus said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Which means that in Paul’s mind a mixed reception (some honoring and praising, some dishonoring and slandering) was part of his commendation. It removed the obstacle: You can’t be a true prophet, all speak well of you.

Outside Perceptions with Some Truth in Them

Then come six more paradoxes. If you aren’t careful, you might take these to mean that Paul is correcting false perceptions of Christians, but it’s not quite like that. Every perception here of the outsider has truth in it. But Paul says, What you see is true, but it’s not the whole truth or the main truth.

Verse 9a: You see us “as unknown, and yet [we are] well known.” Yes, we are nobodies in the Roman empire. A tiny movement following a crucified and risen king. But O we are known by God, and that is what counts (1 Corinthians 8:3;Galatians 4:9).

Verse 9b: You see us “as dying, and behold, we live.” Yes, we die every day. We are crucified with Christ. Some of us are imprisoned and killed. But O we live because Christ is our life now, and he will raise us from the dead.

Verse 9c: You see us “as punished, and yet [we are] not killed.” Yes, we endure many human punishments and many divine chastenings, but over and over God has spared us from death. And he will spare us till our work is done.

Verse 10a: You see us “as sorrowful, yet [we are] always rejoicing.” Yes, we are sorrowful. There are countless reasons for our hearts to break. But in them all we do not cease to rejoice, one of the greatest paradoxes of the Christian life!

Verse 10b: You see us “as poor, yet [we are] making many rich.” Yes, we are poor in this world’s wealth. But we don’t live to get rich on things, we live to make people rich on Jesus.

Verse 10c: You see us “as having nothing, yet [we are] possessing everything.” In one sense, we have counted everything as loss or the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8). But, in fact, we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). To every Christian, Paul says, “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23).

Exactly Opposite of the Prosperity Gospel

Now step back and remember what Paul said in verse 3: “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way.” He has been removing obstacles to faith and commending the truth and value of his ministry — his life, his message, his Lord. And he has done it in exactly the opposite way that “the prosperity gospel” does it.

What obstacle has he removed? He has removed the obstacle that someone might think Paul is in the ministry for money, or for earthly comfort and ease. He has given every evidence he could to show that he is not a Christian, and he is not in the ministry, for the worldly benefits it can bring. But there are many pastors today who think just the opposite about this. They think that having a lavish house and a lavish car and lavish clothes commend their ministry. That’s simply not the way Paul thought. He thought that such things were obstacles.

Enticing to Christ for the Wrong Reason

Why? Because if they would entice anyone to Christ, it would be for the wrong reason. It would be because they think Jesus makes people rich and makes life comfortable and easy. No one should come to Christ for that reason. Enticing people to Christ with prosperous lifestyles and with chipper, bouncy, light-hearted, playful, superficial banter, posing as joy in Christ, will attract certain people, but not because Christ is seen in his glory and the Christian life is presented as the Calvary Road. Many false conversions happen this way.

So how is Paul commending his ministry — his life, his message, his Lord? Verse 4: “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way.” How? By showing that knowing Christ, being known by Christ, having eternal life with Christ is better than all earthly wealth and prosperity and comfort. We commend our life and ministry by afflictions. We commend our life and ministry by calamities. We commend our life and ministry by sleepless nights. What does that mean? It means Christ is real to us, and Christ is infinitely precious, more to be desired than any wealth or comfort in this world. This is our commendation: When all around our soul gives way he then is all our hope and stay.

Sorrowful — Yet Always Rejoicing

What does it mean (verse 10) that part of Paul’s commendation to the world is that he was sorrowful yet always rejoicing? It means that what the world needs from the church is our indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow.

Let me move toward a close with two pictures of this sorrowful yet always rejoicing. One from Jesus and one from Paul.

A Picture from Jesus

When Jesus said in Matthew 5:11–12, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven,” do you think it is random that the next thing he said was, “You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world”? I don’t think it was random. I think the tang of the salt that the world needs to taste, and the brightness of the light that the world needs to see is precisely this indomitable joy in the midst sorrow.

Joy in the midst of health? Joy in the midst of wealth and ease? And when everyone speaks well of you? Why would that mean anything to the world? They have that already. But indomitable joy in the midst of sorrow — that they don’t have. That is what Jesus came to give in this fallen, pain-filled, sin-wracked world.

A Picture from Paul

Or consider Paul’s experience of agony over the lost-ness of his Jewish kinsmen in Romans 9:2–3. Remember Paul is the one who said in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” But in Romans 9:2–3, he writes, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Don’t miss the terrible burden of the word “unceasing” in verse 2. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” because my kinsmen are perishing in unbelief cut off from the Messiah. Is Paul disobeying his own command to rejoice always? No. Because he said in 2 Corinthians 6:10, We are sorrowful yet always rejoicing.

What the World Needs from Us

Is this not what the world needs from us? Picture yourself sitting across the table at your favorite restaurant from someone you care about very much and is not a believer. You have shared the gospel before, and they have been unresponsive. God gives you the grace this time to plead with them. And he gives you the grace of tears. And you say: “I want so bad for you to believe and be a follower of Jesus with me. I want you to have eternal life. I want us to be with Christ forever together. I want you to share the joy of knowing your sins are forgiven and that Jesus is your friend. And I can hardly bear the thought of losing you. It feels like a heavy stone in my chest.”

Isn’t that what the world needs from us? Not just an invitation to joy. Not just a painful expression of concern. But the pain and the joy coming together in such a way that they have never seen anything like this. They have never been loved like this. They have never seen indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of sorrow. And by God’s grace, it may taste like the salt of the earth and look like the light of the world.

So I say one last time: What the world needs from the church — from us — is our indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow.

Indomitable Joy in Suffering and Sorrow

This was Paul’s commendation of his ministry. May it be our commendation of Christ at His earthly church. It is no accident that Paul concluded the greatest chapter in the Bible — Romans 8 — with words that are designed pointedly to sustain your joy and my joy in the face of suffering and loss.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in [not instead of, but in!] all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39)

So, “Church”, let the world taste your indomitable joy in suffering and sorrow.

~Does Your Leadership Banner Incorporate Accountability?~

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As believers, we recognize the value of imitating Jesus and His leadership style. But if we really think about it, it’s strange that we try to emulate a leader who never developed an organization, regularly encouraged people to stop following Him, and ultimately saw His death as the pinnacle of His accomplishments.

What kind of perspective must a leader have to place high value on these kinds of strategies? Jesus was not a manager. His primary role was to function as a spiritual leader.

Not all leaders in religious organizations are spiritual leaders. This is not a criticism as much as a distinction. Distinguishing spiritual leadership from other forms of leadership can free people from unrealistic expectations of some leaders.

At the same time, making this distinction can help identify who the spiritual leaders in your organization are. Here are six characteristics that identify most spiritual leaders:

  1. They lead others into their own encounters with God. One of the most effective things about Jesus’ lifestyle was that He didn’t switch into another mode to introduce His disciples to the reality of God.Whether standing in the synagogue or picking wheat along the path, interacting with the Father was so natural that others around Him could not help but do the same. Whether a spiritual leader is training a new employee or working through a difficult conflict resolution, his followers will discover their own connection to God more deeply in the process.
  2. They lead others to discover their own purpose and identity. Spiritual leadership is characterized by great generosity. A spiritual leader genuinely wants others to fully discover who they were made to be.Workplace issues and strategic development become tools to help followers discover their own identity and overcome obstacles standing in their way. People functioning in an area of their created identity and strength will always be more productive than those who are simply trying to fill a position or role.
  3. They lead others into transformation—not just production. When the goal is spiritual growth and health, production will always be a natural outcome. People function at their peak when they function out of identity.Helping your followers discover that their own transformation can happen on the job will engender loyalty and a high level of morale. Spiritual leadership fosters passion in those who follow. Passion is the ingredient that moves people and organizations from production to transformational impact.

  1. They impact their atmosphere. While we may not stop a tempest with our words, spiritual leaders recognize that they can change the “temperature” of a room, interaction, or relationship.Changing the atmosphere is like casting vision, only it is immediate. When there is tension, fear, or apathy, a spiritual leader can transform the immediate power of these storms and restore vision, vitality and hope. A spiritual leader can fill a room with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness, even while speaking hard things.
  2. They help people see old things in new ways. Many people are stuck not in their circumstances, but in their perspectives and paradigms. The word “repent” means “to think differently, or to think in a different way.” Jesus called people to look again at old realities through new eyes. Changing ways of thinking always precedes meaningful change.
  3. They gain a following because of who they are—not because of a position they hold. Spiritual leaders can be found in secular organizations, in the same way managers and organizational leaders can be found in religious ones.Spiritual leaders influence more than they direct, and they inspire more than they instruct. They intuitively recognize that they are serving something—and Someone—larger than themselves and their own objectives.

We’re all familiar with liberal do-gooder arrogance — the kind that stems from having the luxury of choosing from a salad bar of causes because none are immediately constraining their lives, or assuming that because you studied an issue in a university, you’re an expert. Avoid being that person: cultivate humility and take direction and leadership from those most affected by an issue.

Because people on the receiving end of great injustices have to live with the consequences of campaigns that seek to address those injustices, they have the most to gain from victory — and the most to lose if something goes wrong. They’re also the best equipped to know, and to articulate, workable solutions to their problems. A campaign that ignores or minimizes their knowledge and voices could easily do more harm than good.

Accepting guidance from another isn’t always easy for people who themselves identify as leaders. Self-identified “leaders” sometimes rush in too quickly, confident they’ve got the answer while their preconceptions and prejudices blind them to the organic answers all around them. We can mitigate these blindspots by being intentional about respecting the process and cultivatingaccountability.

Accountability can be a scary concept for activists, but it’s best to think of it as a proactive process that we walk together, rather than a standard that is either achieved or not.

The booklet Organizing Cools the Planet outlines four basic principles for cultivating accountability:

Transparency means being clear about your politics, organizational structure, goals, desires and weaknesses. The point here is to be as open as possible about your perspectives and motivations.

Participation is about actively and equitably engaging with folks about the decisions that affect them.

Reflection and deliberation means that we actively open up conversation to re-evaluate where we’re headed. It happens after participation, but once it’s begun, it is a continuous thread that is woven throughout the experience.

Response is the ability to make amendments and adjustments to issues raised by Reflection and deliberation.

However, accountability is not our goal; collaboration is our goal. Accountability is the pathway we walk. The cycle above moves us toward increasingly successful collaborations. Don’t be discouraged if collaboration is difficult at first. Trust takes time. Be forgiving of yourself and others; we all make mistakes.

~God Is Doing A New Thing- Isaiah 43:18-19~

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Second Chance Alliance

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live the life of your dreams? To wake up every morning feeling excited, inspired and passionate about your life? If you want to be more engaged in your own life you need to find the courage to pursue your secret hopes and ambitions. Perhaps you want to run a marathon, write a book, give a speech or start your own business. What’s stopping you? What’s getting in your way? Chances are your number one obstacle is you…your shoulds, beliefs and fears. Want to blast away these roadblocks to your happiness? Then it’s time to get out the dynamite and that power is only available in God (Promises)!…..

My Dream

This is a part of my dream also coming to a store near you soon…

God is always on the move. He created us to have goals and dreams, to be reaching for more in our life in Christ. When God gives you a dream, it’s like becoming pregnant: you conceive (think or imagine) a vision of the “new thing” He’s planned for you. Now you have to make it through the pregnancy and get to full-term to birth the fulfillment of it (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, For a dream comes with much business and painful effort.… This is why many people abort their dreams before they reach full-term. God plants a seed (dream) in them and they become pregnant. But when they find out it will take effort, be costly and uncomfortable to complete their preparation for the birth, they decide it wasn’t really God’s will after all and go and do something else.

I want to encourage you to go through the hard part because if you give up, you will never be completely satisfied. There will be a part of you that doesn’t feel settled or fulfilled.

So how do we successfully make it through preparation and give birth to our God-given dreams? Here are three keys May & I used to stay motivated.

1. The Power of Putting Your Expectation in God

When a woman is pregnant, we say she’s “expecting.” This is part of what we must do to reach full-term and not give up or abort the dream God put in us. We must keep expecting, be aggressive and talk to God about it, preferably every day because the devil is a thief and he wants to kill, steal and destroy the plans God has for us (see John 10:10).

It’s easy to fall into a passive attitude that says, “Well, we’ll just see what happens…” But we must resist becoming a “wait and see” kind of person. Instead, we need to be focused on God and determined to expect from Him, like David. In Psalm 27:13, he said, [What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!

Waiting on God is not a static, passive place where you’re doing nothing. It’s a time in your life when you aren’t taking matters into your own hands, trying to do what only God can do. You are waiting physically, but you are active spiritually, seeking His face and putting your trust in Him.

2. The Benefit of a Good Attitude

You can’t please anyone if you have a bad attitude. In fact, if you murmur and complain, people are probably tired of hearing it. And if we’re honest about it, we’re like this because we want others to feel sorry for us, which doesn’t do any good.

I know this from personal experience. I used to be very negative and feel sorry for myself a lot. I would complain to my wife, May, but she would say, “Aaron, you just want me to feel sorry for you, and I’m not going to do it because it won’t do you any good.” At the time, it made me so mad, but I’m glad she responded to me this way because he was right.

Eventually I learned the truth that no matter what is going on in my life, I can choose to have a good attitude. And if you have a good attitude, God will give you favor with people and in circumstances of life. While we can’t always choose our circumstances, we can choose how we react to them.

3. How to Live the Dream

So often our dreams are about us—what we want for our life or what’s good for us. But Jesus, our example of how to live, gave His life not for His benefit but for ours. Shortly before He was crucified, He was in a garden praying and He said, Not My will but Yours be done (see Luke 22). He came from the glory of heaven to earth to give us life. Everything He did was for us.

To really live the dream God has for us, we need to let go of selfishness, or “die to self.” What are some things we must die to? Things like our plan, our timing, our way, our reputation, getting credit for what we do, the need to be in control and the need to be right.

If you will give your life to God like Christ laid down His life for you, God will do amazing things in you and through you. It’s not easy but the reward on the other side is so worth it—the fulfillment of your God-given dream!

 

 

~Family,Community,Second Chance Alliance Reentry Program~

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Ex-Offenders: Resources to Assist with the
Return to the Workforce

News You Can Use || Support Services
Alternatives to Incarceration
A criminal conviction doesn’t have to be the end of your career road – not by a long shot. If you’ve recently been released from jail or prison – or are likely to be released soon – transitional work programs can help you find work immediately, and apply for jobs with employers who won’t discriminate against you based on your criminal record. And if you haven’t been sentenced yet, Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs can help you negotiate for alternatives to jail time, so you can keep pursuing your career and educational goals. Read on to find out how resources like this can help your case.One legal fact you should know about is the 2012 update to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to these new guidelines, employers who discriminate against all employees with arrest or conviction records may actually be violating these workers’ civil rights. This is because, as of 2012, incarceration rates for African American and Hispanic people (32.2 percent and 17.2 percent, respectively) are much higher than rates for Caucasians (5.9 percent) – making discrimination on the sole basis of arrest and conviction records a potentially racial issue. Though this Guidance doesn’t constitute an actual law, it’s still an official declaration from the federal government, and can thus carry weight in anti-discrimination lawsuits.

Another fact is that a growing number of employers not only hire former convicts, but actually seek out former criminals who are ready to choose a different path in life. For example, the owner of this recycling plant says his mission is to teach marginalized people that they too can become great, if they’re willing to work for it. The plant owner recalls one time a few years ago when a tattooed ex-convict came in for an interview. “He’d been in prison for dealing drugs,” says the owner, “but he seemed very intelligent, so I hired him. He did a great job working his way up on the line crew… Now, he’s our top commodities salesperson.”

California snack-food company Homeboy Industries has built its entire brand around the fact that it employs ex-convicts – while other well-known companies, such as Target and Walmart, have removed conviction-related questions from their initial applications – asking them later in the interview process – in order to avoid discrimination. In fact, here’s a long list of companies that have openly declared their willingness to hire former felons. Your conviction may limit your career options, but it won’t prevent you from finding steady, honest work. A little research, though, can prevent you from wasting your time with a discriminatory employer.

Support Services
Resources for workforce re-entry abound on the Internet – and many of them are backed up by real-world organizations that can answer your questions and help you further. Some of these organizations’ websites provide articles with job-search tips and re-entry guidance – sites like ExOffenderReentry and the National Reentry Resource Center fall into this category. Sites like these are handy for getting a general idea of how to approach the job-search and application process, and make sure you don’t fall into common traps, such as applying with a company that’s likely to reject your application on the sole basis of your criminal record.

Some websites provide actual lists of job openings and employers that are friendly to ex-convicts.
Other websites provide actual lists of job openings and employers that are friendly to ex-convicts. The National Transitional Jobs Network, for instance, provides a database of transitional jobs and programs, which you can browse by city and state. Sites like the New York Center for Employment Opportunities and Washington DC’s Prison Outreach Ministry, on the other hand, focus their energies on finding transitional work programs in specific geographical areas. Try a Google search for terms like “[name of your area] + prison transitional work” and “[name of your area] + parole employment opportunities” to find similar programs in your own region. And if you don’t find anything promising on the website of an organization like this, don’t be shy about giving them a call and explaining your situation.

