December 10, 2012
I have asked inmates over the past days why Jesus came to the earth, and I have received many answers.  Some say in order to save us from our sins.  Some say to deliver us from the devil.  Some say because He loves us.  And there were many other reasons given.  I want to take this time to answer this question according to what Jesus Himself said about why He came.
In Genesis 2:17 God stated that if man ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he would surely die.  God’s words are true so we have to admit that man, once he ate of that tree, died.  We know he didn’t die physically, because the Bible records his following years.  What died that day was his spirit, his spirit that was alive to God.  Man became spiritually dead, and this is the condition in which we are born into the world—spiritually dead, separated from God.  We are dead on the inside.  In John 10:10 Jesus said—I am come that you might have life.  Life is why He came.  He came to give us life and life more abundantly.  You can take a mule, give him the best food, house him in the best barn, put the best jockey on his back, but when you put him in the starting gate and the gun sounds, he will mosey down the track because that is what a mule does.  However, you can take a thoroughbred, not feed him as you should, keep him in the fields, put a half-rate jockey on his back, and when you put him in the starting gate and the gun sounds, he will run with all his might down the track.  Why—because it is what is in him! It’s what is inside that matters, what counts.  Mankind without Jesus is dead on the inside, and mankind with Jesus is alive on the inside.  Jesus came to give us life, and within that life are all the blessings spoken of in the Bible.
My challenge to you this month is to take a look inside you and see if there is spiritual death or spiritual life within you.  Whatever you find there will determine your eternal destination.  Make sure this season that life, God’s life, is within you.  It only takes a moment’s decision to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth, Romans 10:9-10.  And remember—Jesus is coming soon!
September 20, 2012
I am enjoying the beginning of the change of seasons.  Spring and Fall are my favorites, and I intend to make the most of them. Fall is a great time to review my yard and to decide what changes need to be made.  Some plants have done well while others have suffered, being in the wrong place.  I will be planning and working over the next few weeks to make the necessary adjustments for my yard to be more beautiful next Spring.  The cooler weather will certainly make the work in the yard more enjoyable.
I am studying the book of Daniel and the two books of Peter these days.  I have learned so much that I need to know, that I didn’t know that I didn’t know.  Don’t laugh at my words, it is exactly what I meant.  I did not know that I did not know.  Isaiah 1:17 tells us to learn to do well.  If we are to learn to do well, then it means that we don’t know how to do well.  Proverbs 4:5 tells us to get wisdom, get understanding.  If we are to get wisdom and to get understanding, then it means that we don’t have wisdom or understanding.   James 4:3 tells us that we have not because we ask not or ask with wrong motives.  If we lack in any area, it is because we have not asked God, or we have asked wrongly.  2 Peter 1:3 tells us that we have been given everything we need in order to live a godly life through our knowledge God.  Our godly living depends on how much we know about God.
My challenge to you this month is to ask God what it is that you need to know, that you don’t know.  It will be exciting to hear what He has to say to you.  Increase your knowledge of God, and you will increase your ability to live a godly life.  And remember—Jesus is coming soon!
July 23, 2012
I am reminded these days that the more I study the Word of God, the more I need to study the Word of God.  There is so much to learn about the way God thinks and the way God operates.  We are definitely living in the latter days, and Bible prophecy is coming true every time we get news from the Middle East.  Exciting days are ahead of us, but it is up to us to prepare for the changes individually.  I can’t do it for you, and you can’t do it for me.
In the Old Testament the keeping of the law was of great importance, but making the animal sacrifices for the sins of the people were of more importance.  These sacrifices stood between their sins and God.  The people looked not at their sins but at their sacrifices.  As Christians we are not to look at our sins, but we are to look at the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth.  2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that Jesus was made sin.  Why did He do this—so we could be made righteous.   He was made sin who never did any sin, and we are made righteous who never did anything righteous.  Jesus received our sins and we receive His righteousness.  This scripture is one that we need to meditate on until it takes hold in our hearts.  We are to be more conscience of our righteousness, because we look at the sacrifice that has been made for us.  Our sin is gone, and our righteousness is what remains.
My challenge to you this month is to get up every morning and say to yourself—I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. At first, it may seem like you are saying a lie, but continue to say it and say it and say it.  One day soon, it will drop down into your heart and then you will shout—I AM the righteousness of God!  And remember—Jesus is coming soon!
