November 2019 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

Greetings Brother,

Mama says, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  With all the negativity going on in the world around us it is clear to me that people don’t listen to their mamas!  From the president on down shouting rude, derogatory, inflammatory rhetoric has become the norm.  From two-bit, tin pot dictators shouting “Death!” to their enemies to hate groups of every color and creed preaching doctrines based on imagined superiority or persecution to self-justify their acts of terror, the world has reached the brink of a new age.  An age where civility and reason no longer have the power to persuade, and arguments are won by the person with the loudest voice.  A world were lone gunmen strike without warning after posting diatribes on the internet; police kill unarmed suspects simply because they perceive every response as hostile; teachers are trained to carry guns and shoot to kill, even if the attacker is their own student; and candlelight vigils end in further tragedy.

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving.  A day of remembrance for an intrepid group who fled religious persecution in Europe to start a new life in the new world.  While we tend to focus on the feast, it was what led up to it that was important.  The Pilgrims were a religious sect of Christians that held different beliefs than the state sponsored church in England.  They spoke kindly when faced with insults.  They acted with dignity when faced with angry mobs.  They lived lives of simplicity in a complex society.  They were the victims of hate crimes, state sponsored terrorism, and socio-economic discrimination just because they wanted to live free in peace to worship God in their own way.  So, the Pilgrims chose to go to a land which few people had seen and of which little was known.   They were entering a new age.

An earlier attempt to carve out an outpost in the new world at Jamestown by others had mysteriously ended in failure, so they were heading into the great unknown.  The journey was difficult, and some did not survive.  All that was waiting for them was hard-work, deprivation, and unimaginable suffering.  The land was full of dangers and the process of building a community in the wilderness was difficult.  If it wasn’t for the fact that they made friends with the natives of the area they wouldn’t have survived.  Through it all they held strongly to their faith in God.  They trusted Him for their provisions and did not curse Him when another person died.  After their first successful harvest they chose to give thanks to God.  They didn’t claim victory in God’s name.  They didn’t pat themselves on the back and congratulate each other for a job well done.  They humbly acknowledged that God was faithful and had supplied what they needed to live.

As Christians living in this era, we don’t have a new world that we can travel to so we can start over.  Until Christ returns to lead us home, we must live in this world.  In his high priestly prayer Jesus prayed:

“My Prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be sanctified.  My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

John 15:15-21

The writer of Hebrews said our focus in this world must be to run the race of life with patient endurance, to keep our eyes on the prize (Hebrews 12:1).  The Apostle Paul described the importance of having self-discipline in order to win and not be disqualified (2 Timothy 4, 1 Corinthians 9).  The Apostle Peter wrote to the members of the early church encouraging them to be like-minded, sympathetic; to love one another; to be compassionate and humble; to not repay evil for evil or insult with insult, instead repaying evil with blessings (1 Peter 3).  To be a “peculiar people” using the old King James version of 1 Peter 2:9.  As Christians we are called to be the modern-day Pilgrims living a lifestyle that distinguishes us from the society around us.  We are to be strangers living in a strange land.

Our speech is one area where we can distinguish ourselves from the world.  James the brother of Jesus cautioned about the power of the tongue, noting that praises to God and curses to man can’t both come out of our mouths (James 3).  We must speak the truth in love to everyone and use words to build up not tear down others.  Ephesians 5:19-20 says that we are to “speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  We are to create a soundtrack of praise to accompany our lives.

During Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem the Pharisees asked Jesus to silence his disciples and the others who were shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” But Jesus replied, “if they keep quiet even the rocks will cry out” (Luke 19:37-40).  As Christians it is our role, our responsibility, our mission in life to give praise to God the Father and Jesus Christ his son.  We need to acknowledge that everything comes from God, even in the midst of our darkest circumstances.  Sitting in jail Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns at midnight, and then God moved in a mighty way not only saving them from their situation but also saved the souls of the jailer and his entire family (Acts 16:25-34).  It was because of experiences like this that Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  You never know who might be listening to your testimony of praise and the effect it will have on them. 

In Psalms 106:1 it says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, and his love endures forever.” This is what the Pilgrims did that first Thanksgiving.  They declared a day to acknowledge what God had done for them, giving thanks for the harvest, their religious freedom, and their lives.  Here we are 378 years later commemorating that first Thanksgiving and adding our voices to theirs, praising God for what He has done for us.  

