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social justice

~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

 

~ Race and Reality for Blacks In America~

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Even for blacks who make it to college, the problem doesn’t go away. As statistics would have it, 70 percent of all black students who enroll in four-year colleges drop out at some point, as compared with 45 percent of whites. At any given time nearly as many black males are incarcerated as are in college in this country. And the grades of black college students average half a letter below those of their white classmates.

A pressing problem: teachers and police officers monitor, profile and police black and Latino youth and neighborhoods more than white ones.

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When asked during the 2008 campaign if he identified as black, President Obama simply said, “The last time I tried to catch a cab in N.Y.C….” His comment signaled to blacks that he experienced discrimination, while simultaneously illuminating a fatal flaw with race relations in the 21st century — our inability to separate black man from criminal.

In addition to the Department of Education study, sociological research continues to show that blacks and Latinos are more likely to be disciplined in school and stopped by the police. While some may anecdotally argue that black kids are badder than white kids, studies show a more pressing problem — teachers and police officers monitor, profile and police black and Latino youth and neighborhoods more than white ones.

While 75 percent of high school students have tried addictive substances, only specific groups and areas get targeted by the police. As evidence by the e-mail University of Akron sent their black male students, college status does not afford them the privilege to avoid policing. Thus, a black senator is treated similarly to a“potential felon.”

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Legalizing marijuana could potentially lead to more legitimized policing of black and Latino men. Reducing draconian drug laws would help in sentencing, but still not change the way that black and Latino men are criminalized. In this regard, this criminalizing epidemic is just as much a social problem as it is legal and institutional.

There are a few solutions worth mentioning. Legally, there can be tougher sanctions for racial profiling when individuals are unfairly targeted or searched.

Socially, when individuals meet a “good” black man, they can be seen as the rule and not the exception. Most black men are not criminals or untrustworthy; they are law-abiding citizens. People need to start recognizing social class cues that signal professionalism and decency instead of ubiquitously categorizing black men as dangerous.

It is high time that individuals see not just a black man, but a man who could be a doctor, lawyer, neighbor or even the president. These changes in individuals’ perceptions will a go long way to solve the criminalization of nonwhite bodies.

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I sense a certain caving-in of hope in America that problems of race can be solved. Since the sixties, when race relations held promise for the dawning of a new era, the issue has become one whose persistence causes “problem fatigue”—resignation to an unwanted condition of life.

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This fatigue, I suspect, deadens us to the deepening crisis in the education of black Americans. One can enter any desegregated school in America, from grammar school to high school to graduate or professional school, and meet a persistent reality: blacks and whites in largely separate worlds. And if one asks a few questions or looks at a few records, another reality emerges: these worlds are not equal, either in the education taking place there or in the achievement of the students who occupy them.

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As a Human Behaviorist , I know that the crisis has enough possible causes to give anyone problem fatigue. But at a personal level, perhaps because of my experience as a black in American schools, or perhaps just as the hunch of a myopic psychologist, I have long suspected a particular culprit—a culprit that can undermine black achievement as effectively as a lock on a schoolhouse door. The culprit I see is stigma, the endemic devaluation many blacks face in our society and schools. This status is its own condition of life, different from class, money, culture. It is capable, in the words of the late sociologist Erving Goffman, of “breaking the claim” that one’s human attributes have on people. I believe that its connection to school achievement among black Americans has been vastly underappreciated.

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This is a troublesome argument, touching as it does on a still unhealed part of American race relations. But it leads us to a heartening principle: if blacks are made less racially vulnerable in school, they can overcome even substantial obstacles. Before the good news, though, I must at least sketch in the bad: the worsening crisis in the education of black Americans.

Despite their socioeconomic disadvantages as a group, blacks begin school with test scores that are fairly close to the test scores of whites their age. The longer they stay in school, however, the more they fall behind; for example, by the sixth grade blacks in many school districts are two full grade levels behind whites in achievement. This pattern holds true in the middle class nearly as much as in the lower class. The record does not improve in high school. In 1980, for example, 25,500 minority students, largely black and Hispanic, entered high school in Chicago. Four years later only 9,500 graduated, and of those only 2,000 could read at grade level. The situation in other cities is comparable.

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Blacks in graduate and professional schools face a similarly worsening or stagnating fate. For example, from 1977 to 1990, though the number of Ph.D.s awarded to other minorities increased and the number awarded to whites stayed roughly the same, the number awarded to American blacks dropped from 1,116 to 828. And blacks needed more time to get those degrees.

Standing ready is a familiar set of explanations. First is societal disadvantage. Black Americans have had, and continue to have, more than their share: a history of slavery, segregation, and job ceilings; continued lack of economic opportunity; poor schools; and the related problems of broken families, drug-infested communities, and social isolation. Any of these factors—alone, in combination, or through accumulated effects—can undermine school achievement. Some analysts point also to black American culture, suggesting that, hampered by disadvantage, it doesn’t sustain the values and expectations critical to education, or that it fosters learning orientations ill suited to school achievement, or that it even “opposes” mainstream achievement. These are the chestnuts, and I had always thought them adequate. Then several facts emerged that just didn’t seem to fit.

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~Is Conformity a Issue for You?~

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Conformity involves developing attitudes, opinions, and behaviors to match the attitudes of a specific group. Most people conform to the standard values,also called norms, of many groups without stress and often without even knowing that they are doing so. By itself conformity is neither good nor bad.

Some degree of conformity is necessary for societies to function. For example, when you stop at a red light, you are conforming to the law and to the general agreement that for the good and safety of society, a red light means stop. You stop, even though most of the time there is not a police officer on the scene to enforce the law.

Different societies and different organizations put higher or lower values on conformity. The United States is often said to have been settled by non-conformists. Many of the early colonists were people who did not fit in, for religious, philosophical, economic, or social reasons, with the expectations of society in their native countries. They sought a place to live where the levelof conformity and norms of society were more comfortable for them. In the United States often some degree of non-conformity is still admired today. The ideal of the “rugged individualist” who does things his or her own way is partof American culture.

Other societies put a higher value on fitting in or conforming. There is a Japanese proverb that roughly translates into the saying, “The nail that sticksup gets hammered down,” meaning that it is better not to stand out in a group but to conform. Military organizations are an example of a group that expects a high level of conformity in the behavior of their members and punishes those who do not conform.

All people balance the need to conform and fit in with the need to express their individuality throughout their lives. Some research into birth order suggests that the oldest child in a family is more likely to conform, while laterchildren are more likely to become non-conformists. However, these studies are open to different interpretations and, although interesting, should not beconsidered conclusively true.

Young children tend to be the least aware of the group and society values andare the least influenced by the need to conform. However, with more social interactions and more awareness of others, the need to conform grows. Pre-teens and teenagers face many issues related to conformity. They are pulled between the desire to be seen as individuals of unique value and the desire to belong to a group where they feel secure and accepted. The result is that oftenteens reject conforming to family or general society values, while conformingrigidly to the norms or values of their peer group. An example of this phenomenon is seen when young people join gangs. In joining the gang they are rejecting the community’s way of dressing and behaving. Yet to belong to the gang, they must conform to the gang’s own style of dress, behavior, and speech.

Conformity is tied closely to the issue of peer pressure. Although people feel peer pressure their entire lives, young people who are seeking to define themselves are generally most influenced by the values and attitudes of their peers. Adolescents often encourage friends to do or try things that they themselves are doing in order to fit into to a group. The encouragement can be positive (studying hard to get good grades) or negative (drinking beer after thefootball game).

Deciding how much and which group’s values to conform to are one of the majorstresses of adolescence. Trying to conform to the behaviors of a group thatgo against one’s own beliefs in order to be accepted creates a great deal ofinternal conflict and sometimes external conflict with family members and friends from an earlier time. Defining oneself as an individual and developing aconstant value system forces young people to confront issues of conformity and non-conformity. This is a major challenge of adolescence.

Many studies of young people show that if a person’s friends engage in a behavior – everything from cigarette smoking to drinking alcohol to shoplifting to sexual activity – an adolescent is highly likely to conform to his or her friends’ behaviors and try these activities. The alternative is for the youngperson to seek different friends with values more in line with his own. Often, however, the desire to be part of a group and the fear of social isolationmakes it more appealing to change behaviors than to seek other friends.

Attitudes toward conformity are of particular interest in community health, where conformity may influence the willingness of people to engage in activities such as illicit drug use or high-risk sexual activities, or prompt them toavoid drug rehabilitation programs.

The tendency to conform to a group’s values is of interest to outreach workers because social networks may provide a link to reaching and influencing thebehavior of a wide range of people involved in drug abuse and high-risk sexual activity. If key members of a group accept messages about how to change behavior to reduce risky activities such as needle sharing, drinking and driving, and unsafe sexual behavior, other group members often follow their lead andchange their behavior also.

Although society tends to focus on teenagers’ needs to conform and follow fads, and many parents worry about how the desire to conform will influence thedecisions their children must make, issues surrounding conformity continue into adult life. They may be as trivial as choosing the proper clothes to wearto the office so as not to stand out or as serious as choosing whether to have one’s children vaccinated against diseases. Finding a rational balance between belonging and being an individual is a challenge for everyone. Many people who feel as if this area of their lives is out of balance benefit from seeking professional counseling to help them find a level of conformity that is more comfortable for them.

 

 

~Is Christianity Real In My Home?~

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“Christians know what they believe, but they don’t know why they believe.”

It’s become such a truism, Paul Little titled his books after it — almost fifty years ago. But “How do I know this is true?” is one of the best and most important questions students can ask about their faith.

For those students who have been steeped in Christian culture, it is far too easy to know what you’ve “caught” rather than what’s been “taught.” But both the caught and taught should be subject to serious examination by those wanting to take their faith seriously.

All of these are significant questions that have reasonable, scholarly, and detailed answers.

As adults, we can help our children and their friends wrestle through these important questions by wrestling through them ourselves.

Our experience with thousands of young people each year reveals that they are either eager for answers or they’ve made up their mind. Often, they’ve made up their mind — not because of reason or logic — because they want to live a lifestyle that is counter to what Christianity teaches is best for them. Discerning why a student is struggling with the truth of Christ establishes an important baseline.

There’s no magic bullet for a young person who is struggling with whether Christianity is true. However, for a teen seeking truth, there are many fantastic resources available. Whether they have already made up their minds or are honestly searching for answers, we’re certain that all the evidence leads to Christianity!

Let this be an encouragement to you and a challenge as a parent: Create a culture in your home of asking questions about the authenticity of Christianity. Don’t be afraid of saying “I don’t know,” but don’t leave it there! Follow that statement with “…but let’s seek out the answer, together.”

Remember, you aren’t walking alone, and you won’t find yourself without resources in this journey. We can’t answer all the questions your kids are asking in this short post, but we can give you a few easy-to-use resources if you desire to plunge into this topic. Start the conversation with us by contacting us on any of our social media sites.

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~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.

~Reflections For The New Year To Build The Leader In “You”~

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I ON YOUR PATH, O God
You, O God, on my way.
Celtic walking prayer

IT IS NOT ONLY PRAYER that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God glory if being in his grace you do it …

FOR THE GLORY of God is the human person fully alive, and life consists in beholding God. For if the vision of God which is made by means of the creation, gives life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who see God.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies

MAY I KNOW me! May I know thee!
Augustine, Soliloquies

ABIDE IN THE VINE. Let the life from him flow through all your spiritual veins.
Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life

GOD CANNOT be understood by logical reasoning but only by submission.
Leo Tolstoy, Wise Thoughts for Every Day

AS WE UNITE with God, we are invited into bonding rather than bondage.

Flora Slosson Wuellner, in Weavings

I BRING my void here for filling;it is my poverty God needs. With my want the Lord builds palaces.
Kilian McDonnell, from “A Place to Hide: Light On,” in Weavings

GOD CAN’T CLEAN the house of you when you’re still in it.
Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually)

RECEIVING FORGIVENESS requires a total willingness to let God be God and do all the healing, restoring, and renewing.
Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

IF A MAN HUMBLES himself, God cannot withhold his own goodness but must come down and flow into the humble man, and to him who is least of all he gives himself the most of all, and he gives himself to him completely. What God gives is his being, and his being is his goodness, and his goodness is his love.
Meister Eckhart

I HAVE DISCOVERED that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.
Blaise Pascal, Pensées

IT IS NO EASY TASK to walk this earth and find peace. Inside of us, it would seem, something is at odds with the very rhythm of things and we are forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated, and aching. We are so overcharged with desire that it is hard to come to simple rest. Desire is always stronger than satisfaction.
Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing

ONE OF the uncomfortable facts about ourselves is that we all must live in a way that meets our own approval.
Paul Holmer, Making Christian Sense

DOES DISCOVERING who you are awaken a kind of inner unrest? … If you started accusing yourself of all that is in you, would your nights and days be long enough?
Brother Roger of Taizé, Essential Writings

A MAN’S AT ODDS to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he don’t want to. Best not to look in there.
Cormac Mccarthy, Blood Meridian

ONE OF the strangest things that people say is, “I’m a good person.” I am always amazed when people claim to know that about themselves. … History demonstrates, repeatedly, that if enough people begin to define themselves as “good” in contrast to others who are “bad,” those others come to be seen as less than human.
Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace

THE POWER of temptation is not in its appeal to our baser instincts; if that were the case, it would be natural to be repulsed by it. The power of temptation is in its appeal to our idealism.
Helmut Thielicke, Our Heavenly Father

THE EVIL WROUGHT by those who intend evil is negligible. The greater evil is wrought by those who intend good, and …

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

Neil Gaiman

~Finding The Samaritans Outside Of The Church~

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Testing the boundaries of outreach evangelism.

Yes, to Heal the Abused

In our quest to find the broken hearted and ostracized of life we called upon other ministries that function primarily outside the walls of the church to present the gospel hope of Jesus Christ. We found astonishing evidence that a loving presences of evangelistic workers makes a difference in getting the gospel outside to a dyeing world. I had an interesting event happen in my life in a “Crack House In Perris Ca., I went to deliver some packages and was overcome with remorse and a strong unction to pray for those in that trailer and it reshaped my life and introduced me to the Help Mate I now have in my life.

An out-of-the-way topless bar and club off the highway was a regular Thursday evening destination for Anne Polencheck and her outreach partner. Every two weeks the women faithfully toted gift bags of handmade cards, homemade cookies, earrings, and lotion to the bar and club. With a word of kindness, a prayer, or a hug, they hoped to share Christ’s compassion with women who worked there.

Polencheck, a former software engineer, leads New Name, a ministry to strip clubs, bars, massage parlors, and so-called spas in the western suburbs of Chicago. Volunteers pray together and regularly visit venues. It’s a slow-going ministry that emulates Jesus leaving the safety of the fold to seek the one lost sheep. Often the workers are busy with customers or simply aren’t interested in chatting.

One week, Polencheck met Debbie, a 20-something who recognized the “church ladies” from their previous visits. “I’m seven months pregnant. I need a new job,” she said. After their visit, Debbie stepped outside and prayed: “God, if you’re real, can you help me?”

When Polencheck and her ministry partner returned one week later, they handed Debbie a flier for Refuge for Women, a Kentucky residential program for those choosing to leave sexual exploitation. It usually had a wait list, but it had one opening.

Debbie’s plea came after years of despair. Her childhood was marked by sexual abuse that started when she was 5. At age 9, Debbie was placed in foster care after she showed up at school black and blue from violent beatings. Twenty times, she was shuffled in and out of foster homes in part due to her anger-driven rebellion.

The wounded girl grew to become a broken woman who numbed her pain with alcohol and drugs. Her husband, an abusive drug addict, introduced her to strip clubs. She began exotic dancing and using more drugs. Debbie’s horrific background is not unusual for women working in strip clubs. About 90 percent of women who have received care at Refuge were sexually abused as children.

“Jesus would want us to look at these women as our sisters,” says Ked Frank, director and cofounder of Refuge. “They’re living out of pain and trauma, and our hearts should be broken for them.” At the residential facility, Debbie found family in seven other women with similar experiences as well as a church community and mentors who listened, prayed, and encouraged her.

Before graduating the yearlong program, Debbie gave birth to a healthy baby girl, accepted Christ, and was baptized. She now leads worship at her church and mentors teenagers in the youth group. Debbie holds a job as she raises her 2-year-old daughter and volunteers at Refuge, hoping to help other women who bear the invisible chains of abuse and exploitation.

“God is at work, and his presence is found in the clubs,” Frank says.

So, would Jesus hang out with people in a strip club? I believe he’s been doing just that.

Jesus unconditionally loves us all, including club owners, dancers, and customers. He is still calling us to leave the safety of our church walls and extend a hand of hope to a broken man or woman.

 

Three Views: Would Jesus Hang Out in a Strip Club?

No, He Wouldn’t

Joe Carter

In 1896, Charles Sheldon, a Congregational minister in Kansas, wrote In His Steps, a novel that became an all-time bestseller and spawned the ubiquitous phrase, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Back then it was an open question—as Sheldon makes clear—whether Jesus would condone hanging out at a boxing match. Today, we’re wondering if we can give reasons why Jesus wouldn’t hang out at a strip club. Times have changed.

Initially, I assumed this must be a trick question. Are there Christians who ponder, “What Would Jesus Do?” and think, “Jesus would probably be hanging out at a bar where people go to watch women undress”?

It’s hard for me to believe there are Christians who think Jesus would hang out in a strip club. Are we talking about the Jesus who had a high opinion of women and a low view of lust? Hanging out at a strip club doesn’t sound like something he would do.

But since the question is being asked, I assume there are people who think he would. I have to assume they think that since Jesus ate with sinners, he’d have no problem eating at a buffet next to a stripper pole.

Jesus did sit and eat with sinners (Mark 2:16–17). In Luke 15, we again find the oft-quoted claim made by the Pharisees: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” What is often left out is the lengthy reply Jesus gave. After hearing their charges, Jesus tells three parables—about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a prodigal son. Each of these stories has the same theme: rejoicing over the repentance of sinners. It’s possible, even likely, that some who ate with Jesus—such as during the feeding of the 5,000, or at Simon the Pharisee’s house—left unrepentant. But there is no evidence that Jesus ever ate with sinners or even spent significant time “hanging out” with them without calling them to turn from their sin.

There is no place in Scripture where Jesus was uncritically present when sin was occurring or when an action that mocked God was taking place. In fact, in the most famous example of Jesus witnessing an act where sin was taking place and God was being mocked—a scene recorded in all four Gospels—he made a whip of cords and drove sinners from the temple. Do we think this Jesus would unreservedly hang out in a place where men and women were mocking the dignity of the human body?

I wonder if what many people want to know is not whether Jesus would hang out at a strip club, but whether he’d have an issue if they hung out there. For those people, I’d recommend meditating on the words of Matthew 5:28–29.

Yes, to Shine in the Dark

Strip club? Crack house? Porn convention? Casino? Fill in the blank, and every response of mine is an absolute yes—Jesus would hang out in these places. Here’s why: There is no context, environment, or event that Jesus would choose not to be in.

Our limitations on where he might go are based on not fully understanding the desperate need for Christ in these godforsaken places. There are an estimated 400,000 strippers working in nearly 4,000 clubs in the United States. As followers of Christ, we should hang out in these places too.

In January 2002, Craig Gross and Mike Foster launched a ministry at a Las Vegas porn convention. The organization, XXXchurch.com, is devoted to being the presence of Christ at these events. There, volunteers have handed out thousands of Bibles with the words “Jesus loves porn stars” on the cover. I was taught about the deep and lavish grace of God not by a seminary professor but by the sex industry. In our moments of pride, we say that “those sinful people” have nothing to offer us, that we are there to save them. But a great desire of God is to ruin our spiritual pride. (If you don’t believe this, go to an AA meeting.)

