Our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, uses ballet, to display the elegance of Jesus, as a sacrifice of praise to the Father.
This road was made for dancing,
The labor of the Father’s planning,
His Son’s shed-blood for our bandaging,
On the cross our wounds He was wrapping,
The price of our soul He was ransoming,
So my hands are free for others grasping,
And my gifts for others lacking.
This love is for hearts that are cracking,
His seed for the ground of planting,
His answers for those who are asking.
His light is lit for the unmasking,
so their burdens they might start casting,
to make their eyes start laughing,
their courage to be long-lasting.
Because Jesus was the dead man standing,
on His road of life everlasting.
Elizabeth Faith Shalom
Joshua and Dynamic David created this caricature to depict Will Power –
a Comic Book Super Hero whose powers of faith can take you beyond all struggles. Three cheers for their anointed creativity that has proven extremely effective to help thousands.
Someone recently told me that they love the photos on this wwebsite So I deliberately got a little ‘carried away’. We love the Father for what we see Him do as we walk His Crossroad.
Every person makes decisions every day. Some big. Some small. Some fail. Some succeed. They can determine the quality and direction of your life. I hope what I share here might help you. Don’t you want God on your side? Prayer is not some far off lofty thing. The key to effectual prayer is transparent expressions born out of true humility; kenosis. For God “resists the proud” (Mt.11:25, 29 23:12/1 Peter 5:5/Jm.4:6/Ps.138:6).
My family and I live to share Jesus as we travel all over the world. So we face multitudes of very difficult choices. We were in Paraguay the last few months. God opened doors that we never imagined. The authorities welcomed us into schools, orphanages, prisons and even city events. This, my friend, is something we could never make happen, no matter how we tried. We have no one helping us. No organization or group. We work as we need to. Tons of leg work. Tons of heart. Got to find places to live and share the gospel.
The photos and things I share are far beyond us. It is living proof that the Father hears His sons and daughters. You don’t need to “play church” or depend on others. God is able. When Rachel and I were first married we were constantly told we could never do what we are doing. Now, along with our six amazing adult children; David, Elizabeth, Ruth, Joshua, Abraham and Sarah we all together are laughing our way into His marvelous ways.
Glory to God we do not listen to men. The Holy Spirit of the living Jesus constantly leads us into amazing opportunities to share His gospel. They happen because He constantly expands our life-perspective. As you grow into God’s eternal love you find yourself constantly hoping that He might allow you to share in His work. The officials invited us to share Jesus, in our performance, for an entire hour in their national independence day event which was covered by nation wide television. Their colors are also red, white and blue.
Paraguay is a nation saturated with the effects of a history of tyranny, communism and dictatorship. The oppression and extreme poverty determines, and is fully recognized, as causing incompetence at all aspects of society and breeds attitudes of destitution.
We have just arrived in Brazil after weaving our way through many miles of a truckers strike. The bad roads in Paraguay damaged our very old tires so bad we had to replace all five in a small town. This incident, along with unexpected travel and visas costs, sadly cut into our tight budget.
We may never be rich, or have great talent, but anyone, at anytime, in any place, can own the great wealth of compassion if you are willing to learn the ways of the cross.
The world looks down on a broken man, but I have learned how the cross is the only way to truly experience the power of the Holy Spirit (Jn.3:8/1 Cor.1:18).
Ever since I was a kid I can remember how terrified I was to speak in front of people. I was an extremely selfish guy who could never imagine serving God. Life was all about me. I was, and am, extremely insecure.
But destiny doesn’t depend on what we think about ourselves. In our moments of greatest weakness, it offers us the bridge of simple faith to intersect His divine love, at the cross, with our complete human failure. This is the intersection of an eternal destiny. He wounded me at an early age, and I chose to believe in His revelation rather than rebel with excuses and self-pity (Pr.20:30/2 Cor.5:17). It is not what we claim about ourselves, that proves who we are, but rather what He does in us (Phil.2:12-13/ Mt.6:21). God trains a coward, through humility, to be a soldier, and son, who learns power, love and discipline (Heb. 12/2 Tim.1:7).
It is not from human motives or ego, that we stand for Jesus. Rather, it is in the constant recognition of our nothingness that allows Jesus His full intervention into our lives. Sometimes a guy will write me who seems interested in Jesus. Then, after I share about the cross, he ultimately fades away because he refuses to consider there is something that he doesn’t already know.
WHAT IS THE CROSS: Just two pieces of wood put together in a horizontal and vertical manner. However, when Jesus was crucified, upon this Roman configuration of execution, He intersected humanity with a dimension that penetrated the conscience of mankind with an inescapable disconcerting reality. Todays “Christians” talk about the cross as a vague doctrine that merely requires a kind of mental gymnastics, to substantiate “salvation”.
Catholics revere it. Evangelicals avoid it. Jews scoff. The Scriptures leave no man an alibi to ignore it. Two pieces of wood offer no power, but the One Who captured and conquered Satan by it, demands allegiance to it (1 Cor.1:18). For long after Jesus died, Paul boasted in the cross; “I have been crucified with Christ… and to the world” (Gal. 2:20,6:14). Paul explained the cross as a contemporary ‘living’ work of the Spirit, completed only in fellowship with Jesus (Phil.3:10). He says every Christian, to be a Christian, must be “united” with Jesus in His death (Rm.6:6).