You are in my thoughts and prayers. You are not forgotten. Your Brother in Christ.

August 2016 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)


As you leave prison know that you don’t go out in the same condition as you came in. According to 2 Corinthians 5:7, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” Also know that you don’t go alone. Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds us that God has promised that “He will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper: I will not fear. What can man do to us?'”

In addition to God watching over you, Jesus interceding for you at the right hand of the throne, and the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you, you have your Brothers in Christ rooting for you. Know that you are never alone or far from our thoughts, no matter how may miles away you travel.

No matter what labels or names man may call you, the only name you answer to is “child of God.” Claim the words that the Lord spoke to the prophet in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you not to harm you; to give you hope and a future.”

It has been both an honor and my solemn responsibility to tutor you in school, mentor you in our shared faith, and to call you friend. I have every confidence that you will complete your education and accomplish anything else you set your mind to. Jesus said in Mark 9:23, “all things are possible to him who believes.”

Remember the lessons I have taught you: study hard, take notes, and share your new found knowledge with others. Keep asking the questions: Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why. Wherever you go make sure to seek out a mature Brother in Christ to mentor and befriend you. Don’t be afraid to admit your weaknesses. Remember the words the Lord spoke to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Until we meet again, whether it be in this life or the next. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling. And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”

Your Brother in Christ.

January 2017 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

Greetings Brother,

I hope the new year will treat you better. I’m still vacuuming up glitter around here. I think 75% of the Christmas cards in the store had glitter on them. The new ornaments had glitter on them. My mother’s stylist even wanted to put glitter in her hair at Christmas. I’m glad I could share some of this year’s holiday trends with you.

I knew it was the Holy Spirit that prompted me to look up your address and include you in my Christmas mailing. I’m glad to be an encouragement to you. That is the very heart of my ministry. No one can understand the prisoner better than one who has been in the same place.

May the peace of God which surpasses human understanding guard your heart and soul in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:7 Even before finishing your letter I began praying for you and your whole family. Being locked up and helpless to assist during a time of family crisis is one of the worst aspects of incarceration. I empathize with how you are feeling and the concern that you have.

It was heartening to read that you are praying more. I have learned that prayer changes the one who prays it, even if you don’t see any response from the heavenly Father. So keep it up. We grow stronger as we surrender both our hopes and our fears to the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. Faith requires trust, so trust that God will heal in a way that is in his will. I will pass along your request for additional prayer from my church. I know from firsthand experience that “the earnest fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much” and that many hands make light work. When we ask anything in Jesus name he hears and honors our request.

Here it is near the end of January and I am sitting on the back patio wearing only sweats, writting this letter, drinking a cup of coffee, while listening to the birds and watching the squirrels play and soak up the sun. A widow maker fell in my yard, so yesterday I was out in the backyard with my brother working in the rain to cut up a fallen tree with a chainsaw. Sure beats shoveling snow.

Since one of my goals is to encourage those behind bars, feel free to give my mailing address to any Brother that wants a penpal. I want to make sure that guys are getting birthday and Christmas cards. It brought tears to my eyes to think that you haven’t been getting cards. The only ones I received this year were from Brothers behind bars and I treasure them. I’ve reached out to old friends and haven’t gotten any replys. But given how I used to be, I’m not suprised. I probably wouldn’t write me either. They don’t know the same guy you do.

I’ve started a daily devotional by Tim Keller that looks at the Book of Psalms verse by verse over an entire year. I’ve also got two books on prayer to read next from my mother’s library, one by Charles Spurgeon and the other by Andrew Murry. I don’t seem to have enough time to read everything that I want to. While I’m not getting as much writting done as I would like, I do have plenty of material to work with.

I did manage to write a brief meditation for you:

“When Ephraim spoke people trembled; he was exalted in Isreal. But he became guilty of Baal worship and died. Now they sin more and more; they make idols for themselves from their silver, cleverly fashioned images, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of these people, ‘They offer human sacrifices!’ ‘They kiss calf-idols!'”