The National Institute of Corrections also provides a few resources to help you find work. Their Employment Information Handbook – which you can download for free in PDF format – offers guidance and contact information for parole work programs, driver’s license applications, loans and grants, and other services that’ll help you transition into the working world. And their Simulated Online/Kiosk Job Application provides tips and other info on online job applications, including a simulation program that’ll train you to fill one out.

Alternatives to Incarceration
If you’ve already been convicted but haven’t received your sentence yet – or are aiming to negotiate a shorter sentence – a number of programs offer alternatives that may apply to your case. Depending on the nature of your conviction, some judges may be willing to consider the option of community service in place of all or part of your jail time. An electronic monitoring program (ankle bracelet) may also be an option for you. For drug and alcohol-related convictions, a residential rehab program may satisfy some or all of your state’s sentencing requirements. And for some felony convictions, community control (house arrest) may be a possibility. It’s definitely worth your while to discuss all these options with your defense attorney, especially if you can demonstrate that you’re pursuing work training or school, and will continue to do so if given the opportunity.

Many cities and states also provide Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) programs…

Many cities and states also provide Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) programs designed to guide offenders away from incarceration. In New York, for example, Community Connections for Youth, as well as the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES), offer guidance and legal assistance to people who’ve been convicted. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) provides similar help for mentally ill people. You can track down resources in your own area by searching Google for terms like “[name of your area] + alternative to incarceration program.” Programs like this are worth examining even if you already have a lawyer, because many of them provide expert legal counselling of their own.

HRH_Main

~Desire To Live Sober In Christ~

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Psalm 119:9-16New International Version (NIV)

ב Beth

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
    all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word.

During a business trip to Philadelphia, I walked down Broad Street toward City Hall each morning to catch the subway. Each day I passed a long line of people waiting for something. They were a cross-section of humanity in age, ethnic origin, and appearance. After wondering about it for 3 days, I asked a man on the sidewalk why all those people were standing in line. He told me that they were on probation or parole after breaking the law and had to take a daily drug test to show that they were staying clean.

This struck me as a vivid illustration of my need to stay spiritually clean before God. When the psalmist pondered how he could live a pure life, he concluded that the key was to consider and obey God’s teaching. “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes. . . . I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your Word” (Ps. 119:11-12,16).

In the light of God’s Word, we see our sin, but we also see God’s love in Christ. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

By His grace . . . staying clean.

Lord, grant that we may hear You speak As truth within Your Word we seek; And may it show us all our sin And make us clean without, within. —D. De Haan
Read the Bible to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy.

~Liars~

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“My 17 year old son lies all the time,” a mother said to me recently. “He lies about his schoolwork, what he ate for lunch and whether or not he’s brushed his teeth. He also exaggerates to make his stories more dramatic or to make himself sound bigger. It’s come to the point where I don’t take anything he says at face value. He’s not a bad kid, but I just don’t understand why he lies so often, especially when telling the truth would be easier. What should I do?”

By acknowledging the lie without moralizing or lecturing, you are sending a powerful message to your child that being dishonest won’t get them what they want.

Dealing with lying is frustrating and confusing for many parents. Unfortunately, teens and pre-teens often lie or tell only part of the truth. James Lehman explains that kids lie for many reasons: to cover their tracks, to get out of something they don’t want to do, and to fit in with their peers. Sometimes kids tell white lies to protect other people. I’ve heard my stepson claim a “bad connection” while speaking to a relative on the phone, rather than simply telling them, “I don’t want to talk right now.” When asked, he says he doesn’t want to hurt that person’s feelings by saying he wanted to get off the phone. Simply put, it was just easier to lie.

 “How Dare You Lie to Me!“ How to Deal with a Lying Teen

Some teens develop the habit of telling half-truths or exaggerating about things that seem completely irrelevant or unnecessary. They might think it will get them what they want, or get them out of a sticky situation. Like many adults, kids can also be less than honest at times because they think the truth isn’t interesting enough. They may lie as a way to get attention, to make themselves seem more powerful or attractive to others, to get sympathy or support, or because they lack problem-solving skills.

Lying about Risky or Dangerous Behavior
It’s important to differentiate here between lies that cover up for drug use or other risky behavior, as opposed to “every day lies” that some teens tell just as a matter of habit or convenience. Make no mistake, lying that results in, or covers for, unsafe or illegal behavior must be addressed directly. If your child is lying about things that might be dangerous, involving drug or alcohol use, stealing, or other risky behavior, seek resources and support in your local community.

Why Doesn’t My Child Care that Lying is Wrong?
Adolescence is such a tough time: trying to fit in, feeling unfairly judged or limited, wanting to be seen as powerful even while you feel completely powerless. Teens and pre-teens are navigating some pretty challenging waters. For some, lying can seem like an easy way to deal with the stress of being a teenager. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, an occasional fib from a child is nothing to get too concerned about. Chronic dishonesty and exaggeration, on the other hand, should be addressed – but maybe not in the ways you think.

We talk with many people on the http://www.empoweringparents.com/How-to-Keep-Cool-When-the-Kids-Push-Your-Buttons.php who feel that lying is a moral issue. But even so, as James advises, treating it that way is not likely to help solve the problem. When your child tells a lie, giving a lecture about why it’s wrong is probably not going to help them change their behavior. Most of the time, they’re tuning out our words of wisdom anyway! On the other hand, if you feel that your child is making a habit of lying, you need to acknowledge what you see happening. Open a discussion with them and find out what problem they are trying to solve. Are they trying to avoid trouble? Do they think it’s easier to lie than to risk hurting someone else? Do they believe that saying something dishonest helps them fit in? When they answer you, listen to what they have to say carefully.
When Kids Lie to Get out of Trouble

Kids often don’t understand how hurtful lies can be.
Kids often don’t understand how hurtful lies can be.

In The Total Transformation Program, James points out that most kids lie because it’s expedient—it seems like the best decision at that time. Once you understand what your child is hoping to gain from lying, you can help them come up with a better problem-solving strategy. If your child is being untruthful to get out of trouble—for example, telling you that they took out the trash when they really didn’t—clearly state the rules of your house, and the consequences for breaking those rules. Remind them that they don’t have to like the rules, but they do need to comply with them. You might also tell your child that if they break a rule and lie about it, there will be a separate consequence for lying. (For more information on how to do this, please see James Lehman’s article Why Kids Lie and What To Do About It.)

Exaggerating and Lying for the Sake of Lying
If your child isn’t simply lying to keep out of trouble, you might have to dig a little deeper to find out what’s going on. Start by saying, “I notice that you often lie about things that seem strange to me. For example, when I asked you where the phone was, you said ‘I don’t know, I don’t have it,’ and then I found it in your room. You wouldn’t have been in trouble if you’d told the truth. Can you tell me why you lied about it?” If your child is exaggerating a story, you might ask, “I was interested in your story, and then it seemed like you started to add things to it that weren’t true. Can you tell me why you decided to do that?”

Now I realize you may not get a great answer from your child. From some teens, a shrug is the best response you can hope for. But by acknowledging the lie without moralizing or lecturing, you are sending a powerful message to your child that being dishonest won’t get them what they want. You are also letting them know that you are aware of the fact that they were being less than truthful.

Kids often don’t understand how hurtful lies can be. Still, you need to remind them that not knowing doesn’t make it okay. Start a discussion with your child about honesty and dishonesty, and why they choose to lie. And remember, focus on the problem your child is trying to solve instead of on the morality of lying. You may not be able to stop your teen from creating those every day lies, but you can send the message that there are other options available.

~Pray For Us: Re-Entry Candidates~

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Prisoner Reentry

As California Releases Prisoners, It Must Confront the Public Health Consequences

The confluence of three events has dramatically broadened the public health implications of prisoner reentry into California communities. First, the state is in the midst of a deep and persistent recession, which has severely strained the resources available for the health care safety net upon which ex-prisoners rely. Second, the state is implementing its 2011 public safety realignment plan, which shifts responsibility for low-level offenders from the state to counties; this will aid the state’s efforts to abide by a U.S. Supreme Court order to reduce the prison population. Third, federal health care reform will expand Medicaid eligibility and coverage for some important services, removing a key access-to-care barrier for the prisoner reentry population.

These events argue for assessing the health needs of California’s reentry population, the related public health challenges, and the policy options for improving access to safety net services. In a study sponsored by The California Endowment, a research team at RAND conducted such an assessment and concluded the following:

  • The health care needs of California prisoners are high, but their mental health and drug treatment needs are even higher.
  • Certain California counties and communities are particularly affected by reentry.
  • Ex-prisoners’ access to California’s health care safety net varies across counties, within counties, and by race and ethnicity.
  • Public safety realignment and federal health care reform present challenges and opportunities for improving access to services for this population, all requiring the state and counties to coordinate their efforts.

Parolees Are Concentrated in 11 Counties, Mostly in the South

Numerous Unmet Needs Reported

With respect to physical health conditions, California state prisoners reported a high burden of chronic diseases, such as asthma and hypertension, and infectious diseases, such as hepatitis and tuberculosis. Ex-prisoners face a number of barriers to accessing health care, including lack of health insurance. As a result, ex-prisoners returning to communities will largely have to rely on counties’ health care safety nets for the uninsured to meet their health needs.

Self-reported mental health and drug treatment needs are especially high. More than half of California inmates reported a recent mental health problem, but only about half of those reported having received treatment in prison. Nearly 60 percent of California inmates reported having a drug abuse or dependence problem. Given the high prevalence of these reported conditions, the need for county mental health services may be particularly high.

When we interviewed health care providers who deal with the reentry population, their observations confirmed that this population has substantial mental health and drug treatment needs and other health problems — needs exacerbated by neglect or reduced access to care. Providers also noted a range of social services needs — such as transportation, employment, housing, and family reunification — that make treating ex-prisoners for such health conditions even more resource-intensive. For example, if an individual has a wound that requires periodic cleaning and dressing, would there be a hygienic place to do it?

Inadequate discharge planning for prisoners can be another major barrier to continuity of care. Upon release, many ex-prisoners lack medical records to give health care providers; thus, providers have little information about their medical history. For individuals with infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, providers felt it was critical to know what kind of care and education a patient had received while incarcerated. Ex-prisoners without health insurance have limited treatment options. Difficulties navigating the health care and social services systems complicate referrals. Discharge planning needs to take such factors into account.

Budget cuts present further barriers to care. Providers report that they have had to eliminate or curtail HIV, dental, mental health, or alcohol and drug treatment programs. Because of state-level cuts in funding for community-based treatment programs, one provider we interviewed had to close a sober living facility.

Parolees Are Concentrated in 11 Counties, Mostly in the South

SOURCE: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation parolee data, 2005–2006.

Ex-Prisoners Concentrated Primarily in 11 Counties

To understand where ex-prisoners go upon release and which counties and communities are especially affected by reentry, we used parolee data to examine their geographic distribution following release, illustrated here in the map of California. The map shows that certain counties are particularly affected by reentry. Tiny dots represent each of the nearly 140,000 parolees released in 2005 and 2006, with major clusters shown as yellow ellipses. Darker shades of blue indicate counties with higher numbers of returnees per 1,000 residents; lighter shades indicate lower numbers of returnees. As shown, parolees tend to cluster in certain communities and neighborhoods, with implications for targeting resources.

Eleven counties, concentrated around the Bay Area and in the southern part of the state, had the highest rates of return. By far the highest rates were in Southern California, especially Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties. Also, African-American and Latino parolees tended to return to disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities, defined by high poverty rates, high unemployment rates, and low educational attainment.

We focused on four counties — Alameda, Kern, Los Angeles, and San Diego — that received a third of the state’s total parolees. In Alameda County, almost 45 percent of the returning population was concentrated in five clusters, primarily around Oakland and the northern section of the county. Four clusters within Kern County accounted for almost 58 percent of its parolees, while in San Diego County there were eight clusters accounting for nearly half the parolee population, with the largest in downtown and Southeast San Diego. Unlike the other counties, Los Angeles County had 23 clusters covering a large geographic area but accounting for only 35 percent of the total number of returnees.

Unequal Access to Care

We also wanted to know where ex-prisoners were located relative to communities’ health care safety nets: the hospitals, clinics, and mental health and substance abuse treatment providers that would serve the reentry population. So we overlaid such facilities on our county-level maps and found that the capacity of the health care safety net varies within counties. Many ex-prisoners in the three large urban counties — Alameda, Los Angeles, and San Diego — returned to areas with lower levels of accessibility to safety net facilities than found elsewhere in those counties.

In Los Angeles County, for example, some county supervisorial districts with high concentrations of ex-prisoners tended to have fewer hospital and primary care clinics than did other districts. In District 2, which covers South Los Angeles and has a relatively high concentration of ex-prisoners, there are relatively few clinics. And there is only one hospital affiliated with the Medically Indigent Services Program, which is the county-provided program of last resort for those who are not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), or private health insurance and who meet socioeconomic eligibility standards.

To understand how much access ex-prisoners had to these facilities, we created accessibility measures for each facility based on its capacity, demand, and travel distance. In Los Angeles County, more than half of parolees (53 percent) returned to areas with lower levels of accessibility to hospitals. More African-American parolees (60 percent) lived in areas with lower accessibility than did Latino or white parolees (51 percent and 47 percent, respectively). Alameda County had a similar pattern, but in Kern and San Diego counties, more Latino parolees lived in areas with lower accessibility to hospitals than did white and African-American parolees.

Realignment and Reform

California’s public safety realignment plan and the U.S. federal health care reform represent important opportunities to improve services to the reentry population, and the stakeholders involved in preparing for both policy measures overlap. For realignment, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must coordinate with counties to shift responsibility for low-level offenders; for health care reform, California’s Department of Health Care Services must coordinate with counties to prepare for full implementation and for expanding Medicaid.

Both policy measures present opportunities and challenges for addressing ex-prisoners’ health care and reentry needs. As an opportunity, realignment focuses attention on the need to improve pre release planning for the transition of care from correctional health to safety net providers. As a challenge, realignment dramatically changes how low-level offenders will obtain health care and social services, shifting attention from state parole to county-level supervision.

As an opportunity, health care reform opens up the possibility for many ex-prisoners and others in the criminal justice system to become eligible for Medicaid and to have drug treatment services, prevention services, and wellness programs covered more fully. As a challenge, expanding Medicaid eligibility could lead to increased demand for health care safety net services that are already stretched thin.

There are many steps the state and counties can take. They can develop better estimates of the percentage of the Medicaid expansion population that the reentry population represents. Because the Medicaid expansion population is expected to include individuals with multiple comorbidities and a high demand for mental health care and alcohol and drug treatment, investing in “health homes” (teams of providers) and other integrated case management systems for this population will be an important way to manage their complex care needs.
8k7la86586Expanding pre release planning to more fully include those with chronic medical, mental health, and substance abuse problems makes sense, as does having the state assess options, such as electronic medical records, for easing the transition of care to community health care systems. Also important will be developing strategies to enroll the reentry population in Medicaid or reinstate their Medicaid benefits and to improve the needed expertise and capacity of treatment providers, especially in localities with higher numbers of ex-prisoners, so providers can better meet the expected increase in demand for services.

Both public safety realignment and federal health reform come with funding streams. Some of this money could leverage existing investments in planning for health care reform for the reentry population. For example, some funds could be used to develop “health homes” or other case management systems. Investing in treatment for this population now may help offset criminal justice costs later on, and expanding access to primary care and integrated care may help avoid more expensive and intensive care down the road.

 

~Help Us Become The Alternative To Empower Youth and Adults:Second Chance Alliance~

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I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

Mahatma Gandhi

 

Teen Violence -

The gang problem in the United States has remained stubbornly persistent over the past decade. Here are the facts: One in three local law enforcement agencies in 2010 reported youth gang problems in their jurisdiction.1 In a 2010 national survey, 45 percent of high school students and 35 percent of middle-schoolers said that there were gangs — or students who considered themselves part of a gang — in their school. Nearly one in 12 youth said they belonged to a gang at some point during their teenage years. Public health and public safety workers who respond to gang problems know that after-the-fact responses are not sufficient. An emergency department doctor who treats gang-related gunshot wounds and a law enforcement officer who must tell a mother that her son has been killed in a drive-by shooting are both likely to stress the need for prevention — and the complementary roles that public health and law enforcement must play — in stopping violence before it starts.
But how can we prevent gang-joining, especially during a time of limited national, state, tribal and local budgets?
To help meet the challenge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NIJ engaged some of the nation’s top criminal justice and public health researchers to explore what the evidence shows.

The consequences of gangs — and the burdens placed on the law enforcement and health systems in our communities — are significant. Homicide is the second-leading cause of death for American adolescents and young adults: an average of 13 deaths every day among 15- to 24-year-olds.However, the number of violent deaths tells only part of the story. More than 700,000 young people are treated in emergency departments in the U.S. for assault-related injuries every year. Although kids in gangs are far more likely than kids not involved in gangs to be both victims and perpetrators of violence,the risks go far beyond crime and violence. Gang-involved youth are more likely to engage in substance abuse and high-risk sexual behavior and to experience a wide range of potentially long-term health and social consequences, including school dropout, teen parenthood, family problems and unstable employment.

