Monday, April 12, 2010

#142 Where is God (new)

Where is GOD!

Strong title, huh….

I’ll get to that in a moment, first off, my very warmest thanks to several of you who have emailed me about supporting my blogs. Thanks to you, I have been able to slowly get back on track, having bought some tri-color ink for my printer. What I want to do is to generate some money to hopefully reopen an account with the local bank, and to keep at least $100 in there, so I can get back to what I was trying to do about a year or two ago, which is to produce books, cards and other items along the prison issues theme.

So thanks to some of you for believing in me, that means so very much, and it gives me ammunition to do my best when I blog. Several of you have been asking about my “Grades of Honor” books, I will make those available by May, as well as cards and other things. Just hang in there with me, ok?

The title of this blog is based on a few things, one, an email from a kind but worried soul that is going through some very difficult days, and something I remember saying in strong discontent while sitting in a jail cell.

Today I got an email from a person that is very concerned about going to prison…and before you ask why, it’s none of your business! A lot of readers really need to get off their “righteous horse” and understand that many times people that are in trouble with the law are in the midst of a very difficult situation, much based on choices but also difficult timing. I am not here to judge any person, nor is it your job to do the same…I don’t recall God paying out at the end of the month to those who are pointing at others, condemning people they don’t even know.

So get off of it!

Now, with that said, this person is very concerned about her immediate future. We have been emailing each other back and forth for the past few months, and I try to encourage her that if she has faith, things will get better.

What am I basing this on?

Whatever it is, it has to be the same thing SHE is basing it on, otherwise we are fooling each other. My foundation is that if a person runs to God, no matter what the situation is, then He can get you through it, or deliver you from it.

You show me in the Bible where God refuses to answer prayer, and I will show you 10 verses where He says very clearly that He does answer prayer. I spend a heck of a lot of time in a single cell in jail reading those scriptures, and believe me, there are tons of such scriptures that talk about how God can…and DOES, help people who call on Him.

But perhaps that is the easy part…to call. It’s not enough to just call, you also have to believe. And this is tricky, because we assume that simply calling also means believing. The calling part is quite carnal…and easy, but when it comes to believing, this is spiritual, and much harder.

Consider when you call for a pizza. If I called Dominoes Pizza and order a pizza (duh, what did you think I’d order…chicken?). When I call and make that order, and after I am told the amount, I have virtually NO doubt that soon I will have a pizza delivered to my door. I don’t wonder IF they will deliver…I know for sure they will.

If I have ordered a pizza 100 times, I think I have received a pizza at LEAST 99 times. I think one time they lost the address or got lost, but I cannot remember if they was just late with it. So I say at least 99%.

If there is any doubt, it might be in WHEN they will get there. But that requires patience and a little faith that if you order a pizza at 9pm, it will get there before 10pm, or thereabouts. What am I basing this on, what is my faith based on? It’s on the integrity of the pizza place, right? They said if I call, they will deliver, right? I called, they took my order, they told me how much and about how long it would take, and all I have to do is wait on it and have the money ready.

My faith in getting that pizza is based on the integrity of that pizza place…can you see how similar this also applies to spiritual things?

When I messaged that lady and tried to encourage her, it was based on my faith that God can, and DOES answer prayer. I have to also assume she is basing it on the very same foundation; that God can, and WILL answer her prayer.

But today her message to me was very stressful. I understand her situation, and I can certainly imagine the stress she is going through, perhaps near the breaking point. She told me of all the things she was going through, and how things didn’t look good. I won’t give you the details, that is between what she shares with me, and herself.

She had a very terrible weekend, and she told me she cried the whole weekend. And in her message to me, she said “Where is God”?

This is something I have said myself.

When I was early in my incarceration, during those 17 months in that jail cell before going to prison, I spent a LOT of time reading scriptures, praying for a solution to my problem. I knew that God COULD help me, because it was a miracle I was able to finish college, so I know God hears prayers. But this was different, now I was in jail, looking at prison time. But I believed that God was still able to help me, when nobody else could…

That is a word for somebody….God can help when NOBODY ELSE CAN.

Anyway, there were many days in that jail cell I was spiritually strong, but there were also days where I fell apart. So much time waiting, not one shred of evidence that God had made a way or was even trying to make a way. All I saw was the negatives around me, it all looked hopeless.

