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Unshackled Blog Series

Somebody robbed the prison

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Chapter 6 pages 103-105

Jeremiah 17:9

2 Corinthians 5:21

Like you, I’ve watched hundreds of movies and have heard numerous accounts of robberies that have taken place and as you know by now, I had shamefully participated in one myself as a teen.

In my book “Unshackled,” I mention the inmates at the SCI Camp Hill Prison who broke through a concrete wall and robbed the prison Commissary. Many of us stood scratching our heads in disbelief just like the authorities at how they could have done it. After a quick investigation, the few inmates suspected were dealt with and held accountable.

It wasn’t until some years later, and after hearing another crazy story of a guy who lost both arms attempting to steal glass insulators off high voltage power lines that I understood it was the condition of our hearts. It was told to me that while recovering in a hospital bed, he asked a visiting friend to steal the medical equipment being used to aid his recovery. It was then that I began to understand the real issue. It’s SIN.

“When the thousand years are up, Satan will be let out of his cell, and will launch again his old work of deceiving the nations.”
Revelation 20:7

A thousand years under lock and key may have contained the the devil but not the will. I heard someone say correctly, “Bars and chains have never changed a soul.”

Jeremiah writes, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” So, is there a cure or remedy? YES! Jesus, who knew no sin became a sin offering for us so that the righteousness of God could be ours.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 This is exciting news. When I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to be the LORD of my life, it was the best decision I have ever made. It wasn’t the 34 years nine months and 15 days I spent incarcerated that change my life, it was a relationship with Jesus my Savior! Be encouraged today and share this with someone you know.

Let’s Influence Others for Jesus

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Chapter 5 pages 87-92

2 Corinthians 2:15

James 1:5

One of my best friends called me from prison the other day. You remember Warner aka “Big Moses” from my book “Unshackled.” He would get up before everyone and singing loudly, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee, Grant It, Jesus Is My Plea.” Then shout, “Get up and praise the LORD,” which would wake everyone up on the cellblock. He shared that he’s doing great and continues to serve and grown where God planted him. He is still hoping to be reunited with his family one day if his parole is granted. If you think of him this week, ask God’s favor on him as he ministers.

Among the many things Big Moses imparted on me as a young Christian, besides the hundreds of Hymnal songs he knew by heart, was that, “God places people in your life for a season, a reason or a life time.” That statement was perfectly timed. God had been using Pastor Larry to introduce me to many people from his church. Some I spoke with over the phone, others through letters and many would actually come to the prison to minister to me. A few like Rob Meier, Marty and Natalie Williams, spent over twenty years visiting me and have become life-long friends.

God works in seasons, for a reason and over our life time. James 1:5 says,

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
James 1:5

I am totally convinced those I meet today have an eternal significance in my life, even if it’s for a season. I just need to trust and recognize His purposes through prayer.

Manifesting His Presence

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Chapter 5 pages 84-87

1 John 1:1-3

1 John 4:4

Towards the end of my incarceration, a fellow inmate told me he didn’t believe God existed. Without skipping a beat I responded with, “I’ll prove to you there is a God and will show you He loves and has a plan for your life.” This statement came out so quickly I actually surprised myself. The skeptical look on his face told me he wasn’t buying it. Yet out of curiosity he asked, “How do you plan on doing that?”, and I replied “Come hang out with me for a week and I’ll prove to you that God exists.”

Those words may have been out of desperation to save him from a Christless eternity but nevertheless, I meant it. Later he asked how could I make such a bold statement. I explained as the Father manifested himself to us through Christ, we are to manifest His Son to others as John describes in 1 John 1:1-4. The word “manifest” describes being recognizable, and suggests a visibility that gives the observer the ability to define what is seen. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit and His Word, we will manifest God’s loving nature to others so they can know the Father and His only Son Jesus Christ whom He sent. Be encouraged today in knowing:

“Greater is HE in you than he that is in this world.”

1 John 4:4

Authority Builds Us Up

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Chapter 5 pages 77-84

Romans 13:1-2; 2

Corinthians 8:10 & 13:10

Pastor Larry Titus, of Kingdom Global was instrumental in my salvation. He shared with me during one of his many visits with me while in Prison, “If you don’t respect authority, God will never permit you to operate in it.” Those words hit me like a Grip-Rite, 16-Penny, Steel Coated Sinker Nail, and it stuck! While authority has been abused by parents, governmental leaders, and yes even church officials the LORD clearly intended it to be used to build people up and never to tear down.