The involvement of judges, prosecutors, social service providers, law enforcement officers, crime victims, community-based organizations, and others is critical to improving the juvenile justice system and reducing youth violence. The Action Plan supports interagency law enforcement teams, or task forces, that coordinate the investigative efforts and suppression tactics of Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies in weapons, drug, and gang arrests.

In many communities, law enforcement has taken the lead in implementing innovative juvenile crime prevention and intervention efforts as part of an overall community oriented policing approach. Successful public safety and prevention strategies provide comprehensive, targeted community services and support to youth to keep them from becoming the next generation of offenders. Youth-focused community oriented policing that is effectively linked to the juvenile justice system can significantly contribute to the reduction of crime, restoration of order, and eradication of fear in local communities.

 

 

 

Crimes by juveniles are growing across our county and our nation. These crimes encompass so many offenses in the justice system that many are considered violent enough to be adult crimes.

At Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, we have targeted Juvenile Crimes as a major focus of this administration. We want to work with the youth and their family members so that, with everyone working together, we can address the issues before the young minds of our communities lose sight of basic decency and continue on a path of destruction.

Trends show that violent traits appear at a younger age each year. Since September 11, 2001, our youth are more aware of violence on the home front. In Riverside County, terrorism seemed far away, but that is no longer the case. Fear plays a major factor for today’s youth whether it is at home, in the community or at school. Many pre-teens and teenagers try to hide their fears through aggression. Others will withdraw from family and society.

BE PROACTIVE INSTEAD OF REACTIVE

Keeping abreast of behavior changes in your children will help you to become proactive. However, don’t be afraid to react to any of the behavior changes listed. Start by seeking assistance from your child’s school. They can provide you with a host of resources that may include referring you to a school counselor, law enforcement resource officer, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or county mental health professional.

BE ALERT TO BEHAVIOR CHANGES

If you note any of the following, start now to seek solutions to these problems:

  • Unusual mood swings,
  • Drastic change in selection of friends,
  • Friendships where there is little parental supervision in the home,
  • Unusually distracted,
  • Unusually hostile or arrogant attitude toward family members or authority figures,
  • Fixations with music, video games, and TV programs promoting drugs and violence, or
  • Withdrawal from the family as a unit and preferring to be in seclusion when at home.

SHERIFF SNIFF SUGGESTS

Talk to your children about their daily activities. Talk to your child’s teacher on a regular basis. Be aware of what your children wear to school each day. Update their photos at least every six months. Know where their medical and dental records are. Know their friends and their families. Know what accesses they have on their computer. Know where they are at all times. Involve your children in church, community and school activities.

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~We Are Blessed~

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“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).

 

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Last  year my wife and I fought a case that would determine our future. Not knowing that after we were separated and put into different sections in the same jail that God was working behind the seen just as the enemy was. God situated us near one another in the jail, one floor between us. I hadn’t missed a night in the bed with this woman for 3 years, not a night in the streets or practicing evil, but we were finally separated physically for six days, but we communicated through the toilets in the jail. We prayed still and meditated scriptures and shared our reflections daily still. We came home to a 13 month house arrest in a home we didn’t own. “BUT GOD”!!! He always has a plan to prosper and protect ;

They were living to themselves; self with its hopes, and promises and dreams, still had hold of them; but the Lord began to fulfill their prayers. They had asked for contrition, and had surrendered for it to be given them at any cost, and He sent them sorrow; they had asked for purity, and He sent them thrilling anguish; they had asked to be meek, and He had broken their hearts; they had asked to be dead to the world, and He slew all their living hopes; they had asked to be made like unto Him, and He placed them in the furnace, sitting by “as a refiner and purifier of silver,” until they should reflect His image; they had asked to lay hold of His cross, and when He had reached it to them it lacerated their hands.

They had asked they knew not what, nor how, but He had taken them at their word, and granted them all their petitions. They were hardly willing to follow Him so far, or to draw so nigh to Him. They had upon them an awe and fear, as Jacob at Bethel, or Eliphaz in the night visions, or as the apostles when they thought that they had seen a spirit, and knew not that it was Jesus. They could almost pray Him to depart from them, or to hide His awfulness. They found it easier to obey than to suffer, to do than to give up, to bear the cross than to hang upon it. But they cannot go back, for they have come too near the unseen cross, and its virtues have pierced too deeply within them. He is fulfilling to them His promise, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).

But now at last their turn has come. Before, they had only heard of the mystery, but now they feel it. He has fastened on them His look of love, as He did on Mary and Peter, and they can but choose to follow.

Little by little, from time to time, by flitting gleams, the mystery of His cross shines out upon them. They behold Him lifted up, they gaze on the glory which rays from the wounds of His holy passion; and as they gaze they advance, and are changed into His likeness, and His name shines out through them, for He dwells in them. They live alone with Him above, in unspeakable fellowship; willing to lack what others own (and what they might have had), and to be unlike all, so that they are only like Him.

Such, are they in all ages, “who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”

Had they chosen for themselves, or their friends chosen for them, they would have chosen otherwise. They would have been brighter here, but less glorious in His Kingdom. They would have had Lot’s portion, not Abraham’s. If they had halted anywhere–if God had taken off His hand and let them stray back — what would they not have lost? What forfeits in the resurrection? But He stayed them up, even against themselves. Many a time their foot had well nigh slipped; but He in mercy held them up. Now, even in this life, they know that all He did was done well. It was good to suffer here, that they might reign hereafter; to bear the cross below, for they shall wear the crown above; and that not their will but His was done on them and in them.

 

~Being Sensitive To God Is Having Vision~

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“A man without a vision is a man without a future. A man without a future will always return to his past.” (P.K. Bernard)

“A knife cuts because it has a narrow focus” (Cleddie Keith)

“A coward dies a thousand deaths, but a brave man dies only once”(Roman soldiers)

“When God predetermined our destiny, He factored in our stupidity. Therefore there’s always enough time to finish?” (Larry Randolph)

 The level of sacrifice that an environment requires will determine the size of people that will follow” (Kris Vallotton)

A progressive revelation of an ageless revival for our generation is growing in our hearts. It is for those who went before us and for those who are yet to be born. Yet, the question of how the vision is to be implemented remains.

One famous Proverb says:

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law – Proverbs 29:18

Vision is the bridge between the present and the future. Without it we perish or go “unrestrained,” as the New American Standard Bible puts it. Vision gives pain a purpose. Those without vision spend their lives taking the path of least resistance as they try to avoid discomfort. The level of sacrifice that a vision requires will determine the size of people who follow. Sacrifice separates the small from the great.

Consider the example of a young man who has just graduated from high school and joins the military. As soon as he steps off the boot camp bus, the sergeant starts yelling at him. He has to march over to the barbershop and get his head shaved. Then he is up early in the morning to exercise with someone screaming at him and talking about his mother. Just a month before, he was in high school. He would have never put up with any of this nonsense from his teachers or classmates. But somehow his whole mindset has changed. Why? He is enduring the “cross” so to speak, because of the joy on the other side of it. He realizes that boot camp is preparing him for a greater destiny. His vision of the future is giving his present physical discomfort meaning and purpose.

So many of us go through life not understanding the purposes of our trials. We spend our days walking a crooked path, believing that every obstacle in the road is a problem and something to be avoided.

The second part of this Proverb says, “But happy is he who keeps the Law.” The law isn’t just something God gave to Moses. It is also the restraint, boundaries and disciplines we develop around our life to direct us through obstacles instead of around them. These obstacles become baptisms of fire that forge our character so we can attain and maintain a life of greatness.

WHAT IS VISION?

Vision is what we see, but it is also the way in which we see. Vision is the lens that interprets the events of our life, the way we view people and our concept of God. If we have a scratch on our glasses, it may seem like everybody around us has scratches too, but the problem actually lies with us because our vision is impaired. Jesus said that our eyes are the windows of our heart. Paul prayed that the eyes of our heart would be enlightened. In other words, we perceive with our eyes but we see with our hearts. Our minds receive images from our eyes but our heart interprets these images. If our heart becomes bitter, jealous, hurt or in someway infected, the lens of our heart is distorted. What we perceive is happening and what is really going on could be two completely different things. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). The word truth used here is not referring to the Bible itself, (although all truth is rooted in the Bible) but here the word truth means reality. Jesus is saying, you will understand what is real and that will free you. So many of us live in a virtual reality. The way we view life can feel and look real, or make perfect sense, but still not be real at all. Have you ever watched a good movie and gotten totally into it? You experience all the emotions of real life. You may even leave the theater still “feeling” the movie, but it was just a movie? it was never real. The truth is: we see what we believe to be true. Another way to put it is, if you have the wrong pretext you will misunderstand the context. Having a revelation of what is real will deliver us from a life of torment that virtual reality often causes.

ESTABLISHING CORE VALUES

Therefore, the things we believe to be true determine the way in which we interpret life. These “things” are called “core values.” Core values are the lens or eyes of our heart. It is important for us to realize the incongruence between what our core values presently are and what we really want them to be. Often, the things we say we believe and the things we actually believe are not the same. We must understand that it is not the truths that we believe in our head that are our core values, but rather the ones we believe in our heart. The things we perceive to be true determine the way we respond to the world around us and to God who lives within us.

These core values also help define the part of the flock that we find ourselves called and attracted to. The children of Israel experienced this principle when they came into the Promised Land. Joshua assigned land to them according to their tribes and divisions (Joshua 18:10). In other words, they received land according to their diverse visions. For instance, if they had a vision for farming, they probably did not go with Caleb to the mountain country but instead were given land that best facilitated their vision. Therefore the land they were given and their vision was congruent. From this perspective, it is not very hard to see how some church splits happen. Sometimes pastors, in their zeal to build their churches, attract people that have a vision for things that their churches or “land” (metaphorically speaking) will not sustain. This dual vision eventually ends up in di-vision.

FORESIGHT, INSIGHT & OVERSIGHT

True Godly vision consists of foresight, insight and oversight that come from His sight. Foresight is like looking at life through a telescope. This outlook allows us to know what is ahead as it connects us to our future. Foresight is the element of vision that helps life make sense and gives us the motivation that we described earlier.

Insight is like viewing life through a microscope. This perception gives us an understanding of why things happen in life. It also helps determine the underlying motivations of the heart.

Oversight puts life into context. It is like flying over our house in a helicopter. There is a perspective that we can only receive from this vista that helps us understand where we are with respect to where everything else is. The sons of Issachar are great examples of this kind of vision. The book of I Chronicles says that these men understood the times and had knowledge of what Israel should do (12:32). People that are blessed with this type of vision often have great wisdom concerning the seasons of life.

His sight assures us that the vision we have is from God. A vision from the Lord creates a mission from heaven. This is illustrated in the life of Moses when he went up on the mountain, received a vision of the tabernacle, and was told to construct it according to the pattern that he had received. (Exodus 24:16-28:43) Visions like this are just “pipe dreams” without some sort of administrative plan to complete them. A lot of people have lofty ideas about things they would like to accomplish for God but they seem to have no sense of how to see the dream fulfilled. There are entire books dedicated to this subject, therefore, I will just give an overview of how to accomplish a vision.

PRACTICAL IMPLEMENTATION

The first part of accomplishing any vision is to take it from the unseen world and bring it into the natural realm. This can be accomplished by simply writing down the vision. Articulating the vision on paper pulls the dream that is in your spirit (that no one can see but you) into the visible world so that others can capture it in their own hearts. Tools that help to visualize the mission such as architectural drawings, models, testimonies of others who have accomplished similar dreams, or visits to places that have a common purpose are all helpful in capturing and defining the vision for both yourself and others who will come alongside and help.

Then the LORD answered me and said, ‘Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay – Habakkuk 2:2-3

There is an old story about three bricklayers that helps illustrate what it looks like when people receive motivation from taking ownership of a vision:

There were three bricklayers working beside each other on a wall. Someone came up to the first one and said, “What are you doing” “What;’s it look like I am doing?” he replied sarcastically, “I am laying bricks!” The man asked the next guy on the wall what he was doing. He said,”Can’t you see what I am doing? I am building a wall.” Then the last man was asked what he was doing. He exclaimed, “I am building a great cathedral for God!”

Who do you think will do the best quality work and be the hardest worker? Vision causes people to love their work because they can see the big picture. Someone once said, “If you want to build a great ship, you can go out and find some talented craftsman or you can find a person who loves the sea.” Imparting God’s vision to the team around us is the single most important factor in seeing the mission accomplished.

The next step is to create a plan to accomplish the mission. The Bible says:

Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed; the plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD – Proverbs 15:22 & 16:1

From these two verses we see that although the vision must be from God Himself, men are to help develop the plan that brings about the fulfillment of the vision. Notice how Solomon highlights the fact that developing plans in a vacuum, (without the expertise and insight of others who have different gifts and perspectives than we do), will ultimately end in frustration.

It’s important for administrative people to understand that they are there to administrate the mission. The word administrate means, “add-to-the-mission,” not change the mission. Visionaries often do not like to work with administrators because by nature administrators are refiners and finishers. Sometimes administrators do not understand that they are being brought in to help visionaries determine how something should be accomplished, not what should be accomplished. If the vision is so large that it requires the help of Heaven (which it often does when it really is from God), it will be important that the visionary impart the vision and the faith to see it accomplished to the team. First Timothy 1:4 says that the administration of God is “by faith.”

FEAR COUNTERACTS FAITH

People often disguise their fear as wisdom when they enter into a supernatural mission that can only be accomplished with the help of God. Moses had this problem when he sent the twelve spies in to the Promised Land to determine where they should enter. Ten of the spies misunderstood their mission and somehow thought they were being asked whether or not they should take the land at all.

This type of misunderstanding of the roles people are invited to play in the mission has caused the demise of so many would-be miracles, paralyzing the church of the living God. For years, the people of God have often settled for what can be accomplished by human effort and ability, because we have allowed the opinion of faithless people to determine what we will achieve, instead of being faithful (faith-filled) to the vision we saw “on the mountain”. This is a perversion of the gospel of the kingdom. We should never settle for anything less than what God told us to do.

SETTING GOALS

After the plan is established, goals must be set. The Bible says:

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus – Philippians 3:14

Goals are simply the vision broken down into smaller pieces that are measurable in time and space. In other words, they are specified parts of the mission that we will accomplish by a predetermined date. Many people don’t like to set goals because they think that if they are not able to accomplish them on time, they have failed. The truth of the matter is that, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Great leaders know that setting goals is what gives the mission a sense of urgency. Urgency is a friend to managers as it sets the pace for those who are carrying out the mission. If wisdom is used in goal setting, very little management is needed to motivate the workers since urgency manages them. However, be careful not to give your workers more to do than they have the faith to accomplish in a given time period. If it is too much, they will not even try, just like trying to catch a bus when it is already a block ahead. You probably won’t even run after it, as there is so little possibility of you catching up to it. On the other hand, if the bus just starts to pull away from the curb when you get there, you will probably move out of your comfort zone to try to catch it. Yet, setting goals too low will not create a sense of urgency at all. People will not be very motivated and it will result in a lot more work for the managers.

When your vision is honestly birthed by God Himself, He will be delighted to direct your steps

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The final stage of seeing the mission accomplished is establishing your steps. Proverbs says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (16:9). Psalms says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the one who holds his hand” (37:23-24). Steps are your day-in, day-out walk with God: the step-by-step, moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour decisions you make and the things you do that take up your time and use up your life. When your vision is honestly birthed by God Himself, He will be delighted to direct your steps. The most important thing to remember about your steps is that they should be found somewhere in your mission. Go back through your planner from the previous month and retrace your steps. Does it look like they are directly attached to your mission? If not, either redefine your mission or redirect your steps. Remember, history is at stake.

Please check out our vision God’s gift to us. We feel like Noah sometimes, people are laughing and this is non-sense but I know It’s real and it will come to pass though it tarries we will wait.

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~America;He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery, I Love Loving, Not Hate~

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“I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, “You’re too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God.”  “

Thirteen years ago today, the U.S. suffered a terrorist attack the likes of which it had never seen before. The incident set off a series of aftershocks with deep and far-reaching implications. Although the U.S. has struggled mightily to extricate itself from the tangles of terrorism, that prospect has become increasingly bleak with the rise of the Islamic State, a turn of events that has left the U.S. with no choice but to refocus its attention upon Iraq. In my opinion , there remain three major problems that have yet to be resolved over these past 13 years, the sum of which has exacerbated the situation even as the U.S. redoubles its efforts to fight terrorism.

Now, let me make it clear in the beginning, that I see this war as an unjust, evil, and futile war. I speak to you today on the war in the Middle East because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. “Ye shall know the truth,” says Jesus, “and the truth shall set you free.” Now, I’ve chosen to speak about the war in Middle East because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.

First, there exist certain peculiarities behind why al-Qaida attacked the U.S. These qualities point to egregious flaws in Washington’s Middle Eastern policy and remain an area that the U.S. refuses to address.

