Friday, February 26, 2010

#69 Prison talk: don't lose your faith (retro)

Prison Talk: Don’t lose your faith!

Before I begin, I wanted to update you on the blog I wrote about PTO changing my name to discourage their members from knowing who I was. I mentioned they changed the “masonik4” and “Nolaw97” names on the site to “Retired-101”. Today I got an email from a reader that told me it was changed to “Retired 102”.

If you are looking for my posts on PTO, try those out and see, you will know if it is from me, you know how I write. They will probably try to change it again, to keep their own members from knowing who is writing those, heaven forbid if the members of PTO are really looking for help.

Anyway, let’s get started with a scripture that I feel is needed today:

“Trust in the Lord with thine own heart, and lean not unto thy own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all thy ways, and He will direct thy path”

I was reading some emails today and I came across one that I believe needs to understand what this means. A lot of us have been in, or ARE in, situations where it may look hopeless. When those times come, we are often pushed to try to find an answer, either by God or by our own methods.

In dealing with prison issues, this is very common because anyone reading my blog is likely in a tough situation. A mother with a son in prison, a girlfriend with a boyfriend going to prison, or a person who themselves may be going to prison. This is very common, but the results of those situations can be anywhere from common to miraculous.

If you have a concern, and need help, it is all to easy to ask for prayer, because we all are in situations where we look for divine help. But a lot of times we don’t look for help in faith, we look in fear.

We pray to God, “Lord, save my son, I am so afraid”. Now, to some it sounds like a decent prayer, because you are asking God for help. But I might suggest to you that this maybe in error, because the prayer is full of fear.

Folks, when it comes to prison issues, it is important that you understand why you are praying, and how. If you want someone to be delivered, or to be delivered yourself, you must come to God in faith. The Bible clearly says that without faith you cannot even please God, because you have to believe that God is there, and that He will reward those who seek Him.

Another verse in Psalms says, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”.

I sometimes get emails from people that are very afraid, and are doing the best they can, but you can tell that they are afraid. And that is common, because I have been there myself. I know what it is like to be at the verge or panic or full-blown terror of a situation involving prison.

But there is a difference between being in faith, and being in fear. And many times, your actions will show how you really feel. What I want to do is try to get you to understand that the very words you say and how you act can help, or hurt your chances from getting a prayer answered.

Now some might say, “what does it matter; if God promised, then it is automatic, right”

That is true, God can indeed promise and deliver, because the Bible says that all the promises of God are yes and amen, but if that is so true, why then don’t we get the answers to our prayers? If you are looking at doing time, and you have repented and asked God to deliver you, is it fully automatic, or are there things you have to do? If your son just got 10 years, can you pray that maybe he can get out earlier?

Let’s say I offered free prison cards to anyone who asked for them. Let’s say I write a blog and promise to the first 500 people that if they gave me their land address, I would send them 5 prison cards so they can send to their loved ones in prison.

What I have established is a promise. I made a promise to you that if you do this, then I will do that. Now, if I am a man of my word, I will honor it as best as a human being can. So if you email me and give me your address, then it is on me to honor my word to you, and send you those cards. Why? Because I promised that I would.

The moment you give me that address, then you are in expectation of my promise. It is as good as yours because I promised that I would do as I said. During that time, there is an expectation on your end for me to fulfill my word to you. The moment you get those cards, the promise is fulfilled…but actually, it was fulfilled the moment I sent it to you. You just didn’t have the physical proof of it, although it was in the mail.

But what if you didn’t trust me, and gave me a bogus address, just to see IF I would send it? I don’t know on my end what is true or not, so unless somebody gave the address, “123 Sesame Street”, I would have no idea what is honest or not. But I am still bound by my word to send those cards because I said I would.

Now if those cards go to the wrong address, that is not my fault…that is YOUR fault. If you gave me bogus information to see IF I would honor my word, then you were never in faith to begin with. Or, if you gave me an address that you are no longer at, or a post office box that you never check, then you missed out on the promise because you were not diligent to receive what was given to you.