Fear is the core reason why many of us would say “no” to Jesus hanging out in a strip club. Fill in the blank of what you might be afraid of happening: it might look bad; it wouldn’t be very productive to do ministry in that environment; people would be dragged down into a life of sin; someone would have to explain our actions to religious people.

I am sympathetic to these fears and their power. But such comments expose the smallness of our religion. A Christian leader once said to me, “Don’t blame the dark for being dark. Blame the light for not shining in the dark.”

God is the God of “yes” and the God of “go.” We have made our faith too heavy and our walk burdensome and scary. We are so great at making the gospel complex that we forget about the simplicity of Jesus. He is not held down by manmade restraints, restrictions, or rules. He easily strolls into the space of need and the lives that are desperate for healing.

Here is my purely marketing move: If I were acting as brand consultant for Jesus, I would tell him to go to the strip club. No place is off-limits to the gospel. In Luke 5:32 Jesus proclaims, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Everyone is looking for attention and trying to get their message out. Do you want to stand out? Then do what other teachers, religious leaders, and followers refuse to do. In my opinion, light shines the brightest in the darkest places—places like the neighborhood strip club.

~How Far Have We Come & And Where Are Blacks Going In America?~

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Eric Garner

A New York City grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the case of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old unarmed black man who died July 17 in a police choke-hold.

The grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was attempting to arrest Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

Amid crowds gathering tonight to protest in Manhattan and growing discord on social media about the decision, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department is opening a federal civil rights inquiry.

Holder, while urging calm in the aftermath of yet another controversial grand jury action, promised that the federal inquiry would be “independent, thorough and fair.”

President Obama said the grand jury decision will spark strong reaction from the public, especially in the wake of a similar decision in Missouri last week not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown.

The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.

Saying the US criminal system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that. Below I set out numerous examples of these facts.

The question is – are these facts the mistakes of an otherwise good system, or are they evidence that the racist criminal justice system is working exactly as intended? Is the US criminal justice system operated to marginalize and control millions of African Americans?

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Information on race is available for each step of the criminal justice system – from the use of drugs, police stops, arrests, getting out on bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial, sentencing, prison, parole and freedom. Look what these facts show.

One. The US has seen a surge in arrests and putting people in jail over the last four decades. Most of the reason is the war on drugs. Yet whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales, at roughly comparable rates – according to a report on race and drug enforcement published by Human Rights Watch in May 2008. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses – according to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.

Two. The police stop blacks and Latinos at rates that are much higher than whites. In New York City, where people of color make up about half of the population, 80% of the NYPD stops were of blacks and Latinos. When whites were stopped, only 8% were frisked. When blacks and Latinos are stopped 85% were frisked according to information provided by the NYPD. The same is true most other places as well. In a California study, the ACLU found blacks are three times more likely to be stopped than whites.

Three. Since 1970, drug arrests have skyrocketed rising from 320,000 to close to 1.6 million according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.
African Americans are arrested for drug offenses at rates 2 to 11 times higher than the rate for whites – according to a May 2009 report on disparity in drug arrests by Human Rights Watch.

Four. Once arrested, blacks are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial than whites. For example, the New York state division of criminal justice did a 1995 review of disparities in processing felony arrests and found that in some parts of New York blacks are 33% more likely to be detained awaiting felony trials than whites facing felony trials.

Five. Once arrested, 80% of the people in the criminal justice system get a public defender for their lawyer. Race plays a big role here as well. Stop in any urban courtroom and look a the color of the people who are waiting for public defenders. Despite often heroic efforts by public defenders the system gives them much more work and much less money than the prosecution. The American Bar Association, not a radical bunch, reviewed the US public defender system in 2004 and concluded “All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring…The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US.”

Six. African Americans are frequently illegally excluded from criminal jury service according to a June 2010 study released by the Equal Justice Initiative. For example in Houston County, Alabama, 8 out of 10 African Americans qualified for jury service have been struck by prosecutors from serving on death penalty cases.

Seven. Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial – the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, “Who wouldn’t rather do three years for a crime they didn’t commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didn’t do?”

Eight. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project reports African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more like to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.

Nine. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.

Ten. As a result, African Americans, who are 13% of the population and 14% of drug users, are not only 37% of the people arrested for drugs but 56% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses. Marc Mauer May 2009 Congressional Testimony for The Sentencing Project.

Eleven. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concludes that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three. Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Thus black boys are five times and Latino boys nearly three times as likely as white boys to go to jail.

Twelve. So, while African American juvenile youth is but 16% of the population, they are 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the youth in juvenile jails and 58% of the youth sent to adult prisons. 2009 Criminal Justice Primer, The Sentencing Project.

Thirteen. Remember that the US leads the world in putting our own people into jail and prison. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the US has five percent of the world’s population but a quarter of the world’s prisoners, over 2.3 million people behind bars, dwarfing other nations. The US rate of incarceration is five to eight times higher than other highly developed countries and black males are the largest percentage of inmates according to ABC News.

Fourteen. Even when released from prison, race continues to dominate. A study by Professor Devah Pager of the University of Wisconsin found that 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received call backs from employers while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received call backs. Race is so prominent in that study that whites with criminal records actually received better treatment than blacks without criminal records!

So, what conclusions do these facts lead to? The criminal justice system, from start to finish, is seriously racist.

Professor Michelle Alexander concludes that it is no coincidence that the criminal justice system ramped up its processing of African Americans just as the Jim Crow laws enforced since the age of slavery ended. Her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sees these facts as evidence of the new way the US has decided to control African Americans – a racialized system of social control. The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way as Jim Crow – creating legal boundaries between them and us, allowing legal discrimination against them, removing the right to vote from millions, and essentially warehousing a disposable population of unwanted people. She calls it a new caste system.

Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.

Other critics like Professor Dylan Rodriguez see the criminal justice system as a key part of what he calls the domestic war on the marginalized. Because of globalization, he argues in his book Forced Passages, there is an excess of people in the US and elsewhere. “These people”, whether they are in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or US jails and prisons, are not productive, are not needed, are not wanted and are not really entitled to the same human rights as the productive ones. They must be controlled and dominated for the safety of the productive. They must be intimidated into accepting their inferiority or they must be removed from the society of the productive.

This domestic war relies on the same technology that the US uses internationally. More and more we see the militarization of this country’s police. Likewise, the goals of the US justice system are the same as the US war on terror – domination and control by capture, immobilization, punishment and liquidation.

What to do?

Martin Luther King Jr., said we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
A radical approach to the US criminal justice system means we must go to the root of the problem. Not reform. Not better beds in better prisons. We are not called to only trim the leaves or prune the branches, but rip up this unjust system by its roots.

We are all entitled to safety. That is a human right everyone has a right to expect. But do we really think that continuing with a deeply racist system leading the world in incarcerating our children is making us safer?

It is time for every person interested in justice and safety to join in and dismantle this racist system. Should the US decriminalize drugs like marijuana? Should prisons be abolished? Should we expand the use of restorative justice? Can we create fair educational, medical and employment systems? All these questions and many more have to be seriously explored. Join a group like INCITE, Critical Resistance, the Center for Community Alternatives, Thousand Kites, or the California Prison Moratorium and work on it. As Professor Alexander says “Nothing short of a major social movement can dismantle this new caste system.”

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May and I are really concerned for our family and our community. I know my faith will see us through this American experience and we will have answers from on high on how to empower our grand children and God’s gifts of human beings in our life. We strive to know His will for our life to help others. Pray without ceasing for us and our world.

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~Are They Forgotten?~

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Addiction can happen at any age, but it usually starts when a person is young.  If your teen continues to use drugs despite harmful consequences, he or she may be addicted.

If an adolescent starts behaving differently for no apparent reason––such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile—it could be a sign he or she is developing a drug-related problem. Parents and others may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of puberty. Other signs include:

  • A change in peer group
  • Carelessness with grooming
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Missing classes or skipping school
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Trouble in school or with the law
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Deteriorating relationships with family members and friends

Through scientific advances, we know more than ever before about how drugs work in the brain. We also know that addiction can be successfully treated to help young people stop abusing drugs and lead productive lives. Intervening early when you first spot signs of drug use in your teen is critical; don’t wait for your teen to become addicted before you seek help. However, if a teen is addicted, treatment is the next step.

Why can’t some teens stop using drugs on their own?

Repeated drug use changes the brain. Brain-imaging studies of people with drug addictions show changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control. Quitting is difficult, even for those who feel ready. NIDA has an excellent video that explains why drugs are so hard to quit:

It could be helpful to show your teen this video. It helps explain why the inability to stop using drugs is not a moral failing, but rather an illness that needs to be treated.

If I want help for my teen or young adult, where do I start?

Asking for help from professionals is the first important step.

You can start by bringing your child to a doctor who can screen for signs of drug use and other related health conditions. You might want to ask your child’s doctor in advance if he or she is comfortable screening for drug use with standard assessment tools and making a referral to an appropriate treatment provider. If not, ask for a referral to another doctor skilled in these issues.

You can also contact an addiction specialist directly.  There are 3,500 board certified physicians who specialize in addiction in the United States.  The American Society of Addiction Medicine Web site has a Find a Physician feature on its home page, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has a “Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finder” on its Web site. you and the physician can decide if your teen or young adult should be referred to treatment.

It takes a lot of courage to seek help for a child with a possible drug problem, because there is a lot of hard work ahead for both of you, and it interrupts academic, personal and possibly athletic milestones expected during the teen years. However, treatment works, and teens can recover from addiction, although it may take time and patience. Treatment enables young people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on their brain and behavior so they can regain control of their lives. You want to be sure your teen is healthy before venturing into the world with more independence, and where drugs are more easily available.

~Outreach-Giving Sheer Thanks For Our Second Chance~

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In truth, I am just as susceptible to the difficulties and hardships and grief that accompany human existence as the next person. I’m no better, no more worthy of a free pass based on virtue or intelligence or character—or my identity as a follower of Christ. But this also meant that my hardships were in no way an indicator that God did not love me or had abandoned me for all time. I realized that people who are deeply loved by God can suffer deeply as well—and that included my family and me.

The question “Why me?” betrayed the fact that I had bought into a worldview that is based more on karma than the gospel.

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The second question that I asked myself was even more transformative than the first:

“Why me?”

This might seem like the same question that I first posed, so allow me to explain what I mean: When I experience hardship, I am often quick to raise an anguished voice to the heavens and cry out, “God, why me?! Why, out of all people, have I been chosen to suffer in this way?” And when I fail to receive a satisfactory answer – or any response at all – that can only mean that God does not love me, or he doesn’t exist. In fact, many of us probably know people who have lost their faith in this exact manner.

Yet when something good happens to me, when I experience blessedness and providence and protection, I rarely do the same thing, or at least not to the same degree. I don’t raise a shout to the heavens, “God, why me?! Why, out of all people, have I been chosen to receive this blessing and this goodness in my life? Why God, whyyyy?” Instead, I give quiet praise to God as I wear a smile of smug self-satisfaction, certain that my own intelligence and righteousness had something to do with the outcome.

I find that rather revealing, that when I am doing badly, I am quick to complain to God, to pin my misfortunes on him and his incomprehensible ways. But when I am doing well, I am more quiet and reserved. What an unfair contradiction, that God should be so commonly blamed for my hardship, and so anemically praised for my blessings! By all rights, if I am shaking my fists at the heavens, I should also be prepared to raise my hands to them as well. This is only logical and fair.

~I’ve Seen Him Work In My Life~

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While serving my country in a hostile land I saw God answer my prayers. Held against my will after being in pursuit of the ”mad dog of the Middle East” in 1987, Muammar el-Qaddafi and his family I prayed for a blessing to make it home. I saw God work while serving several prison terms on level four yards and being the focus of antagonism due to the color of my skin, I’ve seen God work in my life when death was not just a scene, but a smell, I’ve seen God heal and work when I lost my kids and I wanted to give up on Him.

 

As I have reflected over the events of the past few days and months and years of my life I was drawn to the first chapter of James. In the first 13 verses we are given some understanding of the purpose of trials that come our way.

No one has suffered more than our Father in heaven. No one has paid more dearly for the allowance of sin into the world. No one has so continuously grieved over the pain of a race gone bad. No one has suffered like the One who paid for our sin in the crucified body of His own Son. No one has suffered more than the One who, when He stretched out His arms and died, showed us how much He loved us. It is this God who, in drawing us to Himself, asks us to trust Him when we are suffering and when our own loved ones cry out in our presence ( 1 Peter 2:21;  3:18;  4:1 ).

The apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord to take away an unidentified source of suffering. But the Lord declined saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” “Therefore,” said Paul, “most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong”  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul learned that he would rather be with Christ in suffering than without Christ in good health and pleasant circumstances.

Natural disasters. Terrorist acts. Injustice. Incurable disease. All these experiences point to suffering, and can cause people to question the love and goodness of a God who would let such things occur. In this publication, we seek to consider who God is, and why we can trust Him even when life hurts—and we don’t know why.

Loving parents long to protect their children from unnecessary pain. But wise parents know the danger of over-protection. They know that the freedom to choose is at the heart of what it means to be human, and that a world without choice would be worse than a world without pain. Worse yet would be a world populated by people who could make wrong choices without feeling any pain. No one is more dangerous than the liar, thief, or killer who doesn’t feel the harm he is doing to himself and to others (Genesis 2:15-17).

We hate pain, especially in those we love. Yet without discomfort, the sick wouldn’t go to a doctor. Worn-out bodies would get no rest. Criminals wouldn’t fear the law. Children would laugh at correction. Without pangs of conscience, the daily dissatisfaction of boredom, or the empty longing for significance, people who are made to find satisfaction in an eternal Father would settle for far less. The example of Solomon, lured by pleasure and taught by his pain, shows us that even the wisest among us tend to drift from good and from God until arrested by the resulting pain of their own shortsighted choices (Ecclesiastes 1-12Psalms 78:34-35Romans 3:10-18).

Suffering often occurs at the hand of others. But it has a way of revealing what is in our own hearts. Capacities for love, mercy, anger, envy, and pride can lie dormant until awakened by circumstances. Strength and weakness of heart is found not when everything is going our way but when flames of suffering and temptation test the mettle of our character. As gold and silver are refined by fire, and as coal needs time and pressure to become a diamond, the human heart is revealed and developed by enduring the pressure and heat of time and circumstance. Strength of character is shown not when all is well with our world but in the presence of human pain and suffering (Job 42:1-17Romans 5:3-5James 1:2-51 Peter 1:6-8).

If death is the end of everything, then a life filled with suffering isn’t fair. But if the end of this life brings us to the threshold of eternity, then the most fortunate people in the universe are those who discover, through suffering, that this life is not all we have to live for. Those who find themselves and their eternal God through suffering have not wasted their pain. They have let their poverty, grief, and hunger drive them to the Lord of eternity. They are the ones who will discover to their own unending joy why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:1-12; Romans 8:18-19).

~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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~Let’s Fight The Policies and Change Our Culture on Drugs and Humanity~

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BESIDES choosing lawmakers, on November 4th voters in three American states and the District of Columbia considered measures to liberalise the cannabis trade. Alaska and Oregon, where it is legal to provide “medical marijuana” to registered patients, voted to go further and let the drug be sold and taken for recreational purposes, as Colorado and Washington state already allow. In DC, a measure to legalise the possession of small amounts for personal use was passed. A majority of voters in Florida opted to join the lengthening list of places where people can seek a doctor’s note that lets them take the drug. However, the measure fell just short of the 60% needed to change the state constitution. Even so, that such a big state in the conservative South came so close to liberalising shows how America’s attitude to criminalising pot has changed.

All that imprisoning millions of people for nonviolent drug offenses has done is bankrupt us financially and morally, turning people with debilitating addictions into people with debilitating convictions.
The United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world, largely due to misguided drug laws and mandatory sentencing requirements. Since the 1970s, drug war practices have led to the conviction and marginalization of millions of Americans – disproportionately poor people and people of color – while failing utterly to reduce problematic drug use, drug-related disease transmission or overdose deaths. The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to identifying and promoting health-centered alternatives to harmful, punitive drug laws. We are working to stem the tide of low-level drug arrests, to reverse draconian sentencing practices that cultivate discrimination, and to eliminate life-long barriers faced by people with even a minor drug conviction.
If we want to solve our nation’s drug problems, we need to focus less on obtaining convictions and more on preventing addictions. We should be treating people with addictions, not handcuffing them.
The United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners, in part because of the overly harsh consequences of a drug conviction. Many of the 2.3 million people behind bars (and 5 million under criminal justice supervision) in this country are being punished for a drug offense. If every American who has ever possessed illicit drugs were punished for it, nearly half of the U.S. population would have drug violations on their records.
Over 1.6 million people are arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated, placed under criminal justice supervision and/or deported each year for a drug law violation. Yet instead of reducing problematic drug use, drug-related disease transmission or overdose deaths, the drug war has actually done more harm than problematic drug use itself, by breaking up families, putting millions of people behind bars, burdening even more people with a life-long criminal record, worsening the health prospects for people who use drugs and significantly compromising public health.
The consequences of any drug conviction are life-long and severe, and are not experienced equally. Despite comparable drug use and selling rates across racial groups, African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately punished for drug law violations. Drug violations are an easy solution for police officers pressed for high arrest quotas, resulting in thousands of wrongful arrests that overwhelmingly victimize communities of color.
The Drug Policy Alliance is focused on reducing the number of people swept into the criminal justice system (or deported) for drug law violations, while promoting policies that improve individual and public health. We are guided by the principle that no one should be punished for what they put in their own body, absent harm to others.
Exposing and combating the racism of the drug war is an important part of DPA’s agenda. We work with civil rights and social justice organizations, formerly incarcerated people and other allies to end discriminatory policies and practices that unjustly target and penalize people of color and to advance an equitable health-centered approach to drugs.

The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites. Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system. We believe that the mass criminalization of people of color, particularly young African American men, is as profound a system of racial control as the Jim Crow laws were in this country until the mid-1960s.

The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to exposing disproportionate arrest rates and the systems that perpetuate them. We work to eliminate policies that result in disproportionate incarceration rates by rolling back harsh mandatory minimum sentences that unfairly affect urban populations and by repealing sentencing disparities. Crack cocaine sentencing presents a particularly egregious case. Since the 1980s, federal penalties for crack were 100 times harsher than those for powder cocaine, with African Americans disproportionately sentenced to much lengthier terms. But, in 2010, DPA played a key role in reducing the crack/powder sentencing disparity from 100:1 to 18:1, and we are committed to passing legislation that would eliminate the disparity entirely.

The life-long penalties and exclusions that follow a drug conviction have created a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans, who may be prohibited from voting, being licensed, accessing public assistance and any number of other activities and opportunities. The drug war’s racist enforcement means that all of these exclusions fall more heavily on people and communities of color. DPA is committed to ending these highly discriminatory policies and to combating the stigma attached to drug use and drug convictions.

