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Unshackled Blog Series

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.

Our future is ahead of us, not behind

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Chapter 3: Pages 39-47

Isaiah 43:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 2 Cor. 4:17

There’s no way to change the past, yet many of us live our lives trying to or at least dwelling on it. While we may be filled with disappointment, God’s grace allows us to maneuver through it. Our past experiences, no matter how painful, became a resource of wisdom. I’ve learned to ask God, “what can I learn from my past?” With this very attitude, my past difficulties become the path to growing in Him (2 Cor. 4:17).

As a teen facing homicide charges. I remember telling my attorney the horrific details of the crime and the decisions I made to follow my cousin in that bar on that late summer night. Afterwards, those dreaded “What if’s” and “If onlys” arguments played out in my head. While the consequences were severe, being honest was liberating. There is nothing in life God can’t redeem and use for His glory. The Bible says, Satan has no redeeming value because he’s been judged and condemned, but the good news is WE HAVE NOT (John 16:11). Here is the greatest hope for today; Jesus has been judged for us so now we can live for Him. I am so glad I surrendered my life to Jesus. Whatever we give back to HIM, He uses to perfect His plans and purposes in our lives. Therefore, we CAN NOT fail. Is there anything in your past you’ve struggled with? I encourage you to hand it ALL over to the LORD and anticipate HIS redeeming power, as He makes sense out your past to be part of your story for today. Blessings my friends.

I Knew It Was Wrong

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Chapter 2, Pages 30-36

John 14:27

I was at a car dealership last year where I was immediately confronted by an energetic, fast-talking salesperson. I was just there to look and I had no real intention of buying anything, but remember feeling soo pressured. He asked question after question with the real goal of trying to get me into a car for a test drive, which I’ve learned, dramatically increases the chances of a looker like me becoming a buyer. He would not take NO for an answer and I eventually had to just walked away.

Reading through parts of chapter two of Unshackled, I’m reminded how I disregarded many warning signs. Even at 17, I knew it was wrong to be at a bar drinking and that stealing from another was harmful and criminal. Yet I did it. Making decisions apart from God’s Word will always result in harm at some level. The Holy Spirit was given to us to guide us through right and wrong decisions. He will give you a sense of PEACE when right and conviction when wrong. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you and my peace I give you.” Jesus indicated a lack of peace brings trouble and confusion to our hearts. Where Jesus is not, there’s a lack of peace. Jesus never meant for us to live apart from Him and since He is the Prince of Peace, allowing Him to lead us in making decisions is always good.

If you know someone who might benefit from this devotion please share. Pray with me, Father God, fill us with this peace through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen

Why is There So Much Pain?

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Chapter 2, Pages 26-30

1 John 4:8; Lamentations 3:22-23; John 10:10

Recently I was asked, “Why does God allow so much pain to occur in our lives?” I paused before responding sensing she was struggling with pain in her own life. I told her I didn’t have an answer but did have some personal convictions which helps me process pain in a positive way. I shared, I believe pain allows us the chance to express His love to others. God IS LOVE (1 John 4:8) So when I chose to Love others, I become more like God. Second, God can use pain. He used it as His only Son died on a cross to bring about this greatest gift of all time, SALVATION. God’s not the author of pain but He can make sense out of it. In fact, Jesus was never exempt from pain but chose to express love and mercy toward those who inflicted it on him.

As I shared in my book Unshackled, my family life was filled with painful memories. While God was not honored in our home, I never heard anyone blame him. So often our own selfish decisions cause enough pain, and of course some is just a part of this sinful world we live in. God is NEVER THE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION. The Bible reminds us, “Satan come to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus comes to give Life and Life more abundant.” (John 10:10)

I noticed when I began honoring God I began experiencing His Goodness and Mercies that flowed new every morning. Spending time each day in the Bible convinced me God has awesome plans for those He calls his children. Plans to prosper and not to harm us and give us hope for the future. God is LOVE and He desires the Abundant Life for all who trust Him.

No matter the difficulty in your life or the pain you are feeling, I’d like to encourage you to trust in the LORD with me? Can you say out loud,”GOD IS LOVE. GOD IS FAITHFUL. GOD IS IN CONTROL.” God can redeem the worst of circumstances. Pray this short prayer with me: “Heavenly Father, help me to trust and understand your divine purpose as I walk through this difficult and painful time. That in the end, you will be glorified by me and allow my pain to strengthen and encourage others who are witnessing my faith in action. In Jesus Name. Amen!”

Tell the Truth

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Chapter 2, Pages 23-26

John 8:31-32

Have you ever told an innocent lie? Is that even possible? I was recently visiting a local church, when a wildly dressed gentleman asked my opinion of his outfit. Colors didn’t match, way too loud for even the most eccentric of dressers, and he asks “so what do you think?” Without skipping a beat, I began to gloat over how great his clothing choice was. I even asked where he shopped as though I’d planned on heading right over to pick up the same outfit for myself. I chose a compliment over robbing him of his confidence. This conversation stuck with me as I pondered the question of truth.

In chapter two of Unshackled, I vividly recall my mother telling me to “be honest” as I was about to be interrogated by police detectives. “Just tell them the truth,” she said. I remember feeling so horrible about the crime and deeply ashamed that I was in that situation. So, when question by detective, I did just as she’d told me. I told the truth. It was like a huge weight being lifted off me and I felt free. In the worst time of my life and in the most serious situation I had ever been in, I felt FREE.