Of course, no person, on the face of the earth, in a right mind, wants to identify with a symbol of barbaric torture. Unless…there is something far more to it. Jesus would never say things that lead to a life of morbid grief. He is the ultimate King of resurrection and abundant life. So when He says “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me” it involves divine dynamics, not human reasoning ( (Mt.16:24/Jn.10:10). The question really comes down to “Do you want to experience this reality?”.
A surface definition of humility is an attitude where someone avoids credit for something with a pious tone of voice. There exists a far deeper reality. The practical key to implement ‘the cross’ is to discover the diameter, the caliber and degree of divine humility, as defined by God:
“…Have this attitude… although Jesus existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God and thing to be grasped (utilized), but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men… He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil.2:5-8). (You see my friend, it is called in Greek “kenos”-to be made empty. When I was in seminary I read scores of theological exegesis on this one concept and realized it has enormous implications. It transforms my life.)
Jesus came as an ordinary man. He emptied Himself of Himself to become the ultimate example of love (Jn.15:13). He Who should have been honored and served chose rather to honor and serve. His ‘humility’ resulted in our salvation. He emptied Himself of Himself in order to come under us and love us as one of us (Phil.2:7). Jesus was the firstborn amongst many such brethren yet to be born (us). So thus, His manner of humility is to be our manner (Romans 8:29/Col.1:15-18/Heb.2:11). If Jesus emptied Himself of His divine nature how much more should we empty ourselves of anything we think we are, or have, in our nature?
When we “empty ourselves” of all our fears, pride, goals, excuses and wounds, God then has the space to intervene in our consciousness with His Spirit. It is our responsibility to empty ourselves and His promise to fill us. Abraham exhibited kenos-humility by emptying himself of his greatest desire; the sacrifice of his son, Isaac. This event was a ‘foreshadow’. The Father actually “emptied Himself” of His beloved Son (Jn.3:16). Then Jesus emptied Himself of the Father, revealing the constitution of true love is sacrifice (Jn.15:13).
This is the mystery of God’s mighty mercy. I testify to this saving love of Jesus. As I emptied myself (repent) He saved me from myself. It goes like this. Abraham was the first to display that true humility is the precursor to the faith that touches God (Rm. 4/Heb. 11:6). This faith cancels out all ‘puzzles’ in our mind; complex self-serving thoughts (Rm.8:6,12:2). It is bought by nothingness (Rm.4:17-18). So anyone can get it and use it. God’s grace is a free gift. So anyone can receive it.
Believe; receive; live… new life. Ignore what your body or the world dictates and act on what God says. This is living eternal, divine life. If this truly happens Christ leads you. Salvation is the work of the Father implanting His Son as His divine seed within a humble heart ( Gal.3:16). It is the condescension of God into our exact misery (Jn.1:18/Ps.18:35).
For so long I never understood “By His wounds (scourging, stripes) we are healed” (Is.53:5/1 Cor.1:18). How could it be that our present-day wounds (fears, sin etc.) can be transferred to and healed by a simultaneous suffering from 2000 years ago?
The photos depict a wide range of people. And people carry multitudes of all-varied wounds of sorrow, pain and sin. Prisons are like small cities that hold every walk of life. Every man is different. My family and I are not spiritual entities. We are full of fears, fatigue, and helplessness. How can we, as wounded warriors, heal the wounds of distant strangers?
Human instinct says “Muster up a strong visual (ego). Appear strong”. God says “empty yourself” (kenos) (2 Cor.6:8,4:7-8/Heb.11:34). Be nothing. Being nothing is something I can do very well. So His Spirit can do what I cannot. We could never imagine living what we are doing. We have no “special calling”. We have no magic dust. There is no secret formula. We are a typical nobody Polish/Irish family of eight from Catholic roots in Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It is because the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was a supernatural event with retroactive ramifications (Consider Jn. 12:32/Heb.9:3ff). It is actually Jesus applying His work today (2 Cor.4:10).
If you change attitudes that hold you back, God promises to lift you up (1 Pt.5:6). Time and time again, when I re-evaluate my selfish ways, I realize that I can not ‘be like Christ’ because I do not know what Christ is like. But I can change my ways because I know my ways and how I need to change them (Jn.12:25/Phil.3:13). This repentance is kenosis. If you want to be healed repent. Believe His scourging was personally designed with you in mind. Such faith in His love is the impetus to discover new life.
Wounds are not healed by high-class sermons, churches, ‘spirituality’ and preachers. God comes in the most common daily steps, prayers and activities. The Spirit comes like the wind in ordinary moments. I would never want a “Billy Graham ministry”; fly into an airport, taxi to a motel, taxi to a prescribed setting, preach a rehearsed sermon, taxi back to motel, taxi back to the airport, fly home. The most profound ministry we’ve experienced comes while traveling horrible roads, in the most terrible places and walking common places, with fellow wicked sinners because it is all dependent on our nothing but humility and faith in the spontaneous convergence of the living Jesus.