Two-thirds of women doing time in federal prison are behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses, and the vast majority of them have children they can’t even see.  That’s not family values.
The perceived targets of drug law enforcement are men, but many of its victims are women. Women, and particularly women of color, are disproportionately affected by social stigma, by laws that punish  those unable or unwilling to inform on others, by regulations that bar people with a drug conviction from obtaining (or that require a drug test to receive) public assistance, and by a drug treatment system designed for men.
Largely as a result of draconian drug laws, women are now a fast growing segment of the U.S. prison population.  More than three quarters of women behind bars are mothers, many of them sole caregivers.
Conspiracy offenses represent one of the most egregious examples of the drug war’s inequitable treatment of women. Although conspiracy laws were designed to target members of illicit drug organizations, they have swept up many women for being guilty of nothing more than living with a husband or boyfriend involved in some level of drug sales. Harsh mandatory minimum sentencing may keep them behind bars for 20 years, 30 years, or even life.
The drug war punishes women, particularly mothers, not just for drug law violations but also, it appears, for failing to be “good” women. This translates into a system whereby women who are responsible for childrearing are too readily separated from their children, temporarily or permanently. Even women who do not use drugs may be punished, for example, by welfare regulations that require recipients to submit to invasive and embarrassing monitored drug testing in order to obtain public assistance.
Removing a parent (perhaps the only parent) from the household is immediately destabilizing, and over the long-term it’s devastating. Parents, once released from prison, may be barred from public assistance and housing and face significantly diminished employment opportunities. Children with a parent in prison are several times more likely than other children to end up in foster care, to drop out of school and to become involved in the criminal justice system.
Pregnant women are uniquely vulnerable to criminal justice involvement. Prosecutors across the country have targeted pregnant women accused of drug use, supposedly in the interest of protecting their fetuses. The criminalization of pregnant women is not only an affront to women’s rights; it puts both mother and fetus at greater risk by erecting barriers to drug treatment and prenatal care.
The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to safeguarding a woman’s right to sovereignty over her own body, and we have been involved in several legal challenges in cases in which women were charged with child abuse, assault, homicide or other offenses because they allegedly used drugs while pregnant. We are also working to increase opportunities for families to remain together while parents (or children) address problematic drug use and to reform draconian conspiracy laws that result in harsh prison sentences for women.
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~The Hospital -Church: Needs Help With Anxiety and Depression~

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Anxiety can cause people to give up on many of their beliefs. It can cause people to feel like nothing is holding them up, and nothing is going right for them. It can cause them to question religion, give up on spiritual practices, and more.

So can spiritual growth improve anxiety? We take a look at this idea from a more objective, non-religious perspective, to see whether spiritual growth can provide the necessary relief.

But if we’re looking directly at spirituality and spiritual growth, the answer is yes – but with some caveats.

How Spiritual Growth Can Help

One of the things to understand when we’re talking about spirituality is that most spirituality involves a contentment with yourself. It’s hard to pray to God, or feel spiritual when that belief isn’t there, and unfortunately anxiety is the type of issue that can make people feel as though there is nothing and no one looking out for them. It can make it harder to take control of one’s life.

So in that respect, obtaining spiritual growth can be difficult, and even if you want to put all of your faith in God you still do need to learn to love yourself. Even in the Bible it states that God has lent your body to you, and while you’re meant to put all of your faith in God, you are doing a disservice to God by disliking yourself.

But if you can adapt your mindset to one that is more spiritual and gets in touch with your beliefs better, then there are absolutely several benefits to spiritual growth. These include:

  • Faith in the Future – Perhaps the greatest problem for those with anxiety is the lack of seeing the future as a positive. Unfortunately this is caused by anxiety – much like being sick, it changes your thought patterns to make you feel like anxiety is still to come. But spirituality is about having faith in the world around you, and that faith can reduce some of the negativity you may feel for your future.
  • Healthy Living – Spirituality also tends to be a form of healthier living. Those that are more spiritual often find that they are more prone to taking care of themselves, maintaining healthier habits, spending time with other people, and so on. Healthy living is very important for controlling anxiety, and something that those with anxiety often struggle to do.
  • Healthy Distraction – The activities you do for spiritual growth also provide a very healthy distraction for overcoming anxiety. Actively attacking your stress isn’t always the most successful strategy. Sometimes the brain heals better when you simply don’t have time to pay attention to anxiety. Spiritual activities tend to be fairly consuming, which means that your mind is distracted from your worries and focused on something positive.

Spiritual growth also tends to involve strategies that slow your life down, the ability to talk to others and spend time with others, and the rebuilding of trust. It may even give you someone or something to pray to or for that you can believe that better things are coming. Not having a healthy environment in God’s House is very toxic and can cause severe anxiety with lay people and leadership:

Problems With Spiritual Growth

There is no downside to growing spiritually. It’s something that can benefit men and women of all ages. However, there are a few notes of caution:

  • Don’t ignore yourself. Remember, you’re still here. Whether you believe strongly in God or you believe that the universe makes things happen, every religion and every belief agrees that you need to take care of yourself, take action, and make changes. If all you change is your spirituality than you are neither doing God’s will nor improving your life for yourself.
  • Don’t wait for things to come. Even as you become more spiritual, there is no deity that simply answers prayers without work. You do need to make sure that you’re focused on improving yourself and your own life, because only by actively making changes can you expect to see results.
  • Don’t give up when you find relief thinking you’re done. God may answer your prayers and respond to your beliefs, but much like religion you cannot simply believe when it’s convenient. Even if you find your anxiety has gone away, don’t forget to keep making the necessary changes to keep anxiety away.

As long as you keep these in mind, getting better in touch with your spirituality can only be a good thing for your mental health. There is little downside as long as you don’t assume that all you need to do is pray and wait. Not even God approves of that type of lifestyle.

~Is God Sovereign~

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What does the Assemblies of God believe concerning the free will of mankind in everyday choices and its relation to God’s sovereignty and providential care? Can we through our choices or prayers alter what God has ordained? If God has a master plan that will be accomplished, is it not futile to think we can change what will happen?

There is some disagreement in the evangelical world concerning the interrelationship of God’s sovereignty, His providence, and mankind’s free will. To some theologians, the three seem to be contradictory. But the Assemblies of God, having diligently searched the Scriptures for the best correlation of the three indisputable principles, believes that all three can exist in full theological certitude without doing any injustice to the other two.

The term sovereignty of God is not found in the Bible, yet the truth of God’s sovereignty is evident throughout Scripture. God has absolute authority and power over His creation. God is omnipotent; He can do anything He desires to do. But this indisputable fact has caused considerable theological debate about the relationship of mankind to God’s sovereignty. If God is sovereign and all-powerful, is He responsible for all the evil in the world. Is our eternal destiny determined by God’s sovereignty, making meaningless our assumption that we have some choice in the matters that concern our existence?

Human reasoning and logic would say that if God is truly sovereign over all His creation, the human creatures He created have no opportunity to make individual choices. And if they have a free will that can make personal choices, then God cannot be sovereign, because anything He does not control negates His being sovereign. But Scripture emphasizes both the sovereignty of God and the free will of humankind. So instead of judging by human reason that both facts cannot coexist, we must honor the integrity of God’s Word, accept, and explain to the best of our limited human reasoning how both truths can be valid.

First we recognize the biblical statements of God’s sovereignty. Just to mention a few of many: “I know [Job speaking] that you [God] can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2, NIV). “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths” (Psalms 135:6, NIV). “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’ ” (Daniel 4:35, NIV). “Who [God] works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11, NIV).

Over against these statements of God’s sovereignty, we have the Genesis account of God’s earliest interaction with human beings. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, God did not excuse them by saying it was His fault they had disobeyed. Instead, He laid the full penalty of the sin of disobedience on them, although at the same time He gave them a promise of salvation and escape from the penalty of their disobedience. In addition to this example of humankind’s responsibility, we also have a direct statement of Scripture: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4,20, NKJV). Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites is a challenge for today: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15, NIV). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God does not force individuals to sin. Yet He has ordained a penalty for voluntary sin that must be paid. Every call to repentance in Scripture is an indication that God has given to humankind a free will which can choose right or wrong.

How do we bring together these two seemingly exclusive truths: God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will? In God’s great design for His creation, He desired freely given allegiance rather than robotic response to His will. Voluntary love and obedience are much better than automatic, predetermined responses. God created humankind with the option of loving and obeying Him, even though it meant that some would choose not to give allegiance to His rule. Freely given love is more valued than forced or parroted expressions. Since God has chosen to give humankind a free will, His sovereignty is not destroyed.

A related issue that raises a similar question is the providence of God. By definition, God’s providence is His faithful and loving provision for the needs of all His creation, for His own children as well as for those who reject His offer of salvation. To believers, the promise is given, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians. 4:19, NASB). But the Bible also affirms kindness even to those who deny His Lordship: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). If God is good as His providential care for His creation suggests, one might wonder why people, especially God’s children, suffer and experience serious setbacks.

The same explanation serves to answer this question. Desiring voluntary love and obedience from His creation, God provides a free-will choice for all humans. Sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Man is appointed to die because sin reigns in our fallen physical world. Becoming a Christian does not cancel the physical judgment that rests on all humankind. If it did, everyone would become a Christian just to avoid pain and suffering. But one can choose to acknowledge God’s authority even though pain and suffering are still part of our earthly existence. When we accept Christ our free will chooses allegiance to God, believing that He has ultimately overcome Satan, sin, suffering, and death, and believing that the heavenly reward that awaits us makes all the suffering and pain of this life worthwhile. Mature Christians understand that God’s providential care for His creation is not destroyed just because physical laws of sin and death are still part of our temporary earthly existence.

~Kingdom Building Will Get “You” In The Fight To Change Injustice~

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I owe a significant debt to four men and three churches who, over the years, became my spiritual fathers and families. These wonderful people walked alongside me through troubling and joyful times. They prayed with me, mentored me, and laughed with me. They celebrated my victories and wept with me when my riches of the world left and I started to serve more time behind bars than performing my ministry. They counseled me when I began to explore pastoral ministry and spoke the Word to me when I became discouraged. They reminded me not to take myself too seriously, and they lovingly pointed out sin in my life. God only knows where I’d be and who I’d be without his grace working through them.

Today I am a pastor and long for my church to grow in this kind of intentional disciple-making. Discipleship at its core is the process of growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ. That sounds simple. But what does it actually look like? And how do pastors lead their churches in discipleship? A good place to begin is Jesus’ last words to his disciples: “go . . . make disciples . . . baptizing them . . . and teaching them” (Matt 28:19

-20). Three contours of discipleship culture emerge from this passage.

Clarifying the Contours of Discipleship

1. Disciple-making is an intentional process of evangelizing non-believers, establishing believers in the faith, and equipping leaders. 

“Make disciples” implies intentionality and process. Disciple-making doesn’t just happen because a church exists and people show up. It is a deliberate process. Considering the modifying participles of “going . . . baptizing . . . teaching” help us recognize this process. It must include evangelizing (going to new people and new places), establishing (baptizing new believers and teaching obedience), and equipping (teaching believers to also make disciples). How does your church evangelize, establish, and equip?    

2. Disciple-making happens in the context of a local church. 

It’s a community project, not just a personal pursuit. And that community must be the local church, because Jesus has given her unique authority to preach the gospel, baptize believers into faith and church membership, and teach obedience to Jesus. Disciple-making doesn’t just happen in coffee shops and living rooms. It also happens in the sanctuary where the Word is sung, prayed, read, preached, and displayed through communion and baptism. Jesus didn’t have in mind maverick disciple-makers; he had in mind a community of believers who, together and under the authority of the local church, seek to transfer the faith to the next generation. Does your church view disciple-making within the context of the church, or only as a solo endeavor?

3. Disciple-making is Word-centered, people-to-people ministry. 

When Jesus said “make disciples” we cannot help but remember how he made disciples: three years of teaching twelve men on the dusty road. Disciple-making, then, is the Word of God shaping men and women within life-on-life relationships. It’s demonstrated in Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonian church: “being so affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess 2:8). This is gospel-driven, Word-saturated, intentional one-anothering. It is men and women regularly teaching one another to obey what Jesus commanded. And it goes well beyond watching football and having inside jokes with Christian friends. How would you evaluate your church’s Word-centered people-to-people ministry?

Creating a Culture of Discipleship

If these three contours are essential ingredients for a discipleship culture, how do pastors lead their churches in growing that culture? Here are seven ways:

1. Preach disciple-making sermons. 

Pastors are not called to preach convert-making sermons or scholar-making sermons. They are called to preach disciple-making sermons. This means that they must craft sermons that will evangelize, establish, and equip. This means that they are teachers, pleaders, and coaches from behind the pulpit. Sermons also disciple through modeling careful exegesis, keen application, and prayerful responses to the passage. After we preach, congregants should understand and feel the text at such a level that they long to be more obedient disciples.

2. Shape disciple-making worship services.

Every church has a liturgy, whether you call it that or not, and every liturgy leads the people somewhere or disciples the people toward something. The question is where. The non-sermon elements of a worship service—songs, prayers, scripture reading, testimonies, and tone—contribute to the formative discipling of your congregation. Does your worship service lead people in thanksgiving for God’s gifts and goodness? Does it disciple people in confession and repentance? Is there an element in your worship service that offers assurance of salvation? Does your service lead people in celebrating our future hope? Thinking through these components with your worship director will strengthen your disciple-making services.

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3. Invest in a few disciple-makers.

We’ve heard it before, but let me say it again: Jesus and Paul ask their disciples to invest in a few who will in turn invest in others (Matt. 28:18-19; 2 Tim 2:2). Pastors, choose a few men you can pour your life into and intentionally disciple for a period of time. Create a simple but effective format to accomplish this task. For example, meet with a few men twice a month to discuss sections of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, confess sin, and pray for one another. Keep it relational. At the end of your time together, ask each man to choose a few men with whom he can do the same. The benefits are manifold. You are obeying Jesus’ disciple-making command, you are cultivating a disciple-making culture through strategic multiplication, and you are investing in those who may become your future elders.     

4. Make small group Bible studies central to your disciple-making strategy. 

Many churches offer small groups like a side item at the buffet, but few offer it as a main course. While Sunday school  or Sabbath school and other teaching venues certainly disciple people, small group Bible studies are unique in that they achieve multiple discipleship goals. After your corporate worship gathering, consider making small groups ministry your next priority. This means identifying and training mature leaders to shepherd and disciple their members. It also means providing a clear vision for your small groups ministry. For example, our Second Chance Alliance model Ministry asks our groups to commit to three disciple-making values: Bible, community, and mission.

5. Raise the bar of church membership. 

Unfortunately many Christians don’t realize that joining a church is a vital step of discipleship. When you join a church, you are not joining a social club; you are publicly declaring your faith in Jesus and joining yourself to a group of Christians in life and mission. In view of this, pastors should view membership as discipleship and accordingly bolster their membership process and expectations. Instead of making it easy to join your church, make the process more involved. Get your elders teaching multiple sessions on the gospel, central doctrines, the importance of church membership, and your church’s operating convictions (baptism, for example). Broach tough subjects such as divorce and past church history during membership interviews. Finally, ensure membership actually means something for members. What unique privileges, roles, and responsibilities do members have in your church? Are your members actually joined together in Word-centered people-to-people ministry, as they promised when they became members?          

6. Confront sin and practice church discipline. 

Like church membership, discipline is neglected by some churches. Much like encouragement and affirmation are key components of disciple-making, so too are exhortation, confrontation, and if necessary more elevated measures of corrective discipline. God uses all of the above to make disciples and protect disciples within local churches.

7. Read disciple-making books with your leadership. 

Let me recommend four books for your disciple-making arsenal. The Trellis and the Vine by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall outlines a practical vision for disciple-making. One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm will equip you with the motivation and tools to read the Bible regularly with others. Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman is the best lay-level book on the subject I’ve read and will help you understand how membership rightly practiced is discipleship. And The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer calls elders to lead the way in disciple-making.  

Growing a disciple-making culture at your church might sound daunting. It’s hard enough to make disciples within a small group Bible study, but a church with all its complexities, systems, and baggage? Yikes. Here’s a piece of advice: start small, keep it simple, and focus on areas where a little investment will go a long way. For example, you may want to invest in a few who will do the same with others. Start with your elders. Or perhaps you want to focus on ramping up your small groups ministry. Start by training your current and new leaders around key biblical values that encapsulate discipleship.

Whatever you decide to do, may you find tremendous energy and courage to make disciples from the bookends of the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . . . and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” That’s “WHY’ I press toward the mark Jesus has seeded me with and that’s to build this model “Second Chance Alliance”. I will only submit to the spirit’s leading when it comes to a church to align myself and family with and I suggest “You” do the same. Find out how to seek God’s leading for your ministry/life, find a work and let God be the driver……..

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Fellowship, small groups, is building the strength of our ranks… Go!!!Go!!!

~Evil Is Always Present: The dangerous facts about ‘legal’ designer drugs~

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A variety of synthetic marijuana products.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

Harriet Tubman

Synthetic “designer” drugs are gaining popularity across the country, particularly with parolees, military personnel, and others looking to get a legal high without worry of failing a drug test. Through sophisticated chemistry, amateur drug makers have found ways to minorly alter the chemical structure of drugs like marijuana and MDMA to make them “street legal” and undetectable in standard drug tests.

“The world of drugs, for controlled substances and toxicology, five or eight years ago used to be about maybe 250 compounds, all of which we understood well,” says Peter Stout, a research forensics scientist at RTI International, when asked about the prevalence of the designer drug trend. “Now, we’re getting 10, 20, 100 new compounds that show up every year.”

In our quest to gain knowledge about the trending issues and drugs that are exposed to our “Youth” and communities May & I positioned ourselves with police and research professionals to learn more about these dangerous and elusive drugs. Here’s what you should know about some of the most popular products:

Spice/synthetic marijuana

THE DRUG 

The term “spice” refers to a variety of herbal mixtures that resemble marijuana in appearance and effect. Spice is touted as a safe, legal alternative to cannabis, and it is sold in many smoke shops and gas stations alongside tobacco products. Some of the most popular names for spice strains include K2, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, and others.

A variety of synthetic marijuana products.

Spice is often promoted as being “natural” psychoactive plant material. In truth, the only natural component is dried plant matter that is treated with the psychoactive chemicals, synthetic cannabinoid compounds that simulate the effects of natural marijuana.

THE LAW

All cannabinoids, including the synthetic compounds used in spice, are federally classified with marijuana as a schedule 1 narcotic. Makers of spice have continued to keep their products “street legal” by staying one step ahead of law enforcement, changing the chemical structure slightly in order to create a new compound that has not yet been classified as an illegal cannabinoid.

THE DANGERS

The ever-changing chemical makeup of spice’s active ingredients means that there is little data on the effects of spice on the human body. However, spice abusers at Poison Control Centers across the country have reported rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations. Spice has also been shown to raise blood pressure and, in a few cases, has been associated with heart attacks.

Concerns have also been raised about spice packaging, which some claim markets the drug to children.

AMT

THE DRUG

alpha-Methyltryptamine, or aMT, is a psychedelic and stimulant, initially developed in the 1960s as an antidepressant. It creates feelings of euphoria and hallucinations similar to MDMA or LSD, though the chemicals are structurally unrelated.

THE LAW

While still legal in Canada and the UK, aMT was permanently classified as a schedule 1 narcotic by the DEA in 2004. However the drug can still be easily purchased online under the guise of “health supplements.”

AMT has been illegal in the US for over a decade, but can still be easily purchased online.

THE DANGERS

Reported side effects of aMT include anxiety, restlessness, muscle tension, jaw tightness, pupil dilation, tachycardia, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. There have been few reported fatalities that are directly tied to aMT use, however in several cases, deaths have been caused by excessive doses of aMT or coingestion with other drugs.

Bath salts

THE DRUG

Drugs sold as bath salts are in no way related to epsom salts or other bath products. In fact, these synthetic drugs, also marketed as keyboard cleaner, plant food, and jewelry cleaner, are most similar to amphetamines in their effects and chemical composition.

According to Dr. Zane Horowitz, the medical director of the Oregon Poison Center, professionals believe that the main component of most bath salts is MDPV, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, though “newer… derivatives are being made by illegal street chemists.” Popular types of street bath salts include “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” Vanilla Sky,” and “Bliss.”

Bath salts are some of the most publicized synthetic drugs.

THE LAW

The Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 outlawed many of the ingredients used to make bath salts, classifying them as schedule 1 narcotics. However, like spice, the chemical makeup of bath salts is constantly being altered by amatuer chemists to avoid detection, making the drug incredibly difficult for law enforcement to track and monitor.
THE DANGERS

Other than highly-reported (and mostly false) cases of zombie-like behavior, effects of bath salts can include agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, chest pain, increased pulse, high blood pressure, and suicidal thinking/behavior.