While in prison, I repented, told God the TRUTH and accepted Jesus Christ into my life. I admitted to Him that I was a sinner and unable to live a good life without Him in my heart, (Ephesians 2:8) and in need of a Savior. (Romans 10:9-10) I held nothing back! The results were unbelievable! I gained a clean conscience and a pure heart to serve God and others. Jesus taught us that His Words are the very source of truth. (John 17:17) Holding to them is key to our freedom. (John 8:31-32) His Words are the source of creation (John 1:3).

Pray with me that there is an increase of God’s Word in our lives. Reading the Bible creates the atmosphere to know God and is the plumb line that aligns us to His will. God’s Word is accurate and true for all circumstances especially in this ever-changing world we live.

The Company you keep

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Chapter 1, Pages 16-19

1 Cor. 11:1 & 1 Cor. 15:33

We often pattern our lives after what we see in others. I wrestled with that thought after my arrest for the murder my cousin committed. My thoughts turned to that horrible summer night after my arrest as I share in my book Unshackled. Murder, robbery, prostitutes, pimps, drugs and fleeing the police were the consequences that followed my decisions to hangout out with cousin. I had no business being with him in a bar at seventeen, yet I valued my cousin’s attention, his athleticism, his confidence, how he cared about my family. I’m convinced we are drawn to what we hold as valuable. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize the difference between a good role models and a fake, until it was too late.

Today, my focus is on Jesus. The ultimate role model, and the one who died and rose again FOR ME and FOR YOU!! He thought I was worth His life and he gave it freely. The Bible teaches that we should pattern after those who pattern after Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1). The Apostle Paul also stated, “Bad company corrupts good character.” I am excited that my worth comes from knowing Jesus and He thought I was worth his life. This gives me great motivation and courage to live for Him. Let this be our prayer this week, Father I want to glorify your name on earth so others will have an accurate view and believe in the one you sent. In Jesus name, amen.

Honor Your Parents

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Chapter 1, Pages 14-16

Ephesians 6:2

I’ve had the blessing of speaking to groups all around the county, where I share about the faithfulness of God, I witnessed during my thirty-five years in prison. From rebellion to accepting Christ, to learning the servant-leader paradigm, God was always faithful and patient with me. As I spent time reading my Bible, I learned the importance of being faithful in order to influence others to live for Jesus. Often when sharing, I’ll stop and tell parents, “When you say, No to your children, stick to it. Don’t allow kids to change your mind. You’re the parent, you’re the wiser one!” The response is often a room full of smiles.

In Chapter One of Unshackled, I share how I didn’t listen to my mother that fateful night in June of 1977. She told me I was too young to join my older cousin to a bar, but I argued and ultimately convinced her to let me go. You will read in my book the painful consequences of that decision. The Bibles says, “[Children] Honor your mother and father… [Parents] bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:2-4) obviously I didn’t do that. This week, let’s pray for parents that they will take a bold stand in raising their children in the ways of the Lord.

Chaos & Confusion

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Chapter 1, Pages 9-14

Isaiah 9:6; Psalm 119:105

In my book I write about wondering the streets of New York City aimlessly while my cousin shot drugs in various drug infested rooms with strangers. Chaos and confusion marked my steps and filled my mind. I was complete lost and had no plan. I still recall how nervous and uncertain I was feeling about the direction of my life. This week I have the privlege to visit Israel for the first time where we toured towns of Nazaerth, Jerusalem and even Bethlehem, which might surprise many to know it’s occupied by Palestinian Muslims and our Messianic Guide was not permitted to take us beyond the large wall at the checkpoint. Not only are seeing the historical places using our local guide, but in the evening we have used google maps and GPS to discover the heart beat of Jerusalem’s market, Mahane Yehuda. While seeing dozens of historical sites we are also visiting the local markets. Without clear direction by Elaina, Nicole and Liana, my new friends, we would have no clue how to get to our desired locations. It’s God’s will we walk by faith in His Word. Psalm 119:105 says, “My Word is like a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.” While we are to walk by faith, He promises us His peace and His Word gives us plenty of light for the direction He leads us in.

A Father’s Love Overcomes our Past

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Chapter 1, Pages 7-9

1 John 3:1

As a child I remember my family attended Catholic Mass each week. Sundays were spritual, but the remainder of the week we sat in bars playing video games while my parents drank and entertained themselves. My parents would eventually divorce, and for years I longed for a father figure. My older cousin Bobby would temperarily filled that void. As I mentioned in Chapter One of my book – Unshackled, Bobby was always there for me and my mother in the absence of my father, and I respected that! But there was always something missing.
After accepting Jesus into my heart I couldn’t wait to learn more about Him. I committed myself to daily bible study where I learned more about His Love for me. He quickly filled that void I had been longing for all those years. God placed Pastor Larry Titus into my life who mentored and disciple me while I was in Prison. So I had the best of both worlds, Pastor Larry as my earthly father figure and God my Heavenly Father. I love what 1 John 3:1 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called children of God!” If you are hurting today or stumbling over a dysfuctional history like I did, know that there is a God in Heaven who loves you. I want to encourage you to read God’s Word every day. Spending time with Himm will create an atmosphere of knowing God’s perfect will for your life. Pray with me this week that we have an accurate view of our Heavenly Father. If you know somone that is hurting, please share this with them that they may also find encouragment in know their Heavenly Father loves them. Talk to Y’all next week.