June 22, 2012
I am continuing my study of Romans 6, and I have learned another reason why we as Christians do not walk in the reality of being free from sin.  You may remember that pride, lying, worry, fear, and unforgiveness keep us tied to satan, the enemy of our Lord.  As we are connected to him, we are unable to walk this Christian life.  We must break free from these connections if we are to have the life Jesus died for us to have.
Psalm 119:11 is that other reason I have learned why we do not walk free from sin.  This verse tells us—Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.  I don’t know about you, but I never knew that I was to hide the Word of God in my heart.  I knew I should read my Bible, but I think my reasoning was just that Christians should read their Bibles.  I did not know about making a deposit of the Word of God into my heart.  If I don’t know what God says about something, how will I know if it is sin or not?  The cultures of the world will change over time, but the Word of God never changes.  If it is ever wrong, it is always wrong.  To know how we are to live we should look into our Bibles, and find the answers to our questions.  What word have you hid in your heart?  One of the ones that is within my heart is Romans 12:1-2.  This is a constant reminder that I am to present my body as a living sacrifice, I am to not look like the world, and I am to renew my mind so I will think like God thinks.  Philippians 4:19 reminds me that God is able to handle anything that comes my way when I give it to Him.  Jesus said in this world we would have troubles.  My part is to give them to Him so He can handle them for me.  And Nehemiah 8:10, the joy of the Lord is my strength.  When I feel weak, it is because my joy level is low.  I must stir myself up, and let joy flow out of me if I am to be strong.
My challenge to you this month is to read—out loud—Psalm 119 for 30 days.  I realize it is the longest chapter in the Bible, but it will only take about 15 minutes of your time.  This psalm is full of wonderful words that will transform your life.  If you begin and then stop, don’t let that defeat you.  Pick it up and begin again.  If you can’t get through the entire psalm, read what you can and continue the following day.  The important thing for you to do is to hid the Word in your heart.  And remember—Jesus is coming soon!
May 22, 2012
I am in a study of the book of Romans, and I have learned some things I needed to know.  I have been a Christian for 43 years, and I know I have read and studied this book many times.   This time, however, I am seeing things I have not seen in the past.  I guess this is a reminder to us all that we never finish reading and studying the Bible.  It has to be done again and again.
Romans 6 talks to us about being dead to sin.  I read this, and I know the Bible doesn’t lie, but if we are dead to sin, why do we continue to live a defeated life?  Why do we not have all the things that the Bible promises us?  Why do we feel so alone in our journey on earth?  I believe the answer is simple.  While we are born again and have the Holy Ghost living on the inside of us, we still yield to the things of the enemy.  And this yielding maintains our  connections to him.  We know from the Bible that satan original sin is pride, but think how often we use the word proud.  He is the father of lies, but we continue our lying.  Jesus said to fear not, but we continue to fear.  The Bible tells us to cast our care upon the Lord, but we continue to worry.  Jesus said to forgive so that you will be forgiven, but we continue to hold unforgiveness in our hearts.  All of these are connections to satan and hold us in bondage.  I believe the Lord desires us to cut these connections to the enemy, and begin to live the life that was purchased for us by Jesus.
My challenge to you this month is to check yourself out.  What connections to the enemy of our Lord are holding you back from living the life God planned for you?  What are you giving place in your life that consumes you?  What is worth losing the peace of God for?  Make the decision to get rid of these things and move on with God!  And remember—Jesus is coming soon!
 April 23, 2012
I determined to have more flowering plants in my garden this year so I have been planting seed of many kinds.  I haven’t been diligent in recent years so there are some things that are already in the ground that I don’t want coming up, not only thorny vines, but a sticky weed that clings to me when I pull it out.  It’s spring now, and the earth is beginning to produce from what is in the ground.  If I retain my focus on my garden, it will be a sight to behold.  If I get busy with life and forget to maintain it regularly, it will be another tangle of plants that cannot be enjoyed.
