A couple of days ago I was chatting with one of my friends on the phone. He just got a new computer and he is back on line now. This is all a big deal for him, as he is a grandfather and can use this to keep in touch with his daughter and grandkids.
This friend of mine and I go back about 4 and a half years (something like that). At that time I was an associate pastor at a small church in Northern California, and I had just started a new program called “Celebrate Recovery” at our church. You can check out the ministry at www.celebraterecovery.com.
I met him like a day or two after he had been released from prison. (I think you said that you had been inside for 17 years, with maybe 30 days out from time to time on parole.) He had been Special Forces in Viet Nam, then in a motorcycle gang and then in a notorious prison gang. I must admit he was the scariest man I ever met.
He had come to Christ inside prison, but was still super rough around the edges. Heck, today he is still a little rough around the edges, and we joke about it.
There were times as we were going through the program together that he would get unbelievably angry about certain people, and there was a real risk of violence. BUT, He also had a love and respect for God. Times when I had to stand up as tall as I could and confront him with the word of God to get him to calm down. If I had just tried to calm him down with my own opinion or philosophy, I really don’t believe for a second it would have worked, bad things would have happened and my friend would be back in prison.
He’ll tell everyone “Man, you know it is God, you and the program that has kept me out of prison.”
He gave me a lot of sleepless nights as I was praying to God about what to do. But also I learned more than I ever thought possible about the grace of God. It doesn’t matter what you have done, and it may have been a lot, but if you give it to God, He will forgive you. God’s grace is sufficient for all the sin of the world, if people will just respond to the forgiveness of His son, Jesus Christ.
We walked together to get through the program, all those Bible verses and letting those effect our lives.
I ended up having to move to another church in Oregon to continue ministry. While my friend stayed in that area and tried to disciple anyone that was willing.
So 4.5 years or so out of prison, and a year or so off parole. Instead of the 30 days that he would get, when he was running his life his own way, doing all the same things that got him into prison.
No, now he has found freedom in Christ that he never knew before. Now we talk about Jesus, fishing, and his family that he gets to know.
So my friend I am glad that I met you. You are a trophy of God’s grace. God is willing and can change the lives of anyone.