Depression or suicidal behavior can last “even after the stimulatory effects of the drugs have worn off,” Horowitz says. “At least for MDPV, there have been a few highly publicized suicides a few days after their use.”

Meow Meow 'Mephedrone' designer drug, Drug Made Student Cut Off Penis

Meow Meow is the drug that’s in the news because of a bizarre incident that occurred in the UK over the holidays. A college student who was home for the festive season is reported to have stabbed his mother and then cut off his own penis while high on the drug. According to media reports, doctors successfully reattached the man’s penis. A neighbor described as a “lovely lad” who had begun “dabbling in drugs.”

Here’s what you need to know about the crazy drug:


1. French Cops Call It ’21st Century Ecstasy’

Meow Meow 'Mephedrone' designer drug, Drug Made Student Cut Off Penis

The drug was bouncing around Europe through most of the early 2000s. The first recorded cases of the manufacture of the drug occurred in Israel in 2004. This led to the Israelis being the first to outlaw the drug in 2008. A year before, in 2007, the drug was reported in France. Upon investigation by French authorities, a paper was published that determined Meow Meow was the ecstasy of the 21st century.

In 2010, the drug had made it to Australia with 21 percent of users of ecstasy reporting that they had tried Meow Meow. By March 2011, the International Narcotics Control Board had reportedusage of Meow Meow in Europe, North America, Australia and Southeast Asia.

Meow Meow 'Mephedrone' designer drug, Drug Made Student Cut Off Penis

Python is a dangerous animal, in Acts 16:16 it is said that a woman had the Spirit of Python, and based on that this new study we will speak how our enemy crawls around in our spiritual lives and suddenly kills it. Sometimes we don’t feel like worshiping or praying. That’s a sign of our breath being taken away.

So how do we prevent the dangers of spiritual death? What can we do to be aware of when the enemy will attack? Join us to learn how to break the attack and breath life again.

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~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.

~Why Me?~

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 Psalm 131

A song of ascents. Of David.

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

Recently I read Psalm 131, one of my favorite psalms. In the past, I viewed it as an encouragement to understand that mystery is one of the hallmarks of God’s character. It challenged me to let my mind be at rest, since I am unable to understand all that God is doing in His universe.

But then I saw another side of David’s calm spirit: I am unable to understand all that God is doing in me, and it is impossible to try.

David draws a comparison between a weaned child that no longer frets for what it once demanded, and a soul that has learned the same lesson. It is a call to learn humility, patient endurance, and contentment in all my circumstances—whatever they are—though I do not understand God’s reasons. Divine logic is beyond the grasp of my mind.

I ask, “Why this affliction? Why this anguish?” The Father answers, “Hush, child. You wouldn’t understand if I explained it to you. Just trust Me!”

So, I turn from contemplating David’s example to ask myself: Can I, in my circumstances, “hope in the Lord”? (v.3). Can I wait in faith and patience without fretting and without questioning God’s wisdom? Can I trust Him while He works in me His good, acceptable, and perfect will?

It may not be for me to see The meaning and the mystery Of all that God has planned for me Till “afterward”! —Aaron Pratt
In a world of mystery, it’s a comfort to know the God who knows all things.

~Our Dream; The Worlds Benefit- Eclectic Leadership at Second Chance Alliance~

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If it is not in the interest of the public it is not in the interest of business.

When you start a small business, you are instantly the leader, whether you have had any training in leadership or not. However, there is help. Leadership theories abound, and you can choose the approach, or combination of approaches, that will suit your personal style and your business needs. Being eclectic in choosing what parts of theories to use does not mean improvising. It means studying various theories and combining them into a thoughtful approach.

Trait Theories

Early leadership theories focused on the traits leaders need. These include physical and mental stamina, action-oriented judgment, need for achievement, ability to motivate people and adaptability. You can use a trait approach to determine your starting place. Find what leadership traits you already possess, and focus on ones you want to acquire. This can give you a foundation for leading your workforce while exploring other aspects of leadership you may want to incorporate.

Behavioral Theories

Some leadership theories focus not on traits of leaders, but behaviors they engage in. Under this approach, you will find that emphasizing working toward concrete objectives makes for a strong leader. In addition, showing concern for people, having the ability to issue directives and involving others in decision making help a leader excel. The advantage of this approach is that you don’t have to concern yourself with whether you have specific traits; you only have to learn behaviors that make good leaders. You can use this approach of acquiring behaviors to expand upon your skills as a leader.

Contingency Theories

Contingency theories state that leadership emerges under certain conditions. For example, if followers respect the leader, the goals are clear and the organization has conferred power on the leader, that leader is more likely to be affective. This approach allows you to look at the structure of your company and the culture you encourage among employees. You can establish your authority by demonstrating that you have power as the owner, have set achievable goals and have earned the respect of your workforce based on your treatment of employees and the quality of your decisions. The focus here is on the work environment.

Transformational Theories

Many recent theories encourage leaders to make employees better people, appeal to their higher natures and inspire them to achieve more than they thought they could. This leadership approach tends toward inspiration and positive reinforcement of strong character traits in others. To be this kind of leader, you must emphasize values and encourage others to embrace those values.

Methods for Combining Theories

To use an eclectic approach to leadership theory, you should choose elements from all four approaches and join them together as a cohesive whole. For example, you can begin by finding a trait in yourself, such as mental stamina; combine it with a behavior you embrace, such as working toward concrete objectives; add an emphasis on your authority as company founder; and demonstrate your strong values around a work ethic. This technique of choosing one element from among each of the four approaches gives you a single approach in the end

Great leaders make their teams feel safe.  Nowhere is this more critical than with ambitious growth and innovation initiatives, where a key to team success is comfort with ambiguity.

“In the military they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that they may gain.”

Every great growth story is framed by a movement.  This brief, entertaining talk shares how they are started.

“It’s important to focus on not just the leader, but the followers, because you will find that new followers emulate the followers, not the leader.”

Is your company killing creativity?  The points Ken makes apply equally as well to the board room as they do to the class room.

“What we do know is this; if you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original. We run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes.”

rope

Second Chance Alliance a resilient, innovative, pro-social  creative and thriving community for all organization. We inspire, lead and unite an eclectic community of faith, professionals and including disenfranchised individuals, nonprofits, business, and government to overcome barriers to economic opportunities and ensure Hemet, Riverside and Moreno Valley communities continues to thrive. Our history is being made all the while we develop and gain exposure in the eyes of our targeted communities and cities and professionals associated with human empowerment and political legislators.  Second Chance Alliance will be launching The Volunteer Project Leader program, it is a national training initiative that aims to transform casual volunteers into active community leaders by equipping them with the leadership skills and tools they need to make meaningful and lasting change in their communities.

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~Pt-1 Yes Lord~

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Zaraphath (1 Kings 17:8-16)

1 Kings 17:8-16 continues God’s testing of the Prophet at a place called Zarephath–which actually means “a smelting place.” But here, another important element is added to the scenario of Elijah’s life as it is recorded for us in Scripture. It’s the element of personal ministry or outreach to others. The testing and needs of the Prophet became a means of ministry to a poor widow and her son. As I have tried to stress throughout this series, the events of our lives, even our everyday and seemingly mundane affairs, are not without importance. They are certainly not without God’s providential care as the One who works all things after the counsel of His own will. But important to this truth of Scripture is the need of God’s people to consider this fact against the varied events of their lives. We must think, trust, and act accordingly. The events of life are tools and agents of the Almighty. He uses these to get our attention, to change our values, character, priorities, pursuits, and above all, to change our sources of trust for security and happiness.

But let’s never lose sight of the fact that the same events that test us often become the means by which God is able to use us in ministry to others. In other words, our trials often become vehicles for ministry, opportunities to manifest the life of Jesus Christ and the reality and power of God (2 Cor. 4:8-15). This is precisely what we see in this next episode in the life of Elijah. His need became a means of meeting needs in the lives of the widow and her son.

Does this not serve to remind us again that we are not here for ourselves, even in our pain and need? God cares for us, but we are not alone. He cares for others too, and often seeks to minister to the people around us through the character changes He is seeking to bring about through our own suffering or need.

Christlikeness means that even in our pain we are to think of others and how God may want to use us. This goes totally against the grain of human nature and especially against our self-centered society. Ours is a society that is focused on what is best for me regardless of what it could mean to others. What’s best for my career, my happiness, my security, my significance, my . . . (you fill in the blank).

The Revelation to Elijah
(17:8-9)

A WORD FROM THE LORD–COMMUNICATION

The first word we see is the little connective, “then.” It continues the story and points us to what happened next in the sequence of events–Elijah received a word from the Lord with instruction. But the sequence here is resultant; it points to a consequence. In the context, this revelation to the prophet is undoubtedly the result of two spiritual facts. First, there is the faithfulness of God. The brook had dried up but God had promised to supply Elijah’s need. So the Lord comes to Elijah’s rescue. Second, Elijah had met the tests of the brook in faith. He waited on the Lord. He had not run ahead, nor run away to do his own thing, nor complained in discontent. So now, God comes to his rescue and gives new instruction. We see in this the principle of Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

Elijah had been faithful in the matter of dwelling by the brook. Now God was moving him out of this place of solitude and testing into a small, but important ministry because all ministries are important. From his faithfulness at Zarephath greater things would come. God was building Elijah’s faith, capacity for ministry, and using him to comfort the widow and her son at the same time.

What a person does with a small task is an indication of how he will handle a large one. We may think that the small things are not so important–that they do not really matter. However, faithfulness in the small things prepares us to handle the larger things when they come. Even the small things of life are tests of one’s faith and of who is really in control of one’s life.

The next words of verse 8 are “the word of the Lord came to him, saying.” Let’s note a couple of things: First, Elijah did not move until there was communion with God. He waited until he had direction from the Lord–He moved at the Word of the Lord. For Elijah, this was direct revelation, but the principle is God leads and directs us through His Word (which for us is the Bible), and through our communion with Him in Scripture. Of course, the Lord uses other things to give us direction such as open and closed doors, and our own abilities, talents, burdens and interests. He never leads us, however, contrary to the principles and directives of Scripture. Second, this reminds us just how important it is for us to commune with God in His Word so we can know the Word and use it for every decision we face. We can be sure somewhere in Scripture there will be principles that apply. This is not a series on divine guidance, but let me illustrate:

(1) Scripture does not tell us where we should cross the street. But it does tell us to obey the laws of the land and that we are not to tempt the Lord. This means that we should not jay walk in a big city, nor any city where it is against the law and where we are endangering our lives. God does not care where we cross unless we are breaking these two concepts.

(2) The Bible does not tell us what kind of automobile to drive. Frankly, I don’t think God cares unless we ignore biblical principles of the wise use of our income, or we want to own a certain automobile because it would make us feel important and is an attempt at finding personal significance.

Simply stated, we all need to do what is necessary to know and apply the Word. This means spending time in the Word daily, and gathering with other Christians for Bible study and worship. We need to learn new truth, review the old, and then apply it all.

DIRECTION FROM THE LORD–INSTRUCTION

1 Kings 17:9 Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you

This verse has three commands, “arise,” “go,” and “stay.” There is also a promise of provision. In each of these there are tests for the prophet. There are tests of faith or trust, of obedience, of availability and commitment, a test of vision for what God was doing in his life, and a test of contentment.

(1) The First Command–“Arise.” Of course, before we can move on in the will of God, we must arise, not just physically but spiritually. Following the Lord in obedience is the outcome of spiritual life and spiritual awakening. (Cf. Ephesians 5:8f.)

(2) The Second Command–(the natural outcome): “go to Zarephath.” “Go” is a Hebrew wordhalak which means “to go, walk.” In this case, it carries the idea of traveling or journeying, which included hardships and danger. I don’t want to make too much of this, but spiritually speaking, to arise is to go. It means to wake up from our apathy and sluggishness and get involved in God’s will for our lives. Too often Christians simply sit and soak. Because they are not using what they know in faith, they also eventually begin to sulk, and sour. Rather, God wants us to sit and soak up the Word, but then, by faith to strive for Him in the power of Christ (cf. Col. 1:29). This means our availability to go wherever He wants us. It means our involvement and commitment and all of these are included here. Remember, God’s will usually test us in our faith, our vision for what He is doing, our love, availability, values, commitment, and involvement, etc.

I am sure when Elijah heard these commands his heart leaped, and perhaps he thought, “Whew, just in time Lord, but that’s sure cutting it close!” As this was going through his mind, he then heard, “to Zarephath.” Zarephath comes from tsaraph, “to smelt, refine, test.” The verb is used metaphorically with the sense of “to refine by means of suffering.” Zarephath means “a smelting place, a place of testing.” God uses various testings to refine us and purge out the dross as in the refining of silver and gold. When Elijah heard this name, he probably thought, “Oh oh, here we go again, but the battle is the Lord’s and He is in control.” Then he heard, “which belongs to Sidon.” “Sidon”? He probably thought, “Lord, Sidon belongs to the land of Jezebel, that old prostitute of Baal worship. Lord, this is the center of Baal worship that is now being promoted in Israel. Yes, I know Lord, it’s still your battle and you know what you are doing. But this sure seems like strange directions.”

~Dissonance; Who’s Fault Is It?~

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Social psychology experiments can explain how thoughts, feelings and behaviors are influenced by the presence of others.

Typically social psychology studies investigate how someone’s behavior influences a groups behavior or internal states, such as attitude or self-concept.

Obedience to Authority

“I was only following orders”

Legal defence by a Nazi leader at the Nuremberg trial following World War II

The aftermath of World War 2 made scientists investigate what to made people “follow orders” even though the orders were horrible. The Stanley Milgram Experiment showed that also non-nazi populations would follow orders to harm other persons. It was not a German phenomenon as many thought.

Milgram’s Lost Letter Experiment

Classic social psychology experiments are widely used to expose the key elements of aggressive behavior, prejudice and stereotyping. Social group prejudice is manifested in people’s unfavorable attitudes towards a particular social group. Stanley Milgram’s Lost Letter Experiment further explains this.

Obedience to a Role – Dehumanization

The Abu Ghraib prison-episode was yet another example on the power of predefined roles. The Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo, demonstrated the powerful effect our perception of expectations in roles have.

Conformity

Solomon Asch wanted to test how much people are influenced by others opinions in the Asch Conformity Experiment.

Observational Role Learning

Behaviorists ruled psychology for a long time. They focused on how individuals learn by trying and failing. Albert Bandura thought that humans are much more than “learning machines”. He thought that we learn from role models, initiating the (bandura) social cognitive theory. It all started with theBobo Doll Experiment.

Helping Behavior – Good Samaritan

Knowing the story of the Good Samaritan makes you wonder what made the Samaritan help the stranger, and why did he not get help from the priest or the Levite? The Good Samaritan Experiment explores causes of not showing helping behavior or altruism.

Cognitive Dissonance Experiment

The Cognitive Dissonance Experiment by Leon Festinger assumes that people hold many different cognitions about their world and tests what happens when the cognitions do not fit. See also the more in depth article about theCognitive Dissonance Experiment.

Bystander Effect

The Bystander Apathy Experiment was inspirated and motivation to conduct this experiment from the highly publicised murder of Kitty Genovese in the same year.

Groups and Influence On Opinion

Sherif’s classic social psychology experiment named Robbers Cave Experiment dealt with in-group relations, out-group relations and intergroup relations.

The Social Judgment Experiment was designed to explore the internal processes of an individual’s judgment and intergroup discrimination, how little it takes for people to form into groups, and the degree to which people within a group tend to favour the in-group and discriminate the out-group.

Halo Effect

The Halo Effect was demonstrated by Nisbett and Wilson’s experiment. It fits the situation of Hollywood celebrities where people readily assume that since these people are physically attractive, it also follows that they are intelligent, friendly, and display good judgment as well. This also greatly applies to other well-known people such as politicians.

Wegner’s Dream Rebound Experiment

According to studies, thoughts suppressed may resurface or manifest themselves in the future in the form of dreams. Psychologist Daniel M. Wegner proves this in his experiment on effects of thought suppression.

False Consensus

Everyone’s got their own biases in each and every occasion, even when estimating other people behaviors and the respective causes. One of these is called the false consensus bias. Psychologist Professor Lee Ross conducted studies on setting out to show how false consensus effect operates.

Interpersonal Bargaining

Bargaining is one of the many activities we usually engage in without even realizing it. The Moran Deutsch and Robert Krauss Experiment investigated two central factors in bargaining, namely how we communicate with each other and the use of threats.

Understand and Belief

Daniel Gilbert together with his colleagues put to test both Rene Descartes’ and Baruch Spinoza’s beliefs on whether belief is automatic or is a separate process that follows understanding. This argument has long been standing for at least 400 years before it was finally settled.

Self-Deception

People lie all the time even to themselves and surprisingly, it does work! This is the finding of the Quattrone and Tversky Experiment that was published in the Journal of Personality and Psychology.

Overjustification Effect

The overjustification effect happens when an external incentive like a reward, decreases a person’s intrinsic motivation to perform a particular task. Lepper, Greene and Nisbett confirmed this in their field experiment in a nursery school.

Chameleon Effect

Also called unintentional mirroring, the chameleon effect usually applies to people who are getting along so well, each tend to mimic each other’s body posture, hand gestures, speaking accents, among others. This was confirmed by the Chartrand and Bargh experiments.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is also known as selective collection of evidence. It is considered as an effect of information processing where people behaves to as to make their expectations come true. People tend to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses independently of the information’s truthness or falsity.

Choice Blindness

Choice blindness refers to ways in which people are blind to their own choices and preferences. Lars Hall and Peter Johansson further explain this phenomenon in their study.

Stereotypes

The Clark Doll Test illustrates the ill effects of stereotyping and racial segregation in America. It illustrated the damage caused by systematic segregation and racism on children’s self-perception at the young age of five.

Selective Group Perception

In selective group perception, people tend to actively filter information they think is irrelevant. This effect is demonstrated in Hastorf and Cantril’s Case Study: They Saw a Game.

Changing Behaviour When Being Studied

The Hawthorne Effect is the process where human subjects of an experiment change their behavior, simply because they are being studied. This is one of the hardest inbuilt biases to eliminate or factor into the design.

To protect our self-worth, even when faced with evidence of our errors, our first impulse is to dig in and justify our position with even more tenacity. We reject any evidence that disconfirms our original beliefs and find alternative explanations to explain why we were right in the first place. The engine that causes us to self-justify is cognitive dissonance — the uneasy feeling that surfaces when we hold two ideas that cannot be reconciled (e.g., the system works, the defendant is guilty, innocents don’t confess versus the system makes mistakes, the defendant is innocent, some innocents can be induced to confess falsely). Dissonance produces mental anguish and causes us to look for a way to reduce it. There are plenty of good external reasons for self-justification (loss of job, reputation, preventing harm to a colleague) but it is the more powerful internal reasons that often are the cause — we want to think of ourselves as honorable and competent.

How do we reduce dissonance?. One of the ways is denial, “the greatest impediment to admitting and correcting mistakes in the criminal-justice system is that most of its members reduce dissonance by denying that there is a problem.” I have seen this in the past year while dealing with the cases I just completed house arrest for.

Using examples from real cases, like my own I can show how cognitive dissonance and self-justification influence almost every decision made by police officers and prosecutors in the course of a wrongful conviction. They single out certain individuals who admitted their mistakes as modern day heroes, including former Indiana prosecutor Thomas Vanes for changing his position on the death penalty after learning that he had participated in a wrongful conviction.

Attribution Theory

Analyzes how we explain peoples behavior

We often infer a correspondence between actions and internal states

Common sense attributions have three major parts:

Consistency — Does person usually behave this way in this situation?

Distinctiveness — Does person behave differently in different situations?

