Letter 20


Letter 20

If you were the leper that Jesus had cured, how would that act of mercy have impacted your life? Most of us give very little thought to the subject of miracles in our lives. I believe that the leper that was healed would have spent the rest of his days telling anyone who would listen about the day that Jesus changed his life. Why is it that today we hear so little about similar events occurring in our own lives? Do you think that somehow it means that the gospel is passé because you have not met any healed lepers or perhaps you have not met anyone recently who has been raised from the dead? Well then you will surely want to read this letter, because I want to talk about miracles that I have seen and miracles that I have experienced. Perhaps these words will stir your own heart to examine the possibility of miracles happening in your own life. I would not be so cruel that I would limit my words to pending realities of your life, rather I challenge you to take a long view on the concepts which we share with each other this month. I start from the premise that your own soul is equally valuable to my own soul. So these letters are meant to be respectful and uplifting. We have all experienced enough condemnation in our lives to last us through eternity. You are a human being who has been created in the image and likeness of Our Creator. You are also loved at a spiritual and personal level that is incomprehensible to our limited abilities to process or understand such worth, when we have had the searing experience of rejection. Don’t miss this truth, you are more valuable than you could ever grasp in this life. I do not know what it is like to live inside of your skin, but I know what it is like to have experienced miracles which have transformed my life and my thinking. I believe that you are in need of a miracle in your own life and I just want to share how it happened to me and to others who have shared my life journey.

So what is a miracle? Have you ever experienced one before, or do you know someone that has been touched in some miraculous way? If you saw a cancer patient healed would that be a miracle to you, or would you explain it through the actions of the doctors who were treating the patient? The kinds of miracles that I have seen or experienced seem to be based upon profound changes in people’s lives. The kind of changes that do not just happen, but that seem to result from a new direction being born in their lives. They always seem to happen from within and often times the individual undergoing the change is one of the last people to become aware of the changes in their own lives. The end result can be dramatic and profound at the same time. You see I believe that all miracles start out on a spiritual basis. I believe that everyone who was ever healed by Jesus Christ, was first changed in the inside. You see all of the people healed from diseases or raised from the dead eventually wound up dying. So the physical changes were merely temporary, the real and permanent changes happened inside of the individual’s life. Inside the day to day events that were played out in their choices and decisions. This is not some slick way to bring about religious talk. I firmly believe that I have seen changes in people’s lives and my own that are of a miraculous nature. The reason that I make this statement is simple, no human force could have produced these changes. If that is correct then some superior power touched these lives in remarkable ways.

When I have read Paul’s comments in the New Testament on the subject of miracles, signs and events I have found myself wondering about their purpose. It seems to me that they are meant to capture our focus, our attention and to help us to shift our thinking from the physical to the spiritual. You see, all of us eventually die. We go the way of the world. So it seems clear to me that miracles are meant to be transitory in nature. The leper who was healed, the young dead man raised by Jesus and the woman healed of the issue of blood all lived out their lives and eventually died. So the external miracle was not the event to which we should attach our attention. It seems that the miracle (external healing) was meant to bring about an even greater miracle in the lives of those touched by Jesus Christ. I see that miracle as what happened on the inside of each of these lives. Every individual had been transformed by having an encounter with Jesus. Their lives were touched forever because of that moment with Him. I see that as the biggest miracle that can happen in anyone’s life. That is the miracle I previously spoke about. I have seen lives transformed and have shared the same experience. Not by anything that I had done personally, but as a result of the Holy Spirit working in my life and the lives of others. I could never have shrugged off the burden of sin and shame by myself. But the Lord has been faithful to His word. What He has done for me He will also do for you. Do you think this is beyond the realm of possibility in your life?  I would have hastily agreed with you some time ago. But something profound happened to me and I have watched it happen in other’s lives. You are precious to your Creator. He loves you with a deep and abiding passion. If you read through the Gospel you will find that everyone who experienced a healing was willing to be fully healed. The changes on the outside were only a manifestation of the way that their hearts and minds were changed. God is not a holy bail bondsmen who gets us out of dire situations that we have created for ourselves. He is the Lord of life. He is the One who gave life to you and me. He is also the one who sustains our very lives. What would it take for you to be willing to surrender your life to Him today? What sign, wonder or miracle would you need to experience in order for you to drop to your knees and worship God, praising Him for having created you? Do you remember the story about how Lazarus and Father Abraham spoke with the rich man who was suffering in hell? This rich man begged Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers of what lay ahead for them. Abraham told him that they already had God’s word and even if one came back from the dead they would not change their ways because of that. What Abraham meant is that we need to be changed on the inside. I cannot shake off my old sinful nature by myself. I am totally powerless to escape my sin and shame. But Jesus already paid the price for my sins and yours. He has promised that if a person would truly seek Him, that He would be found by that person. He will never abandon you or me, as we truly seek Him through His word. My testimony is that the healing that I have received came from the inside first. It was a change of heart and a renewing of my mind that led to my being able to sweep aside old transgressions, crimes and violations against God and other human beings. This is a miracle of the highest order. I could never have done this for myself. I was as dead in my sins as the young man that Jesus brought back to life. I had no inclinations to change my ways and no clue where to begin that journey. True to His word, Jesus touched my life and brought about all the changes as I sought Him. He will do the same thing for you, because that is His loving nature. Stop watching the calendar, He is the author of your life. He waits patiently and lovingly for you to turn to Him and just have a heart to heart talk. He knows all about you, even your most secret and shameful behaviors. He waits until you are willing to hear His voice deep inside of your heart. Then He will speak to you in a new way and start the same process of transformation that He has brought about in my own life. God has no favorites. He loves each of us with a fierce passion and does not want to see any of us perish in our sins. But He is always a gentleman and will not force His way upon us. We have to make the choice. I would not write these words to you unless they had deep personal meaning in my own life. Jesus is the Lord of life, not the master of death. Satan seeks to destroy each of us, just to deprive God and to keep us from spending eternity with Him. Satan knows that his fate is sealed. He will spend eternity in the fiery pit for his ongoing rebellion against God. But you and I have the ability to choose life, eternal life. In your own life I am sure that you have lost many things beyond your freedom. Some of those things you had no control over, you could only watch as you lost them. But your place in eternity is something that you and only you control. If you reject God’s plan for your life, He will honor that choice, even though it breaks His heart to see you go down that road. I do not know what you have been told previously about God, but it is essential that you know how much He loves you: Right now, right where you are. You are His precious creation and if you will just call out to Him now, He will hear and begin the transformation process in your life. It does not matter what you have done before. It does not matter what the government says about you or the offenses you may have committed. All that matters at this moment is that you have just a quiet, heartfelt talk with Him. Then He will show you the power and majesty of His love and His mercy. He only waits upon you to reach out and invite Him into your life.