The U.S. made the decision to provide financial and material aid to jihadi organizations such as al-Qaida. At the time, the U.S. needed these fighters to disrupt the Soviets in Afghanistan, and as jihadi embraced the idea that “all [Muslims] under heaven are one family,” they were naturally loathe to permit the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the expense of their Muslim brethren. In this way, as the U.S. propped up al-Qaida, it was simultaneously grooming its own future adversary. After the Soviet withdrawal, the choice was simple for al-Qaida to fix its sights on the U.S. as its next target due to the Western power’s rejection of the establishment of a Palestinian state in favor of Israel, an agenda that runs directly counter to the interests of Palestinian Muslims.

And so despite U.S. claims that it opposes all forms of terrorism, the measures that it adopts have often only bred further terrorist activity, as the U.S. is unwilling to thoroughly digest and understand the factors underlying the terrorist mindset, and therefore cannot properly eradicate the root causes of this disease.

Second, why were U.S. policymaking mechanisms unable to prevent the Iraq War? The U.S. touts itself as a democratic nation in possession of the most sophisticated and scientific policymaking systems on the planet. Iraq was not party to the 9/11 attacks, and when the U.S. launched its “pre-emptive” strike on Iraq in the spring of 2003, it found that the Middle Eastern state had not even developed weapons of mass destruction. Yet while obviously lacking evidence, the U.S. still decided to launch the Iraq War. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s shortcuts in its intelligence operations resulted in an inexcusable error on the weighty question of whether to go to war.

When the U.S. Senate voted upon the declaration of war, then-Senators Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and John McCain all made grave mistakes by giving their support. The three were all eventually to fail in their separate bids for the presidency, but setting the U.S. military on the path to invasion was an act of grievous irresponsibility to other countries, as well as to the U.S. itself. Regardless of whether a product of flawed judgment or pandering to the electorate, they all proved themselves unworthy of becoming president. Instead, it would be a state senator from Illinois who would go on to assume that mantle. That person, Barack Obama, opposed the Iraq War, was later elected to the U.S. Senate, and finally ended the war in his capacity as president.

Third, why has the U.S. not offered an apology for the damage done to Iraq? Although the U.S. military has since withdrawn, the war cost Iraqis dearly in personnel and property, as well as triggering a severe societal and economic crisis within the country. Despite this, the U.S. has yet to issue an apology for the invasion, hold to account those responsible for launching the war, or make recompense. The Iraq War not only backfired upon the U.S., but plunged the Middle East into chaos and shattered the stability of the region. Now, the Islamic State has proclaimed the establishment of a state in Iraq and Syria, fomented a widespread humanitarian crisis and forced the U.S. to take military action because of its violent inertia, all of which are inextricably linked to the initial U.S. war against terrorism. But is the feigned nonchalance with which the U.S. has responded the mark of a responsible power?

Thirteen years have passed since the attacks of 9/11, but the U.S. is still unwilling to reflect upon the reasons it was targeted or apologize to and compensate the nations it has harmed, a fact that will ensure the bitter lessons of that day go entirely wasted.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we’re always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for in all our history there has never been such a monumental dissent during a war, by the American people.

Polls reveal that almost 68% Americans explicitly oppose the war in Middle East. Additional millions cannot bring themselves around to support it. And even those millions who do support the war [are] half-hearted, confused, and doubt-ridden. This reveals that millions have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism, to the high grounds of firm dissent, based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war against ISIS  is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.

I have seen the damage these wars can cause first hand. I am still trying to get compensated for the scars I came home with that aren’t visible to the naked eye. I have escorted hundreds of soldiers home in these coffins and some of them I heard their last words. They went something like this “Can we really trust that our death will make a difference”? or “Can we  “TRUST” in our leaders back in Washington?

Now, since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have three major reasons for bringing the Middle East and 9/11 into the field of my moral vision. There is…a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in the Middle East and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, the disenfranchised both black and white, through the Poverty  Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in the Middle East. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like ISIS continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and speak on it it as such.

Societies in failure mode because of American wars of genocide to control oil resources and any other political nonsense they can use to mis-inform it’s citizens.  Oh, my friends, if there is any one thing that we must see today is that these are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. They are saying, unconsciously, as we say in one of our freedom songs, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around!” It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo, we shall boldly challenge unjust mores, and thereby speed up the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of mankind. And when I speak of love I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of John: “Let us love one another, for God is love. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.”

 

~Be Careful The “Hater” Isn’t “YOU”~

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Don’t worry if you have haters; Jesus Christ was perfect, and they still hated him! What should we expect being imperfect?

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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 therighteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I think it’s important to first say a little about why loving your enemies is necessary. Jesus gives us the answer in verse 48. Based on everything that has gone before in this chapter (as well as the concept of loving your enemies), Jesus says you cannot be perfect without it. The word perfect in verse 48 comes from the Greek word “teleios.”   And while “perfect” is a good translation, I think it distracts from the meaning here. Another way to translate teleios is “complete” or “mature.” So what I think Jesus is trying to say here is if you wanted to be a complete person, or a fully mature human being, loving your enemies is something that you have to do.

 

 

haters

“They hating on me!” or “Haters are going to hate!” are common phrases that some use to justify reasons why someone or a group of people have an unfavorable opinion of them or their activities.  The term “haters” has become popular in the last few years to describe others, but can you actually “hate” on yourself?  Read some ways the person hating on you could be in the mirror.

1. Comparing Yourself to Others – If you are constantly comparing what you have or don’t have to what others do or don’t have, then you may be borderline hating on yourself.  Comparisons may ignite low self-esteem and depression and have been one of the top five causes of why relationships end.

2. Not Listening to Your Inner Voice – Your inner voice, your conscience, or whatever you prefer to call it can be your saving grace for so many reasons.  Usually, your conscience is based upon your mind and body’s history and best practices in each situation.  Sometimes your natural reaction may not be your best reaction and it’s that inner voice that tells you to do differently. Listen.

3. Doing Just Enough to Get By – With the exception of trust fund babies, “self-made” successful people usually have a story of sacrifice, hard work, perseverance and dedication.  The only person “doing just enough” hurts is yourself.  When you can, do more, give more, show how much “more” you are than people realize.

4. Not Being a Man or Woman of Your Word – One of the quickest ways to get “realistic” haters is to lie about who you truly are.  Saying one thing and not following through gives a false representation of who you truly are. Don’t allow others the satisfaction of misinterpreting you. Give them the real “say-what-i-do-and-do-what-i-say” self.

5. Not Believing In Your Ability – We can sometimes be our own worst enemy.  Saying that you “can’t” or that something “never” happens to you is speaking to your own downfall.  Use words like “I can” and “I will” to verbally affirm your current and future positions.  Research has shown that those who visualize their goal on a consistent basis are 33% more likely to achieve those goals.

6. Saying That You Have Haters (When You Really Don’t) – Be honest with yourself:  are people really “hating” on you or are they telling you the truth?  Sometimes the truth hurts, but can lead to healing.  It may do you good to take a look at what the person says (not how they say it) and see if it’s true.  If it’s true, do what you need to do to be better. If it’s false, do what you need to do to stay strong.

Remember, announcing that you have haters rarely does anything to help your case, as nearly everyone has haters nowadays.  The differentiating factor is how you rise above despite your obstacles.

 

 

~Ignore History and Suffer Slavery Without Submission~

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I served my country well. Nine Campaigns as a Navy Seal and five years on aircraft carriers as an Engineer. I obtained 2 degrees from respected Universities in America. I served Six prison terms because I was sick but denied help or being properly diagnosed when I came home from the last tour of duty. I had no idea why I behaved as I once did until 2013 when I was diagnosed with PTSD and Schitzo affective Disorder. “If I could but forget” , But I can’t and so I live to serve and be a light in this dark and perverse world. I am speaking to someones son, someones daughter and to husbands and fathers of this nation. I am attempting to be as brave in this life I now live as I once was in battle. We have a serious problem as a nation!!!!!

Blacks must fight for their freedom, he said:

Let our enemies go on with their butcheries, and at once fill up their cup. Never make an attempt to gain our freedom or natural right from under our cruel oppressors and murderers, until you see your way clear-when that hour arrives and you move, be not afraid or dismayed. . .. God has been pleased to give us two eyes, two hands, two feet, and some sense in our heads as well as they. They have no more right to hold us in slavery than we have to hold them… . Our sufferings will come to an end, in spite of all the Americans this side of eternity. Then we will want all the learning and talents among ourselves, and perhaps more, to govern ourselves.-“Every dog must have its day,” the American’s is coming to an end.

 

If I could but forget 

The fullness of those first sweet days,
When you burst sun-like thro’ the haze
Of unacquaintance, on my sight,
And made the wet, gray day seem bright
While clouds themselves grew fair to see.
And since, no day is gray or wet
But all the scene comes back to me,
If I could but forget.

If I could but forget
How your dusk eyes look into mine,
And how I thrilled as with strong wine
Beneath your touch; while sped amain
The quickened stream thro’ ev’ry vein;
How near my breath fell to a gasp,
When for a space our fingers met
In one electric vibrant clasp,
If I could but forget.

If I could but forget
The months of passion and of pain,
And all that followed in their train–
Rebellious thoughts that would arise,
Rebellious tears that dimmed mine eyes,
The prayers that I might set love’s fire
Aflame within your bosom yet–
The death at last of that desire–
If I could but forget.

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26-Year Secret Kept Innocent Man In Prison

Lawyers Tell 60 Minutes They Were Legally Bound From Revealing Secret

John Little, a former slave, wrote:

They say slaves are happy, because they laugh, and are merry. I myself and three or four others, have received two hundred lashes in the day, and had our feet in fetters; yet, at night, we would sing and dance, and make others laugh at the rattling of our chains. Happy men we must have been! We did it to keep down trouble, and to keep our hearts from being completely broken: that is as true as the gospel! Just look at it,-must not we have been very happy? Yet I have done it myself-I have cut capers in chains.

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The United States government’s support of slavery was based on an overpowering practicality. In 1790, a thousand tons of cotton were being produced every year in the South. By 1860, it was a million tons. In the same period, 500,000 slaves grew to 4 million. A system harried by slave rebellions and conspiracies (Gabriel Prosser, 1800; Denmark Vesey, 1822; Nat Turner, 1831) developed a network of controls in the southern states, hacked by the laws, courts, armed forces, and race prejudice of the nation’s political leaders.

It would take either a full-scale slave rebellion or a full-scale war to end such a deeply entrenched system. If a rebellion, it might get out of hand, and turn its ferocity beyond slavery to the most successful system of capitalist enrichment in the world. If a war, those who made the war would organize its consequences. Hence, it was Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves, not John Brown. In 1859, John Brown was hanged, with federal complicity, for attempting to do by small-scale violence what Lincoln would do by large-scale violence several years later-end slavery.

With slavery abolished by order of the government-true, a government pushed hard to do so, by blacks, free and slave, and by white abolitionists-its end could be orchestrated so as to set limits to emancipation. Liberation from the top would go only so far as the interests of the dominant groups permitted. If carried further by the momentum of war, the rhetoric of a crusade, it could be pulled back to a safer position. Thus, while the ending of slavery led to a reconstruction of national politics and economics, it was not a radical reconstruction, but a safe one- in fact, a profitable one.

The plantation system, based on tobacco growing in Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, and rice in South Carolina, expanded into lush new cotton lands in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi-and needed more slaves. But slave importation became illegal in 1808. Therefore, “from the beginning, the law went unenforced,” says John Hope Franklin (From Slavery to Freedom). “The long, unprotected coast, the certain markets, and the prospects of huge profits were too much for the American merchants and they yielded to the temptation.. ..” He estimates that perhaps 250,000 slaves were imported illegally before the Civil War.

As for black preachers, as Genovese puts it, “they had to speak a language defiant enough to hold the high-spirited among their flock but neither so inflammatory as to rouse them to battles they could not win nor so ominous as to arouse the ire of ruling powers.” Practicality decided: “The slave communities, embedded as they were among numerically preponderant and militarily powerful whites, counseled a strategy of patience, of acceptance of what could not be helped, of a dogged effort to keep the black community alive and healthy-a strategy of survival that, like its African prototype, above all said yes to life in this world.”

It was once thought that slavery had destroyed the black family. And so the black condition was blamed on family frailty, rather than on poverty and prejudice. Blacks without families, helpless, lacking kinship and identity, would have no will to resist. But interviews with ex-slaves, done in the 1930s by the Federal Writers Project of the New Deal for the Library of Congress, showed a different story, which George Rawick summarizes (From Sundown to Sunup):

The slave community acted like a generalized extended kinship system in which all adults looked after all children and there was little division between “my children for whom I’m responsible” and “your children for whom you’re responsible.” … A kind of family relationship in which older children have great responsibility for caring for younger siblings is obviously more functionally integrative and useful for slaves than the pattern of sibling rivalry and often dislike that frequently comes out of contemporary middle-class nuclear families composed of highly individuated persons. … Indeed, the activity of the slaves in creating patterns of family life that were functionally integrative did more than merely prevent the destruction of personality. … It was part and parcel, as we shall see, of the social process out of which came black pride, black identity, black culture, the black community, and black rebellion in America.

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Old letters and records dug out by historian Herbert Gutman (The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom) show the stubborn resistance of the slave family to pressures of disintegration. A woman wrote to her son from whom she had been separated for twenty years: “I long to see you in my old age.. .. Now my dear son I pray you to come and see your dear old Mother. … I love you Cato you love your Mother-You are my only son. …”

And a man wrote to his wife, sold away from him with their children: “Send me some of the children’s hair in a separate paper with their names on the paper. … I had rather anything to had happened to me most than ever to have been parted from you and the children. . . . Laura I do love you the same….”

Going through records of slave marriages, Gutman found how high was the incidence of marriage among slave men and women, and how stable these marriages were. He studied the remarkably complete records kept on one South Carolina plantation. He found a birth register of two hundred slaves extending from the eighteenth century to just before the Civil War; it showed stable kin networks, steadfast marriages, unusual fidelity, and resistance to forced marriages.

Slaves hung on determinedly to their selves, to their love of family, their wholeness. A shoemaker on the South Carolina Sea Islands expressed this in his own way: “I’se lost an arm but it hasn’t gone out of my brains.”

This family solidarity carried into the twentieth century. The remarkable southern black farmer Nate Shaw recalled that when his sister died, leaving three children, his father proposed sharing their care, and he responded:

That suits me. Papa. . .. Let’s handle em like this; don’t get the two little boys, the youngest ones, off at your house and the oldest one be at my house and we bold these little boys apart and won’t bring em to see one another. I’ll bring the little boy that I keep, the oldest one, around to your home amongst the other two. And you forward the others to my house and let em grow up knowin that they are brothers. Don’t keep em separated in a way that they’ll forget about one another. Don’t do that, Papa.

Also insisting on the strength of blacks even under slavery, Lawrence Levine (Black Culture and Black Consciousness) gives a picture of a rich culture among slaves, a complex mixture of adaptation and rebellion, through the creativity of stories and songs:

We raise de wheat,
Dey gib us de corn;
We bake de bread,
Dey gib us de crust,
We sif de meal,
Dey gib us de huss;
We peel de meat,
Dey gib us de skin;
And dat’s de way
Dey take us in;
We skim de pot,
Dey gib us de liquor,
An say dat’s good enough for nigger.

There was mockery. The poet William Cullen Bryant, after attending a corn shucking in 1843 in South Carolina, told of slave dances turned into a pretended military parade, “a sort of burlesque of our militia trainings. . . .”

Spirituals often had double meanings. The song “O Canaan, sweet Canaan, I am bound for the land of Canaan” often meant that slaves meant to get to the North, their Canaan. During the Civil War, slaves began to make up new spirituals with bolder messages: “Before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be saved.” And the spiritual “Many Thousand Go”:

No more peck o ‘ corn for me, no more, no more,
No more driver’s lash for me, no more, no more. . . .

Levine refers to slave resistance as “pre-political,” expressed in countless ways in daily life and culture. Music, magic, art, religion, were all ways, he says, for slaves to hold on to their humanity.

One summer day in 1830, David Walker was found dead near the doorway of his shop in Boston.

Some born in slavery acted out the unfulfilled desire of millions. Frederick Douglass, a slave, sent to Baltimore to work as a servant and as a laborer in the shipyard, somehow learned to read and write, and at twenty-one, in the year 1838, escaped to the North, where he became the most famous black man of his time, as lecturer, newspaper editor, writer. In his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, he recalled his first childhood thoughts about his condition:

Why am I a slave? Why are some people slaves, and others masters? Was there ever a time when this was not so? How did the relationcommence? 

Once, however, engaged in the inquiry, I was not very long in finding out the true solution of the matter. It was not color, but crime, not God, but man, that afforded the true explanation of the existence of slavery; nor was I long in finding out another important truth, viz: what man can make, man can unmake. .. .

I distinctly remember being, even then, most strongly impressed with the idea of being a free man some day. This cheering assurance was an inborn dream of my human nature-a constant menace to slavery-and one which all the powers of slavery were unable to silence or extinguish.