Consensus — Do others behave similarly in this situation ?

To the extent we answer “Yes” to the questions concerned with distinctiveness and consensus, we are likely to make an External Attribution, that the person is behaving in a particular way due to the situation.

Information Integration — When we here a set of facts or traits associated with an individual, we weight them according to their perceived importance.

Additionally, we may put more weight on the first piece of information given to us. (Primacy effect)

We may put greater weight on negative information, especially if there is only one or two pieces of negative information given with numerous positive pieces of information.

Why do we study errors in attribution?

Errors can help us determine how people normally think about ourselves and others.

By making ourselves aware of the errors we commonly make, we may be able to prevent some of the errors.

In other words, by pointing out our faults, we hope we can improve on ourselves in the future.

~Through us God will take Care of you~

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I find myself being more and more comfortable in relatively complete solitude/isolation.

Before, I longed to have friendships and relationships and felt tremendous sadness that I didn’t, but over the course of the past several months I’m finding myself more and more content with just being alone and not having to face other people. The only true interaction I have is going to the various meetings associated with getting certifications and training to obtain alignment for our Business vision, and even then I try to make myself as small and quiet and unnoticeable as possible, and it seems to work for the most part. Friends I used to see and talk to sporadically have completely fallen by the wayside; they still try to reestablish contact every few weeks, but I systematically ignore their attempts.The only people I actually talk to on a semi-regular basis anymore are my Pastor and selective men of God, and they live over an hour away so I hardly ever have to actually see them. And random texting conversations with my brother who is a pastor in Chantilly Virginia over 3200 miles away.

I think I have just become so numb and so tired of having to climb an Everest of anxiety to have a basic interaction with another person that I have simply given up to take the pressure off. I still have bouts of loneliness sometimes but they are fleeting and usually getting on the internet or resting completely in meditation and expectancy of hearing from the spirit of God on how to move and interact with people in general. Going to church since the hand of God has moved us into Lodebar ( a dry place of isolation) has even become impossible to do. My spirit is tired of dogma’s and traditions that aren’t fostering a loving spirit of unity, but of separatism and divisions within the ranks of theologians and demanding people. My wife and I have been set apart in isolation and we are finding the  joy and purpose of being prepared by God in this uncertain existence.

spiritual-isolation

I don’t know. Is this a bad thing? Should I be concerned? Am I giving in to social anxiety and slowly becoming a complete shut-in? Will I wake up one day in 20 years completely alone with not a soul in the world who knows me or cares about me and have deep regrets about this? I’m not sure what I should be thinking or doing differently. I have this fantasy that someday soon I will move far, far away and start fresh and leave the anxiety behind and be able to make deep lasting connections with people. I know that’s ridiculous and very unlikely to happen, but the fantasy seems to sustain me day after day, and I kind of cling to it.

This is rambly, I apologize. Just trying to organize my thoughts about this to bring up in therapy and hoping to get some perspectives from people who may have similar issues.

“But nobody ever sees how far the things we shouldn’t feel can take us. I just want to walk along the shore for an hour, watch the waves rearranging whatever they can. I like the way the sea encourages me to think about the past, as if I could leave it where it is: the moon on the water, the stars that gleam and are gone.”
Genesis 21:145-21 
In a time of great rejoicing, when everyone else would have been having a good time; Sarah looked over in the midst of the celebration and saw that Ishmael was making fun of her new son Isaac. Paul tells us in Galatians that he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born of the spirit. Filled with rage that her son was being tormented, she immediately told Abraham to send the woman and her son away. But Abraham was a righteous man, and he was unwilling to comply until God assured him that he would care for Hagar and her son. Filled with that assurance, Abraham acquiesced and gave Hagar a skin full of water and a loaf or so of bread and sent her off into the desert. He did the best he could, but after this moment, Hagar would be all alone. Who knows how long they journeyed in the desert, finally the water was gone, and thirst began to set in. Ishmael now greatly humbled by his thirst walked beside his mother until he could go no further. Finally Hagar sat her son down under a scrub of a bush and walked a short distance away. Her heart was breaking because she knew there was nothing left to do but die. She couldn’t walk far away because she didn’t want her son to die alone, but she dare not stay to close lest she be forced to watch her son die. Now in despair she began to sob. And then God showed up. My friends this story for all it’s familiarity is both touching and powerful. For all it’s harshness, it is full of promise and hope for those who would despair at their last moment. Because whether it’s our lives or someone else’s, life itself is hopeless and painfully unbearable until God shows up. Hagar is for us a model representing single mothers everywhere, and her story displays both the problems and the solutions in God’s program for single mothers. In Hagar especially we see God’s love for those women in our world who have been abused and misused, forgotten and forsaken, the single mothers on welfare, the woman fleeing abuse and living with her children in the family shelter. As God loved and blessed Hagar, God will love and bless each of them. They may be forgotten by the world, but not by God. That’s a significant section of our local population which our church should be poised to meet. The struggles that single mother’s face are enormous, and not every one is as fortunate as May to be surrounded by a family that helps and a church that loves and forgives. Many single mothers, struggle alone to fulfill the jobs of both mother and father, a job they were not designed to fill. When troubles mount and hopelessness rears its ugly head it becomes hard to find God in the midst of the struggle. That’s where we come in. There are people in our community from all sorts of backgrounds languishing in depression and need. They need to be reminded by our works as well as our words that God is a very present help in time of trouble. And God can use us; we here at God’s Restoration Church (May & Aaron) -Second Chance Alliance are His hands and feet to lighten the burden of single mothers and disenfranchised individuals.  I’m convinced that we as a church need to be active in our statement of faith. Our God is a living God and He want’s us to be his living hands and feet on this planet. We can make an impact on single mothers and challenged individuals if we accept the restoration of our challenged life and assist those  in our community. We can lift them up, and lead them to Jesus; and we can meet their needs in the name of Christ – and in so doing serve Christ Himself.
 I want to take Hagar’s name as an acronym to show you what we can do to change a life. If there’s one message we need to bring, it’s this: Through us God will take Care of you. 
HOPE – Try to imagine Hagar pushing off into the wilderness, supplies for a day or so at her side, and her son walking beside her. She’s been ousted by the boy’s father – someone she couldn’t even call her husband. Now she’s alone and terrified, wondering what’s she’s going to do when the bread and water give out. Then look at Hagar putting her son under the bush and walking a stone’s throw away to sit and wait hopelessly for her son’s death.
Single mothers often deal with feelings of guilt, real or imagined, combined with tremendous feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. Single mothers are also dealing with the sudden stark reality that this child is going to take the rest of her life to raise, a life some of them had barely begun to live themselves. It doesn’t matter how they got to be single mothers; Teen pregnancy, Divorce, being widowed, or abandoned. They’re often struggling alone, isolated and scared of the future; they need CONSTANT ENCOURAGEMENT. 
Think about the enormous power that hope has to give life where none existed before. Imagine also the overwhelming power of hopelessness to destroy a heart and crush a human being beyond repair. The first thing we can bring to the single mothers in our community is Hope. The Second is Assistance.

ASSISTANCE. Need comes in a hundred different flavors. Sometimes it’s financial, sometimes it’s emotional, or moral, or whatever else we daily rely upon. Just like everyone else, unsaved single mothers need Jesus. Just like any other person, the saved need to be taught solid Christian principles. And just like everyone else single parents need A SUPPORT SYSTEM. God’s design for the family means that at least two people are there to bear the burden of raising a child. But a single mother doesn’t have that luxury. Hagar had no person to turn to, and she despaired. How fortunate that she called out to God for help. And He provided. Do you realize that God’s provision for many single parents is us? James 1:27 says that we should care for widows and orphans. We are God’s hands to take care of those who need God’s help. What that looks like take a thousand different shapes. It might mean some of the men in the church doing maintenance on a car or a home. It might mean the women helping with the children, and giving advice when it’s asked for. Unwanted advice often does more harm than good. And let’s not forget the deep need that every person has to be loved.  And though we sometimes think of assistance as monetary, I believe most people prefer the dignity of earning a living to a handout when given the chance. Sometimes we may need to assist someone financially, and I believe that’s God’s use for us from time to time, but more than that we might be able to help with daycare so that mom can get a secure job. Thirdly they need a strong faith in GOD. GOD A STRONG FAITH. Can you imagine the emotional problems Hagar experienced. First she’s an unwilling partner in a pregnancy, then she’s beaten by her mistress, then she’s ousted by her child’s father at Sarah’s demand. Bitterness, anger and resentment are to be expected, As well as despair, and feelings of rejection. Only God is capable of curing the heart, as we take care of picking up the pieces. We can assist single mothers by encouraging them to hear God’s voice. To be in the Bible and to Pray. Just like Hagar, every parent, even single parents, need a strong faith in God to deal with the inner wounds in the heart. No matter what her reasons for being a single mother: divorce, death, or a child out of wedlock; the reason doesn’t change the result – and the need. With a relationship with God in place, next comes the need for:

 ACCEPTANCE – Far less today, for good or for ill – single mothers are no longer singled out for ostracism and public humiliation. But often there’s still a secret fear that she won’t be accepted, and sadly that feeling is often strongest in relation to the church. How desperate some of these women are to be loved and accepted, and how vital that the people that extend that hand be Christians who along with a kind heart offer words of forgiveness and acceptance – not just from God, but also from us.

 RELIEF. Hope, Assistance, God, Acceptance and finally Relief. Single mother’s need A SAFE PLACE FOR THE CHILDREN. We live in a predatory society. Safety for these children is a top concern. From the church nursery to the homes of some of our members, every mother knows how vital it is that her children are cared for. Hagar put her dying son under a bush so that he could die in what little comfort she could manage, and then she moved to the distance a bit. She didn’t want to see him die, but she couldn’t dare leave him either. If we provide a safe place for a child, we are serving Christ’s most favored people! On top of a safe place for the child, mom herself needs a safe place. John Fuder nails down one of the greatest problems facing Single mothers as ISOLATION. He says, “[single] moms are isolated and alone – living their adolescent years shouldering adult parenting Responsibilities.”  Often, there is no-one to help them. They must be both father and mother, provider and caretaker for the child they are barely equipped to handle.

Eventually the stress needs a release valve: TIME ALONE. Every mother needs some time to herself. And single mothers often have no way of achieving this. Again, time alone is fed by having a baby-sitter available whom they can trust. I’m convinced that if we could get a roster of baby-sitters available to put in the hands of single mothers; we would do much – not only for the child, but also for the mother. Jesus said, “whatever you’ve done to the least, you’ve done to me.” How many of you would be willing to baby-sit Jesus? I’ve had fragments of this message in my mind and in my heart for over a year now. Long before We dealt in some measure with this issue in our own body. But I have waited.  And now even coming to this section on Hagar many weeks ago, I kept finding other topics to cover on Sunday evening. Not for fear certainly – and not for lack of passion either. God has burdened me with a ministry that I am not equipped to carry – a ministry to single mothers and ex-offenders in our community. Today I’m asking God and you to look into your hearts and to find someone who’s heart stirs with a passion to search out these single mothers in our community. Someone willing to have their own hearts broken in the struggle for another woman’s soul.

~Hate~

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As I reflect, I think about what a brave soul Dr. King was to transform his fight for “Negro” equality with White America and one that was based on Civil Rights, to a fight that was global in scope and based on Human Rights.

Like others have, I often ask myself what would Dr. King think about today’s America and the world as a whole?  Would he feel as though all of his efforts achieved their end goal?  Would he support the various Occupy and other social movements taking place the world over? The answers I keep coming up with are NO and YES respectively.

Given the continued disparities across every major aspect of life in America for Black Americans, I could not imagine Dr. King would be pleased with our progress.  Yes, we have a Black President and we certainly have achieved great success in many areas of the business, sports, entertainment, the arts and the social world.  However, we do not live in a “Post-racial” society.   As a collective group, the majority of Black Americans have not benefited from the accomplishments of a few.

Statistically, we are breaking records in all the wrong categories of life:

  • We are #1 in Incarceration rates proportionate to the overall American population
  • We are #1 in Healthcare disparities
  • We are #1 in Education disparities
  • We are #1 in HIV/AIDS contraction rates
  • We are #1 in Quality of living disparities
  • We are #1 in Divorce and Households lead by single mothers
  • We are #1 in Sperm donors who happen to be males not being fathers
  • We are #1 in just about any other negative thing you can think of as it relates to simply living

It is not my intention to bring anyone down or paint such a dismal picture of life for the majority of Black Americans, but this is not my subjective truth.  This is the reality of too many of our people. The bottom line, Dr. King’s goals have not been achieved.

We do not live in a “Post-Racial” America and we need to WAKE UP!!!

 

Kemet is the first civilization in the world.  Kemet is the African name of the land we now call Egypt.   This more modern term – Egypt – resulted from Greek and later conquerors of the land applying their own names in their own language.  Kemet means “black land” or “black earth.”  And, Kemet may well be the first complex civilization in the world.  It is certainly the longest civilization to still be located in the same place.  If you define a civilization by its ability to make war, Sumer in Mesopotamia may be older.  But, if you define a civilization by its peace and stability, then Kemet again is the oldest.  And, despite modern political assertions that Egypt is in the Middle East, Kemet is in Africa. 

Egypt (Kemet) bordered by deserts is absolutely the “gift of the Nile.”  But African civilization is the gift of Kemet.  Eminent African scholar Cheik Anta Diop has said that: “Egypt is to Africa as Greece is to Europe.”  In other words, Kemet should be considered the jewel at the heart of African civilization from which much culture, arts, sciences and technologies radiate.  Much the way Western Civilization traces its key origins to ancient Greece; other African civilizations owe a debt to Kemet.

In the past, there has been a spurious controversy over whether or not the ancient people of Kemet were Black people.  This is a racist argument on either side.  The people of ancient Kemet – or Egypt, if you like – were African.  Regardless of our modern preoccupations with race as evidenced by skin color, the people of Kemet were African.  And, just like today, Africans come in many shades (as, by the way, do Europeans).   Any detailed examination of artistic representations show Kemetic peoples skin tones to range from dark Black to light tan and everything in between.  The argument that they were Caucasians is based on the racist mythos that only Europeans could create advanced societies.  It was an ugly idea based on European ethnocentrism.  And it served well to perpetuate relatively modern color-based racism that has evolved since the start of European colonization.  The argument that all ancient Kemetic peoples had to be Black in the modern sense of the word simply reinforces skin color based distinctions that are contemporary and have very little utility to understanding the peoples in themselves.  It is putting our 21st century concepts of race in the way of understanding how the people of Kemet saw race.

We will leave the discourse of Egyptian “Blackness” with some tales that show both the connectedness of Kemet with the rest of ancient Africa, and that race as we know it did not apply. 

 

This poisonous master-class mentality did not die with the abolition of slavery—it continued, in new forms. In particular, each wave of immigrants that came over from Europe had to “fit itself into” the dominant relations of American society—they had to find an “economic niche” (usually toward the bottom rungs of the working class, at least at first) and they had to work out a relation to the dominant political and cultural superstructure of society. In doing so, these white immigrants often tried to distinguish themselves from Black people—and this often exploded into the open antagonism of white mobs rampaging against Black people and even lynching them—yes, in the northern cities as well as the South, as these immigrant communities defined themselves as “full-blooded” white Americans in violent opposition to Black people. This system reinforced the master-class mentality among northern whites with petty, but not insignificant, privileges in jobs and housing. And this became a major double-barreled shotgun for the capitalist ruling class: it blinded these white people and immigrants to their most fundamental interests as members of the proletariat, turning their anger away from the system that actually exploited and oppressed them, and turning it against the most oppressed and exploited people in society. And it gave them an “identity” as white Americans, with a set of expectations and entitlements to go with it—and to defend. A minority of whites opposed this madness, and took up revolutionary or radical or even just decently humane positions; but while very important—and we’ll return to its significance later—this sort of stand was far too uncommon. (A secondary, but important, effect of this master-class mentality among whites of all classes was to partly obscure the class character of the oppression of the masses of Black people—their position and role as viciously exploited proletarians, within the overall working class of the U.S.—and the many and close links between this class exploitation of large numbers of Black people, as part of the proletariat, and thenational oppression of Black people as a people.)

To return again to the period of slavery, it is important to be clear on an essential truth: the slaves fiercely resisted this. In the U.S. alone there were over 200 slave revolts, and the slaves of Haiti stunned the world when they successfully waged a 15-year revolution against first their colonial masters, then the British, and finally Napoleon’s armies. Even with these heroic revolts, it was only with the Civil War that the resistance finally bore fruit in the U.S., and the emancipation of Black people from outright slavery was achieved. Here too the masses of Black people—both runaway slaves and “freedmen”—played a crucial role. When finally allowed to join the Union Army, they died at twice the rate of white soldiers (while being paid lower wages for most of the Civil War)!

~#HealSTL,#ISIS, #HealAmerica, #StopRacism,Paul Ran His Race During Difficulty~

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Taking my rest in the Lord today is paramount because I am angry about the injustice we as Americans of all races are suffering. I served this devil for 14 years, I became a prisoner of war and can’t get veteran benefits. I sit and seize in anger in my flesh but my spirit constrains the HATE my flesh feels for this conundrum of politics and injustice I wish I had an army to combat. An army of believers that have gotten tired of fighting among-est themselves. An army that really walks and is willing to draw the line in the sand of racism, hatred and injustice. We as a nation of suppose to be free bodied individuals won’t assume our rightful positions in the struggle together crossing all color and ethnic background.

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Darren Wilson people massed together to move in his behalf in a monetary and solidarity fashion. The church and our communities are not massing together in prayer or to support visions of God or His righteousness. Our government has been moving toward it’s plans for years. In yet another astonishingly treasonous act the U.S. administration has eliminated yet another key check to control out of control government, the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act.  The Posse Comitatus Act abolished the use of the U.S. military against our own citizens and eliminated the ability of the U.S. government to eliminate the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights by declaring Martial Law. ISIS The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) used to have a different name: al Qaeda in Iraq. Has massed to kill steal and destroy fueled by hate, but together.

In early 2006 Congress passed bill H.R.5122 granting the President the right to commandeer Federal and State National Guard Troops for use against citizens.  The bill is entitled the John Warner Defense Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2007 .

Section 1076 of H.R. 5122.ENR allows the President to:

“…employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service,torestore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States…, where the President determines that,…domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy…”

This act attempts to nullify the Posse Comitatus Act and the Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C. 331-335) and gives the President the legal ability to declare Martial Law under any condition he so chooses. This very equipment was aimed at innocent babies of all colors on American soil. I used this very equipment in nine campaigns serving this country only to see more injustice like it being used on my own people. I am hurting tonight and struggling with PEACE…

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And the rest, some on boards, some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land (Acts 27:44). 

The marvelous story of Paul’s voyage to Rome, with its trials and triumphs, is a fine pattern of the lights and shades of the way of faith all through the story of human life. The remarkable feature of it is the hard and narrow places which we find intermingled with God’s most extraordinary interpositions and providences.

It is the common idea that the pathway of faith is strewn with flowers, and that when God interposes in the life of His people, He does it on a scale so grand that He lifts us quite out of the plane of difficulties. The actual fact, however, is that the real experience is quite contrary. The story of the Bible is one of alternate trial and triumph in the case of everyone of the cloud of witnesses from Abel down to the latest martyr.

Paul, more than anyone else, was an example of how much a child of God can suffer without being crushed or broken in spirit. On account of his testifying in Damascus, he was hunted down by persecutors and obliged to fly for his life. but we behold no heavenly chariot transporting the holy apostle amid thunderbolts of flame from the reach of his foes, but “through a window in a basket,” was he let down over the walls of Damascus and so escaped their hands. In an old clothes basket, like a bundle of laundry, or groceries, the servant of Jesus Christ was dropped from the window and ignominiously fled from the hate of his foes.

