Ambassadors for Christ by Bob Struebel
For the last six months, Ron Fields and I have been working as Chaplain’s volunteers at Garza West in Beeville. We are teaching a class every Thursday morning as well as speaking in church services one or two Saturdays each month.
In addition to the other chaplain’s volunteers, there are three field ministers who transferred in from the Darrington unit. We consider it a great privilege to represent Christ as volunteers in the TDCJ system.
We are ambassadors of the Anointed One who carry the message of Christ to the world, as though God were tenderly pleading with them directly through our lips. So we tenderly plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Turn back to God and be reconciled to him.”
2 Corinthians 5:20 TPT
A couple of weeks ago, our Thursday morning class was about the normal state of mind for Christ followers. When our minds are busy with the cares and concerns of this world, we sometimes miss out on God’s guidance and direction for our lives. When our minds are quiet, calm and at rest we can more easily hear the still small voice of God. Elijah the prophet experienced this as he stood before the Lord on Mt Horeb.
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
I Kings 19:11-12 NKJV
The bad weather I had driven thru that morning arrived at Garza West during our class. After class was over, I was completely drenched during the long walk back from the faith based dorm, thru the main gate and into the parking lot. Several inches of water covered the sidewalks and the parking lot as the downpour continued.
Despite the bad driving conditions and the flash flood alert, I was able to get some fast food in Refugio before heading home. My mind was completely calm as I trusted God for safe travels home. I was rejoicing with the Lord for the favor we had that day in the class.
After driving thru a flooded portion of I-77, we finally made it to higher ground. I had the car heater and the seat heater on high for a long time. I was rejoicing in the Spirit for the privilege of serving him, with very little concern for the bad weather or my own personal comfort.
The bad weather subsided for a few minutes as we continued driving north. Then I heard a whisper like the sound of the breeze blowing thru the leaves of the trees. I had to listen very closely, as I heard the same still small voice again in my spirit. The Lord spoke these words to me:
“Now, I see your heart”
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What are You Thinking About? by Bob Struebel
As we go about our daily lives, what we think about will have a major impact on the overall direction and outcome of our lives.
We all know that “bad company corrupts good character” (I Cor. 15:33). However, the following scripture shows that we are more than just the company that we keep.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
When we delight in and meditate on the law of the Lord we habitually ponder and study his precepts, instructions and teachings. This can be accomplished by reading or listening to the Bible. We also have Christian TV and radio programs, as well as 24 hour online access to sermons, testimonies, Bible commentaries and other in depth material. All this is in addition to what we learn at church and in our home groups.
Unfortunately, the snares of bad company are many. We may use our smart phones to check the weather and end up reading a news article about some atrocious crime. Or we might check social media to keep up with friends and family, and end up reading harsh and inflammatory comments that tear down instead of building up.
Before we know it, we have spent a lot of time in bad company, thinking bad thoughts that corrupt good character. We are at risk of becoming complacent, instead of taking a stand against the evil of this world.
“…we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature, obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of God’s wrath and heirs of His indignation, like the rest of mankind."
Instead, we must be in the world, but not of the world. It takes discipline (spiritual exercise) to remain strong in the Lord. Thankfully, as Christ followers, we have the Holy Spirit in us. This does not mean our life will be easy, but it does mean that God is with us.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
In the end, as we meditate on the Word of God, our thoughts will line up with his thoughts, our lives will be changed, and we will become as strong as a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.
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How Big is Your Mountain? by Bob Struebel
Recently, I had a discussion with some friends about the help that God gives us as we go about our daily lives. Since God actually lives in us (through the Holy Spirit), he is available for any need we may have.
Often, we ask for more love, more joy or more peace. Perhaps the need is to be a better spouse, parent or employee. Or maybe we need help with some big project or test. We are asking for his help in our everyday lives.
And then there are needs that require a miracle of God. One of the definitions for "miracle" is "An event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God” As Christ followers who carry God’s presence with us everywhere we go, we can expect to see his divine intervention in the world around us. When Jesus cursed the fig tree, it withered and died. He used this to illustrate the power we have available to us.
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
In this example the mountain could be any major obstacle in our path. When we have regular conversation with God, our desires begin to line up with His desires. Maybe the question is not so much how big is our mountain, but how desperate is our faith.
There are times when we must depend on God to do the impossible. Perhaps we have never had to trust him for anything this big before.
The story of Jesus healing the demon possessed boy illustrates God’s compassion for us, even when we are not sure he can help us. Here Jesus is asking about the harm the demon was causing to this man’s son:
So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Perhaps your needs are not as dramatic as moving mountains or casting out demons, but think of those around us who need a miracle from God. We can pray and believe on their behalf, demonstrating the love of God to the world around us.
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A Vital Necessity by Bob Struebel
On July 1st, we began teaching a class at the faith based men’s dormitory at the Garza West Unit in Beeville. The class is based on a book by Joyce Meyer called “Battlefield of the Mind”. The author makes the point that wrong thinking is often the result of strongholds the devil has in our minds. A brief personal story will illustrate my point.
After living life my way for 43 years, I was miserable and without hope. One day I cried out to God and said “I would rather die than keep living like this!” He heard my cry and began working in his own mysterious way. Shortly thereafter, I developed a tremendous hunger to read the Bible. I began reading the Book of Matthew, and continued reading at least eight hours a day, every day. After two weeks of immersion in the truth of the Word of God, I took inventory of my life. There were six major decisions I had made, and I had several Bible verses that specifically addressed each of those six decisions. Unfortunately, all six decisions were wrong, and I learned that if I were to die that night, I would definitely spend eternity in hell. However, I also understood that I could surrender control of my heart and life to Christ, and that he would save me and set me free so that I could serve him. Of course, I gave my heart and life to Christ that night, which changed my eternal destiny.
Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new person. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new.
II Corinthians 5:17
My life prior to that night was in chaos because of years of wrong thinking. I had believed the devil’s lies, and he had several strongholds in my life. In order for me to become an entirely new person (enfolded into Christ). It was a vital necessity that I get my thinking straightened out!
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
II Corinthians 10:3-5
Our weapons to demolish the devil’s strongholds are the Word of God, praise (worship) of God, and prayer (conversation) with God.
As I was discipled by other believers, I began to speak the truth of the Word of God thru prayer and thru praise. Wrong thinking (the devil’s lies) was replaced with right thinking (what Jesus says). One stronghold after the next came tumbling down!
Today, I am an entirely new person in Christ. All that is related to the old order has vanished!
God’s Love (from JJF’s “My View”) by Bob Struebel
John J Franciskovich (JJ) stepped into the arms of his Heavenly Father on Father’s Day (6/20/2021). He is finally free from the bondage of ALS. There will be a CELEBRATION OF LIFE SERVICE on July 10th at Ignite Church in Bay City at 10:00 am.
Many of you knew John as past Chairman of South Texas Prison Outreach. John was also a great friend and mentor as we ministered together in the county jail and the state prison. In his honor, I have included one of the last STPO newsletter articles he wrote for July of 2017.
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Most of us know JOHN 3:16 by heart and can quote it word for word, but have we really taken the time to think of what it saying. We can get a fresh perspective of JOHN 3:16 by looking at 1 JOHN 4:8-11
8. He who does not love does not know God.
9. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
10. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 JOHN 4:8-11
As we can see in VERSE 9, “the love of God was manifested toward us.” This makes it more personal; that God loved me so much He sent His Son to take my place to pay the debt I owed. That is a lot of love!
Why am I so important to deserve this love? It is because we are to take His love to our family, church, community, and to those in the jail and prisons. VERSE 11, Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
We have to know in our heart, and understand God’s love in order to love others in the way God instructs us. When we go to the world around us people will want this love also.
When I go to the prisons, I am asked why do I care, and my answer is because God loves you so much that He sent us to share with you God’s love. He loves you so much that He wants to help you to change your life. At times after hearing this they will open up and say they never experienced this kind of love.
As we look at our county and the division between people, it’s because they have lost God’s kind of love. They are so focused
on what divides us. As we quote JOHN 3:16 AND 1 JOHN 4:8- 11, and show the love of God by demonstrating that we can love each other despite our differences, only because God loved us first, then their hearts can be softened toward God.
On behalf of S.T.P.O. members we want to wish each and everyone a safe and Happy 4th of July. Remember to take God’s love everywhere you go.
********** end of July 2017 article
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How God Lives and Works in Us by Bob Struebel
I have heard some believers talk about themselves as “Christians under construction”. My question is: “At what point does the owner of the house actually move in and take up residence?” This is an interesting question, because the Old Testament model clearly shows that the Temple construction must be complete. Then the furnishings are consecrated, the priest are consecrated and numerous blood sacrifices are made before the Presence of God begins to fill the Most Holy Place.
However, the New Testament model is very different. When we invite Jesus to be Savior and Lord of our lives, he immediately begins working in us. In fact, he is eager to begin relationship with us thru the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. He views relationship with us as more important than the physical condition of his new dwelling place. In fact it is the blood of Jesus that makes us acceptable before God.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
1 Peter 1:18-19
Furthermore, he desires that we join together with other like-minded believers, who are also Christians under construction!
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2: 4-5
This is why STPO has held Bible studies and church services in the Matagorda County Jail, so the people incarcerated there might come to know Christ personally, and be built up into the body of Christ inside the jail. We also have another opportunity to hold a church service this Saturday (June 5th) at Garza West in Beeville. This is a tremendous opportunity, and we thank everyone for your continued prayers!
Our annual election of officers will take place this Monday (June 7th) at 7pm at Ignite Church in Bay City. There are eight members of the board, and all eight positions are open for election each year. The board positions and the current slate of officers are shown on the back side of this newsletter. We accepted nominations for officers at our last meeting on May 3rd and will vote on these nominations this coming Monday evening. All members who have paid their dues are eligible to vote.
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Living in a Construction Zone by Bob Struebel
There is a difference between working in a construction zone and living in a construction zone. At the end of a work day, we can clean up, go home and enjoy some family time. However, if the demolition and construction activities are at your main residence, it can be dirty, noisy and inconvenient.
Perhaps you are living in a house with a lot of sweat equity. There is always some project, either in progress or on the horizon ahead. The same is true for our spiritual lives. The difference is God is the master builder, and we are his temple.
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."
I Cor 6:19-20
The ability to honor the God who lives in us is possible only as we develop our relationship with him. Each of us have a body, a soul and a spirit. Our relationship with God is strengthened when Holy Spirit interacts directly with our spirit. It is this relationship with Holy Spirit that gives us the guidance, strength and power to honor God in every area of our lives.
As members of South Texas Prison Outreach, we seek to honor God by sharing Christ with the men and women in the Matagorda County Jail. While the jail is open for visitation on the weekends, we have not yet resumed the Sunday morning church services and Tuesday evening Bible studies. We appreciate your prayers, as we are ready when needed.
Some of our STPO members have also served as chaplain’s volunteers in the TDCJ state prison system. We have an opportunity to hold a church service this Saturday (May 2nd) at Garza West in Beeville. This is a tremendous opportunity, and we thank everyone for your continued prayers!
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
Matthew 25: 35-36
Another item of business for STPO is the nomination of board officers for the upcoming elections. There are eight members of the board, and all eight positions are open for nominations. We will accept nominations for officers at our regularly scheduled meeting on this Monday, May 3rd. Annual elections of officers will take place on Monday, June 7th. Both of these meetings will be at 7pm at Ignite Church in Bay City.
Texas State Prison and County Jail Visitation Resumes by Bob Struebel
The good news for Texas is that we are now fully open after a year of restrictions due to COVID 19. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has resumed face to face in-person (no contact) visitation at all units statewide as of Monday, March 15th. Visits are by appointment only, and restrictions apply. Please check online at tdcj.texas.gov for more details.
For many years, on the first Sunday of the month, STPO volunteers held Sunday church services (morning and evening) at the Garza East unit in Beeville. The Garza East Unit was closed permanently in July of 2020. We are hoping to establish contact and begin serving as chaplain’s volunteers at one of the other TDCJ units in that area.
The Matagorda County Jail has also resumed visitation on the weekends only, using the phones in the visitation room. STPO will continue dialog with the Jail Captain to explore the possibility of Sunday morning church or Tuesday evening Bible study.
Lately we have had significant donations of paperback books for the men and women at the county jail. These donations include Bibles, devotional and Bible study books, as well as books and novels on a broad range of topics. Considering that there are about 150 inmates at the jail, they very much appreciate having a good selection of reading materials.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones this past year. It has been a tough year for many of us. One of the blessings that has come from all of this is that there are several more babies on the way! I have two nieces and two nephews who are each expecting a baby. One has already arrived and three more will follow over the next few weeks. One of our STPO members had four new grand babies born about 10 minutes apart. A family of five has now become a family of nine!
This Friday we remember the death and burial of Jesus the Messiah. The little baby who was born in Bethlehem eventually became a man of sorrow and suffering. He was even betrayed by one of his own disciples. When he was finally arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, all of his followers fled for their lives. The prophet Isaiah spoke these words many years before Jesus was even born:
"But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.
We can be thankful that Jesus did not remain in the grave. By the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit of the Living God, he arose from the grave and is now seated at the right hand of the Father!
Preparing for the Future by Bob Struebel
Last week, many families in South Texas lost their electricity as below freezing weather left the ERCOT power grid unable to meet the demand. While there is plenty of blame to go around, some families were able to keep the water running and the heat on.
Forced air furnaces (gas, oil and propane fuel) only work if you have a backup generator and the proper electrical wiring to keep the blower running. Some folks have a permanently installed emergency generator driven by an alternate fuel source. Others have portable generators which require at least two or three days worth of propane, gasoline or diesel fuel. Keeping the water pipes from freezing is another matter. Electrical freeze protection systems for exposed outdoor water lines also require a backup source of power. If there is no heat in the building, or if there is no water pressure to keep flow in the lines, the inside water pipes can sometimes freeze and break.
Most of us were not prepared for this freezing weather, and only got through by the mercy and grace of God. We are thankful for the generosity of family, friends and local communities who provided food and shelter for those in need. Severe weather events often dominate the news, especially when there is loss of life. Interestingly, the focus is mostly on how the survivors can be better prepared for the next weather emergency. Little thought is given to whether or not these same survivors are prepared for death and what lies beyond the grave.
How then do we prepare for the end of our lives? Having a will, a life insurance policy and a nest egg are all matters that benefit our survivors. The more important matter is the eternal destiny of our own soul. Jesus addressed the issue of eternal life with the Jewish people. After healing a paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, he said:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. John 5:24-25
Regarding the second resurrection and judgement beyond the grave, he said:
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. John 5:28-29
Please keep John and Linda Franciskovich in your prayers. John was our STPO Chairman for many years, and Linda was our Secretary. John is homebound, after recent hospitalization for pneumonia.
What if Your Cake is a Flop? by Bob Struebel
While preparing to write this article I decided to bake a layer cake. I had reasonable success last year using Baker’s Joy to prepare the 9” layer pans. This year, I decided to just grease the pans with Crisco. Maybe this would work if I let the layers cool completely before removing from the pan. However, being in a hurry, I tried to get the layers out after only 20 minutes of cooling. I was only 50% successful. The bottom layer looked like it came out of a volcano, so I hid it under the top layer and did my best to cover up my mistakes with frosting.
