I think I understand why Jesus wept.

This is a news letter from one of the missionaries we support at Grace Tab. It’s one of the few newsletters that I actually enjoy reading. Mike ministers to prisoners. With my own son in a prison, I can easily connect. I couldn’t resist passing this news letter on to you. It gives you a peek into a very dark and dangerous world. Pray for Mike as he ministers to prisoners, guards and their families. I know personally how important it is to have Godly ministers working in the prison system. Thank you Mike, for answering this call of God to go into the dark places of our world.

Pastor Gary

????????????????????????????????????

Newsletter from Mike Strehlow

I think I understand why Jesus wept.

We know the story, told in chapter 11 of John’s gospel, of how Jesus received word that his friend Lazarus was sick, and that by the time Jesus and His disciples made it to Lazarus’ home, Lazarus had not only passed on, he was four days in the tomb.  Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary separately went to Jesus as He arrived and each tearfully said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Then, as neighbors looked on, Jesus wept (John 11:35).  He had no apparent reason to weep;  He knew He would soon revive Lazarus, and that grief would turn to joy.  Still, Jesus wept.

Yes, Jesus was Jewish, and it was culturally proper for a Jewish man to openly grieve a friend’s death.  But I think there was more to His tears than sorrow.

Now to Fountain Correctional Facility, September 2016.  One of Fountain’s officers had worked a shift across the street at Holman Correctional the week before, and was on the scene when a fellow officer was murdered by an inmate.  The officer told me all about it, everything that happened.  He’d been there. The murdered officer had been on cafeteria duty; he refused to let an inmate have a third food tray, and the inmate’s reaction was to stab the officer.  Days later the officer died in the hospital. The officer and his killer were both African-American, if that matters. 

Plainly, the guard I talked to was in a bad place.  All of Fountain’s officers were.  They all wore black and blue ribbons for the funeral nobody wanted to go to.  After telling the guard I would pray for him and for the deceased officer’s family, I went to the chapel. 

????????????????????????????????????

At the chapel, I found about half the chapel worker inmates shaking their heads, and kind of laughing.  When I asked what was up, they told me that as we spoke, there were about 30-40 gay inmates having a meeting on the North yard of the prison.  They were holding this meeting to standardize how much to charge for their services. 

On the day a family man who left behind a wife and three children, a decorated military veteran, who was murdered because he wouldn’t let an inmate have three trays of food…  “Killed over French fries” was the way another officer put it… was to be buried, on that day the gay prostitutes at Fountain decided to unionize. 

I know that most inmates are not killers.   I know that most inmates are not gay.  I know most gay inmates are not prostitutes.  Many inmates are fervent Christians, men whose lives have been completely transformed by Jesus.  I’ve spent countless hours ministering to and with them, so I know this and more.

But what I don’t know is how my face looked that morning in the chapel after hearing that last bit of news.  It must have been pretty serious, though, because a couple of the chapel workers sobered up noticeably and started to minister to me.  I pretty much went through the motions for the rest of that day.  It was a hard day.

Why did Jesus weep?  In John 11:33 and 11:38, most Bibles say that Jesus was “deeply moved” as He approached Lazarus’ tomb.  The Greek word for “was deeply moved,” ἐνεβριμήσατο (enebrimesato), appears in Scripture where someone is responding sternly (Mark 1:43, 14:5).   That word could (perhaps more precisely) be translated “was extremely agitated” or “was indignant.”   

“Indignant” means “expressing strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting, or base” (Webster’s).   What was it about Lazarus’ death that made Jesus agitated and indignant rather than merely sad? 

I think that Lazarus’ death made Jesus indignant because death is the worst thing sin did to our world.  God didn’t make the human race with a “sell by” date; if not for sin, Adam and Eve could be alive today (!).  Jesus had/ has God’s perfect perspective; to this day He alone sees the true price we pay for sin, both in this world and the next, because He alone knows what this world could have been, if not for sin.

The horrible senselessness, the wrongness, of an officer dying for nothing and 40 gay prostitutes living for nothing, hit me, just a little, like Lazarus’ death must have hit Jesus.  A little of that same wrongness hits me every time I have to inform an inmate that his wife, mother, or child has passed.  Or when I hear that an inmate, who has spent thirty or forty years locked away from parents, wife, and children, died in the hall and was buried on prison property. 

