Life’s Journey After Prison
This devotional book is dedicated to Debbie Hall, my awesome wife, who withstood the “STORMS” of my growing up, maturing as a pastor, and who God continues using to shape and make me into the Godly man He’s called me to be. She’s also inspired me to realize it’s the Christ in us that’s the hope of God’s glory (Col. 1:27).
She’s showed me how to relate to Jesus through the spirit/heart, instead of the mind. It has to be spirit to spirit-heart to heart to truly commune with God, Jesus, & Holy Spirit. It’s taken me 20 years to realize this. God says He’s a Spirit and those who worship Him must do so in the true spiritual realm, these are the ones the Father is seeking to worship Him (See John 4:23-24). So many of these illustrations have come from her. Thank you Debbie for this 12 year roller coaster journey. When you say yes to God you’re ready for Him to use you, and you really are, hang on to your seat.
A Daily Devotional Guide for a Healthy, Godly, Successful Life
This devotion is a 40 day journey of reminders of some simple principles that if applied can’t help but make you a more victorious Christian and a much better person.
These truth from God’s word and my own experiences are life changing, but only if applied. Believe me I know all this stuff well, taught it 16 years, but unless you seriously apply it, then all you have is a knowledge of it as I have for those 16 years. When tested by life I failed so many times because I wasn’t completely living by these principles I knew so well. My prayer is that everyone who reads these pages will be encouraged, inspired, and the man or woman God has called us to. Enjoy.
Going to God First
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make. Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go
I’velearned the hard way how important it is to go to God first with any and everything – weather it’s a good or a bad thing. As Jesus entered into His ministry one of the first lessons He taught was His famous Sermon on the Mount, (Seek first the kingdom of God Matthew 6:33a)
Solomon was said to be the wisest man to ever live and these are his words from the Voice Translation concerning this topic of God being first place in our life-the first One we go to about anything:
Proverbs 9:10-12 Reverence for the Eternal, the one True God, is the beginning of wisdom; true knowledge of the Holy One is the start of understanding. Lady Wisdom says: Through me your days will be lengthened, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, wisdom is its own reward. If you mock what you don’t understand, you alone will suffer the consequences.
During storms and trials and tragedies we have a tendency to either blame God, fall apart, or try to deal with it ourselves. We usually go to God after we’ve made even a bigger mess of things.
Going to God first, and staying there until our attitude is right, our perspective is clear, and our heart is right, will save us endless troubles, problems, pains, and lastly the consequences. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 the Apostle Paul writes these word-this is The Passion Translation:
1 Corinthians 10:13 We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear and overcome it. And each test is an opportunity to trust Him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.
When the disciples were in the middle of the sea and the storm came upon them, their first reaction was to fight it themselves. Finally when they were about to sink Jesus came walking near them, but it wasn’t until they cried out to Him that they were rescued and immediately reached their destination. (Matthew 14:22-26, Mark 6:45-52)
I can’t count the times I’ve planned, worried, figured, fought, defended, feared, beat myself up, etc. before ever taking it to God. After taking it to Him, and after He begins unveiling things, I see what a waste of time and energy all the other has been—the problem is usually never as big or bad as Satan would have you believe. The spirit of fear puts you into bondage to him. The good news is that He who lives in you is greater than anything you’ll face out here-in the world (1 John 4:4).
When I got word I was getting out of prison was one of the happiest days of my life. But after things settled down Satan begin reminding me I had $80,000 in fines, pay back SSI $15,000, and the IRS close to $100,000. After that I begin wondering if getting out was worth it until I went the Lord, He told me that His grace was all I needed. He reminded me of King David and Goliath. So I took the steps forward and walk through the doors He opened. Without going into detail every bit of that went away. I could believe it—He gave me a new name and fresh start. If it hadn’t been for a wise cell mate, and awesome chaplain whom I worked for, praying with me and reminding me to take it to God, I may not have gotten out. Go to God with everything.