The Fugitive Slave Act passed in 1850 was a concession to the southern states in return for the admission of the Mexican war territories (California, especially) into the Union as nonslave states. The Act made it easy for slaveowners to recapture ex-slaves or simply to pick up blacks they claimed had run away. Northern blacks organized resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act, denouncing President Fillmore, who signed it, and Senator Daniel Webster, who supported it. One of these was J. W. Loguen, son of a slave mother and her white owner. He had escaped to freedom on his master’s horse, gone to college, and was now a minister in Syracuse, New York. He spoke to a meeting in that city in 1850:

The time has come to change the tones of submission into tones of defiance-and to tell Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Webster, if they propose to execute this measure upon us, to send on their blood-hounds. … I received my freedom from Heaven, and with it came the command to defend my title to it. … I don’t respect this law-I don’t fear it-I won’t obey it! It outlaws me, and I outlaw it…. I will not live a slave, and if force is employed to re-enslave me, I shall make preparations to meet the crisis as becomes a man. … Your decision tonight in favor of resistance will give vent to the spirit of liberty, and it will break the bands of party, and shout for joy all over the North. … Heaven knows that this act of noble daring will break out somewhere-and may God grant that Syracuse be the honored spot, whence it shall send an earthquake voice through the land!

The following year, Syracuse had its chance. A runaway slave named Jerry was captured and put on trial. A crowd used crowbars and a battering ram to break into the courthouse, defying marshals with drawn guns, and set Jerry free.

I am asking the world that views this post to help me in Riverside California to empower our community with this God inspired vision to not house ex-offenders, but to empower them with the knowledge and skills needed to help make a difference in the dark and perverse world. I am serious about this cause. History is repeating itself in new deceptive ways, let’s change America some how by empowering people.

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Loguen made his home in Syracuse a major station on the Underground Railroad. It was said that he helped 1,500 slaves on their way to Canada. His memoir of slavery came to the attention of his former mistress, and she wrote to him, asking him either to return or to send her $1,000 in compensation. Loguen’s reply to her was printed in the abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator:

Mrs. SarahLogue. .. . You say you have offers to buy me, and that you shall sell me if I do not send you $1000, and in the same breath and almost in the same sentence, you say, “You know we raised you as we did our own children.” Woman, did you raise your own children for the market? Did you raise them for the whipping post? Did you raise them to be driven off, bound to a coffle in chains? . .. Shame on you! 

But you say I am a thief, because I took the old mare along with me. Have you got to learn that I had a better right to the old mare, as you call her, than Manasseth Logue had to me? Is it a greater sin for me to steal his horse, than it was for him to rob my mother’s cradle, and steal me? . .. Have you got to learn that human rights are mutual and reciprocal, and if you take my liberty and life, you forfeit your own liberty and life? Before God and high heaven, is there a law for one man which is not a law for every other man?

If you or any other speculator on my body and rights, wish to know how I regard my rights, they need but come here, and lay their hands on me to enslave me.. . .

Yours, etc. J. W. Loguen

Frederick Douglass knew that the shame of slavery was not just the South’s, that the whole nation was complicit in it. On the Fourth of July, 1852, he gave an Independence Day address:

Fellow Citizens: Pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?.. . 

What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. ‘To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass- fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival… .

Ten years after Nat Turner’s rebellion, there was no sign of black insurrection in the South. But that year, 1841, one incident took place which kept alive the idea of rebellion. Slaves being transported on a ship, the Creole, overpowered the crew, killed one of them, and sailed into the British West Indies (where slavery had been abolished in 1833). England refused to return the slaves (there was much agitation in England against American slavery), and this led to angry talk in Congress of war with England, encouraged by Secretary of State Daniel Webster. TheColored Peoples Press denounced Webster’s “bullying position,” and, recalling the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, wrote:

If war be declared . .. Will we fight in defense of a government which denies us the most precious right of citizenship? .. . The States in which we dwell have twice availed themselves of our voluntary services, and have repaid us with chains and slavery. Shall we a third time kiss the foot that crushes us? If so, we deserve our chains.

As the tension grew, North and South, blacks became more militant. Frederick Douglass spoke in 1857:

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reforms. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of struggle. … If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will… .

There were tactical differences between Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, white abolitionist and editor ofThe Liberator-differences between black and white abolitionists in general. Blacks were more willing to engage in armed insurrection, but also more ready to use existing political devices-the ballot box, the Constitution-anything to further their cause. They were not as morally absolute in their tactics as the Garrisonians. Moral pressure would not do it alone, the blacks knew; it would take all sorts of tactics, from elections to rebellion.

How ever-present in the minds of northern Negroes was the question of slavery is shown by black children in a Cincinnati school, a private school financed by Negroes. The children were responding to the question “What do you think most about?” Only five answers remain in the records, and all refer to slavery. A seven-year-old child wrote:

Dear schoolmates, we are going next summer to buy a farm and to work part of the day and to study the other part if we live to see it and come home part of the day to see our mothers and sisters and cousins if we are got any and see our kind folks and to be good boys and when we get a man to get the poor slaves from bondage. And I am sorrow to hear that the boat… went down with 200 poor slaves from up the river. Oh how sorrow I am to hear that, it grieves my heart so drat I could faint in one minute.

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~Whose Play Book Are “You” The MVP Of?~

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Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. —Jeremiah 1:5

When an NFL player, and every one of them is an amazing athlete, gets traded to a new team, he has to learn the playbook. He can’t bring in the playbook of the Dallas Cowboys when he’s been traded to the Chicago Bears. He doesn’t say, “I’m a professional athlete. I don’t need to learn another set of plays.” It’s because he’s such a great athlete that he can learn a new offense, a new defense, and so forth.

Every one of us has a non-Immanuel background. We’ve been traded from some other team. So as we come together and want to score touchdown after touchdown, we have to run the same plays together. What is our playbook? What are the understandings we all need to share together, and how do we “run those plays”? That’s what we’re going to define for several weeks now.

We begin today with this basic question. What is a Christian? Jeremiah 1 tells us something about being a Christian that writes our first play in our playbook. In this passage God says you are a person of destiny, and almost nothing in this world helps you to believe that. The political parties see you as a voting block. Businesses see you as a market niche. Therapists may tell you what a victim you are. But this world knows nothing of your dignity in Christ. You are a person of destiny. That’s what God says. Don’t let anyone but God define you. Receive his call on your life, and go for it. He promises to be with you as you dare to follow him.

You do not have to create your own significance. Many try to. Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, wrote, “We disguise our struggle by piling up figures in a bank book to reflect privately our sense of heroic worth. Or by having only a little better home in the neighborhood, a bigger car, brighter children. But underneath throbs the ache of cosmic specialness, no matter how we mask it in concerns of smaller scope.” Without a God-given sense of cosmic specialness, we sink into, as Becker puts it, “a blind drivenness that burns people up; in passionate people, a screaming for glory as uncritical and reflexive as the howling of a dog.” This is why Jesus said, “Come to me. My yoke is easy.” He has a call on your life, and it will not burn you up. It will cost you. But it will also fulfill you – like nothing else.

Let’s look at the greatness of the call of God upon us.

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” —Jeremiah 1:4-5

 

The passages narrates Jeremiah’s call as a prophet. But it applies to all of God’s people. In the Old Testament God calls his people “my anointed ones, my prophets” (Psalm 105:15). In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is poured out on all of God’s people so that “they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18). In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says that, if all the members of that church will prophesy, they’ll make an impact (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

What are we talking about? We’re not talking about being prophetic in the sense that I walk up to you and say, “God told me thus and so.” That’s a power play. When I hear that kind of thing, I’m not impressed. God speaks through the Bible. We are prophetic not through hunches but through truth. That’s what we see in the book of Acts during the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit in history: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). That’s being prophetic.

Here’s the wonderful thing we learn from these verses in Jeremiah 1. God personally handmade you and me for this task. We shouldn’t say, “But that isn’t my spiritual gift.” That’s what Jeremiah’s about to say. And it was a pretty good excuse. He really wasn’t the ideal candidate for a prophet. But God called Jeremiah. God called Jeremiah to transcend himself. God called Jeremiah to do hard things for him, things he was unprepared for. And God promised Jeremiah that he would be with him. God even built weakness into Jeremiah, because God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). So here’s the truth. God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called. The call of God is all you need to be confident. His command comes with his promise. If you will obey, you will succeed, because his call upon your life is not just a future challenge; his call started a long time ago and got you to this moment right now. Before you existed in your mother’s womb, God loved you and set you apart to himself and defined your mission in life. He gave you a job to do. He appointed you a voice for the gospel to the whole world today. See yourself that way.

When you look at your life and say, “For this I was born” – what is it about your life that you’re looking at when your heart says that? Is there anything in your life that makes you say, “For this I was born”? God wants to fill in that blank for you with his true purpose: “I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Do not trivialize your life. God has a call of greatness for you. And Immanuel Church is here to serve you by helping you fulfill your destiny. But following God’s call is not easy for us. It wasn’t easy for Jeremiah. We see that in verses 6-8:

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” —Jeremiah 1:6-8

We can always come up with reasons to say No to God, because what he calls us to do is impossible. The will of God stretches us to the limit and beyond. But throughout the Bible we see people just like us who accomplish things they never dreamed possible. Why? Because when we step out to obey God, he goes with us: “I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah’s excuse was “Lord, I’m young, I’m inexperienced, I’m untrained. There are some really smart people out there. I won’t know what to say.” That is not a profound objection. Isaiah at least had a profound objection. When God called him, he said, “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). He was saying, “I’m too sinful to speak for you” – a pretty good point. But God touched Isaiah’s mouth and said, “Your guilt is taken away; your sin is atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7). So, what’s your excuse? Our minds will always come up with reasons to put God off. Let’s not be shocked when we find ourselves screaming defeat even as we’re standing in victory. It’s how we sinners think, and it feels somehow logical.

What does God do about that? How does God respond to our inadequacy? God doesn’t say to Jeremiah, “No, Jeremiah, you really are impressive. You even make me feel complete. Jeremiah, I feel so much better with you on my side.” No, Jeremiah was right. He was inadequate. And Isaiah was sinful. But God is just changing the subject to himself and his grace. Look in this passage how God insists on a positive new God-focus in your life:

I formed you, I knew you, I consecrated you, I appointed you, I send you, I command you, I am with you to deliver you.

What does God tell Jeremiah to do? Just two things: “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth,'” and “Do not be afraid.” The whole tilt of the passage leans toward how much God does for Jeremiah and how little Jeremiah does for God. What does God want Jeremiah to do? “Stop telling me who you are. I know that already. What matters for you to fulfill your destiny, Jeremiah, is not who you are but who I am, not your ability but my purpose.” Let’s get our eyes off ourselves. Self-focus will paralyze a church. The whole point of the gospel is that we are no longer limited to ourselves. We are freed from our pettiness and smallness. We are now living in union with Christ in all his grandeur (1 Corinthians 1:30). The key to your becoming a prophetic voice for Christ is Christ – Christ before you, Christ over you, Christ in you, Christ with you. He is sending you. He is commanding you. If you will obey, you will succeed and your life will make an impact to the ends of the earth.

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” —Jeremiah 1:9-10

What matters is not your mouth but whose word is in your mouth. Billy Graham might be a better evangelist than you, but his gospel is no better than yours. The gospel you have to share has all the same power of God to create a new human race. All you have to do is receive God’s words into your mouth, and then let them out of your mouth. I remember an old friend named Wilbur Smith telling me years ago about Billy Graham sitting down with the president of some foreign country and Graham’s first comment to this world leader, as they sat down for dinner, was not “What a lovely country you have” but “What do you think of Jesus Christ?” That is the all-important question we must ask everyone we can: What do you think of Jesus Christ? God orchestrated and launched and is supervising all of human history for this one reason: to display his glory in Christ. Therefore the central question for every life throughout the length of human history is not about politics or economics or race; the primary question is, What do you think of Jesus Christ? And God will use any believer, however timid, whose mouth will open up for his glory.

St. Francis of Assisi was famous for saying, “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.” That is wrong. Sure, we want our lives to line up with what we say. But a life without words is not enough. What does God do here? God puts his words into Jeremiah’s mouth – not just his character into Jeremiah’s heart or his deeds into Jeremiah’s lifestyle but his words into Jeremiah’s mouth. It is gospel words that have the power to bring down strongholds of falsehood and establish new worlds of peace and joy and justice in people’s lives and families and neighborhoods. That’s why the devil wants to silence you. It’s okay with him if you live a “good Christian life,” if you’ll just keep your mouth shut. But when God puts his words into your mouth and you let them out of your mouth, you are prophetic. What did the Sanhedrin tell the apostles not to do? “They charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). And the apostles, who were shaken by that – can you imagine seeing your face on wanted posters all over town? – the apostles went back to the church and they had a prayer meeting. What did they ask God to do? Not to make all the wanted posters disappear. This is what they begged God for: “And now Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). God helped them, and their influence was unstoppable to the ends of the earth.

God can make a worldwide difference through you, beginning today: “See, I have set you this day over nations and kingdoms.” Jeremiah didn’t have to strive for influence; he only had to speak, and God do the rest. When you speak openly for Jesus, his Word redirects the course of human history, one person at a time. You start pushing over dominoes all around you, without even knowing it. And do you see these words of destruction (pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow) followed by words of construction (build, plant)? What’s that about? Francis Schaeffer used to say, “If I had one hour with a modern person, I would spend the first fifty minutes interacting on the problems, on our lostness and emptiness and despair and bondage and guilt, and then the last ten minutes on the good news.”

Schaeffer understood that the gospel first plucks up and breaks down and destroys and overthrows the false hopes we dream of and the fraudulence of our culture, and then it builds and plants with the solid realities of Jesus. Billy Graham said, “The problem is not to get people saved; the problem is to get them lost.” Too many people “make a decision for Jesus” before they know why they need him, and people don’t change that way. They don’t love him. They don’t even want him, not really. They just accept him, to escape hell. Their inner world has never been deconstructed and then rebuilt in Christ. Their minds and hearts are still locked down with well-established structures of pride and fear and error. The gospel sets people free from that. Think of the structure of the book of Romans. Paul explains the gospel in chapters 1-5, in two steps. He starts out in 1:18-3:20 explaining the wrath of God, then in 3:21-5:21 he explains the grace of God. Why? Because the good news starts with bad news. The gospel has some hard things to say to us, harder than anything else we’ve ever heard. And it has sweet things to say to us, sweeter than anything else we’ve ever heard. God breaks down and he builds up. That’s how the gospel changes people – beginning with us.

Now, how should we respond to this passage? From verses 4-5 we can say to God, “Thank you for how you made me. I see that I am not fundamentally a problem to you; I am fundamentally a strategy from you. Thank you. I dedicate my life to doing your will.” From verses 6-8 we can say to God, “Father, I renounce my negative self-focus, and I receive your promise to be with me and deliver me as I speak for you.” And from verses 9-10 we can say, “Lord, I want to become more articulate in the gospel – removing objections, bringing down the obstacles, building and planting new thoughts, new feelings, new reverence in the hearts of my friends as we interact over the gospel.”

So here is the first play in our playbook. Every member of Immanuel Church is trained to be a voice for the gospel. Every member knows how to explain the gospel and is ready and available to explain the gospel with anyone. That’s the play. Let’s run it.

Let me ask you something. What are you doing every Sunday morning at 9:00 that’s more important than learning how to improve your fluency in the gospel? That’s what C. A. Stilwell is helping us to do here every Sunday morning at 9:00. Where are you during that hour? If you’re not here, if you’re somewhere else because you’re good at this already, we still need you here to help the rest of us. And if you’re not here because you need extra rest before work on Monday, is there anything preventing you from going to bed at 10:00 Saturday night, setting your alarm for 7:00 Sunday morning, turning out the lights and getting nine hours of sleep, so that you wake up Sunday morning feeling great, with two hours for a leisurely cup of coffee and newspaper time before you’re here at 9:00? What else do you have to do that’s more important than you fulfilling the call of God on your life?

God said to Jeremiah, “I have consecrated you.” That was good news. It meant that Jeremiah would not waste his life. And that is the call of God on you and me. But there’s better news. Jesus said, “I consecrate myself for their sake” (John 17:19). Your future is not limited to you; your future is opened up by him, because he is committed to you. Trust him. Obey him. He will be with you, you will be prophetic, and your life will count forever.

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~Having A Humanitarian Heart To Drive Change~

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Approximately 16 million United States citizens have been convicted of felony offenses. At least 14 million of these ex-felons are unconfined, and at least 9 million have completed the sanctions ordered by the criminal justice system and are under no official supervision.

Upon conviction for a felony offense and continuing past release from prison and parole, sometimes for life, ex-felons are subject to a wide array of limitations on work, education, family, and civic activities. These bans are sometimes used as explicit forms of additional punishment (i.e., voting bans) and sometimes invoked to protect vulnerable populations. Serious ethical concerns exist about these types of officially-sanctioned collateral consequences because they go beyond punishment within the criminal justice system. These ethical concerns are balanced against the fact that ex-offenders are undeniably at a higher risk for crime than non-offenders.

The exact calculus of this balance is outside the realm of social science. But social science research can calibrate the risk associated with a criminal history record, and we feel safe in concluding that explicit lifetime bans cannot be justified on the basis of safety or concerns about crime risk. Age and time since last offense can help predict current offending risk. Older offenders and individuals who stay arrest-free for 7 years or more simply have very little risk for future crime, and this risk is similar to that of non-offenders.

