"Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!"
About a year ago I made it through Tolstoy's "War and Peace." One scene in particular was unforgettable.
The main character, Pierre, is in the Russian army, at the battlefront. The Czar, emperor of Russia, has come to rally his soldiers for battle. Pierre is simply overcome with devotion for his emperor. He spurs his horse directly past the Czar's reviewing stand with such fine form that the emperor notices, singles him out, and calls out a commendation after him. At that moment Pierre's heart nearly bursts with emotion. Right then he was ready to hurl himself at the enemy. No sacrifice was too great. Pierre was ready to give his life for his Czar.
The other day, while listening to Handel's setting of Isaiah 9:6, the thought occurred to me that Pierre's emotion is the kind of devotion we should feel toward our great King:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called WONDERFUL, COUNSELOR, THE MIGHTY GOD, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, THE PRINCE OF PEACE."
This is the Conquering King Jesus Who "Abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." (1Tim 1:10)
Our King got up in the synagogue at Nazareth and proclaimed "Good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, liberty for the oppressed and a year of Jubilee;” and then made it clear He was the One called by God to carry out this deliverance. Folks in His hometown was so incensed they tried to throw Him over the cliff. (Luke 4)
I believe Jesus' Kingdom is the stone uncut by human hands in Daniel 2 that smashes all earthly kingdoms to dust and becomes a great mountain that fills the earth.
This is not just a future reality. I think it's already happened and is happening right now. Jesus has already broken the tyranny of Satan's rule. His Kingdom already stands over all earthly Kingdoms. Millions and millions of people have already found their Messiah King, have surrendered to Him and entered His Kingdom as citizens of another world and their highest allegiance is to that world.
Because of His victory, millions of people already "Are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us," and already enjoy the "glorious liberty of the children of God," to a degree at least. They have been made free by the Son of God and are "free Indeed."
Jesus' Kingdom is not only "counter-culture," it's "other culture," entirely of a different nature than this world. This means His followers should not put a lot of stock in political movements even if those movements momentarily seem to favor righteous causes.
What does Jesus victory mean in practical reality for us today?
First, we can have great hope in a world of brokenness and despair. Through His victory over Satan, sin and death, our King made reconciliation with God possible. Through a spiritual rebirth of the human personality, a person can now become a child of God, and a citizen in His Kingdom.
"To all who did receive Him, (Jesus) who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of (human descent) but of God. Truly I say unto you, unless one is born again, he cannot see or enter the Kingdom of God." (John 1:12-13, 3:3,5)
The idea of a spiritual rebirth for people shouldn't be considered any more fantastic or impossible than the natural conception and birth of a human baby.
I believe I'm speaking for the countless people who've experienced this: One can perceive this spiritual rebirth just as surely as one can be aware of his physical existence as a human being.
A whole new realm of spiritual awareness and a connectedness to God becomes a reality, bringing inexpressible joy and peace to one's interior life. Jesus called this eternal life.
I encourage anyone reading this who hasn't experienced the rebirth Jesus taught---seek it!
Secondly, Jesus' victory means that all who experience the rebirth of God's Spirit now have His power available to overcome the sinful behavior that brings so much disorientation, despair and emptiness. Jesus's life is transferred to us, and by staying connected to Him, we can live by His power and overcome Satan, sin and ultimately death, just as He did. A person with this kind of freedom and joy will find his heart bursting--once in a while at least--with exalted devotion for his Emperor just as did Pierre!
This is the message I'd like to give to you, my dear friends in Christ and prayer-mates. I know this message is 2,000 years old, but it still works! May it become new and exciting for us this Christmas season!
And now for the more mundane...
My cellie makes great tortilla wraps. I share his recipe: Kookin' Karl's Terrifica Tortillas. (Makes 4-5)
Lay out tortilla wraps on (hopefully) clean table. Spread liberally with chili con queso cheese spread. Cut up 1/2 honey pepper turkey log. (Vacuum sealed turkey sausage) Mix cut up chunks of turkey log in with 1 pack ramen noodle soup mix in bowl. Add very small amount of hot water, stir and mix. Put soup and turkey log mix down the middle of tortilla. Lay slices of mozzarella and cheddar cheese on top of soup and meat mix. (You can grate the cheese if you can find a decent sink drain screen to use as a grater) Squeeze a nice bead of mayonnaise right down the middle. Place 4 pieces of specially prepared dill pickle* on top of everything; fold tortilla, wrap in paper towel and place on hot water radiator for twenty minutes while mouth waters like crazy. Thank God and enjoy!! (A Pepsi adds to the joy.) These wraps really are good!