Listening More Talking Less
I suppose like many, the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn in life, and the one that’s taking me the longest to live out consistently, is what I believe to be the intent behind the words James penned 1700 years ago, ‘Be Swift to Hear and Slow to Speak’, and slow to anger (James 1:19).
Isn’t it interesting, James writes this in the first chapter, at the beginning of his book? I too have chosen this subject as an introduction into my life lessons. That’s what all the Epistles are, life lessons from men and women who failed as we do, but they never looked at it as failing, but lessons of life. They looked at failing or coming up short, as teachers and mentors so they learned, grew, and matured. As my wife always says, they are steps to the next higher level of life.
Learning to keep our mouths shut and giving up the right to be right is the beginning to living free, free over our emotions, and in some cases it allows us to see past the person’s words, and be sensitive to the hurt and pain-the root so to speak.
Practice makes perfect and believe me you’ll have plenty of opportunities for that. Begin today—most things we fight over mean nothing. I’ve learned conquering this principle of keeping my mouth shut and giving up the right to be right, helps you have victory in many other areas of life.
Be very careful what mountains you chose to die on. I think James says it well—we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, we should listen twice as much as we talk. Below are two different Scriptures to mediate on today. One of the greatest ways for overcoming emotions is applying this principle of giving up the right to be right and keeping our mouths zipped. I pray God blesses you on this journey to a better life.
Proverbs 17:28 New Living Bible Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.
James 1:19-21 The Passion Translation My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, [a]but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry, for human anger is never a legitimate tool to promote God’s righteous purpose. b] So this is why we abandon everything morally impure[c] and all forms of wicked conduct. Instead, with a sensitive spirit absorb God’s Word, which has been implanted within our nature, for the Word of Life has power to continually deliver us. [f]
a). It is obvious in the context that we should listen to one another, to God’s voice, and to his Word. May God give us listening hearts.
b). this most likely refers to the ultimate salvation of our souls (personality, emotions, thoughts) and/or our eternal salvation.
c). or “be a poet [doer] of the Word.”
f). Or “save our souls.” The Greek uses the effective aorist active infinitive σωσαι (sōsai) from σωζω (sōzō) and could refer to the ultimate salvation of our souls, (personality, emotions, thoughts,) and/or our eternal salvation.
In the areas of your life you know have been a problem, (drugs, gambling, sex, money, and certain people), draw an imaginary line in the invisible sand, and pre-determine that you will not cross it. Before coming out of prison I drew an imaginary line in the sand and predetermined I would not cross it. As Jesus had His Gethsemane, which is where He defeated the cross, we too need to have our own Gethsemane and win the battles before we are even confronted. Once the battle is won in the heart then when tempted by Satan you’ll give it no thought and pass by it.
Jesus spent time pre-determining the one think that would derail His mission, the cross. Once He had received the grace needed and fought victoriously the battle in His mind, He got up, grabbed up His three sleeping disciples, and never looked back-the cross was won in the garden. Same for us with our weaknesses.
In Romans 13:14 KJ Paul tells us, make no provision for our flesh to fulfill its lust.
The Voice Translation says, “wrap yourselves in the Lord Jesus, and do not fuel your sinful imagination by indulging your self-seeking desire for the pleasures of the flesh.
Failures Can Be Teachers
Responding properly to failures and miss-steps is critical to the success of our walk with God. First we need to understand that failing and failure are not the same thing. In God’s the only time we become a failure is when we quit. On the other had failing is actually learning. People tend to put a negative connotation on the word fail. But it’s next to impossible to grow without first failing. Very few people learn something the first time, therefore in failing their learning and moving up. It’s the same way in life—don’t look at your pieces of stupid, miss-steps, and failings in a negative light, but look at is as the stepping stones that move you upward.
That doesn’t say there isn’t consequences to bad actions, nor does it excuse you from being responsible if there is some amends or restitution needed, but we get back up and move forward—I call it falling forward not backwards.