I had forgotten that Mom always greased the pans and dusted them with flour. I had taken two shortcuts and failed miserably! Rarely do we fail by adding extra steps to the instructions. Instead, we fail by taking shortcuts, and skipping over things that are not convenient.
Our relationships with others are particularly vulnerable if we take shortcuts. The damage may not show up right away, but eventually we will realize that something is wrong. Is it possible we are using COVID-19 as an excuse to neglect our family and loved ones? Social distancing may be necessary in some situations, but it can be carried to an extreme. There are creative ways to maintain family connections by sending letters, cards, flowers and gifts. Many parents and grandparents would love if their children would just call them on the telephone. My mom never really learned to send or receive text messages on her flip phone. She never even set up her voice mailbox. However, it really brightened her day to get a letter with pictures of her great grandchildren!
And what about our relationship with God? Is it really that important to meet together at church, or can we just watch the worship services online? Certainly those who are high risk, or quarantined because of illness should stay home, but what about the rest of us?
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill can’t be hidden. Also, people do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand. Then it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine so others can see it. Then they will see the good things you do. And they will bring glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Think about those who are incarcerated. With all visitation suspended, they have very little communication with families and friends.
Some of our STPO board members met with the jail captain recently to discuss possible ways we can reach out to those inside the Matagorda County jail. Please keep us in your prayers that we might be able to resume Sunday morning church services and Tuesday evening Bible studies.
Wisdom Takes the High Road by Bob Struebel
As we approach the end of this year, our nation is at a crossroads. How do we navigate the uncertainties ahead? Will we limit ourselves to a couple of personal New Year’s resolutions, or will we seek for a greater impact in the kingdom of God? It is interesting to note that God raises up all kinds of people to accomplish his purposes. In Exodus 31, we see the importance of the tabernacle. As the dwelling place of God, the Lord himself chooses the head craftsman.
The Lord said to Moses,“See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.
It is evident that being “full of the Spirit of God, with wisdom, and with understanding” is not just for leaders like Moses and Solomon. In old testament times, only a few people had a measure of the Spirit of God within them. One of the great advances of the new testament kingdom of God comes when we yield our hearts and lives to Christ, and the Spirit of God comes to dwell within us. It is not enough to have knowledge and great skill for the task. Everyday we see tremendously talented people at work all around us. However, only a few are full of the Spirit of God. How do we know the difference?
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
The context here is that we are like sheep following the Good Shepherd. Wolves may try to infiltrate the flock, but soon they are in the attack mode, as predators are prone to be! To avoid being led astray or devoured by false prophets, we need to put greater value on being “filled with the Spirit of God, with wisdom and with understanding” Galatians 5 sets the record straight.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
The Secret to Living is Giving by Bob Struebel
It was Christmas Eve, and I was working in a private care facility for troubled teenagers. We had two huge heavy bags full of wrapped Christmas gifts that had been donated to the children’s home thru CPS. As the senior child care worker, it was my job to sneak these gifts from the admin building into the locked down children’s dormitory.
At 02:30, I began dragging the first bag of gifts very slowly from admin, thru the boy’s living area, and into the staff area. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Each trip from admin to the staff area took about 25 minutes. By 03:30 the huge bags were secured in the staff area ready to hand out after breakfast. I had never seen so many children opening gifts on Christmas morning. Every child got at least two gifts. By 09:30, everyone was well fed and very happy.
Looking back on that experience, I was not the provider of the Christmas gifts, nor was I the one who handed out the gifts. I was merely the messenger; the delivery man. South Texas Prison Outreach has the opportunity to deliver Christmas gifts to the men and women incarcerated in the Matagorda County Jail. On December 8th, we will drop off enough shampoo, deodorant, soda and cookies for 150 inmates. H-E-B was kind enough to donate $50 towards the cost of the deodorant and shampoo.
It is through the generosity of area churches and individuals that we are able to purchase enough gifts and refreshments for the entire jail population. Because the jail is closed to visitors, we are unable to personally hand out the gifts and refreshments this year. Nor are we able to share the Christmas story personally with each group of inmates.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:13-14
Despite the restrictions, STPO has permission to drop off gifts, refreshments and Christmas devotional booklets. The jail staff are the ones who will bring the gifts and refreshments to each living area. STPO has also dropped off many boxes of paperback books and Bibles to support the inmate book table. Because of your generosity, the inmates in the county jail know they are not forgotten!
Giving Thanks in Tough Times by Bob Struebel
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, you may be wondering “how can we give thanks during a pandemic?” The gospel of Mark, chapter 6 gives us great insight into how Jesus and his followers responded during times of adversity. In the beginning of the chapter (v. 1-6), Jesus and the disciples return to his hometown of Nazareth. The people there saw him only as the carpenter’s son, and could not accept him as a prophet and teacher. However, not to be discouraged, Jesus then sent the disciples out two by two to cast out devils and to heal the sick. He warned them that some towns may not accept their witness, and they just needed to shake off the dust and move on to the next town (v. 7-13).
Perhaps the worst part of this story is how King Herod was persuaded to cut off the head of John the Baptist (v. 14-29). Remember that John the Baptist was related to Jesus thru Mary’s sister Elizabeth. Perhaps John and Jesus even played together as children. At this point Jesus meets with his disciples:
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:32-34
Here we see that Jesus had compassion on the people. As tired and hungry as he and the disciples were, their hearts were full of love for the people who followed them. Thus we see these men were not deterred by their adverse circumstances, nor by the death of John the Baptist. Instead, they were looking for opportunities to serve God. They were about to see one of the greatest miracles in the Bible that came from simply giving thanks to God!
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. Mark 6:41-44
Jesus shows us how we can thank God for even the smallest blessing (five loaves and a couple fish), trusting Him to provide the increase. When we focus on the needs of others, we can be sure our heavenly Father will take care of our needs as well. This is especially true today during the coronavirus outbreak here in America.
My Journey to see Daddy by Bob Struebel
Last year, I had the chance to join my brother for a trip to Israel. We flew 7,800 miles from Phoenix thru Newark to Tel Aviv. The theme of our trip was “Israel-God’s Story”. There were many highlights of the tour as we traveled by bus and on foot. From the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south. It was wonderful to walk where Jesus walked and to experience Israel as it is today. However, I was hungry to experience the presence of God. Perhaps you are wondering what that means. Could there be more to relationship with God than reading the Bible and going to church? I was about to find out.
On Wednesday evening we arrived at the Jerusalem Grand Court Hotel. I was amazed to find out we were staying three nights in room 777. It was like walking thru a door into another world. When I speak about God the Father to my closest friends, I call him Papa. However, when I speak directly to Papa, I often call him Daddy. I knew that I was about to encounter Him there in the Holy City. The following afternoon we took a couple hours to visit the Jerusalem Prayer Tower. The entire top floor of this fourteen story building is dedicated to prayer and intercession for the people of Israel and especially for Jerusalem.
There were people playing musical instruments, singing, praying and even dancing. There were some words in English, but mostly in Hebrew. I was reminded of the story where King David brings the Ark of the Covenant back up into the City of David in 2 Samuel 6:13-15. "Those carrying the ark of the Lord took six steps forward. Then David sacrificed a bull and a fat calf. David was wearing a sacred linen apron. He danced in front of the Lord with all his might. He did it while he was bringing up the ark of the Lord. The whole community of Israel helped him bring it up. They shouted. They blew trumpets." King David was so excited to have the presence of God back in Jerusalem. His celebration gave the entire Hebrew nation great cause to rejoice.
As I began worshipping and praying in the Spirit that afternoon, I had an open vision where everything else faded away. There was a father playing with his little boy. The boy was so happy as he ran into his father’s arms. As children often do, he kept running and leaping and dancing right back into his father’s arms. The vision was repeated several times in the last 45 minutes of our time at the prayer tower. I understood that I was the little boy and Daddy was the father. I experienced great inner healing of my heart in those few minutes.
A couple days later, we were able to pray at the Western Wall, where the Jews believe the Divine Presence rests. It was so worth it to travel thousands of miles just to see Daddy at the top of the Jerusalem Prayer Tower!
My Refuge and My Strength by Bob Struebel
As I write this article, Hurricane Laura is about to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana state line. Unsurvivable storm surges of up to 20 feet are predicted in surrounding areas. What does this mean? There will be search and rescue missions. Stories of people whose lives are miraculously spared. Ordinary people will become heroes as they risk their lives to save others from drowning. Despite the warnings by state and local officials, some people will be unable or unwilling to leave the coastal areas. Those who are handicapped, lacking transportation, or unaware of the impending disaster are especially at risk.
How can we help? As intercessors, we can lift up our prayers to Almighty God on behalf of those in harm’s way. Psalm 46 tells us to place our confidence in God our refuge, especially when the earth gives way and the waters roar and foam. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3
When we give praise and glory to God, we acknowledge his desire to help us in our time of trouble. This is one of the best ways to overcome the enemy in our times of adversity. Psalm 95 tells us that both the sea and the land belong to him. “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” Psalm 95:1-5
We have the authority to rebuke the wind and the waves just like Jesus did on the Sea of Galilee. “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:37-39
Even in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic and a very active hurricane season, we cannot fear and we must not lose hope. We appreciate your continued prayers for those who are incarcerated. The Matagorda County Jail is still under quarantine. Let us pray this pandemic would end, so that we can resume Sunday morning services and Tuesday evening Bible studies.
Under the shadow of the Almighty by Bob Struebel
According to Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Imagine how much different our lives would be if we were literally overshadowed by the presence of Almighty God. For the enemies of God, this is the last place they want to be. Others like Abraham, Moses and David, spent so much time in the presence of God they were known as the friend of God, able to see him face to face, and a man after God’s own heart.
Reading a bit further in Psalm 91, we find “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday”. Could the truths of Psalm 91 help us cope with a global pandemic that currently has our nation and much of the world under siege? Let’s read further: “A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.” Psalm 91:7
When we are overshadowed by the manifest presence of Almighty God, we have nothing to fear! He is the one who breathed life into Adam. “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7. It is through the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit thatHe raised Jesus Christ from death back to life.
“But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
Romans 8: 10-11
The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit is the very breath of God in us! “Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling” Psalm 91:10
The COVID 19 disease is nothing more than an attempt of the enemy to take the very breath from our lungs. When we make the Most High God our dwelling place, no plague will even come near our house. We have the very breath of God in us!
The King who Trusted in God by Bob Struebel
There was a King in the land of Judah named Hezekiah. Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. When the Assyrian king invaded Judah and threatened to destroy Jerusalem, Hezekiah went to the temple and fell on his face before God. That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. The Assyrian king immediately withdrew and returned home, where he was assassinated.
Hezekiah later became sick and was told by the prophet Isaiah to get ready to die. Instead of getting his affairs in order, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And he wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria.
II Kings 20:4-6
So how can we overcome a global pandemic that currently has our nation and much of the world under siege? Should we give in to the doubt, fear and unbelief of the world? We can certainly spend less time watching the news and more time on our faces before God.
The same God who gave Hezekiah fifteen more years to live sent Jesus Christ to be our Saviour and Lord! The blood of Jesus covers us as a robe of righteousness. We have nothing to fear! The effectual and fervent prayers of righteous men and women can truly change the course of a nation. We may not be able to go into the jails and prisons due to the quarantine, but we can ask the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords to send his angels in before us, preparing the way.
We are also dropping off Bibles and paperback books, as well as “Our Daily Bread” Devotionals. With visitation and church services suspended, it is important that the men and women in the jail can have access to the truth of the Word of God. One very important item of business for our July 6th meeting is our annual election of officers. All those who have paid their dues are eligible to vote. We look forward to seeing you at the July 6th meeting!
We Remember our Loved Ones by Bob Struebel
Today is Memorial Day, May 25, 2020. We remember and give thanks for those brave American men and women who died while in military service. This applies to wars and military operations here in North America as well as all other parts of the world. One example is the First World War, also known as the Great War. There were millions of lives lost in battle, with millions more wounded or taken as prisoners of war. At the end, the German, Austria-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russian empires all collapsed. Towards the end of the Great War, there was also the 1918 flu pandemic. About one third of the world’s population was infected. It is estimated between 17 to 50 million lives were lost. My grandfather’s mother died from this flu in 1918, when he was only six years old. Many members of the armed forces also died from this flu.
While there are still wars raging in other parts of the world, the concern many of us have today is the ongoing COVID-19 flu pandemic. Perhaps some of you have family, friends or coworkers who have been affected by this disease. Many of our loved ones are serving on the front lines in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities. We remember them daily in our prayers.
Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.
Here in Matagorda County, we are still concerned about those who work at and are incarcerated in the county jail. Sunday morning church services and Tuesday evening Bible studies are still suspended as the jail remains under quarantine. STPO has been able to collect and drop off paperback books for the men and women at the jail. We have also included some Bibles with each donation. Ignite Church has given approval for STPO to resume our monthly meetings on the first Monday of each month. Hopefully, you will all receive this newsletter before then.
One very important item of business for our June 1st meeting is our annual election of officers. Due to the cancelation of April and May meetings, we have not been able to discuss nominations for the eight board positions. We especially need nominations for the open positions of Secretary and Treasurer. For this reason, nominations will be discussed on June 1st and the elections will be postponed until our July 6th monthly meeting. I look forward to seeing each of you at our next meeting. Your support is greatly appreciated as we continue to reach the prisoners of South Texas with the good news that Jesus died so that we might live!
How to Cope in these Uncertain Times (Part 2) by Bob Struebel
Today is Arbor Day, April 24, 2020. The COVID-19 virus has spread throughout our country. Schools and churches remain closed, although some states are beginning to reopen a few businesses and construction activities. Visitation at the Matagorda County Jail remains suspended until further notice. Those who signed up for Tuesday night Bible studies in May will need to confirm if the suspension is still in place at that time. Our STPO monthly meeting (normally on Monday May 4th) is also canceled.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we can pray together for God to give our national, state and local leaders wisdom, direction, strength and courage. There are now over 26 million people signed up for unemployment. Many small businesses are closed. Schools have gone to computer based training over the internet. For the state of Texas, the energy business has been hit especially hard. Earlier this week, crude oil futures contracts traded well below zero dollars per barrel. Commodity traders holding contracts for crude oil delivery in May were actually paying others to take physical delivery for the crude oil they had already purchased! This is an example of the kind of uncertainty that all of us are facing.
Some of us are tired of being cooped up at home, away from our families and friends. Many are anxious to get back to work. In these uncertain times, we are blessed just to have a roof over our heads and food on the table. For most people in the world, the concerns of life are much more basic. Some are fighting for their next breath after being infected by this new coronavirus. Others are living on the streets and wondering where their next meal will come from. Even though the kingdoms of this world are shaken, the kingdom of our God will never be shaken. Perhaps you are wondering what Jesus would do in a time like this. How could God the Father let these things happen? It is precisely for these reasons that the Father sent his one and only Son into the world! One passage of the Bible sets all these things into perspective.