Paul said ‘I am the scum and dreg of the earth’ (1 Cor.4:13). He boasted not of eloquence but of definitive God-activity (1 Cor.2:1ff). It is in being gut-wrenching that man finds God. Paul was thrilled to empty himself of himself. His wounds were deep. I have seen many “desperate” men totally self-sufficient. Kenos showed Paul to be truly desperate and transparent in his writings and manifest a living dead man. He killed Stephen and many more. “I am the chief of sinners” he said. Phillip was walking a dusty road when he met a guy riding by in a horse chariot who was transformed in a few hours of conversation with reality (Acts 8).
Today’s “Christians” are so full of religious cliches and token religiosity. Paul was in step with how Jesus enters the lives of men with clarity to bring true healing. The inner struggles of the cross create a deep heart; a man of His mystery. Any ‘place’ a wicked man goes, the deep heart of Jesus goes. Men interact with each other according to outward appearances. But Jesus knows the heart and thus deals with everyone according to His profound compassion (2 Cor.5:19).
In one photo we are in a Catholic church. In another Protestant. We may be amongst obvious hypocrites, while in another gang-bangers. Our ‘haters’ say that such diversity exposes compromise; “You associate with Catholics, protestants, gang members, mentally ill and atheists as if you agree with them”. We know the evil things people say about us but we respond as Jesus says “Father forgive them”.
Paul says “I become all things to all men to win one” (1 Cor. 9:19ff). Jesus does not limit His love. In fact, there could be nothing more “compromising” than for a holy God to come into the nature of a sinful man. Thus is the mercy of the New Testament in contrast to the conditional forgiveness based on moral adherence to the ten commandments of the Old Testament.
A strange thing we have realized is that hypocrites do not know how to laugh or be real with sinners because forefront in their mind is “I must prove I am more righteousness”. To walk in the freedom of the Spirit demands we die to our self-righteousness. Paul became like any man so that, possibly, in some way, he could reach that man. There is only one time that anyone has given us money in our travels and it was a hundred dollars from a bunch of guys drinking beer on the side of the road for whom we just saw and decided to perform. It was so beautiful. These guys were so far from being religious but so honest and sincere. No question it was a fruit of kenos.
Awesome Abraham, often tells men a key is not the “Christian” response; “Ya. Ya. I know all that already”. It is three words of a deep heart; “I don’t know”. Kenos does not leave you forlorn to in self-pity. It leads you the Door of a new “place”(Jn.14:2). He is a King with a castle of innumerable rooms to choose from; “How can I exemplify the rich humble and loving character of revelation of the Character of Christ”. There is no law only grace.
Jesus exposed the evil in all of us as men on the world stage of the cross. Then, as His second ‘act’, in resurrection victory, manifested the ultimate love and power of the Father. Jesus said “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to Myself” (Jn.12:32). You and I do not have to die on a physical cross or emulate the life of Jesus. We must believe with the faith that reflects His work to the Father.
Despite any denial of any man, the cross absolutely radiates, with undeniable mass appeal, the divine love of the Father for all men. Confess. Believe. Live an ongoing testimony to Jesus. He is the “Catalyst”of a living gospel of the living Jesus (Col.1:27,2:2). Jesus surrendered Himself to the ‘tools of man’s trade’; wickedness (Mt.20:28). Then created the tools for His Father’s trade; redemption.
Like an astronaut in outer space, who is detached from his tether line, Jesus detached Himself from His divinity to reattach Himself to our dark humanity (Phil.2:9). By this choice, He authored the faith of salvation in the Father. While He ‘floated’ in moments of utter darkness; “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me”, Jesus was working to calibrate, atone, appease, justify to provide specific healing required by each of our grave wounds.
Little did men know, way back then, that by killing Jesus, they were killing their own greatest enemy; sin. In man’s worst event in human history, God was achieving His greatest event in human history.
In a way of speaking, the Father compressed His divine glory, into a human posture. In the womb of Mary, God impregnated a sinful nature with divine power (the incarnation). Then…Bam…33 years later, sin exploded and was forever destroyed. Jesus rose from the dead. This seed is now in me. A hammer and nails failed to kill the One Who reclaimed His divine glory. He was seen for Who He is; God.
“He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor.5:21).
Wow. Big time stuff. Dancing, laughing and singing kind of stuff. We do not bring a dead and boring Jesus to men. This is awesome stuff. It generates creative intelligence and hope.
Jesus went to the lowest sector of humanity to bring us to the highest sector of glory. In working with “criminals” we proclaim “The Criminal” Who was “despised” and bore the punishment for us all but now reigns as Judge. What love! Jesus was willing to be the ultimate… “prodigal son” Who left His Father but ‘came to His senses’ and danced His way back (Lk.15/Heb.12:1).
Failure and redemption are my ways. Yet Jesus promises that His love can be in me, if I die with Him. Sometimes I am terribly burdened by all the many things I must deal with but then stop and realize: “Wow. I am watching a selfish slob like me actually care about others? This alone is proof of God is with me.” Intelligent love is not an instinct. It does not fall out of the sky. It takes time and creative will power. It is learned through obedience to an invisible Father God. Through many trials and errors, Jesus teaches us how to think, talk and act so as to absorb the burdens of men and respond with His compassion.
