On July 21, the House Education and Labor committee marked up HR 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, by a vote of 30-17 - the single largest investment in higher education in history that will significantly reduce loan debt burden for college graduates, according to The Institute for College Access & Success.
HR 3221 reinvigorates the Pell Grant program, which provides need-based aid to over 7 million current college students. The bill raises the Pell Grant maximum to $5,550 for students of the most modest means, and guarantees that the Pell Grant amount will increase thereafter on a yearly basis by the cost of living plus 1 percent.
It also cuts the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans, and invests in community college access programs that should help hundreds of thousands of students get to graduation.
These investments are paid for by cutting excessive lender subsidies from within the loan programs, and redirecting those funds toward higher education. read more
Watch testimonies from young women healed of a myriad of addictions through the Mercy Ministries program in Nashville, Tenn. Also watch an interview by Joyce Meyer with the ministry's founder, Nancy Alcorn.
Although many people might believe angels exist, that's where the consensus ends on this controversial topic. Do angels come and talk with humans? Can anyone see an angel? Watch and read testimonies of angelic manifestations on earth.
Around the world and around the corner, ordinary people are helping to abolish this form of modern-day slavery. You can be one of them. (All scriptures are NKJ unless noted.)
He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger [foreigner], giving him food and clothing (Deuteronomy 10:18)
Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy (Psalm 82:3).
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed (Psalm 85:10).
Justice and judgment are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth shall go before Your face (Psalm 89:14).
There is no end to the increase of His government and of peace on the throne of David, and on His kingdom, to order it, and to sustain it with justice and with righteousness, from now and forever. The zeal of Jehovah of Hosts will do this (Isaiah 9:7).
So says Jehovah, Keep judgment and do justice; for My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed (Isaiah 56:1).
I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor (Psalm 140:12).
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity (Proverbs 1:3).
To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3).
If you see the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, do not marvel at the matter. For He who is higher than the highest watches (Ecclesiastes 5:8).
Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and one who did not forget the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in drawing near to God (Isaiah 58:2).
None calls for justice, nor does anyone plead for truth; they trust in vanity and speak lies. They conceive mischief and bring out iniquity...Therefore judgment is far from us; nor does justice overtake us. We wait for light, but behold, dimness; for brightness, but we walk in darkness (Isaiah 59:4, 9).
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NAS).
Behold, the days come, says Jehovah, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and act wisely, and shall do judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely. And this is His name by which He shall be called, Jehovah, Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5-6). Righteousness = "altogether just"
The Lord, the habitation of justice (Jeremiah 50:7).
Let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream (Amos 5:24). read more
Around the world and around the corner, ordinary people are helping to abolish this form of modern-day slavery. You can be one of them.
"I've found Twitter to be a surprisingly helpful tool in connecting with other human rights advocates," noted Stephanie Hamilton of Nowhere2Hide. "Most of the networking I've done has originated through Twitter. Phone calls, emails, [and] face-to-face meetings have all been arranged through this social networking tool that many people have deemed fun but without much merit." If you're on Twitter, you can find fellow abolitionists to follow here and here. read more
Diana Scimone: You recently started working at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking of Persons. What's your vision as the new director?
Ambassador CdeBaca: One of the main things we're trying to do, speaking for myself, Secretary Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama, is to have a sustained anti-trafficking movement that harnesses all the voices of folks moved to do something about modern-day slavery-and then take that to the next level.
In January 2001, the work of the Clinton administration was continued and intensified by the Bush administration. That's one of the things we're hoping to continue-to harness that activity and commitment on the part of civil society. That can be human rights groups, mission groups, folks in the community, worker organizers, women's groups-all of those groups, each of which brings something to the table. At the end of the day, we're talking sustainability and intensity.
DS: How have things changed since you first got involved?
LCdB: I think about the first case I did in Florida in the mid 1990s as a civil rights prosecutor. To the degree that we even knew about this thing called human trafficking, we could have had a meeting of all the people who were involved in the fight back then and met in a minivan. Maybe a Volkswagen.
Today there is this [understanding] that folks in the non-government sector are just as important to the fight as any dedicated cop or prosecutor. It really has grown past those of us who started working on it [15 years ago]. We're in a good position now, that we're able to tap into the real energy coming not from people who've been working at this for a decade, but people who are just getting involved in the fight.
DS: What do you tell people who hear the horror stories and want to do something about it, but say, "I can't rescue a child from a brothel. What can I possibly do to help?"
LCdB: A lot of people sell themselves short. They say, "I'm not the attorney general, so I can't put together a task force in my state." You can do a lot more than you think. You can go to the AG or your mayor, and say, "Our state should be addressing the root causes of trafficking in our borders. We should be doing something to reduce the demand. We should be helping the newly arrived and vulnerable immigrants, or the street people who are written off as disposable. We not only want, but we demand that trafficking victims be treated professionally."