Quoting from the gospel according to St. John, chapter 10 in the New Living Translation:
“Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
John 10: 6-10
How to Cope in these Uncertain Times by Bob Struebel
I am writing this article on Sunday March 15, 2020. At the present time, we know there is an outbreak of a virus known as COVID-19. Our country is now under a state of emergency and many schools and churches are closed. Some employers have asked their people to work from home. Most of us want to know what lies ahead.
At present the TDCJ state prison at Garza East in Beeville is under quarantine until further notice. The Garza East unit will close permanently in August 2020. Visitation at the Matagorda County Jail has been suspended until further notice. Those who signed up for Tuesday night bible studies in April will need to confirm if the suspension is still in place at that time. Ignite Church has been hosting our STPO monthly meetings for the last five years. Since their Sunday services are canceled, our monthly meeting (normally on Monday April 6th) is also canceled.
As followers of Jesus Christ, how should we respond in times like these? The leaders of our cities, our states and our nation need our prayers and our support. We can agree to set our political differences aside and pray together for God to give our leaders wisdom, direction, strength and courage. We can watch out for our neighbors and our communities. Are we kind and courteous at the grocery store? Are we checking on our neighbors to be sure they are OK? Are we willing to share with those who may not have enough? We can control our own actions much better than we can predict the direction of the stock market or the future of the oil business.
Even though the kingdoms of this world are shaken, the kingdom of our God will never be shaken. I am reminded of Jesus and his twelve disciples in the upper room at the last supper. This was the last meal that Jesus shared with these men. Later that evening, he was betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane. While eleven of them fled for their lives, Judas went out and hung himself. As the eleven scattered in fear that night, they had yet to learn how to persevere in times of trial. Jesus left them these two verses to ponder:
“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
New Opportunities for a New Year by Bob Struebel
It is always interesting to hear the stories of the men and women who volunteer here at the South Texas Prison Outreach (STPO). I have had the opportunity to meet and work with several of you over the years. Perhaps you have a testimony to share and are not aware of the opportunities that currently exist here in Matagorda County. The best place to start is by attending our meetings at Ignite Church on the first Monday of each month.
We cooperate with area churches to provide Sunday morning services to the inmates here at the Matagorda County jail. We are also involved in Bible Studies at the jail every other Tuesday night. There are separate services for the men and women inmates.
Our Christmas Party at the jail was a great success last year, and we were able to share the love of Jesus with well over 100 men and women. Each one received cookies, soda, and gifts (shampoo, deodorant and a devotional book). We are very thankful for the tremendous support of the jail officers for this special event. Special thanks to the ladies at First Baptist Church for providing 100 dozen cookies!
STPO continues to provide Bibles for the men and women at the Matagorda County Jail. These Bibles are a special prison edition that is geared towards the needs of the inmates. Spanish bibles are also available on request. For those of you who are already members of STPO, we need your support. Three of our long time board members have stepped down over the last 18 months. This leaves two current vacancies on our board of officers, one for Secretary and one for Treasurer. All eight board positions will be open for nominations in May, with final nominations and elections in June.
We thank God for the continued opportunities to share the good news in the jail and prisons. We were able to minister at Garza East in Beeville in January, and would ask your prayers for continued favor. There have been several months where services at Beeville were canceled. There have not been enough corrections officers to provide security for the services. Please remember STPO as we pray for God to raise up more laborers for the harvest.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Whose report shall we believe? by Bob Struebel
The nation of Israel experienced a great deliverance when God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. The Lord killed the firstborn son of every family in Egypt that did not have the blood of the passover lamb applied to the doorframe of their homes. The Egyptians urged the Israelites to hurry and leave the country that same night. “For otherwise” they said , “we will all die!” Now this is what is known as the fear of the Lord. There was loud wailing in every single Egyptian household, but among the Israelites, not even a dog barked. The Israelites obeyed God and he brought them out of captivity. He led them out in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When Pharaoh’s army pursued them, the Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord.
Exodus 14:13-14 New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
13 Moses answered the people. He said, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm. You will see how the Lord will save you today. Do you see those Egyptians? You will never see them again. 14 The Lord will fight for you. Just be still.”
Indeed, the Lord parted the Red Sea and Israel crossed over on dry ground. When Pharaoh’s army pursued, they were completely destroyed. The words of Moses ring true today for all of us: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm. You will see how the Lord will save you today… The Lord will fight for you. Just be still”.
Exodus 14:30-31 New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the power of Egypt. The Israelites saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 The Israelites saw the amazing power the Lord showed against the Egyptians. So the Israelites had great respect for the Lord and put their trust in him. They also put their trust in his servant Moses.
Just like the Israelites in Moses’ day, we live on a battlefield. However, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities and rulers and forces of wickedness in high places. Now some people talk a lot about the devil and what he is doing. I suppose they have not read about Jesus and how he came to destroy the work of the devil.
John 10:10 Amplified Bible (AMP)
10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].
If you are one to follow the news, you will see a lot of death and destruction. These are bad reports. Or perhaps you have loved ones who are battling sickness or disease. These are also bad reports. If we spend our time worrying and complaining about these things, we are in danger of sliding into doubt, fear and unbelief. Jesus himself said he came that we may live and not die, and that we may have abundant life (full to overflowing)
For now, let’s focus on fear. Here is what God’s word says about his great love for us:
1 John 4:18 The Passion Translation (TPT)
Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection.
Concerning new year’s resolutions, let us determine to believe the report of the Lord rather than the report of man. When we put our faith and trust in Jesus, his forgiveness and his unconditional love set both the sin and the punishment aside!
1 John 1:9 King James Version (KJV)
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Let’s determine to speak the words of God over our life situations. The truth is we are loved by Him and no longer under guilt shame and condemnation. Jesus warns that we will still face times of adversity “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
How to Survive in 2020 by Bob Struebel
Most people look forward to January 2020 because it gives us a fresh start and a chance at a better life. Some folks even make new year’s resolutions in areas like: diet, exercise, health and employment. Or perhaps your desires involve relationships like: family and friends, church and community, or even supervisors and coworkers.
The good news is all things are possible when we put our faith and trust in God. Jesus clarifies the stakes for the battle at hand between good and evil, light and darkness, and heaven and earth:
John 10:7-10 New Living Translation (NLT)
7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Here we have a choice between a rich and satisfying life (following the Good Shepherd) versus a difficult existence where the best of life escapes us (not following the Good Shepherd). It is bad enough when the enemy steals from us. If we are not following the Good Shepherd (ignoring His still small voice), we leave ourselves open to even greater losses.
Let me share a personal experience of how difficult and dangerous life can be. One Sunday morning, I chose to go for a walk in the park instead of going to church. I chose to ignore the still small voice of the Holy Spirit that day. We all know that the devil comes like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. What you may not know is there are real honest to goodness mountain lions here in South Texas. They can weigh as much as 150 pounds, so one had best be prepared to put up a good fight. As I was walking along the edge of the park I just happened to look up and saw a very large mountain lion with a very long tail. He was high up on the embankment near the highway bridge. I believe there was another lion or perhaps some cubs nearby, because he was up on all four paws ready to pounce on anything that crossed his path. I thought about taking his picture (big, huge mistake) but instead I backtracked and went a different way (escaping by the grace of God!). The following verses now have a special meaning for me:
1 Peter 5:7-9 New Living Translation (NLT)
7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
I have since learned there are certain things never to do when confronted by a mountain lion. They apply as well to our confrontations with the enemy (satan the devil). He gains the upper hand when we persist in doubt, fear and unbelief.
Don’t play dead and hope he doesn’t see you. Trust me if you can see the lion, he can see you.Don’t give in to fear and start running away. Lions are much faster than sheep.Don’t approach the lion unless you have a deadly weapon and are prepared to use it.Don’t call your friends or try to take a picture of you and the lion. You may not live to regret it.
We will talk more next month about the new year’s resolutions and how to live victoriously on the battlefield. For now, we must stay alert (verse 8), stand firm against the enemy, and be strong in our faith (verse 9). Oh, one more thing, walk close to the Good Shepherd and He will guide and protect you!
Taking Time to Worship by Bob Struebel
I recently returned from a tour of Israel where we experienced not only the history, but also the story of what God is doing in Israel today. Contrary to what is in the world news, the Hebrew and Arabic peoples live and work peacefully throughout most of the land. There are also groups of Messianic Jews who are Hebrew by birth, but have chosen to follow Yeshua as their Messiah. We were able to worship God with Messianic Jewish congregations on two separate occasions. One was on the Sabbath (Saturday), while the other was during the week on a Thursday afternoon. The week day service was at the Jerusalem Prayer Tower, where praise, worship and intercession occur from about 8 AM to 6 PM Sunday thru Thursday. We attended the session from noon until 2PM with a focus on intercession for Israel. Most of us have prayed for the Jewish people and for the nation of Israel at some time or other, but what was different at the Jerusalem Prayer Tower was the people were playing their instruments, singing and dancing before the Lord almost the entire time.
2 Samuel 6:12-15 New Living Translation (NLT)
12 Then King David was told, “The Lord has blessed Obed-edom’s household and everything he has because of the Ark of God.” So David went there and brought the Ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David with a great celebration. 13 After the men who were carrying the Ark of the Lord had gone six steps, David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. 15 So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.
As we approach the Christmas season, perhaps you are seeking to know God in a more personal way. We can learn from King David that honoring God by praising and worshiping him is a great way to enter into his presence. The same Jesus who was born in a stable in Bethlehem lives and reigns today at the right hand of the Father. The news of his arrival into this world is a cause for great celebration!
Luke 2:8-14 New Living Translation (NLT)
The Shepherds and Angels
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
How to Work with God by Bob Struebel
Have you ever wondered what Jesus really talked to the Father about? We only know a little about his life before he was baptized by John. He lived quietly with Mary and Joseph. More specifically we know that he learned the carpenter’s trade from Mary’s husband Joseph. Even though Joseph was not his real father, he took that role of teaching his son to be a skilled carpenter.
Growing up, I did not have that opportunity to learn a trade from my Dad. I was able to work with him one summer as a pipe fitter’s helper. I was 17 years old and did not really even know for sure which way to turn a valve on or off. If you are able to tell your left hand from your right, the mime is “lefty loosey and righty tighty”. This past week I got to refresh my pipe fitter’s skills building a compressed air manifold from 3/8” NPT brass pipe. My greatest challenge was which way to wrap the teflon tape so it won’t come off while the fittings are tightened together. After dozens of attempts (only 50% successful), I finally cried to God and said “Papa, how would you do this?”
One thing for sure is when we cry out to God, he hears us. When we ask him as father to come along side us and show us how to live life, we are inviting him to bring his world (heaven) into our world. When heaven invades earth, we see Papa working supernaturally on our behalf to bring his kingdom into our world. When it comes to pipefitting, long forgotten skills are relearned and excelled. After a wonderful day together, I had to leave for an evening appointment. As usual, I went to turn off the local Christian radio station. Each time I reached out to turn off the radio, I had a strong check in my spirit not to do so. After three attempts to turn off the praise and worship music, I gave up and left the radio on until I returned home. This morning, as Papa was telling me what to write in this article, he explained that he asked me to leave the radio on because he was really enjoying the music and was not ready to stop listening! How many times have we enjoyed the presence of God, without ever interacting with him? Do we shut the praise and worship music off after two or three songs, or do we let him speak into our spirit for an extended time of worship? Are we afraid to ask for his help for fear that he might be too busy for us?
Most men know that if they want to make new friends, it is a matter of either breaking bread together (where are we going for breakfast?), or working together on some kind of a project (preferably outside in the cool weather). Why would we think our relationship with Papa is any different? He desires more from us than thanks for our food. He enjoys being a part of whatever area of our life that we are willing to share with him.
In the Bible verses below, Jesus is praying to the Father just before he was arrested and imprisoned in Jerusalem. His heart’s desire is for us to have that same closeness with the Father that he has. For some of us, it means Papa comes alongside us during everyday life to show us the love of the Father. After all, he is the best carpenter in the business!
John 17:20-23 New International Version (NIV).
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Come All You Who Are Thirsty by Bob Struebel
After traveling recently to see family and friends, I returned home to a very special place called “the well”. Our life group meets there every week to eat, drink, and to share our stories. We experience the ongoing presence and power of God there, in the food and fellowship, but especially in the times of worship, testimony and intercession. For the last several days, I have been pressing in at the well, like a traveller who is hungry, thirsty and seeking shelter and refuge after a long journey.
The inspiration for naming this place as “the well” comes from the Bible story about Jesus meeting the woman at the well. Here was a Samaritan woman, who had been married and divorced five times, and probably never expected to be approached by the Messiah. As he asked her to draw some water for him to drink, they spoke about drinking from the Living Water that truly satisfies the longing and thirsting of our hearts. He proved the love of God for her and the others in that town by staying an extra couple days to eat, drink and share stories with them. The truth about Jesus and other true Christ followers is the manifest presence of God in us changes the world around us. We are the travelers that innkeepers remember, because the kingdom of God is so clearly demonstrated and established in us.
John 4:28-29 New Living Translation (NLT) 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”
One of the things about the Samaritan woman at the well is that she shared her story about Jesus with everyone in the town. They all knew her as the divorced woman who never seemed to be able to find the right husband. In reality, her thirst for meaningful and loving relationship could only be satisfied by knowing the Messiah. She reminds me of the Jewish woman, Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast seven demons. Mary was previously a woman of ill repute, whose reputation around town was also widely known. Her love for Jesus became so great, that she broke out the jar of perfume and poured it all over Jesus’ feet.
Luke 7:44-47 New Living Translation (NLT) 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. 47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
The woman at the well and the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet are two of my favorite Bible characters. Their bad reputations (before they met Jesus) were well known by those around them. Broken in body, soul and spirit. They were looked down upon by everyone but the Messiah. He saw their need for a powerful, miraculous, life-changing encounter with God.
As STPO volunteers, we have experienced the same life-changing miracles of deliverance, healing and restoration in our own lives. This is exactly the good news that we bring into the jails and prisons of south Texas. After all, we who have been forgiven much love much.
Intimacy with God by Bob Struebel
I spent time visiting family recently, and we watched a movie called "The Shack" along with another movie called "I Can Only Imagine". Each of the main characters in these films had been through abuse and neglect from an early age. As adult men, they carried brokenness in their hearts.
When we minister in the jails and prisons, we are sharing God's love with men and women who, like us, often cannot see beyond their own pain. Bitterness and unforgiveness, when held onto, actually sabotages our relationships and makes it difficult to give or receive love.
Now suppose you are very sick in your body. Perhaps you only go to a doctor if absolutely necessary. Sometimes, as adults, we wait until we are almost dead before we seek medical attention. If we treat our physical body this way, how do we treat our heart (our mind, will, and emotions). Do we wait until we have a nervous breakdown before we seek help? Now what about our spirit, that part of us that lives beyond the grave?
The power of the gospel message is that healing of spirit, soul, and body comes thru intimate personal relationship with God. Can you imagine how excited he is each time one of us surrenders our heart and life to him? He picks us up and carries us to safety. He binds up our brokenness and brings healing and restoration into our lives.