He entered the place where each of us is ashamed to admit and afraid to go. And it is here, in the heart of our sinfulness, where Jesus inserts Himself, to demonstrate the power of God (Mt.20:28). We must join with the living Jesus to create a divine synergy. As He believed His Father would raise Him out of every human predicament so must we join with Him today to do the same thing He did. And as the Author of such faith the Father gave Him the Name above all Names(Phil.2:9). He perfectly sympathizes with our every weakness and waits for our moment of kenosis.
So many prisoners tell me the same experience that I myself know; i.e. the mind toils away at night, at times, as if caught up in a cyclone of destructive thoughts. Loneliness feels like it’s eating a hole in your soul. Sometimes sadness is embedded in our every feeling. These are the precise wounds of being human.
Inescapable feelings of pain can conjure up terrible fears. As if some alien being of sorrow as infiltrated our body and is hiding somewhere behind our bones. This is the monster of sin. I must not listen to its echoes of death reverberating in the chambers of my brain. I believe Jesus sympathizes with my exact sin and proves my healing has been had by His resurrection.
As Paul writes I “fellowship with Him” in sufferings (Phil.3:10). I know that when I arrive at the “perfect moment of faith” I shall reign over all my wounds in the power of His resurrection Character. Thus, shall I be healed of these wounds through identification and participation. Paul says “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Phil.3:12).
It is in this sharing with men in this kenos transparency that we witness the healing Presence of Jesus to others. In one prison we had shared with men for about three hours. Sometimes we just don’t know if they’re “getting it”.
After we finished, the prison Director walked with us out to our van. “My jaw is on the ground” he said. I don’t know how to explain what I just saw.” An unbeliever saw the amazing mercy and “kenos” of a ‘humble’ God towards men. It was not a family or a ministry. This is Jesus. At another prison, as we were leaving through the lobby, he saw us coming and slowly started to clap saying “Way to go Woroniecki family you brought the Lord Christ to these men like I have never seen”. It was so encouraging I was dancing on a cloud.
In every prison, we face men, with whom we are at a loss for how to reach. Their living conditions are despicable, both physically and in their souls (Read Section A at the end of this article). But the blood of Jesus runs through our veins as we carry the heartbeat of God. We try to communicate that we are all both criminals and victims. Sin wounds all men in all ways.
One day we drove six hours into the middle of nowhere and back. I was stunned and filled with stress to see the faces, all look the same, as the men came walking into the gathering from their individual cell blocks. It was like an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’. A sci-fi movie scene where each face was molded into an exact same look of agony. Like we had landed on a distant planet, far from anything we had planned for.
We were there four hours. We could only beg Jesus to touch them. Today we learned of the outcome. A very beautiful thing. The Director, after our visit, changed his web site profile, from his individual picture to a picture of him with our family. It is the ultimate compliment. What he saw as not us.
Contrary to modern “salvation”, Jesus never reduced His work on the cross to; “Pray a sinner’s prayer to ‘accept Me as Savior”. The gospel calls us to discover an entirely new life through obedience.
The cross is “the power of God” to find this life (1 Cor.1:18). The humility of the cross is a subconscious slow-kill of our greatest enemy; the ego; sin. Once you give your “Yes Lord” it begins His process. No lasting victory over sin, can ever be won without detachment of yourself from yourself to be united with Jesus. Only the cross can do this (Heb.4:12). No, it is not complex. A caterpillar simply yields to a higher metamorphosis. He will bring forth a butterfly. Read the book “Hope For The Flowers”. God used this book to simplify and edify the glory of the cross to me.
This one simple decision renders the promise; “By His stripes we are healed”. Paul says “that I may know…the fellowship with His sufferings being conformed to his death in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead….” (Phil. 3:10-11). Just snap your finger and change your mind. Believe His Word rather than your feelings. Every problem; physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, circumstantial involves sin. So by Jesus “becoming sin” and exploding it, He established “the place”; “the way, the truth and the life” in order to conquer it (Jn.14:2,6).
This is the excitement in preaching the gospel. We have something REAL to take to men. Actual healing. Actual eternal life. Actual redemption of their circumstances. Everything that I know to be true can be true to anyone. It is far greater than material happiness.
This world draws men with an ‘eye candy’ of happiness. One time we were preaching on the quad of Colorado State University. A marine recruiter was offering pamphlets to draw young men; They say “Be All You Can Be”, then something they incur on the job prohibits this from ever happening. I’ve met many men who tell a tragic story of severe injury both mentally and physically. They offer PTSD counseling, because a handicap, a divorce or thoughts of suicide leave them wounded the rest of their lives. A man’s nature is to be proud, not humble. So hope is far away.
I asked the Lieutenant “Do you ever tell these young people any stories from Walter Reed Hospital?” I mean if a package of cigarettes is required by law to warn of possible consequences, like cancer, then how much more so should a job with death and life-altering injuries as a possible end? Likewise is the glitter of Wall Street or Silicon Valley. Precious lives and years wasted for nothing but stress and depression.
