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Monthly Archives: January 2019

God’s Undeserved Love and Acceptance – George Walker

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“God’s Undeserved Love and Acceptance”
By George Walker
Muskegon Correctional Facility, Muskegon, MI

“And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this.” Ezra 9:13.

I have been reading Ezra nine and our Father has been showing me what His grace looks like. The definition of grace is undeserved love and acceptance. This is what our Father constantly gives us. I have repeatedly sinned against our Father and repeatedly asked His forgiveness and every time He has forgiven me and delivered me from those sins, thank you Jesus. The Bible says the wages of sin is death but our Father has punished us less than our iniquities deserve and has given us such deliverance as this – we are still breathing.

In Ezra nine we see a people who repeatedly did what God told them not to do. In verses five and six Ezra is praying because of how they are sinning brings a heaviness upon his heart. He is ashamed of their iniquities and their trespasses have grown up to the heavens. Even in their bondage, God grants them a moment of relief by lightening their eyes, verse eight. God allowed them for a moment to see their lustful desires but they still continued in their sins. Our Father still granted them love and acceptance while they were in bondage. He loves us with an everlasting love.

In verse 15 Ezra is praying “O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this.” Ezra is pouring out his heart in reverence to God while in bondage and ashamed.

We have a Father whose love for us so strong for us that He can forgive us for our sins and remember them no more. If we keep coming to Him, keep seeking Him and give Him all of our sinful desires and worries. He will forgive us every time –- grace – and deliver us. Thank you, Jesus. Be encouraged.

Pain’s Purpose? – Matthew Nawrocki

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“Pain’s Purpose?”
By Matthew Nawrocki
Newberry Correctional Facility, Newberry, MI

Life here on earth can seem so complex sometimes. The question asked by all at some point in life, “what am I here for” lingers until answered. We all experience pain, and wonder its purpose. We wonder why it has to exist at all. Why is there so much pain? Why so much sorrow and suffering, hurt and loss? We can come to a point, and many do, when we think that ending life is the only way to escape what is inescapable. But what if that belief was to lead to the exact opposite result? What if, perhaps, it only led to an eternal and everlasting life of pain and sorrow?

As a culture we have turned and twisted the terms “eternal life” and “everlasting life.” We have used them as conditions that only the believer in Jesus will experience; and while it is true that the Scriptures refer to an eternal life with Christ, it is also true that the Scriptures refer to an eternal life without Christ. The Bible makes mention of such terms as “everlasting punishment” (Mt. 25:46), “outer darkness” (Mt. 8:12), “the blackness of darkness forever” (2 Pet. 2:17), and “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9).

So, if the Scriptures are accurate, then trying to escape the sorrows of this life, by hoping for it to be over or ending it, actually only finalizes a life filled with pain; everlasting pain, punishment, and destruction. Life as we know it, physically, is not the whole story. We were created with an eternal nature that will, and I repeat, will, last forever.

So what if this life on earth is really just the “valley of decision” (Joel 3:14)? What if the pain serves a greater purpose? Clearly pain was not the intention of design from God. We see in the Genesis account of creation that His intent was life with Him, an intimacy where we walked and fellowshipped with Him “in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8). We know that what we live in and experience today is the result of sin, not God. Now, because God’s desire is relationship with His creation and it was broken by that sin, He made a way for us to come back to Him; to spend eternity with Him, not separated from Him. Thanks be to God for Jesus, the sacrificial lamb and offering for the sins of mankind! The reconciling has taken place, the opportunity for relationship and eternity with God a reality once again. But we have a choice. We must come in the way God has prepared for us. We must come by faith through the Son; He is the door, the only way to the Father. He has brought hope in the midst of what appears broken and hopeless.