Luke 4:18 New Century Version (NCV) “The Lord has put his Spirit in me because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to tell the captives they are free and to tell the blind that they can see again. God sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly.
One of the best ways we can express our love for God is thru worship. Depending on the level of intimacy, we may refer to him as father God, Father, Papa, or even Daddy. When his presence is especially strong, I sometimes feel like a little child simply calling out "You're here!"
Remember the story in Luke 15 about the prodigal son, the young man who wasted his inheritance chasing after wine, women, and song? When he finally made his way back home, his father ran to meet him. Similarly, when we cry out to our Heavenly Father, he scoops us up into his arms and loves on us just like we do when one of our grand babies cries out for us. Imagine that!
Luke 15:20-24 New Living Translation (NLT) “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. [a] “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’
So the party began.
What Does STPO Do?
by Jessie Deleza
You are receiving this newsletter because at one time or another, you showed interest in South Texas Prison Outreach (STPO), so allow me to explain our reason and purpose of exactly what we do when volunteering for STPO.
In Matthew 25:36, 40 the bible says: “I was in prison and you came to visit me. . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
STPO consist of a group of men and woman from Matagorda County that love God and have been called to serve him in prison outreach. The reason we volunteer to work with STPO is to do what we believe God has called us to do, set the captive free, not physically, but spiritually. Our purpose of entering the prisons is to give hope and encouragement to inmates. Sometimes inmates feel their lives are over, that family and friends don’t care or love them anymore, and that society doesn’t want them. Jesus answered when asked how many times we should forgive our brother in Matthew 18:22
“I do not say to you,up to seven times but up to seventy times seven.”
STPO members enter the prisons to tell men and women that Jesus does love them and care about them and that whether they continue to be incarcerated or are released, they still have a purpose in life that God wants them to fulfill. Incarceration is not the end of their lives, but the beginning of a new chapter.
Jesus forgave the adulterous woman and told her to “go, and sin no
more.” John 8:11
Our volunteers teach inmates not to stay in the same mind frame that brought them to jail, but to see themselves and God sees them and to learn to be the person God has called them to be. Members of STPO teach inmates the word of God, and pray for and with them, and help them to understand that God has a purpose for their lives regardless of where they are at the present.
STPO volunteers encourage inmates to use the talents and strengths they have naturally to serve God and encourage each other. Some inmates are natural leaders and can lead bible studies and prayer groups in their cells. Some inmates are able to read and understand the word of God and can share their new knowledge with each other. Some inmates have beautiful singing voices and lead others in songs that praise and worship God.
Jesus has not forgotten or stopped loving the incarcerated, neither has STPO volunteers. Please keep STPO in your prayers as we continue to take God’s word to the incarcerated. Thank you and may God bless you.
Passing the Mantle
by Bob Struebel
As we approach our annual elections at the June monthly meeting, all eight STPO board positions are open. Nominations were held at our May 6th meeting, but we are certainly open to additional nominations on June 3rd. The list of the eight current STPO
Officers is on the back page of the newsletter. We need as many members as possible to turn out for the June 2019 elections.
Our dear friends John and Linda Franciskovich have served faithfully for many years in the Matagorda County jail ministry, the TDCJ ministry at Garza East in Beeville, and the Mike Barber Ministries weekend crusades at the TDCJ units in this area. If you have not already done so, I hope you will take the time to let them both know how much their friendship means to you.
There are so many memories I could share, but the ones that stand out the most are the times John and I would meet for prayer on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Initially, our prayers were focused on access to the jail for men and women's church services during the week. As the weeks went by, we also began to pray for the needs of our city, this region, the nation, and the world. For over a year, we met each week for prayer. Eventually, we were able to resume church services at the jail every other Tuesday night.
Have you ever noticed the caption at the top of the back page of the STPO newsletter?
"Little prayer, little faith. Great prayer, great faith".
Regarding the future of South Texas Prison Outreach, we need to be as bold as Elisha, who picked up the mantle of Elijah the prophet:
II Kings 2:13-14 (NIV) Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.
In early 2017, some of our STPO families came under severe attack from the enemy. We decided to have intercessory prayer at the end of the monthly meeting. We have continued this practice ever since, with great breakthrough for many of us and our families.
Perhaps you are going thru a difficult season of life and are not sure how to talk to God about it. It helps a lot to have one or two friends to pray with on a regular basis. Be creative; consider video or conference calling if your prayer partners are far away. Some people even use texting or email.
Matthew 18:20 (KJV) For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
The prayer below can be easily adapted to your situation:
"Lord Jesus, we believe that history belongs to the intercessors. We are not just taking back stolen ground. We are prepared to enter in and possess the land for the kingdom of our God! Our county Jail will become the best jail in South Texas. People will move from other counties to work here. Your presence among us changes everything. May your kingdom come and your sovereign will be done this day in this place, oh Lord. It’s time..."
Acts 16:25-26 (KJV) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.
by Bob Struebel
HEALING THE FATHER WOUND
One of the greatest needs in the prison ministry is that men and women might both experience intimacy with God. More specifically, a close personal relationship with Father thru Jesus Christ. In reality, this means that we experience the presence of God thru Holy Spirit in every area of our lives.
John 17:25-26 New International Version (NIV) “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
One of the greatest barriers to intimacy with God, is that we tend to see him in the same way that we view our earthly fathers. This is further complicated by the brokenness of families where parents are absent or divorced, or where orphaned or abandoned children are placed in foster homes. I worked 14 months in a denominational children's home in another part of the country, and saw young men and women reaching out desperately to our staff because they had become wards of the state. We even had to supervise calls between the children and their parents to be sure the parents did not cuss (using profanity) while talking with their children.
I also know that even when children have both parents in the home, there can still be a lack of connection with fathers, because the men are usually working, and often too tired or stressed out to give their kids the attention they so desperately need. In the case of my own family, my father loved us as best he knew how by providing for us. However, he was the youngest of eleven children, and mostly raised by his siblings. His father developed emphysema later on in life, and had to have oxygen to survive. As a small child, it scared me to see my grandfather hooked up to those green oxygen tanks. Whenever my parents took me to see my grandparents, I would immediately run off and hide under their bed. Both grandparents died when I was only five years old.
My dad and I never had the close connection that children need with their fathers. He did not begin to follow Christ
until he was 32 years old. Years later he reached out to me many times, but I was unable to receive his love. I did not become a Christ follower until I was 43 years old, long after my father had died. About a year later, I experienced supernatural healing of the father wound, and was able to forgive my dad. Since then, speaking about the love that our heavenly Father has for us has become a central theme in my personal activity in jail and prison ministry.
When we reach out to one another with the unconditional love of our Father, others receive healing for the brokenness they have in their hearts and lives. This strengthens the body of Christ, and enables us to effectively share the love of God wherever we are!
Isaiah 61:1 New International Version (NIV) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.
I See God and I Remember. . .
by Jessie Deleza
Winter, in all its dreariness, has passed and spring has arrived in all its spender! Now, freshly cut lawns, newly planted flowers, trimmed trees and hedges beautify the neighborhoods, yet when I drive to and from home, I see God and I remember. . .
I remember that I too was once in a dark dreary place in my life. I remember needing something different, something new. Then, someone told me about Jesus.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold; all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
I prayed and asked God to forgive me of my sins. I asked him to come into my heart and be the leader of my life, and all things became new.
So, I look outside and see what the new season has brought, and I see God in the beautiful creation, and I remember. . . I remember
that God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. I remember that God divided the land from the waters, made the grass, the trees and plants, the animals, the sun and moon, and God created me. I see the great
outdoors and how God renews it, turns the brown to green and the dull to bright, I see God and I remember that only God can renew my heart and mind.
I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. Psalm 37:25
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:26
I see God in the beauty of creation and remember that Jesus loves me paid a great price for my salvation. He promises to take care of me because I am more important than the birds.
I also remember that it’s not just about me. There are many spiritually needy people in society who are still stuck in the dreariness of winter. Will you come into agreement with the members of South Texas Prison Outreach and pray for those in need, for those who are hurting, for the homeless and the incarcerated? Let’s tell the needy that Jesus loves them and has a great plan for their future if they will give their lives to him.
Be blessed. Be happy. See God in the greatness of creation and remember what he has done for you.
by Bob Struebel
Release Your Plans into His Hands
One of the things that helped me get thru the last three months of my career was that I had plans to attend the Toby Mac concert in Houston on Friday February 1, 2019. The concert was actually on the first day after my retirement. Because I would be out until
after midnight, I decided not to attend the ministry team training in Houston on Saturday February 2nd.
Ministry team training is normally one of my favorite activities, but the Toby Mac concert tickets had been purchased well before I knew the training schedule for 2019. The night before the concert, my friend canceled out due to a family emergency. I could still go to the concert alone, or I could change my plans, stay home on Friday night, and then travel up to the ministry team training early Saturday morning. As it turns out, six of us left at 6:00 AM Saturday to attend the training. Little did I know this was the start of another very significant divine appointment.
My previous encounter with God during ministry team training in July 2018 was the confirmation I needed to announce my retirement plans. That particular day was very different from start to finish. However, this time, there was nothing out of the ordinary. No one laid hands on me, there were no prayers, there was no open vision of heaven, nor was there even a prophetic word. Instead, while everyone else was getting prayer, I was sitting in the middle of a row, by myself.
Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me from Isaiah 55:9. Three times during the course of this encounter, he repeated:
"As the heavens are high above the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts"
At that point, I was in shock from being in the overwhelming presence of Almighty God. There was something very specific in my life that was blocking me from hearing the voice of God. Holy Spirit commanded me to release these matters into His hands. This was not a suggestion or a request; rather a direct command. Obedience was my only option... yes Sovereign Lord I release these thing into your hands. What happened next was a direct revelation that sets the course of my life for the next 30 years.
Three times He told me to breathe deeply. Then I began to see three decades into the future. Holy Spirit spoke of restoring the years that the enemy had taken from me and from my parents and my brothers. The restoration is not just for years of life, but also for years of relationships. There was so much the Holy Spirit spoke into my spirit that it was compressed at a rate beyond my comprehension. After the revelation was finished, I was able to stay in that sanctuary awhile longer until I could stop weeping and think about going to lunch.
Looking back, am I sorry I missed the concert? Not after what happened the next day. Am I sorry that I had to release my plans and desires into His hands? Absolutely not! I will spend the rest of my life unwinding the words that He spoke to me that day.
Whatever He asks you to release into his hands will be given back in due time and in greater measure. After all, our Daddy takes
really good care of His kids!
Giving Account For Myself
by Jessie Deleza
Appearance can be so deceiving. Outside it’s cold, wet, dreary, and dark before 7:00pm. There is little activity going on. Many people travel silently to and from work, and don’t even notice the leafless tress or empty playgrounds. After work, some stop at the store to pick up a few items, maybe briefly visit with the cashier, and then they go home. Is that all there is to life these days? NO!
So, what is life all about? Is there something more than the daily routine of getting up, going to work, come home, watch TV, and go to bed? YES!
Life is about taking care of yourself and others physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually. Are you eating right, exercising, sleeping 8 hours a night? Not just because it’s cold and wet do we have excuse to not do the “right thing”. We need to keep up our health and strength so we can be a blessing to others. It’s difficult to serve with a smile, a servant’s heart, when physically you are not at your best.
When we are at our best, healthy and strong, that’s when Christ can use us the most.
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship.
It’s important to be spiritually strong, for ourselves, for those we love, and for those who need us. We never know when we will have a hard day or when the enemy will attack.
John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
If we know the enemy is out to destroy us, those we love, and everything we have, then we must be alert, and with Jesus our commander, be ready to fight. Put on the whole armor of God. There’s a spiritual battle for our souls going on. Even though on the outside, it appears nothing is happening, we know that spiritually, the battle rages.
So then, how do we fight this spiritually battle? How do we win? How do we do what God wants us to do?
It’s easy. Get up every morning and give time to God- pray, thanking him for another day he has blessed you with, fast sometime during the week, and make time to read God’s word. Be the soldier God has called you to be. Look outside of your circle of comfort and see the needs of another person. Not everyone is blessed or as fortunate as you.
Matthew 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. . .
If we chose to live life like Jesus, by his example and life-style, we won’t only think of our own situations, but seek to fulfill the needs of others. Jesus came to serve, not be served. Our job is to serve, not be served.
We are more Christ like when we are doing the things that Christ did. So, in just a few words, be healthy, be strong, live for Jesus, live like Jesus.
Keep S.T.P.O. volunteers in your prayers, that we will reflect the love of Jesus and say the words he would have us say.
The Best New Year’s Resolutions Ever!
by Jessie Deleza
You have probably begun the new year the same way most of America does, by making those New Year’s resolutions. So, what are your New Year’s resolutions for 2019, to lose weight, save money, stop smoking or drinking? All of these are good, but what if this year we took an entirely different approach? What if this year our resolutions are to work to gain a closer relationship with God, live according to God’s will for our life, and to be more diligent in our service to others?
In Hebrews 13:5 the word says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God wants a relationship with us.
He wants to be close to us, to love us, and be there with us when we feel alone or don’t know what to do. God wants to be involved in every part of our lives. You may have read the poem entitled Footprints in the Sand by Margaret Fishback Powers. It ends “I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and tests. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
So, what would it take on our part to gain a closer relationship with God? It takes waking up every morning and giving thanks to him for another day and inviting him to be part of your day. It takes reading his word, and ending your day in prayer with him again, giving him thanks for being with you throughout the day and ask him to continue to be with you throughout the night. It takes trying to stop doing the things that you know are not pleasing to God and try to do the things that you know are pleasing to him.
Pray for God’s guidance in your life. Pray for understanding of his word. Pray for God to help you understand what is and what is not pleasing to him and then to give you the courage and self-discipline to do the things that you know he would want you to do. The word tells us in the 10 commandments, found in Exodus 20 for example that we: should have only him as our God, should not make idols, should not misuse his name, should keep his day holy, should honor our parents, should not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet. So, if God told us in his word that we should do or not do these things, that would be a great place for us to begin living our lives according to his will.
So, if you can gain a closer relationship with God and live according to his will, the only other thing would be to see how you can serve others. Jesus lived his life as he wants us to live ours, serving the less fortunate.
Matthew 25:35, 36 NIV says“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” The word says that the righteous asked Jesus when had they ever seen him hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothes, sick, or in prison, and Jesus answers that when they did it for someone else, it was as if they did it for him.”
It is our duty to serve others. Don’t be afraid. You can do it!
So even though the new year has already begun, and you have already made your new year’s resolutions, would you reconsider just for a moment? Are your resolutions most beneficial to you and others spiritually?
Will they lead you to a closer relationship with God? If not, please take time to reconsider. Maybe consider the resolutions mentioned here. Whatever you decide, have a blessed 2019 year. Know that God loves you and wants to be a bigger part of your life and STPO appreciates your prayers and support.