*Dill pickle preparation: take one very large dill pickle out of package, cut up and put in empty peanut butter jar along with the pickle juice. Add 1/3 jar honey and two tablespoons of Louisiana Hot Sauce. Close lid tightly and shake like mad. Put jar inside locker for several days amongst the socks. Open and enjoy very flavorful pickle! Great on Kookin' Karls Terrifica Tortillas.
Love and prayers, from a fellow pilgrim,
Ken Miller 08464-082
Federal Correctional Complex
P.O. Box 1000
Petersburg, VA 23804
From: KENNETH L MILLER (08464082)
DEC 3, 2015
Peace and blessings to each of you from Jesus Christ our Lord. It feels like a long time since I've seen most of you. It's been over eight months now. I miss you all today more than usual for some reason. But strangely, I'm content to be here. This is where God has me for now and I'm learning to be OK with it.
God has been exceptionally good to me the last while. That very difficult trip to Buffalo is fading into the past. My dear mother is with the Lord. I'm sad whenever I think about going back to the house and not seeing her there, but I have to say heaven is more attractive now, and that's good.
So many letters and cards keep coming in the mail, it's almost overwhelming to think about answering even some of them. The other day was a record; I think there were 24 pieces of mail. (Not quite all letters) I'm sorry that I haven't answered more of your letters recently. I hope to pick up letter writing in earnest again this week.
When I came back from Buffalo, I went to what is called "The Big Parking Lot." This is a dorm style room with 36 bunks. It stays mostly full. So there's a lot of movement and a lot of noise, including various nocturnal noises, and not much privacy. I was there about a month. Just this past week I was invited downstairs to one of the nicer rooms in the whole building. It's a six man cell, spacious (for in here) with lots of natural light as the room has two large windows facing south. (The ladies would despair about the hazy windows, but you get used to it.) The room faces the road and the visitor parking lot. So I can sit on my top bunk, look out the window, watch the traffic passing by on the road and see visitors come. It's not quite like sitting on the front porch, but it's a bit closer.
My bunkie is a good friend who's a former marine drill sergeant. He would fit the bill. Straightforward, to the point, and fearless. But I have to say I keep my bed made a lot better than he does his. I'll have to bring that point up sometime...Another one of my other cellies is a Cuban, appropriately named Fidel. (No relation to THE Fidel, as far as I know)
Since my bunkie and I are friends, we share food. Yesterday he shared some pizza that had been cooked over at the shop where I work. A piece of cardboard for the pizza pan, tortilla wraps overlapped for the crust, some sauce (ahem) taken from the kitchen (I don't do that) maybe some onion and peppers if you're lucky, three kinds of cheese and two kinds of meat bought from the commissary--and the whole thing is cooked to perfection with a HEAT GUN; The Petersburg Deluxe Pizza.
We have an old fashioned cast iron radiator in our room. When the heat is on, you can cook rice, make wraps and all kinds of other food on that radiator.
The man in the bunk next to me in the Big Parking Lot (where I had slept for a month) has a remarkable story. I'll call him Rick. He got a life sentence off "a drug deal gone bad." In that same drug deal he was shot in the head. The bullet went down beside his nose, down through his mouth and tongue, through his jaw and lodged in his throat. Doctors were trying to save his life and were just about to slice open his neck to try to find the bullet, when he suddenly sat up and coughed out the bullet! It took years of rehab before he could swallow well enough to eat regular food. Even so, the left side of his mouth is somewhat paralyzed, his swallowing is affected and he speaks with a severe rasp because half of his vocal cords are paralyzed. He's been behind bars for 14-15 years in the federal penitentiary, and has seen horrible things happen to people.
Rick got the shock of his life on Aug. 30 when he got a call from the White House counsel saying he'd gotten clemency from President Obama. He almost fainted and kept asking, "Is this real, is this real?" But it was real. He showed me the original letter signed by the President of the United States. He's being released on Dec. 28. Imagine! Going from a life sentence to four months overnight.
He has just a few more weeks left and I can't help but celebrate with him.
But isn't being release from the sentence of sin and death even much more cause for celebration?!!
Rick is going back to his hometown with no family support or anything. A friend has offered to put him up for thirty days in a room somewhere. After that, he's on his own. If you have any more questions about his situation, talk to Linda. Please pray for my good friend Rick, that God would keep him in His hand. I am very blessed to have met him.