Bank on it. Everyone has no one. And no one has anyone… to love them. Don’t buy the ‘eye candy’. Everyone knows that they have no one. Regardless of image. God says ‘All men moan like doves…growl like bears (‘Is.59). No matter how many people you ‘know’, you know, that no one knows you. It is heart-wrenching. But it IS solvable through the supernatural work of the cross. No matter if you are a banker or a bum walking on Wall Street, true repentance, is the only thing that offers you a promising future. The living Jesus beckons “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden…My yoke is easy and light”.
Jesus says ‘God so loved the world that He gave…ME’ (Jn.3:16). I love this wicked world because when someone in it realizes what we are saying it is awesome to be the vessel of salvation. Jesus knew all His Father had to offer men and it made Him ecstatic. Master Jesus came as a poor man, to the poor, with poorness of heart (kenos), to conquer the poorness of the world (Mt.5:3). Whether Paraguay, Brazil, Europe or the U.S. happiness in the poverty and humility of heart.
In His thoughts, beyond the cross, Jesus anticipated He would find poor individuals to whom He could reveal His viable and profound joy and save men from hell. And man, was Jesus excited when He found such a person (Jn.4:32/Lk.7:9/Mt.15:21). What about you?
Don’t listen to the lies of fat-cat “prosperity” preachers. Jesus offers you the “mission statement” focused on healing the poor and suffering, not enriching the comfortable (Isaiah 61). The gospel is the provision of the enormous blessing of eternal life here and now. Not with material “blessings”, but spiritual revelation (Eph.1:3ff). A heart crammed full of materialism has no desire for invisible comforts of God (Mt. 6:24/Mk.10:25/1 Tim.6:10).
People who realize they are overwhelmed by inescapable ‘hell’, both outside and inside, have the divine opportunity to see God. Such circumstances yield the genre of God; kenos. God did, can and does heal the “incurable” wound but it is only when we yield to His kenos (Jer. 10:19,15:18,30:12-15,17:9).
We tell people “I want to show you something you can not see… to prove to you it exists”. This is our heart in our demonstration of preaching the living Jesus and all His rich promises.
Long ago, when we were walking the streets, next to a volcano, in a village in Central America, my daughters were playing with some children. I remember praying “Lord please use such beautiful women to their fullest”. Today I see His fulfillment far beyond anything I could have imagined. They are intimately involved with multitudes of children.
Below ‘Gentle Josh’ translates for his mother and introduces her to sing her heart to wounded ‘children’ disguised as prisoners.
The cycle of desperation breeds children of such poverty with tragic stories. It makes me wonder “What was the actual real tone in the voice of Jesus when He says ‘Let the children come to Me'” (Mt.18)? Could it have been in a depth of sorrow and sadness from seeing their poverty and desperation? Our hope is to break the cycle of hopeless despair and prevent children from ending up in prison. Imagine living in a state of panic because you realize you have a life of absolute desperation. No one cares and there is no escape.
Two little boys were at a stop light. Hugging and playing with each other in the intersection, as if displaying some circus act. One of them made the sign of the cross as he hurriedly ran up to cars hoping for a handout. They got nothing. They huddled back and tried again, and again. While ministering in a prison here, the other day, I asked some men what they were going to do when they were released. They explained “working the intercessions”.
The cardboard neighborhoods are without number. The individual stories of murder, family tragedy, drug abuse and unimaginable suffering pile up in our minds. We think we can just hear them, comfort the people and keep working. But somehow they penetrate our hearts in ways we do not realize. It’s unbearable.
The impact a willing person can make upon another little human life is amazing. The amount and extent of impact have no limit, except as Jesus says in that “….the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few”.
When the Scriptures say that He “bore” our sin we don’t realize it means all the nitty gritty stuff we struggle with every moment of every day while He walked the earth. Jesus wasn’t a divine robot. This is why He can “heal”, sympathize and lift your every struggle. He was afflicted by the same constant bombardment of crazy feelings, deep pain, and suffering all around Him, constantly pressing upon Him. He is the ultimate friend and brother.
My son Joshua received two pictures on his phone from an inmate in a very remote prison we visited. They were of left-over wrappers from candy and popcorn we distributed in our time there. This guy, we’ll call John, owns nothing. But, he would never say “nothing”. Because in his cell he has two candy-wrappers he protects like gold coins. When he holds them he thinks of far more. You see, the candy wrappers hold back the dark forces of despair pressing upon his mind and sustain him with a memory that calms his anxiety.
They represent three young women, Ruth, Beth and Sarah, and a family who “came from God” one morning in mid-March. The girls distributed, tracts, candy and popcorn down the rows of chairs set up in the prison courtyard. They stopped to greet him personally. They didn’t condemn him but rather treated him like a long lost friend.
Something like this had never happened to John, over the past seven years he had been in prison. So the candy wrappers held the ‘magic’ of these real memories. They help to balance the memories of deep regret that put him here. He remembers how Ruth placed the candy in his hand and Beth touched his shoulder. He often touches his shoulder and remembers what he felt like. Sarah actually paused to give him a place to talk. John knows that this experience will never happen again.
Below Genius Joshua is working in one of the oh so many cardboard neighborhoods that fill Paraguay.
