To my dear friends in Jesus Christ,
I'm sitting here by the same razor-wire topped fence that signified the death of a dream one emotional day more than a year ago.
I must testify of God's amazing grace and goodness.
For the child of God, "Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning."
Who of us hasn't experienced this?
Last year at this time the distinct possibility of an additional two or three years of prison weighed very heavily on us.
Now I'm sitting here by this same razor wire with just a hundred days "and some change" left.
And it's a glorious day here in Petersburg VA and my heart is full of the Joy of God.
If it might be permitted, I'd like to join in with David's exulting: "BY THEE I have run through a troop; and BY MY GOD I have leaped over a wall. For who is God save the Lord? Or who is a Rock save our God? The Lord liveth and blessed be my Rock and let the God of my salvation be exalted!" (Psalm 18:29,31,46)
I wish to exult in God yet much more. Let me tell you about my friend and brother Luis. I have permission to tell his story.
The other week Luis pulled back his shirt collar and showed me the scar on his neck where a bullet from a police revolver entered. Further down on his upper back was another scar--the exit wound---about an inch from his spine.
I love this man Luis. His quiet testimony radiates like a 1,000 watt light bulb in here.
His story is one of redemption, of a terrible fall, and of restoration by the grace of God.
Delivered from a life of sin, Luis used to be on fire for God and very active in his church. He taught at two different Bible institutes in New York. He lead mission trips to South America. Organized evangelistic tours. He even preached at a stadium himself one time when the evangelist didn't show up.
He was a good provider for his wife and family. He ran two electrical contracting businesses, one in North Jersey where he lived and the other in Manhattan. He also was the head maintenance person for CNBC TV, a major financial network, at their NYC studio.
Success got to him. Sadly he fell for another woman. That led him into a downward spiral back into the old life he'd been delivered from twenty years prior. "My house was empty, swept and garnished," he says. And then seven other spirits moved in and "My last state was worse than my first." (Luke 11:24-26)
Finally, he was in complete despair. Believing he had fallen from grace, and believing he was no longer worthy of God or his wife, he decided to end it all.
Fortified with plenty of liquor, he headed for the bank.
Brandishing a fake weapon, he shoved a note to the teller demanding money. He hoped to attract the police who would shoot him dead, or so he hoped.
He almost succeeded.
He was so drunk he doesn't remember what he did when the police arrived. But he must have threatened them.
An officer opened fire and but for the grace of God Luis would be in eternity today.
The wounds on his neck and back are constant reminders that the grace of God sometimes deals in exceedingly fine margins.
During recovery and subsequent imprisonment, he remained in despair. He constantly thought about hanging himself with his bed sheets from this prison bunk. But something kept him from doing it.
One day, the love of God opened up a crack in his despair.
"God must be giving me a second chance!" he thought to himself."
And with that revelation, faith rose up inside Luis once again and the grace of God rolled back into his life. He cried out to God for mercy.
Forgiven!! Set free from the past!! Once again he felt the joy of God that only His Beloved know.
I've watched Luis for a while now. His quiet humility, his desire to be obedient, his devotion to his Heavenly Father, his servant's heart and love for his fellow man, all reflect the unspeakable mercy and grace of God.
Luis' restoration doesn't stop here. His seven year sentence is almost over. He will leave, Lord willing, around the same time as I.
His wife entered into the grace of God and has completely forgiven her husband for the past. He looks forward to going back to his wife and family and to his electrical work.
Luis' amazing story gives hope to all of us who have at one time or another wandered from our Father.
Remember, the Father still watches for the returning prodigal and runs to save him.
Let us run to Him. And let us exult in our Great Saving God!
August 27, 2017
P.S. Lets keep praying for all our friends.
"...Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (1 Cor. 15:57)
"Without me," He said, "You can do nothing." But "We are MORE than conquerors THROUGH HIM that loved us."
Someone once asked a saintly old man, "How are you feeling today?" "Friend," the old saint replied, "I have learned long ago not to ask how I'm feeling, but to ask who I am in Jesus Christ."
United with Christ, we can partake of His life and power. United with Him we are invincible, irrepressible, and in the long run, immortal. May God give us all a robust, obedient faith steadily focused on the Author and Finisher of our faith.
What has 15 months of prison taught me? One thing for sure: Time races by, even in prison.