Jesus reacted to demon possession, sickness, and death the way you or I would react towards a pusher if he got one of our beloved children addicted to his drugs and dying of AIDS.  Anger is Jesus’ response to works of the devil.  But Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (I Jn. 3:8) and save sinners (I Tim. 1:15).  His love for us, His INDIGNATION at what sin has done to us, was what put Him on the cross.  Praise be to Jesus for His tears, and praise be to God that we have a Savior like Jesus Christ!

In the twelve years I have been doing this, a lot has changed here in Atmore; I have to come up with a new word for ‘busy’ about half the time.  But God is good.  Look for my letter this Christmas.  Thank you all for giving me the privilege of being Christ’s ambassador to prison inmates.   God bless you and yours this holiday season. 

In Jesus,

Mike Strehlow

The Silent Killer

photo-1456162018889-1d2b969f7084

High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms as it destroys your blood vessels and kidneys. In time, it can kill you.

There is something even more subtle than undetected high blood pressure God warns us about. “Cares” are the ultimate “silent killers”. Here as well, the symptoms go unnoticed until the damage has been done.

A synonym for care is worry. Worry (care), can sneak up on you like a snake. If not detected as coming from the enemy, the damage may go unnoticed until it is too late. God’s Word instructs us to take aggressive action concerning cares.

1 Peter 5, 7

The history of the word “casting” goes back to a story prior to that of the Bible. It is a tale of a little boy playing outside, unaware of a deadly snake coiled and ready to strike him. The boy’s father sees the snake and in one lightning quick movement grabs it, breaks its neck and casts it far away from his son. This response is the basis for the word, “casting” – the violent removal of something deadly.

God sees care (worry) as a deadly attack of Satan (the serpent) against your mind and body. The problem is we don’t recognize it as deadly, because we don’t realize it is a satanic attack until after the damage has been done.

I ordered some books on line. Several months later, I realized I had not received my order. I contacted the company and they said they would send another package with priority mail. Another month, and still no package. After about eight contacts back and forth with this company, I was frustrated and ready to contact them again, when I felt a nudge of the Holy Spirit telling me, “Why don’t you give this to Me, and let Me handle it?”

I prayed, “Okay Lord, I am going to cast this care over to You and will not give it another thought.” Famous last words.

No sooner had I said it, another thought entered my mind, Maybe I could contact them on Facebook to see if I might get a better response? Just as I started to do this a warning flashed in my mind.

blog quote 9-1-16

The Holy Spirit had spoken with authority.

This is when I realized a spiritual battle was going on. I had cast this care upon the Lord and once I do this, it was no longer mine to deal with. Yet a few minutes later, my mind was bombarded with more thoughts of what else to do about this matter. This time I knew it was the enemy, so I spoke out loud, “I have cast this care on the Lord – it’s no longer mine!” I had to refuse to allow my mind to dwell on it any longer.

It’s no coincidence, later that afternoon, a package arrived in the mail. Yes, it was my order! You think God was trying to teach me something?

He is serious about teaching us to, “Cast all (our) cares upon Him…”

Cares (worries) are the silent killers in your life! You may be facing more serious issues like a wayward child, a sick loved one, or a financial burden. The spiritual teaching in every one of these situations is still the same. It is absolutely vital for us to cast all our cares, even the little ones, on Him.

The greater the care, the greater the need to cast it upon the Lord and leave it there. The bigger cares may be harder to cast off your heart and mind. Like a wave at the beach, they keep coming back to you. This is why we must practice this discipline daily in the little things in order to be ready when the big trials come.

You will always have cares, but cares are not to have you.

freely-10292How do I cast my cares upon the Lord?

Turn them into prayers and send them to God like sending an e-mail. Through prayer your cares have reached the throne of God. Let Him handle them and trust Him to do a better job than you ever could. By doing this, you have just violently removed something deadly from your life!

The enemy will try to bring it back to your mind. Resist Him, and instead of worrying –  start thanking God that He’s got it. Remember the Holy Spirit’s words to me?

Either He will handle this, or you will.
Which is it going to be?
You can’t have it both ways.

Cast that deadly care upon Him by turning it into prayer. Then imagine you can hear “swoosh” – it’s gone like sending an e-mail. He will handle it now. When you turn your cares into prayers and cast them on the Lord – something powerful happens. The deadly silent killer’s neck has been broken and cast away from you by your loving Heavenly Father. He is watching over you and He really cares for you. Allow Him to stop the silent killer!