One day, I was so frustrated that I got up, grabbed my Bible, and spiked it as hard as I could on the concrete floor of my cell and said under my breath, “Where is God!”

I smashed that Bible so hard, the spine of the book broke.

I know what it is like to feel the pressure of the circumstances, and to wonder IF God heard you. When you get to that point, it then becomes easy to start doubting if God heard you, or even if He did, if He is just “leaving you to your punishment”.

Today this lady feels very, very distraught, and she told me of how her pastor has kept telling her to hang in there, and to give it to God. But I worry that she is being enveloped by the fear and doubt, which may consume her and steal her victory away.

“But Nolaw, what if God has decided that she has to go to prison?”

Based on what?

If you tell me that God has already decided for a person to fail, you tell me where in the Bible that is written, and second, when did God Himself anoint you as His personal secretary, to know what He intends for all mankind?

Any “what if” you can say to the negative, I can counter with a positive, and throw a scripture in your face to prove it. When you get over the idea that every person that makes a mistake deserves what they get, you just MIGHT start to see what God is really about.

What is so hard for us to do, as carnal beings, is to separate the spiritual from the carnal. We ask God, who is a Spirit, for help, and yet we rely almost entirely on what we can see…the carnal. Lots of times the answer is there, and has been the whole time, but we looked too much at the circumstances, even as they got closer to us, and started to believe that, rather than what we asked of God.

The situation where Peter walked on the water is a perfect example. Lots of ministries like to remind you of how he failed…but tell me, how many people do YOU know that actually walked on water?

Not very many, I can surmise. Yet he was able to do it because he had faith, and was not looking initially at the circumstances. He was able to do the impossible because he simply believed when Jesus said he could come to him, so he did. But it was when he took his eyes off the miraculous, and looked at the normal, that he realized that man cannot walk on water…that’s when he began to sink.

But understand this…even at that point, when he went from doing the impossible to now living in doubt, Jesus was there IMMEDIATELY to help him. Even when we slip from grace, we still have help.

Right now, that lady is up to her eyeballs in stress, and struggling to make sense of it all. But I am trying to blog this morning to help her understand that the circumstances mean nothing to God. This is what her pastor was trying to tell her, but often times we embrace the fear more than the faith…by doing this, we are deciding what will ultimately happen.

At these times it is critical to build that faith, to help such a person believe that no matter how bad things get, God still has the final say…and if you prayed for a miracle, then don’t give up on it.

There is a scripture in Matthews that goes, “and all things, whatsoever you ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive”. You notice where “believing” is a part of it. So many people call themselves praying, but all they are doing is speaking out of fear:

“Oh God, please help me, I made a mistake and I might end up doing time, please Jesus, help me, I am so afraid of going to prison. Oh God help me please…Amen”

If you boil that prayer down, what are you getting out of it? FEAR.

A prayer like that isn’t based on faith in God, it is based on the fear of going to prison. And although that would be true whether you pray in faith or fear, you cannot make it the foundation of your prayer to God. Fear and faith are opposites, you can’t have both; one will be greater than the other.

If you pray, in this case, for God to help you in a situation where you may go to prison, then base it on some scriptures, at least then you have a foundation of what your faith lies in. If we had great faith, then ONE scripture would be enough to get through this:

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”.

I mean, think about it, if we had great faith, a promise like this is all we need. In this lady’s case, if she called on the name of the Lord (and she did) then the second half of this scripture (and promise) is automatic…she shall be saved!

Isn’t that what the scripture says? Call and you shall be saved. Hey, if that’s not enough to build faith, how about this:

“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth”.

Hey, I didn’t make this up, I found it in the Bible! If Jesus said that anything is possible, then why can’t we believe it? Why is it so hard for us to believe what God says, and even further, to believe that God has the “Divine Right” to change His mind?

Either God honors His word… or God is a liar!

Choose today folks, one or the other.

This lady is in need of a miracle…and the pressure is immense on her to give in. The circumstances imply that she cannot win, that she might as well accept the worst and brace for impact. But that’s the carnal way of thinking. We as human beings feel subject to whatever happens, and God just sits on a throne in Jupiter or some far off planet, watching Earth through his telescope.

It is critical for this lady to believe that even now, ESPECIALLY NOW, God is still there, and still in control. A scripture says, “fear not evil news, the Lord is still in control to deliver you”.

