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Monthly Archives: July 2017

The Wilderness – Matthew Nawrocki

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“The Wilderness”
By Matthew Nawrocki
Newberry Correctional Facility, Newberry, MI

What is the major scene of the Old Testament? We all know about the children of Israel, God’s chosen people, and their captivity in Egypt, and the Promised Land given to them in Canaan. Yet the Bible doesn’t record much about their time in Egypt (bondage) or in Canaan (freedom). The overwhelming theme of the Old Testament is the wilderness.

Why? Well, because Egypt causes us to focus on our circumstances and the Promised Land causes us to focus on the blessings of God, but only the wilderness causes us to focus on Him for who He is.
When we’ve got nothing else around us, who do we look to? That’s the point. Dependency on God and God alone. God wants to be known by us, to have intimacy and fellowship with us. He desires to reveal His secrets, His counsel, and His purposes to us if only we’d pay attention to Him and not our circumstances (Egypt) or His provision (Canaan).

Is He not enough? How many more prophets does He need to send for it to click with us that following rules and being good and playing church is not what He created us for? We love God’s blessings (His hand) and we love telling people about how He delivered us from that old life (Egypt), yet both of those are only intended to cause us to see His face, and to purify us of our selfishness and cause us to see Him more clearly. Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

God has “predestined us to be conformed into the image of His Son,” (Rom. 8:29) and the wilderness is His tool of transformation. The Teacher (God) tests His students (us) “to know what is in their hearts” (Deut. 8:2). He closes the book, stops talking, and sees how well they really know the material they’ve been instructed in. The Teacher’s goal is to prepare His students to advance, to grow, and to mature. Yet the student always has the option to murmur, complain, argue, or give up. Israel did just that, and an entire generation died in the wilderness instead of entering the land that was given to them.
“It is eleven days journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. Now it came to pass in the fortieth year…” (Deut. 1:2-3)

Wait, what? 40 years? 11 day journey? Why? Because they did not learn the lessons God was using the wilderness for. So, too, we can get “held back” because in order to be successful at the next grade we need to pass the previous grade. If I don’t get good enough grades, I’ll be held back to re-learn the lessons and tools needed for what’s next. At some point, we will be fed up with being “held back” a grade, year after year, and be faced with the choices to give up, keep complaining and blaming circumstances, or press forward.

My prayer is that we would press forward to what God is calling us to. Phillipians 3:12-15, “…but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me . . . one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.”

Listen to The Message translation, ” I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.”

The call of God is for us to allow God to purify us to the point of transparency, as in the refining of gold to purity, that the world would only see Him, and not us.
We must stop playing church and start being the Church. “You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey…” (Deut. 1:6-7). Turn to God, seek His face, fellowship with Him, build your intimacy with Him, for He is your Promised Land.

Faith – Raymond Carr

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“Faith”
By Raymond Carr
Lakeland Correctional Facility, Coldwater, MI

When we reach forks in the road of life and don’t know which way to turn, we have to upload our GPS with faith that God may lead us to our destiny. Faith is believing you can do it, no matter what it is, because that is the kind of God we serve.

Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” But who of us really believe they can do all things? Or are we putting limitations on God?

First we have to know that God values us and we are deserving of what we seek. Matthew 10:31 tells us, “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” If God takes care of the birds, which have less value than us, you have to know that God got us. How many of us know that we have value?

If you would ask most people, on a scale of 1 to 10, what are they? Many will take the humble route and say they are less than a 10, because they feel they have room to grow or feel they may have flaws. With flaws and all you have to know that you are a 10, even if nobody else thinks so, for no other reason than, we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14) and we belong to the Best, so we have to be the best.

Fear and disbelief kills ideas, dreams, and our plans before they get a chance to even get started.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” How many us believe they are more than conquerors through God, and can be bold and step out on faith? (Romans 8:37) Ask yourself what have you conquered lately?

How many of us know that faith will not do our work for us?

James 2:17 says, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ If we build it God will bless it, but if we don’t build it, how can God bless what we don’t build?

When Noah built the ark, people said he was nuts and laughed at him. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight:”

Real faith, has to be willing to look like a fool for a while, then the rain (the breakthrough) comes.

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Playing it safe doesn’t change your life. I’d rather get out of the boat, to walk on the water and have Jesus come save me, than to never have gotten out of the boat at all.

Because I know, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

It’s easier than we think. Matthew 11:29-30 “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” However, we make it hard when we don’t have “real faith” in God, and put limits on God.

Even though, we have dealt with a world system, filled with false hope and pipe-dreams, but we serve a God who is able to do all things. (But God!)