We're very happy to report that I'm scheduled to leave prison for the half-way house on December 15. I'll likely be held there less than 72 hours before being sent home on home confinement. We're trusting God to have me home by Christmas! Please pray to that end.
The original sentence was 27 months. But with good behavior, federal inmates serve only 85% of their sentence. That fact along with 2 1/2 months of home confinement means I'll actually be in a federal prison just under 21 months; 633 days to be exact. As of today, I have another 159 days to go.
"Lord teach us to number our days, that we might apply our hearts unto wisdom."
My mother passed away last fall at age 76. I'm now 51. I keep asking myself this question: What does God want me to do with the rest of my life?
A couple of years ago, our son-in-law, Matt was driving through West Virginia. He picked up a hitchhiker, an older man in his 60's---a man on a mission.
The man's mission? "I speak wherever they let me speak, campgrounds, churches, wherever."
His message? "I tell people the end of the world will come within 25 years."
How does he tell people to prepare? "I tell them to repent and turn to Jesus."
That old man sounds like a real prophet to me. He impacts me whenever I think of him.
What if we all lived as though we truly expected Jesus to return within the next generation? How would that impact our priorities? How would that affect our financial decisions, our lifestyles?
If we really believed it, might we have a greater burden to share the Good News of Jesus Reign with those who've not yet surrendered to Him?
Let me tell you about two of my friends, T.O. and TI. Between the two of them, plenty of drug deals were done on the street, and at least one bank robbery. These guys were dangerous. Between the two of them they have 50-60 years.
They're still "dangerous." But dangerous to satan's agenda now.
They're both gentle as lambs, and I would trust either of them with my life, because they've both met the Lamb of God.
And they help others follow Him.
Five nights a week, weather and schedules permitting, we meet on the bleachers in the rec yard for a time prayer, praise and teaching. T.O. and Ti often lead out.
It's so good to see the Gospel lived out in this broken place in men like that. Please pray for them and the other brothers in here.
There's a song about the believer's freedom I often like to sing in the shower loud and clear:
I was in sin's prison, O so dark and cold,
Just a lost sheep wandering from God's eternal fold.
Then the door swung open, Jesus said to me--
I have signed your pardon, now you may go free.
Jesus signed my pardon, this I surely know,
Took my place on Calvary now I don't have to go.
All my life I give Him, He gave His for me,
When He signed my pardon, there on Calvary!
Praise God for freedom, even in prison!
If we give whole lives and all we have to Christ---including our freedom---no one can take it away from us. For how can something be taken away that we've already given away?
Let us press on until He gives us the final victory. (1 Cor. 15:58)
"The crown is not given at the beginning, nor in the middle, but at the end." (Martyrs Mirror)
Love in Christ Jesus,
Kenneth L Miller 08464-082
Federal Correctional Complex
P.O. Box 1000
Petersburg, VA 23804
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT OPTION, CONT.
THE CHOICES WE FACE
We have a choice to make. Either we "make a decisive leap into a truly countercultural Christianity," or we do nothing and doom our children and grandchildren to assimilation.
So says Rod Dreher just two pages into The Benedict Option.
I couldn't agree more.
The Great American Assimilation Machine was recently described as an "Expansive, diverse, open form of life that is nevertheless distinctive, alluring and absorptive,---so much so that those from other cultures worry that they will be overrun by (American) mores, sensibilities, and ways of life."
"Tell someone in France, or Japan, or Uganda that America is a multicultural nation---and they'll laugh."
"We have an aggressive, invasive monoculture that most of the world sees as imperialistic." (R.R. Reno, First Things, May 2017, p. 66)
This cultural imperialism forces everyone to bow down to the Golden American Image---or pay the consequences.
The music is playing--mesmerizing, deceptive, deadly. All around us people are falling to their knees, worshipping the gods of American society.
"Hail to naturalistic Scientific Discovery!" "Hail to Inclusiveness and Diversity!" "Hail to the holy trinity of Technology, Media and Internet!" "Hail to Business, Wealth, Possessions!" "Hail to Pleasure, Entertainment, Sports!" Hail to the Human Body!"
"Hail to ME!"
And we who are still standing must decide what we will do.
How do God's people resist bowing to the idols of American culture?
How do they raise their families in an imperialistic culture hostile to Christian values?
Can we learn from the three young Hebrews who resisted bowing to the golden image? What made them strong?