And this is what her church has been trying to tell her, but sometimes we get so caught up in our personal problems that we may actually be in content with the very people trying to help keep out faith above water.

I know folks, I have been there as many times as you have.

She is looking at all the circumstances and she sees not one shred of physical evidence that God is helping…although faith is the substance of things hoped for, the (invisible) evidence of things not yet seen.

She is looking for evidence, when it is not able to be seen anyway. This does not mean it isn’t there, it just can’t be seen. And that’s what beats us so many times. We need to see it, hear it or touch it in order to believe in it. If we can’t do that, then it must not be there.

That is not faith folks…we all know that. Yet we fall for it so many times that we miss out on what we were expecting. The Bible clearly says to ask, and you shall receive, and it also says that with God all things are possible. It IS possible, regardless of what you think, and the circumstances.

But I can understand her frustration, and wondering where God is. As I said, I uttered those words before, in fact more than once. It is very ironic because just this morning, before 10am, I got a call from a guy I knew when he was a juvenile in county jail. He was one of those guys I kinda saw as a younger brother, a guy that made many mistakes, but you could tell he had a good heart. He was homeless for several years, and some of that resulted in him getting arrested for trespassing and small charges. If you know my older blogs, I talked much about him. Anyway, it had been quite awhile since I heard from him, the last time I saw him, he was working at Taco Bell, and slowly getting his life back together, which was great.

Anyway he called me just this morning, and wanted to talk with me, since we had not chatted in awhile. Hopefully we will meet in the mall tomorrow, since I am interested to see how he is doing. But he reminded me of another time I said, “Where is God”

While we were both in county jail, we became good friends, and I remember when he told me about his birthday coming up in November, and how he would like to be home for his birthday and even Thanksgiving. At that time I had no way of knowing how to pay his $100 bond, but something in me told me to tell him I would bond him out.

Now understand folks, how STUPID this sounds!

Here I am, in jail, looking at PRISON TIME, and broke, yet I have the audacity to tell this kid that I can, and will, bond him out by his birthday. Now, this is a whole story of faith that I have shared several times before, so I won’t get into that here, but in the end, I managed to get the money and paid his bond…on his birthday.

That was a miracle, trust me folks, it was a miracle. But after that, I was frustrated because he never came to visit me. He visited a couple of other guys he knew, and one of them knew me and knew the kindness I did for him. He told that kid that he needs to see me for a visit, since what I did was highly unusual. How many times have you heard of an inmate bonding out another inmate?

I did get a visit from him, but only because he was asking me if I had some money. Days passed, and a couple of weeks, and the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas holidays were on us, while I was still in that single cell. I was so frustrated that my kindness meant nothing, even though it was based on a miracle. It just seemed that it was for nothing, and I was very disappointed in it, and God. I felt miserable, lonely, stressed, depressed and at times, suicidal.

I remember sitting on the floor in my cell, rocking back and forth against the stone wall of my cell, saying to myself, “Where is God?”. This wasn’t a question of where He was, this was a declaration of disappointment.

I was disappointed in God for using me to help others, but I can’t get any help for myself. I was looking at doing a lot of time, and my lawyers had no real answers. Nothing looked good for me, all I had was myself, and these scriptures that seemed to only be words on paper. Where was this amazing and all-powerful God, who can do the impossible?

I remember that night so well, I sat on that floor, rocking back and forth against the wall, saying over and over, “Where is God”. It was all I could think, it was all I could say. Either I was very frustrated, or insane…or both.

I don’t know how long I did it, maybe an hour, maybe longer, but something very strange happened. After saying “Where is God” for so long, I “heard” something inside of me…

Now folks, when people say they “heard” something, don’t think them insane. Often times, if you are spiritual, you can hear a “voice” that is not audible. Most folks don’t understand this, because they are expecting God (a Spirit) to audibly speak to them as if they are listening through Dolby speakers. That’s not quite how it works folks, and if you keep waiting for that, you’re gonna miss your miracle.

Anyway, that night, after saying “Where is God” so many times, I “heard” something inside me say as clear as any voice, “Hold your peace”.

It was so gentle, yet so strong, I immediately stopped, and got on my knees and bowed my face to the floor, saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”.

