God’s Grace on the Inside

Are you struggling for meaning in life?  It is an introspective process full of self questions.  Why am I in this horrible hole?  Who can save me from this miserable predicament?  What will happen to me when I die? Even as we pursue these questions, we run the risk of going into autopilot mode,  grasping for answers from anywhere and anyone. The perceived answer may come in the form of narcotics to numb the aching heart. It may also be a self-condemning force piling guilt upon guilt on us.  This guilt, undetected or untreated, is like the dreaded hydrofluoric acid in chemistry. Unlike common acids that cause only topical skin burns, hydrofluoric acid can penetrate human flesh all the way to the bone.  Guilt burns through skin and flesh, all the way to the heart.

This is Chaplain Bill, a volunteer chaplain in a California jail and Youth Detention Facility. Most recently, I received a letter from Donald who is serving time in the California prison system.  He reminded me that in 2008 he attended one of my Bible studies. Unbeknown to Donald, he was on a quest for meaning in his life, but didn’t know how to go about to find it.  He tried to fill the emptiness with all kinds of non-working choices.  Unfortunately none satisfied his need.  I rejoiced to read from his letter that Donald did eventually come to find Jesus Christ as his Lord.  Although incarcerated, Donald’s life is finally freed of past guilt and has a new purpose in life.

“Touched by An Angel”   was a popular TV show.  Each week, the show features a life situation with God sending angels to intervene people at their crossroads. The show was immensely popular because it touched a pulse in our society that we are in need of rescue.  The unspoken truth is that we cannot save ourselves. We need outside help and intervention.

God has a plan better than the angels.  He moves forgiven sinners to help those who are at the the crossroad of their lives.  If you think about it, who else is better qualified to help another than one who has gone before the person in need of help?  In the course of helping another person, we become purposeful in our own lives.

If you are a person at the crossroad struggling for dear life, I invite you to read the posted personal stories. In reading, you may find a story that will resonate within you.  You will know it when the little voice inside you says,”That’s me you’re describing!”  If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to seek out this Jesus of the Bible who can transform lives.  Later on, I will show you how to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Inmate Personal Stories

Matt (Identity protected) I’m an Asian American, born in Stockton, raise up in Sacramento, 24 years of age.  I’m incarcerated in jail for 2 years now.  I’m here just like everybody else; maybe I’m just charge with bigger crime.  Here is a little information of me in the pass and now.  I grew up in a good, loving family.  My parents would give me the world if they can.  Everything with me is fine but the place where I was raise up was an active gang turf where there was shooting going on.  I remember seeing people get killed and gangsters hiding me, my brothers, and friends when there was a shoot out.  I seen it all and wanted to be hardcore, and have all girls.   I started gangbanging at the age of 13.  From day one, I put in my works to get my honor & respect. In the hood I’m like a legend at a young age.  Homies all over United States know who I am.  I was so deep into the gang life I even learn the history of the gang I’m from and the gangs I’m going against, and who is the main gangsters to hit.  Where I came from, nobody wants to mess with me and knows the name I’m call.  Everything in the gang life I done it all and did it all.  I got the respect, honors, and even hate, the most hated, and on the enemy number one hit list.  There’s too much for me to write with pencil and paper.  And all this time is what I earned, jail, a dissatisfied restless life, and constantly watching my back when I’m going out and coming in.  All that I’ve done it didn’t satisfy me, but was tearing me apart.  I know it’s not right but my pride couldn’t let go.  The gang kept calling me, but God on the other side kept saying, NO!  I lose, failed and now I’m here facing life without the possibility of parole. I’m stressed out and with no hope and the gang stop calling me. Don’t know where to turn.  Then my senses came back, and I remember the love of the Lord God Almighty.  As soon as I remember that, the devil also came back saying to me, “No, don’t ask God for forgiveness because you’re not worthy anymore.  You’ve done it all!  I say to myself, I can’t surrender to you no more, you got me here and left me all alone.  After I resisted the flesh, I could hear the Holy Spirit more clearer saying come back to me, I love you, don’t worry about anything my Son Jesus Christ have paid all your debts, recall your faith and surrender to my will.  Since that day, God is pouring the Holy Spirit abundantly on me.  I still remember coming to Bill’s class two years ago and studying from 2 Cor. 2:1-16.  Bill and all the saints here in 6th floor been a lot of help in my walk.  Thank God!  I came in here restless, dissatisfy, no hope, and lost.  But God have given to me abundantly and there is more to come.  Thank God! Even in jail this is the best two years of my life.  Now I’m blessed, have faith, eternal life, and hope to a better future.  My future is in God’s hands.  The Holy Spirit told me don’t worry just hold on tight and keep on doing what I’m doing and everything is going to be alright.  Praise God!  I don’t know how I would be like if I didn’t find God or God didn’t find me.  God love you brothers, pray and have faith, God will give you the better bread you didn’t ask for.  The prayers of a righteous man avail much.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  That’s why I know I’m going home, even though they found me guilty of 1st degree murder and all.  I ask God to deliver me and take me home.  But things didn’t go my way, because my God knows what’s best for me.  Maybe the time in prison is going to be the best time for me to get to know God better and to depend on God for everything.  Remember the Israelites’ cry’s out to God for deliverance.  God heard them took them out of Egyptian, but He didn’t give them rest the next day.  He took them to a desert for 40 years to test them to see if they would depend on Him.  God is doing the same with me.  This trial is a purification section for my life.  After God is done with me I would not be myself, bet of Christ.  Every tissue, cells, organs, muscles, and vessels will be of Christ.  Praise God! Then God will bring me home to my family and sweetheart.  God not my will but your will be done.  I give what God give me, my life, and God will give it back abundantly.  Thank God for reaching down to grab me out of this pit.