The issue of so many people being unemployed due to past records is causing a strain on the economic development of our community and nation at large.  Because the number of re-entering citizens is so great, “10,000 to 12,000 adults and 500 juveniles are projected to be released from incarceration and returned to communities each year, an even greater number reenter communities from local jails and federal correctional centers,”(Services).  We, the tax payers of America, are each carrying one to two additional people to our own families each year in the payment of our taxes, the cost of our goods, and the rise in the cost of housing.  Studies show that due to the ex-offenders  inability to find employment, recidivism is high, “Of the 7 million Americans (1 in 33) who were incarcerated, on probation or parole in 2010, more than 4 in 10 can be expected to return to prison within three years, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Center on the States.” (Lee),  thus adding to our cost of living as we must continue to build institutions, hire more officers, and offset insurance rates by raising cost in preparation of the growing numbers of convicts.   If employers were more forgiving, and ex-offenders were allowed this second chance many are fighting for, the ex-offender would be responsible for their own cost of living, and the expenses would not trickle down or spread wide, the families and small business of our immediate communities will no longer have to suffer so greatly by footing the bill.

Citizens returning to society from jails and/or institutions, known as the ex-offender, ex-felon, or ex- convict, are being denied quality employment, housing and social services due to their past mistakes although they have paid their debt to society.  This is all a part of the “tough on crime” movement.  Quantitative research shows “lifetime bans for ex-felons affect an estimated 1 in 19 adults.” It is estimated that our government spends about “$52 billion dollars a year on those incarcerated”, stated in The PEW Center on the States, (Trust).  Not only are we spending money on incarceration, but we also are losing money not employing these individuals when they return home, “the United States had between 12 and 14 million ex-offenders of working age. Because a prison record or felony conviction greatly lowers ex-offenders’ prospects in the labor market, we estimate that this large population lowered the total male employment rate that year by 1.5 to 1.7 percentage points.  In GDP terms, these reductions in employment cost the U.S. economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output.”  Out of the thousands of jobs available, 90% of the job vacancies are vacant due to the rejection of ex-offenders and out of the 10% that is left, only 50% of those will accept someone who has been convicted of a violent or serious felony.  This makes five percent of the available jobs in our nation open to anyone, contrasting the large numbers of those re-entering society after incarceration.

Who owns the responsibility of redeveloping the economic status of our communities, of society, of the world?   Now that the government has put in place re-entry programs designed to assist those individuals wishing to turn their lives around, permitting study programs, certification, and grant options, sending prepared citizens out into society equipped and qualified, would it not be the responsibility of the corporations, organizations, and privately owned companies to take a chance and take advantage of the people who are desperate to show they can work hard and well, and also take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) offered for hiring such candidates as the ex-offender?

There is plenty of work to go around that ex-offenders can and are qualified to do but are not being hired for.  “As many as 600,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs remained vacant across the U.S. due to shortages of skilled workers, according to the Manufacturing Institute’s most recent “skills gap” report.” (Sirkin)  Such certificates as welding, water treatment, carpentry, mechanics, machine technician, and computer operations are offered within institutions today, followed up with experience utilizing the education received while incarcerated in areas of shipping and receiving, manufacturing and telephone operators.  If our society continues on the path of refusing employment in most industries, the cost of taking care of the ex-offender will continue to be absorbed by us tax paying citizens, as these individuals continue to go in and out of jail, remaining unemployed, and re-offending to survive.  Where there is crime, there is cost to the tax payers, and “The government and the nation suffer.  In many countries the government has to pay the unemployed some benefits. The greater the number of the unemployed or the longer they are without work the more money the government has to shell out.” (Effects of Unemployment on Society and the Economy)  Why are private industries choosing to fit the bill to keep these people unemployed rather than putting them to work? Hiring the ex-offender can put the money back into the governmental budget through our employment output rates and “can” stop the cuts to other programs like the Department of Defense, that are in desperate need of funding. In many states across this nation, the government is focusing on the effects ex-offenders are having on society and individual communities due to the numbers for the year 2010 being as large as “725,000 are released from correctional facilities each year across the country,” therefore, vocational skills and career geared certifications, which are cheaper in the prisons than offered at private institutions, are being offered inside the institutions.  Skill sets such as plumbing, HVAC, IT, and basic administration, along with various needed resources and programs designed to set these citizens on the right path are being offered in these institutions, for example, the DMV is setting up satellite stations inside institutions for the issuance of state identification to be issued upon release.  Proper identification for employment is just one of the barriers ex-offenders face, but it is an obstacle that has proven to be of major importance. These training programs alongside these essential pieces needed for success place the responsibility in the hands of the public and private industries to hire these individuals who will then pay taxes, in turn, lowering our deficit.

I don’t know how to get this across to anyone, I don’t know if I am networking with the right people to get this done, but I could use some help to fore-fill this vision. It is really needed in our community in Hemet and Riverside County. There are programs, but not like this Second Chance Alliance May & I have in our heart to birth. I need your help, not just money, but anything that you possess in line with knowledge or skills to offer please feel free to contact us @ blessedaaron08@gmail.com and I will respond because we are serious about getting this done and making a difference.  It is noted and recognized by our government and others around the world that if, “they, the ex-offender, have a proper job, are encouraged to take personal responsibility and work hard, they will feel proud to be able to support their family and would even be happy to pay tax” .This idea is supported by Blue Sky, a social enterprise in the UK who only hires ex-offenders and the success rate has had a positive influence on their economy.  In reading the supported research and text associated with the successful program offered in the UK, it is stated that, “The employee re-offending rate is only 15%: 48% obtain sustained employment on leaving.” (Jarvis).  With the success rate of this particular program, which has had a total of 500 clients participate thus far, spreading the idealism and innovative ideas throughout the UK should speak volumes to the US.  If the returning citizen honestly wishes to work hard and take care of their families, their productivity will aid in the redevelopment of our economy.

It is obvious a change needs to take place; otherwise we will continue to be victims of the convicted felons’ cycle.  It is the belief of many that we can “…reduce the recidivism rate of offenders by reintegrating them into society instead of ostracizing them as criminals. If the community is not supportive, and/or receptive to giving out second chances, are not the government’s attempts to equip the ex-offender futile, the motivation of the ex-offender to turn their lives around and make good on giving back to a society that took care of them done in vain, and also are “we” not responsible for allowing the growth of the expenses that take care of the rising number of ex-offenders to affect our own lives?

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~Don’t Let Anyone Suppress Your Dreams~

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If women would realize what an influence they have, they would be filled with pride. If men recognized how influential women are, they would be scared to death.”

It is said that we all influence at least 250 people in our lifetime. We each have the responsibility of leadership.

Every woman can be a leader. Yet results of surveys show that most women greatly underestimate their influence.

At home it can be organizing our children to clean the house or, more important, instilling values and morals into their lives. At the workplace, it can be motivating people for sales. We influence others by what we say and do–and by how we do our work.

We recognize that Mother Teresa was one of the great religious and humanitarian leaders of the world. When we aspire to be leaders, we must learn to discern between fame and greatness. Fame is Madonna; greatness is Mother Teresa. There is a tremendous shortage of and need for truly great leaders–leaders who are trustworthy, ethical, good, honest and who have high personal standards. The world is looking for honest and upright leaders.

Thankfully there are more women in leadership now than when I first began taking on leadership responsibilities. Being in leadership roles for more than thirty years–with greater and lesser responsibilities–I have learned a great deal about good leadership. What is a leader? “A leader is a person who influences people to accomplish a purpose.” How do you become a leader? “A leader correctly assesses a situation and knows how to take the next step.”

Whether you know it or not, whether you believe it or not, you’re a leader–an influencer. Your opinions are listened to and acted upon. The following nine principles will help you make the most of your influence:

1. Have a dream that will leave this world a better place

“Is there anything worse then being blind? Yes! The most pathetic person in the whole world is someone who has sight but has no vision.” So said Helen Keller.

Leadership is simply the ability to turn a dream or a vision of a desired future state into a reality with and through the cooperation of other people. To throw your life into something worthwhile, your dream must be worth dying for. What do you get excited about?

Have a big vision; something beyond your capabilities to keep you challenged. If we have aimed our efforts for this moment only–for ourselves, for the accumulation of material things, for pleasure–we will soon become dissatisfied and disillusioned with life. Former British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher said, “There is little hope for democracy if the hearts of men and women cannot be touched by a call to something greater than themselves.”

Have a dream and vision that is greater then yourself–one that will leave this world a better place.

2. Know what your strengths are

To be leaders, we need each other to reach our goals. Each of us has only some of the skills needed to do a great job. We need to surround ourselves with people to fill in our gaps. Seventy-nine year-old Muriel Tower, an experienced entrepreneur, said, “You get things done through other people. Number one in business is get the best person for the job. Number two, delegate. Number three, supervise–go back and see that they did it.”

In order to be effective, you need a team to work with. We lead on the basis of our strengths; we gather our team on the basis of their strengths.

What is your leadership style? Are you a visionary? A person who can see the big picture and take risks? Or are you a detail person–an administrative type? You see the need for systems and order. You do things right and at the right time. You are efficient. Perhaps you are more of a sales person–a people gatherer. You love people and can sell anything to anyone, but don’t care about details. Or maybe you just love working by yourself. A hard worker–a producer. Let someone give you a track to run on and you’ll do it.

Before you are thirty years old, you can probably do all of those jobs without too much difficulty. But once you are over thirty, you realize you don’t want to do the things you aren’t good at. It uses up too much energy. When you know what you are good at, surround yourself with a team who are good at the other three.

When you have that team, meet with them regularly and have a purpose statement that you work toward. Review it often with your staff so you don’t lose your focus. Set short and long term goals, and evaluate two or three times a year to see how you are doing. Your team will be motivated toward reaching your goals together. Give credit where credit is due. Say “thank you” to the people you are working with. Encourage them often!

Understanding your strengths and the strengths of others is a key to effective leadership.

3. Strive for excellence

The people you want to influence will not rise to a higher standard of excellence than what they observe in you. The authors of Megatrends for Women write, “Male or female, the effective leader wins commitment by setting an example of excellence.”

We were hosting a dinner for influential women in three cities with a well-known, successful speaker. Of course we were eager to make a good impression, so we spent hours wording the invitations. However, when they were printed and we looked them over, we discovered–to our dismay–that the logo for our organization was printed upside down. It was a costly oversight.

After much discussion, we decided to reprint them even though we knew that the majority of the women would not even notice the mistake.

We wanted to influence leaders and we had to do things right, not only do the right things. Leaders must strive for excellence.

Strive for excellence and you will motivate others to do the same.

4. Be persistent

Mother Teresa was a determined woman. Margaret Thatcher was a determined woman. The key to being a good leader is endurance–being a non-quitter. You will be tempted to quit and be encouraged to quit by those who are friends and enemies. Be unwilling to throw in the towel. Be determined.

One journalist wrote of Mother Teresa: “When I met Mother Teresa, I discovered she was very tiny–less than five feet tall–and kept her head cocked to one side. She had gnarled hands and thick peasant feet that protruded from under her coarse white sari. Although there was no mistaking the aura of warmth and kindness that surrounded her, I felt I was in the presence of the most powerful, focussed and determined person I had ever met.”

According to a survey done by Deloitte and Touche, senior women executives rated Determination and Perseverance as the number one essential qualities for Women’s success in business. In order to leave this world a different place, you have to be persistent. Leaders don’t grow in a comfort zone. Leaders are not people with exceptional talent; they are people who have learned from their mistakes and get up and try again.

Persistence is a key to effective leadership.

5. Be willing to stand alone

If you have a passion, a dream or a mission, set measurable goals and work toward accomplishing them. You will find that many times you may have to work alone. You will probably be lonely.

People are looking for leaders who are willing to give it all they have, and they will follow–for a while. However, when the going gets tough, when pleasure and comfort compete with responsibility and long hours, followers will drop away. That is when you have to be sure that what you are doing is right, so that you will keep going.

James Cook said, “A person who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”

6. Be ready for resistance

One of the facts of life is that when you are in leadership, you have to solve problems.

Pastor Lloyd Ogilvie, for many years the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California and now Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, once observed that “Everyone has problems; if you don’t have any now, you will have problems; wherever you work or live, you’ll have problems; or you just might be someone else’s problem.”

Sometimes we have the faulty notion that we should be able to go through life problem free–that if we have problems, something is wrong with our life. As leaders, we have to be responsible, no matter how painful it is. Running away is not an option.

We can easily fall into waiting for someone else to solve our problems. In her book, The Cinderella Complex, Colette Dowling writes about waiting for Prince Charming: “Like Cinderella, women today are still waiting for something external to transform their lives. We may venture out a little, but underneath lurks a wish to be saved, a deep yearning for dependence.”

You don’t need to wait for someone else’s help. You will have problems. Be ready. Expect it. If you know you are doing what is right, you won’t cave in when the going gets tough.

Facing problems and dealing with them by making good decisions is the difference between a leader and a follower.

7. Set an example for your staff

“Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and never succeed.”

I am amazed at how often people want a position, but not the responsibility. It is natural to want to escape responsibility; we all do it. However, being a leader means working long hours. It means being available to solve problems or give direction whenever necessary. Being a leader means being a servant, whether you are in your home or at work. You are always on call.

A leader works hard.

8. Be ethical

As I travel a lot, I gather stats from many different papers and magazines. USA Today stated that two in three adults believe ethics “vary by situation” or that there is no “unchanging ethical standard of right and wrong.” Only 18% of the people ages 20 – 30 said that there was one standard of right and wrong.

The Vancouver Province printed another study, which reflected that we tell 200 lies a day. Everything from giving excuses for our behaviour, to saying things like, “I hate to bother you . . . ” Don’t expect your staff or the next generation to do what is right if they see you doing what is wrong. It is incredibly important that we have a strong code of ethics to base our decisions and lifestyle on.

What set of values dictate your ethics–your behaviour? Or do you have a code of ethics? Do you have convictions that cause you to say, “I will never do that” or “For me, that is not an option?” If you don’t, sit down, think through and write down your non-negotiable code of ethics. Sometimes it can be the little things that erode your standards and–by the way–your self esteem. When temptation comes, you may very well do something that you will later be sorry for. Sometimes you have harmful situations to live with the rest of your life.

Margaret Thatcher once said, “I am not a consensus politician, I am a conviction politician.” What kind of leader are you? Do you have convictions of your own or do you live by the consensus of other opinions?

It is of utmost importance to have high ethical standards to be an effective leader.

9. Let God be your guide

Elizabeth Dole, President of the American Red Cross, stated in an interview: “To me it’s very important to know I have a source of strength beyond my own. When I’m undertaking a difficult assignment or making a tough decision, I’m glad I don’t have to rely on my own energy, wisdom, and judgement.”

Twenty-four years ago, I realized I needed a source of strength beyond myself. The goals I had set for myself were not satisfying and even relationships did not fill my deepest need. At the ageof thirty-two, I gave the control of my life to God. He is that source of strength I needed. I simply prayed, “I want You to be my Guide from now until I die.” He heard me.

Initially, I was filled with tremendous joy, peace and satisfaction. I felt like someone really cared for me–accepted me unconditionally. It was like finding a missing piece to a puzzle after looking for a long time.

My goals, priorities and dreams started changing. My dreams became much bigger–beyond what I could personally do. My scope of interest grew from the home base to the community, from the community to the province, from the province to our nation, from our nation to the world.

I noticed many women in my world were not maximizing their abilities; I worked hard to encourage and train them to be the best women they could be.

Yet what is more important, I realized that if Jesus Christ could satisfy me and change my life so dramatically, He could do that for anyone. So I started telling people how they could have a personal relationship with God.

Find the power to change your life and your world–let God be your guide.

Oliver W. Holmes was quoted as saying, “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as is what direction we are heading.” What direction do you think you will be heading 5 years from now? 10 years from now? 25 years from now?

As a leader, what direction are you heading? What direction are you taking the 250 people you are influencing?

http://www.nba.com/video/channels/top_plays/2014/04/18/20140417-nyk-anthony-top10-yr.nba/

Living with hope

If you are looking for peace, there is a way to balance your life. No one can be perfect, or have a perfect life. But every one of us has the opportunity to experience perfect grace through a personal relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as he is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

Empower A Felon

Yes! I prayed this prayer.

~I am Food For The Universe; I Am~

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Isaiah 28:28

Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever. The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it, but one does not use horses to grind grain.

Many of us cannot be used as food for the world’s hunger, because we have yet to be broken in Christ’s hands. “Grain must be ground to make bread,” and being a blessing of His often requires sorrow on our part. Yet even sorrow is not too high a price to pay for the privilege of touching other lives with Christ’s blessings. The things that are most precious to us today have come to us through tears and pain.

God has made me bread for His chosen ones, and if it is necessary for me to “be ground” in the teeth of lions in order to feed His children, then blessed be the name of the Lord.

To burn brightly over our lives must first experience the flame. In other words, we cease to bless others when we cease to bleed.

Poverty, hardship, and misfortune have propelled many a life to moral heroism and spiritual greatness. Difficulties challenge our energy and our perseverance but bring the strongest qualities of the soul to life. It is the weights on the old grandfather clock that keep it running. And many a sailor has faced a strong head wind yet used it to make it to port. God has chosen opposition as a catalyst to our faith and holy service.