The man was hit in the head with an ax, by a gang of thieves. He was left for dead, and for blame, at a crime scene, of which he had nothing to do. Of course, no one believes him. He asked Joshua if he could call his eighty-year-old mother and talk to her. After Joshua did so, the man texted back that hearing the happiness in his mother’s voice was like a miracle. It made him read the Scriptures that Joshua had been sharing. The awful sounds of crying prisoners, in the background, and the stench in his nose, fades for the duration he can maintain the memory. So John tells us how he imagines the program is starting over again…and again…and again. It was the time he was given something, other than hatred; hope, love and access to the words of Jesus.
Imagine: What would be your manner of life; your state of mind; for you to actually cherish candy wrappers?
Can you recall the words, as you grew up, from teachers, parents, and friends about how this world offers a great promising future? As you got older you realized it was all garbage. People say they don’t know why there is so much mental illness, opioid addiction, divorce, suicide and school shootings.
You might understand it in the desperation of a third world country but America? People don’t have ‘candy wrappers’. They have access to everything yet have no happiness.
I have walked the streets of rich countries, preaching the living Jesus, and on college campuses, for over forty years. To find one open soul is a very rare thing. There is no “kenos”. They claim to know all about the Lord but have no clue how to effectively cope with the pressures of this world. Young people are raised in the iniquity of parents who have been conditioned to comply with American values.
A culture of poverty adjusts to the poor and uneducated. It makes room for them. It holds to Catholic values. America has no such adjustment. Get with it, regardless of age, or face the consequences. Parents are nowhere to be found. Teachers have no clue. The politically correct garbage does not discern between social issues and immaturity because of age.
Below David uses his mastery of various genre’s of music to ‘Hip Hop’ and ‘Chill’ out with a song he wrote of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Why did famous people Heath Ledger (Joker in Batman), Kurt Cobain, Avicii, Junior Seau, Chester Bennington, Robin Williams, Chris Farley and so many others, both known and unknowns, kill themselves? They had all that riches offer. But nothing can fill the void for your Creator. No purpose=No happiness. No meaning. Opioids and marriage. Big houses, fancy apartments, nice clothes and parties. Booze and entertainment. But when you get to the top you see something you were not prepared to see; it’s the same empty heart as at the bottom.
Below Ace Abe and my wife Rachel perform a play about a girl chasing butterflies for happiness and a Prince (on stilts-the amazing Abraham) tells her that she must become a butterfly.
People living in rich nations, especially the young, are abnormally subject to a culture of immense anxiety and pressures, scandal, perversion, internet dominance, media distortion and many other things that do not exist in third world countries. The obsession of parents to focus their children on boyfriend-girlfriend relationships results in catastrophic consequences.
Rejection is ‘nuclear’ to the feelings of an adult. How much more devastating to the ill-prepared and immature? So when children (and they are only children) face rejection and breakups it begins a wound of mental breakdown. American children face things a child of the same age, in a 3rd world, will not face until their mid-thirties.
Below Joshua loves the kids as a kid.
It is phenomenal how much children absorb. I remember all the impressions I received as a child. Children become what they are taught. They learn hypocrisy or humility. Imagine a child who learns “kenos”. It does no good for a child to be given false dreams that at a latter age result in disillusionment and depression. The Word of God offers the reality of a dangerous and sick world, but also, hope and promises fulfilled by faith.
And, lest you think this perspective is that of an isolated religious vagabond, consider a famous man like Sylvester Stallone, in the movie Rocky:
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world is not butterflies and rainbows. It’s a cold cruel dirty place. And it doesn’t care how tough you think you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there as long as you let it. Not you, not me, not anybody can hit as hard as life. But it’s not about how hard you get it hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. About how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. “
(Side picture: Abraham, Sarah, Ruth, Shalom, Joshua, and David organized a birthday celebration of games and competition for a juvenile center of orphan young men who will never have a real birthday.)
You only live once. Who are YOU? Don’t take the easy way out my friend. Maybe not today, but the day is coming when you will terribly regret the fruits of lazy pride. Give up and give in to the cross of Jesus.
TO SELL, BUY AND PAY– The Game of Christianity
We beg you not to play “church”. The Greek word for foreknowledge is “prognosis”. Like a doctor who can tell you the effects of a disease, the effects of hypocrisy can be ‘foretold’. If you walk the path of hypocrisy it will become “impossible” to change (Matt. 19:23ff).
Today’s false preachers sell a “prosperity gospel”. The naive buy this false image and commodity to claim “I am a Christian. Look and see”. They each pay the price of their souls. They sell, buy and pay each other a lie, for the lie that agrees with finding a comfortable life in this world. Amidst some 20,000 denominations, they insist they are different than “lost souls”. Yet when confronted with their many contradictions and hypocritical living they are quick to rationalize “Well nobody’s really different or perfect”.
Anything to do with unregulated exposure to awkward situations, with the outside world of sinners, is forbidden. And anyone confronting this lie or living the truth is denounced as a vagabond “accuser”. They ask “Where’s your love?” while they themselves are do nothing, but token ‘works’, to care for others. Christianity is played within the confines of a building they call “the church”. It can be huge or you and one other person.
Have you ever seen a picture of the statue called “The Thinker”? Most statues commemorate a person or historical event. This statue is simply of a man sitting, with his head resting on his hand, with his elbow on his knee. It is obviously commemorating the posture of thinking; the art of contemplation.