Hosea 13:1-2 NIV

In this modern era there is still human sacrifice. We sacrifice our wives and children for the sake of our careers, our pleasures, and our selfish desires. What ever idol we place ahead of God and our family will destroy all that we shoud have held near and dear to our hearts. We hurt them deeply, often to the death of the relationship, as we vainly persue activities that have no eternal value, whose return on investment will utlimately cost us everything we have.

I learned this the hard way. Now I make an effort every day to put God first, then family, and things last. It is I who must be the sacrifice, but the rewards are worth it. I’m much happier now and experiencing less stress and more love towards God, my family, and myself.

Know that God is watching over you. Please keep in touch, update me with any changes to your or your family’s situation so I can pray for your specific needs. My heart goes out to you and your family. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” -James 5:7 I look forward to hearing good reports from you soon.

Keep the faith. Know that you are not forgotten. Your Brother in Christ.

May 2017 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

Greetings Brother,

Thank you for your letter.  I was glad to hear how God has blessed you.  I pray that your time goes quickly and that before you know it, you’ll be home.  How goes the exercise routine?  I’ve settled into 5 days a week on an exercise bike (easier on the knees) and some free weight toning; low weight, high reps.   And lots of physical labor.  I moved a pile of dirt from the driveway to the back yard that was as big as a Volkswagen Beetle to try and fill in some spots that weren’t able to grow anything. I also put in some new flower beds.  With the weather turning warmer I’m trying to spend more time outside working in the yard.

I can’t spend the hours like we used to, walking the track in the big yard, and using all the exercise equipment.  I certainly wish I had access to a weight room.  My work out routine is more like Rocky when he fought the Russian.  He used what was available while his opponent used the latest high-tech workout equipment.  While we were dedicated to spending time nearly every day getting in whatever we could, we certainly weren’t as hardcore as some of the other guys.  If helped us manage stress and diet but certainly didn’t turn us into Greek gods.

I was reading in II Kings and was struck by the words in chapter 17 verse 15, “They followed worthless idols and they themselves became worthless.” You become what you worship.  If your worship money you become an ungiving tightwad without charity. If you worship beauty you become fixated on beautiful people, choosing to discriminate based on outward appearance rather than the heart; a rather shallow perspective on life. If you worship pleasure, you seek out only pleasurable activities, avoiding pain for yourself; instead causing great pain to others.  If you worship yourself, you become selfish, self-centered, and self-serving; unmoved and uncaring about the needs of others.

In Matthew 6:21 it says, “for where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” Things are worthless because they have no lasting value.  And they have no lasting value because they have no worth to anyone but the person who possesses it.  Idols are false gods because they are not real.  They can’t do anything for you because they don’t have any real power except what you invest in them.  So, when we worship money, beauty, pleasure, or self, you are putting your treasure where your heart is and will end up morally bankrupt.  Instead put your treasure where moths and rust will not destroy it (Matt 6:1).  Invest it in other people, in charity, in faith; and you will have rewards both in this life and the next.

I’ve been reading “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer was a man who clearly understood this principle.  In 1930s Germany he saw what was happening and tried very hard to warn the church that worshiping nationalism was not compatible with Christian ideals. When the mainline denominations acquiesced to Hitler, he joined a small group of others to resist.  He wrote, “Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order to save Christian civilization or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization.”

In the book Bonhoeffer draws on the Sermon on the Mount as the model for the Christian life.  In chapter 17 The Simplicity of the Carefree Life he wrote, “The life of discipleship can only be maintained so long as nothing is allowed to come between Christ and ourselves”  All the things that could potentially become idols must be put away.  Further he wrote, “Worldly possessions tend to turn the hearts of the disciples away from Jesus.”  In prison where you don’t have many possessions it is easier to stay focused on Christ.  I have seen firsthand how many people who call themselves Christians out in the world are like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22, when called to give up their possessions in order to be a disciple they just can’t do it, and remain only a casual follower instead of a committed believer.

Bonhoeffer said, “Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected.”  It is not true ‘that he who dies with the most toys wins.’  Jesus didn’t say it was impossible for a rich person to enter heaven, only that it was very difficult because it is so easy for people to put their treasure in the wrong place.  We need to have the right perspective on “stuff.”  We need to see ourselves as stewards of God’s blessings rather than claiming ownership over the things that come to us.