Praise the Lord too, that I have my job back on the landscape crew. We've been moving topsoil with wheelbarrows a long distance, so I've gotten some good workouts. Right now the camaraderie there is quite good. I want to speak to more of my crewmates about the Savior--please pray for opportunities and open hearts.
Today we're having a birthday celebration for the birthdays of my two boys, Joshua and Johnny. I decided that while I can't be at home for their birthdays, they can't stop me from celebrating with my friends here. So we're cooking up food for about 10 fellows, deluxe tortilla wraps along with chips and sodas. And we are going to wish Joshua and Johnny very happy birthdays. And I am getting hungry since it's about 5:00 pm, and I didn't eat lunch.
Something to pray about: I feel led to propose a discipleship / mentoring ministry here for young believers similar to what we've done at Pilgrim in the Brotherhood Discipleship Groups, where fellow inmates disciple each other through the Word, prayer and confession. I know I've personally benefited immensely from this discipline it over the years. I think it's time to propose something like it here.
May God bless each of you all real good and may Christ's presence be very near as you gather on His day tomorrow.
Love and prayers,
Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,
Jesus still lead on
Till our rest be won
And although the way be cheerless
We will follow calm and fearless
Guide us by Thy Hand
To our Fatherland.
These words by Nicholaus Ludwig, the early Moravian leader, have long been precious to me. The last two months were among the most difficult of my entire life. Moving from prison to prison, spending long periods of time in shackles while in transport simply isn't fun. "Diesel therapy," they call it. After 8 moves and 7 institutions in 47 days, Richmond Hall here in good 'ole Petersburg never looked so good! I arrived back here at Petersburg Low a week ago on November 2.
In Buffalo I faced some excruciating decisions. But the grace of God from your prayers and the sweet counsel of my dear wife enabled me to make it through. Until negotiations between the U.S. prosecutors and another party are completed, I'm not free to comment much. But it appears unlikely that I will face further charges, praise God!
My dear mother, Salina (Kanagy) Miller passed from this life on Oct. 2 while I was being held in the Niagara County Jail. There was no way to make it to the funeral. I wept much during those days. Praise God I was able to speak with her the evening before she passed on. And I was able to phone in to the funeral service and listen to almost all of it. We felt God's comforting presence very strongly in the midst of the pain. My mother was a very godly woman who touched many people through her quiet influence. She loved Jesus and believed in His transforming power for all who come to Him. She was a faithful wife and loving mother for almost 56 years. I felt her support very strongly during the trials of the last 5 years.
While on the rec yard on day at Youngstown Ohio, I saw coming toward me a kind, bearded face. To my great surprise, it was Brother Timo Miller! We had a joyous meeting! We slept in different units, but for two days we were able to converse over meals and at the rec yard. Of course we didn't talk about the legal case, but we were able to comfort and exhort each other in the Lord and pray together. That was a huge encouragement to me!!
I met many men. I heard their fascinating and often tragic stories. Pray that the Kingdom Seed sown along the way would bear much fruit.
Let's also keep all those involved in this case in our fervent prayers.
Your brother in Christ,
His time on the witness stand came at about 3:45 Thursday afternoon. He came in, looking good in his suit, which was sent for the occasion. Because of matters of faith and conscience, Ken chose not to testify. The judge gave Ken due warning of the consequences for his decision. As a result, he was charged with civil contempt, and the judge indicated that the prosecution may charge him with criminal contempt at a later time. At this point, there is no sentence handed down for these charges. Ken will remain in the area for the duration of the trial.
Although we are disappointed with the ruling, we are confident that God is still ruling over all. As a church, we go in faith, and support each other in these difficult times.
The trial of Philip Zodhiates is starting now in Buffalo, NY. See http://christiannews.net/2016/09/20/jury-selection-begins-for-trial-of-second-man-accused-of-helping-ex-lesbian-flee-country-with-daughter/
Ken has been taken from his post at the Petersburg VA prison and is in Buffalo, where he will be required to testify. Here's what he said in the last update, " Three years ago I was found in civil contempt for not testifying, and jailed for 40 days The prosecutor has made it clear that refusal to testify this time could mean substantial time added to my present 27-month sentence." He wants very much to be a witness for truth and the kingdom. We do not know if he will be testifying in the public court or in a closed session. I just heard that he is on for Thursday, and I don't know what time.
Another brother from here is also being called to testify, and he is under some of the same stresses. His wife is expecting a baby anytime now, and of course he wants to be able to stay home with her, but it doesn't look like his request is being heard at this point. There are others who are being put on the witness stand again. All of these people need our prayers very much.
U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York
Buffalo, New York