VOLUME OCTOBER 2004
October 1, 2004
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy
soul in drought...
I have been going through a period of spiritual drought. I
am feeling weak and weary. It's even become hard to pray. But God is faithful, and He is bringing me through this difficult
time as I continue to wait upon Him. Nevertheless, as a result of this drought I wrote very little in my journal for the month
of September. It has probably been a combination of things, however, that have left me feeling worn out.
The anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks always
seem to darken my spirit at about this time every year. People are mourning everywhere. When I turn on the radio or when I
watch the news on television, the groans of the survivors and the grief stricken faces of those who've lost a loved one seem
to dominate my thoughts.
Seeing all this human suffering takes its toll.
In addition a few weeks ago I came upon David's face while
I happened to pick up a slighty out of date copy of the New York Times.
I was not prepared to see his innocent smile among the dead.
And I plan to write more about David tomorrow.
Furthermore, in recent weeks I've also had to deal with several
stressful situations in the church.
Some of the elders from my congregation and I had to straighten
out a couple of very serious disputes between different numbers.
Then, two other men became involved in something that was very
bad. They were caught and their actions left the rest of us feeling stunned and betrayed. But such is the reality of sinful
flesh and satanic spiritual warfare working in conjunction with each other to hold back the church and to keep souls in bondage.
All these things occurred at about the same time, thus leaving
me dry and drained. I have lost spiritual power. Yet I am still required to carry out my responsibilities and discharge my
duties as a leader.
God has not left me, however. He has not failed me. I am not
defenseless. For my strength and protection comes from God, and in His word do I hope.
All these situations, really , are but a test of my faith.
I will recuperate. God shall renew ny strength and I shall
emerge stronger than ever. And by God's grace I shall press forward to victory.
October 2, 2004
---from the New York Times--
"Roster of the Dead"
Instead of tombstones to mark the dead there were rows of faces.
Many were smiling. Many were somber. While still others stared into the camera with military style bravado and machismo.
The latter group are the faces of soldiers with tightened jaws
and no nonsense poses showing a readiness for combat. I am not sure, however, if any of these more than one thousand souls
were ready for death.
Now none of them will get to hug their parents again, or pick
up their kids with loving arms. And they'll never see their hometowns. They're gone forever.
It's been said that God works in mysterious ways. A few weeks
ago I happened to come across a copy of the September 9th New York Times (newspaper) which another man had apparently left
on the table in the dayroom. In prison one learns to make due with slightly out-of-date periodicals.
If you want to keep up with all that's going on outside of
the walls, you learn to speedily grab a newspaper when another inmate abandons it.
So, taking the paper into my cell, I began to go through its
pages, reading only the articles that intersted me.
Then, when I came to the "National" section, and as I got to
page a22, I saw the "Roster of the Dead".
These are the men and women from the U.S. Military who died
in the latest conflict in Iraq.
Each soldier who died in this war had his or her name and photo
displayed in military style rows and columns. I looked for David's picture.
In my journal for February 23, 2004 I wrote about my friend's
son who died in Iraq. And while David's family continues to grieve, their faith in the Lord and the comfort of God's Spirit,
keeps them going.
But seeing his smiling face made me sad. He doesn't look like
a solder, and he was to young to die.
Yet I shouldn't be downcast. After all, Jesus Himself said,
"And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass..." (Matthew
Good will ultimately triumph over evil.
P.S. "The Roster of the Dead" was published in the NEW YORK
TIMES, September 9, 2004 on pages A22 through A2$. It is part of a lengthy article titled: For 1,000 American Toops, New Soldiers
in a New Age, There is No Going Home, which began on page A1. David's photo appears on the sixteenth row down from the top
of the first page.
October 4, 2004
Over the weekend we had what were touted to be special revival
services. A lovely couple came here to minister to us. He was a former prison chaplain, and his wife is a retired school teacher.
They were so nice and I definitely enjoyed myself.
Nevertheless, while the services were pleasing and the preaching
was powerful, it did not constitute what I believe is true revival.