Christmas- The Most Expensive Free Gift EVER!
by Jessie Deleza
So, it’s that time of year again, the shopping frenzy has begun. Am I the only one or did you notice how many stores had fall/Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations all out at the same time? It started in September, the pumpkins and costumes were on isles 4 and 5, turkey paper products and basters on isle 6, and Christmas trees, ornaments, and candy canes on isles 7 and 8. Do we not lose some of the meaning of the holidays when everything is crammed together? We aren’t past one holiday and the next one is already waiting to come in.
Well, fall decorations and costumes are now packed away, the thanksgiving left overs are in the freezer, and Christmas frenzy continues. Most households have their Christmas tree up, Christmas lights and decorations outside turned on, have Christmas music playing, are checking off the names on their list that they have already bought gifts for, and are trying to get to the last-minute sales to finish their shopping. By 10:00 am, the stores are packed with people walking the aisles. Customers are filling their shopping carts with gift items they can’t afford but that’s ok, because they have a charge card, so is their thought process.
Every year, people go into debt over Christmas, spend the entire next year paying it off, so they can do it again the following year. It sounds like a non-ending cycle to me, and it’s not a good one.
Let’s not forget, the beautifully decorated tree must have lots of gifts underneath. The gifts children demand this year are not cheap. Game systems, phones, new cars, etc., are very expensive and parents go out of their ability to keep their children happy to be able to brag to others about what they purchased for their children. Children can’t wait to go back to school to show off and brag about their new addictions. Also, it has been said, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. What husband or boyfriend won’t empty his wallet to keep wifey or girlfriend happy? Can he afford it this year or does he feel obligated to purchase the items out of his financial security reach.
So yes, that’s a lot of chit chat about how expensive society has made Christmas, but how many times did you read about the name of Jesus in this conversation? Zero. You didn’t, because it wasn’t mention, and that’s so very sad. You see, Jesus is the most expensive gift, beyond value, you can give to a person.
Jesus cannot be purchased, but he can be given away. Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas.
Matthew 1:18-20 tells the story: Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
So, the next time you are in the store, wondering what gift to purchase for the next recipient, remember, Jesus is the most precious gift of all. He cannot be purchased. He is free to anyone who will
accept and receive him. He loves us so much, he gave his life for us, that we would not die, but have eternal life with him. Let’s get back to the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Let’s give thanks to God for giving us the best gift of all, and as the children open their gifts Tuesday morning, let’s remind them that it’s not the wrapped gift that is most important, it’s the baby that was born into this world to save us from our sins.
Have a blessed Christmas holiday season. Remember, Jesus is the reason for the season.
CHAPLAIN’S CORNER by Bob Struebel
OUTREACH AT BEEVILLE
For several years, a team of men from STPO have served as chaplain's volunteers at the Garza East unit in Beeville on the first Sunday of every month. Since Garza East is a transfer facility, there are many men who are sent there on there way into or out of the Texas state prison system. This gives us a special opportunity to reach men for Christ who would otherwise be incarcerated at some other Texas Dept of Criminal Justice location.
We typically have three services, one on Sunday morning at Garza East (North or South Side), one in the afternoon at W-6 Trusty Camp, and the other one at Garza East (for the other Side) in the evening.
Recently, God has opened the door for us to bring in additional volunteers to reach out to men who don't normally attend these services. On Saturday November 11, 2017 we had an outreach crusade at Garza East. We were allowed into the men's living quarters to hand out gospel tracts and to invite them to the service that evening. We handed out 900 gospel tracts and prayed with many men. For the morning and the evening services combined, there were 40 men who prayed to ask Jesus into their heart as Savior and Lord. We were able to pray individually for each one of these men at the evening service.
Based on the success of the Garza East crusade, Our Lord opened the door for us to go into the Garza West unit for two worship services on Saturday March 24, 2018. We hand out 1500 gospel tracts and prayed with 72 men to receive Christ.
We thank God for these outreach opportunities; especially for the chance to go into the Garza West unit, which has their weekly church services on Saturday instead of Sunday. Each crusade was limited to ten volunteers (including musicians) who had to be cleared to come in by the Warden of each unit. These volunteers include men who are not otherwise set up as approved volunteers for the Texas Dept of Criminal Justice.
We have been praying for more men to become chaplain's volunteers at the Garza East unit. There is a special process of approval, followed by mandatory training at one of the TDCJ locations. Each TDCJ location has its own list of approved volunteers.
Why does it seem so hard to change? We keep doing the same thing, saying the same stuff, and we want to change, but we struggle until so many times we just give up. We meet men and women behind bars that really want to change, but they just don’t have the ability to stick with it.
I think the first step to change is you have to recognize the behavior, or the situation needs to change. You can’t change anything by ignoring it, and not dealing with it. You have to make the decision that this HAS to change.
The next step is realizing you don’t have the ability to change it. If you did, wouldn’t you have already done that? We live in a world of repeated behaviors and patterns. Many times the origin is from our parents, our childhood, or just a habit we picked up along the way.
I know for me it was hard to develop my Christian walk. I grew up in a good family. We were taught boundaries, morals and good character. We occasionally went to church, but we did not live a Christ-centered life. There was no bible reading, or prayer, just the occasional saying of grace on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. I had no biblical foundation for anything I thought, or did, only the moral upbringing from my parents. As I entered the
teenage years, and found I could step over the boundaries, and even began to question those boundaries themselves, I began a slippery slide into the world. I could talk about the latest escapades in Hollywood, the last movie I saw, and all the music I listened to, but nothing about God, or His Word. Needless to say, I made a lot of wrong choices and mistakes, until at the ripe old age of 40 the Gospel message finally hit my heart. I’d heard it for years, but with all the worldly thinking in my heart, I actually thought I was okay. I knew about Jesus all my life, but the realization that knowing about Jesus is not the same as knowing Jesus in a personal way, finally woke me up.
I had to learn to train myself to be spiritual. Bible reading, prayer and making my choices based on the Word, not what I felt, what I thought and what everyone else said was totally foreign to me.
“Don’t change yourselves to be like the people of this world, but let God change you inside with a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to understand and accept what God wants for you. You will be able to know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.” ROMANS 12:2 ERV
When I went to church, read my bible and talked to my fellow believers about God, I had too many “AH” moments to count. I changed not because I focused on my behavior, but because I put myself in a position to hear the Word of God, and became willing to do what it said. This caused my thinking to change completely, which changed me from the inside out.
As the church we have to love people who are messed up. We need to keep teaching and speaking the Word to them to allow God to changed them. It is God’s job to change them. It is our job to love and keep teaching and
speaking the Word to them. We develop an attitude that people in church should all be saints, and when they are not we judge them. Just like a hospital is full of sick people, our churches should have people in various stages of healing and recovery. The one thing I have heard from those incarcerated over the years is, “I don’t feel like I will be accepted in church. I am full of tattoos, and I am still struggling in areas of my life.” They are ready to change, but without the church they will never get the tools to change. They need all of us.
A WOMAN'S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
Thank you so much to those who chose to be a part of the Matagorda County Jail Christmas Party this year. We could never do this without the support of our members, the jail staff, the churches, and the community.
The Christmas Party was held on December 12th, and we had a great turnout. We always have an opportunity to minister to those who normally do not turnout for the church services. We were able to have 4 groups of men, and 1 woman’s group. We sang Christmas carols, passed out cookies and soda, presented a Gospel message, and gave each inmate a gift of shampoo, deodorant and a Gospel book. We served about 115 inmates including those who did not attend due to security issues.
We want to thank our members for serving and giving of their time. Thanks to Pastors Keith & Cynthia Blackwell, John Cerceo, Jessie Deleza, John & Linda Franciskovich, Jerry Manning, Juan Martinez, Ollie Matthews, Sister Laverne Newell, Julieanna Palomares, Bob Struebel, and Thomas & Joyce Swist, You are truly the hands and feet of Christ. A special thanks goes to the staff at the Matagorda County Jail, especially Captain Sean Klaiber and Lieutenant Adan Vela. Without their support and their staff we would not have a Christmas Party.
Once again HEB worked with us to purchase all the shampoo, and deodorant, along with donating $50.00 to help with our costs. Ordering 125 bottles of shampoo and deodorant some years can be quite the challenge, and takes several orders to get the job done. Thanks to First Baptist Church of Bay City for all the cookies baked. All the cookies are so appreciated. Oh, and did I mention all left over cookies and soda are left for the Jail Staff, and whatever shampoo or deodorant we may have left went to the mission field in Mexico?
Matagorda County is unique. Our citizens have it in their DNA to serve others. Monthly I receive requests from other jails and TDCJ for bibles, reading materials, and bible studies. Unfortunately, because of each of the jail’s procedures we no longer mail out requests because we received so many return packages. Matagorda County Jail is the only jail in a county our size that have churches willing to come together and serve the needs of those incarcerated. Over the years I have received letters from inmates in counties similar to our size asking about services, and if we would come and minister to them. The S.T.P.O. address is stamped in each bible and book we hand out at the jail, and I am amazed at where the inmates from here have traveled, and who has come in contact with our resources. Unfortunately, unless the churches in their counties can come together to serve at the jail, S.T.P.O. cannot help. We can help them set up something similar to us, but they must be willing to take the leadership.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity” PSALMS 133:1
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
I am so busy getting everything in place for our annual Matagorda County Jail Christmas Party. I have about 2 weeks before the big day.
Did I say how busy I am? I will be going this week to HEB to place our order for around 125 bottles of shampoo and 125 sticks of deodorant. I know you might be thinking, what kind of Christmas gifts are those?
If you have never had a loved one, or known anyone who was incarcerated, these are appreciated gifts. Everything an inmate gets must be purchased through the commissary. You MUST have money on your books/ account to do that. They do have basic necessities for indigent prisoners, but when I say basic, think of a toothbrush, toothpaste, or hygiene supplies. Any snacks such as chips, candy, drinks, coffee, or anything that may be eaten in between meals, must be purchased. Stamps, pencils, paper, envelopes are also purchased through commissary. Anyone who is indigent is so grateful for that bottle of shampoo or deodorant. Those that have money on their books can buy that pair of socks, underwear, or T-shirt, because they have shampoo and deodorant they won’t have to spend money on.
We always get a great turnout for the Christmas Party. They come for the gifts, the cookies, the drinks, just to get out of their cell, but they also hear the Gospel message. I’ve found over the years that they are someone’s father, mother, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin. They all have one thing in common. They would rather be home for Christmas.
I am so grateful to those who have given to help us buy the gifts, bibles and Christmas supplies. Without your generosity we could not do what we do. Maybe your church can’t help financially, but maybe next year you would be interested in donating cookies or drinks. We lost one of our cookie bakers this year, because she got married and moved to Houston. We never have too many cookies or drinks, as we leave all the leftovers to the officers at the jail.
We could not have this Christmas Party without the help of the Jail Staff. Many officers volunteer to help move the prisoners back and forth from their cells to the multi-purpose room. We have around 6 groups as
they only allow about 20 prisoners in each group. The men and women are also kept separated. The shampoo, deodorant and Gospel book are even taken back to the lock-down area by the officers.
This is a magical time of year. A time of hope. Please pray for us as we reach out to those incarcerated this year. Pray for them, that they would come to know the Redeeming Savior, who saved us all from our sins. “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them…..” HEBREWS 13:3
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
November is the month that reminds us to be thankful. It can be a hectic time as we prepare for our Thanksgiving feasts. So much shopping, baking, and preparation. So much to do, and so little time. As we get involved in the doing, I know for me, it can be easy to forget the thankful. I don’t mean to, but before I know it, as I’m standing in an endlessly long line to pay for my supplies and groceries, I find myself far from being thankful. In fact, I can get down right critical, and dare I say mean.
It seems I always pick the “longest short line.” There is the person at the front of the line that forgot an item, or something won’t scan, or worse yet, they left their money/debit card in their car. They’ll be right back, and I find myself not saying anything, but I do huff and puff, and I don’t even want to think what my face looks like. Can anybody relate?
Finally, I get everything paid for, loaded into my vehicle, and everybody in the parking lot is driving like idiots. Just getting to the street I get cut off, almost run over and maybe flipped off. Happy Thanksgiving to you too!
I have allowed the joy, peace, and especially thankfulness, to be squeezed right out of me. By what? Outside distractions, and the chaos around me. I’ve taken my eyes off of the Only One who has given me anything to even be thankful for. My eyes are on nothing, but what is going on around me, instead of on Him. “I have told you these things, so that you can have peace because of me. In this world you will have trouble. But be encouraged! I have won the battle over the world.” JOHN 16:33
What kind of trouble is around you? What catches your attention? What distracts you from Him? It is so easy to allow ourselves to be distracted or lose our focus. Before we know it, we have spent some time being impatient, frustrated and possibly rude. We miss the opportunity to open our eyes and see what is truly around us. People needing Jesus.
People so focused on their own situations, their own problems, that they never even see what is before them. We have much to be thankful for. We’ve been given so much not to take the time to share with
others, a kind word, a smile, a word of encouragement and the joy that should be a part of us daily. People won’t know the Jesus in you and me because of the words we speak, but by how we live our lives daily. The more time we spend with Him, the more we will grow to be like Him. That is what truly makes us different.
Lord, I ask You as we enter into this busy holiday season that You will open our eyes. Let us see the people around us as You see them. Show us how to walk in love, kindness and encouragement. May we all reflect Your presence and Your love. IN JESUS NAME
MY VIEW by John Franciskovich
SUMMER IS ABOUT OVER
The signs are showing that summer is about over, with the school supplies on the shelves, the back to school clothes on the racks and the sale papers and advertisements arriving daily. Labor Day is the last vacation day until Thanksgiving.
The only thing to remind us that summer is not over is the temperatures. Along with all the shopping, and preparation comes STRESS; finding the parking places, the crowds, going from store to store finding the best deals, the traffic route to the next store, looking for the items on the school list, and on and on.
Ever wonder who came up with this list and why? The number one STRESS builder is doing all this in South Texas with the temperature and humidity.
One answer to this STRESS is God. You may say, it’s not a big deal for me, because I don’t have any kids, or the kids you have are grown, and have kids of their own. That’s true, but we all have to fight the same crowds, and parking places just running our own errands. The one person we usually forget to bring along with us is God.
God didn’t mean for us to STRESS out, but to be at peace, joyful, and calm. When we are at peace, have our joy, and remain calm, we can think clearly as each situation arises. You may ask how do I get this peace, joy and calm? Just pray before you leave to go shopping. Ask God to give you favor in parking, that all items you need will be found on sale, and if you don’t find all the items you need for wisdom on where to find them. Don’t complain because you park further and further from the store, because God has a plan even if you don’t necessarily see it at the moment. We may have no idea that the walk kept us out of a traffic accident, and adverted our car from being in the middle of it, or allowed the traffic to ease up, and we were able to get home easier and faster.
I can’t say that I have always done that. I could have the T-Shirt that says, “Been there, Done That.” I would much rather have the T-Shirt that says, “Stay Calm and Cool With God.”
My View by John Franciskovich
Most of us know JOHN 3:16 by heart and can quote it word for word, but have we really taken the time to think of what it saying. We can get a fresh perspective of JOHN 3:16 by looking at 1 JOHN 4:8-11.