 Dan (Identity protected I’m going to prison for 22 years.  Why, you’d ask?  Because I was a gang member and I made the wrong decision.  I was raised by my grandmother who I called my mom.  She was more of a mom than a grandma.  She raised me and my five sisters in one house. She fed us, clothed us, made sure we went to school and kept us active in ministries at church.

Growing up my sisters and I were in church a lot, we were on the usher board, in the choir, in the reading ministry, hospitality committee ….  Our more extra activities included gospel karate, praise dancing, ministering through dance, playing piano, and being a percussionist.  These things should have kept me out of trouble, but they didn’t.  The neighborhood I grew up in and the schools I went to had distractions.  I got pulled away from God’s work and started playing on the Devil’s yard.  I got into a gang at the age of 13.  I felt the streets had more to offer, but I didn’t know what it was.  At the age of 16 my grandmother died and that left me not knowing who to go to.  I actually questioned God.  Asking Him why he would do that to my sisters and me so when she passed I got really involved, I started partying and fighting more than ever.  I had got more involved in the gang.  My grades were falling down to 0.74 GPA’s.  Finally I got a reality check when I found out that I wouldn’t graduate from high school if I don’t get my act together.  So I pushed the streets aside and got my act together.  I was still playing the drums in church and other things.  Church was in my life but I was still gangbanging.  I ended up graduating on time, moving out and going to Sac City to major in forensic studies. In 2008 I had my son.  I was still in church, and school, but was still in the gang.  On October 31, 2008 I got into a shoot out with a rivalry gang, that’s when I realize I need to stop but I didn’t and so I end up coming to jail for the first time ever and getting a whopping 22 years .

I’ve learned that those people in the gang cannot do anything for you.  They’ll get down with you but won’t do your time for you.  If you’re looking for love and guidance, please I encourage you to trust in the Lord.  He’s the way and the only way.  Be careful also who you call friend, because not all friends will be there forever except God.  Thank you.  May God be the light of your world.

Joe (Identity protected) First off I would like to give all the glory to God, for He is the one who loves me. He is the one who inspires me, and He is the one who saved me through our Lord Jesus Christ.  My name is not important, but what I have to say is.  So listen my young brothers and sisters, for what I have to say comes out of love.  The very first time I can actually remember coming into contact with the world of God was about 30 years ago.  I was in prison and there was a war going on between two rival prison gangs.  I was 19 and needless to say I was part of the madness.  One day I decide to pick up the bible while I was in my cell.  I can’t exactly remember what I was reading but I think it was, “No man can serve two masters.”  Luke 16:13.  I remember being scared at what I just read because I tossed the Bible down and didn’t pick it up and actually read it again until about fifteen years later.  This time I was in the hole in Pelican Bay SHU.  That stands for Security Housing Unit.  I was in the hole for about 5 years for being accused of being a prison gang member.  I was going through a hard time and had decided to drop out of this gang.  This was where and when our Lord started to work on me.  I was really getting into the word and I was loving it.  I was starting to trust the Lord and He proved to me that His presence was real.  I finally got out of the hole and ended up in a drop out prison yard.  I was soon released and was serving God.  But I back slid.  Now I have been in this county jail for about 2 years fighting a twenty-five to life sentence.  This, my young brothers and or sisters is a serious situation.  But I still get through it with the help of the Lord.  Praise God I try to encourage others with a lot less time to wake up before something similar happens to them.  I see others who have never been in trouble and I explain to them “Look around, is this what you want?  If not then straighten up, give God a chance.”  These places are full of heart aches and pain not only for you but those who love you also.  There are two things in this world that you don’t want to be.  One is a fool and the other is an old fool.  So please, continue your walk with our Lord.  He loves us so much that our minds cannot fully comprehend.  I pray for you all that you may continue in following and seek our Lords will.  No matter what happens in my situation, I will continue to do our Lord’s will and I will try to help others.  I always will thank God for everything and I will always give him the Glory in everything that I do.

