I was in prison and you visited me


In today’s mail I received a letter from an old friend. I learned that he is very ill with many health issues and is likely not being given the best health care. I also learned that I alone am the only friend who communicates with him.

After being abandoned by his mother when he was just a toddler, Charlie was placed in a foster home in Asheville, North Carolina and grew up there along with the dozens of other children who would come and go over the years. I met Charlie when we were teens and we were very good friends. We were not unlike most boys, we liked fast cars, adventure, and girls. But we were also Christians.  We played together, prayed together, made mistakes together, and together, more than once, we repented and kept following Jesus as best we knew how in our immaturity as young men, and as Christians. Over the years Charlie made some very unwise choices, the beginning of a downward spiral that has resulted in him being incarcerated now for well over 30 years. Experimenting with alcohol and drugs was the beginning of a story of hopelessness that has been repeated in the United States tens of thousands of times. What a tragic story for a handsome, very bright young man full of potential, only to end, perhaps soon, dying alone in a prison hospital or in his cell.

The sad truth is, that Charlie, like millions of prisoners, have been forgotten. With the exception of his daughter, all of his family and friends, including Christians, have long ago stopped writing. So far as they are concerned Charlie might as well be dead. But he is not dead and he is still experiencing all of the emotional pain of one who has lost everything except his faith in Christ.

For all of these years behind bars he has not had one infraction, not one “write up” for bad behaviour. A model prisoner in every sense of the word. He is respected by inmates and prison personel alike because of his care for others, his disarming smile, and his consistant life as a godly man. I will not mention anything about his quilt or innocence or what crime he was convicted of. I can see no good that would come of that. The bottom line is, he was convicted, right or wrong, and will die in prison sooner or later.

Would you be willing to write a letter to Charlie? Just a few lines of encouragement, a poem shared, a funny story, or something that might inspire hope would be wonderful. I will not post his name and address here because of spammers and nutty buddies. If you are willing to write to this good man please let me know and I’ll pass along his contact info privately.

I am not trying to “guilt” you into writing to Charlie, but the Lord Jesus himself said this. “I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” And, in Hebrews the author wrote “Remember those who are in prison”. Jesus said “When you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me”.

For the downcast,

Royce

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“..if I should die before I wake…”


Today we buried an associate. A 60 year old woman who had been selling real estate since 1972. Dying at 60 is way premature to this almost 63 year old.

Where is she now? With the Lord I think, I hope, but I don’t really know do I? I shared the very good news with her and she assured me she was “satisfied”. Though in some way I wish I could do more, I suppose I did what I could. I will take her word and find some measure of peace in the knowledge that she had found peace with God.

I have decided that if I must err, (and we all must err) that I should err on the side of the love and grace of God. After all God does love people more than you and I do. And, He has done something remarkable to prove His love by giving His only Son to completely pay for the sins of wicked people. Wicked? Yes wicked!

I don’t hear the word “wicked” used to describe humans much in sermons any more, except for my own. According God’s book, at the center of every man is a spiritual heart which is “deceitfully wicked” and only God can really know it. (Jeremiah 17:9) And, Christ died for the “ungodly”. 

The problem with you and me is that we measure ourselves by ourselves (each other). God on the other hand measures us by Himself. We lose every time!

Christ did not come into this world to condemn it but that people might be saved through Him. I don’t think I will be in the business of condemnation either since I am to be used in His stead in some mysterious way.

I will tell folks the very good news about His love, and how their sin debt has long been paid, and God’s gracious offer is forgiveness of sins and eternal life along with all the trimmings described in the Bible. I will tell them that by simple child like trust they can know the peace of God and have peace with God through Christ. And not by ritual, religion, saying certain phrases, going certain places, and going to certain houses of worship. Nope, only take Him at His word and expect Him to do what He has promised.

Every one of us, saved and unsaved, are flawed human beings. A remedy has been provided for every one of us. His name is Jesus. In the words of comic/song writer/singer Mark Lowery “I catch them God cleans them”.

Each of us contributes one sinner each to the formula of salvation. That is about it. Jesus has done and will do the rest. Have you put your whole trust in Him? You’ll sleep better once you have……”and if you should die before you wake….”

His peace,
Royce Ogle

The throne of grace


Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

What a wonderful invitation! Invited to enter the throne room and to approach the One who sits upon the throne “boldly”. How can such a thing be? I, a mere man, sinful and weak, and wholly undeserving should “boldly” come to my God? Yes, for I am a child of this King. I am not a commoner, my position in the kingdom is greater by far than that of a subject, I am a son!

When I approach this throne, I can do so without fear or reservation for it is not a seat of judgment but one of grace! A one word description of this throne of God given in the above text is not holiness, although He is holy, it is not justice although He is just, it is not righteousness although He is righteous, no, here it is characterized as a throne of grace! It is a place where the unmeasured favor of the God of is lavished upon those who come to Him. Grace? What does it mean?

I fear that we have been short sighted in regard to grace. The usual answer given when someone is asked for a definition is “God’s unmerited favor”. It surely is that but most of the time we have in mind the forgiveness of our sins only. God’s grace toward us does encompass forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and even one day glorification. But most of the time when grace is mentioned in the Bible it means much more than a perfect salvation given to imperfect people.

In Luke’s gospel he wrote of the child Jesus and said, “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:40)From this verse we can be sure that grace meant something far different than having to do with salvation. “…And the grace of God was upon Him.” Every day of His life on earth He walked in the favor of His Father in heaven. Every good thing He needed His Father provided. It is one thing to have the favor of a public official. You might possibly get some special treatment that other citizens do not enjoy. But this is the Creator God who loves us without measure and is extravagant in how He provides for us. We can’t imagine what bad things would have come our way except for His love in caring for us. We know for sure that every good and perfect gift comes from His loving hand of grace.

Do you have lack? Paul said, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8) Do you need help witnessing for Christ? Grace is the answer. “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:33) It is to this God of grace we can come as dear children. Why do we come? “..To obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need”. How wonderful are the benefits of being a child of God! (Psalm 103)

It is at our point of want that we need God’s lavish favor upon our coming and going. And we find it accompanied with mercy. By God’s grace he delights to give us what is good and best for us, to simply “help” us. But then by God’s mercy He stays what should be ours if we received what we deserved.

What would God do such a thing? Because He is love.

In His final statement to mankind about His love, Jesus Christ the Righteous took upon himself our sin, or brokenness, and because He could do nothing more for us and could offer nothing more to the Father, there He died in my place and yours. God’s fiery wrath for sin was poured out upon Christ to the last drop.

He looks on Christ and pardons sinners, declaring them “right” with Him. “To those who received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God”. Have you received Him? He is full of grace for you. He will not always wait.

Christian have you been living on less than God’s gracious provision? Shake it off! Run to the throne of grace, your Father waits to pour out His love into your life and circumstances.

His peace,

Royce Ogle