So why the pain? Why didn’t Jesus take it away when He came and died for us? I pose this question once again: what if the pain serves a greater purpose? What if the groanings and yearnings we experience for freedom and perfection are only guiding us to the one way we can experience it forever? C.S. Lewis wrote that “pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Yet, we’ve become numb to the pain instead of awakened by it. We have let it have the reverse effect; causing us to despair and dig a hole, rather than hope and seek healing and freedom. Pain reminds us there is still a choice. We must answer the question it leads us to: will we run to Jesus as the only way to spend eternity where “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain…” (Rev. 21:4); or will we run away from Him, seeking to escape this life and ultimately choose a life with nothing but sorrow, crying, pain, and death?

Can we fail to consider the possibility of the Scriptures being accurate? Would we really be willing to “take our chances”? Those of you who are burdened with sorrow now, I ask you: could you endure, or even imagine a life of never ending sorrow, with no rest from pain, ever? As bad as your life may seem, regardless of the pain you currently feel, you still experience moments of hope; moments of light and joy, of peace and happiness, of love and grace and mercy. They may not be as often as you would prefer, but it does relieve the pain, and remind you it’s not all bad in this life. The genuine laughter of a child, the fragrance of a spring rain, a butterfly floating through the air, the sound of a waterfall or a flowing river; peaceful, tranquil, serene moments that help us to forget, if only temporarily, the pain and suffering we are currently facing in our lives. Now imagine eternity with none of that; no relief, no joy, no light whatsoever; only darkness, only sorrow, constant suffering…forever.

I beg of you, I plead with you, I implore you to consider where you would rather live for eternity and whether you can afford to, all too easily, brush it off as something you “just don’t believe in.” You will live forever, my friend, and pain and sorrow does not have to be your end. Receive the One whom God has sent, and live life forever with Him just as He meant.

Hope for the Hopeless – Matthew Nawrocki

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“Hope for the Hopeless”
By Matthew Nawrocki
Newberry Correctional Facility, Newberry, MI

All the brokenness that surrounds us, the constant images of hurt, hunger, and pain. Our hearts long for healing, for a perfection that appears to be well out of our grasps and altogether unattainable. Yet, eternity has been etched into our very hearts. We desire a new world; one in which we could live free forever from sickness, sorrow, suffering, and death. It’s like a seed planted deep within our souls. We yearn for it to finally penetrate the soil; to sprout and bloom into the reality of our existence

More brokenness, more failure, more hurting. More sorrow, more suffering, more pain.

When will it end? When will these caged birds go free? Who holds the key? Hope is the key and Hope has a name. A name that is above all other names. In this world are tribulations, but Hope says “I have overcome the world.”

But we can’t see it, how can we know for sure? We must walk by faith and not sight. Hope that is visible is not hope at all. How can we hope for what we already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we must wait for it patiently.

Patience. Patience produces. So count it all joy and let patience produce. Let patience bear fruit, until that seed in our hearts finally becomes truth.

A New Year – Matthew Nawrocki

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“A New Year”
By Matthew Nawrocki
Newberry Correctional Facility, Newberry, MI

The last day of 2018. What a year, huh? Certainly it was not what I had expected it to be, but I’m alive and well and stronger because of it.

Last year this time I was starting to think about the parole board and getting out in the summer and beginning a new chapter, and yet here I am. A year of uncertainty, like I’ve never experienced, was what it took to drive me into a deeper fellowship with God, growing in Him and learning the most important lessons of my life and my walk with Him.

There was the parole board in February, a month of waiting to see what the future, or at least the near foreseeable future, would look like. March would give me an answer, yet still an uncertain one; a deferral for programming at DRC. This led to more uncertainty as to when I would leave. I prepared to go and yet the months came and went: April, May, June, July, past my ERD and into August and bam – a new decision: an 18-month continuance and a new program, ASAT.

