Super Bowl LII
Today is a very important spiritual holiday. The high priests and high priestesses of this religion are busily preparing for the occasion. Worshippers around the globe will be giving their total attention to the proceedings.
There will be priests on the field. They will be the finest specimens of male physiology. They will be displaying their prowess in bodily ways. They will be dressed in the shining robes of their religion. There will be priestesses on the sidelines. They will be displaying themselves to enhance the worship experience. They will be dressed in very little. There will be a half-time show of who-knows-what.
It will basically be a body show. The brawn and beauty of the species will be showcased in the most watched spectacle of the year.
And people, who otherwise seem decent, will waste hours of precious life watching human flesh display uncivilized and risqué behaviors. People who, otherwise seem to possess wisdom, will surrender hours at which they would revolt, if a Church service or a prayer meeting would dare to last so long.
But maybe that is the attraction to this worship experience? Sports is, after all, the perfect religion. No smoke and mirrors. No sleight of hand. What you see is what you get. There is no hypocrisy. Either the ball went through the hoop or it did not. Either it was fair or it was foul. When the bell rings, it is over. The score board does not tell lies.
In all this hedonistic show of flesh; real substance is sadly missing. The jolts of the gladiator contest are there but any enduring legacy is not. The allurements of the bodies are there but lasting value is sacrificed.
Where is the real/true religion? The real worship of a real Man whose body was also displayed – displayed for all the world to see. The Man who began the real and true religion to call real men and real women to serve Him, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Where is that man? The Man who never wore a Super Bowl ring but wore a crown of thorns. The man who was despised and rejected by the masses but will someday wear the crown as King of kings of all the Universe.
Can we worship both? Can we worship the priests and priestesses of this world AND the high Priest of the real religion? The high Priest whose body was also displayed? The high Priest whose body hung on a cross for all the world to see and to mock and to jeer. The high Priest who died that we may live. Can we have it both ways? Will He allow us that duality and duplicity? Will He share His space in our heart with the lust of a world that has rejected Him?
Many people will watch the Super Bowl. Many knees will “bow” at the shrine of this religion. Someday, the Bible tells us, “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” I will not be participating in this religious event this Sunday.
Someday I long to be among those who cast their crowns at the feet of the real Man – the God-Man. The Man who made Himself of no reputation but the man whose character is unassailable – the Man whose life is pristine goodness – the Man of God. The God Man – The Man who was willing to allow abuse without retaliation. The Man who died for me – and for you. The Man who brought and bought redemption. That will be real worship – worship that will last forever. I trust that we shall meet at that Spiritual holiday.
Greetings Dear Friends,
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the prayers offered up for my family and I this past year. And thank you for all the cards and letters. I wish it were possible to answer every one of them! If you didn't get a reply from me, I hope you can take this as a personal "Thank You!" I get so much mail at this time of year it's almost embarrassing. Many of my fellow inmates get little or no mail. So when I carry my stack back to the cell I try to hide it. (I'm not trying to discourage you from writing, keep the mail coming!)
This is Christmas Day, 2017. I'm sitting here at my favorite spot at the end of the hallway in Richmond Hall, right beside a steam pipe. The concrete floor I'm sitting on must have a pipe under it too, because the floor is nice and toasty. A ventilation fan is roaring just a few feet away, affording me the privacy of singing out loud or praying.
When I first got here this morning I was feeling rather gloomy.
I'm still here.
Last summer we found out I was supposed to go to a halfway house on Dec. 15 and be sent home on home confinement the same day or the next. I was ecstatic!
But I'm still here.
It was a bitter pill when I found out on November 1 that my halfway house was canceled due to budget cuts. We then went to a lot of trouble to apply for release straight from prison under an alternative home confinement program. Many people have been praying about this.
Nothing's happened. I most certainly am still here at FCC Petersburg, on Christmas Day, 2017.
Sorry, dear friends! It appears your prayers weren't answered.
I admit some tears were shed into my pillow one night.
Or... were our prayers answered? Is it O.K. with us to get a "No" from God? What is evidence of strong faith? Getting what we prayed for? When our prayers aren't answered in the way we wish, can we still be happy in God? Isn't that evidence of strong faith too?
I admit, it's been tough. I'd rather not stay here a single minute longer than needed!
As I sat beside that steam pipe this morning trying to nurse my rather gloomy faith, I thought of that wonderful hymn portraying Jesus' incarnation:
Thou didst leave thy Throne and Thy Kingly Crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me.
But in Bethlehem's home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
"Oh Come to my heart Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee!"
I realized that once again I had slipped into the all too common fault of focusing on circumstances instead of on Jesus. This world IS INDEED a gloomy place without God.
OH COME TO MY HEART LORD JESUS, THERE IS ROOM IN MY HEART FOR THEE!
Sitting there with my back to the prison wall, I realized I needed to claim the promise of Revelation 3:20 once again. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me."
Years ago, I learned this verse is not only for the sinner turning his life over to the Savior for the first time. The context indicates this promise is for believers who need a change of focus.
