Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Making Ourselves Available to God... Part 3

With what has been going on in Japan since the earthquake, have you thought about going there to help? Most people I know are too scared of possible nuclear contamination from the damaged power plant to consider ‘exposing’ themselves to such risk. But, what if that is precisely what God is desiring of us? Although the country is far from poor and can mobilize their own people into action, what if this event can be used to glorify God, especially by having us, the church body, go into the one place everyone else is too afraid?

We come from a legacy of christian people who were willing to go beyond the ‘safe’ to help provide medical aid and spread the word of Christ’s redeeming love by living out what it means - to give more of ourselves than can ever be expected in return. Christ doesn’t love us because He expects us to love Him back. He loves us because that is His nature. And He calls us to do the same.

So what if like me, you cannot go to Japan to help? Then how do you do more here, at ‘home’?

Give. Advocate. Volunteer.

If you are opposed or too fearful to visit inmates, then consider another opportunity that will keep you from ever setting foot in a prison or jail: VOA - Volunteers of America.

Today, Volunteers of America works at the forefront to help serve the more than 650,000 prisoners returning each year. The organization develops innovative community-based programs that help reduce recidivism, create safer neighborhoods, reduce crime and ensure the successful re-integration of ex-offenders into their home communities.

One such way is by tutoring those who have been released so they can earn a high-school G.E.D., and potentially get a job.

Although the fruit of my efforts to teach Christ and encourage personal discovery of faith were not realized while I was incarcerated, God was able to use me in ways I never expected, through teaching physical fitness, and by tutoring. I watched as one 45 year-old man walked out on his release date to the loving arms of his two teenage children, and while in tears he was able to explain how he made the time useful - by earning a GED. Even though I could not hear what was said, I could see the pride for their father. What he did as a crime to earn prison time, God was able to use to provide healing, and a fresh start.

I am no longer content with investing myself less,

and find I am only truly happy when I give of myself more,

especially in what God calls me to.


Can you hear Him calling to you?


What has He placed on your heart?

On Friday: A brief history of the legacy of love the early Christians left for us to emulate.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Jobless Criminals

If you have been reading this blog for long, then you know that my heart belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. And you also know that I have a place for the "uglier" parts of our society, the criminals in our midst.
We have created a system of second-class citizens because we want nothing from “them”, and we want to give “them” even less.
“Sixty-five million of our American neighbors—or one in four adults—have a criminal record. This may come from a crime for which one is found guilty, or even has charges against them dropped because the investigators later determine the person was wrongly accused. However, the damage is done, and an ‘arrest record’ has been created. So now many employers routinely post job ads that explicitly exclude such applicants.
The practice appears to be against the law, and at a time of record long-term joblessness, advocates for the poor say it places yet another obstacle in front of the people who need jobs most, those who want to get their life back on track. In addition, there's widespread agreement that helping those with criminal records to find stable employment is crucial for preventing future crime and a return to incarceration, increasing the costs to the government, and in turn to tax-payers. Indeed, that's the reason the government runs programs (Federal Bonding) designed to make it easier for ex-offenders to find work by offering insurance bonds to the hiring companies. Yet, it is still not available to all those who have been convicted, and it is not a sure way to encourage employers, even if they know such a program is in existence.” (See the full article here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110323/ts_yblog_thelookout/help-wanted-sixty-five-million-need-not-apply)

Our way of doing things now doesn’t work effectively or efficiently, but most of us don’t want to get our hands “dirty”, or put forth the effort it will take to make a lasting change. Whether you can make a difference or not, many of us won’t stop, even once, to consider how we might help.

Let me create a picture for you of the world I see: broken families, the poor & sick, the homeless, those on welfare, the mentally ill, the unwanted, uneducated, rampant addictions, then additional crimes, and children without stability to repeat the cycle.

So what are we-Christians known for? 

When the world seems dark, light enters in.

God infiltrates and works to save us. 

Help me live in the joy of Your forgiveness.

Show me how to find the light in the darkness.


Next week is the wrap-up to “Being Available to God - Part 3.”

The another series begins on the struggles to find work as a criminal.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making Ourselves Available To God... Part 2

When we are available to God, lives change. First, we allow Him to mold us in a new way. Sometimes it is uncomfortable, and maybe even painful during the process as He removes parts of our character that were not inherently ‘bad’, but that previously kept Him from using us to further His kingdom. To become available, we must submit and surrender ourselves to His will.

“When we submit, we "give in," keeping the focus on ourselves.

When we surrender, we "give up," putting the focus where it belongs: on God.”

Early on in this life change for me, I learned I would undoubtedly be going to prison. (to understand why, read more from the Feb. 1 post: http://americancriminal.net/will-criminals-reform-change.)

At that moment, I relinquished to God that which remained, my future, and His use of me while in prison. The day I awoke in jail, I surrendered to God my plans, my life, my control. When I learned that prison was inevitable, I submitted to Him again, so that He could use me in “that place.”

Although it may be unthinkable, there was joy during the time I served because men did come to me to learn more about God, to discuss becoming a Christian, and to discover why I had a personal ‘peace’.

However let me be very clear, no one converted to Christ because I led them. It would have been great to do that, but it was not part of God’s plan for me. However, He was able to use me to teach, to mentor, to lead small groups in bible study. I was available to God for planting seeds in Christ, but someone else will be needed to water and fertilize, then reap the harvest for Him.

“Are you closer to God today than you were a year ago?

If not, could it be because the soil of your heart is unyielding, making you unavailable to His cause?”

Countdown: 46 Weeks...

This post picks up the title thread from last Tuesday. For those of you unfamiliar with this blog, I write it twice a week on both Tuesday and Friday. It will be completed the week of February 5th, 2012. (to understand why, read more from the March 8 post: http://americancriminal.net/48-months-ago-and-48-weeks-ahead.)