Isn't it clear these young men must have been taught and shaped by a remnant countercultural society?
Dreher's solution in The Benedict Option is to make a "decisive leap" into a new kind of family monasticism patterned after the order of St. Benedict, a sixth-century monk.
But shouldn't we "leap" further---all the way back to the first-century order established by the Nazarene, Jesus the Son of God--- and His Sermon on the Mount?
Recovering the Sermon on the Mount as the pattern for daily life will give families of believers everywhere the opportunity to enter into joyful persecution for righteousness' sake.
Then we will be Salt and Light to the world with works that glorify God-- just as Jesus promised right there in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matt. 5:9-12)
This is the way to resist and penetrate the godless cultural imperialism surrounding us.
Believers living the Sermon on the Mount by faith won't bow down to the gods of this age.
And the believer who builds his house on the rock of Jesus' unshakeable Kingdom will be able to weather the storm, just as He promises at the end of the Sermon. (Matt. 7:24-27)
WHO IS THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT FOR?
One of the biggest mistakes the Church ever made is to teach that the Sermon on the Mount was for a select group of cloistered saints.
Mainstream Christianity has lost its potency because it has lost this teaching.
The Sermon isn't an impossible ideal, to be lived out in some future age.
The Sermon isn't a "law" revealing human sinfulness.
And it isn't for the half-hearted, those who would serve both God and mammon.
The Sermon was originally for the disciples, those who left their loved ones and their vocations to follow the Master. Two thousand years later, the Sermon is still for those who have left all for His sake, right here in America---in 2017.
The Sermon is for those who have been completely taken by the Savior's love as were those first disciples.
We see Him now as Risen Ruler and King of the universe, an all-benevolent, yet absolute Sovereign for whom we choose to give up everything.
We embrace the the Sermon-- not only as His gracious commands--but as the "Transforming Initiatives"* of the New Humanity for which He died.
We can embrace the Sermon with the kind of faith described in a confessional statement 490 years ago:
"Saving faith is not a useless, hidden, unborn thing in a man. It doesn't consist of merely historical knowledge derived from the Scriptures--something to be talked about without having the real substance.
True faith which counts with God is a sure knowledge of the heart; a sure confidence which we get from God---not through our own power, will or ability.
We receive this faith through hearing the Word of God, which---as it is illuminated by the Holy Spirit---is written in and imprinted on the heart. This Word works so effectively in us that we are drawn away by it from all visible and perishable things to the invisible, living God.
By it, we acquire a new spiritual taste for that which is heavenly and not for that which is earthly. For saving faith, accompanied with hope and love, is of such a nature that it conforms to things not seen.
Hence all true believers gladly and obediently submit themselves to all the commandments of God contained in the Holy Scriptures..." (Confession of Faith According to the Word of God, attributed to the congregation of Peter Twisck at Hoorn The Netherlands, 1627, Martyrs Mirror p. 383, revised slightly.)
I suggest all of His disciples should come apart, gather around the Master once again to hear His teaching by faith.
I plan to read through the Sermon for the next 30 days, taking notes.
Anyone wish to join me?
May 17, 2017
I pre-ordered my copy of the Benedict Option. Like many, I was eagerly waiting for this book.
I wasn't disappointed. I got the book just a few days after it was released, and must have been one of the first federal inmates to devour it.
I then ordered a copy for each of my four sons, (aged 14-24) my son-in-law, my four ministers, and a friend in here---a total of 10 extra copies.
Like I said, I wasn't disappointed.
Dreher's goal with the Benedict Option is to "Embrace exile from the mainstream culture and construct a resilient counter-culture" in this age of "Post-Christian barbarianism." These issues are very close to my heart.
I embrace his goal. His prophetic eye and voice is greatly needed in our day. He gives insightful analysis on how western society has reached its present state of disintegration.
He gives a blueprint for the construction of an alternative culture with helpful material on topics like raising godly families, technology and media, education and jobs---all in the context of Christian community.
"Dreher argues that the way forward is actually back---all the way to St. Benedict of Nursia."
On my second time through the book I began to wonder whether Dreher missed something in plain sight.
Does he go back far enough?
Has there every been a more resilient counterculture than the one established around 33 AD by the King of a New World Order?
Did that King leave behind a constitution, a "Rule of Life," for the citizens of His Kingdom by which they could establish a radical counterculture?