In my opinion, genuine revival and a fresh spiritual awakening
(which we desperately need) will not come unless there is a real turning from sin in the lives of Christians, with hearts
fully devoted to the Lord.
True revival must involve more than getting emotionally excited
and stirred by good music and intense preaching. It must be a work of God that takes place deep within one's soul. And I humbly
confess that I did not see this happening here.
What is often taking place these days, I think are very
emotional and pumped up worship services that, while exciting, are not producing any deep changes in the lives of believers.
And I wish this was no so.
Historically, revivals in the past brought forth new levels
of commitment, and holiness among the brethren. While today's revivals. Like this one which lasted for most of Saturday and
Sunday, made us feel ecstatic and energized.. But like all fleshly expeiences, they won't last.
By Friday, I believe, many of those who attended the revival
will be back to smoking, cursing, gossiping, gambling, habitually watching hours of television or dabbling in pornography.
With some exceptions, I believe that America's churches have
yet to experience genuine life-changing revival. But I do believe it will come one day. Unfortunately, it may take a frightful
and tragic wake-up call to ignite it.
October 5, 2004
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes...
I miss my Mother very much. Today makes thirty-seven years
since she left this world at the age of 52.
I vividly remember when I first learned that she had died.
A young man by the name of Mark Rubenstien, who was the son of my mother's best friend. Melba, was told by his mom to stand
in front of our apartment building on Stratford Avenue, and wait for me to come home from school at 3 p.m.
When Mark saw me coming down the street he began to walk in
my direction. Then, when we met, he told me that my Dad wanted me to call him at my Uncle Lou's house. Lou was my mom's brother.
But as soon as Mark said this, even though he tried hard to
be straight-faced, I already knew that my mom was dead. She had been in the hospital for several months with terminal cancer.
We humans, I believe, were never meant to die. We were never
meant to mourn. For as the Bible makes clear, when God first created us, He made us to live forever. And this would have been
the case had not Adam and Eve sinned.
For with their sin came death, and with it comes grief and
loss when our loved ones die.
Yet this is not the end of the story. Because the Lord has
promised that a day will come when there will no longer be any more death or suffering.
There will be no sin, only goodness, in the new heaven and
One day God will wipe away all tears from the eyes of His children.
How I long for this moment!
October 15, 2004
SOMETHING IS COMING
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our
Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57
I have been taking extra time to pray and seek the Lord's help.
It has been a difficult time for me because, within the past month or thereabouts, I have been in the thick of some kind of
spiritual warfare that's both mental and physical.
I cannot explain why the Adversary has launched such a fierce
attack against me at this time but he has. I feel a pressure in both my body and mind that, while invisible, is very real.
In addition, I've been battling a "spirit of tiredness" (if
this is an adquate term). My feet feel as if they have lead weights on them. Even trying to read my Bible takes much exertion.
It's as if I've been drugged.
Yet I know that I have the victory in Christ. And this is not
simply a positive statement that sound nice. It is the reality of the Scriptures. For God has promised to guide and protect
me, and to give me a portion of strength. He will not allow me to fall.
I could also tell, by the intense level of this attack, that
a major spiritual breakthrough must be coming soon. I know from past experience that God is getting ready to bless me and
enlarge my ministry.
Furthermore, if these battles are part of the price I must
pay in order to remain humble so that I could be used by the Lord as a "vessel of honor", then enduring such warfare, is worth
October 18, 2004
ON THE ROADS
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come
upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part
of the earth.
Recently I recerived a letter from my friend John in Granger,
Indiana, who's a member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association. He wrote to encourage me and let me know that he often
hands out copies of my story to people he meets on the hghways, and to those he meets at biker rallies.
Even though I am behind prison walls, the Lord, it seems, has
given my testmony a life of its own. For God is using it in ways that amaze me, including with a prison ministry in Australia,
and at a prison in Zambia, Central Africa.
My heart is humbled at what the Lord is able to do, which far
exeeds my expectations.
This past week, for example, I was able to share my story with
a man in Norway, a troubled lady in Colorado, and with a handful of college students who came across the Forgiven for Life
website while doing reaserch about me for their respective classes in psychology, sociology, and criminology.
