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Monthly Archives: April 2018

Five Qualities of a Leader – George Walker

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“Five Qualities of a Leader”
By George Walker
Muskegon Correctional Facility, Muskegon, MI

1). Leaders love without judging. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John 15:12-13: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus loves us no matter what we do or have done. Jesus does not judge us, He only loves us and wants us to depend on Him for everything. Leaders will do the same. They won’t judge you but give you love, which is Jesus Christ.

2) Leaders must forgive! Read Matthew 18:15-35. Jesus tells us in verses 21-22: “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Leaders put aside their feelings and forgive whoever wrongs them. This is not optional but a command to always be forgiving. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:13: “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” If Christ can forgive us then we have to forgive others.

3) Leaders are unselfish until death, Read Luke 23:33-46. Jesus says in verse 34: “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do.” Jesus was dying on the cross and asked the Father to forgive us – sinners – while we were in our sins. He died for us to have eternal life. He gave His life so that we can have life more abundantly. Leaders don’t just advise us of what to do but they give us their last to help us. Leaders know that whatever they have, the Father gave it to them to further the ministry of Jesus Christ, who is the savior of the world.

4) In adversity leaders still obey the Father, Mark 15:24-37. While on the cross Jesus said this: “Eloi, Eloi, lamasabachthani? which is being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Jesus was in pain but still was obedient to His Father. Are we displaying this type of obedience? Leaders should stand on and speak scripture out loud while carrying their cross daily. Our Father’s word brings life and will change any situation or circumstance but this is not the number one reason to obey God, Leaders obey the Father because this pleases Him.

5) Leaders have the mind of Christ, read Philippians 2:3-8. Paul tells us in Philippians 3:5: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” The mind that Paul is talking about is in verses 3 & 4. Jesus does nothing with strife or by being vain but He humbly put others before Himself. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John 13:14-15: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” A Leader should always put others before himself in thought first and the only way this can be done is with the Holy Spirit leading them.

This is just five things but there are so many more, like:

Habakkuk 2, God gives leaders vision; Luke 14:23, leaders preach Jesus and salvation; John 17:1-26, leaders work together as one; Romans 14:19, leaders display peace and edify one another; Hebrews 10:19-25, leaders do not forsake the assembling of us together; 1Peter 4:10, Leaders are good stewards of God; Hebrews 13:17, leaders submit to and obey authority.

These are all things that we (those who believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins and asked Him to come into their heart and make them born again) all possess because we have the Holy Spirit in us. We are a part of a royal priesthood and a peculiar people. We are heirs, joint heirs, with Jesus Christ to the throne of God. Hallelujah, thank you Jesus.

Why Believe? – Carl Nunnery

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“Why Believe?”
By Carl Nunnery
Farmington Correctional Facility, Farmington, MO

I heard a lot of people say, ‘Yes, I believe in God.” That’s a good thing, right? Then they say, “I just don’t believe all of the Bible.” I wonder, how can someone say they believe in God but not His words? The Bible calls this as being neither hot nor cold, and that’s a dangerous position to be in. Let me tell you why. That I like playing a game of chance with your life, like maybe you’ll go to heaven or maybe you won’t. Do you like those odds? No, I wouldn’t either.

In Rev. 3:15 it says, “I wish you were either hot or cold (vs. 16) because you are lukewarm, neither hot or cold. I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Did you know what their reason for their disbelief of the Bible was? They said it was written by men. The Holy Word doesn’t deny that. In fact, it tells us that it is true. In 2nd Peter 1:21 it says because no prophecy ever came by human will but by men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoken from God. If you look at 2nd Timothy 3:16 it tells us “all scripture is inspired of God.”

I will make a point that God used more than 40 different men and over 1,600 years to write. All agreed perfectly with one all wise person who planned the book and told each one what to say. That person is the Holy Spirit of God. All that being said, why do some continue to doubt the Bible’s authenticity? They can’t handle the truth. Maybe they don’t want to know the truth. The fact is, I can give you several good reasons as to why you should believe, but I can’t think of one good reason why you shouldn’t.

If you died today, wouldn’t you want to know that you were going to Heaven? I’ll go one better. I want to know that you are going to Heaven. To believe simply means to accept as true.

Some truths you can believe: God created the earth (Gen. 1:1), God created man (Gen. 1:26), God is the Heavenly Father (Matt. 11:25), God is Spirit (Acts 5:3), God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one (Acts 17:29, Rom. 1:20, Col. 2:9), Jesus died and was raised to life by God (Mark 16:6), god is the Word (John 1:1), Jesus in: the Son of God (Matt. 3:16-17), God in human form (John 1:14) and our hope in eternal life (1 Peter 1:3).

Some truths you should believe: These things are written so that you may believe (John 20:31), you will die in your sins unless you believe (John 3:24), those who do not believe are condemned already (John 3:18), those who believe will never die (John 11:26), he that believeth on Him shall not be condemned (1st Peter 12:6), and a commandment that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ (1st John 3:23).