I beg you, forget what everybody else around you says for a moment. If God is real would He not want you to think individual thoughts? The conformity of non-thinking to the system of “Christianity” is nothing more than political correctness. Peer pressure.
Please, my friend, don’t waste your life. Don’t listen to “Christians” who draw their religious sounding babel out of their mental warehouse of excuses based on sermons, cliches and delusion. They don’t care about you. They care that you might expose them as hypocrites. Jesus wouldn’t even be allowed to speak in the “churches” of today. He is not submitted to a “Pastor”, only His Father. He has none of the scholastic credentials or ‘speaker’ qualifications. His preaching is not based on emotional hype or anecdotes of humor but on reality. He does not preach “church” attendance and a sinner’s prayer. He proclaims “Come follow Me“.
Likewise, Paul would be labeled a “rebel”. The “super-apostles” didn’t recognize him. His rebuke of the “prosperity” teaching and the love of money and comfort would be classified “You’re not being loving”.
Do something novel. Think. Pray. Force your mind to express your heart to a Father Who loves you. Find a place of solitude and force your spirit to expand. I have never seen a car fix itself. Have you? Never seen a refrigerator cut the grass or a computer wash the floor. No machine can do something it was not manufactured to do. It is a limited machine.
Not so with you and me. We each have the profound potential to change. I remember in college when I first began reading the Scriptures. The idea that God offered to change me was fascinating. He calls it repentance but it means “change of mind” (metanoia).
You will stand alone before God. So think alone now. His true blessing and destiny await one who will pick up his cross of personal accountability to follow Jesus. To care about others hearing the gospel. Jesus says “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few”.
The apostle Paul writes about the essential need for a man to think for himself. ; to think differently. It is our greatest accountability. It is a stunning reality but the majority merely acquiesce to common thinking.
Today’s modern “Christianity” thinking is an integral part of Satan’s conspiracy against the truth. One man, calls himself a “preacher’. He projects an image with a rhetoric to sell his version of a “salvation” of trite involvement. It provides a good feeling of smiles and positive lingo about one’s own self as being righteous without one minor thing, the cross.
(Below we get all men to be STILL with Tae Kwon Do posture)
Each person has the free will to believe whatever, or whoever, you want. Nobody will stop you from deception. The witness of my family and I, is to the truth that the promises of the living Jesus, in His Word, produce eternal life and dynamic oneness; John 17:11. I would be lying if I said otherwise.
My dearest friend, you have no idea how much you have to give and have been given. The Father is waiting to use you. You can see, hear, smell, walk, sing and do things you can’t now imagine. Aside from the most basic provisions of housing, food, transportation etc. you are offered all the riches and promises in God’s Word. You have no idea how much you can do, and say, to help someone else. Multitudes are waiting for your candy wrappers.
Sarah and I tried to share the gospel with an older Spanish-speaking couple at the park the other day; “Good Lutherans”. It was hard to get a word in; ” We are saved by grace and need not DO anything.” Such thinking is nothing more than silly nonsense. When I asked if they ever shared the gospel with others they laughed and accused Sarah and I of being a cult and insisted “works” won’t save us. I wonder. Could it ever be about love not doctrine? I get uptight and fail often but I have learned personally so much of how to reside in His “abode” of love (Jn.14:23).
Today people think that to call yourself a Christian means you are one. They assimilate tons of doctrines from sermons. Then they equate sentimental feelings of ‘love’ for Christ, and doing good works, or throwing token money (tithe), here and there, with salvation. Then, when they find themselves confronted by awkward issues, interwoven into the gospel, they find themselves rationalizing and justifying their disobedience because their house is actually built on sand (Mt.7:21ff). They don’t understand joy because, in reality, they are living by the very thing they oppose “works” for righteousness. If you live by legalistic feelings of a troubled conscience then you are headed for a “shipwreck” (1 Tim.1:19). Hypocrites use hand-picked doctrines to block out accountability. Nothing worse than to choose hypocrisy over the wonderful ways of freedom in Jesus.
Jesus did not have aliens in His mind when He said: “Go into all the world…preach the gospel”. Yet every “Christian” we talk to insists “Oh, witnessing is not for me. That’s nice for you but don’t put your calling on us”. My name is not in the Bible. They must be waiting for the aliens yet to come to earth to obey God’s Word. The truth is Jesus calls the most common and the most nothing (1 Cor.1:20ff). Surely a fisherman had no schooling. I have no in-born ability or desire to tell men about Jesus. It’s not ” my calling”. It’s my choice. It’s the energy from knowing His love. We love because He first love us. He makes us care.
Paraguay had a big race event. Of course, all my guys entered it, including Resilient Rachel, to both run it and to witness at it. It was spectacular. Some ten thousand people. Everyone did fantastic. Lo and behold our “little” Rachel actually won first place in her category. No little feat (feet) considering she has a stride befitting her petite stature. Sorry, got to brag on our sweetheart mother. Despite all her many burdens she manages to run each day and to give her all the highest call.
It was amazing but Relentless Ruth went up and talked to the man in charge. She told him about us being here in their country and asked if she could say a few words to the large crowd with the microphone. I thought it was in vain. He would never do so.