I could write pages to you describing the taste of sweets, but until you put one in your mouth, you would never fully comprehend what U have been talking about. God’s promises are the same way, until you taste of their sweetness you will never know what I am truly talking about. If you find yourself rejecting these words, then I would ask you to just stop and consider why you are rejecting them. Are you rejecting God because of something that another human has done to you? Have you concluded that because of where you are right now that you are beyond His help? Will you refuse to even consider the possibility that I am holding out to you. Would you go to your death without hope or joy? Have you ruled out the possibility that God Himself will hear and answer your prayers….not the please save me prayers, but the one where you ask with all your heart to know the truth? I am pleading with you at this moment that you would open your heart to the possibilities that God’s love is also for you and me. I have sought you out because I believe that God still has a special purpose for your life. The despicable acts which we have committed have caused others to abandon us and they have offended a holy God. But in His majesty and provision Our Father provided His Son, Jesus Christ to pay the price for all of our sins. In fact you may be in the best position to see this truth clearly as you deal with you current reality. Those in the world look at us and see our public sins. They use those offenses to build distance between themselves and us, telling themselves that they are nothing like us. They are really good people. Yet they go on sinning every day of their lives, without giving any thought to the holiness of God. All sin offends a loving God, even the slightest lie. He has called us to be holy, as He is holy. We cannot do that by ourselves, we are helpless by ourselves. Yet there is One who has already made complete atonement for each of us. I have sought you because I firmly believe that we are called to share each other’s burdens. We are supposed to be an encouragement to each other as we make our way through this world. Even now God can make something valuable out of the life you have lived. Through His Holy Spirit he can transform your heart into something that is eternally priceless. Let these words be a light and a hope to your spirit. Nothing is impossible with God.

My words are a bridge between us. I do not see you according to your current condition. Instead I see the possibilities that await you. Both you and I have committed serious sins, the same is true for people around the world. Our sins were the cause of our being excluded from society, but few free people are really willing to see their own spiritual condition. You are brothers and sisters in chains. Those fetters will eventually fall away when our earthy journey has been completed. Those living in the world rarely see their own chains, nor do they see themselves as being held in bondage. Jesus Christ is the answer to any question which we might harbor. No one is beyond His reach, no problem or burden is so great that He would refuse to share our load. No life is beyond His ability to redeem from all sin and transgression. Can you see the possibilities in your own life, to be washed clean? To be a member of God’s family? To finish your journey well? We are all in a race, let us seek the eternal prize promised to us. Miracles are indisputable, let yours start today from inside your spirit.

***

Life isn’t fair!—and I have thanked God for that first thing each morning for the past seven years.  If life were fair, if I actually got what I truly deserve for twenty-five years of harm to family and friends to serve at the feet of my addictions, death would be a great mercy. But instead, by God’s mercy, His grace, I have been restored to good standing in the community and live a productive life.  This is far from what I expected when I got out of prison back in 2008…or what I wanted.

