My College Professor Was An Ex-Con…How About Yours?

It’s almost time for another year to begin at colleges and universities throughout the country.  Most students and parents have spent a lot of time visiting campuses, investigating the colleges that interest their family, narrowing down the alternatives, and finally arriving at that one special college.  The class of 2017 is almost packed and ready to head off for their new adventure.

As parents we have faith that college leaders have carefully selected the faculty members who will influence our kids.  As students we hope for the same.  We are anxious to begin the learning process by partnering with knowledgeable, respected faculty members.

Maybe not all of us are that lucky.  Recently, Fox News uncovered some startling information in an article titled, “Columbia’s Cons: Ivy League Social Work Program Run By Team of Former Prisoners”.

For about $43,000 annually you can have your children taught by convicted felons.  The best part?  You probably won’t even know it until your kids are sitting in their classroom. The ex-cons work for a program called the Criminal Justice Initiative (CJI), a subset of Columbia University.  CJI was co-founded by Kathy Boudin a reported former Weather Underground member.  Fox reported that Boudin plead guilty to felony murder for a 1981 armed robbery that left two police officers and a security guard dead. Yet, if you look at her bio on the CJI web page there is no mention of any of any time she spent in prison.

Wilkins, listed as the co-director of CJI, is an adjunct faculty member at Columbia with the title of “research scientist”.  It is reported that she was convicted for a 1996 gunpoint hijacking of an armored car.  Wilkins served a twelve-year sentence.

Mika’il DeVeaux was a keynote speaker for the CJI’s “Removing the Bars” Conference in 2012. There was no mention in his bio of the twenty-four years he served in jail for second-degree murder.

It is ridiculous that we would allow people who can’t pass a basic criminal background check to sit in classrooms and influence students without any of us having the opportunity to know their criminal backgrounds. It is sickening that any university administrators would knowingly allow this situation to develop and thrive. As university leaders we owe our students and parents an education worth their time and investment.  Choose your college or university wisely…your choice matters.

Again, I find myself hoping that folks start to grasp some Biblical wisdom such as these words found in the book of Proverbs, “Follow the steps of good men instead and stay on the paths of the righteous”.

I sure couldn’t say it any better.  Give me righteous men and women as faculty in the classroom and we can dramatically influence our world.  Is there redemption and forgiveness through Christ for those convicted of crimes?  Certainly.  But until that happens, let our students follow the righteous, not the ex-cons.

Surprise!

It seems as though I am constantly hearing people talk about change.  Folks usually talk about change as though it is some gradual event that we need to just ease into.  Frankly, most changes that I have observed have not been gradual.  The change has come as a surprise.  A frightening diagnosis from the doctor, a spouse who wants a divorce, a death in the family, a child caught in the trap of sin…there is nothing for any of us to just ease into here.  No time to sit back and get ready for it.  One word sums it up…surprise!  So rather than talk about being ready for change, I sometimes wonder if it would be better if we just said what we already know.  Some difficult surprises will come into your life.

Now, how will you react to your surprises?  Will you get angry, depressed, anxious, perhaps even start to question God’s faithfulness?  How many of you will start singing praises to God?  Maybe that one isn’t at the top of your list but let me take you to Acts chapter 16.  Paul and Silas had just cast out a demon from a young girl and suddenly found themselves standing before city officials surrounded by a large crowd. Both men were beaten with wooden rods and then thrown into jail.  Surprise!

The jails in this point in time were horrible places.  A man by the name of Apablaza conducted a study called Conditions of Prisons in the First Century.  Here are some of the things he found about prisons like the one Paul and Silas were in.

  • Prisons were often packed beyond capacity resulting in unbearable heat and dehydration of prisoners.
  • For security reasons the prisons had no windows often resulting in lack of air sometimes at a dangerous level.
  • Most prisons had no light and the psychological impact on prisoners was tremendous.
  • Prisoners were chained by their arms, legs or both.  Each chain weighed about fourteen pounds and the weight would become debilitating.
  • Many of the dead would be piled in a corner of the jail to be taken away at a later time.