When we claim ownership, we become anxious over the status and condition of our stuff.  When this happens, we take our eyes off Christ.  It is like those guys who liked to spend all day in the weight pit lifting weights to make their muscles not just big, but huge.  They hated to take days off in the winter when it was so cold or in the summer when it was so hot that the officers closed the weight pit because of life threatening conditions.  They were willing to put their health at risk just so that they didn’t miss a day.  They obsessed over mastering every piece of gym equipment to see what effect it would have on their physique.  My bunkie once crab-walked around the half mile track just to prove that he was in better shape than the other guys who were out crab-walking, as if he was claiming the title of world’s greatest athlete.

So, as you prepare to go home, get a job, and resume your life think carefully about your goals.  Having found the “pearl of great price” my prayer for you is that you keep faithfully to your commitment to be a disciple of Christ.  Put him first in all of your decision making and trust the Lord to provide you with what you need.

Your Brother in Christ.

July 2017 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

Greetings Brother,

Happy Independence Day. As a veteran I salute you and want to thank you for your service in defending this country and the ideals that it stands for on this day of commemoration of the birth of our nation. I pray that people would take seriously the words of our founding fathers when they said, “with liberty and justice for all.”

Thank you for your letter. I am sorry to hear that they sent you someplace without the programming you need. Hate to think they they’ll move you again. I’ve come to the conclusion that the MDOC is like Michigan weather- wait 10 minutes and it will change: personnel, policy, proceedure, direction, purpose, intension, and goals. It’s always too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, or too windy. It just can’t seem to satisfy anyone and all we do is talk about it.

I’m sitting here on my patio looking at the flowers I have planted, listening to the birds singing, feeling the sunshine on my face and not a soul in sight. Just me and my thoughts. I pray it won’t be much longer and you’ll have an experience like this for yourself. Till then use your imagination to hear the wind chimes and leaves rustling, the smell of grass and flowers, and the view unmarred by fences.

I recently celebrated my 53rd birthday. I went out to lunch with my parents and brother to an Asian fusion resturant. You might say that I’m living the new normal for my life. It’s not my old life and not certainly one I could have expected but it has love, peace and blessings in abundance.

“I do not think that all who chose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum cannot be put right; but only by going back till you find the error and working afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develope’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit.”

C.S. Lewis

This is from the preface to The Great Divorce. Lewis was writing about Heaven and Hell and how we should live on earth. I cannot help but notice that it is a perfect picture of what prison rehabilitation should be. It addresses the importance of not condemning individuals out of hand. It confronts the fallacy that longer prison sentences are a deterent to future crime. It speaks to the need for counseling, education, personal reflection, and recognition of the need for change.

A keen observer of the human condition, Lewis understood the concepts of God’s grace, forgiveness, and healing. His writings spoke to a world torn apart by war 70 years ago, and are yet relavent today. His works are found in libraries and bookstores and should be on your reading list.

We must all take responsibility for our own reformation. No one can reform you, you must want it for yourself. Lewis’ writings provide cogent arguments for why you should want this. It is up to society then to insure that the MDOC provides the right atmosphere in which reform can take place. Society should want this because it is in the best interest of everyone to ensure the safety and security of all its members, including ‘the least of these’ represented by those convicted of crimes against the society. Without this compassionate concern on the part of society, its elected representatives, and those entrusted with the care and management of the inmates, what hope have we of changing ourselves and being given credit for the change if this is not the case.

I pray for you regularly. I pray for your health and safety, that the time goes quickly, and for grace and favor with the parole board.

Your Brother in Christ.

August 2017 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

Greetings Brother,

The pastor shared this funny story to open his sermon the other week:

A group of church members got together at the old country church they attend to paint the exterior. The sky was gray and overcast, so they rushed to get the paint on. As they were in a hurry to finish when they ran low on paint, they decided to add water to complete the job. Just when they completed the project the clouds opened up and a downpour caused the fresh paint to run. There was lightening and thunder and as quick as the rain started it stopped. There was a beam of light shinning from a break in the clouds and a voice from heaven said, “Repaint ye thinners!”

Pastor Bob E.