The most prominent characters of the Bible were broken, threshed, and ground into bread for the hungry. Because he stood at the head for the hungry. Because he stood at the head of the class, enduring affliction while remaining obedient, Abraham’s diploma is now inscribed with these words: “The Father of Faith.”

Jacob. like wheat, suffered severe threshing and grinding. Joseph was beaten and bruised, and was forced to endure Potiphar’s kitchen and Egypt’s prison before coming to his throne. David, hunted like an animal of prey through the mountains, was bruised, weary, and footsore, and thereby ground into bread for a kingdom. Paul could never have been bread for Ceasar’s household if he had not endured the bruising of being whipped and stoned. He was ground into fine flour for the Roman royal family.

Combat comes before victory. If God has chosen special trials for you to endure, be assured He has kept a very special place in His heart just for you. A badly bruised soul is one who is chosen.

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Being crush has made me bread for this struggle I am passionate about:https://blessedaaron08.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/the-why/

~Getting Started Toward a Goal Makes All the Difference~

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My wife and I started off in a small beginning. We almost destroyed one another just like we were used to devour those we sold drugs to and used drugs with. It wasn’t until five years had passed since our seeing one another that she took a small step of faith and reached out to me while I was serving my last year of a 5-year sentence in Corcoran State Prison and asked me to forgive her. That act of reconciliation has led to 23 years of friendship and 5 years of marriage. We have accomplished several small things that have turned into very significant events in our life and the lives of family and countless others.

Consider for a moment dreams or goals you’ve had which have been realized. Think back on those accomplishments or successful experiences which are most meaningful for you to remember. I’m willing to guess that more than one of them had a rather tentative, inglorious start.

When we look carefully at the path which led to a personal success, we often realize that it began with a modest step forward, that in time reaped a much greater harvest than we anticipated.

Such small first steps might include–

 An awkward first visit to a church singles group, that led to meeting the person you married.

 A hesitant phone call to ask someone out, or to inquire about a job opportunity, which received a much more positive response than you expected.

 An application for a grant, written with a sense of futility, thinking you’d probably be better off spending your time doing something else. Yet to your astonishment, the grant was given, and significant doors have now opened through that one effort.

 A business venture began with a paltry investment that succeeded far beyond your expectations.

 A book picked up in a time of discouragement, that inspired you and gave you the perspective to pursue your dream.

 A reconciled relationship, now going strong, which began with a simple request for forgiveness.

With the eyes of hindsight, we look back to such starting efforts with awe and gratitude. We realize there was greatness in that moment of small beginning that we didn’t begin to appreciate at the time. We may shudder, too, to think of how close we came to not taking that one initial step which opened such important doors.

A Reason for Optimism

Unfortunately, the benefit of the small beginning is often lost on us when we face the possibility of embarking on a new dream. The effort it would take to pursue it seems massive; we’re overwhelmed with the impossibility of it all. There seems to be little or nothing we can do to move forward.

To the eyes of faith, though, there is a world of difference between “little” and “nothing.” Often there is something we can do–some obvious first step we could take. This may be exactly what is needed to put the wheels of faith in motion.

For one thing, we shouldn’t underestimate the value that taking any initial step toward a goal has upon us psychologically. Suddenly our psyche is committed, and we become more alert to opportunities that will move us toward our dream. Others become more aware of our intentions as well and are more likely to try to help us.

Yet the spiritual aspect of taking the first step is even more important. The seemingly insignificant small beginning often gets much closer to the heart of the biblical idea of going forward in faith than we realize.

From Little Acorns . . .

We don’t usually think of it this way. The very notion of moving out in faith seems to imply taking a bold, extravagant step of some sort. We quickly think of the biblical prototypes: Moses parting the Red Sea, Joshua leading the Israelites to demolish the wall of Jericho with a shout, David marshaling his troops for battle, Gideon confronting the indomitable Midianite army with only three hundred soldiers, Esther going before King Ahasuerus knowing that her life hung in the balance, Peter preaching salvation to the large throng of Jews gathered on the day of Pentecost. It’s easy to conclude that if we’re not throwing caution to the wind, we’re not really taking a step of faith.

Yet Scripture also shows great respect for the small, subtle, unspectacular first step. Consider these examples–

 In the parable of the talents, Jesus commended the two servants who invested their money and upbraided the one who failed to give his one coin to the bankers (Mt 25:14-30). Few first steps are less inspiring than putting money in the bank. No one notices, there are no neon lights, and there is no immediate reward for this act of discipline. In fact, the period you must wait for any significant benefit can seem interminable. Yet with time, the incremental gains grow larger and larger, and the eventual profit is considerable.

It’s striking that Jesus paid such respect to prudent financial investment. Clearly, too, he intended the parable of the talents to be an analogy to other areas of life where we take risks for his sake. It conveys an unmistakable lesson–that we shouldn’t neglect the benefit of a small beginning in any venture of faith.

 Ruth’s marriage to Boaz–one of the most celebrated in Scripture–resulted from a small, ignoble step forward. The marriage became possible because of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, moved from Moab to Bethlehem. The move, detailed in the book of Ruth, was anything but a triumphant one for these two women. Both went to Bethlehem as widows–Naomi returning grief-stricken to her homeland, and Ruth following along out of devotion to Naomi. The move was borne more of necessity than of vibrant vision for the future.

Yet at least they did something to break the inertia of their grief and make a fresh start. In time the move brought benefits that exceeded their wildest expectations. Ruth met Boaz and married him, then gave birth to a son who became an ancestor of David. Naomi also found new life in this family connection, and in the many friendships that opened for her in Bethlehem. An unglamorous step forward brought about a wellspring of life for Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and countless others who enjoyed the family relationships that resulted in the generations which followed.

 We tend to glamorize the healing incidents in the Gospels and assume that those who came to Jesus for help did so boldly, with a sublime confidence that they would be instantly cured. I’m certain, though, that many came in the same ambivalent, tentative spirit in which we often seek medical help today. The woman with the hemorrhage is a case in point (Mark 5:24-34). Terribly concerned that no one would notice her, and uncertain whether approaching Jesus was even appropriate, she decided merely to touch the hem of his garment. That one small gesture not only brought her healing but an effusive compliment from Jesus about her faith (v. 34).

As we see here, Scripture not only describes small first steps which brought results over time but those which reaped a surprising harvest immediately. Virtually all of the healing miracles mentioned in Scripture fit this pattern. The “miracles of expansion” do as well. These include incidents in the Old and New Testaments where large crowds were fed with a small provision of food (2 Kings 4:42-44; Mk 6:33-44, 8:1-9), and the miraculous provision of oil that saved the widow of Cain from financial ruin (2 Kings 4:1-7). While we cannot presume that our own small first steps will immediately produce such astonishing results, we can never know unless we try.

And in time the results of a meager first effort often do surprise us.

The Challenge of Small Beginnings

While taking the small first step can make all the difference, there are two factors which can keep us from appreciating an opportunity to move forward that we actually have. One is that because of its apparent insignificance, we may not even recognize the small beginning that’s available for us to make.

I remember a friend who left a well-paying nursing job to enter a doctoral program. Though Nancy had long wanted to pursue this goal, she assumed it was financially impossible, since she was a single parent in her forties. Finally, she faced up to the fact that there was a small beginning she could make, which was to apply for grants. She made six applications, assuming her prospects for success were minimal. To her astonishment, four of the six were granted. When Nancy shared this personal triumph with me, I couldn’t help but think of how many people there must be who need this same financial assistance–and would qualify for it–yet have concluded that it isn’t worth the trouble to apply. Nancy herself had overlooked this option for years.

Of course, writing a grant application means some uninspiring paperwork, and this suggests a second factor that can keep us from recognizing the chance to make a small beginning–the fact that we may look with contempt upon what we have to do.

Such was the near-fatal flaw of Naaman the leper in the Old Testament. Naaman sought healing for leprosy from Elisha, who told him to wash seven times in the Jordan river. Naaman’s response was one of anger: “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” (2 Kings 5:11-12 NIV). The text concludes, “he turned and went off in a rage.”

Naaman’s servants had the good sense to challenge him, saying, “if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (v. 13). Naaman fortunately repented of his obstinacy and followed the prophet’s counsel. Yet his example warns us that no matter how greatly we want to reach a goal, our disdain for some of the details may keep us from moving forward. The initial steps that we must take are particularly likely to seem distasteful to us.

We need, in short, a greater esteem for the small beginnings of life. “Don’t despise the day of small beginnings,” as Pat Robertson is fond of paraphrasing Zechariah 4:10.

Taking Heart

Do you have a personal dream which has not been realized? To the best of your knowledge, is your dream in line with God’s best intentions for your life? Yet does it seem that there is little or nothing you can do to move toward your goal-that your hands are tied?

Remember that a small beginning is sometimes the very step needed to open yourself to the provision of Christ. Pray earnestly and look honestly at what you actually can do to start moving toward your goal. Don’t look with contempt on the small beginning. Think of it as the launching point for a journey of faith.

And remember that God’s hand in your life is not shortened. Stands the reason we are stepping out with Second Chance Alliance, Click to review and pray our strength. Thanks in advance.

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~Watch The Behavior~

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I have been primarily interested in how and why ordinary people do unusual things, things that seem alien to their natures. Why do good people sometimes act evil? Why do smart people sometimes do dumb or irrational things?

Philip Zimbardo

Lyfe had already served 10 years in prison before beginning his music career. Yesterday morning, he posted a message to twitter that read, “I really need u guys prayers today and tomorrow…would really appreciate it”, followed by a longer message yesterday afternoon.

This will be my last post. To everyone who gave me a chance I am forever in your debt. I have had a fabulous career because of you. All I can say in parting is that I have been honest with yaw. I didn’t sugarcoat a word didn’t hold back a single sylible of my life from yaw. I’ve lived a hundred lives in these 6 yrs so I not only won’t, i don’t have the right to complain. I would like to think that I’ve changed lives by changing my own, tho I can’t be sure. But one thing I am sure of is God gives and takes away in measure. He is fair, just and forever. Amen from aman… Smile, its contageous:)

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Natasha and Mary

                                                                                                             Natasha and Mary

Dear Aaron,

I testified this week before seven men and women who are poised to make a decision that could affect tens of thousands of drug prisoners and their loved ones. Liberty is at stake.

The federal Sentencing Commission, the lawmakers that write the rules that affect nearly every federal sentence, is trying to decide whether to lower sentences for over 50,000 drug offenders in prison. They asked FAMM’s opinion – you can imagine what we think! — and earlier this week, I had a chance to tell them in a public hearing.

I felt, as we always do when addressing lawmakers, that I was speaking for you.

I wanted to carry your voices straight to the Commission. So, to prepare for my appearance, I spoke with some FAMM members who had left prison early when the Commission made them eligible for lower crack cocaine prison sentences in 2008 and 2010. I wanted to know about all the life that has filled the years the Sentencing Commission gave back to them; things they would have missed if still incarcerated.

Let me share a couple of their stories with you. Stephanie lives in Mobile, Alabama. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison, without parole, at age 23 for a non-violent crime. She spent over 21 years in prison before her early release in November 2011. Here is what she has done with the four years the Commission gave her. She is there to pick up grandchildren from day care every day and keep them close when they are sick or their parents need a break. She marvels at how these six grandchildren attached to her so instantly, as though she had been there all their short lives, instead of not at all. All were born while she was in prison. Her return home helped knit-up tears in the fabric of her family; people who had not spoken for years have rebuilt relationships in her orbit. She has celebrated 27 birthdays of children and grandchildren and of course all the holidays and family reunions. She would still be in prison today but for the Commission’s decision.

 

Two months after Natasha was released from prison in March 2008, she enrolled in college. This week, she received her Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Natasha served 11 years of her 15 year prison sentence. In the four extra years of freedom she gained from the Commission, besides rocking her own education, she attended the college graduations of two of her children, was there to welcome two of her three grandchildren into the world, and said goodbye to her grandmother and her beloved uncle. Today she helps potty train the babies, teaches them to walk, and volunteers in the 6th grade classroom of her teacher’s-aide daughter, where she coaches reading.

The lives of all the former prisoners I had the privilege of speaking with no longer revolve around the milestones they missed, but the ones they are they are part of.

Stephanie and Natasha are just two of the people I had in mind as I testified before the Sentencing Commissioners this week, urging them toreduce sentences for all drug offenders in prison.Those seven Commissioners have the power to change the lives of up to 51,000 federal prisoners – giving them a chance to spend time with grandchildren, attend graduations, walk daughters down the aisle, or hold the hand of an elderly parent.That’s why we fight so hard for sentencing changes at FAMM. We know that every unnecessary year – or day – in prison is time away from what makes us most human: families, communities, and social networks.

We need your help to make the strongest possible case to the Sentencing Commission, Congress, the President, and state legislators that sentencing laws must change! We’re trying to raise $25,000 this month so we can produce more case profiles to share nationwide that tell the stories of the people in prison who need relief. If you can make a donation, please do so today by clicking here. Your donation contributes to freedom for someone.

Thank you in advance for helping us bring people home sooner.

Sincerely,

Mary

 

 

Mary Price
General Counsel
Families Against Mandatory Minimums

 

 


Families Against Mandatory Minimums
1100 H Street NW
Suite 1000
Washington DC, 20005

 

 

U.S. Sentencing Commission Hearing on Drugs Minus Two Retroactivity

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Director Michael Melendy takes a closer look at the life and times of rapper Cifforrd Harris. TIP is currently doing hard time and won’t see the light of day til march of 2010. Before his lock down, T.I. speaks to the future leaders of America, women. T.I. has commited himself to the upbringing of empowered women! WATCH as Rolling Out TV captures this significant step in the positive direction!

Produced By: Michael Melendy

Dear Aaron,

Today the U.S. Sentencing Commission held an all-day hearing on drug guideline retroactivity. As you know, the Commission agreed to lower guidelines by two levels for most drug offenders coming into prison afterNovember 1, 2014.

The question they tackled today is whether to apply that lower guideline to people already serving drug sentences. The Commission has estimated that about 51,000 prisoners could be eligible for lower sentences if the Commission approves retroactivity and their average sentence reduction would be about 23 months.

There were 16 witnesses at today’s hearing – including FAMM’s general counsel, Mary Price. We were most eager to hear the positions of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Probation Office, and the federal judges. In a nutshell, this is what they said:

Federal judges support retroactivity of the drug guideline. Judge Irene Keeley spoke on behalf of the Federal Judicial Conference and said that although retroactivity could result in motions from 51,000 prisoners, that was the courts’ “burden to bear.” She also called it a “moral issue” and said it would be fundamentally unfair to categorically deny retroactivity to prisoners.

The U.S. Probation Office basically said “we know how to handle retroactivity,” and pointed to crack reductions they have processed in past years.

The Department of Justice is a different story. The DOJ representative told the Commission that the DOJ supports “limited” retroactivity. DOJ thinks only the squeakiest clean drug prisoners should benefit – ones without any priors or guns or role enhancements. While that sounds semi-logical, it isn’t. That’s what judges are for – to determine who should benefit from retroactivity. That’s why we want judges to look at every applicant’s motion and decide whether the person is too dangerous to let out of prison.

Under the Department of Justice’s proposal, only 20,000 prisoners would be eligible to benefit from retroactivity. As you can imagine, FAMM and others who testified strongly oppose that position and argued against it.

We know that criminal history frequently overstates how dangerous a person is; that testifying to your innocence at trial can trigger an obstruction of justice bump; that there is a difference between someone who points a gun at another person and someone who got a gun bump from a codefendant’s gun; and that every case is different and deserving of individual attention. That was the message FAMM’s Mary Price sent to the Commission when she testified.

My take-away from the hearing is that the Commission still needs to be persuaded to vote FOR retroactivity – WITHOUT LIMITATIONS. They need to hear from families and friends of those in prison who are not squeaky clean but still deserve to have a judge determine if they are too dangerous to release a little early.

The Commission needs to hear that applying the lower guideline retroactively is the kind of fundamental fairness that Americans believe in. If your car had a defect, the manufacturer wouldn’t just fix it for those who buy cars in the future; they would fix it for everyone who already owns the car. Applying the lower drug sentencing guideline is the same argument. And they need to hear about the children of prisoners who are being punished as much or more than the prisoner.

We still have until July 7th to write to the US Sentencing Commission and tell them to make the drug guideline retroactive. Please do it! They will vote on whether to make it retroactive on July 18th. This is hugely important. Get involved. Get your families involved. Let’s make justice happen!

Best,

Julie

Julie Stewart
President and Founder
Families Against Mandatory Minimums

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
1100 H Street NW
Suite 1000
Washington DC, 20005

As we work with countless movements we are trying to help others with this cause titled “Second Chance Alliance” for our community. Click the link to view.

Desiree’ Lee is a Convicted Felon, who shares her prison experience and hard-ships as a convicted felon with teens and parents, in effort to show teens the reflections of making bad decisions and to promote effective communication between parent and teen.

With an emphasis on the importance of decision making and cultivating students’ visions, she reveals her experiences in prison, and life after prison. By enriching students with effective decision making tools, develop respectful relationships with their parents, teachers, and authority. Her story enables them to re-experience life as an inmate and become more aware of their opportunities and working towards future success. She believes that in working directly with the community, together we can increase high school graduates and prevent teen incarcerations nationwide.

