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Monthly Archives: July 2019

Your Loving Hand – Phillip Tanner

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“Your Loving Hand”
By Phillip Tanner
Saginaw Correctional Facility, Freeland, MI

I thank you holy Lord for everything you do. Giving us a Saviour and bring us to You (always). Pick me up when I cannot stand. Please take this life with all its strife in Your loving hand.

I know I don’t deserve it but yet You hear my call. Every time I try I always seem to fall (flat) on my face in so many different degrees. Yet when I‘m lifted up I find myself down on my knees.

Forgive me for my sin, forgive me for my ways. Trying to find my place I’m lost in this maze. Not knowing where to go, what way should I turn? Will You take control because I’m set to burn. I’m in the pits of hell, if not for Your grace. For my sins on the cross Jesus took my place.

When looking to the left and looking to the right, Everything I see, You’re always in plain sight. From the leaves on the trees to the birds in the air. They neither seem to worry or have any care. Their needs by Your will, You fulfill every single one. Till time on this earth is over with and done.

The clouds float by dropping rain to the ground. Like Your tender voice, soothing is the sound. That gives me rest, put to the test, I do my best, I try. But without You, my life is through, in Gehenna I would die.
What a price, Your sacrifice. It will be nice, together we will dwell. For this I know, You own my soul, along with its shell that’s made of clay. You found a way to make me understand. Please take this life with all its strife in Your loving hand.

P.S. It can’t rain all the time. At some point the Son will shine. Jesus is the Light (John 8:2, John 12:46, Rev. 21:23).

In the middle of a storm Your looking for love (God is love, 1st John 4:8, 1st John 4:16) and it seems every one is against you. The truth (Jesus is the Truth, John 14:6) is in the middle of the storm. You’re already looking at love.

Dear God – Phillip Tanner

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“Dear God”
By Phillip Tanner
Saginaw Correctional Facility, Freeland, MI

I thank you Holy Lord for everything you do: giving us a Saviour and bringing us to you, always picking me up when I cannot stand.

I know I don’t deserve it but yet You hear my call. Every time I try, I always seem to fall flat on my face in so many different degrees. Yet when I’m lifted up I find myself down on my knees.

Forgive me for my sins, forgive me for my way. Trying to find my place I’m lost in this maze. Not knowing where to go, what way should I turn? Will You take control because I’m set to burn in the pits of hell if not for Your grace. For my sins on the cross, Jesus took my place.

When looking to the left and looking to the right, everywhere I look You are always in plain sight, from the leaves on the trees to the birds in the air. They neither seem to worry or have any care. Their needs by Your will, You fulfill every single one until time on this earth is over with and done.

The clouds float by dropping rain to the ground. Like Your tender voice, soothing is the sound. That gives me rest, put to the test, I do my best, I try. But without You, my life is through, in Gehenna I would die.

What a price, your sacrifice. It will be nice together we will dwell. For this I know, You own my soul, along with its shell that’s made of clay. You found a way to make me understand. Please take this life with all its strife in Your loving hand.

It can’t rain all the time. At some point, the sun will shine. Jesus is the light (John 8:12, John 12:46, rev. 21:23).

In the middle of a storm you’re looking for love (God is love: 1st John 4:8, 1st John 4:16) and it seems everyone is against you. The truth (John 14:6) is in the middle of a storm. You’re already looking at love.

The Road Less Traveled – Matthew Nawrocki

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“The Road Less Traveled”
By Matthew Nawrocki
Newberry Correctional Facility, Newberry, MI

The freedom is worth it, if you’d search for yourself
But we just wanna be told; we’re just lookin’ for help
We’re feignin’ for a handout, saying, “Give me, give me now!”
We’re just like little infants who look up with open mouths

But where is our hungering, where is our thirst?
In this dry and weary land, we must seek You first
But we don’t want You, we just want Your stuff
And then once we get it we cry, “It’s not enough”

Please forgive us Father, though we know well what we do
We’re spoiled little children, and it’s You we try to use
Thank You for Your patience and thank You for Your love
And thank You for Your discipline, which helps us grow on up

You are in control and You are sovereign still
In spite of how we try so hard to manipulate Your will
For You are never mocked, and we reap just what we sow
And hopefully it brings us back to the fork that’s in the road

Then we could choose again, as to what path we should use
The path of least resistance, or the path that follows You
As for me, I shall choose to follow in Your ways
And trust You and Your perfect plan, even on the worst of days