Some truths when you believe: Believe in the Lord, you will be saved (Acts 16:31), he that believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Some truths if you believe: Those who believe are set free from all their sins (Acts 12:39), all things are possible to him that believes (Mark 9:23), salvation for everyone that believeth (Rom. 1:16), he that believes and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:16), if you believe in all your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved (Romans 10:9).

What you want to believe comes down to where you want to spend your eternity. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah or in the great flood did not have God’s word written down for them in the Holy Bible, yet there were some who believed and some who did not. The Bible tells us those who do not believe will face an eternity in Hell or the Lake of Fire. They were not fortunate enough to have past experiences written down for them as we do now. They were not fortunate enough to have a Savior in Jesus Christ as we do now.

Now let’s look at it from both sides. Sodom and Gomorrah or Noah’s flood generations were not able to walk the earth with God in human form in the person of Jesus Christ. The generations of people alive today have never met the God/man in Jesus Christ in human form. But there were many who did. God used 40 of them to write about Him and His son Jesus Christ, who He sent to us. The ones who met Jesus personally, saw Jesus, saw Him nailed to the cross, saw Him die, saw Him buried then saw Him raised to life again then saw His ascension into Heaven to be with His Father.

Jesus made many promises before He left to go back to Heaven. Before I tell you of those promises, let me give you a real truth. We even say it today. That is, seeing is believing. Those who witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as well as the many personal talks with Jesus experienced it for a reason. They saw Jesus do miracles that only God could have done. God wanted these men (apostles) and the believers to be His witnesses to us today and future generations to come.

If some alive today said they saw President Nixon and he was a good man and president, you would have no doubt in what he told you to be true because you believed he actually saw him and by the things people have written about him. This is actually what the writers of the Bible and the Gospels have done. They saw, they believed and they are telling us.

Now do you want to hear of just some of the recorded words and promises of Jesus Christ that were meant for us?

2nd Peter 3:9, the Lord is not slack concerning his promises; Heb. 9:15, the promise of eternal life; Gal. 3:29, heirs according to the promise; Gal. 3:14, promise of the Spirit; John 14:3, when I go I will prepare a place for you; Rev. 22:12, I come quickly and my reward will be with me; Matt. 11:28, come to me all you who are weary and have a heavy burden and I will give you rest.

My friends, the difference between life or death and believing or not is a matter of your choice. Why? God has given you the way, the truth and the life and He has done that in the person of Jesus Christ. Do you want to believe what Jesus has said to you? God plainly leaves that decision up to you. Believe Him or not. Remember God’s words are true. He says what He means and means what He says.

Do you want to doubt God who created the heavens and earth? Do you want to doubt God who destroyed the earth with a flood because of sin (Gen. 7:17-23): Do you want to doubt God who said He is coming back and will destroy the earth again, this time with fire (2nd Peter 3:10)?

God’s words and God’s promises are true. If you can believe anything, you can believe that.

No Excuse – Matthew Nawrocki

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“No Excuse”
By Matthew Nawrocki
Newberry Correctional Facility, Newberry, MI

Psalm 19:1-6 says,
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display His craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make Him known.
They speak without a sound or a word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.

God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat.”

A favorite verse of mine is Romans 1:20. It says, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

It’s hard to imagine that we could be surrounded by such beauty every single day, surrounded by all this nature that is screaming, “It’s Me, God! Here I am!” and yet not even give it a second thought. I love technology. I love the possibilities it creates for the Gospel, for relationships that are separated by distance, for the ability to see and learn things that wouldn’t be possible without it. However, it can be unbalanced in our lives to the extent that we miss every good and perfect thing that is living and breathing all around us.

Do you notice that in third world countries or remote islands all over the world they all have traditions and they all worship something? The name they put to it is not the point, it’s a mere fact for them, that without the distractions that we see moment by moment here in our culture, they realize the greatness that surrounds them and how much bigger it all is than them. So they worship the sun or moon or a volcano because they recognize it as far greater in size, strength, and power than themselves. What they fail to realize is that the sun or moon or volcano that they worship is in fact itself worshipping God! These are His invisible attributes seen in His creation. We sense Him in the roar of the ocean, the power of thunder, the speed of lightning, the brightness of the sun, or the simplicity and beauty of a plant growing from a seed to producing fruit that nourishes our bodies.

In God’s eyes we are literally exempt from being able to say we can’t see Him. I mean can we really look around us and see all the intricacies of creation, of our own bodies, of the stars and galaxies and believe that complete order and natural laws and so much beauty came out of randomness, chaos, and disorder. I, for one, do not have that kind of faith.