The moral of the story is that we should always do our best and not cut corners. We don’t always get explicit feedback as these church members did, but we know deep down inside when we aren’t giving our all to the task. This includes situations where peer presure is brought to bear on you from others who have choosen to not give it their best effort. Instead these situations are a time where you can shine out and rise above and even it no one applaudes you, you will know you did your best and can live with a clear conscience.

In I Peter 4:10 and 11 it says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms…If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength that God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” As Christians how we act reflects on God. When we do good God is praised and when we do poorly we are called hypocrites. I know from first hand experience how hard this is in prison. Expectations are low, morale is low, competency is low, productivity is low, pay is low and there are a number of forces at work to keep it this way.

It really boils down for a Christian to realize who it is we really work for: God or man? Man may set the task, the hours, the pay, the work rules but we answer to a higher authority. Doing the right thing in the right way is never wrong. In a dark place you will shine bright when you exceed expectation, do the job without grumbling and complaining, giving your all to the task without counting the cost.

I was a unit porter for two years and I got noticed by the old timers who appreaciated that I actually cleaned the bathrooms. I met people who befriended me and respected me because I wasn’t like all the other porters. I was shown appreaciation and when I left the job to become a tutor so many guys came up to me and told me how much they missed me doing the job. Remember we don’t live for the accolades of man, but on that final day we long to hear the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Remember you are not forgotten. I’m praying for you. Your Brother in Christ.

March 2018 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

I know it hasn’t been that long since I last wrote you but since I was sending out my Easter meditation to all of the guys, I figured you wouldn’t complain about getting too much mail. I hope you are settling in well to your new location. Have you signed up for the church and Bible study? They used to have a pretty good faith based program called the HEART program, but I’m not sure what is going on there these days with the new chaplain.

I have been praying for you to have that deep abiding peace that comes from knowing that you’ve done all you can and have fully entrusted the outcome into God’s merciful hands. There really is nothing else like that feeling of surrender to God’s sovereign will. When we give up our own desires and embrace our heavenly Father’s will with complete faith and trust, then the fruit of the Spirit will manifest themselves in our lives like a dam bursting, flooding our souls with a confidence that we’ve never known before.

As I’m sitting here at my keyboard cranking out letters of encouragement I’m listening to a CD of Christian music from Larry Norman, a real long haired Jesus freak from the 1970’s. He once posed the musical question, “Why should the devil have all the good music?” Life isn’t the same for me as it was before, but a few things such as my music remind me of the good times I’ve had. But I’m excited about moving forward in my life, following God, not looking back.

We can’t change the past, but we must take from it lessons and learn from both our mistakes and our successes. Treasure the things that truly matter such as family and friends. Put work in its proper perspective. Seek to live at peace with everyone. Let go of past hurts. Share your blessings. Keep the faith.

May the Lord bless and keep you. Your brother in Christ.

April 2018 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

Greetings Brother,

Thanks for the notice on your parole board hearing. I’ve marked my calendar and will be praying for you. I know that you have done all that you can to prepare and will interview well.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your brothers as you prepare for the upcoming KERYX* weekend. What will happen will be life changing for everyone involved. The lost will find what they are looking for. The spiritually hungry will be fed. Servants will get better at serving. Spiritual mentors will meet new disciples. Leaders will have their leadership tested.

Funny how that works. That’s probably why the Apostle Paul cautions those who would aspire to be leaders in I Timothy 3. My observation is that leadership is often a thankless task that involves the arcane skill of herding cats. Christian leaders do it from their knees with their hands firmly clasped together and their heads bowed. While this sounds like a Zen thing it is really a Sinai thing. Moses is the archetype of a Christian leader. His leadership ability was recognized in the Old Testament in Psalms 106, the New Testament in Hebrews 11:23-28, and in the Apocrypha in Sirach 45:1-5. (Yes, I really did reference the Apocrypha.) The characteristics of Christian leadership that he modeled include:

  1. Standing in the gap for your flock.
  2. Speaking only the words given to you by God.
  3. Leading only where God’s Spirit guides.
  4. You will take heat for your leadership from the people, it’s about how you handle the heat.
  5. Leaders are called by God to serve.
  6. Believe in miracles.
  7. Fast and Pray!
  8. Not all leaders will make it to the promised land.
  9. A leaders responsibility is to prepare the next generation of leaders.