Well, as often times, I was wrong. He gave her the stage and she came through with a beautiful testimony to the living Jesus. She shared about the steel rod in her leg and how she was in a wheelchair. How Jesus raised her up and now she runs in many races. So this testified to
how they can tap His redemptive power and find His healing in all their situations.
As I grew up I saw the lives of three of my brothers end in tragedy; divorce, drugs, and perversion. I did one “little” thing at the age of twenty that led me into this beautiful life. I gave my life to the living Jesus. Your life will either end in the trash heaps of this wicked world or the divine destiny of the living God. You can invest in a life of sacrifice by caring for others with the love of Jesus or live a life of empty existence for yourself. The choice is yours…right now.
When you walk the wire, remember Satan is a liar,
his lies bind you tighter
so don’t fuel his fire or let his burning conspire
against the higher calling of your thoughts.
Be a fighter with truth as your attire and the Spirit as your rider.
For the blood is your buyer
and grace your supplier
peace the umpire
and faith the provider
of the promises of God as your advisors.
Your desire has already transpired so do not tire,
the saints look on as admirers,
for your foundation is now laid in sapphires.
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A- ONE Abe and Battle heart Elizabeth use humor to help free up the men out of the prison surroundings to laugh and have fun.
SECTION A– Prison life
Over the past ten years, my family and I have worked very hard to penetrate the prisons in South America with the gospel of Jesus. It could never happen in the states but there is a huge harvest throughout the world. As a result of relentless prayer, and such efforts, God opened doors that we never imagined.
I share this to motivate some young sincere man or woman who loves Jesus. People told me I had to have a group support me. Not so. Another nation is only a Hotel and plane reservation away. It is no small endeavor but the rewards of personal fulfillment are enormous. Little did we ever expect what we now know. What we have touched, and been touched by, has changed our lives. We have uncovered a reality, not unlike the concentration camps created by Hitler.
Along with all the innumerable horrors of human suffering; drug addiction, serial killers, abortion, child abuse, human trafficking, etc. being subject to prison is one of the worst tragedies on the face of the earth. As tons of “Christians” get re-saved for the tenth time, or “share a word” with a deluded congregation, who render no true repentance, there are literally millions who would give anything to hear what you have to share. To just have you come and talk to them. To touch their shoulder or hug them.
Try to imagine the severe physical and mental anguish, of living in such hell, moment by moment, with the consciousness of having five, ten, thirty or more years, with not a shred of hope for escape. then compound them with all the hours, days, weeks, months, years of doing their sentence and nothing but sitting and sleeping in filth and stench.
Below is the art work shop in the biggest prison. It is a very rare provision.
No friends. No contact. No food or nutrition. Slop. No outlet. Nothing to look forward to. No park. No grass. No clean shower or change of clothes. Every view they have is of the exact same walls of hopeless despair. Never an escape. I’ve said these things before in some variation and I will say them many times yet to come because they constantly turn in my mind.
Mighty Mercy brings her fire to all who see her flame. Memories of guilt and regret haunt their minds. They can not run away or hide. Barbed wire reminds them their label is “Dangerous (locked away) Criminal”. The other day I told a group that, in God’s eyes, all men are both criminals and victims. They were not inbred criminals. They spontaneously erupted into applause. That’s how much it is on their minds.
There’s a prison in Paraguay of five thousand men that is like walking into a mental ward. We see things we don’t want our minds to deal with. If you dare look closely into the eyes of these men absolute devastation and hopelessness. They have abandoned their soul and resorted to animal instincts of survival. They are hanging by a thread of human existence.
Imagine trying to sleep with ten other guys in 90-degree heat and no mattress or air to circulate. Imagine being sick or having a tooth ache or broken bone. Having no hope causes another wave of mental decline. No loving touch. No outside conversations. Some guards treat them worse than animals in a zoo.
Super Sarah works to bring young people out of themselves as she conducts her “Leadership Challenge” at a local Paraguay school.
Then to see these same guys smile at us because of something we say or do. They instantly know our names. They just want to hear us talk to them. When we see them care about us when nobody cares about them. We have received more love from them than anyone we have ever known in the states.
They ask for stuff then apologize when they realize we don’t have stuff because are not supported by anyone and are not rich Americans. Yet some overflow with gratitude and insightful phrases. After studying us as a family this guy told me “You realize Michael that you have built yourself your own private army”.
We asked a guy what he thought of our performance. What could we do better? He said, to be honest, the performance was great. But what was really powerful was your kindness. Your humility in bringing yourselves as a family was most powerful.
Indeed, an army of kenosis love. An army highly skilled in combat compassion. Of “special ops” listeners. We toil constantly with things we could buy to give them but always come to the point that there is nothing greater than the gospel of eternal life. The simple choice to heed Jesus saying “I was in prison and you did not visit Me” (Mt.25:34ff). Now we must do here in Brazil what we have done so many times in so many places all over again all over the world. It is difficult to find an affordable place to live and share the gospel as we travel. It demands a great deal of prayer, leg work, phone, money and computer access to access various entities. So any help would be greatly appreciated. Although we expect none. And if we ever get it we see it as coming from God. Come, Lord Jesus. Hallelujah.