I think that it is time we start to give praise where praise is due and I praise God for all that I am privileged to see around me each day; and for me, currently, that’s the same scenery each day. If you’ve never heard the song by Hillsong Worship called “So Will I (100 Billion X)” I will tell you it has literally changed my life and you should go find it right now. I want to share just a brief part of the song that strikes me to my core:

“If the stars were made to worship, so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence, so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness, so will I
For if everything exists to lift you high, so will I
If the wind goes where You send it, so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence, so will I
If the sound of all our worship still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times”

Beautiful right?! Are we going to be out worshipped by the stars or the ocean or the wind? I do not want that to be the case for my life. God isn’t mad at us when we don’t worship. He has all of heaven worshiping Him; all the angels and those who’ve passed from this life; He has the elders throwing their crowns down at His feet. He doesn’t need our worship, yet at the same time He knows that it hurts us when we don’t worship. When we don’t pray, or read His word, or fellowship with other believers, we aren’t hurting Him, we’re hurting us.

So let us follow in the manner of Psalm 148 and live a life of praise because the Lord “inhabits the praises of His people” (Psalm 22:3). We are to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving and go into His courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4)

Psalm 148
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens!
Praise Him from the skies!
Praise Him, all His angels!
Praise Him, all the armies of heaven!
Praise Him, sun and moon!
Praise Him, all you twinkling stars!
Praise Him, skies above!
Praise Him, vapors high above the clouds!
Let every created thing give praise to the Lord,
for He issued His command, and they came into being.
He set them in place forever and ever.
His decree will never be revoked.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
you creatures of the ocean depths,
fire and hail, snow and clouds,
wind and weather that obey Him,
mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all livestock,
small scurrying animals and birds,
kings of the earth and all people,
rulers and judges of the earth,
young men and young women,
old men and children.

Let them all praise the name of the Lord.
For His name is very great;
His glory towers over the earth and heaven!
He has made His people strong,
honoring His faithful ones –
the people of Israel who are close to Him.

Praise the Lord.

Choosing Life . . . For Others – Matthew Nawrocki

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“Choosing Life . . . For Others”
By Matthew Nawrocki
Newberry Correctional Facility, Newberry, MI

Deuteronomy 30:19 tells us to “choose life” and as I have come across this verse frequently I am continually captured by the rest of the verse, “. . . that you and your descendants may live.” I think about the legacy we are going to leave one day when our lives are over and they live on through those who we impacted.

As I used to think of this verse I always saw choosing life as the decision to let Jesus in, which it certainly is, but I see it with new eyes now – eyes that understand that the decision to let Him in is one thing, but if His work stops there our impact is sure to be short-lived. I believe within each and every one of us there is a longing to matter, to have an impact, to help people and for them to be drawn to us. When I read this verse I realize that God is telling me that only when I choose life, not just once but consistently in my moment by moment decisions, will I truly live and that this life will be passed down through my descendants. I also believe that the descendants here in this verse are all of those who look up to us and who we have the privilege of influencing in our day-to-day lives, not just our own children.

Choosing life is something we do each day; it is serving the Lord’s purposes for our lives and not our own purposes. It is choosing to forgive (life) when the world says to be resentful (death). It is choosing to love our enemies (life) when the world says to hate them (death). It is sacrificing our lives and desires to see someone else find hope (life) when the world says to look out only for your own self interest (death). It is choosing to live morally and sexually pure (life) when the world says to chase after pleasure and be free (death). Anyone who has lived a life where they have spent years of daily choosing death in many decisions have learned that the consequences of those decisions are exactly as advertised – death, heartache, pain, and loss; and it hurts not just ourselves but those around us. When we start choosing life, we will see what happens when moment by moment, day by day we start living God’s way and realize why He said it in the first place – because it’s best.

I wonder how often we think about these things and what we are passing on to others and what impact our lives will have once we’re gone. We see in the lives of those passed on how great an impact they left, most recently in the life of Billy Graham. In John 12:24 Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.” You are not called to be Billy Graham, but to have your own legacy, and I pray that we will live our lives thinking of the legacy we are leaving behind. Whether we are 20 or 80 or somewhere in between, until we are planted in the soil we have the opportunity to determine what will sprout once we are buried. I pray that your harvest will be fruitful because you have determined to leave an eternal impact in the lives God has graced you to be an influence to.

Your decisions today will produce your future tomorrow and affect other futures to come. Choose life … for you and for them. Amen

The Oil Within – Denise Mendoza

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“The Oil Within”
By Denise Mendoza
Huron Valley Correctional Facility, Ypsilanti, MI

There was a widow who was unable to pay a debt she owed. So when the creditor came to collect, he wanted to take the widow’s two sons as his slaves for payment of the debt. The widow went and cried out to the prophet Elisha, who asked her what she had of value in her home. The widow answered that she only had a jar of oil. Elisha then instructed the widow to go out to all her neighbors and borrow every empty vessel she could. Then she was to go in her home, shut the door and pour the jar of oil into all the vessels. When each one was filled, it was to be set aside and the next one filled. This continued until the widow had no more vessels left to fill. It was then that the oil stopped. The widow was able to sell the vessels of oil to pay her debt plus had enough left over for her and her two sons to live on. (II Kings 4:1-7).