Sam (Identity protectedI am an Asian guy who grew up in North Sacramento.  I am 18 years old.  I have been in jail for 2 ½ years now.  I caught this case (attempted murder) when I was 16 years old.  Back then when I was on the streets I live my life as a gang banger.  I don’t care about a lot of stuff.  My so called homies would come first before anything.  My family was the type of family that would go to church and try to convert me to become a Christian.  I never pay them any attention.  My dad always told me your homies would be the ones to turn their backs on you.  Guess what, he was right. The reason I end up getting arrested was that my own homies “told” on me.  I did not listen to my parents.  Back then what was going through one ear went out the other.  Now I realize that everything my parents said and did was to better me.  And this I know now that is was GOD who was trying to get my attention.  He finally did.  While at the youth detention facility I started to read the Bible, attending church and Bible study.  At first it was just to help me get out.  I did not want anything to do with God after that.  But as my days went on, nothing good was happening. As a matter of fact everything was getting worse.  I didn’t know why.  But the bible says “you sow what you reap” so I realize GOD caught up to me and now is punishing me for all the bad things I did in the past and is changing me completely.  And that is what He did.  I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and one day I know that it will be better in heaven.  Now I feel forgiven, joy, happiness, peace.  In the book of Revelation Jesus says there will be no more fears, tears, pain, death, sorrow, sickness, tragedy, trouble, hunger, or thirst.  This is great news for all of us.  Know that Jesus cares for us and is waiting on you to accept Him.  Our God is willing to forgive and to love.  Each day I try to build up my faith and to all those people who is out there running the streets with your homies, two things for sure.  You’re going to end up in jail for a long time or die young.  I encourage you to stay away from trouble and keep your eyes on Jesus.  Listen to your parents and love them.  After all without them there wouldn’t be you.  And to those people in jail, never lose hope in Jesus.  Anything can happen.  Remember what He said in the Bible.  “All things are possible for God.”  I pray that whoever is reading this that it will at least touch their heart and Without Jesus we can do nothing.”  God Will Bless Y’all readers.

Returning Home

The Bible tells of a young man who was wastefully extravagant in living. He, in fact, threw away his inheritance.  Not long after a lifestyle of extravagance in wild living, he became in desperate need because of an untimely severe famine in the whole country.  As an act of desperation, he finally found a job feeding pigs.  To a man of his heritage, a man cannot get any lower in their social structure.  He longed to fill his stomach with the meals that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

Somewhere between the fainting spells of hunger pain, he came to his senses that many of his father’s servants have food to spare, and here he was starving to death!  He went back to his father to fess up to his rebellion against heaven and his father.  He realized that he was no longer worthy to be called the son and was perfectly content to be another servant.  To the young man’s surprise, the father welcomed him back.  When the older son complained, the father spoke with God’s heart, “this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” If this story and all the other personal stories have spoken to you deeply, remember that God is waiting to welcome you back just like the father welcomed back his formerly wayward son. Jesus Christ made known to us according to Scriptures that He is the way, the truth and the life.  No one go to the Heavenly Father but through Him.

Romans 6:23 declares that the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The name Lord actually refers to God.  Only God can save us. The Apostle Paul declared that if we speak with our mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God (the Father) raised Him (God the Son) from the dead, and then we will be saved from the punishment of sin.  When we believe in our most inner being, we are made right with God.  We are eager to tell others how we are saved from the punishment of sin.

If there is pride in you not wanting to give in, then expect to go back to the school of life for more learning. If you expect science to enlighten you, then you will be disappointed.  Why? The only answer to the empty heart is believe in Christ as the only One who can save you and meet your great inner needs. Remember, even astronauts believe; Apollo 8 astronauts read from Genesis while orbiting the moon on Christmas 1968.

If your heart is ready to confess your sin and receive Jesus Christ as the One who had died on your behalf so you may have life eternally, then call out to Jesus Christ as the God of your life.  Know then you have made right with God at that moment.  In that striking moment, also believe that the grace of God has covered you.  You are a new child of God.  Old things had passed away and new things have come from God. You are a new being.  If there are things that have held you captive, declare that you are no longer obligated to them.  Ask the important question, “What do you want me to do with my life, Lord?”  Expect to hear from God through the Bible, through the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit in your heart and through His people.  Look for a spiritual hunger within you that could only be satisfied through a personal relationship with Christ and being in the Word of God.

 

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