My garden illustrates life in general.  While Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to provide our salvation, He will not maintain our souls for us.  Each of us has that responsibility.  Isaiah 26:3 says—Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.  Our minds may be full with memories of painful words, of failed relationships, and of various addictions represented by the thorny vines in my garden.  If we do not dig up those thorny vines, representing those memories, and put our mind, on purpose, upon the Lord, we will not have the peace available to us.  Proverbs 4:23 says—Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  The New Living Translation says—Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.   Our hearts can be full of painful memories of emotional, physical and sexual abuse that cling to us like the sticky weeds I deal with.  These memories will take you on a course that God never meant you to be on.  Until these things are identified and pulled out, they hold you in past moments of your life.  Finally, Proverbs 14:30 says—A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body.  Each of us has to maintain our mind and our heart as I maintain my garden in order to have the life God wants for us.  If we do not do this maintenance, our lives will be a tangled mess.
My challenge to you this month is to do some gardening of your own.  Take a walk through your mind and your heart.  Identify what you find there.  Pull out those thorny vines along with those sticky weeds.  Cleanse the ground of your mind and heart so that the goodness of God can grow up within you.  And remember—Jesus is coming soon!
February 25, 2012
I have been reminded this week that our God speaks to us personally with pictures.  God makes it simple for us if we will listen to Him, and if we will follow closely after Him. When you look at a picture, you are able to see what someone has experienced, or to see what someone is trying to explain to you.  When God gives you a picture, He is trying to show you His desired plan for your life.
In Genesis 12 God promised Abram descendants, but years later there still were no descendants.  Then in Genesis 15 God showed Abram the stars and said his descendents would be as numerous as the stars.  This was Abram’s picture.  In Genesis 17 God instructed Abraham regarding  circumcision as a sign of the covenant.  I always wondered how could circumcision be a sign of the covenant when no one could see it.  God showed me that each time they looked at their changed body, they were reminded of His covenant with them.  This was another picture.  In Genesis 37 Joseph had a dream, a picture, of his brothers bowing down to him.  There would come a day in which he was to be their leader.  In each of these cases, the picture was for the person, not for others.  Joseph created a lot of his troubles by telling others what God had shown him.  When God shows us a picture of our future, it is not necessary for us to begin to tell others about that picture.  We are to nurture it ourselves, to build ourselves up, in order to be ready for the picture to manifest.
My challenge to you this month is to see what picture God has shown you.  Have you stored it away, in a secret place, because you cannot see how God can do it?  If so, pull the picture out, and ask God to restore to you the future He has shown you in that picture.  And remember—Jesus is coming soon!
January 10, 2012
I am excited about the coming year and hope you are too.  A clean slate is laying out before us, and it’s up to us to decide what will be written on it.  We may not live in perfect circumstances, and there may not seem to be much hope left.  But we have to remember God is for us, and with Him all things are possible.  You are not dead in the ground, and a new year brings new opportunities to grow into the person we were meant to be.
Romans 12:1-2 tells us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice unto God.  This means to take care of your body, keeping it in as good a shape as possible.  When I was in San Quentin I noticed the men on the yard staked out about a 3 foot by 8 foot section and did their exercises within that area.  They jogged, they did pushups, they did jumping jacks.  They were an example of using what they had to do what they needed to do.  We cannot let our bodies tell us what to do, we are to tell our bodies what to do.  No is a powerful word that we should use regularly on our bodies.  No to sweets, no to drugs, no to alcohol.  Use this year to get control of your body and then present it to God as a living sacrifice.  God never asks you to die for Him, but He does ask you to live for Him.  Romans goes on to tell us to renew our minds to the Word of God.  This does not just mean reading the Bible, though reading the Bible is good.  It does not mean to memorize scriptures, though memorizing scriptures is certainly beneficial to you.     Renewing your mind to the Word of God means to begin to think like God thinks.  Do you even realize how “off” you are in your thinking?  If you don’t, pick up the Bible and begin to read.  See how long it takes you to come across something you don’t agree with.  God’s way of thinking is always right, and it is up to us to change our thinking to line up with His.  Otherwise, you will live a defeated life, and you will never know why things don’t work out for you.
My challenge to you this month is to check yourself out.  See what you would like to have written on that slate when the year is over.  See how you can gain control over your body and renew your mind to begin to think like God thinks.  We don’t want to show up before Him still ignorant of His way of thinking.  And remember—Jesus is coming soon!

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