Cuz You are God and I am not, and Your ways are not my ways
May the road You want, be the road I take, just lead me in Your grace
I’ve tried my way, and it never seemed to turn out for the good
But if I choose to follow You, You promised that it would

Misguided Motives – Matthew Nawrocki

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“Misguided Motives”
By Matthew Nawrocki
Newberry Correctional Facility, Newberry, MI

As each generation comes and goes, it seems as if we exemplify love less and less. Our world, and especially our relationships, become more and more superficial; more and more about me, myself, and I. It’s been engrained in us; etched deeply into the moral fabric of our society like a tattoo. And it’s an ugly tattoo, one we should be ashamed of, and hiding under sleeves, desiring its removal from our body. Yet we seem content with it, no harm, no foul; we all make bad choices, and this is just another one on our list as a nation. Have you watched any TV lately? We parade our concept of love around like we’re proud of it. I’m not sure about you, but as for me? I’m embarrassed. I’m hurt. I’m mad.

We’ve sold everything in this country on convenience and ease. We try to make our lives simpler to manage, which only generates more leisure time for us to waste distancing ourselves from Love Himself. Real love, the kind that really heals and really satisfies, I get it, really I do. I grew up in the media generation: Internet, iPods, and iPhones. I, I, and I, the trinity of self-indulgence, self-seeking, and self-help. But where has it led us? Self sufficiency. The type of self that has no need for a selfless God who was born human to pay our ransom and save us from . . . wait, what do I need to be saved from again? That’s the thought we have isn’t it? We know the story, we just don’t think we need to be saved; we’re doing the best we can right? That’s all anyone could expect of us.

I fear we have spent so many years wasting our lives and missing what we were put on this earth to experience. Love. We’re consumed with the search for it, but we’ve had such a bad interpretation of what it is we’re actually searching for that we continue to come up empty. Or worse, we have convinced ourselves we’ve found it in something we know does not fully satisfy. But what if it could be found? What if the answer really was right in front of us this whole time, and yet our desire for the quick fix kept us from it all along? What if the love we are all really searching for is not found in 3 easy steps? What if it is not found in our disciplined obedience to the rules? What if it cannot be found the microwavable, insta-pot way? It’s really never as satisfying that way is it?

I wonder if we are not showing up to our churches in America just wanting the pastor to tell us what to do; tell us the quick fix to our problems. Our lives are out of order and in turmoil, yet we believe in God and we want Him to just clean it all up for us and make it better. We hear about the freedom that is in Christ, the abundant life He came to give, but we can’t seem to experience it; we can’t seem to live in it. We fall into the trap that religion tends to set before us, thinking that if we just do a bunch of things ritualistically over and over again we may finally find it. But listen to me. Stop. There are no rules to a relationship with God; it’s a covenant, not a contract. Think about this for a minute; when has that ever worked in any relationship you’ve had? Are you married? Have you ever asked another married person what they did for their 1 year anniversary and thought to yourself, “I’ll do the exact same thing and I’ll be sure to get the same result?” The obvious problem in that thinking is that your wife hates fancy restaurants and ballroom dancing. We all understand that relationships are unique to each individual, and so our relationships with God cannot be seen in the same way. In order to develop intimacy, there must be a unique heart connection that only comes through spending much personal time together. God wants to be pursued by us in our own way, the same way He has uniquely pursued us. He longs to be sought after and chased, just like anybody else would.
I suppose I’m pretty young and naive when it comes to knowing what a real relationship or a marriage entails; however, I know that I could not learn to love my wife or girlfriend by someone else telling me what to do and say, and how to do or say it. It may be a nice thing to do, no denying the act itself, but it is a misguided motive. My heart is not invested in it and it is not genuine love towards her. More than likely she will be able to sense that, and therefore no intimacy can be grown. Rather, I must be able to freely love her in the unique way that she needs to be loved. There is responsibility in that freedom, however, and I must have a heart that is invested in pursuing her and not trying to follow some cookie cutter pattern to win her over. How much more satisfying is the meat slow roasted all day in the crockpot? How much more satisfying is it to make your own gift, invest time and energy into the perfect present, or make your own card than to get the Hallmark original? So, why do we often treat God as if all He is worthy of is a Hallmark card?