He who does not love does not know God. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 JOHN 4:8-11
As we can see in VERSE 9, “the love of God was manifested toward us.” This makes it more personal; that God loved me so much He sent His Son to take my place to pay the debt I owed. That is a lot of love! Why am I
so important to deserve this love? It is because we are to take His love to our family, church, community, and to those in the jail and prisons. VERSE 11, Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
We have to know in our heart, and understand God’s love in order to love others in the way God instructs us to. When we go to the world around us people will want this love also.
When I go to the prisons, I am asked why do I care, and my answer is because God loves you so much that He sent us to share with you God’s love. He loves you so much that He wants to help you to change your life. At times after hearing this they will open up and say they never experienced this kind of love.
As we look at our county and the division between people, it’s because they have lost God’s kind of love. They are
so focused on what divides us. As we quote JOHN 3:16 AND 1 JOHN 4:8- 11, and show the love of God by demonstrating that we can love each other despite our differences, only because God loved us first, then their hearts can be softened toward God.
On behalf of S.T.P.O. members we want to wish each and everyone a safe and Happy 4th of July. Remember to take God’s love everywhere you go.
MY VIEW by John Franciskovich
AS WE REMEMBER
Memorial Day is about remembering those who died in the service to their country. It used to be called Decoration Day and was always on May 30th. I remember as a child going to the cemetery sometime that week and cleaning up all the family gravesites and placing flowers. On graves of those that served in the military American flags were placed along with the flowers. It was a time to reminisce about those who had died. Little tidbits of family history were passed down and stories were told as you pulled weeds, planted and watered the flowers. It was a solemn time, but it was also a time of remembering the lives of those who had passed on.
I remember back to the winter of 1967 and I was about to graduate from Navy Basic Training. They were looking for volunteers for river boat duty in Vietnam and I volunteered. After graduation from basic training, I received my orders, not to the river boats, but to a ship. Off and on I wondered why I didn’t get the river boats when at the time there was a need. There was a lot of wondering during the Vietnam war about why you came back and your friends didn’t. Vietnam Veterans were not really welcomed back and treated the way our military is treated today. Many came back wounded and then rejected. I always wondered why I had stayed safe and sound on that big ship during my whole tour of duty.
It wasn’t until years later that I found my answer. After my grandparents went home to be with the Lord, my Aunt told that my grandparents had been saved through Oral Robert’s ministry by watching TV. They would send prayer requests to the ministry that God would protect their grandchildren. When my Aunt told me this I had only been saved a very short time and I found my answer. God had honored their prayer.
Some wonder why they made it home from a war. Others wonder why with some of their life choices they are still here. Stop wondering. Maybe it was the praying grandparents, family, friends, neighbors and people you may never meet that prayed for you. For those that feel alone all they have to do is turn to God for the answers. He says He will never leave us or forsake us; He is always with us. Our answers lie with God.
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
We have all been outside on a sunny, perfectly calm day, enjoying the outdoors, and looked up to see storm clouds forming on the horizon. Sometimes you can even smell the change in the air as you hurry to find shelter, and get in a place of safety. You know you will have to weather the storm. There are other times you don’t even see the storm coming. Before you realize it the storm is upon you, and you still just have to weather the storm regardless
of your lack of preparation.
S.T.P.O. members have been experiencing spiritual storm clouds. Our Chaplain Bob Struebel pointed it out plainly at our last meeting, and our spiritual eyes are now open to the storm clouds.
It started the end of February when John’s youngest brother was killed in a car accident. Then Ron Fields’ brother passed away. We got news that Frankie Cole had fallen ill, and was not only battling pneumonia, but also had a lump on her neck. They will be doing surgery on May 11th. Bob Struebel’s mother, who lives in Arizona, had suffered a stroke, and lain in her house for days before being found. She has been released from the hospital, and is currently in a rehab facility. One of Ollie Matthews’ grandsons was fine one day, and the next having a mental break with reality, and admitted for treatment. WOW! That is only the incidents I am aware of, and they all occurred in about 40 days time. It sure feels like a storm to me.
I can’t help thinking about the time the disciples were in the boat with Jesus crossing to the other side, and a great storm arose (Luke 8:22-25). Jesus was asleep in the boat during the storm, and the disciples were wide awake fearing the storm, and panicking. The storm caused them to forget Who Was In The Boat with them. No matter what storms in life we face, we have to keep our eyes on Jesus, and on our purpose.
If you continue reading (Luke 8:26-39) you will see that Jesus had a divine assignment…..the “mad man of Gadarenes” who needed deliverance. Jesus was not moved from His assignment by the storm. We too as members of S.T.P.O. have a divine appointment…..the jail and prisons. Even though we have experienced personal storms, we continue our mission. John went to the jail, Ron went to the prison, Bob went to both the jail and the prison, and Ollie went to the jail several times. When I spoke with Frankie, one of the first things she said, was “I will be back”.
Those storms that are designed by the enemy to distract us can also motivate us even more to pursue our purpose.
Don’t be moved, or worse stopped by your storm. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and realize He is in your boat right with you. Fear has no place in the life of the Christian when our relationship is with the Prince Of Peace.
A WOMAN’S TOUCH
by Linda Franciskovich
It’s that time again. Time to sweep out the garage, pull some weeds, and get some of the yard work done. I like spring, but not so much the yard stuff. There’s bugs, and critters, and dirt, and all kinds of stuff out there I would rather avoid. So thankful this past month we have had some cooler days, so that being outside for me was much more enjoyable.
One Saturday, John and I ventured out to power-wash the patio area. We moved all the stuff off into the yard and I started washing. I had 4 of those plastic chairs with the high backs we had stacked and I moved those all by myself. I never separated them but gave them a quick hose down and they looked pretty good. I leaned them forward to make sure all the water had drained off and all this rusty looking water came out from between the
chairs. Oh, no! They were sure a lot dirtier than we thought. John began to uncouple the stack one-by-one
so we could spray them down. As John separated the last two chairs, out jumped two great, big, old rats. One ran to the left, and back to the fence, and the other to the right, and to the fence. Of course, I screamed did a dance, and ran in the house. Those two, big, old, rats had probably been living on my patio all winter long. They had built a warm, cozy, nest on the seat of the bottom chair. They were protect by the awning, and probably spent a very nice, warm, winter on my chairs. Some watch dogs I have!!
We have never had rats, as far as I know, anywhere near my house. I live in the middle of a subdivision, for Pete’s sake. I suspect all the new construction of homes they are doing around our subdivision stirred them up.
How many times in our life does everything look fine from the outside? We are unaware of something living beneath the surface that should not be there. Just like those nasty rats we never suspect, or see it. Until just like the spring cleaning, someone says something, or does something, and that thing in us that was residing there jumps out.
We have to be aware in our lives so that anything that is not of God is not living below the surface. The rats reminded me that I should do some spiritual spring cleaning, as well. Time to turn off the TV, put down that novel, and grab my Bible, and spend some time with God, as He does the spring cleaning in me that only He can do.
I HATE RATS!!!
MY VIEW by John Franciskovich
I lost my younger brother Jim this past Friday, February 24th. My 52 year old brother was a husband, father, grandfather, uncle and brother, as well as a volunteer fireman working a full-time job. He was traveling with two others on their way to Fire Training, when the driver lost control of the vehicle because of the snow and icy roads of Iowa. My brother was ejected from the vehicle and died on impact. The report said my brother wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, while the other two firefighters were wearing theirs. They were treated and released from the hospital.
This made me think; how many times do we leave without God’s seatbelt? Do we pray before we leave the house? If we do pray for safe travels, do we only think about it when we are going on a long road trip or a vacation? If you drive Houston at all, you need prayer! How about those errands around town? The way some are driving in Bay City and running red lights, prayer would be a good idea. I know I am guilty of not praying and just grabbing my keys and heading out the door.
God’s first seatbelt is prayer. Without prayer is like riding in a vehicle without a seatbelt. When we pray we invite God to be an active part of our trip. God’s second seatbelt is His Word. When somebody cuts in front of us and takes our parking place, do we speak blessing over then or curse at them? How about when someone passes us going way over the speed limit? Do we speak God’s Word over them, and pray for wisdom and a safe journey, as well as those with them or around them?
When I head out on the highway I always pray that God will loose the angels to hold back the animals. I have had deer and hogs run in front of me with no animal getting hit; some close calls but the animal walked away and I got to my destination safely.
We can’t forget those who don’t know Jesus and have that personal relationship with Him. He is the seatbelt to keep them from hell and the only ticket that makes heaven their eternal home. Those in the jails and prisons need to be reminded to put on their seatbelts and stay buckled up when they get out.
I know my brother is with the Lord. Maybe too early, but if he had just buckled that seatbelt on he would have the opportunity to live his life to the fullest. I suspect that after a long day at work he was sleeping stretched out in the backseat.
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Are you ready to start anew? It is always a mixed bag for me when the New Year arrives. Sometimes I struggle to let go, and sometimes I struggle to change. Either way it seems like a struggle for me.
I’ve learned through the years to take some time right after Christmas and seek God. If I don’t make an effort to do this I get so frustrated. I want to move on, but I have one foot still in the past year. I don’t know about you, but I still am dealing with stuff from 5-10 years ago or longer. BAH! I know I have been forgiven, I know that I am making better choices now, but some stuff I just want to go away. How about you?
It can be frustrating and confusing, but there are consequences for our choices. Some are forever. A perfect example is Abraham’s choice to take matters into his own hand and have an Ishmael. I’ve made a few Ishmael choices I wish would go away. Now, hear me. I am not judging and condemning Ishmael. He was only a product of Abraham and Sarah’s choice. We have all made choices that are forever, along with their consequences. My Pastor used to say, “Sometimes when you crack eggs you just have to eat the scrambled mess until it is gone or learn to just eat the eggs.” I can’t change the bad choices I’ve already made. I would if I could. The only thing I can control is my attitude about them. I need to make sure I learn from them so I quit repeating the same mistake over and over again. By the way, the first time you did it, it may have been a mistake. The second time, it was a choice. OUCH! That was a hard one for me to learn.
We so want our circumstances to change. Well, the reality is our circumstances change when we change.
Throw those New Year resolutions away and this year spend some time with God. Ask Him to change you,
and then listen for the little promptings He gives on what to do and just do it. Maybe your life looks like one big ball
of mess. God know the exact string to pull on to start unraveling the mess you may have made. It may not look
like the string you want. You have been trying to point God to the string over here. This is the one you want
gone now. Trust God. He knows what string is connected to what string. He knows how to begin untangling things
to get you where you need to be. Learn to make your choices baed on God and His Word. Let Him take care
of the rest of the mess. In due time the eggs will be gone or you can at least eat them with joy in your heart.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
MY VIEW by John Franciskovich
TIS THE HOLIDAY SEASON
Christmas is just around the corner. As I sit to write this we have only 26 days until THE DAY.
What surprised me this year was some of the major stores advertised that they were NOT going to be open on Thanksgiving to bring back the holiday spirit. They were choosing to allow their employees family time over profits. Could it be we are seeing the return to the true meaning of the holiday season? THANKSGIVING: giving God thanks for what He has given us, no matter how little or how much we may physically have. If you have Jesus in your heart, that is the most important reason to be thankful. Give thanks for family, friends, and for those who can’t be home with their loved ones due to their jobs; like our military, law enforcement and health care workers.
This Christmas let’s give God thanks for the Greatest Gift we will ever receive. Greater than all the gifts under the Christmas tree, greater than any vacation or any paycheck we have earned; God gave us His only Son. Take time this year to read the Christmas Story found in MATTHEW 1:18 & MATTHEW 2:1-23. Take time to read about your gift from God.
All the gifts under the tree will wear out, become out of style, or break down. The trips will become just a memory and may eventually be forgotten or replaced by a new adventure. God’s Gift never wears out, breaks down or becomes out of style. What is really neat about God’s Gift is Jesus making us new by removing our sins, hurts,sorrows and removing all the junk as we become the new person in the image God created us to be. We will have a whole different outlook on life; we will see through His eyes and not of the world. That weird gift you always get may still be weird, but now you can ask Jesus for wisdom on how you can use this weird gift for Him and have fun doing it. Jesus enjoyed life and came to give you life more abundantly. So enjoy Christmas! Have fun! Bless someone!
From all of us at South Texas Prison Outreach; we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Also, thanks for your support to help us take God’s greatest gift to those incarcerated.
A WOMAN’S TOUCH
by Linda Franciskovich
The first Monday of September is the celebration of the holiday of Labor Day. It was a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It became a national legal holiday in 1894.
Sad to say that over my lifetime things have changed greatly in the celebration of Labor Day. It still remains a holiday from work for many, but for more and more Americans it is just another workday. Maybe it’s a shift with overtime, but still a day to work. It used to be that Labor Day signaled the end of summer and the start of the school year. Today many schools have started long before Labor Day and too often only allow for a 3-day weekend and that last family get-together. The bible has some specific guidelines concerning labor.
“Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy. Do all your work in six days. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to honor the Lord your God. Do not do any work on that day. The same command applies to your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and your animals. It also applies to any outsiders who live your towns. In six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea and everything in them. But he rested on the seventh day. So the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” EXODUS 20:8-11 (NIrV)
God repeated this instruction in DEUTERONOMY 5:12-15 because it was an important principle. I remember when on Sunday there was nothing open. The only people working were the emergency personnel such as police, hospitals, firefighters, etc. Sunday was a time for church and family time. I think the only businesses not open today on Sunday is maybe ChickFil-A and Hobby Lobby. Sunday has become just another work day. It is sad in chasing the mighty dollar God is left behind along with the worker.
God knew we would need a rest from our labors. He set the example when He rested on the seventh day of creation. Sunday became our day to rest and honor the Lord. America in 1894 thought it was important enough to allow the American worker a day off to celebrate all their labors.
Jesus gave us the opportunity to come to Him when we are burdened with trying to make things work in our own might.
“Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” MATTHEW 11:28 (NKJV)
Take time this week to thank God for His rest and put your focus on Him. Even if you had to work on Labor Day or Sunday is a work day for you, you can make the connection to God at some point and allow Him to lift the care you carry. Only He can ease the burdens, the frustrations of life, and give you the rest, peace and comfort He knows you need. The choice is yours.
MY VIEW by John Franciskovich
At the last monthly meeting of South Texas Prison Outreach I was impressed with all the new members we have. The thought came to me that this is one of the prayers Bob Struebel and I prayed a year or so ago in the visitation room at the Sheriff’s Department. We had begun gathering for prayer after Bible Studies had been canceled on Tuesdays and Thursday nights at the same time we used to hold Bible Studies at the Matagorda County Jail. We prayed during that time for God to bring us new members and encourage the members we currently had. Many members were discouraged because their ministry had been shut down and they no longer had access to the jail and inmates. Not only did God bring new members, He has brought the youth also. It is simply amazing that God is going over and above what we asked for.