2 Corinthians 10:8 says, we can see how the God-Head establishes the principle of authority. The Son only does the Father’s will and the Holy Spirit speaks only what He hears from the Father and the Son.

In chapter five of my book Unshackled, I shared about my rebelliousness towards authority. Having God’s perspective on this topic brought liberty and enabled me to submit. It wasn’t until I did this that He began to use me to make a difference for the Kingdom. So, whether it’s swearing at a Correction Officer making his nightly rounds or driving 20 mph over the speed limit on I35N in Texas, violating authority has its consequences. But when submitted and obedient, your life on earth will carry the authority of heaven to earth, building others up, seeing them reach their fullest potential. God Bless you.

Born Again

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Chapter 4 pages 65-73

John 3:3-5

In Chapter 4 of my book Unshackled, I wrote about my friend Scott because I quickly saw great potential the first day I met him. Initially, many of my friends were uncomfortable around his inflated ego and sarcastic attitude. Yet I knew almost instantly that God had a plan for him as He had with me.

I recall this discussion we had about Jesus’ words:

“Unless one is born again you cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:3

Scott, an extremely intelligent guy, asked what being “Born Again” meant? I realized, in spite of attending church each week, Scott may not be. Over the next few years I prayed and walked with him, and demonstrated God’s love the best I could. Scott eventually surrendered his life to Jesus and began to grow in his faith. His conversion was dramatic. The Lord replaced his arrogant and sarcastic attitude with the one full of love and understanding.

Through my incarceration, Scott was incredibly important to my ministry. He remains incarcerated today, and serves as the Chaplain’s Assistant ministering daily to other prisoners. His meek and gentle manner permits him to serve the men at the prison with incredible effectiveness. He also leads Bible Studies each week. I had the privilege of watching the Holy Spirit transform this obnoxious guy, with lots of rough edges into a man after Gods own heart, who walks in love.

Scott sacrifices his time and resources to disciple men at the prison, that they might know Jesus also. While Scott continues to serve a Life Sentence without the possibility of parole, he continues to serve Jesus with the commitment to love others into the kingdom of God. He is one of the four men I am committed to supporting spiritually and financially. Please pray for Scott this week, to be even more effective in sharing the gospel message.

Never Give Up!

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Chapter 4 pages 64-65

1 Peter 1:6-7; Psalms 119:71

Running to the LORD with my difficulties proved God’s faithfulness every time. The LORD has never once disappointed me.

Say this with me: “GOD IS FAITHFUL AND HE WILL NEVER DISAPPOINT ME!”

While God could have changed my circumstances, He chose not to. And going through what I did, caused me to change. His grace afforded me an attitude that difficulties were designed to strengthen me. Nothing occurs in life without His approval, so why get too anxious? He is Sovereign and with this Biblical reality, I stopped seeing the devil behind every difficult door and saw an opportunity to add depth to my faith. In reading through Chapter 4 of my book Unshackled, I’m amazed how God’s grace turns painful moments into powerful testimonies.

Here are a few verses that helped me to never give up.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire test and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
1 Peter 1: 6-7(NLT)

Also

“My troubles turned out for the best- they forced me to learn from your textbook.”
Psalms 119:71(MSG)

Running to the LORD in times of trouble will ensure His goodness and mercy will follow you and help you to find purpose. If you know others this might encourage, please share it with them and pray they would be strengthened.

You Can Trust God’s Word

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Chapter 4 pages 61-64

Psalm 105:16-22; Genesis 37-50

To this very day, I remember the sound of my cell door SLAMMING SHUT and locking behind me. Even the echo it made throughout the cellblock. At the time, it was my daily reminder that I wasn’t getting out.

In the beginning of chapter four of my book Unshackled, I realized others faced similar circumstances and I wasn’t alone. Years later, when I become a Christian, I learned to live and grow in my faith. Faith in what God says in His Word over whatever my circumstances I may be in.

