"An Inside Perspective"

December 2003


My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! In our Sunday morning services last week our Freedom Choir came forward to worship via some Christmas songs. Brother Mark Luciana, who sings "Oh Holy Night," came up to the microphone and said, "Rejoice with me, we do not celebrate the birth of a baby, we celebrate God incarnate!" wow! Simple, yet profound, right? The thought has resonated in my heart ever since.

As I have shared in the past, the holidays are a very hard time for those in prison. It seems the memories of our hearts go back to the days gone by and of better times with the family, loved ones and friends. Repentantly we think, "If I only had listened to the ones that loved me."

I never know the real meaning of Christmas. For me, when I was young, it was always a sweet time of giving and receiving but I never associated it with the God of creation mercifully giving of Himself. He gave, to fallen humanity, His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ --- God incarnate.

This Christmas, we as a ministry, have a special grieving and rejoicing together in Christ. Our beloved Brother Gary Guth, after a long battle with cancer, has gone home to be with his Lord. If he thought for one second that we were grieving his passing I know he would be highly upset. I know he would say jokingly, "I just beat you home that's all, do not grieve for me ---but rejoice --- that I am finally in the Lord's presence." It is written' "Then we shall see face to face." Picture this, today Brother Gary is in glorified flesh, face to face, with God incarnate! My stars, Gary has indeed finally arrived!

Our hearts and prayers go out to Gary's wife Maggi and her family. It is written, "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted." That is our place now. Remember to pray for sister Maggi and to call her and encourage her or send her a card. you can send cards to the ministry address. I cannot stress to you the impact, during these last four years, that Gary and Maggi's visits have had on the men in this prison.

I want to share about our Brother Gary, by way of tribute, to honor him for his service to us behind bars. I am going to use some words I wrote to sister Maggi to eulogize Gary because they are from my heart...

"I come before you today with a heavy heart, knowing that our beloved Brother Gary and sister Maggi through this ministry. Gary volunteered his own time and that of his family to come into this prison. for many years, on a monthly basis, Gary and Maggi visited the brothers here to encourage us. you may have met them at the annual ministry barbeque? Gary was always of Jesus, always joyful and uplifting. The men that he ministered to loved him deeply, including me. He will be sorely missed.

Gary never judged us for where we are or what we may have done in our pasts but always pointed us toward the blood of Jesus Christ, His work upon the cross and, the awesome grace of God! He did not run with the pack but danced to only one drummer, that of his Lord. Gary was quick to share not only himself with us but also his wife and children. He was always giving, serving and forever trying to help.

What amazed me most about Gary was what he did while he was suffering in the worst of his sickness. at times, he was barely able to stand, his hair was all gone and one side of his face was sagging, yet he still came into the prison to visit and encourage us. That is commitment, that is his testimony, "and by it, he being dead yet speaketh." Someone should have been encouraging him and here he was encouraging us! to me that says it all! What type of man is this? A Godly man for sure. Gary represented his lord, in his service, right unto the end. He never blamed anyone or complained but always gave God the glory. We praise God for Gary and the man of God that he still is --- in his new body and position in glory before God incarnate."

In closing, we praise God that earth's loss is Heaven's gain! It is written, "Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Prayerfully, ask yourself now...

"What will my eulogy be when I stand before... God incarnate?"

Blessed Holidays - Joyfully in Jesus,
Love Philip