STEEL AND CONCRETE, January 2001 "'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.'" (Jeremiah 23:4)

January 2001

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"I'll Fly Away" ~ Words

by Bro. Gregory Wamsley

Just a little while ago, people everywhere were celebrating January 1st as a holiday. Just how and where did all this begin? As stated in our Institution's Prison Newspaper: "During the middle ages, most Europeans used March 25th, a Christian holiday called ‘Annunciation day,' to start the New Year. By 1600, many Western Nations had adopted a revised calendar called the ‘Gregorian Calendar.' That calendar restored January 1st as ‘New Years day." America adopted that calendar in 1752" (World Book Encyclopedia).

Many customs and celebrations have spun off from those initial celebrations. Old time Englanders gave people branches of mistletoe, which was considered sacred. In 567 AD, the Christian church outlawed certain customs and pagan practices. Today, I find peace not in receiving a sacred limb or branch, but in being one:

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

The information above is available for people to read, but many have no idea why they continue to celebrate the way they do. I saw all the people in Times Square in New York City worshiping the New Year. I wonder how many of those people also bother to worship Jesus. As some of us Christian brothers gathered to pray, we heard the television blaring, "Happy New Year!" followed by that old familiar Robert Burns song, "Auld Lang Syne." In the Scottish dialect today it's translated as "Old Long Since," or "Days Gone By."

Happy New Year? We know that the Bible says that ". . . there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). So what is so new about this year when there may still be the same old sin, the same old habits and lifestyles, only in a different year? I've often heard people say, "I'm going to be in the same old place, so what?"

As for believers, we are told that we are where we are for a reason. Joseph was a stranger in the far away land of Egypt, but God used him there to save his brothers. Esther was a queen in a land that hated Jews, but God used her there to save her people. Daniel was thrown into a den or hungry lions to be killed, but God delivered him to be used for the purpose of testimony. Jonah's disobedience led him to the belly of the large fish, but God used him there to teach him a valuable lesson. Peter lay in prison, but God used him there to show the power of answered prayer. John was isolated on a lonely island, but God wanted him there to write Christ's Revelation. Paul and Silas were in prison, but God wanted them there to tell the jailor about salvation. Rather than wonder "what's new," ask yourself, "What purpose will God use me to accomplish right where I am?"

For the unbeliever, there is only one way for the new year to truly be a NEW year. To truly have a new year, one must become a new person. We find in the Bible this verse:"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2nd Corinthians 5:17).

In Christ, and only in Christ, can anyone's year truly be "happy" or "new." It doesn't really matter where you are or who you are, only whose you are. The Christian life and where we are is a gift from God. Prison for me is my gift from God: it just didn't come in a very pretty package. :-| The Christian's life isn't to be a burden, but a blessing. Let God use you just where you are, because God wants to use you there.

submitted by Bro. D. McSwain

A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer's showroom ... and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted. As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box.

Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man's name embossed in gold. Angrily, he raised his voice to his father and said, "With all your money - you only give me a Bible?" and stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible.

Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was very old, and thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen him since that graduation day. Before he could make arrangements, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care of things. When he arrived at his father's house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father's important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago.

With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. His father had carefully underlined a verse, Matt 7:11, "And if ye, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven, give to those who ask Him?" As he read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer's name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired so many years before. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words: "PAID IN FULL"

How many times do we miss God's blessings because they are not packaged as we expected?

Poem by Bobby LaVaughn Johnson

Humbly Lord, do I seek thy face,
stumbling through a world conformed by sin's embrace.
My life's path is shadowed with darkness and fear,
Oh help me, Lord, won't you draw near?
I knew not what I'd done, I made my lonesome cry.
You answered, Lord, with no reason why.
Grace and Salvation have you freely given,
to a helpless man locked away in prison.
You've given me purpose, my reasoning's straight,
Christ's blood has opened the gate.
To a new life of freedom from sin,
one of righteousness abounding and strength to win.
The gates of hell shall not stand,
for those that receive the Gospel throughout the land;
No longer will the evil deeds prevail,
For the gate was opened while on my knees in a cell.

by Brother George Carter

The one serious thought I had as I grew up was, "Some day I will change." Why did I think I needed to change?