8k7la86586

 

~Balance Your Vision and Life With “Truth”~

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I’ve always been fascinated by people who are consistently successful at what they do; especially those who experience repeated success in many areas of their life throughout their lifetime.  In entertainment, I think of Clint Eastwood and Oprah Winfrey.  In business, I think of Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet.  We all have our own examples of super successful people like these who we admire.  But how do they do it?

Over the years I’ve studied the lives of numerous successful people.  I’ve read their books, watched their interviews, researched them online, etc.  And I’ve learned that most of them were not born into success; they simply did, and continue to do, things that help them realize their full potential.  Here are twelve things they do differently that the rest of us can easily emulate.

12 Things Successful People Do Differently

1.  They create and pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Successful people are objective.  They have realistic targets in mind.  They know what they are looking for and why they are fighting for it.  Successful people create and pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.  Let’s briefly review each:

  • Specific – A general goal would be, “Get in shape.” But a related specific goal would be, “Join a health club and workout 3 days a week for the next52 weeks.”  A specific goal has a far greater chance of being accomplished because it has defined parameters and constraints.
  • Measurable – There must be a logical system for measuring the progress of a goal.  To determine if your goal is measurable, ask yourself questions like:  How much time? How many total?  How will I know when the goal is accomplished? etc.  When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued efforts required to reach your goal.
  • Attainable – To be attainable, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work.  In other words, the goal must be realistic.  The big question here is:  How can the goal be accomplished?
  • Relevant – Relevance stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter.  For example, an internet entrepreneur’s goal to “Make 75 tuna sandwiches by 2:00PM.” may be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Timely, but lacks Relevance to an entrepreneurs overarching objective of building a profitable online business.
  • Timely – A goal must be grounded within a time frame, giving the goal a target date.  A commitment to a deadline helps you focus your efforts on the completion of the goal on or before the due date.  This part of the S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by daily distractions.

When you identify S.M.A.R.T. goals that are truly important to you, you become motivated to figure out ways to attain them.  You develop the necessary attitude, abilities, and skills.  You can achieve almost any goal you set if you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps.  Goals that once seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them.

2.  They take decisive and immediate action.

Sadly, very few people ever live to become the success story they dream about.  And there’s one simple reason why:

They never take action!

The acquisition of knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing.  Growing happens when what you know changes how you live.   So many people live in a complete daze.  Actually, they don’t ‘live.’  They simply ‘get by’ because they never take the necessary action to make things happen – to seek their dreams.

It doesn’t matter if you have a genius IQ and a PhD in Quantum Physics, you can’t change anything or make any sort of real-world progress without taking action.  There’s a huge difference between knowing how to do something and actually doing it.  Knowledge and intelligence are both useless without action.  It’s as simple as that.

Success hinges on the simple act of making a decision to live – to absorb yourself in the process of going after your dreams and goals.  So make that decision.  And take action.  For some practical guidance on taking action I highly recommend Getting Things Done.

3.  They focus on being productive, not being busy.

In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris says, “Slow down and remember this:  Most things make no difference.  Being busy is often a form of mental laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”  This is Ferris’ way of saying “work smarter, not harder,” which happens to be one of the most prevalent modern day personal development clichés.  But like most clichés, there’s a great deal of truth to it, and few people actually adhere to it.

Just take a quick look around.  The busy outnumber the productive by a wide margin.

Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time.  They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc.  They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep.  Yet, business emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their daily planner is jammed to the brim with obligations.

Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance.  But it’s all an illusion.  They’re like hamsters running on a wheel.

The solution:  Slow down.  Breathe.  Review your commitments and goals.  Put first things first.  Do one thing at a time.  Start now.  Take a short break in two hours.  Repeat.

And always remember, results are more important than the time it takes to achieve them.

4.  They make logical, informed decisions.

Sometimes we do things that are permanently foolish simply because we are temporarily upset or excited.

Although emotional ‘gut instincts’ are effective in certain fleeting situations, when it comes to generating long-term, sustained growth in any area of life, emotional decisions often lead a person astray.  Decisions driven by heavy emotion typically contain minimal amounts of conscious thought, and are primarily based on momentary feelings instead of mindful awareness.

The best advice here is simple:  Don’t let your emotions trump your intelligence.  Slow down and think things through before you make any life-changing decisions.

5.  They avoid the trap of trying to make things perfect.

Many of us are perfectionists in our own right.  I know I am at times.  We set high bars for ourselves and put our best foot forward.  We dedicate copious amounts of time and attention to our work to maintain our high personal standards.  Our passion for excellence drives us to run the extra mile, never stopping, never relenting.  And this dedication towards perfection undoubtedly helps us achieve results…  So long as we don’t get carried away.

But what happens when we do get carried away with perfectionism?

We become disgruntled and discouraged when we fail to meet the (impossibly high) standards we set for ourselves, making us reluctant to take on new challenges or even finish tasks we’ve already started.  Our insistence on dotting every ‘I’ and crossing every ‘T’ breeds inefficiency, causing major delays, stress overload and subpar results.

True perfectionists have a hard time starting things and an even harder time finishing them, always.  I have a friend who has wanted to start a graphic design business for several years.  But she hasn’t yet.  Why?  When you sift through her extensive list of excuses it comes down to one simple problem:  She is a perfectionist.  Which means she doesn’t, and never will, think she’s good enough at graphic design to own and operate her own graphic design business.

Remember, the real world doesn’t reward perfectionists.  It rewards people who get things done.  And the only way to get things done is to be imperfect 99% of the time.  Only by wading through years of practice and imperfection can we begin to achieve momentary glimpses of the perfection.  So make a decision.  Take action, learn from the outcome, and repeat this method over and over again in all walks of life.  Also, check out Too Perfect.  It’s an excellent read on conquering perfectionism.

6.  They work outside of their comfort zone.

The number one thing I persistently see holding smart people back is their own reluctance to accept an opportunity simply because they don’t think they’re ready.  In other words, they feel uncomfortable and believe they require additional knowledge, skill, experience, etc. before they can aptly partake in the opportunity.  Sadly, this is the kind of thinking that stifles personal growth and success.

The truth is nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow emotionally and intellectually.  They force us to stretch ourselves and our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.  And when we don’t feel comfortable, we don’t feel ready.

Significant moments of opportunity for personal growth and success will come and go throughout your lifetime.  If you are looking to make positive changes and new breakthroughs in your life, you will need to embrace these moments of opportunity even though you will never feel 100% ready for them.

7.  They keep things simple.

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  Here in the 21st century, where information moves at the speed of light and opportunities for innovation seem endless, we have an abundant array of choices when it comes to designing our lives and careers.  But sadly, an abundance of choice often leads to complication, confusion and inaction.

Several business and marketing studies have shown that the more product choices a consumer is faced with, the less products they typically buy.  After all, narrowing down the best product from a pool of three choices is certainly a lot easier than narrowing down the best product from a pool of three hundred choices.  If the purchasing decision is tough to make, most people will just give up.  Likewise, if you complicate your life by inundating yourself with too many choices, your subconscious mind will give up.

The solution is to simplify.  If you’re selling a product line, keep it simple.  And if you’re trying to make a decision about something in your life, don’t waste all your time evaluating every last detail of every possible option.  Choose something that you think will work and give it a shot.  If it doesn’t work out, learn what you can from the experience, choose something else and keep pressing forward.

8.  They focus on making small, continuous improvements.

Henry Ford once said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small pieces.” The same concept configured as a question:  How do you eat an elephant?  Answer: One bite at a time.  This philosophy holds true for achieving your biggest goals.  Making small, positive changes – eating a little healthier, exercising a little, creating some small productive habits, for example – is an amazing way to get excited about life and slowly reach the level of success you aspire to.

And if you start small, you don’t need a lot of motivation to get started either.  The simple act of getting started and doing something will give you the momentum you need, and soon you’ll find yourself in a positive spiral of changes – one building on the other.  When I started doing this in my life, I was so excited I had to start this blog to share it with the world.

Start with just one activity, and make a plan for how you will deal with troubles when they arise.  For instance, if you’re trying to lose weight, come up with a list of healthy snacks you can eat when you get the craving for snacks.  It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier.  And that’s the whole point.  As your strength grows, you can take on bigger challenges.

9.  They measure and track their progress.

Successful people are not only working in their job/business, they are also working on it.  They step back and assess their progress regularly.  They track themselves against their goals and clearly know what needs to be done to excel and accelerate.

You can’t control what you don’t properly measure.  If you track the wrong things you’ll be completely blind to potential opportunities as they appear over the horizon.  Imagine if, while running a small business, you made it a point to keep track of how many pencils and paperclips you used.  Would that make any sense?  No!  Because pencils and paperclips are not a measure of what’s important for a business.  Pencils and paperclips have no bearing on income, customer satisfaction, market growth, etc.

The proper approach is to figure out what your number one goal is and then track the things that directly relate to achieving that goal.  I recommend that you take some time right now to identify your number one goal, identify the most important things for you to keep track of, and then begin tracking them immediately.  On a weekly basis, plug the numbers into a spreadsheet and use the data to create weekly or monthly trend graphs so you can visualize your progress.  Then fine-tune your actions to get those trends to grow in your favor.

10.  They maintain a positive outlook as they learn from their mistakes.

Successful people concentrate on the positives – they look for the silver lining in every situation.  They know that it is their positivity that will take them to greatness.  If you want to be successful, you need to have a positive outlook toward life.  Life will test you again and again.  If you give in to internal negativity, you will never be able to achieve the marks you have targeted.

Remember, every mistake you make is progress.  Mistakes teach you important lessons.  Every time you make one, you’re one step closer to your goal.  The only mistake that can truly hurt you is choosing to do nothing simply because you’re too scared to make a mistake.

So don’t hesitate – don’t doubt yourself!  Don’t let your own negativity sabotage you.  Learn what you can and press forward.

11.  They spend time with the right people.

Successful people associate with people who are likeminded, focused, and supportive.  They socialize with people who create energy when they enter the room versus those who create energy when they leave.  They reach out to connected, influential individuals who are right for their dreams and goals.

You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with.  If you hang with the wrong people, they will negatively affect you.  But if you hang with the right people, you will become far more capable and successful than you ever could have been alone.  Find your tribe and work together to make a difference in all of your lives.  Tribes by Seth Godin is a great read on this topic.

12.  They maintain balance in their life.

If you ask most people to summarize what they want out of life they’ll shout out a list of things like: ‘fall in love,’ ‘make money,’ ‘spend time with family,’ ‘find happiness,’ ‘achieve goals,’ etc.  But sadly, a lot of people don’t balance their life properly to achieve these things.  Typically they’ll achieve one or two of them while completely neglecting the rest.  Let me give you a few examples:

  • I know an extremely savvy businesswoman who made almost a million dollars online last year. Based on the success of her business, every entrepreneur I know looks up to her.  But guess what?  A few days ago, out of the blue, she told me that she’s depressed.  Why?  “I’m burnt out and lonely.  I just haven’t taken enough time for myself lately, and I feel like something is missing in my life,” she said.  “Wow!” I thought.  “One of the most successful people I know doesn’t feel successful because she isn’t happy with how she has balanced her life.”
  • I also know a surfer who surfs all day, every day on the beach in front of my friends condo complex in San Diego.  He’s one of the most lighthearted, optimistic guys I’ve ever met – usually smiling from ear to ear.  But he sleeps in a rusty van he co-owns with another surfer, and they both frequently panhandle tourists for money.  He has admitted to me that the stress of making enough money to eat often keeps him up at night.  So while I can’t deny that this man seems happy most of the time, I wouldn’t classify his life as a success story.
  • My dream of opening Second Chance Alliance solely with faith and obedience to the voice of God is challenging. I also go through anxiety and fear of looking like a fool. Most of the successful people I know back from when I was successful with my business sir named Professional Engineering and Concept Operation will not trust in my vision of re-entry for ex-offenders mostly because they won’t take a measurable look at the success rate of this type of business and because I am one of the people I am trying to help, it all boils down to them not wanting to disturb their “Balance” in their life.

These are just a few simple examples of imbalanced lifestyles that are holding people back from their full potential.  When you let your work life (or social life, family life, etc.) consume you, and all your energy is focused in that area, it’s extremely easy to lose your balance.  While drive and focus are important, if you’re going to get things done right, and be truly successful, you need to balance the various dimensions of your life.  Completely neglecting one dimension for another only leads to long-term frustration and stress.  For some practical guidance on balancing your life, I recommend Zen and the heart of happiness and especially the word of God.

~I am A Conqueror In-spite Of What I See~

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Oh while I live, to be the ruler of life, not a slave, to meet life as a powerful conqueror, and nothing exterior to me will ever take command of me.

Walt Whitman

As the sun began to set tonight, I had a perfect view of the rolling hills around me. I realized I was really free and It is all because of the God that see’s  me as I couldn’t ever really see myself as a free man from addiction and riotous living and a covetous individual. I wanted everything that had a shine to it, I wanted everything thing as big as Texas. I wanted to have more, a insatiable appetite for everything and I would do evil things to acquire it. I am so glad I know my Savior and I can now say I see myself as a conqueror because of the finished work of my strong “Man” Jesus.

This campaign(Second Chance Alliance) is very toiling. Because I don’t want to fail, I am looking at the other campaigns and losing my identity as a conqueror. I thank you O’ Lord for being steadfast in your unshakable presence in my life.

Never Forget That You Are More Than a Conqueror!

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him that loved us. — Romans 8:37

How do you see yourself? As a champion who wins nearly every fight? Or as a loser — someone who struggles along, never seeming to conquer a single problem? How you perceive yourself is very important because it will ultimately affect the way other people see you.

Have you ever met someone who had a bad self-image or who always seemed to carry an air of inferiority around with him? It isn’t hard to discern this attitude in people. They feel so badly about themselves that they exude their negative perception of themselves and their sense of insecurity. On the other hand, if you’ve ever met individuals who are self-confident and self-assured, you know that it’s easy to recognize their confidence. Why? Because a confident person exudes confidence.

It is simply a fact that you will inevitably project what you feel about yourself to others. So this question about how you see yourself is very important. If you see yourself as a champion who wins every fight, that is exactly how others will see you. But if you see yourself as someone who struggles and wrestles with a bad self-image — that is precisely how others will perceive you.

So let’s turn to Romans 8:37 to see what the Word of God has to say about us. In this verse, Paul declares that “…we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” I want to especially draw your attention to the phrase “more than conquerors.” It comes from the Greek word hupernikos, a compound of the words huper and nikos. By joining the words huper and nikos together into one word, Paul is making one fabulous, jammed-packed, power-filled statement about you and me!

The words “more than” are derived from the Greek word huper, which literally means over, above, and beyond. It depicts something that is way beyond measure. It carries the idea of superiority — something that is utmost, paramount, foremost, first-rate, first-class, and top-notch; greater, higher, and better than; superior to; preeminent, dominant, and incomparable; more than a match for; unsurpassed, unequaled, and unrivaled by any person or thing.

Now Paul uses this same word to denote what kind of conquerors we are in Jesus Christ. We are huper-conquerors! Paul uses this word huper to dramatize our victory.

This is what Paul meant to get across in Romans 8:37:

“We are greater conquerors, superior conquerors, higher and better conquerors!”

“We are more than a match for any foe!”

“We are utmost conquerors, paramount conquerors, top-notch conquerors, unsurpassed conquerors, unequaled and unrivaled conquerors!”

But we must continue to the next part of the verse, where Paul calls us “conquerors.” The word “conqueror” is from the Greek word nikos. The word nikos describes an overcomer; a conqueror, champion, victor, or master. It is the picture of an overwhelming, prevailing force. However, the word nikos alone wasn’t strong enough to make Paul’s point, so he joined the words huper and nikos together to make his point even stronger!

When you put these two words together, they form the word hupernikos, which declares that in Jesus Christ, you are an overwhelming conqueror, a paramount victor, or an enormous overcomer. This word is so power-packed that one could interpret it as a phenomenal, walloping, conquering force!

That’s precisely who you are in Jesus Christ! So stop looking at yourself as a struggling loser. Regardless of your past experiences, you must begin to look at yourself through God’s eyes and in the light of Romans 8:37. This verse declares that you are always the winner and never a loser! And when you begin to see yourself the way God sees you, it will change the way others see you too.

Resolve right now to see yourself the way the Word of God does — as a walloping and conquering force! You are more than a match for any adversary or foe that would come against you today! 

sparking gems from the greek

My Prayer for Today

Lord, I thank You for making me a phenomenal, walloping, conquering force! Because of what Jesus has done for me, I am no longer a struggling loser. Instead, I possess the power to be an enormous overcomer! Holy Spirit, I ask You to help me take my eyes off my past failures so I can focus on the power of the resurrection that lives inside me. 

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

sparking gems from the greek

My Confession for Today

I boldly declare that in Jesus Christ, I am a conqueror who is utmost, paramount, foremost, first-rate, first-class, and top-notch; greater, higher, and better than; superior to; preeminent, dominant, incomparable; more than a match for; unsurpassed, unequaled, and unrivaled by any challenge that would ever try to come against me! 

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

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