"An Inside Perspective"

October 2004


My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! The visit ministry branch of Our Father’s Persistent Love Ministries has been serving the prisoners here in Trenton State Prison, by way of encouragement, for about 9 years.

Over the years, to keep things organized, we have developed what we call the “Visit Ministry Manual.” It is very thorough. It contains the matched up names for the volunteers and the prisoners that they visit. Also, it contains all the yearly scheduling calendars, alpha lists, etc., for all the participating churches.

Carlos, the inside ministry secretary, has developed an awesome format for the Manual that updates all the changes monthly. It is then passed out to Sister Debbie on a visit. She and I both then have the manual in our hands as we coordinate ministry business over the phone.

Last week, Roger and I had a scheduled visit with Brother Wes Whalen and his lovely wife Chris. They come with their church a few times a year. Tony Maholic was also visiting Brother Ribble. Sister Debbie was out of town that day.

In the wisdom of Philip I thought, “Well, since Sister Debbie is not coming today, let me pass out the manual to Wes who can then give it to Tony. Tony can then drop it at Debbie’s house on his way home.” Good idea right? NOT! It is written, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”

I went out on the visit and was so caught up in fellowship that I completely forgot to tell Wes or Tony about the package that they were to pick up after the visit. In that package was the Manual! When I got back to my cell I said, “My Stars, I forgot to tell them to get the package from the mailroom!” You might think that’s not a big deal but have you ever tried to get something back from the State?

Now I am plotting on my bunk. I think, “How am I going to get this thing to Sister Debbie now?” Again, Philip’s finite wisdom (never a good thing) kicks in. I decide that I will write the visit hall sergeant a letter explaining the whole situation. I will ask him to allow Brother Willis’ fiancee Sister Sharon to pick it up when she visits Willis the next day. I think, “I’m cooking with grace now.” I’m not. The sergeant says no. Plan number two kicks in. Surely I can get my wing Officer to go out there and recover it for me or maybe I can just leave it there until Sister Debbie comes again. But that won’t work either because her name is not on it, only Wes and Tony’s. Wes won’t be back for six months and I never even got to talk to Tony because the visit was so crowded. At this point you may be saying, “This is a long story Philip, keep it short, right?” Please, “let patience have her perfect work,” there is a moral to this story.

In the meantime, truthfully, I was “stressing” because I am the one responsible for all this. I then anxiously await for Sister Debbie to get back into town to report my incompetence. I call her up to explain my plight but before I can even tell her my story she says, “Oh yea, thank you Philip for the Visit Ministry Manual, it was on my desk when I got home.” “Are you serious,” I cried? The Lord is so good. Even as I write this I do not know how it got on Debbie’s desk. It was finished. I had never told anybody about it! How could God have possibly have gotten that done without me? (smile)

The Holy Spirit immediately stressed to me how hard I had worked to accomplish that which He had already done. Indeed, “It is finished.” What a lesson for us all. I obviously had not been directed by the Spirit. I had stressed, instead of resting. I had labored, instead of trusting. All my work had been in vain. It had accomplished nothing of any value. In fact, my attempt to manipulate the situation had caused unnecessary aggravation for everyone involved! God had accomplished what He wanted to and he didn’t need me to do it. Sound familiar?

It is written, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...” It does not say “work for your salvation” but “work out.” Our works are to be “faith expressing itself through love.” They are to flow, at the Spirit’s direction, from a gratefully redeemed heart. Service is our joyful privilege as we work hand in hand with our Lord to accomplish His purposes.

God is eternally and only satisfied with the Blood of Jesus Christ on our behalf. We will never find God’s favor through our own works. It only puts us back under the law and into a pattern of failure. It is written, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit are you now made perfect by the flesh [works]?" It’s a long story, I’m gonna keep it short. Just a gentle reminder...

“It is finished.”