The promise was there, but often times we reject it because of other circumstances. Just as we do the same to other people, we do the same to God, but yet we expect Him to do it anyway, even if we fall completely out of faith with Him.

We have all been there, so I am not criticizing anyone in particular, I know I have been there more than once, so in some ways I am talking about myself, but doing so to help you understand what you may need to do. So many of us have loved ones in prison that we are afraid for, and pray for things but are still in too much fear to believe in it.

What if your son got sentenced to 20 years, and you were afraid you may never see him again? Twenty years is a long time folks. What if that mother went to God and prayed that her son could possibly come out sooner? We all know that it would take a miracle for that to happen…which is why we pray to God anyway. Man on his own cannot make miracles unless the power of God is with them to do it.

If you are going to pray, you have to have faith, or it may not work. I started to say that it WILL not work, but I know God is merciful and can see the hearts of us all, but I can say that without faith you cannot please God. And that goes in a few ways, one being in that you have to trust that God can, and WILL answer your prayer, but it also means something else:

It means you have to let God work it out, instead of you trying to figure everything out for yourself. I mean, if you could do it yourself, you would not need God anyway, right?

A lot of times when I get emails from people with loved ones in prison or prison related issues, I read to see the faith in it. If there is faith, then things can go well, but sometimes I read emails where the person talks more about the problem than about the prayer and faith they have.

You can’t do both.

Well, maybe you can, but the more of one you have, the greater the chance of you getting what you either believed for, or was in fear of.

You can actually measure the faith or fear (or both) in what you say and what you write. Writing is a direct form of communication, so you are very well saying what is in your heart. If a person writes an email and talks about the problem more than their faith, you can tell that this person needs to work more in faith. What this means is that there has to be a greater application of faith in the person, not just by the eyes, but to also get it in their heart. There is a scripture that says that from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. If you are talking about fear and the problems and the circumstances, then THAT is what is in your heart, not faith.

And if there is no faith in your heart, how can you expect God to help you if you are rejecting His promise? I submit to you that for every person that has ever prayed, including me, the answer was ALWAYS THERE. The miracles I have experienced in my life before, during and after prison are the same way. Those answers were always there, and probably many others that I missed. God honored HIS part when you prayed, but YOU have to claim it. This is where we miss it so much, because we get suckered out of a blessing because we look at the circumstances rather than God’s word.

If you are worried about your son in prison, get into God’s word and get it into your heart, rather than reading fearful posts on other sites about how bad prison is, and how violent it is. Yeah, it is violent, but that does not mean God can’t protect someone you love. I mean, you DO believe God can help an inmate, right? Even in the worst prisons, God can do it.

But most people live off fear and unknowingly, are embracing that more than faith. Faith drives off fear, and fear drives off faith. It will determine the resolution that you seek, or the one you fear. And the way we fall into fear is by looking at the circumstances and talking about the circumstances, and giving in to the circumstances. By doing this, we are saying that God is not greater than the problem, that there are problems that even God Himself cannot solve (or would not WANT to solve).

When I got my miracle to finish my senior year in college, I was surrounded by the circumstances. I didn’t have enough money to pay for my last year in college, and I was already late in registering; classes had already started. I was afraid that if I told mom, then she might say (with a good heart) that maybe we should not go and drive 6 hours across state if they won’t let me in. But I am grateful that God held my mouth shut on that, because if I told her, then she would be concerned too. As it was, she never knew that her son may not be admitted to college for his final year.

I told you guys this before, but those 6 hours were very, very hard. I was hit with all the “what ifs”. I was very nervous that we might get all the way there, only to be turned down. But I got there, got the money from a grant and loan, and got two jobs on the campus, and even got to stay in the same dorm. Folks, don’t take this lightly…it took FAITH to get back and finish college. Had I looked and talked about the circumstances, I very likely would not have made it, because I would have been looking at the problem, rather than the solution.