Something happened in that room folks, and years after that incident, I cannot fully explain it. But somehow, someway, God answered me in a way that got my attention. The voice was one I cannot say I have ever head before, and yet, one so calming that I would have sworn it was one I knew. At that moment, I repented for questioning God, and I think I stayed on my knees for maybe a half hour, maybe longer, saying “I’m sorry”.

Eventually I went to sleep, not knowing if God was mad at me, or was perhaps telling me not to be so negative. The next day it was “business as usual” in the cell, as I tried to make sense of it. Now here is something interesting… either that next night, or a day or so later, I was sitting in my cell one evening as I heard the guards bring a new inmate in the jail. From my location I can tell when somebody new was coming in, and from where they were going, it was probably a juvenile.

One of the other inmates in isolation cells who was also a juvie, looked out his door, and saw the guy, and called his name…it was the same guy I had bonded out in mid November!

My heart quickened as I heard his name, he was like my little brother, and it was only a night ago I had been so frustrated in myself, and maybe in him. I am not going to doubt for a second that God knew what was going to happen, even the day I bonded him out. The kid got in trouble for trespassing, and was back in jail less than 2 months after I spend that $100 that I could have used, to bond him out.

But if God knew this was going to happen, why did He allow it to happen…simple.

Because I prayed for it.

In the simplest of reasons, God knew the heart of that kid, and mine as well. Perhaps it would had been better not to bond him out, knowing now what I know, but somehow I don’t think that is the best idea. At the time, the kid needed someone to show him kindness, and something stirred in me to do it. My frustration was that maybe it wasn’t worth it, but maybe God saw the greater picture. And because I did pray for it, and stood in faith, He had to honor His word. I prayed, I believed, so He did what I prayed for.

And years later, I get a call from him, this very day. I am not trying to act like some saint, but isn’t it possible that the kindness I did then had in impact on his life? Even if it didn’t, I am quite sure God saw my heart, and will defend that against anyone who wants to criticize my actions.

So what have we said here? Where IS God? If you prayed for a solution, and all you see is problems, does that mean God is not there? Life itself is full of examples of miracles and the impossible happening, heck sports is full to the brim of them. Last second shots, last second field goals, home runs, or the underdog beating the “big team”. The life we live has so many examples. We see them, yet we completely ignore when God is working on our own miracle.

Think about this folks, next time you ask, “Where is God”. We say that, expecting Him to suddenly make Himself visible to us, but even if He did, it is likely we would not accept it. We have to work on believing God because He said to. Is anything too hard for God?

I mean, really? Is anything too hard for God? Can man do ANYTHING that God can’t undo? Think about that, and find refuge even in the midst of a terrifying storm that God can get you through. But you have to trust in that, not the circumstances. This is not to say that your problems are not real, they are quite real. But again, is anything too hard for God?

And yeah, I say this as a guy that has blogged at times about my frustrations in God…heck, I was kinda hoping to be buying that Ferrari from the sales of my books and cards…haven’t quite got there yet. But things are growing for me, more and more people are emailing me about my books, cards and support, so I have to be on the right path. But if I fall, I try to get up. If you have been following my blogs, you know this to be true. I try my best to speak from the heart, and I don’t sugar coat my words often. But the truest intent is to help you understand about prison issues, and how you can endure, or even overcome them.

To that lady that I have been talking about, as you read this, I want you to reevaluate your faith, when you look and give place to the problems, you are slowly moving away from a miracle. Easier said than done, but you have support; your church has been trying to keep you looking at God. But when you spend more time talking about the problem, it is what you have been looking at.

If you found a scripture in the Bible that says that God won’t answer your prayer, let me know, and I will send you 10 scriptures that say He will answer your prayer. If it takes your mind off the problem, get on your computer and write 100 times, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from ALL my fears”.

Try that, and when you do, think about what you are writing, and what it really means.

You cannot lose faith, you just can’t. We agreed that God will help you, we know God can and we know God will…but you are the star player of this faith, you are the Kobe Bryant, the Lebron James of this team. The miracle is already there, but you have to be patient to see it and wait for it to happen. God is there, He is there, closer than you know. I had no idea that He would be as close as my own skin that night when I was saying “Where is God”, but then, there is your answer.

Where is God? Right there, beside you, nay, INSIDE you…so take heart, and don’t fear. A miracle is there, if you still want it, and willing to stand in faith.

Well, I better go, got other emails to write, and expecting to get more today. Until then folks….

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