Again we find him left for months in the lonely dungeons; we find him telling of his watchings, his fastings, and his desertion by friends, of his brutal and shameful beatings, and here even after God has promised to deliver him, we see him for days left to toss upon a stormy sea, obliged to stand guard over the treacherous seaman, and at last when the deliverance comes, there is no heavenly galley sailing from the skies to take off the noble prisoner; there is no angel form walking along the waters and stilling the raging breakers; there is no supernatural sign of the transcendent miracle that is being wrought; but one is compelled to seize a spar, another a floating plank, another to climb on a fragment of the wreck, another to strike out and swim for his life.

Here is God’s pattern for our own lives. Here is a Gospel of help for people that have to live in this every day world with real and ordinary surroundings, and a thousand practical conditions which have to be met in a thoroughly practical way.

God’s promises and God’s providences do not lift us out of the plane of common sense and commonplace trial, but it is through these very things that faith is perfected, and that God loves to interweave the golden threads of His love along the warp and woof of our every day experience.

I am praying that I will stand until the end as Paul, because I am very angry at this SIN in this world and the corruption within our political and justice system. Please pray for us all and especially me. If you look at this spiritual forecast and CAN STILL HAVE FUN AND GO ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS IF ALL IS WELL PLEASE LET ME KNOW HOW TO ACHIEVE THAT!!!!!!!

~Am I Hateful? Does Hate Fuel Your Giving Or Lack There Of?~

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“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” -Dietrich Bonheoffer

Bonheoffer wasn’t speaking casually with his statement. As a minister during World War II, he faced the choice to speak out against the Nazi regime, or stay silent and save himself. He chose to speak, ultimately being executed for daring to stand for truth. Injustice demands a voice.

That’s why the issue of HATE is not something we can privately hate but publicly tolerate. It is controversial. The issue of  this event being connected to black and white culture has made it seem that only an intolerant hater could be 100% against racism. While I would agree we are intolerant (of sin, of murder—so was Jesus, by the way), we are not haters. On the contrary, we are lovers of Life. We love people who are destroyed by HATE and want to see redemption. Being outspoken on the issue of HATE might be unpopular, but if it’s rooted in prayer, it’s a hope for a nation when we call on the mercy of God to save. The Bible is clear that when we shed innocent blood it pollutes the land, and there are consequences for this. This officer has the right to be supported. He has the right to be innocent until proven guilty, but even as an officer of the law he does not have the right to kill unnecessarily. I pose the question, Is it HATE of a black man that has fueled these supporters of officer Wilson to be so generous with their money while not being generous with compassion to the woman who has lost her son to a senseless and merciless killing of her child. Am I guilty of HATE  for pondering the question of why my GoFundMe site for the empowering of ex-offenders has not been sewed into like that of “Fatcat” the dog, or for the “Athiest” who raised money for a girl caught in a tornado in Oklahoma, not because he cared for her but only to mock God and Christianity, or because Rhianna helped to raise money for a  broken cellphone? Am I a hater? NO!!! I am a man who sits and watches people donating obscene amounts of money for everything except for the empowering of human life. White supremacist support each other, athiest support each other, animal lovers help each other even after their loved one has been torn to shreds by a shark, they still go out and raise money to study why they eat people and how to stop them but they won’t sew into helping people rebuild their lives. These people I am talking about are EX-OFFENDERS!!!. 

http://www.gofundme.com/SupportOfficerWilson

Thank you so much for all of your continued support! We have received a lot of emails through this site within the last 48 hours. We are attempting to respond to each email as quickly as possible. We also want to address all of the inappropriate comments submitted on our page. We will be refunding the donations from those who are not supporting Officer Darren Wilson. We hope all can understand. We will have all communications responded to within the next 24 hours. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Operation welcome home Fatcat

Raised $7,032 of $5,000 Raised by 168 people in 8 days

Stand-up comedian Doug Stanhope has drawn a philosophical line in the sand by proclaiming that, contrary to popular belief, “hate can help.” The outspoken atheist set out to prove his theory by raising over $125,000 for a woman who identified as an atheist on television after a tornado destroyed her home. But beyond a simple act of generosity, Stanhope is now admitting that his fundraiser was at least as much about proving a point as it was charity.

After Oklahoman Rebecca Vitsmun explained to Wolf Blitzer that she didn’t “thank God” for saving her family from a deadly tornado, Stanhope was so impressed with her bravery in confirming her atheism that he created an IndieGogo fundraiser in the name of Atheists United in order to help Vitsmun, her husband and her baby.

Stanhope, who frequently and brazenly attacks religion in his act — after the Sept. 11 attacks, he quipped about George W. Bush’s appeals to religion: “Your god takes Tuesdays off” — recently released a video explaining why he raised the money.

“If you think [her admission] didn’t take balls, you’ve never been to Oklahoma,” said Stanhope, who resides in Arizona. “Saying ‘I’m an atheist’ in Oklahoma is like screaming jihad at airport security.”

He set the goal at $50,000, but $125,760 was ultimately raised in a few months after the support of other atheist celebrities such as Ricky Gervais and Penn Jillette. In exchange for contributions, donors received gifts such as a “Get Out of Hell Free Card” and a “Phone Call From God.”

Although Vitsmun indeed received the funds from the campaign to help rebuild her life, Stanhope was clear that he did not start the campaign entirely in the name of selfless charity.

“I didn’t do it because I felt sympathy because she got all her shit destroyed by a tornado,” he said. “I did it simply to be a prick to her Okie Christian neighbors, hoping they were all eating off their FEMA trucks when someone drove up and presented Rebecca with a giant cardboard check.”

The commission president saw the broken phone as another chance to raise money for under-served students who want to participate in the LAPD’s cadet program. He is auctioning it on EBay, where bids are running at more than $1,200.

Soboroff saw Rihanna at Sunday night’s game and explained his idea to auction the phone. She wrote, “Sorry! I ♥ LAPD. Rihanna,” on the phone.

The commission president says the singer went a step further and pledged $25,000 to help fund police cadets from underprivileged backgrounds and the families of fallen officers.

[T]herefore, as I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you. (Ez. 35:6)

Hate is a noun that could be a verb. Godly hatred of sin has action just as its ungodly counterpart does;  it takes energy and is passion. Hatred for the act of bloodshed is not hatred for people who are victims in this spiritual war. We hate bloodshed, the acts of darkness so we can love people to walk in light. Prayer is one of the primary ways in which we love people. On our own we are powerless. We may convince one person to change a decision or alter a path by the power of persuasion, but no persuasion is greater than that which is fueled by heaven.

We start with prayer, both privately and publicly, both silently and vocally, but then we carry out that revelation into the world. We vote righteously, for those who stand for Life. We volunteer at Teen crisis centers, not only out our desire to do good but out of prophetic revelation of truth. We give our money to various programs and causes, to those who work in the Life movement full time. Our prayers fuel our prophetic voice and we act.

This is why God holds prayer up as the solution for a nation riddled with the bloodshed of the innocent:

So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. (Ez. 22:30)

 

 

We don’t want to be found not standing in the gap. As the law enforcement of our land is being charged guilty with the senseless killings of men of color and mass incarceration is targeting people of all colors and age groups, but predominantly the black race of our land, literally we are allowing our nation to be polluted with bloodshed. God makes no hesitation on our need to speak out against this injustice, first through our prayers:

 

Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them. (Ps. 106:23)

 

Then through our vocal actions:

 

Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die. (Proverbs 31:8)

 

Our prayers must be the force that drives our voices on injustice of any kind.  We speak from the place of prayer, but we speak out against the face of evil, against powers and principalities and rulers of darkness (Ephesians 6), on behalf of those for whom Jesus died—especially the those who had no silver spoon or a chance to get an opportunity of equality because of a broken system riddled with HIDDEN AGENDAS and IDEOLOGIES passed down from for fathers fueled with HATE  who never get a voice.


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~Ferguson,Texas, California, New York-America-Your Plan Is Exposed~

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I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential.”

– President Barack Obama, January 28, 2014

“There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement.  And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?”

– President Barack Obama, July 19, 2013

A Letter From Ray Jasper, Who Is About to Be Executed

Mr. Nolan,

When I first responded to you, I didn’t think that it would cause people to reach out to me and voice their opinions. I’ve never been on the internet in my life and I’m not fully aware of the social circles on the internet, so it was a surprise to receive reactions so quickly.

I learned that some of the responses on your website were positive and some negative. I can only appreciate the conversation. Osho once said that one person considered him like an angel and another person considered him like a devil, he didn’t attempt to refute neither perspective because he said that man does not judge based on the truth of who you are, but on the truth of who they are.

Your words struck a chord with me. You said that my perspective is different and therefore my words have a sort of value. Yet, you’re talking to a young man that’s been judged unworthy to breathe the same air you breathe. That’s like a hobo on the street walking up to you and you ask him for spare change.

Without any questions, you’ve given me a blank canvas. I’ll only address what’s on my heart. Next month, the State of Texas has resolved to kill me like some kind of rabid dog, so indirectly, I guess my intention is to use this as some type of platform because this could be my final statement on earth.

I think ’empathy’ is one of the most powerful words in this world that is expressed in all cultures. This is my underlining theme. I do not own a dictionary, so I can’t give you the Oxford or Webster definition of the word, but in my own words, empathy means ‘putting the shoe on the other foot.’

Empathy. A rich man would look at a poor man, not with sympathy, feeling sorrow for the unfortunate poverty, but also not with contempt, feeling disdain for the man’s poverish state, but with empathy, which means the rich man would put himself in the poor man’s shoes, feel what the poor man is feeling, and understand what it is to be the poor man.

Empathy breeds proper judgement. Sympathy breeds sorrow. Contempt breeds arrogance. Neither are proper judgements because they’re based on emotions. That’s why two people can look at the same situation and have totally different views. We all feel differently about a lot of things. Empathy gives you an inside view. It doesn’t say ‘If that was me…’, empathy says, ‘That is me.’

What that does is it takes the emotions out of situations and forces us to be honest with ourselves. Honesty has no hidden agenda. Thoreau proposed that ‘one honest man’ could morally regenerate an entire society.

Looking through the eyes of empathy & honesty, I’ll address some of the topics you mentioned. It’s only my perspective.

The Justice system is truly broken beyond repair and the sad part is there is no way to start over. Improvements can be made. If honest people stand up, I think they will be made over time. I know the average person isn’t paying attention to all the laws constantly being passed by state & federal legislation. People are more focused on their jobs, raising kids and trying to find entertainment in between time. The thing is, laws are being changed right and left.

A man once said that revolution comes when you inform people of their rights. Martin Luther King said a revolution comes by social action and legal action working hand in hand. I’m not presenting any radical revolutionary view, the word revolution just means change. America changes as the law changes.

Under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution all prisoners in America are considered slaves. We look at slavery like its a thing of the past, but you can go to any penitentiary in this nation and you will see slavery. That was the reason for the protests by prisoners in Georgia in 2010. They said they were tired of being treated like slaves. People need to know that when they sit on trial juries and sentence people to prison time that they are sentencing them to slavery.

If a prisoner refuses to work and be a slave, they will do their time in isolation as a punishment. You have thousands of people with a lot of prison time that have no choice but to make money for the government or live in isolation. The affects of prison isolation literally drive people crazy. Who can be isolated from human contact and not lose their mind? That was the reason California had an uproar last year behind Pelican Bay. 33,000 inmates across California protested refusing to work or refusing to eat on hunger-strikes because of those being tortured in isolation in Pelican Bay.

I think prison sentences have gotten way out of hand. People are getting life sentences for aggravated crimes where no violence had occurred. I know a man who was 24 years old and received 160 years in prison for two aggravated robberies where less that $500 was stole and no violence took place. There are guys walking around with 200 year sentences and they’re not even 30 years old. Its outrageous. Giving a first time felon a sentence beyond their life span is pure oppression. Multitudes of young people have been thrown away in this generation.

The other side of the coin is there are those in the corporate world making money off prisoners, so the longer they’re in prison, the more money is being made. It’s not about crime & punishment, it’s about crime & profit. Prison is a billion dollar industry. In 1996, there were 122 prisons opened across America. Companies were holding expos in small towns showing how more prisons would boost the economy by providing more jobs.

How can those that invest in prisons make money if people have sentences that will allow them to return to free society? If people were being rehabilitated and sent back into the cities, who would work for these corporations? That would be a bad investment. In order for them to make money, people have to stay in prison and keep working. So the political move is to tell the people they’re tough on crime and give people longer sentences.

Chuck Colson, former advisor to the President once said that they were passing laws to be tough on crime, but they didn’t even know who the laws were affecting. It wasn’t until the Watergate scandal and Colson himself going to prison that he learned who the laws were affecting. Colson ended up forming the largest prison ministry in America. He also foreseen in his book THE GOD OF SPIDERS & STONES that America was forming a new society within its prisons. Basically, that prison would become a nation inside this nation. He predicted that over a million people would be locked up by the year 2000. The book was written in the 8O’s. Now, its 2014 and almost two million people are locked up. It’s not that crime is the issue. Crime still goes on daily. It’s that the politics surrounding crime have changed and it has become a numbers game. Dollars & Cents. You have people like Michael Jordan who invest millions of dollars in the prison system. Any shrewed businessman would if you have no empathy for people locked up and you just want to make some money.

I don’t agree with the death penalty. It’s a very Southern practice from that old lynching mentality. Almost all executions take place in the South with a few exceptions here and there. Texas is the leading State by far. I’m not from Texas. I was raised in California. Coming from the West Coast to the South was like going back in time. I didn’t even think real cowboys existed. Texas is a very ‘country’ state, aside a few major cities. There are still small towns that a black person would not be welcomed. California is more of a melting pot. I grew up in the Bay Area where its very diverse.

The death penalty needs to be abolished. Life without parole is still a death sentence. The only difference is time. To say you need to kill a person in a shorter amount of time is just seeking revenge on that person.

If the death penalty must exist, I think it should only be for cases where more than one person is killed like these rampant shootings that have taken place around the country the last few years. Also, in a situation of terrorism.

If you’re not giving the death penalty for murder, then the government is already saying that the taking of one’s life is not worth the death penalty. Capital murder is if you take someone’s life and commit another felony at the same time. That’s Texas law. That makes a person eligible for the death penalty The problem is, you’re not getting the death penalty for murder, you’re actually getting it for the other felony. That doesn’t make common sense. You can kill a man but you will not get the death penalty……if you kill a man and take money out his wallet, now you can get the death penalty.

I’m on death row and yet I didn’t commit the act of murder. I was convicted under the law of parties. When people read about the case, they assume I killed the victim, but the facts are undisputed that I did not kill the victim. The one who killed him plead guilty to capital murder for a life sentence. He admitted to the murder and has never denied it. Under the Texas law of parties, they say it doesn’t matter whether I killed the victim or not, I’m criminally responsible for someone else’s conduct. But I was the only one given the death penalty.

The law of parties is a very controversial law in Texas. Most Democrats stand against it. It allows the state to execute someone who did not commit the actual act of murder. There are around 50 guys on death row in Texas who didn’t kill anybody, but were convicted as a party.

The lethal injection has become a real controversial issue here of late because states are using drugs that they’re not authorize to use to execute people. The lethal injection is an old Nazi practice deriving from the Jewish Holocaust. To use that method to kill people today, when it’s unconstitutional to use it on dogs, is saying something very cruel and inhumane. People don’t care because they think they’re killing horrible people. No empathy. Just contempt.

I understand that it’s not popular to talk about race issues these days, but I speak on the subject of race because I hold a burden in my heart for all the young blacks who are locked up or who see the street life as the only means to make something of themselves. When I walked into prison at 19 years old, I said to myself ‘Damn, I have never seen so many black dudes in my life’. I mean, it looked like I went to Africa. I couldn’t believe it. The lyrics of 2Pac echoed in my head, ‘The penitentiary is packed/ and its filled with blacks’.

It’s really an epidemic, the number of blacks locked up in this country. That’s why I look, not only at my own situation, but why all of us young blacks are in prison. I’ve come to see, it’s largely due to an indentity crisis. We don t know our history. We don’t know how to really indentify with white people. We are really of a different culture, but by being slaves, we lost ourselves.

When you have a black man name John Williams and a white man name John Williams, the black man got his name from the white man. Within that lies a lost of identity. There are blacks in this country that don’t even consider themselves African. Well, what are we? When did we stop being African? If you ask a young black person if they’re African, they will say ‘No, I’m American’. They’ve lost their roots. They think slavery is their roots. Again, its a strong identity crisis.

You take the identity crisis, mix it with capitalism, where money comes before empathy, and you’ll have a lot of young blacks trying to get money by any means because they’re trying to get out of poverty or stay out of poverty. Now, money is what they try to find an identity in. They feel like if they get rich, legal or illegal, they’ve become somebody. Which in America is partly true because superficially we hail the rich and despise the poor. We give Jay-Z more credit than we do Al Sharpton. What has Jay-Z done besides get rich? Yet we see dollar signs and somehow give more respect to the man with the money.

A French woman who moved to America asked me one day, ‘Why don’t black kids want to learn?’ Her husband was a high school teacher. She said the white and asian kids excel in school, but the black and hispanic kids don’t. I said that all kids want to learn, it’s just a matter of what you’re trying to teach them. Cutting a frog open is not helping a black kid in the ghetto who has to listen to police sirens all night and worry about getting shot. Those kids need life lessons. They need direction. When you have black kids learning more about the Boston Tea Party than the Black Panther Party, I guarantee you won’t keep their attention. But it was the Black Panther Party that got them free lunch.

People point their fingers at young blacks, call them thugs and say they need to pull up their pants. That’s fine, but you’re not feeding them any knowledge. You’re not giving them a vision. All you’re saying is be a square like me. They’re not going to listen to you because you have guys like Jay-Z and Rick Ross who are millionaires and sag their pants. Changing the way they dress isn’t changing the way they think. As the Bible says, ‘Where there’s no vision the people perish’. Young blacks need to learn their identity so they can have more respect for the blacks that suffered for their liberties than they have for someone talking about selling drugs over a rap beat who really isn’t selling drugs.

They have to be exposed to something new. Their minds have to be challenged, not dulled. They know the history of the Crips & Bloods, but they can’t tell you who Garvey or Robeson is. They can quote Drake & Lil Wayne but they can’t tell you what Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton has done. Across the nation, they gravitate to Crips & Bloods. I tell those I know the same thing, not to put blue & red before black. They were black first. It’s senseless, but they are trying to find a purpose to live for and if a gang gives them a sense of purpose that’s what they will gravitate to. They aren’t being taught to live and die for something greater. They’re not being challenged to do better.

Black history shouldn’t be a month, it should be a course, an elective taught year around. I guarantee black kids would take that course if it was available to them. How many black kids would change their outlook if they knew that they were only considered 3/5’s of a human being according to the U.S Constitution? That black people were considered part animal in this country. They don’t know that. When you learn that, you carry yourself with a different level of dignity for all we’ve overcome.

Before Martin Luther King was killed he drafted a bill called ‘The Bill for the Disadvantaged’. It was for blacks and poor whites. King understood that in order to have a successful life, you have to decrease the odds of failure. You have to change the playing field. I’m not saying there’s no personal responsibility for success, that goes without saying, but there’s also a corporate responsibility. As the saying goes, when you see someone who has failed, you see someone who was failed.

Neither am I saying that advantages are always circumstancial. Sometimes its knowledge or opportunity that gives an advantage. A lot of times it is the circumstances. Flowers grow in gardens, not in hard places. Using myself as an example, I was 15 when my first love got shot 9 times in Oakland. Do you think I m going to care about book reports when my girlfriend was shot in the face? I understand Barack Obama saying there is no excuse for blacks or anyone else because generations past had it harder than us. That’s true. However, success is based on probabilities and the odds. Everyone is not on a level playing field. For some, the odds are really stacked against them. I’m not saying they can’t be overcome, but it’s not likely.