I would love to hear your comments:

Meeting with God

freely-10228

I picked up my Bible while asking God, “Where do You want me to read in Your Bible today?”  Before I finished my question, His answer flashed in my mind.

“Just pick a PLACE. I’ll meet you ANY PLACE and ANY TIME!”

I was shocked me and thrilled at the same time. You may ask, “How can you be sure God was speaking to you, and that it was not just your vivid imagination?” That’s a valid question. But all I can tell you is, I just know. How? I don’t know how, but I just know when God speaks- it’s that simple. Let’s review what He said to me, because this is for you too.

He is so excited to meet with us,

JUST PICK A PLACE, ANY PLACE.  

Remember, I was asking God where I should read in His Bible. Every part of His Word is alive and life giving – even the parts you don’t understand or that seem boring. It’s not just reading or studying the Bible that God wants from us. Reading or studying the Bible without an encounter with God is pointless.

The purpose of the Written Word is the reveal the Living Word (John1:14).

The Pharisees were the leading theologians of the day during Jesus’ time. They memorized great portions of the Word, yet they did not recognize the Living Word of God when He was standing right in front of them! So just pick a book, a chapter, a psalm and remember the purpose – is to meet God in this place. He knows if you are really looking to meet with Him or – just reading.

What’s the best time to meet with God? What He told me was,

ANY TIME

Scripture does reveal that God seems partial to the early mornings. It’s the time when most things are still without a lot of distraction. It’s also the first part of our working day. Meeting God in the first part of your day is a good way of honoring Him and seeking His kingdom and will first.

“In the morning, O Lord Thou wilt hear my voice. In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.” Psalm 5:3

Early morning prayer was the practice of Jesus.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35

In January a few people in our church started a prayer meeting at 6:30 a.m. on Thursdays in the sanctuary of our church. At first I wondered about this. You can pray any time, so why should I drag myself out of bed to pray at such an early hour? Continue reading “Meeting with God”

Put your sword away!

s4_6a1c4d5e9dcbde7

Peter cut off the ear of the high priests’ servant, and he wasn’t aiming for his ear! Firmly Jesus said, “Put-the-sword-away” (Matthew 26:52 and John 18:11). Important words recorded in the Bible for us. Why? Because we need them too! Hear them again, but this time as Jesus speaking your name like this, “Gary, put the sword away!”

You may be thinking, what sword? I don’t even have a sword.

For Peter it was a physical sword that he kept for, just in case. Imagine he is with Jesus Christ, God Almighty, so why does Peter need a sword? Just in case. What does that mean?

The sword was Peter’s fall back. It was his way of handling things just in case things, you know, things get out of hand. Peter was a rough fisherman by trade and probably had a few scuffles in his B.C (before Christ) days. So his sword represents a return to his fleshly way of taking care of business, you know, just in case. And on this particular night he was glad he had it, until he heard Jesus say, “Put–the-sword away!” It wasn’t a request.

Isn’t it obvious that Peter had anger issues? He was quick on the lip, as well as quick to fight. He had always been impulsive and quick tempered. Maybe he inherited from his father, or maybe it was just the way he was wired.

When Peter reached for the sword he was reaching for something familiar. It was his old way of taking care of business. Yet the Holy Spirit recorded this incident and Jesus’ words for US to read. We have something that we are going to have to put away. Continue reading “Put your sword away!”

Lord, what is Your dream for me?

freely-10147

Did God have something in mind for your life the day you were born? The number one question people ask ministers is, “What is God’s will for my life?” We want details and God rarely gives them for good reason.

One of the greatest gifts God ever gave man is the freedom to choose for himself. He never intended for His will to make us mechanical or static. Instead, He gives us great freedom, some would say too much freedom!

  • The freedom to choose whether or not you want God in your life.
  • The freedom to choose or reject salvation by His Son, Jesus.

He gives us freedom to choose but at the same time He has a will, a desire, a dream He’s always had for us. What is it?

Last Sunday afternoon I went for a prayer walk with God and I asked Him, “Lord, what is Your dream for me?” On the inside of me I heard Him quickly reply,

“To love the Lord with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

It’s not that often I get such a quick response to my prayer.

The upsetting part of this is, I thought I was already doing this, but, apparently not! I asked another question.

Lord, how can I love You like You tell me to?

Continue reading “Lord, what is Your dream for me?”