I told you about the juvenile I bonded out while I was in jail, and how I promised that kid that I would pay his $150 bond and get him out before his birthday. I had no money on me, but I believed that I could get him out if I would just not get canteen for a few weeks. I figured I could do it, but quickly found out that things were not going to my plan.

Now I did pray to God to bond the kid out, and I certainly wanted to do it, but when things got tough, I debated in telling him that maybe I can’t do it, maybe I would not have the money. But something kept me from saying that to him, I just didn’t have the heart to go back on my word to him.

Things got pretty hard, because with time running out, and his birthday in November coming fast, I had NO money to bond him out. It was a struggle, and I questioned if this could work or not, and wondering if maybe I ought to “tell him the truth” and let him down easily. But something told me not to, to just keep believing.

I remember while we were getting a haircut in one of the cells, he was there with me and was calling his home, telling them how excited he was because he said he’ll be home on his birthday, or before Thanksgiving. I remember it so well because I was looking at him, and fighting to decided whether to tell him the “truth” or to continue to believe…

You notice something there? Twice I said to you that I should tell him the “truth”. Well then what is the truth? Is God’s word the truth, or the circumstances?

I say again, is GOD’S WORD the truth, or the CIRCUMSTANCES?

When you are in faith, then you are standing on God’s word, which IS truth. But we lose it because we start to look at the circumstances, and we claim it to be true, rather than God’s word. This is perhaps why we lose out on God’s promises, because we no longer see God’s blessing to be true, we see the circumstances and believe that to be truer than God.

I had a choice at that moment, to tell that juvenile that maybe I could not do what I said, or to keep my mouth shut and trust God. I chose the latter, even though the circumstances didn’t get better for me.

Time was running out as we were closing in on that kid’s birthday, when I got some mail from my professor from college, who sent me some money. About a few days before, I actually got a letter from someone I didn’t know, who actually had a few dollars in it. Now understand the gravity of that…all mail coming to inmates should have been inspected for cash…yet mine was not because most of the guards trusted me anyway.

With only a few days before that kid’s birthday, in fact just before his birthday, I was able to come up with $150 and get my older brother to get in touch with a bondsman to pay that kid’s bond. And I remember it was on a Saturday, but I think it was November 15 or 16th, when I heard the officer go to his cell and told him to pack his stuff up, he was going home. God honored His word, and by doing so, I was able to honor mine. That kid got out on that day…which just happened to be his birthday.

But you see where I had chances to bail out. The circumstances did not look favorable to me, and we usually see these things as truth, even though we have put our trust in God’s word. Well, what is true to you? The Bible and what God says, or the circumstances? One will be true, the other false.

And the truth will be revealed in what you say.

Look folks, I am no minister, no bishop, no pastor nor do I have a church or choir. I certainly don’t have a halo around my head, or wings on my back. But I know a little about faith, as you do. I have been through tough times before, during and even after prison, but faith never changes. I am learning as I go too, just as you are, but I also know that God understands that. Yet in all things we talk about in prison issues, and what I try to share to you, I am doing the best I can to get you to see that you can get through this, or you can overcome the situation.

I write these things to give you a little hope, but what is hope if you don’t add faith to it? Sometimes your prayer might mean holding on to the last minute, and trusting that God had the answer from day one. When I needed a LOT of money to pay restitution, I had to hold on to the last day, while mom looked like she had given up. She did all she could, and I felt so sorry for her, but I could not give in on what I prayed for. I had no solutions myself, and everything I tried crumbled. But when I went and sat in my bedroom, all I could do was believe…and it was enough.

All these things I have shared supports the scripture I shared at the top. Trust in God with your heart, because to be sure, your mind will be swamped with the problems and the circumstances. But it is now that you have to trust God. You have to determine which is greater, the problems of your loved one in prison, or God’s word. The possibility of you going to prison, or God’s word. The worries you have of your husband or God’s word. The answer is already there, but you still have to accept it, or reject it.