I’m not trying to play the race card, I’m looking at the roots of why so many young blacks are locked up. The odds are stacked against us, we suffer from an identity crisis, and we’re being targeted more, instead of taught better. Ask any young black person their views on the Police, I assure you their response will not be positive. Yet if you have something against the Police, who represent the government, you cannot sit on a trial jury. A young black woman was struck from the jury in my case because she said she sees the Police as ‘intimidators’. She never had a good experience with the Police like most young blacks, but even though she’s just being true to her experience, she’s not worthy to take part as a juror in a trial.

White people really don’t understand how it extreme it is to be judged by others outside your race. In the book TRIAL & ERROR: THE TEXAS DEATH PENALTY Lisa Maxwell paints this picture to get the point across and if any white person reading this is honest with themselves, they will clearly understand the point. I cannot quote it word for word, but this was the gist of it…

Imagine you’re a young white guy facing capital murder charges where you can receive the death penalty… the victim in the case is a black man… when you go to trial and step into the courtroom… the judge is a black man… the two State prosecutors seeking the death penalty on you… are also black men… you couldn’t afford an attorney, so the Judge appointed you two defense lawyers who are also black men… you look in the jury box… there’s 8 more black people and 4 hispanics… the only white person in the courtroom is you… How would you feel facing the death penalty? Do you believe you’ll receive justice?

As outside of the box as that scene is, those were the exact circumstances of my trial. I was the only black person in the courtroom.

Again, I’m not playing the race card, but empathy is putting the shoe on the other foot.

The last thing on my heart is about religion and the death penalty. There are several well-known preachers in Texas and across the South that teach their congregations that the death penalty is right by God and backed by the Bible. The death penalty is a governmental issue not a spiritual issue. Southern preachers who advocate the death penalty are condoning evil. They need to learn the legalities of capital punishment. The State may have the power to put people to death, but don’t preach to the public that it’s God’s will. It’s the State’s will.

If God wanted me to die for anything, I would be dead already. I talk to God everday. He’s not telling me I’m some kind of menace that He can’t wait to see executed. God is blessing me daily. God is showing me His favor & grace on my life. Like Paul said, I was the chief of sinners, but God had mercy on me because He knew I was ignorant. The blood of Abel cryed vengeance, the blood of Jesus cryed mercy.

There are preachers like John Hagee in San Antonio who have influence over thousands of people, who not only attend his church, but also watch his TV program, and hear him condoning the death penalty. Hagee doesn’t see his Southern mentality condones the death penalty, not the scriptures. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that condones the way Texas executes people today.

Southern preachers use scriptures like God telling Noah, ‘Whoever shed’s man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed’. ‘That’s murder. Under Texas law, you cannot receive the death penalty for murder. There is no such thing as capital murder in the Bible, where murder must be in the course of another felony. Yet, they preach capital punishment is God’s will. Even if you’re guilty of capital murder in Texas, it doesn’t mean you’ll receive the death penalty. People get the death penalty when a jury has judged them to be a ‘continuing threat to society’. ‘That means they are deemed so bad that they have no hope of redemption or change in their behavior. That is the only reason a person gets the death penalty. They are suppose to be the absolute worse of the worse, so terrible that they cannot live in prison with other murderers.

That in itself is contrary to the whole Christian faith that believes no one is beyond redemption if they repent for their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ. For a Christian to advocate the death penalty is a complete contradiction.

As easy as it is for a preacher to stand up in the pulpit with a Bible and tell thousands of people the death penalty is right, I challenge any preacher in Texas, John Hagee or any others to come visit me and tell me that God wants me to die. Martin Luther King said, ‘Capital punishment shows that America is a merciless nation that will not forgive.’

Again, Mr. Nolan, this is only my perspective. I’m just the hobo on the street giving away my pennies. A doctor can’t look at a person and see cancer, they have to look beyond the surface. When you look at the Justice system, the Death Penalty, or anything else, it takes one to go beyond the surface. Proper diagnosis is half the cure.

I’m a father. My daughter was six weeks old when I got locked up and now she’s 15 in high school. Despite the circumstances, I’ve tryed to be the best father in the world. But I knew that her course in life is largely determine by what I teach her. It’s the same with any young person, their course is determined by what we are teaching them. In the words of Aristotle, ‘All improvement in society begins with the education of the young.’

~Glimpses Of The American Struggle-Let’s Apply Our Faith Today~

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How the Exodus narrative helped sustain generations of blacks seeking freedom and equality.

Rhondda Thomas knows the power of a good story. One story in particular, the Exodus narrative, captivated her when she was a girl in Sunday school making her first voyage through the Bible. As she grew into her teens, went to college and then to graduate school, Exodus began to take center stage in her academic life.

“When I started my graduate studies and did research on the Exodus story, I found that scholars had taken a very limited view of the story’s potential and the power of this narrative through many years to drive and nourish blacks in their quest for freedom,” Thomas says. Her hunch was that many black writers, especially during the nineteenth century, had mined Exodus for its allegorical power.

It turned out Thomas was right.

“I did a search on Exodus stories, and I found them everywhere,” she says. “And in the sermons, letters, books and other written materials I researched, I was taken by the multiple ways this narrative was sustained as a way to express the strong desire for freedom.”

Thomas continued her search-and-find mission through graduate school with an eye toward writing and publishing a book. Claiming Exodus: a Cultural History of Afro-Atlantic Identity, 1774-1903, was published early this year by Baylor University Press.

“Exodus was of course an oral tradition before Moses wrote it down, and sermons are also part of the oral tradition, but in America the print culture is such an integral part of our identity, I wanted to focus on the written, literary convention in this country,” Thomas says. “So even the sermons I discuss in the book were written down and widely circulated.”

In Claiming Exodus, Thomas mentions several dozen black writers who used the Exodus myth to further blacks’ struggle for freedom, but she says there are three who played especially important roles in the drama of emancipation and self-realization: Phillis Wheatley, Absalom Jones, and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Frontispiece of Memoir and Poems (1834). Source: Documenting the American South, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Phillis Wheatley: Include American slaves in the revolution.

Thomas found that the first person in America of African descent to use the Exodus story was also the youngest—Phillis Wheatley. She was eight years old when she was brought to Boston on a slave ship in 1761, and John Wheatley, a prosperous Boston merchant, purchased her as a personal slave and companion for his wife. Phillis received a solid education and, at age fourteen, began to publish her poetry and letters in Boston newspapers. In 1773, John Wheatley emancipated her.

“Being freed from her master may have given the celebrated Wheatley the confidence to evoke Exodus in penning her strong abolitionist statement in ‘Letter to Reverend Samson Occum,’ published on the eve of the American Revolution,” Thomas says. “In her letter Wheatley draws on the rhetoric of the Exodus narrative and Enlightenment theory to elevate Africans from abject bondsmen to rational, spiritual human beings. In doing so, she shifts the objective of the Revolution from the colonists’ emancipation to the physical, religious, and political liberation of all Americans—including Africans.” Thomas adds that in the closing of her letter, Wheatley invokes biblical precedence, suggesting that Africans’ pleas for liberty are equivalent to ancient Israelites’ prayers for deliverance from Egyptian slavery.

“Basically what Wheatley does in this letter is point out the absurdity of the colonists using the Exodus narrative in their demand for liberty while still believing they should enslave Africans,” Thomas says. “This former slave girl was sharply questioning their sense of reason.

“Wheatley was likely the most prominent African American of her time to publicly demand the abolition of slavery during the American Revolution, which effectively complicated the debates regarding race, citizenship, and freedom.”

Absalom Jones. 1810 portrait by Raphaelle Peale. Source: Episcopal Archives.

Absalom Jones: gradual emancipation and community building

More than thirty years later, another strong voice in the struggle for liberty extended the Exodus myth: the Reverend Absalom Jones of St. Thomas African Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. On New Year’s Day, 1808, Jones preached “A Thanksgiving Sermon” on the occasion of a new law, taking effect that day, that prohibited the nation’s participation in the slave trade.

“In his sermon Jones characterized American slaves as ancient Israelites whose cries had moved God to convince politicians in Congress to outlaw the slave trade,” Thomas explains. “Jones evoked the Exodus narrative to interpret this legislation as a divine sign portending the emancipation of the slaves,” Thomas continues, “transforming free black Philadelphians into activists who should now continually commemorate their victory and aggressively work for civil rights.”

Thomas adds that by the time he delivered his “Thanksgiving Sermon,” Jones was sixty-two years old, a confident, Moses-like figure in the antislavery cause.

“His sermon was published and distributed and read widely,” Thomas says, “and it helped black Philadelphians to become one of the most activist communities in the nation.”

W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard and cofounder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Photo 1904 by J.E. Purdy. Library of Congress collection.

W.E.B. Du Bois: Booker T. Washington as a potential Joshua

In Claiming Exodus, Thomas discusses a number of writers who used and extended the Exodus narrative in the struggle toward freedom through the nineteenth century’s pivotal events: the War of 1812, the great debates of 1820s, Manifest Destiny, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Championed by black activists, various black leaders through the century came to represent Moses figures or Joshua figures (Joshua became the leader of the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses).

W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard and cofounder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909, somewhat reluctantly supported Booker T. Washington as a potential Joshua figure at the turn of the twentieth century, Thomas says, adding that the two men were not always in agreement as how best to accomplish their shared goals. “Du Bois would have wanted a leader who took a more radical approach to white Americans’ insistence on second-class citizenship for African Americans but said that to the extent Washington, the builder of the Tuskegee Institute, preached ‘thrift, patience, and industrial training’ for the masses, blacks should strive with him and glory ‘in the strength of this Joshua called of God and of man to lead the headless host,’” Thomas says, quoting her book.

With additional support from Andrew Carnegie, who singled out Washington as the ‘modern Moses,’ Washington was regularly identified by white newspapers throughout the nation at the turn of the twentieth century as the African Americans’ Moses, securing his status as race leader and affirming his more conservative strategy as the solution to the problem of the color line, Thomas concludes.

With support from Andrew Carnegie and W.E.B. Du Bois, Washington was regularly identified throughout the nation at the turn of the twentieth century as the African Americans’ Moses.

Book T. Washington. Photo 1905 by Harris and Ewing. Library of Congress collection.

Logging in lots of library time

Thomas describes the eight years of research and scholarship that led to the publication of Claiming Exodus as emphatically not glamorous.

“There were not the online databases there are now, so to try to find these stories I spent hundreds of hours reading bound volumes and painstakingly going through microfilm, despite the fact that whirling through microfilm actually makes me nauseous.”

Thomas’s research took her from Washington D.C. (Howard University) to Atlanta (the Emory University archives) to South Carolina (the Historical Society), and to Charleston, Philadelphia, and Boston. The occasional surprising finding was one of the things that kept her going, says Thomas.

“One of my best finds—this was in the American Antiquarian Society archives in Worcester, Massachusetts—was a letter from Frederick Douglass near the end of his life to Francis Grimké, a Presbyterian Church pastor in Washington, D.C. As far as I know, no one had known of the existence of this letter, which talks about the Promised Land,” Thomas says. Grimké was an important racial activist in the early twentieth century.

Another major discovery Thomas made through her research was that the writers she investigated had a far broader concept of the “Promised Land” than she had expected.

“I grew up thinking that either the American North or Canada was the Promised Land for blacks seeking their freedom,” Thomas says, “but I discovered through my research that writers also thought of the American West, East and West Africa, and even England and France as the Promised Land. Finding a multiplicity of promised lands was an interesting surprise.”

Why is the Exodus story so powerful?

“Every major moment in American history has seen a proliferation of Exodus narratives,” Thomas says. “The story is an epic narrative chock-full of drama, suspense, and a tremendous fight between good and evil. It’s the dominant narrative used by white and black Americans over and over again to try to keep their quest for freedom and democracy going. Collectively, the Afro-Atlantic Exodus stories sustained the momentum of early civil rights efforts.”

The Exodus narrative

The Book of Exodus tells how Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness to Mount Sinai, where God reveals himself and offers them a covenant: They are to keep his torah (i.e., law, instruction), and in return he will be their God and give them the land of Canaan. The Book of Numbers tells how the Israelites, led by their God, journey from Sinai towards Canaan, but when their spies report that the land is filled with giants, they refuse to go on. God condemns them to remain in the wilderness until the generation that left Egypt passes away. After thirty-eight years at the oasis of Kadesh Barnea, the next generation travels on to the borders of Canaan. The Book of Deuteronomy tells how, within sight of the Promised Land, Moses recalls their journey and gives them new laws. His death concludes the forty years of the exodus from Egypt. According to Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua, after Moses’ death Joshua became the leader of the Israelite tribes.

~Knowledge Made Me Understand My Mistakes~I Want To Help Society….

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Knowledge is a subject with many interesting characteristics. For instance, it is handed down from one generation to the next and in this way can survive for thousands of years. This handing on can happen in many different ways, be it a father telling his son, folk songs narrating stories, written on scrolls or a certain sequence of zeros and ones on a computer drive.

But knowledge not only duplicates but it multiplies. Marie Freifrau von Ebner-Eschenbach, a German author who lived around the turn of the twentieth century, inspired an meaningful quote which goes as follows: “Knowledge is the only good that multiplies when you share it.”

And one of mankind’s greatest characteristics is its pursuit of sharing knowledge. One very recent account of this will of human beings to share and spread it with as many as possible is the emergence of Internet. So knowledge of things, ideas and workings has always been of importance and was sought after very much. This made it important to also think about the concept of knowledge itself. Over millennia people have tried to figure out the nature of knowledge and find an appropriate definition for it, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates being one of them. Before him and after his time many others thought about the topic as well, following on his ideas or coming up with completely different understandings of the concept of knowledge. But much as this was discussed in earlier times, it is of just as much importance today.

The knowledge I have acquired from being ignorant of the consequences the devices I used to get into prison offered me is the very knowledge I desire to use to empower a targeted group of people called ( Ex-Offenders). Society is suffering as a whole from this disingenuous correctional business. I say business because it offers no corrections, just incarceration. In my stays within the correctional systems I never was offered rehabilitation. May 25th 2010 I found happiness through receiving my vision of “Second Chance Alliance”.  I am asking my fellow citizens to think hard about donating to my wife and I cause because we really believe it will make a difference in our communities we are apart of. Socrates cajoling his fellow citizens to think hard about questions of truth and justice, convinced as he was that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” While claiming that his wisdom consisted merely in “knowing that he knew nothing,” Socrates did have certain beliefs, chief among them that happiness is obtainable by human effort. Specifically, he recommended gaining rational control over your desires and harmonizing the different parts of your soul. Doing so would produce a divine-like state of inner tranquility that the external would could not effect. True to his word, he cheerfully faced his own death, discussing philosophy right up to the moments before he took the lethal hemlock. Through his influence on Plato and Aristotle, a new era of philosophy was inaugurated and the course of western civilization was decisively shaped.

Socrates has a unique place in the history of happiness, as he is the first known figure in the West to argue that happiness is actually obtainable through human effort. He was born in Athens, Greece in 460 BC; like most ancient peoples, the Greeks had a rather pessimistic view of human existence. Happiness was deemed a rare occurrence and reserved only for those whom the gods favored. The idea that one could obtain happiness for oneself was considered hubris, a kind of overreaching pride, and was to be met with harsh punishment.

Against this bleak backdrop the optimistic Socrates enters the picture. The key to happiness, he argues, is to turn attention away from the body and towards the soul. By harmonizing our desires we can learn to pacify the mind and achieve a divine-like state of tranquility. A moral life is to be preferred to an immoral one, primarily because it leads to a happier life. We see right here at the beginning of western philosophy that happiness is at the forefront, linked to other concepts such as virtue, justice, and the ultimate meaning of human existence.

The price Socrates paid for his honest search for truth was death: he was convicted of “corrupting the youth” and sentenced to die by way of Hemlock poisoning. But here we see the life of Socrates testifies to the truth of his teachings. Instead of bemoaning his fate or blaming the gods, Socrates faces his death with equanimity, even cheerfully discussing philosophy with his friends in the moments before he takes the lethal cup. As someone who trusted in the eternal value of the soul, he was unafraid to meet death, for he believed it was the ultimate release of the soul from the limitations of the body. In contrast to the prevailing Greek belief that death is being condemned to Hades, a place of punishment or wandering aimless ghost-like existence, Socrates looks forward to a place where he can continue his questionings and gain more knowledge. As long as there is a mind that earnestly seeks to explore and understand the world, there will be opportunities to expand one’s consciousness and achieve an increasingly happier mental state.

The costs of incarceration stretch far beyond prison walls, meals, and guards:

  • The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.
  • It costs over $26,000 to incarcerate one federal prisoner for one year — more than the average cost of one year of college education.
  • American taxpayers spend over $60 billion each year on prisons.
  • Half of all federal prisoners and one in five state prisoners are there for a drug offense — and it’s usually a nonviolent one.
  • Men who have served time in prison earn 40% less each year than men who have not been in prison.
  • One in every 28 children under age 18 has a parent in prison.
  • Long mandatory sentences have led to overcrowded, unsafe prisons
    that are less cost-effective than alternatives like treatment and drug courts.

When Raynard Reaves left the North Carolina prison system last year after 32 years behind bars, he left with a bus ticket and the clothes on his back. But he also had something less tangible, something unavailable to most of North Carolina’s prison population: A support system provided by Winston-Salem’s Project Re-entry.

Now he’s a success story, a family man and productive employee with 15 unblemished months of freedom.

The man he is today is a far cry from the 19-year-old heroin addict who committed armed robbery and landed in Raleigh’s Central Prison, a maximum-security institution notorious for its tough inmate population.

Reaves said he credits Project Re entry for much of his success on the outside. The program starts inside prison with a 12-week curriculum of life skills classes. Once they’ve been released, ex-prisoners who’ve successfully completed the 12-week pre-release program are eligible to receive services and employment on the outside. It’s the only pre- to post release re-entry program in North Carolina and serves nine facilities including the Forsyth and Guilford correctional centers.

“I think they should make it mandatory for everyone who is in prison to go through the re-entry program,” Reaves said. Rebecca Sauter, director of Project Re-entry, measures the program’s accomplishments by employment statistics. Every program graduate who goes on to take and keep a full time job and doesn’t re-offend is considered a success. Now the city of Winston-Salem is considering contributing to that success by actively committing to employ graduates of the program, which started in the Forsyth Correctional Center in 1999. City Councilwoman Vivian Burke, who represents the city’s Northeast Ward, said Winston-Salem should be an example for area businesses by implementing an employment program for ex-offenders. Right now, the city doesn’t have a policy either barring or encouraging the employment of ex-offenders. A proposal working its way through committee would encourage departments to hire ex-felons who have successfully completed programs like Project Re-entry.

Click the link below to view our proposed model for Riverside County and donate one dollar or as your heart leads. Thanks for your time in viewing our content and dreams.

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~Second Chance Alliance Alternative Sentencing-Re-Entry Program ~

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Larry Smith jail in Banning from Highway 243 in Banning on April 23, 2013. Over the next five years, virtually every cent of new revenue flowing into Riverside County coffers will go to building and staffing jails and boosting deputy patrols in unincorporated areas.

Adding jail beds and boosting deputy patrols in Riverside County could eat up projected gains in revenue over the next few years, leaving little or nothing to restore code enforcement, animal control and other departments hit hard by the economic downturn.

Jail expansions could potentially max out the county’s self-imposed limit on debt payments by 2020, according to a recent analysis. Even then, the county likely can’t erase its jail bed shortage without going well beyond the limit.

The Board of Supervisors last month held a workshop on budget-related matters, including a five-year spending plan for jails and a plan to hire more deputies for unincorporated areas. The board voted to hire a consultant to further assess the jail crunch, and supervisors want a closer look at non-jail options, such as road crews and fire camps for low-level offenders.