That's when you start seeing shelters go up, when you start seeing victims being helped and put into places where they can receive help.
There are lots of different ways to get engaged on a grassroots level. Put together a house party and ask people to bring clothes they're no longer wearing so that women and men who are rescued can have something to wear for a job interview. When someone flees through a window, they don't have anything but the clothes the traffickers were making them wear. Having a sweater and a decent skirt can make a difference to them.
DS: When you and Secretary of State Clinton released department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), you said you'd like to add a 4th "P" to the categories of fighting trafficking-partnership. [The other Ps are prosecution, protection, and prevention.] What was behind that suggestion?
LCdeB: A lot of countries see the TIP Report as the U.S. coming to them and saying how bad they are. We wanted to make it very clear by releasing the U.S. government self assessment at the same time that we have people still in bondage right here in the U.S. They're in our agricultural fields; they're in prostitution; they're in many places.
We realize we have to work in partnership with those around the world who are working to stop human trafficking. When President Obama was in Ghana recently, he gave a speech to the parliament and talked about trafficking heroes. He mentioned a journalist in that country who went undercover and helped bring down a trafficking ring.
While the president was in Ghana, I was in Nigeria meeting with cops who work to stop trafficking and with nuns who operate a shelter for trafficking victims. When they heard the president speak, even though he was talking about what was happening in a different country, they felt it was recognizing what they are doing and how hard they are working.
These are the trafficking heroes and we want to work in partnership with them and others who know their own affected populations. read more
Convoy of Hope exists to feed millions of people in need in the United States and around the world through children’s nutrition initiatives, citywide outreaches and disaster response. http://www.convoyofhope.org/
New York City Relief exists to connect the poor, oppressed, and addicted with a pathway toward help and hope. Through outreach partnerships, we seek to be a bridge between the needs on the street and resources in the community to meet those needs. These things we do…that others may live. http://www.nycr.org/
Since forgiveness is a choice, what is the next step? If we are persuaded that it is right and have decided to do it (and not look back), what next?
1. Make the deliberate and irrevocable choice not to tell anyone what they did. You may need to do this for therapeutic reasons, but only to one person who in turn will never reveal your heart. Jesus also said that the one who is faithful in the least thing is faithful also in much, and this is the first thing. Do not mention it; refuse to tell anybody.
This isn't necessarily easy sometimes, but when our motive is to hurt another person by telling on them, there is sin on our part. So do not tell it at all or in part; keep it quiet.
2. Be pleasant to them should you be around them. Do not say or do anything that would make them anxious. Put them at ease. This can be hard to do, certainly harder than the first step. It is we who are afraid when we can't forgive. When we pass our fear to them, it is utterly the opposite of what Jesus would do. He would say, "Fear not." Josif Tson says that there are 366 statements of "Do not fear" (or the equivalent) in the Bible-"One for every day of the year and one for leap year!" he says. God does not want us to fear; we must not do or say anything to cause others to fear. Be nice. Put them at ease. This is what Jesus did when He turned up after His resurrection to 10 disciples behind closed doors. (See John 20:19).
3. If conversation ensues, say that which would set them free from guilt. Guilt is most painful, and we can easily punish people by sending them on a "guilt trip." Never do that. Remember that Jesus doesn't want us to feel guilty. When we are going to be Jesus to another, then we will not want them to be angry with themselves.
This is a hard one. We get some satisfaction when we think they feel really, really bad. That defuses us and eases our anger somewhat. But if we want to be valiant and utterly magnanimous—thus showing true godliness—we will say whatever is the equivalent of Joseph's words: "Do not be angry with yourselves" (Gen. 45:5). Joseph would not allow his brothers to feel guilty, and this is a choice we too must make. It's hard, but it is what we would want if things were reversed and we needed forgiveness. "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31).
4. Let them feel good about themselves. Not only does this mean never reminding them of their wrong and your hurt, but it also means helping them through any guilt they may have. This can be done without any reference to what they did. If it is not in the open, as with Joseph's situation, that is of course different; he let his brothers save face by showing God's sovereign strategy in their sin. But in many cases you will not be able to talk about anything specifically. You can still let them save face, because you know that they know what they did.
You therefore must behave as though you don't even think they did anything wrong! That is hard for all of us, but it must be done. Say whatever you can (as long as it is true) that will give that person a sense of dignity. That is the point of Galatians 6:1: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." As long as there is a trace of self-righteousness and pointing the finger, your attempt at total forgiveness will backfire.
5. Protect them from their greatest fear. If you are aware of some deep, dark secret and fear they have, they will probably know that you know. If they can tell by your graciousness that their secret will never be revealed—ever—to anyone, they will be relieved. You only tell them when you know they know what you know, and you are convinced this would make them feel better. If by reminding them it would obviously not make them feel better, don't even come close!
