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.