Not long ago I received a letter from a woman in a Florida jail who read one of my books and wrote to say thank you. This is what she said:
Dear Pastor Ray,
Hello, my name is Rosalie. I am currently incarcerated in Florida. I have been addicted to drugs and alcohol for over 5 years, and have been in and out of this facility a dozen times over the past three years. Until recently, I didn't "want" to believe in God. I knew he was real, but I just refused to accept him. I had in a sense turned my back on him. I've just now recently realized why.
I was ashamed of myself! How could I let my life get so bad? How could I now turn "to" God and ask for his forgiveness after I basically kept nailing his Son Jesus to the cross every day? Day after day!?!? What was "I" thinking? Looking back now, all I can do is hang my head in shame. Even though I have repented, I do not feel worthy. After all, I had basically broken almost every commandment within one year of using drugs for the first time.
Today I am 33, and a grateful, God-fearing Christian in recovery. Even though I'm in jail, my spirits are high. I've rededicated my life to God. I thank him every day for sending Jesus to die on the cross, and shed his blood for my sins. What a wonderful God we have! I am so thankful for being given the chance to "come to the Lord." I could have died out on those streets. I know this now, God has a plan for me. This fact helps me to look forward to tomorrow. Maybe I'll be able to help a young girl somewhere to stop using drugs by telling her my story. Whatever he has planned for me, I'm waiting patiently to find out.
I've been using my "time" wisely. Reading my Bible and as many books pertaining to it as possible. In fact I've just finished reading An Anchor for the Soul. All I can say is WOW! What a moving piece of literature. The man that needed the "certificate" brought a tear to my eye (very moving indeed). I was especially surprised when you mentioned Hudson, Florida. I was raised in Hudson, I've been here all my life. It made me feel like I know you so I just had to write to you to thank you!
Your book inspired me, now I know I've just gotta keep reading, believing, and trusting in the Lord, and things will start to get better . . . Actually they already have.
Healing in Hudson,
PS Feel free to share this letter with others. Again thank you!! And God Bless.
Several things struck me as I read her letter. First, her experience shows that we often have to hit rock bottom before we finally look up and see the Lord. Second, no one is truly beyond the grace of God. That's why we witness and pray and hope and believe. Third, salvation is a miracle of God in the human heart. Rosalie said that for a long time, she didn't "want" to believe in God. Unless God intervened, she would never have changed at all. But when God enter the human heart, our desires are changed from the inside out. Fourth, spiritual growth is a journey, not a destination. Being in prison or out doesn't change the fundamental things of life. We all have the same choice to make--to live for the Lord and not for ourselves every single day. And I think that's hard to do for all of us. Rosalie has determined to serve the Lord right where you she is. God bless her, and God bless the "church behind bars" in every prison and every jail in America. And God bless every chaplain and those who remember the prisoners in Jesus' name.
To sign up for Pastor Ray's free weekly sermon email list, click here. You can find his daily weblog, online sermons, travel schedule, and other resources at www.keepbelieving.com. You can write Pastor Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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