This story is a great illustration of us Christians being “living jars” filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit and the empty vessels representing the unsaved.

Here in prison one doesn’t have to look very far to see the brokenness in those around us, where the failures and the heartaches of life have bled them dry. It is these who are empty vessels in which we have a wonderful opportunity to pour into them the oil of joy with a simple smile, a kind word of encouragement or an understanding ear to listen.

We are able to do this because we, as Christians, have an infinite supply to draw from within us. In the story, the widow didn’t run out of oil, she ran out of empty vessels. It is then that the oil stopped flowing.

God isn’t looking for perfect people. He’s looking for willing people. God will equip you and continue to fill you so long as you allow Him to flow through you.

With that in mind, I encourage you to look around and see the array of opportunities to outpour the love of Christ into those who are lost, the ones hurting and who are lonely.

There are so many of us who are looking for a fairytale ending while living a nightmare. We may have hell all around us, but we have the kingdom of Heaven inside of us. Do share Jesus today with someone, for He isn’t one of many ways. He is the only way.

If Only I Knew – Denise Mendoza

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“If Only I Knew”
By Denise Mendoza
Huron Correctional Facility, Ypsilanti, MI

If I could write a new script on my life, it would be that I were raised with God as head of my home, where I’d know His unfailing love through a father who wasn’t around that I never knew.

Where God’s words were instilled by the mother who was around and yet, I never knew.

Words that said, “Nothing is impossible, for you are more than a conqueror and can do all things because I died for you.”

Instead of the tears I cried that ultimately caused me to die; had I’d known a love so true maybe, just maybe it was me, I would’ve knew.

No Pretending – David Kurbaba

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“No Pretending”
By David Kurbaba
Kinross Correctional Facility, Kincholoe, MI

Greetings. It has been a while since I’ve written to you. I have felt that only positive words should be written to VFC. I have come to think that maybe showing others that life is not always positive and we, as humans, go through seasons of hardships as well might help someone in need.

Life has been challenging to say the least. I would like to say words of positive power but that is not the case for me during this season of life. I am struggling on many different levels. My faith is intact but my hopeful outlook is severely diminished.

I am sure there are people with greater issues of hardship than mine. I know that some deal with life ending hardships. But I have come to realize that even though some others deal with greater issues, mine are just as important. My issues are my issues. They hurt, hinder, and misguide me. My issues affect me, which in turn affects others around me. So I need to address my issues.

Yes, I can put on a brave face, straighten my back and push forward “as if.” However, I have come to believe this way of going through life is false, dangerous, and unhealthy for me as well as those around me. Why must we put on false personas? Why must we “pretend” life is wonderful and all is going well because I am a child of God? Why can’t we say, “Hey, I am hurting, I am struggling, or even, I can’t see the positive in this negative situation?”

I have found that in religion we are told to “pretend” a lot. Pretend we understand, pretend we believe all we are told, pretend that all is well within, when in fact, a lifetime of negative input from family, friends, society still holds territory we say has been given to Christ. I find that I pretend because I want to fit in. I want other “Christians” to love me. I want my “Christian family, friends, society” to accept me. I want them to think I am “cured,” I have it all figured out. I have Christ so life is peachy.

Don’t get me wrong, I know without a doubt, that without Jesus I would be a lost, dead soul. My life of yesterday would be in full rage. I would be nothing without Jesus. I am, and can do nothing without Him.

What I am trying to say is that we as humans, need more than pretending. I
need more than pretending, and I am thinking that there are many souls out there that feel the same way I do. There are struggles which need a human response. There are issues which pretending does not fix. Jesus, along with honesty, open mindedness, willingness from our Christian family is needed for real healing, for struggles to be truly overcome.

I don’t want to pretend any more, I want to be honest, open minded, and willing. I want to be able to say without fear “I am scared, I don’t have it figured out, I don’t understand, I need help.”

My personal relationship with Jesus is strong. I am the one that is weak. It’s my pretending that hinders the true fruit of life from becoming the light all sees.
I felt that telling you my struggles was not the need, but telling you that “pretending” was/is what my biggest hindrance is, and I am guessing that there are many out there that feel the same way. I so pray that I could receive feedback on this letter. This is where I am at in life, this is real, for me anyways. I would welcome all responses.

Thank you for given us a platform to express our thoughts and feelings. I mean no malice in these words. It’s just where I am right now. Thank you and God bless.

Don’t Wait Until You Lose It To Want It – Carl Nunnery

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“Don’t Wait Until You Lose It To Want It”
By Carl Nunnery
Farmington Correctional Facility, Farmington, MO

As a young boy growing up, through my dad’s work, we moved around a lot. It was hard on us having to start new schools and making friends only to up and move again, leaving them behind.