Thank you for your patience.

freely-10233

I was standing inside the bank lobby waiting for the next available teller. The man in front of me at the Tellers window finished his banking and was now talking to the bank manager standing next to the Teller. I could easily overhear that their conversation was personal and not business. The customer was either clueless people were standing in line behind him or didn’t care. I felt it was rude because the bank manager could see people waiting in line, and no other tellers were available. I made eye contact with the teller hoping he would see me and say,

Excuse me, I have another customer waiting.”

So when that did not work, I was about to clear my throat just loud enough to be noticed, when finally, they ended their conversation and the guy moved on. As soon as I stepped up to teller’s window,

He said, “Thank you for your patience”.

I laughed and said,

I really didn’t have a choice, did I? I regret I said that. Anyway I cashed my check and was soon on my way, but his words hung in my mind. Holy Spirit would not let me leave those words.

Thank you for your patience.”

I should not have said that I didn’t have a choice, because I did have a choice. I may have been forced to wait, but I wasn’t forced to have patience. Patience is a choice. It grows by yielding to God’s work, especially in delays.

Was this delay part of God’s work in me? If you believe nothing is coincidental for a child of God, then it is God’s work! God is in the details, in the little things. Nothing is by chance or luck.

BTaEn7eT8

 

  • So now I have to wonder if God may be the One behind some of these times when we are forced to wait?
  • Could He be orchestrating that long check out line at the grocery story, or bank? Yes, for reasons we may never know.
  • What if God has arranged for you to catch every red light between here and your destination? Why would God have anything to do with that? Maybe He is constructing something in me that He feels is important.

let patience have her perfect work (in me), that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:4).

Continue reading “Thank you for your patience.”

The Election and El-Elyon

The Election has already been decided by El-Elyon

usa at night

When a cowboy applied for health insurance, the agent routinely asked if he had had any accidents during the previous year. The cowboy replied, “No. But I was bitten by a rattlesnake, and a horse kicked me in the ribs. That laid me up for a while.” The agent said, “Weren’t those accidents?” “No,” replied the cowboy, “They did it on purpose.” The cowboy realized that there are no such things as “accidents” or “luck”, or “chance”. How about you, Christian? Do you believe that some things happen beyond God’s control?

In Daniel 2:20-21 we read,
“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. And it is He who changes the times and the epochs. He removes kings and establishes kings.”

GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER…

Times & epochs (history)
Kings (rulers/governments)
Wisdom & knowledge
Hidden things
The darkness

We can know that…God IS in charge OF HISTORY (for it is “HIS-entire STORY”)
& HE RULES OVER THE RISE AND FALL OF KINGS & KINGDOMS including Presidents and elections.

 God Most High = El Elyon



El Elyon, God Most High means that God is SOVEREIGN – that GOD IS IN CHARGE OF ALL THE UNIVERSE ALL THE TIME.

WE ARE NOT VICTIMS
OF CHANCE
OR FATE OR LUCK



You can have God or chance, but you can’t have both!

During America’s Great Depression in 1929, many men jumped from New York skyscrapers to their death, because they failed to recognize that God is always in control of our economy and the future. Even where man rules – God overrules! Continue reading “The Election and El-Elyon”

Slow Down

BENCH

My favorite scripture is Psalm 46:10.

Be still (cease striving) and know (recognize) that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

It’s painted on a block of wood in my office. It’s framed as a picture in my living room. It’s my favorite scripture because – I need it. I need to see it often, especially when I start to feel stress. It helps me to stop and consider how I am living at the moment. What am I doing in the fast lane trying to hurry when there is no legitimate need to hurry? Psalm 46:10 helps me slow me down and remember who is in charge.

The Message Bible says it this way, “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at Me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”

Early in the morning before sunrise I can hear traffic on the highway about a mile from my house. People are in such a hurry today with places to go and people to meet. Even in the nearby retirement community people seem to be in such a rush. I have to wonder what do retired people have to be in such a hurry for? Isn’t that the idea behind retirement – to slow down, take life a little easier?

Hurry is more about attitude than speed. Whatever the reason it must be dealt with if we are going to walk with the unhurried Savior.

Hurry makes life blurry

Hurry will cause you to miss some things that God has for you. In the parable of the good Samaritan, both the priest and the Levite were too busy on the ministry hamster wheel to help a dying man. They missed a life changing moment! Author Henri Nouwen said,

I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted; then I realized that the interruptions were my work.”

If Moses had been in a hurry he may have missed his divine appointment with God at the burning bush. Continue reading “Slow Down”