Once the number of Jailers increased, we are back to having once a month Bible Studies for the Men and Women. Now my prayer is to be able to do Bible Study twice a week every other week. We need to include the Jailers and Administration in our prayers. Pray that God will bless them with pay increases and the other needs they have for their families. Turnover at the Jail is high because of the low pay. They are the unsung heroes.
Not too many people know what these men and women are doing behind the scenes in keeping our community safe. When we have Bible Studies or Church Services this puts added work on them to move men and women to the Multi-Purpose Room. Just as God answered prayer for us, God will answer prayer for them also. Pray for safety because they also put their lives on the line, which not many in this community may realize as they move and work around the inmates. Ask for God to give them wisdom if any situation would arise to handle the matter. These men and women are great people doing what God called them to do.
MY VIEW by John Franciskovich
YOU ARE MORE THAN A CONQUEROR
We have all heard this in our Christian walk and in our Sunday messages.
We confess, “We Are More Than Conquerors” and everything is great. Then a week, month, or year later a small situation arises and all of a sudden we feel helpless and alone.
What happened to “You Are More Than A Conqueror”?
Could it be it didn’t take root in our hearts, but was just in our minds? Maybe we see the situation bigger than it is, or could it be we are more focused on the pain and hurt? Could it be we didn't hear the rest of ROMANS 8:37 which says, “and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us (Amp)”?
When David saw Goliath, he didn’t focus on how big Goliath was, but how much bigger God was. Elijah when he looked out didn’t see the armies that surround him, but the army of God surrounding his enemy.
Maybe God has you on the potter’s wheel to take the flaws out of you because they are holding you back from becoming all that you can be for God. And sometimes this hurts because we are letting go of the past or choices we have made and buried for years. God’s intention is not to break us down and leave us there, but to make us new again. In JEREMIAH 18:4… “reworking it into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to make it.”
What God did was make a new vessel without flaws. By allowing God to make us new again and then taking us off the potter's wheel, God give us His whole armor found in Ephesians 6:10-18. It is because only when we put on the whole armor of God, we become more than conquerors. How is this accomplished?
It’s through faith.
“Now FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of things [we] do not see the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].” HEBREWS 11:1 (Amp)
In other words God has given you a future that makes your past only a fleeting memory. Just cooperate with God. Let Him do what needs to be done in you.
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
MEMORIAL DAY- There is a difference!
ARMED FORCES DAY—The 3rd Saturday of each May. Honors those serving.
MEMORIAL DAY—The last Monday of each May. Remembers those who died while serving.
VETERAN DAY—The 11th day of each November. Honors those who served.
There is some confusion today between these days that honor our military. We just celebrated Memorial Day and even though we may have had a BBQ, family time, and enjoyed the day, much has been lost in what the day is really all about. So many times over the years the real meaning gets lost, and it becomes just another day to have fun, and take a break from work.
We do that in our walk with God too. Christmas becomes Santa Claus, Easter becomes about the bunny, and the true meaning, and source of the holiday gets buried. We forget what the holiday is suppose to remind us of.
This Memorial Day not only was I re-minded of those who died while serving our great county, but I was reminded of the “Memorial” Joshua instructed the Israelites to erect when they crossed over the Jordan River.
“Then you shall answer them that the water of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” JOSHUA 4:7
I want to encourage you to read all of JOSHUA 4 for we may not have memorials of stones set up in our lives, but nevertheless, we have all had memorials.
Too many times the memorial for those incarcerated is the memorial of the past. Rather than allow the memorial to mark the beginning of a new life for them, it is the “stone” that holds them to the past. Their thoughts and hurts are tied up in the past, and they are unable to move forward. That’s where you and I come in. We get the awesome privilege to encourage them to take that memorial, turn it around, and become who God created them to be. Just as the waters of the Jordan did not part, and the miracle did not take place until in faith and obedience the Israelites stepped into the Jordan, so it is with each of us. We all stand at a Jordan facing giants. Maybe it is fear, or being transparent, vulnerable, judged or criticized. We all have giants and we can overcome them if we are willing to get our feet wet.
No giant is too big for God to have the victory over.
As children of God we are called to reach out to those who are lost and hurting with the love of a God who gave His all for us. Don’t stand on the bank of your Jordan waiting for the water to recede. Step out!
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
AS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH
I listen and see the changes that have taken place in my lifetime. I am amazed on one hand and appalled on the other. There are so many good things, like all the technology that allows lives to be saved. On the other-hand, the technology enslaves many to destructive lifestyles.
I truly remember the “good old days”. You may not have been Facebook friends with your neighbor, but you knew them face-to-face. In the summer you went out to play in the neighborhood without a care in the world. It was truly a different time than today. Things have changed. Not only do we not know our neighbors most of the time, we are too busy and never home except to sleep and change clothes and head out again.
Our culture is at war against Biblical values. What was good is now bad and what was bad is now good. You stand for Biblical values and you can be labeled either intolerant or a racist. The push is to silence all debate that doesn’t
agree. It is too easy to be convinced to just keep quite. I can’t do that. I have seen too many hurting women in our prisons and jails that have done exactly what our culture is teaching. That “be free; my life, my choice; I’m not hurting anybody” is destroying lives. Their lives and many times their children’s lives are being destroyed one bad choice at a time. Those incarcerated need to be told the truth. They deserve it!
God has never told us to not do something, or to do something that was not for our benefit. We have accepted the lie that God is keeping something from us. No! Never! God is a good God and His desire
has always been to protect us. He has given us boundaries and guidelines for our benefit. God so loves us! He sent His Son to the cross to gives us the same connection to Him we lost in the Garden of Eden. He wants to walk with us through the traps and snares of life. God wants us to be free to be who He created us to be. Not the false freedom to fall into sin and destruction. The only answer to freedom is Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” JOHN 8:36
God has warned us over and over in His Word.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” 2 TIMOTHY 3:1-5
Now more than ever is the time to get busy taking the “Good News” to those who have bought into the lie.
MY VIEW by John Franciskovich
THE THIRD MAN
Stories of Faith And Courage From The Vietnam War
By Larkin Spivey
Moon Vance was a legend among Navy aviators. As a landing signal officer (LSO) he skillfully guided countless pilots to safe carrier landings from an exposed platform beside the fight deck. His only escape in an emergency was a safety net beneath his platform that would funnel him to the deck below.
One dark night, an A3J Vigilante called in with engine trouble requiring an immediate landing. At the last second before landing, Vance saw that a successful landing was hopeless, screamed, “Eject, eject, eject!” and dove for the safety net.
Two rocket-propelled ejection seats left the aircraft a bare instant before its fiery crash on the flight deck of the carrier. Using searchlights, the plane-guard helicopter pilot quickly found the airmen in the water and hoisted them into the helicopter. He then radioed a startling message to the carrier: “Tower, this Angel Two Four. How many crewmen are there in a Vigie? He was told there were two, “That’s what I thought, Tower. But I just picked up three
The third man was Moon Vance. He had missed the safety net! He had suffered the equivalent of a seven-story fall and landed in the dark, turbulent water behind the carrier. Somehow he was miraculously spotted by the rescue helicopter. If he hadn’t been seen in that instant, it would have been hours before he would have been missed, and he would have been many miles separated from the ship at night.
There are times when we all struggle in dark waters and wonder how we will ever get free of the grief, guilt, or depression that threatens to engulf us. Amazingly, God always continues to search for us, even in these dark places, Miraculously, he passes us a lifeline we have but to reach out for and grasp. When we take hold of that line our rescue is certain.
“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has not light. Trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” ISAIAH 50:10
There are seasons in everyone's life that cause us to question, doubt and wonder how we got here. Maybe like Moon Vance is was just an accident, or maybe we made a wrong choice. The reasons should not be our focus, but we should focus on the God who rescues us. No matter how hopeless or dark the circumstances may look God is there with a lifeline. He will give us the wisdom, courage, and inner strength. He will pull us into the safety of His light.
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
Don’t you just love when all of nature begins to perk up. The air and temperatures begin to change, and all of creation seems to be poised on the edge. Something is about to drastically change.
I grew up in the Rocky Mountains and it made the change so drastic. We may have endured piles of snow and freezing temperatures for months on end. You shoveled, sniffled and did your best to keep warm and then…...one day. Everything that appeared dead began to show signs of life. The hard ground began to soften, and the very top of the tulips pushed through. In a matter of days tulips were blooming and the colors were breathtaking. What looked like nothing but deadness gave way to life.
I think this is a “God Sign.” It is the Gospel proclaimed all around for those who have eyes to see. Jesus came to give each one of us New Life. What was dead or dying inside of us becomes new. Our hope, our peace, our future may have looked like nothing would ever change. Then in one miraculous encounter with the Living Savior, life springs forth.
I remember when that happened for me. I said a simple prayer and it appeared as if nothing had changed in my life. Same old same. No bolt of lightening from heaven, no thunder from on high followed my simple surrender of my heart. I felt the same and wasn’t really sure it worked for me.
It wasn’t until a few days later that I noticed the heaviness had lifted and realized it had been slowly dissipating for days. I was actually singing a song from church washing out clothes in a bathtub when the realization came. To me it was like seeing the robin appear for the first time after a long winter. The robin and the tulips always meant winter was past and spring was here. The joy, the peace and the hope I thought was gone forever was suddenly in full bloom.
That day is forever marked in my spirit because that is day that my Jesus became real. His promises became mine and my life was forever changed.
Over the years because of what Jesus had done for me, I was unable to keep quiet. The voice God gave me was to take that hope to those incarcerated. My heartbeat is with those women who have been locked behind bars. Sometimes the bars are physical, but many times it is the invisible bars that we have either allowed to be erected, or placed there ourselves by the deception of protecting ourselves, that keep a woman trapped and hopeless.
This is the season to wake up! Smell the change in the air and take what you have been given to those who need New Life. Come with me! Be a Life Giver!
Then Jesus said to his disciplines, “The harvest is huge. But there are only a few workers. So ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers out into his harvest field.” MATTTHEW 9:37
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
February is the love month. As you walk through all the stores you see the cards, candy, stuffed animals, and anything else they think you might buy. Got to get that Valentine for our spouse, our kids, and anyone else we can think of. Do we get just a card, or add some flowers? What about candy, or a stuffed animal, or something more personal? Oh, the decisions.
Just what is love? What we celebrate on February 14th is based on feelings, or sometimes we may feel it is more of an obligation, or just what we do to recognize the holiday. So let’s talk about what love really is. You can’t do that until you go directly to the One Who Created Love. He said some pretty deep things in His Word.
“We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 JOHN 4:19
We can’t really love the way we were created to love if we don’t know Him. We love because He loved us first. God is our example on how to love. If we are getting our example from another source, then is it really love, or just a feeling.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. JOHN 3:16
If our definition of love comes from the media, a movie, or what the world defines it as, we have missed the true meaning of love. Our love is based on a feeling and feelings can change. The God kind of love gives not takes. God loved and then He gave. It isn’t easy, but it is rewarding, and we really can love like God does. He wants to help us do that.
You want a true definition of love? You need to get it from 1 CORINTHIANS 13. The kind of love defined in this chapter is not impossible. This is what we all crave and need, and this is the love our God wants to teach us to have for each other. It puts self aside and it gives. Just like God gave His son to us, and Jesus went to the cross for us, God wants us to learn to love this way. Ask God to help you love like He does.
When we go into the jails and prisons we get to exercise the God kind of love. He will help us look past the person, and see them as their Heavenly Father does. God loves them, and no matter if they have absolutely run their life into a ditch, He still has a plan for them. His love never changes and His plan remains the same. Enjoy your holiday, celebrate, do whatever you plan to do, but stop and take a deep breath and think of the Father’s love. He is our ultimate Valentine.
MY VIEW by John Franciskovich
GREAT YEAR AHEAD
I pray that everyone had a safe and very Merry Christmas. I believe that the New Year will be a great year for S.T.P.O. I believe we will see answered prayers and growth during the coming year.
Now the real test lies ahead. Can we let go of the past and move forward to our future that God has always had for us?
“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord….” JEREMIAH 29:31 (AMP)
If we would get a vision of God’s plans for us, we can’t help but see greatness, because God is great, and in turn His greatness is in the plans He has for us.
We may start out believing and trusting God for the vision He has for us, and a situation arises. We are just like Peter. When the apostles saw Jesus walking on the water fear set in. Once they realized it was Jesus, Peter asked Jesus if he could join Him. Jesus said come! Peter got out of the boat walking towards Jesus. At this point he was trusting in Jesus. Whatever it was, the storm, the waves, Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, and focused on the storm. He started to sink. The same happens with us. We keep God’s vision in front of us. We may go through several situations, then one catches our eye, and we focus on it. We start trying to fix it, or seek man’s help, or check to see how the world deals with the situation. We start to sink. Then we cry out to God to save us. He reaches out His hand to pull us up and put us back in the boat.
In 1 Kings 6:15-17, we see Elisha’s servant waking up early and when he stepped outside he sees the enemy has surrounded them. He turns to Elisha in panic.
How many times has the situations had us surrounded and we panic? We start figuring out what we are going to do, or we get mad at God. God’s vision starts to dim, because the situation has blocked our vision. When the servant asked Elisha what will we do? Elisha’s answer was FEAR NOT. Fear not is something we don’t want to hear, especially when we are going through a situation. We seek God and all He says is FEAR NOT. Our reaction at times, is…..God you don’t understand this could be the end of my vision. Fear is trying to steal the vision.
Then Elisha prayed that God would open his servant’s eyes, and when the servant’s eyes were open, he saw the armies of the Lord had the enemy surrounded. When we are surrounded by the situation, we need to pray and have God open our eyes. When He does we will find out He has the situation under control even if it looked like He
wasn’t doing anything.
“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses )who have borne testimony to the Truth)…” HEBREWS 12:1 (AMP)
Remember in any situation we are never alone. God’s vision for us will make us great, or we can follow the world’s vision to greatness (which is doomed to fail). The choice is ours.
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
Turkey is done and over with. Leftovers consumed, soup made and frozen. Time to move on to the next holiday.
You know if we aren’t watchful it can become the season of holidays. Moving from Halloween, to Thanksgiving, on to Christmas and finishing up with New Year’s. Whew! After all those decorations have been displayed in stores for months to remind us, they just seem to get all lumped together. Do I get the pumpkin napkins, the turkey plates or just get the fall centerpiece to cover it all? Oh, dear, I better pick up those party hats too.
We can get so caught up in the celebrating that we miss what we are celebrating. We are just putting up and taking down decorations, changing the Halloween candy for Christmas candy and full-speed ahead. We’ve got to get ready for New Year’s …..then I can take a breath.
We can get so stressed with the celebrating that we can lose our joy and peace. What another party! You mean I have to take some cookies or make a dessert? Ugh! Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry...we are running late...AGAIN!
If it isn’t the hectic party schedule maybe it is the depression and holiday season blues. Time to think of all those long gone days, all those missed opportunities, and memories of those we loved. Being alone during the holiday season or away from loved ones, is just too much to bear.
Christmas at times has become not a celebration of Jesus’ birth, but the party, the depression, the gifts, the stuff.
In all the activity and emotions we can forget the Greatest Gift Of All…...Jesus.