We all hated moving so much, traveling all over the states, coast to coast. As years passed, the traveling did finally stop. I was able to complete school, get a job and then get married. Now I had my own life. As my work allowed, I was granted vacation time. What did I do? You guessed it, I traveled again. With all the plans for vacation, I was quick to learn a valuable life lesson. What I hated as a child was actually a blessing to be able to do. It was just I didn’t realize what we were able to do, such as travel, see different sights and different cultures. The things I would have liked to have done then, or the places I would have liked to have gone I was unable to due to the cost. I did not appreciate the opportunity I had until it was no longer available to me. The good lesson to be learned is: don’t wait until you lose it to want it.

What have you lost that you want back? I know the list could be long, but let me give you just a short list of the more common things we lose that we want to keep: mom and dad, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, your home, your friends, your money, your freedom, your job, your health, your children, life (physical) and life (eternal).

We all have had one or more on that list that we either took for granted, didn’t appreciate, abused it, didn’t respect it, or thought it would always be there – or lost it.

It is only when you don’t have it anymore that it makes you stop and question. Why didn’t I listen? What should I have done different: What can I do to fix it? Can I get it back?

The truth is, when things are going good in your life, you become blind to the simple fact that it can be here today and gone tomorrow. You fail to realize just how precious, delicate or fragile each one is or could be.

Any one of them can be lost in a moment and you will find yourself saying, “I want it.” The fact is, so many people today don’t realize what they have until it has been taken from their lives. We should never take anything for granted but enjoy it, savor it and protect it.

Let’s face it, nothing on this earth will be lost forever, but you can bind things on this earth that will be bound in eternity. In Matthew 16:19 it say, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you lost on earth will be lost in Heaven.” Those are powerful words. Think about what Jesus is saying. Jesus, the Son of God, came to be the Savior for all mankind. Jesus said He is the only way to the father (John 14:6). Jesus wants us to come to Him, to bind a relationship with Him.

Here is the point I wish to make. Things of this earth are temporary. It’s the things that are not seen that are eternal. Christ our Lord has already said He will return to collect His saints. Christ does not tell us when but to be ready and watching for His return.

Next, when He does come, if you are not saved, it will be too late and you will not be able to say, “I want it now.”

So, don’t wait until you lose the chance to be able to say you want it. Be saved. Make sure of your destiny. Make sure to bind on earth to be bound in eternity. Make sure you are saved. Make sure you say, “I want it. Jesus is my Savior.”

Major Themes of the Old Testament – Clifton Moffat

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“Major Themes of the Old Testament”
By Clifton Moffat
Carson City Correctional Facility, Carson City, MI

Introduction: The Old Testament of the Hebrew Scriptures is a compilation of 39 books covering over 4,000 years of the history of our cosmos, the very essence of the existence of the universe and the metaphysical realities of mankind. God, Creator of everything physical and spiritual, spoke through select men and women for the glory of His name and His name’s sake, and for delineating the purposes and benefits extended to everyone in every nation.

God, He identifies Himself as Yahweh, explains briefly how He created the universe (Gen. 1, 2) and the first man and woman (2), who made their first grave mistake while exercising their power over freedom of choice (3). This led to catastrophic consequences for all mankind (6) as well as the entire universe (Rom. 8:19-22.). God is the God of covenants, which are made for the purposes of Spiritual and physical blessings toward humanity in governing the present as well as the future. Through God’s sovereignty some covenants were designed for
certain peoples, mainly the Israelites, and others for all people of the earth.

Through petition God can, and sometimes will, actively intervene to make provisions for humanity even when they were never part of His will (e.g., 1 Sam. 8). God established order through legislative rules and cultic sacraments for everyday life (Exod.-Deut.) and provides salvation to everyone who chooses to know Him. History records that, in the absence of knowing and trusting God, humanity generally brings prophetic calamity upon a nation, which is followed by utter destruction – or repentative correction for obedience unto salvation (Isa.- Mal.) .

Creation: Creation of the universe occurred sometime before 4,000 B.C. as delineated in Genesis chapter one. Here, we learn that there was a beginning (1:1), that God represents Himself as Spirit (v.2), that God speaks (vv. 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29), that when He spoke in the beginning there was instantaneous light formed out of darkness (v.3), then sky (v.6), land and seas (vv.9, 10), seed bearing vegetation (v.11), the sun, moon, and stars (vv.14-18), sea creatures and birds ready for multiplication (vv.20-22), both domestic and wild land creatures (vv.24-25) , and finally, mankind–made in God’s image
for ruling over the whole earth (vv.26-28; 11:7). All creatures, man and
animals, were, at first, vegetarians (vv.29-30). After God saw everything He had created, He deemed it good (vv.l0, 12, 18, 25,31). God created the universe and all that was in it in six days (v.31), after which He designated the seventh day holy, a Sabbath day to rest from all of His work (2 :1-3). We also learn something unique about God: that He refers to Himself in the plural, as “us” and “our” (1:26). This points toward the doctrine of the Trinity.