Would this "Rule of Life" not only enable the early Christians to survive the paganism around them BUT ALSO empower them to be a "City on a Hill" and a "Salty Influence" on society around them?
Did it work for the early Christians?
Are there societies throughout church history that have lived by this Rule?
Does this Rule work in modern society; are there resilient countercultures existing under this Rule right now?
YES! To all of the above.
And it's really surprising to me that Dreher, at best, only makes glancing reference to this most radical and transformative "Christian Manifesto."
It's time for "THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT OPTION."
(Don't get me wrong, I'm not canceling those extra copies and I'm going to dog-ear and mark up my personal copy some more.)
But something is very wrong with Christianity and I think it will require going beyond a "Benedict Option."
In his column "A Tale of Two Churches," in the April issue of Christianity Today, Andrew Wilson notes that "In many ways the story of Christianity is full of light."
"But there is an undeniable dark side: attacking, burning, crusading, drowning, flogging, ghettoizing, hunting, imprisoning, Jew-hating, and lynching." (And might I add, "bombs and bullets.")
Wilson says of the people involved in the above atrocities, "As far as we know, they have loved God, followed Jesus, and received His Spirit."
Is there anyone else raising their eyebrows and going, "REALLY??!!"
Eighty-six years ago E. Stanley Jones, the "Billy Graham" of the 1930's and 1940's, exclaimed, "The greatest need of modern Christianity is the rediscovery of the Sermon on the Mount as the only practical way to live." (Christ of the Mount, p. 14)
He couldn't have been more right---then and now.
Historians tell us that in the first three centuries of the church, the Biblical passage most referred to was the Sermon on the Mount." (Kissinger, Sermon on the Mount, p. 6)
I sincerely believe the loss of the Sermon on the Mount led directly to the "dark side" of Christianity Wilson wrote about.
Jones goes on to say in his 1931 classic, "The fact is, that the Sermon on the Mount is not in our creeds. As the Apostles Creed now stands, you can accept every word of it and leave the essential self untouched...Suppose we had written in our creeds and had repeated with conviction each time, "I believe in the Sermon on the Mount and in its way of life, and I intend, God helping me, to embody it!"
"What would have happened?" Jones asks. "I feel sure that if this had been our main emphasis, the history of Christendom would be different." (p.12)
"With its emphasis on doctrines which left unaffected our way of life, the Christian Church could accept Constantine as its prize convert. And yet Constantine, after his alleged conversion, murdered his conquered colleague and brother--in--law Licianius, sentenced to death his 11 year old nephew, killed his oldest son Crispus, brought about the death of his second wife, took the nails that were supposed to come from the cross of Christ, and used one in his war helmet and the other on the bridle of his war horse."
"Yet he was canonized by the Greek Church, and his memory celebrated as equal to the apostles, was hailed as "bishop of bishops and presided at the council of Nicaea." (p.12-13, Jones.)
WITH CHRISTIANS LIKE THIS, WHO NEEDS BARBARIANS?
It's time we push back through the wreckage of a dark "Christianity", and let the light of true Christianity lead us to the Light of Lights. It's time we go back past fundamentalism, past revivalism, back past Martin Luther and the Reformation, the Middle Ages, the Dark Ages, Benedict of Nursia, Augustine, Constantine and Origen and the early fathers---and reclaim our heritage.
On our journey we may find help from many great men and movements. But they will help us only as they point us to the Lodestar.
The Lodestar is a meek and lowly man from Nazareth, sent to earth to bring the Kingdom of Heaven among us.
He led his World Revolution without violence and killing (except for allowing Himself and His followers to be killed) and He taught them how to be "salt and light" and full of good deeds that would glorify God in the midst of barbarianism.
Rod Dreher has helped open our eyes to the realities of our day and time.
In my opinion, one of the most profound statements in the book comes from the leader of a Christian community in Italy whom Dreher interviewed, Marco Sermarini:
"I didn't know the teaching of Jesus Christ was for all of my life, not just the religious part of it. If you recognize that He is Lord of all, you will order your life in a radically different way."
It's time for the SERMON ON THE MOUNT OPTION.
To be continued.
Kenneth L Miller 08464-082
Federal Correctional Complex
P.O. Box 1000
Petersburg, VA 23804
I think we live in a very oppressive society.