We make time for what we want to, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21

We cannot allow what we see, cause fear and disbelief, nor let it rock our faith. When it looks bad, trust God and know that He is able, and know that He has given us the power to do all things! (But God!)

Believe God and receive it, doubt Him and be without it! It is just that simple.

Your Arms – Matthew Nawrocki

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“Your Arms”
By Matthew Nawrocki
Newberry Correctional Facility, Newberry, MI

(verse 1)
Your arms stretched out from up above
Your grace shines brighter than the sun
Your love, wraps me up, it keeps me warm
You pulled me up out of the darkness
When my soul cried out upon Your name

(verse 2)
Your arms are underneath my pain
Your mercy spares me from my shame
Your blessings pour down, You make them rain
You pulled me up out of the darkness
When my soul cried out upon Your name

(chorus)
You said, “I’m here my child, I’m here with you”
“I always have been, and always will”
“I will never leave, and I won’t forsake”
“Be still my child, be still and wait . . . for I am God”

(verse 3)
Your arms, they gently lead me on
Your voice keeps me going when I feel done
Your love, strengthens me to face the storm
You pulled me up out of the darkness
When my soul cried out upon your name

(chorus)

(bridge) (x2)
I’m wrapped up in Your presence
I’m wrapped up in Your love
I’m wrapped up in Your goodness
I’m wrapped up in Your Son

(chorus)

Decide, Choices, Choose – David Kurbaba

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“Decide, Choices, Choose”
By David Kurbaba
Kinross Correctional Facility, Kincheloe, MI

I am 10 years into a 21-year sentence. I have come many inner miles from the capital of despair to a country where true freedom and joy reign supreme.  However, this journey has neither been easy nor fast.
As with human life, a starting point was needed. As life needs a birth, a journey needs a beginning. Also, as with a human life, it can start off rocky. It can seem to be taking root only to find out that there’s a complication. This journey I am on also started out rocky at best. “I” thought “I” was well on my way, only to find out “I” was on the same downward spiral “I” had been on since birth.
“I” did the prayer “thing.” “I” did the “God if you will.” “I” did the “fake it to you make it.” All the “I did,” didn’t work.
After some time spent in my self pity, “I” “me” was grazed by Grace. A “hmmmmm” moment came. I’d like to say it was a clear voice that said DAK do this, this and this and your life will be perfect, but it was nothing like that. It was just a thought. A thought that said, “do you want to change?” “I” was quick to say yes but nope. No change happened.
This thought repeated itself. Until “I” “me” finally asked myself ………”Do I really want to change?” “me” realized that real change can’t, won’t happen if one has doubts as to whether or not they want to change. “me” also realized that it’s not enough to just “want” change.
It takes a lot for real change to take hold and flourish. For the purpose of this testimony, if “me” may, “me” would like to tell you what “me” found to be an utmost factor in my journey to that place “me” told you about in the beginning. “me” had to decide if “me” wanted to change. “me” had to decide what it was “me” wanted to change. “me” had to decide if “I” was gonna do the changing or if “me” was gonna allow HIM to do the changes in me. “me” had to make a conscious choice. “me”  had to deliberately choose a “WAY”.
My journey is well on its “WAY”. Though at times it seems as if the “WAY” might be more than “me” can handle. When these challenging times come “me” can see that “I” has retaken the wheel of life back from Him, and He is allowing “me” the time and heart ache to find “me way” back to “THE WAY”.
“me” life, is a life “I” never seen as a possibility. “ME” must say that coming to prison is the best earthly thing that He has allowed to happen to “ME” Don’t get me wrong. “I” truly dislike the food, clothes, the fences with barbed wire, and “I” find that “I” am not a fan of most people here.
“ME” and “I” still do the dance of “life and death.” “ME” however has gained considerable amount of “life”. Did you noticed all the “I” ,”me”, and “ME”? The “I” are all me. The “me” is Him leading. The “ME” is “THE WAY IN SIDE”.
My prayer is that “you” will decide, choices, choose in order that “YOU” will be in “THE WAY”.