During my growing years as a boy, I lived a life which I knew was not right, but I had determined I was going to have fun and live the kind of life I wanted to. I found myself involved in a number of things. I skipped school a lot, occasionally got drunk, ran with a gang, and generally kept bad company. Among other things, I'd also begun to break into places and steal. As I got older, I felt I didn't have enough money to make myself feel happy.

After joining the Army, although I was still drinking and having so-called fun, I began to think more seriously about life, especially after being sent to Korea. You see, I was a "PK," a preacher's kid, and although my Dad was killed in an automobile accident when I was young, I believe his life left me with a sense of right and wrong. Among other things that had happened to give me a wakeup call was a booklet I'd read at that time. It confronted me with the question: "Do you think, do you hope, or do you know you are saved?" This made a deep impression on me, as I did not know. I began to pray that I might be saved. As you might know, after this I began to read other things along this line that brought me to assurance of faith in Christ. When I came back to the United States, I was baptized.

This was a big turning point in my life, as I now found I had a new relationship with God, and new-found joy, and a reason for living. From this point onward, I began to put the Lord first in my life. Although I have fallen at times, I've found that living for Him brings the satisfaction I couldn't find as a youth growing up. I now have a purpose larger than myself, trying to please Him and live a life helping others for Him.

Would you like to find a life of satisfaction, peace and joy in Christ, by finding forgiveness of sin and a purpose bigger than yourself? Then do as I did, as God's Word directs, and ask Jesus Christ to come into your life and save you too!

by Brother Donald Bovello

The other day I heard the story of a young child about 9 or 10 years old. He lives in an abandoned building and is unable to bathe or take care of himself regularly. He is homeless, his mother addicted to drugs, and no father involved in his life. He acts out negatively and craves adult male "positive" attention. As I listened, I thought, "How many other children live in such poverty? Not just monetary poverty, but emotional, mental, and , worse even, spiritual poverty?" My heart ached and I was flooded with feelings of guilt. I wanted to reach out to those children, but how? I'm serving a Life +20 Year prison sentence. I just can't go to the many places where these children are. I also wondered why I felt guilty. Although it took a day to figure out, the answer was clear. Despite being in prison, God is good to me and I live well. I have the following blessings: clothing, access to showers, three meals a day, and even minimal earthly responsibility. Most of all my blessings, with or without these things, I know Jesus! No matter how bad things are for me on this earth, I can count it as Joy, because it's at those times when the Holy Spirit is showing me new things when I grow spiritually. Jesus promised us a "Comforter." That young man I spoke of earlier, I cannot be there for him physically. One might think that where I am there is little I can do for him. The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesian Church that ". . . we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). He said that our fight is spiritual and we are to "pray always." This reminds me of Jesus who prayed for long periods of time. He was talking to His Father, our Father God, about those He loved and cared for. This is also the responsibility of all followers of Christ. More importantly, it's our privilege to intercede for others and tell as many as we can about Jesus. I encourage all who read this to pray for the children and people who are lost. If you see someone who is a little mean or abrasive, don't turn away from them, but go to them in love, like Jesus did.


A poem submitted by Jeffrey B. Quante

Everlasting life, a gift to all who believe,
by the blood of Jesus, we're made worthy to receive.
Glorious is life, which I now live through Him,
beyond blessed, freed from death, cleansed from sin.
Each minute, beautiful, drenched in His love,
undeserved mercy, mingled with peace from above.
Contentment compasses my greatest needs,
as daily on the Comforter's love, my heart feeds.
Beyond compare, beyond words, beyond description,
for on God's mighty palms, my inscription.
No need for wealth, notability or fame,
for my life resides with the Lamb who was slain.
My heart yearns to behold His loving face,
for I love my God full of endless mercy and grace.
Nothing could ever alter my new found passion,
for with the Lord of Lords I'm wondrously fashioned.
Even if eternal life was not promised, though it is,
regardless of the promise, I simply love being His.
I just love my life through Jesus the King,
for of his awesome peace, my heart will sing!
So despite eternity, I will still live this life so sweet,
for worthwhile it be, to thank Him, praise Him and behold His face,
if only for brief moment, kneel at His feet.