During my incarceration, I would confess God’s Word over my life, and eventually taught other men to do the same. The Bible is full of men and women who set biblical examples for us to follow. One of my favorites was Joseph in Genesis 37-50. He held on to God’s Word during his imprisonment as shared in Psalm 105:19-20. Joseph served God where he was planted until that time God raised up a king to release him. Unlike my circumstances, Joseph was completely innocent of the charges, yet he trusted the LORD and grew strong where God had planted him. Because he trusted God’s Word, others saw the goodness of the LORD. His example encourages me to trust the LORD also and serve God’s purposes there in prison. A wise person told me, “Grow where God plants you and don’t worry when He dumps some fertilizer around you.”

I encourage you to focus on the LORD and trust His Word over whatever your circumstances are today. These trials are what builds our faith. God’s Word is more powerful than your circumstances. When He said, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind, is anything too hard for me?” I’m totally convinced HE meant it! Have a wonderful 4th of July – GOD BLESS AMERICA!

If you know someone who might be encouraged by this, please share it.

You’re Unbelievable.

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Chapter 3 pages 50-57

Isaiah 43:7; John 3:3,6 and Ephesians 2:10

Did you know God made you unbelievably gifted and uniquely designed to do what no other person can? You really are AWESOME!!

It’s not what we have heard or what has been done that matters most, but what we chose to hear today from the Lord. I often hear people recite their “less than perfect” circumstances over and over. Those words have the ability to beat us down emotionally and keep us in a state of defeat. Here is something to hold on to, Faith is always positive…Always!

In my book Unshackled, I recalled hearing the following statements:
“This court sentences you to State Prison for the rest of your natural Life,”
“I’m going to place these ankle shackles on you,”
“Welcome to the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill,”
“This is your new identification number AK4192.”

Those statements began to shape my young life, until I committed my life to Jesus Christ and learned God had other plans. Three verses that really helped me through this time were, Isiah 43:7 God created me for His Glory, which in short says I was created to bring others an accurate account of who God is leaving a favorable opinion. John 3:3, 6 I was Born Again (pretty much says it all) and Ephesians 2:10 I was crafted perfectly in Jesus Christ to do good works which have been prepared in advance.

No matter what you’ve heard about your life, God has something better to say today. I encourage you to meditate on God’s promises for you. Take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to refresh your perspective.

Do you know someone who might be encouraged by this devotion? If so, please share it so they can see they aren’t along and more importantly, that Jesus is the answer.

No Regrets

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Chapter 3 pages 49-50

1 John 1:9; Revelation 1:8

Have you seen people wearing t-shirts or with tattoos displaying the words: “NO REGRETS?” While the level of regret may vary for person to person, everybody will deal with it at some point in their life.

I’m often asked if I have any regrets about spending nearly 35 years of my life in prison for a crime my cousin committed? My answer is Yes and No. I do regret the decision I made that night to go with him to the bar, but I do not regret having to serve the time in prison I was sentenced to. This answer produces the same reactions every time. They look at me in amazement and disbelief so I assure them I really don’t. When asked how I simply share that God has forgiven me my sins through His Son Jesus which enables me to forgive others. I know that my sin against God is far greater than any sin against me. So, I work hard to forgive as I have been forgiven much.

I’m convinced when the Lord says in 1 John 1:19 “when we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Regret has to do with our past, and I know a good place to start overcoming regret is with the One who has forgiven it and holds our future in the palm of his hand. Forgiveness will cause the grip of Regret to let go. I pray that regret will not have a hold on any of you and that you will practice forgiveness always.

A Mess Is A Message

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Chapter 3 pages 47-49

Romans 8:28-30; John 17:3

I was recently reflecting back over the difficult times I shared about in Chapter Three of my book – Unshackled. I remembered how Romans 8:28-30 spoke to me:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
-Romans 8:28

In addition to this, God has also justified and glorified.

It was in these few verses I understood God saying, “I can take every detail of your messed-up circumstances and work them into something good.” From then on, I had this confidence that my worst failure couldn’t stop God’s will for my life. He actually redeemed it! What I despise, He had glorified.

The life Jesus lived, died and rose again, was His destiny, and why we must place our confidence in Him today. Romans 8:30 goes on to say the very One who predestined me is the same who glorified me. While I experience so much of my salvation today, the glorification part has already been accomplished, it just hasn’t played out in my life yet.

No matter how chaotic things look, God is in control. Whether a cross or a crime, God’s is not surprised and will show Himself true, so others can know the eternal life that is in His Son Jesus.