The Room – Todd Graham

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“The Room”
By Todd Graham
Bellamy Creek Correctional, Ionia, MI

I love having nothing while having it all
Sitting in this room I can feel your voice call
A gentle breeze of fresh air I feel you there
Reminding me that even in here you care
You always find me no matter where I am
You’re forever accepting this broken man
Looking around this room I don’t see a lot
Just a desk, a chair, a locker and a cot
Yet the room is sprinkled with blessings from You
I’m amazed at all You continue to do
Photos of those I care for and care for me
Friends and family waiting for when I am free
Snacks to eat when my tummy rumbles at night
Gift of music to sooth my soul in Your Light
This may not be a place that I want to be
Yet You keep me surrounded inside safety
I know we’re both waiting for the day I leave
And put into practice all that I believe

Rhythm of Grace – Todd Graham

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“Rhythm of Grace”
By Todd Graham
Bellamy Creek Correctional, Ionia, MI

Chorus:
Feel Your unforced rhythm of grace
Because I daily seek your face
Want my heart to beat in Your will
Though I make mistakes You love me still
Feel Your unforced rhythm of grace
Washing away all my disgrace
And I want to learn all of Your ways
Through eternity dance and praise

Verse one:
There’s a book in Your Word that’s devoted to song
It’s written by Your patriarchs and known as Psalms
But there’s no music recorded there to be read
Beat’s revealed when hearing what Your Spirit’s said
Your voice may speak through many different methods
Hip hop, pop, rap, rock or perhaps country instead
To hear I simply need to take time to listen
And allow Your message to fill me from within

Chorus:
Feel Your unforced rhythm of grace
Because I daily seek your face
Want my heart to beat in Your will
Though I make mistakes You love me still
Feel Your unforced rhythm of grace
Washing away all my disgrace
And I want to learn all of Your ways
Through eternity dance and praise

Verse two:
All of creation flows within Your set borders
For You’ve set everything in its place of order
We simply need to open our eyes to see You
And marvel at all of the wonders that You do
But the greatest miracle I have ever met
Is when You threw my sins to the Sea of Forget
You sent Your Son to pay off all my penalties
Released Your rhythm of grace so I can live free

Chorus:
Feel Your unforced rhythm of grace
Because I daily seek your face
Want my heart to beat in Your will
Though I make mistakes You love me still
Feel Your unforced rhythm of grace
Washing away all my disgrace
And I want to learn all of Your ways
Through eternity dance and praise

Verse three:
To hear the love song You want me to live by
I need in Faith to accept and not question why
For love is the very basis of who You are
Your arms stay open for me though I may run far
Your Spirit’s song is always singing out to me
I feel the notes begin to fill up my body
The Great Choir beckens me to come take my place
Sing and dance with my brothers inside of Your grace

Chorus:
Feel Your unforced rhythm of grace
Because I daily seek your face
Want my heart to beat in Your will
Though I make mistakes You love me still
Feel Your unforced rhythm of grace
Washing away all my disgrace
And I want to learn all of Your ways
Through eternity dance and praise

Bridge:
And the greatest miracle I have ever met
Is when You threw my sins to the Sea of Forget
You sent Your Son to pay off all my penalties
Released Your rhythm of grace so I can be free
And the greatest miracle I have ever met
Is when You threw my sins to the Sea of Forget
You sent Your Son to pay off all my penalties
Released Your rhythm of grace so I can be free

Chorus:
Feel Your unforced rhythm of grace
Because I daily seek your face
Want my heart to beat in Your will
Though I make mistakes You love me still
Feel Your unforced rhythm of grace
Washing away all my disgrace
And I want to learn all of Your ways
Through eternity dance and praise

Jesus, The One – Todd Graham

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“Jesus, The One”
By Todd Graham
Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility, Ionia, MI

Guys strut around showing their walls
Built high and strong in their castle
Devastation comes when they fall
The wrong walls crumble in battle

We shouldn’t build up here on earth
All here is subject to decay
Instead build in eternal worth
With The One who’ll never betray

Fears and doubts behind the false smiles
Instead of being genuine
Focused on earthly gain in style
And not on forgiveness of sin

Believe selfish is the way
While longing to learn what’s the truth
Pray to embrace innocence today
Accept Him like a child in youth

The One is no other than Jesus
Who’s arms are open for everyone
He is The One who will free us
When honoring Him as God’s Son

Bird on the Razor Wire – Todd Graham

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“Bird on the Razor Wire”
By Todd Graham
Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility, Ionia, MI

Saw a bird rest on the razor wire today
She glanced at me and then took flight and flew away
As if to tease me saying, “You cannot follow
Because off to freedom is where I now go”
Little did she know that seeing her take that flight
Recharged my spirit with the greatest freedom Light
It’s the Light of a love that she will never feel
Because she cannot connect to The One who’s real
This is reserved for His favorite creation
It was me Christ thought of when He said, “Finished, done”
So while this bird may be able to up and fly
It’s my spirit that’s able to praise the Most High
The razor wire may physically hold me in
But Christ has freed me from all doubt, fear and sin

A Simple Lesson – Amy Black

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“A Simple Lesson”
By Amy Black
Huron Valley Correctional Facility, Ypsilanti, MI

This morning I went outside to feed the sparrows, as I often do. It’s very relaxing to me, and it helps to focus my mind on the Lord and my Heavenly Father and how awesome He is.