That may sound extreme but I don’t think I’m too far off on this one. We’ve missed His heart, and thought we could buy His love by doing things for Him rather than giving Him our whole hearts and pursuing Him the way He has pursued us our whole lives! It is for freedom that we have been set free! We’re in a new covenant, grace relationship with God through Jesus our reconciler, who made the way for us; not so we would follow the A-B-C, 1-2-3 easy steps to have a great relationship with God, but so with that freedom we would live to love Him; that we would learn to love Him! The freedom of that relationship and the satisfaction that comes through the difficult process of a real relationship is worth it! Press into God, seek Him with all your heart and He promises you will find Him. Pray as David prayed in Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Let us “enter by the narrow gate . . . because narrow is the gate that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mt. 7:14).

Are You Truly Consecrated? – Matthew Nawrocki

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“Are You Truly Consecrated?”
By Matthew Nawrocki
Newberry Correctional Facility, Newberry, MI

We so often struggle to get to the place in our lives where we can truly confess before God, “Your will be done” (Mt. 6:10). Truthfully, we seem far more interested in seeing our own wills done. We may give mental assent to His will, but our lack of surrender to His way shows where we really stand before Him. His will for us, in its most concrete sense, is clearly stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:3,7, where Paul states, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification . . . For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” His will is the life of Jesus being manifested in our lives, and that only happens through the testing, the trying, and the purifying work of fire. God works all things together for good to those who love Him . . . that we might be conformed into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29). The implication here being that there will be things in need of being worked into good; such as trials, difficulties, adversities, or opposition. This will be the very way that God will “conform us into the image of His Son.” Yet, we often choose to ignore God in those circumstances, despising and becoming discouraged by His form of discipline. We see it as something that needs to be removed from our lives altogether, instead of seeing it as the affirmation of our sonship. God is using these very things to produce in us “the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it…that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Heb. 12:5-11).

God is concerned with us bearing fruit. It is what brings Him glory (John 15:8); and I would argue that the sweetest fruit is produced in the harshest conditions. Therefore, we must learn to abide in Him at all times, especially during times of trial and discipline; for unless we abide in Him we cannot bear the fruit that glorifies His name (John 15:4-5). Most of the time, however, we are too earthly minded, rebuking the very circumstances that could shape us; and, in turn, we forfeit the work of God in our lives.

We desire to see heaven around us, but God desires to work heaven in us! Jesus challenged this very thinking in the Pharisees when they asked when the kingdom of God would come. He spoke to them that, “the kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). We want this world we live in to be heavenly and to meet our own needs; but God is desiring our inner life to be heavenly so that we can meet the needs around us! In the midst of this unholy world in which we live, God wants to reveal us as His testimonies of holiness; a stark contrast to that which surrounds us. This holiness, however, can only be attained by our consecration and devotion to Jesus.

Jesus reminded us that “in this world you will have tribulations; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We will be pressed in this life, but not crushed; we will be perplexed, yet not in despair; we will face persecution, but not be forsaken; we will be struck down, but we will not be destroyed. Yet, “through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:8-10). We can be of good cheer, knowing our consecration to God is what allows us to be overcomers through Christ, and will reveal the life of Jesus, through us, to this broken world.

Paul said that he counted, “all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:8,10-11). We must understand what Paul is telling us! He is confronting the very wisdom of men we so willingly ascribe to; that we can have the resurrection life without partaking in His sufferings or being conformed to His death; that we can have all the blessings of God without any of the trials, suffering, or discipline; that we can attain the character of Christ apart from our surrender and consecration to God. We must recognize the grave error in that thinking, and come to recognize our own poverty and emptiness before God; that we are unable to make the life of Jesus manifest in our lives by our own efforts or will. It is only in our complete and utter devotion to pursuing God and God alone that we can be transformed into the likeness of Jesus; and that devotion will speak as Jesus Himself did before our Father, in His most trying time upon this earth, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thy will be done.” That is the true response of a life consecrated before God as an acceptable offering (Rom. 12:1-2). What will be your response? Are you truly consecrated to God?

Integrity – Lonnie Jr. Jones

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“Integrity”
By Lonnie Jr. Jones
Muskegon Correctional Facility, Muskegon, MI

The Hebrew word for integrity is “tummah” (Job 2:3, 9 and Prov. 11:3). This word only appears in Job and Proverbs. The Lord boasts about Job for “he holdeth fast to his integrity” despite Satan’s attacks. The word implies a sense of completeness, that there is no division between eternal appearances and internal spiritual reality.