This promise is for those who are lonely and in need of a Friend. For those who are broken and weary of life. For those who are in various kinds of prisons.
In all my 52 years, there has never been greater joy than this experience of fellowship with Jesus the Messiah. We all know the pleasure of sitting down to a good meal with a dear friend.
This is the Meal of Meals with the Friend of Friends. It's a most delightful meal of Nourishing Milk and Living Bread and the best kind of Wine. And it's all Free. (Isaiah 55:1-2)
This Fellowship Meal "Brings Good News to the poor; heals the brokenhearted, deliverance to the captives, recovery of sight for the blind, and opening of the prison to those that are bound." (Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19)
"Hey," I thought to myself, "I'm not in prison on this Christmas morning, I'm free!!" And I remembered that years ago I had given up my freedom to Christ. This means the Federal Government couldn't take from me what I had already given away.
THIS CHRISTMAS MORNING, I'M OUTA HERE! I'M FREE! If the Son makes us free, we are free indeed!
Jesus is the ultimate Psychologist. And He makes house calls anywhere in the world. if we answer to His knock, He comes in. He mends our broken hearts, and helps us sort through the shattered dreams of our lives. He pours healing balm on our disappointments. He opens our blind eyes allowing us to see things we've never seen before. He delivers us from our prisons, the things that bind us.
His Living presence is better than getting what I want. I would a thousand times rather be in here with His peaceful, loving presence than out there without Him.
"This is the Year of the Lord's Favor!" Jesus declared in that synagogue many years ago. With that He ushered in the Year of Jubilee when everyone's debts are canceled and the slaves are set free.
This is the Good News of Christmas.
Together, on this Christmas day, let us throw open the doors of our hearts to Him. THERE IS ROOM IN OUR HEARTS FOR THEE!
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1000
Petersburg, VA 23804
Christmas Day, 2017
We've recently received this very disappointing news about Ken's release. We've been looking forward for a long time to having Ken home by Christmas. He was planning to spend about 3 months here in home confinement.
"Due to budget cuts to the halfway house processing my home confinement, I lost the home confinement time. At this point my release date is March 6 instead of December 15. We're terribly disappointed of course, but giving it all into God's hands, and plan to be happy anyway.
We're requesting approval for home-confinement through another little-used program. Please pray that the local and regional case managers and the U.S probation office will approve this plan. Please pray that I could still be home by Christmas."
Please join Ken and family in praying that he could be home by Christmas. A call to your senator or representative to request intervention on his behalf wouldn't hurt either!
I admit it. Raised in the Shenandoah Valley with the middle name "Lee", not far from the burial places of both Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, I grew up with a dose of Southern pride.
For better or worse, Stonewall Jackson was a sort of hero to me. His regiment's intervention at the Battle of Bull Run won the battle for the South that day.
Anther confederate soldier declared afterward, "I saw Jackson standing like a 'stone wall,'" and the name stuck.
Later in life when I began to absorb the Kingdom Teachings of Jesus for myself, particularly His teaching on non-violence and loving our enemies, the southern nationalism sort of fell away along with much of my admiration for Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
This is close to treason for a good Valley boy, I know.
But now I pledge allegiance to the "Holy Nation" ruled by King Jesus, and my Citizenship is in heaven. Heavenly Patriotism now beats in my breast.
Now my hero is George "Firmwall" Friesen.
Let me tell you about him.
"Firmwall" Friesen was a cabinet maker in Cologne Germany. In 1562, he was taken into custody for his faith, and put into a dungeon in the count's castle.
The authorities pleaded, cajoled and threatened him with extreme torture and death if he didn't give up his beliefs. But George "Firmwall" Friesen stood firm and rejoiced in his God.
The count offered him money and his servant maid for a wife, if he would only renounce. But "Firmwall" Friesen said, "Your servant maid, riches or money cannot take me to God, but I have chosen something better, for which I have to strive."
Another man offered him a new life in England. But "Firmwall" Friesen wished to emigrate to a Better Country.
Because he stood his ground, "Firmwall" Friesen was eventually thrown into the Rhine and drowned, "Thus testifying with his death that he was a partaker of Christ's sufferings."
You can read the entire account on pages 661-663 of the Martyrs Mirror.
How did George "Firmwall" Friesen get his name?
The Martyrs Mirror makes this observation about him: "Through the help of the Lord (his) heart stood FIRM AS A WALL."
Here are excerpts from a letter he wrote before he died: "Behold, I proclaim unto you much joy, which I experience as Christ the Son of God promised. If we FIRMLY abide in Him and bring forth good fruit, he will give us a mouth of wisdom as His divine Word says."
"...Cling FIRMLY to Jesus Christ; see that you lose not those things which you have wrought, nor be afraid of the princes of this world."
May all of us heed George "Firmwall" Friesen's parting words: "My brethren, if you would rejoice in the Spirit, and herein understand me thoroughly, then beware of sin and you will see clearly."
And let us "Hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope FIRM unto the end." (Heb. 3:6b)