"It's In The Valleys I Grow"
by Brother Chris Sweet

Sometimes life seems hard to bear, full of sorrow, trouble and despair -
It's then I have to remember, it's in the valleys I grow.
If I always stayed on the mountain top, and never experienced pain,
I'd never experience God's love, and would be living in vain -
I have so much to learn, and my growth is very slow,
Sometimes I need the mountain tops, but it's in the valleys I grow.
I do not always understand why things happen as they do,
But I'm very sure of one thing, my Lord will see me through.
My little valleys are nothing when I picture Christ on the cross -
He went through the valley of death; His victory was Satan's loss.
Forgive me, Lord, for complaining when I'm feeling very low,
Just give me a gentle reminder that it's in the valleys I grow.
Continue to strengthen me Lord, and use my life each day,
To share your Love with others, and help them find their way.
Thank you for valleys, Lord, for this one thing I know,
The mountain tops are glorious, but it's in the valleys I grow.

"Significant Lies"
by Brother Robert Bennett

The significant one is not the one born in the womb of the woman I call Mother,
no, the significant one is another.
The significant one is not adored by family and friends,
but the one whose beginning wasn't until His end.
The significant one is not him that spoke with convicting influence,
but the one with a blessed assurance.
The significant one did not depart with a smile,
no, He was the one that found peace while He suffered awhile.
I'm the one that is despised,
but found to be significantly loved in my Father's eyes.

author unknown

A man named George Thomas was a pastor in a small New England town. He entered his church one Easter morning with a rusty, old, bent bird cage. He set the bird cage on the pulpit causing a few raised eyebrows. Then he began to speak.

Yesterday morning I came across a young boy who had 3 scared birds in a cage shivering from the cold. I asked him, "What do you got there?"
"Just some dumb old bird!"
"What are you going to do with them?"
"Tease em, play with em, and pull out all their feathers!"
"Then what are you going to do?"
"Feed 'em to my cat. He likes birds!"

The pastor then went silent for a moment and asked, "How much would you like for those birds?"
"Oh, you don't want these, they're ugly and can't even sing!"
"How much?" came the pastor's definite reply. The boy thought for a moment and then said, "$10."

The pastor reached into his pocket and gave the boy $10. The boy took the money and then vanished. The pastor picked up the cage, walked to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a small grassy spot. He opened the door by gently tapping the bars to the cage, and coaxed the birds out into the grass.

That explained the bird cage on the pulpit. Then he proceeded to tell this story:

One day, Satan and Jesus were walking and Satan had just come out of the Garden of Eden. He was gloating and boasting. "Yes sir, I caught me a whole world full of people. Set a trap that they just couldn't resist. Yep, got them all."
"What are you going to do with them?" came the reply.
"Gonna have some fun with them; teach them to hate, hurt, and kill each other."
"Then what are you going to do?"
"Oh, then I'll kill them and bring them down into my kingdom."

Jesus paused. "How much do you want for them?"
"Oh, you don't want them. They'll just hate you, spit on you, mock you and kill you. They don't want you."

Jesus paused and looked straight into Satan's soul, "How much?" Satan suddenly realized, looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your tears, all your blood, all your footsteps, all your strengths, all your life."

Jesus paid the price, picked up the cage and opened the door.

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I'll Fly Away

Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away;
To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O glory, I'll fly away;
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

When the shadows of this life is gone, I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars have flown, I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O glory, I'll fly away;
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away;
To a land where joys shall never end, I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O glory, I'll fly away;
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

"So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).