July 2016

lake margaretWelcome! It’s always a blessing to hear from you, especially a pastor in the body of Christ. I’m so thankful for those who reach out to me, thinking that I might be able to return a blessing in some way.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” 1

A Pastor’s Response…

“I’m one of the pastors of a church in Camarillo, California. We are doing a series called “Messy Encounters” and looking at the type of people Jesus engaged with.

He engaged with people that did not have it all together and people that we as a society would not embrace. I was wondering if you would be willing to share somewhat of your encounter with Jesus. I have read how powerful of a testimony you have, but also wanted to know how you have been treated by other Christians.

It seems in Jesus’ “Messy Encounters” that the crowd is not happy how Jesus embraces someone who is a tax collector, thief, murderer, and the list goes on. How have you dealt with “the crowd” as you have decided to follow Jesus?

I have been impressed by the ownership and responsibility you have taken. Do you have any advice for others who feel their life is messy and fear being authentic with their mess? Do you have any advice for other believers who desire to be like Jesus, but resonate more with the disapproving crowd?

Lastly, being in prison, do you ever feel that you believe in God, but still worry all the time? How would you respond to someone that feels that way? Thank you for your time, Charles. God Bless, Kelley.”

My Response…

“I’m more than happy to share with your congregation, even joyful. Jesus came into my heart after several graceful Christians reached out to me, including my mother. We need more of them in prison ministry. I believe they could turn the prison system upside down, or possibly right side up.

You mentioned the “disapproving crowd”, during Christ’s spiritual ministry. Of course, those were legalistic. Surely you have none of those in your congregation! J“The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” 2

Jesus embraced me when many others would not at the time, but after He came into my heart that night in June 1975, it made His love seem even more unconditional. I went back to my cell, looked in the mirror, and my face was glowing. I told myself, ‘This is ten times better than drugs, and it’s free.’ Almost immediately, I thought, ‘Jesus had sacrificed His life as payment for my sin.’”

The Disapproving Crowd…

I don’t expect the “disapproving crowd” to understand forgiveness, something that only God’s grace can reveal to them, “…the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” 3 Our expectations of others can create problematic thinking and emotions, so recognizing their limits without Christ is important.

“But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” 4

Overall, I’ve been treated well by other Christians, that is, the ones who have contacted me – no complaints. I’m not one to take offense, since I’ve been forgiven so much, having received such great mercy. My family and I have been persecuted for the crime, but those are the consequences of my choices.

Being Authentic…

As far as being authentic with our mess, the more love and grace we experience, the more authentic we’ll become. Knowing and believing the power of God’s love empowers us to overcome fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 5

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them… Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.” 6

Plus, as we experience His forgiveness, we have nothing to fear. We’re able to freely be transparent. Knowing who you are and what you have become gives complete peace with God.

I find as we experience God’s love deep from the core of out born-again Spirit, His love is greater than all the externals. “…You belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 7 Our dependence becomes totally upon him, not trusting in ourselves, as the old chorus goes,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look fully into His wonderful face,
And the things on earth will grow strangely dim,
in the light of His glory and grace.”

A Prayer for You…

Jesus, I turn from trusting in myself and my own works for salvation. I confess that You are my Lord. I believe in my heart that God raised You from the dead, and I receive Your gift of salvation right now by faith. Thank you for revealing Your love and grace to me!

Father, I recognize my need for Your power to understand Your Word and to live this new life. I desire to receive Your revelation knowledge. Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit. By faith, I receive it right now. Thank you for baptizing me. Holy Spirit, You are welcome in my life! Amen!

Scripture References (NLT):

1) Eph. 1:3
2) John 1:17, KJV
3) 1 Cor. 2:11b
4) 1 Cor. 2:14
5) 2 Tim. 1:7
6) 1 John 4:16, 18, 19
7) 1 John 4:4

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