In addition, a woman from North Carolina who is preparing to
become a prison chaplain, wrote and asked me questions about sharing her faith with those in correctional facilities. I replied
that the Lord will give her wisdom for the asking. He will guide her steps. And, I reminded her that Jesus will not allow
her to fail.
October 19, 2004
MADMAN MADE FREE
And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city
how great things Jesus had done unto him.
The above Bible verse is a quote from the formerly demon possessed
man whom Jesus had set free from torment.
According to the Scripture accounts that are found in Mark
chapter five and Luke chapter eight, wicked spirits had completely overwhelmed this poor man and had taken over his life.
They drove him into the wilderness; they drove him insane, too.
In fact his condition got so bad that the local townspepole
would often place this man in heavy chains in an effort to keep him under control. But through the power of those demons he
broke all the chains only to roam through the valleys in a rage, screaming, and cutting himself with stones.
When he had a sudden encounter with Jesus, however, he was
promptly delivered from his tormentors and from his misery. And in his gratitude he asked Jesus if he could join his group
and follow along with them.
Instead the Lord told this now free man to go back to his family
and friends, and to his community, and tell everyone would listen how that God had had mercy and compassion upon him.
He then did as Jesus told him. He returned home and began to
publish through the city about the goodness and power of the Lord. And as the Bible says, "All men did marvel".
I, too, was like this lonely and tormented man whom the Son
of God has sent free.
Now I am on the same mission that he was on. I must proclaim
the salvation and power of the Lord. I must share the message of forgiveness of sin trough Jesus Christ to all who are perishing,
to those who will hear.
October 20, 2004
I MUST SPEAK
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season...
2 Timothy 4:2a
Yesterday I wrote about the man who was demon possessed. After
his sudden eccounter with the Lord Jesus, however, he was immediately restored in his right mind. He was set free fom terrible
satanic bondage. Then, as per Jesus' instructions, he went back to his community and began to pulish his story.
When I ponder what God has likewise done for me, I too am driven
to proclaim His goodness and meercy.
For He is a delivering and forgiving God. The Lord is able
to touch the lives of those who suffer. He assists the weak and He gives strength to the oppressed.
Millions, I believe, have tormented minds. Others have bodies
permeated with sickness.
There are also multitudes of empty souls who cry out for meaning
and purpose, and to be loved. Yet they cry for what ultimately, only their Creator can give them.
I pray, therefore, with the utmost desperation, that I will
never be careless and remiss by not sharing my own story of hope.
Woe to me if I am unfaithful and neglectful to herald the message.
It is not a time to hold back. I must continue to speak.
October 22, 2004
I received a letter from Ryan Osborn, a researcher with NBC
News. His letter was short and simple and kind. He asked me to grant an interview with NBC for a segment that's being prepared
for the TODAY SHOW on the subject of the "criminal mind".
I replied with a short and courteous letter declining his offer.
Media interviews are not for me.
I'm not even sure what exactly Mr. Osborn means by the term
"criminal mind". But I did tell him that there are tens of thousands of prisoners who are deeply sorry for the pain they caused
to others by their criminal acts.
These prisoners are remorseful, and they want to learn from
their mistakes. In addition, along with my letter I enclosed a copy of the most recent issue of Prison Fellowship's monthly
newspaper. I encouraged him to read what God is doing in the hearts of men and women who are incarcerated.
With God's help these inmates are making great strides to change
their lives. And I hope Mr. Osborn will be able to understand this.
Furthermore, according to the Bible, every person has sinned.
All of us have fallen short of God's perfect standard of conduct.
There is not a person in this world who's never done anything
wrong either in word, thought or deed.
Under the right circustances, perhaps, anyone could commit
a crime, especially if they thought they coud get away with it.
So talking about the "criminal mind" is pointless. Instead,
the media needs to talk about the One who could change hearts and minds for the better.
October 23, 2004
FREEDOM FROM GUILT
Last night I answered a letter I received recently from a woman
who had struggled with guilt after having an abortion. She spoke of going through an "unbearabale time" and that she found
it difficult to forgive herself.
