As we travel the world to share the love and truth of the living Jesus, we aim to reach as many as possible in sincerity and wisdom. We often work on the streets as Jesus, Peter, Paul, James and John did. We encounter hundreds of thousands, even millions of people from all walks of life (i.e. Carnaval in Rio De Janeiro). Our thinking is to reach out to as many as possible with a witness to Jesus. Since I started long ago as a young zealous man, I have learned ever higher ways of maturity and depth and am always learning greater ways to express the life that Jesus freely offers.
My intention in warning others of the rampant deception today is not to harm, offend, or to “judge” anyone, but bring truth among so many lies. Both Jesus and Paul spoke no harsher words than to the false Christians who seek only to boost their egos and pad their pocketbooks (Read, Mt.23 and 2Tim.3:5). I wish I could share here the countless individuals who have come up to me and told me, that they spent years of their lives invested into a group of what they thought were Christians only to find out it was fake and phony.
My friend, today, there are over 300,000 “churches” in America alone. There are over 67,000 denominations of Christianity. The modern “churches” bring in over 626 Billion dollars in tithes and donations each year. Any intelligent person can see that this does not reflect the words of Jesus spoken in the New Testament.
My hope is to spare you the grief and pain of regret of years wasted. A wise man builds his house upon rock. No matter how you look at it; a nice, smiley, pre-scripted Sunday service does not provide the deep answers needed to face the complex tragedies and difficulties in life. Jesus shed His blood on the cross, died and rose again to provide the Fathers solution to our deepest issues. Paul explains that salvation can only be found in personal study of the Scriptures and experience with the Living Jesus (Gal.1:12, Mt.11:28). The outcome, is man or woman born again to become the true church and ‘bride of Christ’ (Jn.3:3).
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” -Paul, 1 Tim.1:15
I often tell men in prison that I do not see them as “criminals” or “offenders” or “inmates” but rather as my fellow brothers in humanity. This offends some as it is a common thing to want to push ourselves up the scale of “righteousness” by pushing others down. But Jesus did the opposite, so I follow His lead. While, yes, of course serious crimes have been committed and an earthly justice is being administered. But who is to say that you and I, who can so easily point a finger, would not, could not or will not do something that could be condemned as a crime in a some random situation that life throws at us? Have you ever sped through a neighborhood in a hurry? What if someone jumped out in front of you? Imagine yourself being faced with a 7-10 year sentence for manslaughter for a mistake you made. Would you not want compassion? Or what if, in a fit of rage you deliberately did some unthinkable thing? It is not as far from anyone as we might like to thing. The nature of sin in all of us drives us to do things we never imagined. This is not excuse the crime but to understand it.
Mercy triumphs over natural thinking (judgement) Jm.2:13. It is a common line that a criminal get what he deserves. As if anyone man is able to adequately evaluate all the circumstances and issues, both inner and outward to execute proper justice and appropriate sentences. But God never intended any man to live inside of a cage of walls and barbed wire. The mental agony that this causes can be crippling. Jesus says in Matthew 25:35 that what we do for the least of His brothers, and those in prison, we do for Him. He knew the pain of loneliness and isolation.
My intention is provide an accurate Scriptural understanding of the matters of sin and crime and our human nature in light of God reveals. I have seen ‘hardened criminals’ open their minds and hearts in ways that are quite astounding. I have seen men change. Whether living in prison or after being re-inserted into society I believe that Christ can provide all men with redemption and not only a second chance at life, but a life of second chances.
About 35 years ago I met a young man named Rusty Yates on a university who expressed interest in wanting to follow Jesus. We exchanged a few letters back and forth over several years I as did with a few dozen other students across the country. Long story short he got married and started a family. We had sparse contact over about a decade and a half and met them a few times. He indicated that he wanted to raise his children to love the Lord and travel and have a family as I a did. I cautioned him that this is not an easy undertaking and told him not to try to imitate my life. He had an intense job at NASA and his wife had severe mental issues and was abusing powerful prescription drugs. We fell out of touch for several years. One day, while he was at work, she committed a unspeakable and egregious crime.
My family and I were working in Mexico at the time when I heard of the crime on the news. My wife and I were devastated and could not believe it. We were distant, but we loved him and his family and would have done anything to try to help them.
As the trial began, desperate to find a motive, some involved tried to say that my letters of sharing gospel with them, written years before, influenced her in some way. Both Rusty and the courts dismissed this as being ridiculous. However, tabloid magazines picked up the story and began writing fantastical lies about me and my family. I was naive to the media machine that fed on sensationalism. ‘Respectable’ news sources fabricated entire stories about my life without ever speaking to me or meeting me. Authors and journalists looking to market their books and articles deliberately distorted various issues, made up things that never happened and took parts of the message of the gospel out of context to try to paint a picture of me that could not have been further from the truth. I was devastated.
This was in the early days of the internet about 18 years ago. I had never been on the internet and was unaware how it all worked. A student from Penn State University began posing as a large group of people by using multiple online identities. He began contacting every news outlet who covered the store, but by phone and internet posting feeding them sensational stories and lies about me. This was in the era of internet chat rooms and AOL personal pages. He spent years taking over any mention of my name on the internet and carrying out what is considered anonymous “cyber bullying”.
While I was often working in homeless shelters, prisons, schools, orphanages, hospitals, and on the streets in the third world, I was completely unaware of this. The internet at that time had little to no impact on most peoples daily lives. I didn’t use it or even understand what was going on.