Use your final months wisely. Leave your mark on prison rather than letting prison leave it’s mark on you. Even while you are looking forward, don’t forget to keep you head on a swivel.

Your Brother in Christ

*Keryx is a lay-led, non-profit, interdenominational, Christian  ministry using the Cursillo method, designed to be conducted in any correctional institution without substantive change in format or procedure.

The purpose of Keryx Ministries is the Christianization of the correctional institution or community through the actions of small apostolic prayer support groups, trained and encouraged by Keryx volunteers, working within their environment. Through a systematic, structured program, the participants are given the opportunity to experience a religious renewal and to accept God’s call to a life of Christian witness and service to one another .

Keryx has been called the most effective program at changing basic attitudes of the incarcerated currently offered in prisons.  This statement has been said over and over again by prison administrators where the ministry has been active long enough for its impact on the institution to have been evaluated by correctional staff.

Keryx is a highly structured program that promotes solid Christian life-skills.  The program builds a positive and loving environment.  Keryx calls upon a spirituality that has long been dormant in many of the resident leaders within the institution. website

August 2018 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

Greetings Brother,

My pastor has been preaching this summer on the concept of Joy. James 1:3 says, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of various kinds.” The Apostle Paul wrote a lot about joy too. In Philippians 4:4 he said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: Rejoice!” He wrote these words from prison. He didn’t have a sick sense of humor or a masochistic streak, he truly believed it.

Joy is a feeling of gladness and rejoicing is the expression of that feeling. Trials build Godly character and we should be thankful to be counted worthy. It is thankfulness that brings joy. The problem is that we humans have such limited perspective that when we are going through trials we have a hard time seeing the big picture. We lack the eternal perspective. We just wish we weren’t considered so special. Well, I’m here to tell you that you are special. Like it or not.

Your Brother in Christ

January 2019 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

Greetings Brother,

Psalms 51 has always been my favorite prayer of King David.  It is the most honest prayer of repentance that I have ever heard.  It is the model by which we should craft our own prayers asking for God’s forgiveness.  According to Old Testament law adulterers were to be stoned.  Murder to cover up the adultery also would have been a crime with a death penalty.  Now no one in Israel would have ever seriously considered stoning the king.  But being above the law of man is not the same as being above the law of God.  When the prophet Nathan confronted David as recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12 David showed why God had made him king in the first place.  Unlike Saul who blamed others for his personal failings David accepted responsibility for his actions and immediately repented.  In the era of the #METOO movement not one of the celebrities or politicians that has been accused has admitted responsibility in any way let alone given more than a token apology.

C.S. Lewis in “On Forgiveness” from The Weight of Glory says: “Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meaness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it.  That an only that is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it.”

There are three parts to this statement.  First is the internal perspective in which you as the perpetrator must come to terms with your own actions and rather than excusing or discounting them accept them as wrong and commit to making the necessary changes to move forward.  The second is the eternal perspective in which you as the person who has committed the offense must see it as it really is and seek reconciliation with God through repentance.  Many people fail at this step.  It is one thing to admit a personal failing to yourself.  It is another thing entirely to kneel before God and make a solemn plea for forgiveness.  The third part is the external perspective in which you must extend the same forgiveness to others as you seek for yourself with God. This step is not even possible without God’s grace.

In the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12 Jesus instructs the disciples to pray “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  If you can’t forgive others for the hurt they have inflicted on you how can you expect God to forgive you for what you’ve done?  This is what separates Christians from other people.  Forgiveness is the cornerstone to reconciliation.  Without reconciliation there can be no relationship between two people separated by the gulf of hurt, shame, anger, and retribution.  Reconciliation is a foreign concept in todays legal system and the reason why it has failed.  Most 12-Step programs have a step in which you need to seek forgiveness from those you’ve wronged (if possible).  But they also go on to say that even if the other person won’t forgive you that’s their choice.  You must move forward in your life.  If the other person choses not to forgive then they are choosing to live in the past and continue to give someone else power over them.  Forgiveness breaks the bonds that are holding a person back from healing and moving forward.

Psalms 51:10-13 says “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit in me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit away from me.  Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit.”  My prayer for you is that you would have a spirit willing to do whatever it takes to hold onto the joy that only a relationship with God can provide.

Your Brother in Christ