In chapter two of Genesis we learn that God planted a garden with many trees in the land of Eden, where He placed Adam for tending to it (2:15). The trees were not only pleasing to the eye but also served as a food source (w.8-9). Two specific trees accompanied the middle of the garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (v. 17). God commanded Adam to partake of the fruit from any tree except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or else he would suffer physical death (v.17). In the interim God supplied a wife, Eve, to Adam. She was created from Adam’s rib after God put him into a deep sleep, and she would be a suitable helper and companion to Adam (vv.18-22). From Adam and Eve’s union the institution of marriage was ordained (vv.23-24). At that time there was no shame over their nakedness (v.25).

Corruption: Sin and the resultant fall of man is delineated in Genesis
chapter three. The crafty serpent, known as Satan, deceived Eve and Adam into eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil over their desire for wisdom (3:1-6). With the sin they committed came shame in their nakedness, which they then had to cover with some sewn fig leaves, hence the institution of clothing for human beings began (v.7). Adam and Eve, shame now exposed, sought to avoid God (vv.8-11). Then they started a blame game (vv. 12-13). Angered, God cursed the serpent for life and lowered the serpent’s
position to that of a belly-crawler, below every animal on earth. God put enmity between every offspring of the woman’s and of the serpent’s (vv.14-15).

This prophetic reality symbolically manifested in Christ’s crushing Satan’s head while Satan struck at Christ’s heal on His way to the cross of Calvary. God’s curse extended to women as well, who would forever suffer painful childbearing (v.16) and servanthood toward men (v.16). In addition, men would now have to work hard tilling a cursed ground to produce food to eat (vv.17-19). Physical death entered humanity as well (v.19). Eve was pronounced mother of all the living and man was banished forever from the Garden of Eden and the tree of life (vv.22-24). However, God provided atonement for Adam and Eve by sacrificing animals, for their skins, to provide coverings for Adam and Eve’s nakedness, which began the institution of blood atonement.

Catastrophe: As Adam and Eve and their kin populated the earth, the
wickedness of man became so profound that pure evil permeated everyone’s heart at all times (6:1-5). God’s heart was excessively troubled over His creating man so He caused a flood over the entire earth for 150 days and wiped out almost everyone (6:6-7:24). But God saved faithful Noah and his family – a remnant – and promised never again to cause such a devastating flood (8:21-22). Like before, God charged Noah and his sons, Ham, Shem, and Japheth, to multiply on the earth, and provided a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his covenant to abstain from flooding the earth (9:1-17). With that, God also permitted man to kill and consume animals for food in addition to mere fruit-bearing vegetation (9:2-3), but reiterated the image bearing value within man and the relative importance in forbidding the shedding of any innocent blood, man or animal’s (9:4-6).

Confusion: As Noah and his sons populated the earth, nations developed around men, whose inhabitants naturally shared in one language (9 :18-11: 1).

Unfortunately, the pride of men grew uncontrollable to the point that it was self-honoring, and they decided to utilize combined efforts to construct an idolatrous tower project in the plain of Shinar, known as the Tower of Babel (11:2-4). Since they never sought God’s guidance or approval in this, God took one look at man’s brick and tar tower and decided to confuse their language, which caused them to stop building an entire city at Babel and scatter over the face of the earth (vv.5-8). As new languages had to be developed and implemented, and with faint knowledge of God, sinful, pagan practices became the norm in newly developed nations. At this point in time, everyone on earth was a Tower of Babel refugee.

Call of Abram: Around 2,000 B.C., from out of the pagan city of Ur of the Chaldeans came 75 year-old Abram, a descendant of Shem, with his barren wife, Sarai, and his nephew, Lot. Abram was called by God to the land of Canaan (11:27-12:1). God made a series of promises to Abram, that: Abram would become a great nation that would be granted the land of Canaan, he would be blessed, he would have a great name, he would be a blessing to everyone, God would bless those who blessed him, God would curse whoever cursed him, and all peoples on the earth would be blessed through him (12:2-3, 7). After a short period in Egypt to avoid a famine (12:10-13:2), and territorial separation from Lot (13:3-13), God reaffirmed His promise to provide Abram and his offspring the land of Canaan (vv.14-17). Next, after defeating Kedorlaomer and his allies for taking captive Lot and all of his possessions, including women and other people from Sodom, Abram initiated the tithe of ten percent of everything he owned and gave it to the king of Salem, Nelchizedek, priest of God Most High (14). Still worried about being childless, Abram was assured by God that his offspring – or seed – would be as numerous as the stars, and Abram’s believing God in this matter was accredited to him as righteousness (15:1-6). After that, God used a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove, and a pigeon to solidify the covenant for the Canaanite land grant promised to Abram’s descendants, which extended from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia (w.7-21). At 86 years old, and through Sarai’s prompting, Abram committed marital and spiritual unfaithfulness by bearing a son, lshmael, to Sarai’ s maidservent, Hagar. This resulted in Ishmael’s descendants suffering hostility toward their future brother’s descendants (16:9-16).