Going out that gate, my mind was still on going back to my old ways: it had been my ongoing fantasy during my entire incarceration, the thing that seemed to keep me going. A return to the bright lights of Vegas, the lovely green fields of Black Jack and Craps tables, and the endless free drinks. Sometimes it seemed like I could actually taste Jack Daniels warming my throat and even feel the glow. Heaven….

But those were not the only thoughts I had. Behind bars, I had been introduced to another idea of heaven, one with the bright light of truth and endless life in joy. Yet the preachers had not convinced me this was a place for a person like me. I felt I was lost to that chance long ago. Better to let the party begin and rock on. Spoiler Alert: God had other plans.

His scheme started with a small electrical fire in the residential treatment facility in Albuquerque that was part of my release agreement; they had to cancel my stay. This was the first big blow to my plan: all the contacts I had made were there. Last minute calls secured another facility, isolated way up in the mountains with nothing around for miles or no one near that I knew, a peaceful place of real green fields and trees. The staff was easy-going and respectful, appearing to be genuinely concerned with helping. This was the opposite of what I heard about that other facility. And here I had my own room, the food was good, and there was plenty to do; again, the opposite of that other place. I decided that my plan could wait for six months.

When it came close to the time to graduate, my parole officer gave me a choice of two Halfway houses in two different cities in southern New Mexico: Hobbs or Alamogordo. I asked around and it was unanimous for Hobbs. Lots of work there they said and a few had some connections of the kind I had in my plan for a return to “the good life.” Hobbs it was. But not by God’s plan.

We had regular Sunday services at the treatment center and I became good friends with one of the ministers. He asked what my plans were after graduation and how was I feeling about getting out in the real world. I just said everything looked good and I felt excited about “starting over,” snickering a little to myself. He said, “That’s great. God speed.”

Then the Sunday a week before I was to leave, the minister came over to me and said he believed he had a message for me. During his prayers for my future, he was interrupted with these words: “Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh.” He asked if that made any sense to me. I shrugged but not only did it make sense, a chill ran down my spine when he said those words. That Monday, reluctantly, I told the parole officer Alamogordo.

My prospects were not good. Having been a betting man, the odds were heavily stacked against me: I was going out into the real world at least at 100 to 1. I was elderly with a long criminal record, without a work history or an ID. Family and friends, it appeared, had given up on me. Though now my thoughts had turned somewhat to trying to live a decent life, it seemed a return to my old ways would be the only way to survive.

The morning I arrived at the halfway house, the director told me to settle in she had some shopping to do. As much as that sounded good to me, just to relax, I offered to go along. She agreed. Not three blocks from the halfway house, she pulls over to introduce me to a friend. He was unloading his truck and after introductions he asked the director if I could help. I felt a chill. Not a half hour in town, against all odds and despite my sinful plan, I was gainfully employed and have held that job for the past seven years.  Miraculous mercy.

What I came to see was that I was another Prodigal Son and came to experience, like the parable, a gracious God who runs after me despite all the wrong I am doing or harm done. He pushes aside this and that which blocks my way so that I might find the straight and narrow of His loving embrace, which he is eager to impart. All he wants for me (not from me) is to through his Son come to know a joy and a peace beyond all human understanding. He wants me to know a life of good that nurtures and protects the best in me to share with others in need.  He is desperate to bring each of his children home to share in life everlasting. God wants you! Open to his mercy and join the march of saints.

Tom

 

 

Six Thoughts:                                                                                                   

You can’t steal what is freely given

You can’t slander a self-professed sinner

You can’t kill someone who is dead

You can’t covet what you already have

You cannot destroy what is eternal

When you are enough there is no need to lust

I am sitting in a Barnes and Nobles store in El Paso putting the finishing touches on this letter. My thoughts flow to each of you and to what I would love to share in a face to face contact. I see hope all around me and want to share that vision with you. Neither of us are here on earth by accident. We are all here with a definite purpose. That is all part of God’s plan. All He asks of us is to trust Him in all things. Trusting means that you surrender the thing that is most precious to you, your very life.

Since your life is a gift from God, can you trust Him with your own future? There is a God and this life is a temporal reflection of what is to come. It is enough to privately tell Him:  “I blew it, please forgive me for all of my sins and have mercy on me, my family and those that I have injured through my actions. Jesus I trust in You!”

That is a whole and complete prayer. It is a humble, heartfelt prayer. It is a cry that God’s heart could not resist hearing. Like a child’s cry to a loving Father. Abba Father. We have been given a great privilege, the privilege of time. We have the time to reflect and consider God’s word, to evaluate our lives and the decisions which we will make in the coming days.

If we can be of help to you in communicating with family members or friends, we will help you. If you need someone to talk to about life who will not judge you, we are here. If you need someone to pray for you or your family members we will do so. If you just need support or encouragement, you have found a welcoming place. God be with you.

Kevin and Quinta

 
 

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