Remember that Joseph knew his brothers' greatest fear was that their father, Jacob, would learn the truth of their evil deed. Joseph never mentioned this directly but suggested they speak to Jacob in such a way that they wouldn't have to tell him after all. (See Genesis 45:9-13.) It must have given the brothers incalculable relief to know that they were not obliged to tell Jacob. But that is what total forgiveness is all about: setting people free.
6. Keep it up today, tomorrow, this year and next. Total forgiveness is a lifelong commitment. Some days will be easier than others. There will come a time when you think you are completely over it and have won a total victory—only to find the very next day Satan reminds you of what they did and the utter injustice that they will be unpunished and never exposed. The temptation to bitterness will emerge. After all, we're not perfect! If we say we have no sin—that we are incapable of the same old bitterness—we are deceived (1 John 1:8).
This is exactly why I read Luke 6:37 every day: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." All commitments to forgive need renewal. In my case, daily. I am not telling you that this is what you must do, but be warned: the devil is cunning. He will come through the back door unexpectedly and try to upset you for forgiving. When you forgave your enemy, you then and there removed that open invitation to the devil to get inside. Satan's favorite rationale is bitterness—he therefore will keep trying to get back into your thought life.
Whether it be Luke 6:37 or another way forward in your case—even if you aren't required to keep it up each day—I can tell you right now that it is only a matter of time before your commitment to forgive will need to be renewed.
7. Pray for them. "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). When you do this from the heart—praying for them to be blessed and off the hook—you're there. It is not a perfunctory prayer, not a "We commit them to You" prayer, and certainly not an "Oh God, please deal with them" prayer. It is praying that God will forgive them—that is, overlook what they have done and bless and prosper them as though they'd never sinned at all.
But as John Calvin said, doing this is "exceedingly difficult." As Chrysostom said, it is the very highest summit of self-control. "Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city" (Prov. 16:32).
Praying for the one who has hurt you or let you down is the greatest challenge of all, for all three reasons:
1. You take a route utterly against the flesh. 2. Nobody will every know you are doing it. 3. Your heart could break when God answers that prayer and truly blesses them as if they'd never sinned.
And yet Jesus's word to pray for such people is not a polite suggestion; it is a command—and one that may seem so outrageous that you want to dismiss it out of hand. Some see it as a lofty but unrealistic goal.
I remember a church leader turning to me to pray about his son-in-law who had been unfaithful to the leader's daughter. He said to me that his own prayer was only this: that God would "deal" with this man. "This is where I have to come to," he said to me, "that God will deal with him."
I understood what he meant, and I felt for him. I find what people do to our own offspring the hardest things to forgive. I therefore understood what he was feeling. A few days later it was reported that this leader's son-in-law had been in a serious accident. This same church leader was on the phone, glad that the accident had happened. Now in this particular case there was nothing sinister in this euphoria. He simply hoped that the accident would wake up his son-in-law to put his marriage back together. It was so understandable.
But this is not what Jesus means. He is commanding us to pray that our enemy will be blessed. If, however, you should pray that they will be cursed or punished instead of being blessed, just remember that is how your enemy possibly feels about you. After all, have you ever been someone's enemy? Have you ever done something that brought a fellow Christian to tears and brokenness? If so, how would you like that person to pray for you? That God will deal with you? That God will cause you to have an accident? Yet how would it make you feel if they prayed that you would be blessed and let off the hook? That you would prosper as if you'd never sinned? Would you not like that? "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31).
Jesus wants a sincere prayer from us. It is like signing your name to a document, having it witnessed, and never looking back. You are not allowed to tell the world, "Guess what I did? I have actually prayed for my unfaithful spouse to be blessed." No. It is quiet. Only the angels witness it, but it makes God very happy.
After all, every parent wants their children to get along with one another. No parent likes it when one child comes and squeals on the other and demands that they be punished. The poor parent is put on the spot. What gladdens the heart of every parent is when there is love and forgiveness, and the parent is not put on the spot to have to take sides and punish anyone. That is what we do for God when we ask that He bless and not curse. He told us to pray for our enemies, "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteousness" (Matt. 5:45).
Help others learn to read by volunteering as a tutor to help illiterate children and adults with Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. Help transform someone's life today by teaching this important and necessary skill.
Offer to babysit, sometimes parents need a break. If a friend or other loved one in your life doesn't get that chance very often, call them and offer to babysit sometime. It can make a big difference.
Save a life by giving blood. The American Red Cross estimates that "every two seconds someone in America needs blood" and over 4 million Americans donate to the cause. To learn more about donating blood visit your local American Red Cross.
Clean out the garage. No doubt you've got a garage or basement full of stuff you've been meaning to get rid of. Consider having a garage sale and donating the proceeds to a local charity, food pantry or ministry.
For those who like to knit and crochet: Knit for Kids has a program to supply sweaters for children of poverty all over the world.
Many senior citizen centers offer volunteer programs to provide friendship and community activities to senior citizens. Call your local senior citizen center and volunteer your time. read more