At 99 years old, Abram’s covenant with God was confirmed as Abram, his household, and Ishmael were circumcised. At that point, Abram’s name was changed to Abraham and Sarai’ s name was changed to Sarah. Abraham and his descendants-to-be were charged with keeping their end of the covenant, identified by the sign of circumcising every male child when they turn eight days old, less they be cut off from the people for violating the covenant.

Abraham was again guaranteed by God to become the father of many nations who will possess a great land – all to the glory of God (17). God specifically chose Abraham’s descendants, through their righteous obedience and justice, to be a great and powerful nation who will bless all other nations of the earth (18: 18-19). At 100 years old, God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled as he and Sarah bore a son, Isaac, the offspring of reckoning (21:1-13). Isaac bore Jacob (25), to whom God appeared for the assurance of his status as seed bearer, land grantee, and blessing provider to all nations on earth (26:1-6; 28:10-15; 46:3).

Jacob also received assurance from Isaac regarding Abraham’s blessing of promise given in 12:1-3. (27:27-29). To continue the institution of tithing, Jacob paid respect to God with ten percent of his possessions as did Abram in 14:20 (28:22). God then used Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons who made up the twelve tribes of Israel, to preserve the genealogical remnant in Egypt during a worldwide famine (41:57; 45:4-8). This Israelite remnant or 70 people, filled with prophetic blessings and Messianic proclamations, is delineated in chapters 48 and 49 of Genesis.

Worship: Approximately 400 years later, circa 1446 B.C., God revealed
Himself as “I Am,” i.e., Yahweh, from a burning bush, to Moses, the son of Israelite slaves in Egypt (Ex. 3). God instructed Moses to take his brother Aaron to voice to Pharaoh that the Egyptian slaves – now 2,000,000 strong – be released from slavery so they can worship God in the desert and be delivered to the promised land of Canaan (3, 4). This deliverance, through miraculous signs and plagues (7-11) was for making God fully known to the Israelites, ensuring that they were collectively God’s son, and for showing the rest of the world
that God is Redeemer, Judge, and wholly faithful to His covenanted people – by furnishing them the land flowing with milk and honey (5;22-6;1-8). Once the Israelites were freed from the hand of Pharaoh, God initiated a series of static regulations for honoring and worshiping Him, including the Ten Commandments and Tabernacle construction plans (12-31; Deut. 5-26). Following God’s legislation would distinguish Israel, as a holy people – a Theocracy – from all other nations on earth to God’s glory (Ex. 33:12-23). It also acted as a preventative against idolatry (24:24-32), and kept the Israelites from blatantly sinning (20:20).

Ultimately, God reveals Himself as compassionate, gracious, just, and
unwilling to tolerate any form of idolatry (34:5-17). The purpose of God’s people is to provide acceptable, orderly worship with their lives set apart for God’s service (Lev.) regardless of sins that are committed (16:16). To assist with obedience in this endeavor God provided a priesthood (8-10) and a series of Holy Days for the Israelites to celebrate at certain times: a Sabbath Day every seventh day (Ex. 20:8-11); a Sabbath Year every seventh year (Ex. 23:10-11); a Year of Jubilee every fiftieth year (Lev. 25:8-55); Passover every first month (Ex. 12:1-14); Unleavened Bread every first month (12:15-20); Firstfruits every
first month (Lev. 23: 9-14); Weeks every third month (Ex. 23:16a); Trumpets every seventh month (Lev. 23:23-25); Day of Atonement every seventh month (16); Tabernacles every seventh month (Ex. 23:16b); Sacred Assembly every seventh month (Lev. 23:36); Dedication every ninth month, I.e., the purification of the Maccabean era temple, 166-160 B.C. (In. 10:22-39); and Purim every twelfth month (Est. 9:18-32). Fully knowing God entailed knowing Him with a full heart (Jer. 24: 7), which includes defending the cause of the poor and needy (22: 16; Prov. 31:8-9). Humanity is to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Mic. 6:18).

Testing: God not only revealed His glory through priests, prophets, and
kings, but He tests believers’ faithfulness on occasion. After endless
murmuring and faithlessness emerge against God’s character and promises, lost opportunity was encountered by the Israelites. In Numbers, God’ s blessings upon the Israelites (6:22-27) turned into 38 years of lost time and a national cleansing while attempting to reach the promised land, despite the fact that their leader, Moses, was the most humble man on earth (12:3). Before passing, Moses reminded the Israelites that the whole world is watching the example of obedience of God’s chosen people. Faithfulness keeps faithful followers of God
on top, never at the bottom, but curses overtake the unfaithful (Deut. 28).
Risking obedience brought Joshua to lead a victory in conquering and allocating sections of the promised land to Israel’s twelve tribes (Jos.).