Yet, Paul and Silas are sitting in the dark, suffering the pain of a beating, chained, and they were singing hymns to God.  As they are singing God performs a miracle that ultimately releases them from prison.

What are the lessons here?  Surprises are coming.  Don’t ever lose hope in God.  He does have a plan for you.  Whatever you are facing today, trust in God and like Paul and Silas your miracle might be right around the corner.

What Are You Thinking?

Some of my thoughts today are from a book titled, Thinking For A Change written by John Maxwell.  In that book Maxwell tells the story of two sisters.  One sister just got word that she was accepted to the college of her choice. She was so excited to have earned the opportunity for a future career.  The other sister leaned over to her mom and said this, I feel so sorry for my sister.  She has to go to school four more years!

This story illustrates the underlying foundation of the book.  Successful people think differently than unsuccessful people. In our story, one sister thought about the wonderful opportunity she had been given to attend college and start a career.  The other sister thought about all the time, effort, and work it would take to get through four years of college…two totally different ways of thinking.

What do you think about every day?  Do you even take time to deliberately think about the future or are you just trying to get through the day.  Maxwell said this about the power of thinking.

  • Unsuccessful people focus their thinking on survival
  • Average people focus their thinking on maintenance
  • Successful people focus their thinking on progress

If you aren’t doing it yet, may I encourage you to spend some time each day deliberately thinking? A good way to get started is to spend some time at the end of each day reflecting on your day.  Examine what was successful in your day.  What decisions did you make that led to successful outcomes? What decisions did you make that led to negative outcomes?  How could you have made your daily decisions better? If you will take fifteen minutes at the end of each day and reflect on the decisions you made during that day, you will learn tremendous lessons that you can use tomorrow.

Some of you may remember an old movie called Groundhog Day.  In that movie the main character continued to live the same day over and over again.  I hope you aren’t trapped in a similar situation.  If you feel like you are simply repeating your workdays, break free by thinking deliberately each day, learn from the lessons of the day that God is teaching you, and apply new ideas to your life.

Former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch once said this. 99.9 percent of all employees are in the pile because they don’t think.  Don’t be one of many struggling in the employee pile. Spend some time thinking and live the exciting, creative life God has planned for you.

Out of Control

Recently PJMedia printed an article about “Jesus stomping”.  Let me tell you what was reported in the article.  A professor at Florida Atlantic university instructed his students to write the word “Jesus” on a piece of paper.  After doing so the students were told to place the paper on the ground and stomp on it.  This was all part of the learning process in a class called Intercultural Communication. A student by the name of Ryan Rotella was so incensed by this action that he refused to comply with the instruction and complained to university officials saying that this action offended his religious principles.  Ryan reported that Florida Atlantic University administrators then suspended him from the class.

A local news station, WPEC, contacted Florida Atlantic University for their side of the story.  Here is the quote from officials at the university concerning this issue:

Faculty and students at academic institutions pursue knowledge and engage in open discourse. While at times the topics discussed may be sensitive, a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate.

Let me say that I haven’t heard anything so foolish in a long time.  Under the guise of academic freedom and open discourse this university is clearly showing a lack of tolerance for anyone who desires to worship Jesus Christ.  Imagine if this same professor had asked students to put the name of the university president on a piece of paper and stomp on it.  I can assure you that professor would be looking for another place to teach.  Yet again we are faced with a culture that asks Christians to be tolerant of their beliefs but let’s go ahead and stomp on the name of Jesus.

This isn’t an isolated incident in the secular world of higher education.  I hope parents carefully examine any college or university before entrusting these institutions with their precious children.  What a waste of tuition money.  What a waste of educational time.  What a waste of an education.  Stomping on the name of Jesus.  Really? That’s the best instructional method the professor could think of to use in his classroom?  I can assure you that professor wouldn’t make the first cut at Toccoa Falls College.

Not My Problem!

We all have problems and throughout our lives we will experience more problems of varying degrees.  It just makes me shake my head when I observe followers of Christ who either don’t believe they should experience problems or they complain loudly about the problems they are facing.