According to the Scriptures, we see the difference between two characters. Men of darkness (Job 24:13-25) and integrity and righteousness (Job 27:1-12).

Let’s discuss the two issues of life we face daily.

  1. What are the main differences between the two? See Matt. 15:17-209.
  2. Why are they so mirroring of each other? See Gen. 3:1-13 (key verse).
  3. There is a thin line between faith and unbelief. See Prov. 23.
  4. Two examples of these types are David and Uriah. See 2nd Sam. 11.

Concluding statement: Joshua 24:14, 15 and Prov. 24:1-6.

Study and grow in His integrity.

Finding Reasons to Forgive – Tolan Duncan

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“Finding Reasons to Forgive”
By Tolan Duncan
Macomb Correctional Facility, New Haven, MI

Right, Jesus should be enough of a reason but somehow we find it hard for Him to be that reason at times.

I realized that I was still harboring unforgiveness in my heart when on the sacrifice I said that these individuals were forgiven. I come to know and see that unforgiveness is sin and James 4:17 states He that knows what to do and don’t do it is sin.

Our Lord Jesus and His disciples spoke so much about forgiving others. I also noticed that I have a hard time forgiving myself for the wrongs I’ve caused others and this shouldn’t be so if I truly accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

If Jesus has done it all for my salvation, then why am I holding on to all this forgiveness and the past hurts? Good question, right? We may find it hard to let go of things we are so use to even if it is no good for us and our future.

Why did Jesus do what He did for us if we are unwilling to let Him be enough. Today we must make the decision to let Jesus be enough to heal us of holding on to the stress of unforgiveness.

I need to share this with you because there may be many of you who are in the same state I’m in when it comes to disappointment in your life that is keeping you trapped in unforgiveness. I pray that we will see that God is enough when He says we are forgiven and believe it.

Relationship Building – Nicholas Butler

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“Relationship Building”
By Nicholas Butler
Parnall Correctional Facility, Jackson, MI

Isaiah 52:14 informs us that Jesus was physically beaten to such a degree that He was unrecognizable. Why would a person allow themselves to be beaten so badly? What would compel such a person to accept being spat upon, punched, shamed and mocked? But the torture didn’t stop there. Jesus was beaten with a rod by the Roman soldiers. The rod had a whip attached to it with braided leather thongs tied into iron balls or sheep bones. When the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus of clothing and tied His hands to the upright post, His back and legs were exposed and struck with this rod. Historically, this method of crucifixion initiated the process for an execution. Crucifixion was meant to weaken Jesus’ condition just short of collapse or death.

Being struck by the iron balls caused deep contusions, but the sheep bone tore into Jesus’ skin, ripping it apart, the underlying skeletal muscles caused severe blood loss as they were torn by lacerations, setting the stage for circulatory shock. Prior to this torture, Jesus didn’t eat any food or drink any water, and He didn’t sleep. His physical and emotional state was weakened. He couldn’t even carry the 125-pound crossbar.

Upon the cross, Jesus’ body weight would pull down on His shoulders and outstretched arms hindering His ability to exhale. He had seven inch nails driven through His wrists and feet, causing extreme pain as nerves were punctured. As evidenced, death by crucifixion was in every sense of the Latin word “excruciatus,” or “out of the cross.” Each breath would cause His wounds to rub against the wooden post. To add insult to injury, after He was already dead, a Roman soldier stabbed Him with an infantry spear in His side. I gave us this description to paint a picture in our brains of what Jesus endured in order to return to the original question, Why would Jesus willingly accept such torture?

Jesus willingly accepted this responsibility because He and the Father loves us, He knew that by suffering on the cross for our sins, He would restore our relationship to the Father. His unconditional love is a relationship model for all believers. John told us 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for His friend’s.” We are His friends, and relationship building is the point I wish to stress.

I encourage all of us brothers to build relationships, possibly utilizing these six principles: Communication: a necessary characteristic for any relationship. Reliability: shows your brother or sister that you will share his burdens, concerns, and joy. Trust: be faithful and diligent to show yourself approved and not a hypocrite. Security: relationships are a blanket for comfort, do not be judgmental or partial, love all equally and make them feel safe. Dependability: show your face when your brother needs you. And lastly, reciprocity: relationship is a two-way street, let us not be selfish – only concerned about our wants.

Since Jesus endured extreme pain and humiliation for our relationship restoration, I encourage all of us to practice conciliation with one another.