You might disagree.
Wasn't this country founded on ideals that allow every citizen to enjoy "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?" Doesn't this society hold among its highest ideals non-discrimination and individual freedom?
The reality is that many Americans are desperately unhappy, they are not free, and tragically, they are giving up on life entirely.
Americans are the most heavily medicated people on earth. Millions are on anti-depressant, anti-anxiety and psychiatric medications--even in the church.
More people are incarcerated in America than in any other nation on earth, including Russia and China. It has more than 25% of all the world's prisoners despite having less than 5% of the world's population.
The March 31st USA TODAY reported on a study done in run-down neighborhoods in large cities. "An emerging national network of public health and neuroscience researchers, community minded foundations and law enforcement officials, believe that the primary challenge facing high poverty areas is not one of the usual suspects; education, crime or jobs."
The biggest challenge, according to the study, "Is an epidemic of trauma passed along from generation to generation, from one neighborhood to another."
The trauma from broken homes, single households, alcohol and drug abuse, incest and sexual exploitation is comparable to the trauma experienced in war-torn countries, the study reveals.
The trauma inflicted on children is mind-boggling and absolutely heart-wrenching. This is not a time for judgment, but for mercy.
Another much publicized study shows that middle-aged white Americans are seeing a dramatic decline in life expectancy. The reason? People seem to have lost hope. Broken marriages, loss of the American dream, fragmented and isolated lives are causing millions to seek escape in drugs, alcohol and other abuses. Thousands are dying from overdoses and suicide.
American society is in deep trouble.
What has gone wrong?
The news articles I've read don't suggest the possibility that the despair and hopelessness in so many lives might be caused by spiritual emptiness.
Could it be that sexual "liberation" and the pursuit of material treasure and pleasure are leaving people hollow at the core--hungry for something more?
Could it be that the Gospel of self-fulfillment being peddled everywhere is snake oil psychology? Or worse, is it a toxic brew that does the opposite of what it promises---bringing enslavement and despair instead of fulfillment?
Modern society has brought us "The autonomous, freely choosing individual, finding meaning in no one but himself."
In a Supreme Court decision upholding abortion rights in 1992, Justice Kennedy said, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life."
God is fast becoming irrelevant as people are taught to find ultimate meaning and fulfillment in themselves.
And this gospel of self-fulfillment is anything but good news.
It's time for a revolution, time to throw off the chains of this oppressive society. It's deliverance time.
We're talking about a spiritual revolution.
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. We suit up with "the armor of God on the right hand and on the left." (2 Cor. 10:4, 2 Cor. 6:7)
Two thousand years ago, The Emperor of a New Society stood up and proclaimed this revolutionary message: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18)
Folks in His hometown of Nazareth were so incensed by His claims that they took the Emperor and tried to throw him down over a cliff. But He survived the attempt and went on to lead the greatest revolution this world has ever seen.
Jesus presents a dramatic counter-claim to the promises of modern society.
"Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life FOR MY SAKE will find it. If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." Luke 16:24-25.
The exclusivity and extent of Jesus claim is breathtaking. If we wish to find ourselves (self-realization) we must let go of ourselves and surrender to this Person.
To be sure, joining Jesus' revolution means abandoning everything in order to follow Him, just as did His first disciples.
But that is a small price to pay. For He heals our broken, disordered hearts with His abounding life. And the peace and joy is unspeakable.
He is THE ONE the oppressed, brokenhearted American people are looking for--the Great American Liberator.
If we take the time to unplug the media, and turn off the TV, we can find Him, if we seek Him.
He promised, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my Word and my Father will love him and WE WILL COME TO HIM AND MAKE OUR HOME WITH HIM." (John 14:23)
There's nothing better. To have the quieting, restful, joy-giving presence of God is what our weary hearts need.
We've all been affected by the mad pace of this oppressive, soul-squeezing society.
If we step aside long enough to look for Him and open our hearts to Him, we will find the Great Psychologist; the Counselor we all need; the Friend who abides with us and comforts our lonely hearts.
He's been there all the time, even while counseling centers and drug treatments proliferate.
When we surrender to Him; when we live in His presence with our brother in obedience to His teachings, His Liberating Kingdom will break out among us and make us whole.
"The Sun of Righteousness (shall) arise with healing in His wings..." (Mal. 4:2)