Now, however, this dear woman told me that she's doing well
and is actively involved in a church. That, through God's grace, she has finally come around to forgive herself for what she
belived to be a terrible wrong.
I wrote to affirm her faith. I told this lady how happy I am
that she is now living with God's peace.
Many Christians, unfortunately, are in great desperation because
they believe themselves to have either fallen to far into sin that they think Jesus doesn't want them any more. Or after having
committed certain sins, they cannot forgive themselves.
Thus in my letter to this woman I said the following:
"I am glad that you have been able to finally forgive yourself.
God's word assures us that if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse
us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
"The latter portion of this Scripture verse, I believe, deals
with the aspect of cleansing not only God's record of our sins, but morover, He cleanses each of us from the guilt we experienced
after having commited those sins.
"In addition, God also cleanses us from the bad memories that
such sins have brought. And most often , I think, this kind of inner healing occurs gradually over time.
"Many Christians are pained by a guilty conscience even long
after the Lord has already forgiven them. I know this to be true from my own experience. It had taken several years after
I first got saved for me to finally realize that I was indeed forgiven."
I believe we can learn from our past sins. We can suffer difficult
consequences when we do wrong. And we could carry around the scars of such actions long afterwards.
But at the same time, we do not have to wallow in guilt, self-pity,
or despair. Through God's mercy we could confess our sins to Him, repent of them, and move on.
Christ, I am certain, wants us to enjoy our relationship with
Him. It's not His will for us to be in bondage to excessive feelings of sorrow for the things He already forgave us for.
October 24, 2004
Paul Purling* was released from Sullivan Correctional Facility
on October 8th, and within less than a week officers from the Albany Police Department had him in handcuffs. He allegedly
robbed two banks in New York State's Capital. In prison bad news travels fast. So last week when I first heard the report
I didn't want to believe it.
Not Paul! He swore to me that he was going to stay clean. He
had gotten out after doing ten years. But Paul is a man with serious metal and emotional problems. He was on psycotropic medications.
For most of his sentence he lived at the prison's "Intermediate Care Program" for the men who have special psychiatraic needs.
Over the years I spent many hours talking to Paul. I prayed
with Paul and I read the Bible to him, I tried to encourage him to go to the chapel's Bible studies. He did go a handful of
times, but then he abruptly stopped. I even helped him write letters to his sister, the only family member who stayed in contact
Now Paul will be coming back into the system as a "three time
loser". These robberies were not his first. He did time in Tennessee, too.
Paul had a drinking problem. I do not know, however, if he
was intoxicated when he committed his most recent crimes. In fact the staff here at the facility had worked on an arrangement
with the Division of Parole for Paul to be placed in a special program as soon as there was bed space.
So on October 8th when he stepped into the sunshine I thought
he was going to make it.
He could have made it. But sometimes, when one has been in
a rigid institutional setting for so long. And since Paul has already spent most of his adult life behind bars the word "freedom"
could be scary. According to the newspaper article I saw, 52-year old Paul Spurling, was arrested shortly after he allegedly
robbed the Keuy Bank at Washington Avenue and Lark Street at aproximately 2 P.M., on Thursday, October 14th.
Paul was caught with a "green bulging garbage bag" that was
filled with cash. The article then went on to say that he was the prime suspect in a similar bank robbery on October 12th
at the Truston Bank at 1122 State Street. He had no weapon during either crime.
This is Paul's "M.O." At only about five feet tall, he would
brazenly walk up to a bank teller's window and announce a holdup. He's done this before.
I know Paul has mental problems. He showed signs of mild
paranoia when he was here. But he could also hold a job at the prison and he was able to stay out of trouble as long as he
took his medication.
Paul was also very lonely. In the decade he was here Paul never
had a visit. His sister lives down south. His parents are dead and, as is often the case when a man does a long stretch in
the penitentiary, his family forgot about him. Yet while Paul got his release and quickly committed more crimes, there have
been other men who have left here, and they're doing very well.
These guys are working. Some are going to church. A few have
gotten married. None of them as far as I know have broken the law again.