The things He created to show us His presence (Gen 1:21) and realness in every single natural creation. I’ve watched the birds many days and I’ve come to appreciate their feeding habits and the little personalities of each one I see.

This morning, however, I saw one I never saw before. As I tore the pieces of the bagel I had and threw them strategically for them to reach it easily, I noticed there was one particular birdie who didn’t seem to actually see the pieces I was throwing right to him. So I watched to see if he was going to eat. After watching for a few minutes, I saw another sparrow actually bring a piece of food to the one I was watching. I was amazed by this simple act of selflessness and kindness. I saw how God has instilled a spirit of giving and compassion ( Gen 1:22) in these tiny birds. I consider sometimes how God’s special creation (humans) so often lack these exact emotions, feelings, habits by allowing greed, selfishness, covetousness, and worldly ideas, rules and personal opinions stifle the same nature he put in us (Gen: 1:26-27).

However, seeing this simple act of nature gave me renewed inspiration to believe that it is possible to move forward in this life, in the spirit in which we were created in His image to reflect. God made a day especially for us to see all the wonderful things that show us that God is real (Gen 1:31). So it’s my prayer we all can take the time to see and remind ourselves that you can see a purpose, a reason, a lesson in the simplest things like a bird feeding another bird. God is good always.

Enjoying This Learning Experience – Steven Wei

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“Enjoying This Learning Experience”
By Steven Wei
Muskegon Correctional Facility, Muskegon, MI

I first wrote to you all when I was at Adrian facility and I was having some experiences there that I wanted to testify to and express my witness for Christ. I have since been moved to the Muskegon Correctional Facility, farther from you folks, but just as close to God.

I have a bunch of testimonies now, as I have been joyfully accepted into the Theological program here and am very much enjoying it and the learning I am experiencing, thanks to God and Christ, is fantastic! It is a college level course from a group called World Impact which produces the curriculum called TUMI. This is sponsored by the Prison Fellowship organization and is taught by all Christian volunteers coming in unpaid to teach every week for years, full of Christ’s love.

Here we are in the Faith Dorm, Unit 6. Almost all of the 160 men are in a program, either the four-year long TUMI, or the one-year pre-release program for short-timers. The unit is so awesome; encouraging words, like love or affirmation, or honesty are painted on the hallway walls. It’s peaceful mostly, and full of extra programs taught by volunteers also – elective classes on faith-based self improvements.

Unrelated – This facility has softball leagues and six units and eight teams. The unit 6 faith dorm team is undefeated and last week, the frustration and worldliness of some of the other teams from other units came to a boil, as our unit team was down 12-1 early. While spectators and opposing team players were speaking foul, curses, nasty epithets, and taunts, our team spoke encouragement, no insults to anyone, blessings from Christ. The opposing pitcher then blasphemed by saying F__ _ Jesus! from the mound. Literally, no exaggeration, he immediately began throwing really badly, walked seven men in a row, and our team’s bats lit up. The crowd began to grumble and silenced, while Team Christ came all the way back and finally won 17-16. Are you kidding me? God showed up in the person of Jesus Christ by the conduct shown by our team.
Faith is real, it’s no joke. Christ is all up on us. Its only humanity who has limited the power of the Holy Spirit in modern times.

The compound talked about that all week, and one pair of men was overheard… “we play those bible thumpers tonight, and we gonna beat their A_ ___s.” Other guy, “I don’t know man, those guys pray before each game. How are you gonna beat them AND God?”

Our entire church here, just last night, got our compound ministry project off to a resounding success. We all pitched in food and effort to use the store food to make cook-ups – over 500 burritos to go and hand out to men on the big yard and then ask them if they had any needs for us to write down and pray over. It was beautiful! Everywhere I looked on the compound men were in groups, non-Christians and Christians praying together over needs. Hundreds of prayers were lifted up to God, and love was shown from Jesus Christ. I looked around at that and teared up and praised our Lord.

At first we weren’t really allowed to do this, but we all prayed when we met resistance, and shortly before the yard was called, permission was granted from on High. Wow. God happened. Jesus was with us.

I’ve never seen anything like that before.

None of us went into this endeavor to ‘convert’ anyone at all. Only to give, and to pray for them to our God. It was awesome! Prayer does amazing things. The ripple effects of this will go on for many days to come.

Praise God in Jesus’ name.