After losing $215 million in tax revenue since 2007, county finances are starting to modestly perk up, and property tax revenue is expected to grow as the real estate market rebounds. But as more money comes in, the county faces massive new spending obligations, jails being the largest.

Jail crowding has been a problem for years. Since 2000, the county’s population grew 45 percent while the number of jail beds grew just 31 percent, according to a county staff report. A long-standing federal court order requires the county to release inmates early when there aren’t enough beds.

Under court pressure to shrink California’s prison population and relieve crowding, state lawmakers in 2011 passed public safety realignment, which shifted to counties the responsibility for inmates convicted of nonviolent, nonserious and non-high risk sexual offenses. Those offenders are now sent to jails instead of state prison.

The county’s five jails, which have 3,906 beds, filled up in January 2012. Almost 7,000 inmates got early releases in 2012, and the number is expected to exceed 9,000 by the end of this year. Roughly 18 percent of jail inmates – 693 – were there due to realignment as of Aug. 31, county staff said.

SKEWED PRIORITIES?

“Because of what the state has done, we will need to distort what would otherwise be our county priorities in order to do what must be done, which is to build jails to house people that used to be in prison,” county Chief Financial Officer Ed Corser told supervisors during the Sept. 23 workshop.

To curtail early releases, the county plans to add more than 1,200 beds to the 353-bed Indio jail by 2017. The $267 million project – a state grant covers $100 million – doesn’t include the cost of moving county offices to accommodate the expansion.

The county is applying for another $80 million in state funding to add as many as 582 beds to the 1,520-bed Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning. Officials see potential there for a total of 1,600 additional beds.

Grants don’t cover the cost of running bigger jails. The new Indio jail, called the East County Detention Center, will require 406 sheriff’s personnel to be hired at a cost of $37.9 million annually by 2017, according to Corser’s figures.

In all, supervisors have committed to $97.5 million in new, annual public safety expenses by 2017, Corser’s numbers show. He expects revenue growth to cover the new costs.

But the $97.5 million doesn’t include higher labor costs that could come when the sheriffs’ union contract expires in 2016.

And it doesn’t address potential new funding requests from the district attorney’s office, the public defender, the Fire Department and probation. The county also is trying to boost its rainy day fund from $140 million, an amount described by one bond rating agency as “barely satisfactory,” Corser said.

Altogether, those additional requests could add up to $118 million by 2017, Corser said. Of that, $91.3 million would have to be found somewhere.

Prop. 172 passed in 1993 created a special public safety sales tax. But Corser said any growth in Prop. 172 revenue should go to the Indio expansion.

 

NOT ENOUGH

The Sheriff’s Department estimates the county needs 4,000 new jail beds now and 10,000 by 2028. Adding to Indio and Larry Smith would still leave the county short of that long-term goal.

Plans for a “hub jail” outside Palm Springs – 2,000 beds in phase one, 7,200 at buildout – have been discussed for years, and the county spent more than $22 million preparing for the project. But supervisors shelved the hub jail in 2011 amid cost concerns and opposition from Coachella Valley residents, who worried a jail seen from Interstate 10 would hurt the area’s image.

Even if supervisors revived the hub jail, a county staff analysis casts doubt on the ability to pay for it in the short term.

County policy dictates that no more than 7 percent of general fund spending go to paying off construction debt, a ratio meant to appease rating agencies that grade the county’s credit-worthiness. Adding 1,600 beds to Larry Smith brings the county to that threshold by 2020, the analysis shows.

The threshold would be shattered by 2025 if the county tries to add 10,000 beds now, according to the analysis. The Indio jail and other approved projects will double the county’s annual debt payments to $40 million by 2016, according to the analysis.

Deputy County Executive Officer Christopher Hans, who presented the analysis to supervisors, noted the projections are less accurate the farther they go out.

NOTHING BUT JAILS?

But assuming the numbers are true, there’s practically no room in the general fund – the county’s main piggy bank – for non-jail construction projects.

In the past, the county could use redevelopment money to pay for new infrastructure. But that option vanished in 2011 when the courts upheld the abolishment of California redevelopment agencies.

The Riverside County Transportation Commission, a multi-jurisdictional agency, does have its own funding for transportation infrastructure. It’s also possible to pay for construction through developer impact fees, state and federal money and other sources.

Right now, 20 percent of the county’s $590 million in discretionary general fund revenue goes to corrections. Jail spending would make up more than 40 percent if 1,600 beds are added to Larry Smith and more than 80 percent if a 6,000-bed jail is also built.

MORE DEPUTIES

The five supervisors committed in April to improving the ratio of deputies to residents in the county’s unincorporated areas, which aren’t part of cities. The ratio stood at 1.2 deputies per 1,000 residents before the recession and fell to 0.75 per 1,000 in 2012. It should rise to 1 per 1,000 by the end of 2013.

To reach 1.2 per 1,000, Corser said the sheriff would have to add 148 deputies by 2018 at an annual cost of $21.4 million. Actual costs could vary depending on how long it takes to screen and train new hires.

During the workshop, Supervisor John Tavaglione questioned whether the 1.2 ratio is feasible. During tough times in prior years, budgets for the animal control and code enforcement departments were slashed, and supervisors had to restore them, he said.

“Now we’ve obliterated those departments,” Tavaglione said. “And we’re going to have to rebuild them again.”

Public safety departments have seen their budgets cut 3 percent in recent years, but other departments took hits of at least 15 to 19 percent, Corser said. Factoring in non-county funding, code enforcement and animal control budgets since 2007 have dropped 33 and 18 percent, respectively.

In September 2007, supervisors beefed up code enforcement staffing in the unincorporated areas to 90 officers and supervising staff, up from 40 the year before. The number is 44 now.

Tavaglione stressed he supports the Sheriff’s Department and said he would love to see a 1.2 ratio.

However, “To think that we can just, for the next five years, focus every single dollar that we have on only the Sheriff’s Department and nothing else … that we’re not going to be able to provide the other services necessary in our communities to support, that go along with sheriff … it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Supervisor Marion Ashley said without a safe environment, the county won’t realize the economic growth it is expecting.

PRICE FOR SAFETY

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Van Wagenen said the district attorney’s office agrees jail beds are the top priority.

However, he said more prosecutors will be needed as more deputies arrest lawbreakers. Van Wagenen estimates the office is down 15 to 20 lawyers compared to four years ago. In recent years, the office has sought grants and outside funding to offset expenses, he added.

The county also is bracing for possible holes in this year’s budget. The Sheriff’s Department could have a $20 million shortfall and Riverside County Regional Medical Center is looking at a $50 million gap when the fiscal year ends next June, Corser said.

Assistant Sheriff Steve Thetford said his department appreciates the costs associated with expanding jails and hiring more deputies.

“There’s a price for public safety,” he said.

Alternative sentencing Re-Entry programs like Second Chance Alliance for Riverside County will increase public safety and generate revenues for the various community it will serve. Click the insignia to view our vision.

Empower A Felon

Rich Society-Too Big To Jail: How Did We Get Here?

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Crime is a social concept based upon social structure (organization of society) and social norms (ideas, customs, habits, attitudes of people).  As such, crime is considered to be an offense against society.  This concept of crime as an offense against society evolved from English tradition.

Common law was an offense against the country that, as such, was to be prosecuted by the King.  It was based on custom and tradition as interpreted by the judges.  It was not written down in a code that one could easily consult; rather it took its form from the collected opinions of English judges who actually created law when they ruled on specific cases.  As new situations arose and more opinions were formed, the common law grew.

Criminal law defines forbidden offenses against society  – by formalizing the common law – and specifies conditions for enforcing and punishing offenders.

New ‘too rich to jail’ case sparks outrage:
A rich father – a Du Pont family heir – served no jail time after raping his three year old daughter. How could a convicted child rapist end up with only probation and treatment? A legal panel discusses the case.

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

John F. Kennedy

To summarize, beginning in the 1400s, the English, and later the Americans, defined crime by:

  • the dominant morality expressed in  society – the common law;
  • the rules articulated by the most powerful members in  society; and
  • the sense of threat perceived by the most dominant, powerful members of society.

And they dealt with such crime through a criminal justice system which

  • defines crime by identifying the boundaries between right and wrong,  moral and immoral, legal and illegal;
  • patrols and enforces such boundaries;
  • judges those who fail to honor the boundaries; and
  • punishes those who have been judged guilty of a crime.

Categories of Colonial Law1. Crimes involving sexual acts.  Any sexual act other than traditional intercourse between man and wife was a crime in all colonies.  Sex-related crimes were the most frequent of all criminal offenses during the first 100 years of colonization – between 10 – 22% of all court business. Most common were �fornication before marriage;� bearing illegitimate children; and beastiality.  Sex crimes remained on the books in the 18th Century but were prosecuted less often – except for fornication which was prosecuted not because extramarital sex was immoral, but mainly because of the �practical considerations� of colonial society – adultery threatened family integrity and created the possibility of private violence/disorder; fornication among servants that resulted in childbirth left the new mother less valuable as a servant and society was left to support a bastard.

2. Crimes perceived as socially harmful misconduct.  Almost any act that contributed to public and personal disorder was considered a crime – drunkenness, blasphemy, lying, idleness, Sabbath violations.  Suchvictimless crimes appear more often in 17th Century court records than any other except sex-related crimes. Sabbath violations among the most prevalent crimes during both 17th and 18th centuries.

3. Crimes against the person – both criminal (dealing with public wrongs which involves social harm and violates the norms of the community) and civil  (dealing with private conflicts with violate relationships between individuals).  According to recent historical examinations of surviving court records in most of the colonies, the most common crimes against the person were slander -approximately 17% of all court business in all colonies; assault – approximately 6% of all court business; homocide –  almost always directed at servants and slaves, or related to domestic and inter-familial disputes; and witchcraft.

In the South, crimes against the person were punished the least of any other category.  Citizens of substance often felt it was their duty to defend themselves, their property, their family, or their honor against any real or imagined threat.  Often, when given a clear choice between observing the law or defending their honor – they choose to defend their honor.  These lawbreakers were treated with dignity and respect.  Juries were reluctant to convict a man of murder or assault if he had committed the crime to defend his honor – and action that was, at best, loosely defined.  Often, those convicted of assault were fined less than a dollar.

4. Crimes against property.   Crimes against property were rare – petty theft was uncommon and grand theft almost never occurred. Why?  Stealing property violated both the sanctity of private property and the code of honor that included a strong sense of economic morality.  People convicted of crimes against property received the most serious punishment which was designed to deter other would-be offenders and shame the culprit in the eyes of the community.

In the 18th Century, crimes against property increased as towns became bigger with more diversity and wealth.  Designating crimes became a way to protect property during the 18th Century.  For instance, in Virginia, hogs were a vital part of a family�s economy – more valuable than sheep.  Its laws made stealing hogs a more serious crime than stealing sheep.  In the late 18th Century, this changed even more.  Crimes against property increased, and in so doing, the concept of crime as a product of sin was challenged by a new social concept – crime was the product of idleness.

The Bible contains so many verses that address greed and oppression of the poor that I will not analyze them all, but I will relate as many of them as possible to modern-day scenarios. I have divided these verses by subject and will begin with a brief analysis of immigration. I will then follow with an examination of every verse that addresses greed, greed of the poor, interest, oppression, God’s judgment of the oppressors, and taxes.

Immigration

Exodus 22:21, “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Context: Included in a listing of various laws.

Exodus 23:9, “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:33-34, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Greed

Deuteronomy 17:17, “And he [the king of Israel] must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself.”

Context: God provides guidelines for future kings of Israel.

Analysis: Even the king of Israel was to avoid materialism.

Proverbs 23:4, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist.”

Interest

Exodus 22:25, “If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.”

Leviticus 25:36-37, “Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God; let them live with you. You shall not lend them money at interest taken in advance, or provide them food at a profit.”

Oppression

Exodus 22: 22-24, “You shall not abuse any widow or orphan.”

Context: Various laws are listed in this section on Exodus.

Analysis: Why are widows and orphans so special? Because, along with aliens, they had no inheritance in the land. In Israel, men inherited land from their fathers as they became adults (they did not have to wait for their fathers to die like we do today). As women reached adulthood, they left their fathers’ lands to live on their husbands’ lands. On these lands, people grew their food and built their homes with the resources of the land. So this inheritance of land gave young Israelite families what they needed to survive. It’s quite different from our society in which young people venture out on their own lacking both food and shelter and having to earn enough money to obtain it.

Widows, orphans, and aliens, however, could not share in Israel’s inheritance, and therefore, lacked proper food and shelter. That’s why God so frequently calls the Israelites to look out for their interests.

Exodus 23:8, “You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.”

God’s Judgment of the Oppressors

Isaiah 3:14-15, “The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people: ‘It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?’ says the Lord God of hosts.”

Similarly, in Jesus’ day the Pharisees and Sadducees were feuding religious parties. The Sadducees held only the first five books of the Bible to be the word of God and denied belief in the afterlife, while the Pharisees believed in the entire Old Testament and in the afterlife, too. Jesus also believed in the entire Old Testament and the afterlife. So did He support the Pharisees? No, He didn’t! In Matthew 16:6, “Jesus said to them [His disciples], ‘Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’” He went on to explain that He opposed not their “yeast,” but their teachings.

Despite the fact that Jesus had more beliefs in common with the Pharisees than He did the Sadducees, He opposed both sides, because both sides opposed God’s will. To support either party would have been the equivalent of supporting that party’s oppression of others and its promotion of man-made religious teachings over those of the Bible. Jesus protected His disciples from making the mistake of believing that one of two opposing parties must align with righteousness.

The way I see it, Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican (but Satan is a Libertarian). The Democrats sin by promoting individual freedom to the point where we do what we want with our bodies at the expense of and to the neglect of others, while the Republicans sin by promoting individual freedom to the point where we do what we want with our money at the expense of and to the neglect of others.

I don’t mean to say that we sin by belonging to either the Democrats or the Republicans, or by supporting capitalism or socialism. But I do mean to stress that we must not let these establishments teach us right and wrong. For us Christians, right and wrong must come from the Bible alone. God’s teachings must take precedence over those of our political parties, social groups, and even our nation. Those who claimed Jesus’ name during His ministry and the days of the early church did so because they believed Jesus’ teachings, and they obeyed His teachings above all else. Today many Christians call upon His name, but promote and obey teachings contrary to His, such as the promotion of the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor. If we don’t believe and obey Jesus’ teachings (and the Old Testament teachings He supported), then we really don’t believe in Him.

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~ I Am Fit To Be Used By God~

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Prisons have been in existence for thousands of years, originally as a place where people accused of crimes were held until their trial or judgment, while in more modern times imprisonment has also become a form of sentence itself. Prisons have also been used to silence or neutralize political or religious reformers. Throughout The Bible, God’s people very often found themselves in prison – in a world in which evil still reigns , their “crimes” were righteousness and truth.

Prison

Old Testament

“So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail. But The Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.” (Genesis 39:20-21 NASB) (see Coat Of Many Colors)

“She said, The Philistines are upon you, Samson! And he awoke from his sleep and said, I will go out as at other times and shake myself free. But he did not know that The Lord had departed from him. Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison. However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.” (Judges 16:20-21 NASB) (see Samson And Delilah)

“Then the officials were angry at Jeremiah [see also Prophets] and beat him, and they put him in jail in the house of Jonathan the scribe [see Scribes], which they had made into the prison. For Jeremiah had come into the dungeon, that is, the vaulted cell; and Jeremiah stayed there many days. Now King Zedekiah [see Kings of Israel and Judah] sent and took him out; and in his palace the king secretly asked him and said, Is there a word from The Lord? And Jeremiah said, There is! Then he said, You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon! [see King Nebuchadnezzar and Ancient Empires – Babylon] (Jeremiah 37:15-17 NASB)

New Testament

“For when Herod [see The Herods] had John [see John The Baptist] arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, It is not lawful for you to have her.” (Matthew 14:3-4 NASB)

“Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed. But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates, that is the sect of the Sadducees [see also Who Were The Pharisees? andSanhedrin], and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. But during the night an angel of The Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, Go, stand and speak to the people in the Temple [see Temples] the whole message of this Life.” (Acts 5:16-20 NASB)

“Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” (Acts 8:1-3 NASB)

“I persecuted this Way [see The Way] to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished. But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'” (Acts 22:4-7 NASB) (see On The Road To Damascus)

“Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church [see What Is The Church?] in order to mistreat them. And he hadJames the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers [see Roman Legions] to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of The Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, Get up quickly. And his chains fell off his hands.” (Acts 12:1-7 NASB)

2 Timothy 2:20-22

20In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

I have seen men of high achievement in the world tremble with a sense of awe as they realized that on a given occasion they were the instrument of God’s working. I can tell you from personal experience that is something that is without compare in this life. It can happen anywhere, anytime. God works in wonderful ways, not always in very dramatic ways, but in ways we do not anticipate. It can happen to anybody. Being used of God is not confined to pastors, preachers or teachers. Anybody can be an instrument in God’s hands.

In the passage we are looking at this morning from Second Timothy, Chapter 2, beginning with Verse 20, the Apostle Paul describes what it takes to be used of God.

In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for noble use, some for ignoble. If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21 RSV)

Most of the commentators take this reference to “a great house” to refer to the whole professing church. They see the church as the house of God, which is the term Paul used for this in his first letter to Timothy. But if we compare what other Scriptures say on this, we discover that Scripture itself forces us to extend this analogy not only to the church, but to the whole world. Every person in the world is a possible vessel for God to use, regardless of what his attitude to God may be.

Scripture reveals that God uses his enemies, even the devil, to accomplish his work. God’s sovereignty, his majesty, is such that no matter who we may be or what we may be like, we can be used by him. In the story of the Exodus, in the Old Testament, we learn that not only was Moses the instrument of God but so was Pharaoh. In Romans 9, Paul says that Pharaoh was used of God to resist the departure from Egypt in order that the greatness of God might be manifest. The apostle says that God raised up Pharaoh, set him on his throne, and used him for his purposes. In fact, in the ninth chapter of Romans, the 21st through the 23rd verses, the apostle uses this very same figure about vessels of mercy contrasted with vessels of wrath. He says, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?” (Romans 9:21 RSV). So Scripture itself supports the idea that God can use anybody, believer or nonbeliever.

In Isaiah we are told that Nebuchadnezzar was the servant of God (Jeremiah 27:6), even though he was a Babylonian pagan. Cyrus the Persian king is called “God’s anointed one,” (Isaiah 45:1). God speaks of him as “my shepherd” (Isaiah 44:28), though he too was an unbeliever. If we understand life from the Biblical point of view, we must know that all people can be used of God. So it is not a question of whether you are going to be used of God or not. As this passage points out, the question is, How does God plan to use you? What is he going to do with you? To what purpose is he going to put you in his program? Will it be a noble purpose, or will it be, as this version says, an ignoble? Will it be for good or bad, blessing or judgment? We need to clearly understand this fact.

Recently I saw a sign on someone’s desk that said, “It may be that my whole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.” Everyone needs a bad example as well as a good one. That may be the purpose God will put us to.The Scriptures do not teach that only the righteous people are used of God. No, God can use anyone. He used Hitler to accomplish certain purposes of judgment and correction. God uses the basest of men; we all are instruments of his work. God used Judas, placing him in the apostolic band. Jesus knew that he would betray him. Judas fulfilled the Scriptures and the predictions of the prophets on that night when he lifted up his heel against the Lord and betrayed him. So God can use anyone.

What type of vessel are you choosing to yield to today? My quest of service is to the human being that is rapidly becoming an endangered species. Our youth are targeted for prison from schools and your family members also. Please consider my passion as my part to help fit others for service in life and their communities.

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