Sadly, Paul did not have a successful re-adjustment into society.
He needed to give himself more time. He allowed his freedom to came to a sudden end in less than a week.
Paul is now in the city lockup. He will have to stew in jail
until his cases are disposed of by the court.But
eventually back to prison he will go. And he will have maybe fifteen, twenty, or more years this time around to think about
his mistakes and his terrible choices.
*The article about Paul Spurling (spelled Speurling" in the
article) is from the Albany Times-Union, Friday, October 15, 2004. The inmate who gave me the story cut it out of the paper.
Thus I do not have the page number. However, the article is titled: Police Arrest Robbery Suspect: Cops say Albany man spotted
with bag of money near Key bank he robbed moments before. By Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, Staff Writer.
October 27, 2004
On Sunday morning I began our worship service by reading a
portion of Scripture to the congregation. We then began to praise the Lord as our musicians started their instruments. The
service went well and everything flowed nicely.
Then, when the worship was finished, my chaplain stepped behind
the pulpit to offer some words of encouragement.
Finally the ministry group from the New Greater Bethel Church
of Cambria Heights, Queens, led our service the rest of the way. Minister Johnny Walker, who is a former inmate, brought forth
a much needed message on the "Fruits of the Spirit".
I was especially thankful for our prayer time. My chaplain
took all of our prayer requests. We then lifted up each situation and every person that prayer was requested for to the Lord.
I had asked prayer for Brandon Alexander, a young man who's
in the Marines and is serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Whe I spoke to Brandon's dad he told me that he hasn't heard
from his son in almost a month, which is not like Brandon.
It just so happened that I sent a letter to Brandon on October
4th. I felt compelled to write another letter, however, which went off to Iraq on October 25th.
Monday evening's Spanish/English service went well. The Encounter
With God Ministry from New York City visits the prison every fourth Monday from 6:15 to 8 p.m.
Tuesday's Bible study class was cancelled because our teacher
wasn't able to make it. The same thing happened with tonight's scheduled study.
So for me these past two evenings have been a time for me to
stay in my cell and catch up on my correspondence.
October 30, 2004
I am in the process of making major changes. I'm at a stage
in this spriritual journey where, in order to finish my course, I must get rid of some extra baggage. I have to lighten my
load. And this is very hard for me because I'm a person who finds change difficult.
God, I believe, has been slowly shaking me out of my comfort
zone. He's given me many signs along the way that in recent months have made it clear that I cannot continue at the pace I
have been going.
So yesterday I spoke with my civilian superivisor about leaving
my morning work assignment as a "mobility guide" for the visually impared inmates.
I will be going to a new job as a full-time porter in my cell
block. In other words, I'll be a janitor. I will be cleaning during both the mornings and afternoons.
For a person who enjoys being a caregiver and helping the handicapped
men, which I have been doing for many years, this is a big change. But the advantage for me is that I will be afforded more
time to pray, study and write. I will also have more time available to prepare sermons and messages to share with my congregation.
Thus, if all goes well, beginning next week I'll be leaving
my mobility guide assignment and I wll be working in my housing unit.
I plan to remain as a porter for the winter. I hope to regain
my strength; this will be a prolonged spiritual retreat.
October 31, 2004
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest
report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
Yesterday I began to write about the changes I believe God
is requiring me to make. These changes will afford me more time to earnestly study the Bible, and there will be more time
I have also begun, as a part of these changes, to designate
various men from my church to oversee and direct many of our services and studies.
I will still continue to lead some of the services, as this
is part of my duties. However, I have begun to delegate many of these tasks to mature men who love the Lord. They're serious
about their Christian walk.
These "elder brothers" were very pleased, I might add, with
their new assignments. For it will give each of them opportunities to teach God's word as well as gain first hand experience
in the area of leadership. For them this of course is a promotion, too.
In addition I wll have more time for writing. There are several
youth related messages that I need to prepare which I've been putting off because I lacked the time.
I also plan to write more autobiographical material that I
hope my readers will find interesting.
So may the Lord's will be done.