I remember the true story of a man who faced terrible adversity in his life.  He lost his possessions. His farm workers were killed by criminals. His children were killed in a horrible accident. He lost his health. His friends asked him what sins he had committed in his life to cause all this anguish. He even lost the support of his wife who suggested that her husband just curse God and die. Do you know whom I’m talking about?  Yes…it’s Job.

Even when confronted with all these problems here was Job’s reply as recorded in the Bible, Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.

Isn’t that a remarkable response? When is the last time we faced difficult issues and said to our family and friends, Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? What Job was really saying is this; If we are followers of Christ let’s act like it. Let’s be an example of the character of Christ.

Let’s not complain like many in the world do.  Let’s not feel sorry for ourselves.  Let’s not quit and throw in the towel.  Instead, let’s understand that problems will be a part of life but we serve a God greater than our problems.  Let’s show others the joy that comes from following Christ.  Let our behavior in the tough times cause others to ask why we are different. Let our examples be the motivation for others to develop a desire to also follow Christ.

Who Do You Really Want To Be?

Have you ever asked yourself who you really want to be?  Notice I didn’t ask you what you want to be but rather who do you want to be?

When I am at social gatherings it is amusing for me to watch the interaction among people.  After learning someone’s name, men generally follow up with the second question.  So, what do you do?

We live in a world where our worth is often linked to our job. However, we know that nothing could be further from the truth.  We see people every day who have high power jobs but yet are falling prey to the sins of the world. A United States president accused of involvement in Watergate who ultimately resigned.  Another US president accused of an inappropriate relationship with an intern.  A military general accused of an inappropriate relationship with a business associate. Business executives indicted for criminal activity. These folks know what they want to be but they have struggled with who they want to be.

I can’t help but think of the life of Joseph, detailed in the book of Genesis, when I think of someone who clearly knew what he wanted to be.  Here is a young man who was tempted with sexual immorality by the wife of his boss.  Even when tempted Joseph replied to her, How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.  Joseph understood who he wanted to be.  He wanted to be a man that followed after the heart of God.  He wasn’t about to let anything destroy his relationship with his God.

So who do you want to be? Do you want to follow after the desires of man or do you want to follow the character of Christ?  Follow God or follow man?  You must pick one. You can’t serve both.

I hope today you make the decision about who you want to be.  Be that person who pursues a relationship with God and builds their character on solid Godly principles.

My New Year’s Resolution is…

Every New Year I listen to folks talk about their resolutions.  I am going to lose weight.  I am going to stop smoking.  I am going to run everyday.  I am going to spend more time with my family.  Did you know that very few New Year’s resolutions ever become reality?

According to ABC News, fifty-eight percent of Americans younger than 45 will make a New Year’s resolution.  In this same 2011 ABC News study, forty percent of those who made a New Year’s resolution didn’t keep it at all.  The remaining sixty percent kept it for at least part of the year.  Do you wonder why so many resolutions are never kept?  Perhaps it is because of one simple letter that started this discussion…the letter “I”.  Remember…I am going to lose weight. I am going to stop smoking. I am going to run everyday.

If we listen to some of the studies on New Year’s resolutions maybe we can see how little we really can do by ourselves.  Maybe it’s time for each of us to let God change us from the inside out.  As the New Year arrives, may I challenge you to make a resolution with a difference?  Will you let God direct your steps this year?

It’s never too late.  No matter what mess you find yourself in this New Year you have a chance to make a resolution involving God that will stick.  In Luke 23 we read the story of the crucifixion of Jesus.  As you may recall, two men were crucified with Jesus.  If these men were being put to death, you know they had done some terrible things.  Yet, while hanging on a cross, one of these men said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.  Jesus replied, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.  You see, it really is that simple.  A man condemned to death simply resolved to follow Jesus and his life was changed forever.

Will you make a change today that will not only impact the upcoming year but will transform the rest of your life?  As you consider your New Year’s resolution, pick one that will really matter.  Have the resolve to follow Jesus and let your life be changed forever.