That same scripture warns us to not lean not on what we think we know, because this is the problems we run into. We pray to God for something, but then we start looking at the circumstances, and then we start talking about the circumstances, and by doing that, we end up believing that more than God’s word. The moment we start doing that, we are turning away from the very promises we asked God to help us with.

The next part says to acknowledge God in the things we do, meaning to let God in our lives, and to share with Him what we are going through. If you are concerned or worried, let Him know. God understands that we are going to be attacked every day on our faith, but He wants us to let Him in our lives so we can share it with Him. If we do that, the final part of that scripture says that HE will direct our path. See, He can’t help us if we don’t let him.

This is where we miss it so much. Many people have problems with a loved one in prison, but they keep looking at the problem and never acknowledging God. Or, they try to do it themselves, off their own intelligence, and miss the direction from God. Sometimes we can be too smart for our own good.

When I worked for a Christian radio station shortly after I got out of prison, there was no coincidence of me working there. Now, I didn’t know it at the time, but I see it a bit clearer after several years. The church and pastor got the radio station, and made it a Christian station, but needed help running it. So here comes an ex felon, who has a degree in radio, and worked in that very station before, when it was under another owner. I knew everything about the station because I had been there before, and knew how to work on the air. It seemed like a great marriage for the church and pastor because they had someone with great experience working for them.

But when I lost my job with them, and was being paid less than minimum wage, they felt that they could do better. In the years since, they got worse, and now, they are off the air, and may lose their FCC license. I don’t think it was God’s will for them to fail, but they had the answer with them from the beginning. That is not so make me out to be some great guy, but to be sure, God put me in that position to HELP them, and it was at the very beginning of their station. I think the station was running less than 3 months before I showed up. So the answer was right there, even though I had no idea of God’s plan, I was just a part of it.

But often times we get so smart in ourselves that we think we are making the right decisions, when we are actually rejecting God’s direction. Some things seem right to a person, but God knows all things.

We do it all the time, so I am right there with you. But when you are worried abot a loved one in prison, or if you yourself may be in such a situation, you have to check what you are saying. Listen to yourself, or see what you are writing in those posts or emails. If it is full of fear, you have to change that. The more you look at the circumstances, the more you are willing to see it as the “truth” rather than God’s word.

Think about that. You can pray for God to help you, to deliver you or whatever you are praying for, but if you are filled with the problems and talking about how bad things are, and how bad you feel, then you are embracing the natural truth, rather than God’s truth. Or, if you feel that you have to make decisions based on how you FEEL, then you are not operating on God’s word.

These things will determine your faith, or your fear. So I urge you, don’t give up on your faith, regardless of how things look now. Trust in God and what you have prayed to Him for, and stop giving place to the problems. They will be there whether you believed in God or not, but you have to choose which is the greater truth. Whichever is greater to you, you will end up speaking. Acknowledge God in everything you are doing, talk to Him, let Him know how you feel and what you do, and He will direct your steps and tell you and guide you in the way to your answer.

Sometimes that answer will require you to do something, but sometimes it requires you to do nothing, because we have a serious problem of trying to do everything ourselves, and end up screwing it up. But if we listen to God, and pay attention, we can get through it.

Well, I hope that helps some of you, I really want you to understand how much faith you need to help a loved one in prison. You don’t need a ton of faith, you simply have to take God at His word. Are you worried about your loved one in prison? Are YOU worried about prison? Then take the time to ask God to help you. And if you do, then take the time to believe what He says. I am not saying I have all the answers, but what I do write is from my heart, and from what God puts in it for me to say. Again, that does not make me any better than you, but I supposed God knows what He is doing.

He always does.

Anyway, my thanks to those who support my blogs, and as I get more people emailing me and supporting my blogs, I am more thankful for you. It is a strong encouragement to keep writing, so I hope to continue to share more as we go on. Email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com.

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