“Christ has set us free. He wants us to enjoy freedom. So stand firm. Don’t let the chains of slavery hold you again.” GALATIANS 5:1 NIV
As you celebrate the birth of our Savior, be thankful that He purchased your freedom. Don’t be a slave to the holidays. Take a deep breath and inhale the joy and the peace He purchased. What if there is one less gift or the plates don’t match? What if they did forget you or you weren’t invited? Christmas is not about the party, the family getting together. Yes, all that may happened….or not.
Christmas is a time to reflect on a tiny baby coming to fulfill God’s promise to mankind. God never promised us the perfect celebration, or family gathering. He did promised us His Son and God always keeps His promises. May you celebrate a Promise Fulfilled this year.
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
November 2015THANKSGIVING- Is it just me, but does the time just seem to fly by? Here we are about to celebrate another Thanksgiving, and I still haven’t wrapped my mind around all the days running by since the 4th of July. It just seems to me, that time is barreling by, and I am standing still. I just take a breath, and another month has flown by. The only way I can keep up with it all is the bills due every month. Seems like most days I am running in place going no where.
Which brings me back to Thanksgiving. This month in all the busyness and activities, I need to take that deep breathe, and STOP. Stop and focus on and remember that I have much to be thankful for. That chore, that event, that errand, that must do list can be set down, changed or rearranged. I think sometimes we get so busy in life that we forget to live. We rush here, we hurry through that, we move on to the next project, next church function, scheduled meeting, and in all the rushing we miss the little things God is trying to show us, or the whisper of His voice.
A few weeks back, I made a small change in my routine. In the mornings I would take my coffee, and turn on the TV and catch up on the news just to see what I may have missed while I slept. I made the decision to still take the cup of coffee, but instead of zoning out on the news, to sit quietly and focus my thoughts on God. “Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.” PHILIPPIANS 4:8 (CEV)
The way my mind works, I really had to make an effort not to focus on what all I needed to get done. It was a real challenge for me to keep focused on God, rather than on being busy, and what was planned for my day. To me that was a red flag. Some how, some way, even in doing good things, and necessary things, I had allowed my thoughts to be taken captive. I had allowed the enemy of my soul to steal my peace and joy. In my dedication and commitment to finish tasks, do what I had committed to, and keep things up and running, I had allowed the stress and pressure to build. Not only that, I had begun to do things in my own abilities, rather than relying on God’s wisdom, and strength to work in me.
As I have taken that morning time to specifically focus on God, His blessings, and the things I have to be thankful for, the amazing thing is, I have a much more productive day. Oh, did I forget to say, much more peaceful and enjoyable too. What are you thankful for?
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
By the time I get this in the mail, the last Blood Moon should have occurred. I don’t know about you, but seems like everyone is talking about this phenomenon and what it means and why it is happening. What is surprising is not just “church people” but the scientific community and the secular culture all have their eyes on the sky. I tried to see it Sunday night but between the trees in my yard and the clouds, I pretty much only saw a silver. Everyone has a theory it seems. Perhaps it is the “End of Times”, or the beginning of a financial collapse, or just something interesting in the sky. I don’t propose to know much less have a theory. This I do know: “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” JOEL 2:30-31
Think of these facts….. Set in place by God…
Confirmed by modern science…
Solar Lunar Eclipse = BLOOD MOON.
The signs in the heavens reflect God’s calendar.
Four BLOOD MOONS in a row is known as a Tetrad…
When the Tetrad falls on Jewish Feasts, it signals a Historic Change in our world.
BLOOD MOON + Jewish Feasts
Passover on 4-15-2014
Feast of Tabernacles on 10-8-2014
Passover on 4-4-2015
Feast of Tabernacles on 9-28-2015
This has only happened 8 times in the last 2000 years...
33 AD—Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.
70 AD—The destruction of the Temple.
1492—Inquistion and Columbus discovers the New World.
1948—Israel becomes a nation.
1967—Jerusalem is reclaimed by Israel.
Monday, September 28th will reveal the final BLOOD MOON of the current Tetrad…
...And it a SUPERMOON.
After this week, there will not be another
Tetrad on Jewish Feasts for 400 years…
We must be aware of God’s clock.
We must be mindful of Israel.
We must be aware of the signs.
We must NOT be afraid!
This is an appointed time…
A sign from God.
What major Historical Event will we witness? Just keep your eyes open and look to the sky...
JUST SAYIN’ by Debra Rugeley
Murmuring and Complaining…...be NOT “Man, I hate this hot weather!” “My electric bill is sky high!” “I hate cleaning this house and picking up after the kids all day!” “What? Chicken again for dinner, ugh!” “Why did this have to happen to me?”
These may be some of the little things we say in passing. We probably don’t even give it much thought when we do say them. But God does! This is murmuring and complaining that we say about the things in our lives. Most of us are not even conscience that we are even doing it. We have gotten so use to doing it in our day to day of voicing what is wrong in our lives that OUT IT COMES. I believe this is another a trick of the trade with that ole red devil himself. Another entrapment or “I gotcha” method he uses.
God has made it clear in His Word that He hates murmuring and complaining. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15) nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer (I Corinthians 10:10)
The Word points out that is a SIN!! What we are actually doing is complaining against God, our Heavenly Father! Think on that a moment! Lord, forgive me! God orchestrates our entire lives with trials and temptations to mold us; strengthen us and to make us more Christ-like. In James 1:13, it states, God never tempts us.....He does test us. The test is to withstand the temptation.....which comes from the enemy and yet, we complain! Thus saying we aren’t happy with the way He is handling our lives. WOW! How bold of us to think we could handle things differently. I know I tried and made a bigger mess of things than what they were. We need to learn to be content right where God has us and thank Him for everything! Can I get an Amen here?
We as BELIEVERS need to trust God in every situation of our lives. (Notice, I said BELIEVERS, not Christians. Allow me to chase a rabbit here…These days most claim to be a Christian until it comes to believing and standing up for what is right in the sight of God. I am choosing to be a BELIEVER –believing in JESUS and the Word of God-there’s a difference, people!) –We need to acknowledge that our God is a big God, bigger than any situation we have, any problem and, bigger than any sickness or disease! While murmuring and complaining aren’t as bad in OUR eyes as the top 7 sins…murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander and idolatry, the Word states that it can keep us from entering the kingdom of God! Fine example, the Children of Israel in the Wilderness. (Numbers) I want to enter into the Promise Land. Hallelujah!
In closing, “those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity,” (Proverbs 21:23) So Lord, “let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) I think I will learn to shut my big mouth. What about you?
3 John 1:10
1 Timothy 6:8 John 6:43
MY VIEW by John Franciskovich
August 8, 2015
YOU ARE GOD’S MOST PRIZED POSSESSION
This title is from the devotional of July 26th by Jerry Savelle. As I read the devotional I thought how classic car owners look at what some would call junk and they see something of value. With a little work and sweat they make it new again. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man, that you care for him? For you made him a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5, NIV) Have you ever just stopped to look around at God’s creation? A beautiful evening sunset, a clear, star-filled night, and the distant terrain of a majestic mountain are sights that take your breath away. And yet, as breathtaking as God’s creation may be, there is something He prizes even more highly than His creation—you! You are God’s most prized possession. In fact, in His mind you are His prized possession above the stars, above the moon, above the heavens, and above all His creative handiwork. Seeing God as the very Artist of Creation, the psalmist was asking, “Lord, You’re so magnificent and creative, why would You have anything to do with man? Why would you be so mindful of him?”
An artist may display the many wonderful, creative pieces he designs, but there’s always one that is his most prized possession. As the Artist of Creation, this is the way God feels about you. You are His most prized possession.
Confession: Thank you, Father, that You are always mindful of me, thinking thoughts of love, good, and favor toward me. Thank you that I am your most prized possession. Author: Jerry Savelle
As I read this devotional, I thought how the world looks at the men and women that are incarcerated as hopeless, as something less than and that they will never be anything because of their mistakes. But God sees the value in them. My family history on my dad’s side is coal miners. Those who minister in the jail and prisons are miners. With God’s word we reveal the value that God sees. Many times inmates have heard, they are worthless; they will never amount to anything, and so on. But in God’s eyes, He sees a diamond in the rough and as He removes the roughness a diamond is revealed more valuable than anything on earth. So when you feel of no value, just remember God sees you as His most prized possession.
MY VIEW by John Franciskovich
July 7, 2015
FIGHT FOR WHAT IS YOURS
As I was reading a daily devotional by Jerry Savelle, I came across this devotional. It touched on some of the things I am going through. I am sure others are going through things too, be it jobs, health, finances, children, etc. We may have gotten to this point by the choices we made or the enemy trying to take us away from the
plans, dreams and desires that God has for us. By doing so he (enemy) is trying to prevent us from being able to establish God’s Covenant in the world. I hope this will be an encouragement to you as it was to me.
Fight For What Is Yours
And the devil said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” (Luke 4:3-4 NKJV) What bread is for your body, God’s Word is for your spirit. It is through His Word that you come to know who you are in
Christ Jesus. Once this becomes revelation to you, no one can ever take it away. When you
know who you are in Christ, your days of weakness and defeat are over. The devil will always try to challenge the revelation of who you are, just as he tried with Jesus. But, just as Jesus did, you can boldly declare to the devil, “It is written!” He cannot steal from you any longer. Tell him, “You’ve defeated me for the last time. I’m entitled to be blessed. I’m entitled to health. I’m entitled to prosperity. You’re not stealing from me any longer!”
Although the devil is a worthy opponent, he is a defeated foe. Jesus has already defeated him. He has been stripped of his authority and power. You, however, are a world overcomer. You are no longer a loser; you are more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. All you have to do is shake your Bible at the devil and declare, “It is written, I am more than a conqueror in Jesus name!”
Confession: I know who I am in Christ. I am a new creation. I am the righteousness of God. I am a joint heir with Jesus. I am more than a conqueror. I am a world overcomer, and from this day forward I am a winner! Author: Jerry Savelle God, I pray for all those reading this today that they will be encouraged by Your Word, strengthen by Your Power, and enlightened by Your wisdom. I ask that
You lead us and guide us each and every day so that we are so full of Jesus that it can’t help but spill out to all those we come in contact with; be it inmates, officers, family co-workers, or anyone else we come in contact with.
In Jesus Name
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich
February 1, 2015
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
I know that is an old song by Tina Turner and I haven’t listened to it for years. As the month of February is approaching, God asked me that question. I knew it was about more than a song, so I began to think about love and some of the scriptures I knew concerning love.
This is the first one that popped in my head, of course. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life." JOHN 3:16 The God kind of love gives. The world kind takes. Love gives—lust takes. Big difference, but too many people get these mixed up now a days. God doesn’t want any of His children to settle for the counterfeit. Love is so much more than a physical act of expression. Until we begin to see love as a choice and not just a feeling, we will miss the God kind of love He wants us to experience. It is called the agape kind of love. It is easy to look at the people in prison and jails and not see them for who God created them to be. We look at their mistakes, their choices and because of those choices they sit behind bars. But is that what God sees when He looks at them?
Those are the very group of people that if Jesus walked the earth today, He would be hanging with. Those are the people that Jesus would stop and reach out to. Isn’t that what the Gospels are full of? Jesus reaching out to the unreachable. The lost, the hurting, those that society rejected, just like the woman at the well. The problem with many of us Christians is that our love is conditional. If you meet my conditions, I will love you. We forget that we ourselves didn’t deserve the
love of the Lord, but He gave it anyway. Some people are just pretty unlovable and the only way to be able to love them is the God kind of love.
The only way I know to experience this kind of love is to spend time with God and His Word. To not just check my reading for today off my to do list but to read it, think about it during the day and then do what it says even if I don’t feel like it. God
wants to change all of our hearts and one of the ways He does that is as we spend time with Him and His Word. We make our heart available and open to Him.
No one is more amazed than me when I see the women in the jail that I love them. I truly care about them and my greatest privilege is to tell them about a God who loves them not because of who they are or what they have done. He loves them be-cause of Who He Is. I tell all the women in the jail I am here to help you, but I will not help you to continue doing what you do. If you want to go another direction, I am here 100%. The choice is theirs to make not mine. No matter what choice they make, I will continue to love them and pray for them. I am truly glad to see them again as they walk through the door of the jail once again. Yes, it is hard to see them unable to break the cycle in their lives, but without love, the God kind of love, they have no hope. Each time is the hope that they will make the choice.
What’s love got to do with it? Everything! Without God’s love none of us would have hope.
A WOMAN’S TOUCH by Linda Franciskovich,
January 1, 2015
I really don’t like that word. If I had a least favorite word procrastination would certainly be in the running. I even looked it up in Webster’s to see why I don’t like the word. Maybe it means something else. Nope. Webster’s says: "to put off intentionally and habitually; to put off intentionally and reprehensibly the doing of something that should be done." Yikes! It is even worst than I thought. I have good reason for not liking this word. We’ve shared with some asking for prayer, but John and I have been in a battle this past holiday season. John works as a contractor at STP and they have began the practice of furloughing contractors during holidays. We were furloughed the week of the 4th of July and another week for Thanksgiving. We knew we were facing another two week furlough for Christmas, but also the possibility that John would not have a position at STP after the first of the year. In the past STP allowed their contractors to take the time all at once and work an outage at another plant. I have seen God’s provision so that it takes my breath away. One year John left STP on Thursday, we got in the car and headed to CA for an outage and he walked onto that job site on Monday. When the job ended, we got in the car again after a full week of work on Friday and he walked onto the STP job site on Monday. We never missed a paycheck! Obedient to the Word we are faithful, tithers and givers. This past year has been a financial struggle even though we are still tithing and giving. Why? I believe God showed me in the word I dislike so much procrastination.
It happened so slowly we were unaware. You begin to "put off today what can be done tomorrow". You’re going to do it someday, just not today. You’ll get to it eventually. Procrastination is not in God’s plan for any of us. It creeps in without us realizing what has happened and then suddenly, at least it seems suddenly, some-thing unexpected comes up. We need God to move NOW—TODAY—IMMEDIATELY! But the seeds we have sown in our life are procrastination by put-ting off that gentle nudge from God to do this or do that, to finish what you started, to fix what needs fixing, to do what the Word says and just be done with it.
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. GALATIANS 6:7
God uses the word diligent a lot in His Word. That is opposite of procrastination. Webster’s says, "characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic application and effort, painstaking". It is so much easier to procrastinate than be diligent, but you won’t like the fruit when it shows up any-more than I did. This battle has made me spend more time in prayer and the Word. Perhaps that is God’s plan, like I don’t know that it is. Each day I am moving forward, doing things that need to be done when God shows me and not making excuses. And lo and behold! On the 17th just before John’s last work day, they told him he was extended until sometime in May. I know that we will be facing an uncertain future once again, but I am determined not to sow any seeds of procrastination this time. Yes, I am forgiven of my disobedience and ignoring God’s nudges, but many times that doesn’t mean we won’t experience the consequences for our choices. Stress and anxiety are not from God. Peace, wisdom, joy, goodness, kindness, love, faithfulness, patience and self control, those I’ll take.