Even though 17 Theocratic Judges brought temporary peace (Jud.-l Sam. 1-8), over 345 years of spiritual degeneration occurred within Israel as they did things as they subjectively saw fit (Jud. 17:6-21:25). Simply put, Israel rejected God as their king, who was moved to grant their request to start a monarchy that began with King Saul. The Israelites pridefully insisted that they needed a human king so they could be like all other nations, but with having a monarchy came detrimental consequences akin to slavery – again (1 Sam. 8). Like our democracy in the U.S. today, having a human leader over us is beneficial only if both the leader and the people exercise obedience to God alone (12:15). According to God, obedience is far better than any religious practice or ritual (15:22).

Messianic Deliverance: As civil wars between the lsraelites ensued (1-10), crimes were committed (11) and conflicts erupted (12-24). National division and decline overwhelmed Israel’s attempts at sustaining a monarchy. In 722 B.C., after 19 ungodly kingships, the northern kingdom of Israel was taken into Assyrian captivity as foretold by the prophets Isaiah (28), Hosea (4-10), Micah (1-3), and Amos (4-9). In 586 B.C., after eight godly and 12 ungodly kingships, the southern kingdom of Judah was taken into Babylonian captivity as foretold by the prophets Isaiah (29-33, 39), Jeremiah (52), Ezekiel (4-24), Micah (1-3), Habakkuk (1:5-11), and Zephaniah (3:1-7).

However, a remnant of Jewish exiles in Babylon returned to rebuild Jerusalem and carry out God’s plan of salvation that was foretold in Genesis 3:15 – that an anointed offspring (Ps. 2:2; Acts 4:26; 10:38) would be the Savior of the world (In 1:1-18) through the humblest of means (Is. 52:13-53:12) in the form of a new covenant (Jer. 31:22-40). Humanity’s deliverance is God’s purpose (Acts 19:26-28) on earth, and eternal glory awaits those who revere His name (Mal. 4:2-6; Is. 65:17-25). Our attention to this matter may be invoked through nature (Ex. 7;14-11:10; Joel 1:1-20), utter destruction (Ob.; Na. 3:8-19), answering, “Here 1 am,” when God calls (Ex. 3:4), and the holy grace found in genuine repentance (e.g., Jnh.). Essentially, we need to embrace the fear of the Lord “and keep His commands, for this is the whole duty of man. For God Himself will bring every deed into judgment, including everything, whether it is good or evil” (Ecc. 12:13-14). With this in mind it’s much easier to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Mic. 6: 8) .

Bloom Where You Are – Walter Bass

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“Bloom Where You Are”
By Walter Bass
Muskegon Correctional Facility, Muskegon, MI

Today, like any other day, I am reminded of the presence of God. I know of the many tasks that I will face throughout my day and moments when my will, will compete with his will.

I’ve been in prison for three years now and each day has become harder and harder. Partly because I have been here before and I vowed to never return and partly because I’m innocent of the charges against me. Although being wrongfully convicted isn’t my true struggle, it’s my human desire versus the will of God. How so? I have had the calling on my life to do God’s work way before coming back to prison. It was my mother’s constant advice to combat all let-downs of the world I was experiencing and “to get into the church.” She is also a minister. It wasn’t until I was in prison that I had a dream of speaking in front of a church. I had the dream more than once. So I asked God as if he were joking – a preacher, a pastor? Who me?

As I begin to read the Bible, just going through the motions at first making it a routine, but lacking in spirit I begin to understand scriptures that I never understood, and as if talking to me personally I began to understand God’s purpose for my life through his words.

During these past three years I have stayed in the word of God and I have even become a church leader at one of the prisons and now I am at another prison singing in the choir and in a Minister Training class.

Getting to today – my will versus His will. Just like any other person, I think about being free. I daydream about being home with my family and children as any man or woman in prison does. But I ask myself if I will make it before my time is up on earth. I think about, what if it’s God’s purpose for me to do His work in here. And I don’t think about this just for myself but for other brothers here with me. We pray every night as a group and sometime in class we pray over documents being submitted to courts and parole boards. We pray for guys who are serving life to be granted commutation(s) of their sentence. We serve the Lord in hope that we will someday be released from prison.

The spirit to do God’s work, no matter where we are at, is our true purpose, be it in prison or outside of prison.

I wonder if God told us that we were to stay locked up and do His work in here and save our brothers, would we really be content. I am reminded of Matthew 19:16-22 where a man asked Jesus what he needed to do to receive eternity. The man had kept all the commandments but when Jesus told him to go sell his possessions and give to the poor, the man became sad and grieved because he was very rich. We can’t love God with all our heart and still be of this world. 1John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

My will is to be out of prison. God’s will is for me to do His work, to submit to his way. If I am to have the spirit of submission I then will humble myself to God. Acts 20:24 says, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the good news about the wonderful grace of God.”

I shared this writing with a brother of mine here with me and he gave me a saying that he had always held onto. He said to simply “bloom where you are.” A flower blooms where it is planted. So in closing, I will grow where I am and I will be fruitful as God’s Word tells me to do, as I remain in the vine which is our Lord Jesus Christ.

May God touch your hearts and speak to your spirit and give you fullness of joy. I send to you all love which was first given to me through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God be you.