More uncertainty. Is this really happening? Lord, why am I not going home. Am I not ready? All of a sudden my views of God began to change; He began chiseling away at false beliefs and misunderstandings I was living with. I began to cry out, to dig deeper, to desire intimacy, and seek to hear from Him. I needed to hear from Him; and yet more than anything I needed to trust Him. The picture He had given me on my trip to URF about going around that bend was now in question – the human misunderstanding the Divine. Yet it was not an inaccurate picture, but only an inaccurate timeline.

He said, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season you will reap, if you do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9). I began to get above, to sit with Him, and to see from His eyes, His perspective; and lo and behold, things started changing. In the midst of all my hurt and frustration, and in the midst of such uncertainty, my roots began to dig deeper, stretch wider, and thirst for water like never before. I saw the flaws He was ironing out. I saw the experience I was able to gain. I saw the areas of my leadership that needed much growth. I saw the relationships form that I never would have poured into or received from had I gone home. I saw my light shine brighter, not as I worked harder, but as I became more open and broken and willing to be me, the real me. I saw the way my family was also impacted and how this was not only about my growth but theirs and others we know who are seeing how we respond to adversity and how we trust in the midst of uncertainty. I saw how my original sentence was a consequence of my choices, yet now I was in a trial, being tested and approved, as God sought to produce patience in me, and refine me and purify me into an image more and more resembling that of Jesus.

“Oh, how great are God’s riches, and wisdom, and knowledge! How impossible it is to understand His decisions and His ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give Him advice? And who has given Him so much that He needs to pay it back? For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to Him forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36). All I can do is praise God for His infinite wisdom, believing that He is a good Father who knows what is best, not only for me but those around me. Does it still hurt at times? You bet it does. Do I still battle the worry that creeps in? Yep. But I know that my God is for me and not against me. I know that the fact that I am still here, when every sign says I should be home, gives me an assurance and a confidence that I am in His will and that this moment, this time, in my life is serving a great purpose and I do not want to miss out on all that He has for me here. I’m still begging that it is in His will for me to be able to go to my sister’s wedding in March, and it will most certainly be a miracle if that were to happen; however, in learning to die to myself and to live the crucified life, what better situation to be faced with. As badly as it hurts to think I may miss a huge moment in her life, I still know that God is good and His intention is not to hurt, but to prepare us for His great purpose.

So, as I reflect on the past year and look forward to what’s ahead, I am filled with great expectation; not an expectation that I will get what I desire and that this year will be smooth and without difficulty, but rather an expectation that God will continue the good work He has begun in me, and that He will use the difficulty and the blessings alike to draw me to Him and to display the fruit of the Spirit, His Spirit, in and through my life. May God get the glory and may He be considered more than worthy of all the praise I could ever give in a lifetime.

Peace in 2019 – Walter Bass

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“Peace in 2019”
By Walter Bass
Muskegon Correctional Facility, Muskegon, MI

I want to start off by giving thanks to our most high Lord and Savior Christ Jesus for God has granted to us another year. We all know he didn’t have to wake us up this morning but he did.

My family and friends, you may be going through a rough time in your life and your situation seems to keep getting worse or your circumstances have you in a low place and you can’t seem to get up. If you feel like you’re drowning because you have been treading water for so long that your arms are tired, if you feel that every time you take one step forward you get pushed back three, if you feel that God has forgotten about you, I want to tell you today that God hasn’t forgotten you. I want to tell you today that God is at work in your life at this very moment.

We have been through many hardships in life. We have been through hardships that have made us doubt the very God of Gods, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.”

I want to remind you today that all things work together for the good to them that love the Lord. It’s time that you start speaking these things in your life. It’s time that we speak to those things that are not as though they were. Start commanding good things over and in your life. Command blessings over your households, relationships and marriages. Command healing over sickness and injuries, for Jesus was bruised for our iniquities and it is by his stripes that we are healed. Speak to your situation, speak to your circumstances and know that although God hasn’t removed you from the storm He is going to see you through the storm.

May the peace, grace and mercy of our Lord Christ Jesus be yours in abundance in 2019. Happy New Year.