"An Inside Perspective"

January 2013


My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! A few years ago, as you may perhaps remember, we Greenhouse workers were allowed to grow our own vegetables in our very own garden. It was a huge blessing and we were most appreciative while it lasted. Big fat fresh juicy tomatoes on my sandwiches every day. Those were the days!

Also, one of my favorites to grow was the cucumber. I preferred the smaller sort, about three to five inches, because they were more quickly pickled. I really enjoyed pickling and the whole process at the Greenhouse became like a culinary cult. Over the years, it snowballed into a whole big competition with much hoopla. Every season, the competition became more and more intense.

There were tons on the line; indeed the penitentiary’s “Pickle King of Rahway” was at stake! That was no small reputation to own! The challenge was always about who was going to come up with the best vinegar and spice recipe for that year. To sport said envied crown for a year afforded the bearer, from officer to inmate alike, many small but precious luxuries.

When donning said crown, you might find some extra chicken on your tray or perhaps you’d get put first on the shower list. Tops on the shower list --- a coveted spot for sure and only heightened in the summer’s dog-day heat. Or maybe all your laundry would come back neatly pressed and folded. All the while, the players were, of course, looking for their own share in that year’s coveted batch of pickles.

There is a saying I like that applies, “You can’t read the label from inside the bottle,” meaning that we were so involved in the process and so partial to our own recipes that we couldn’t judge ourselves properly. We required people from outside of “our bottle,” someone who was not preferential to judge the finished product correctly.

We would try different mixtures of every sort in search of the perfect pickle, horticulturalists turned culinary mad scientists as it were. In the process we birthed many horrible batches that were inedible. Believe me, some of the samples were so bad that they were fit only to be cast out into the compost pile!

Finally, I observed that there was no going back in the making of a pickle. If you left a cucumber in that vinegar mixture for even only one night, it was a pickle. It could never become a cucumber again. You simply cannot unpickle something. In the world, it’s “once a pickle, always a pickle.”
It is written, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove that I’m right. It is the Lord Himself who will examine me and decide.” (l Cor. 4:4 NLT)

I always thought that my pickles were the best but that does not mean they were. I had need of someone from outside the bottle to judge them. So also with our Christian walk. Perhaps you have given yourself over to the world and all of its varied recipes. If you are steeped in it yourself, you cannot see it for what it really is because you can’t read the label from inside the bottle. Beloved, be sure that the devil is trying to pickle you. He has tons of recipes full of “worldly vinegar and spice” to soak you in. He is laboring to make you ready to be cast out and into the spiritual compost pile!

It is written, “Love not the world, neither the things of the world...for all that is in the world...is not of the Father...” (l John 2:15-16)

You might say, “Well, Brother Philip, you are in prison so you can’t really know what we go through out here every day.” True in a sense, but I could say the same. “You are out there and you have no idea what I go through every day living amongst the basest of the base.” “The world” is in here too --- trust me, you don’t want to know about it. I rarely speak of it in my letters because Satan will get no glory from me for his vile works. Beloved, holiness is our heavenly lot wherever we live and no matter what our circumstances may be. We walk by faith.

On the label of the bottle it says, “Do not practice this regularly or you will become pickled.” It is very clear, but you can’t read the label from inside of the bottle. Perhaps for you it is not that clear. In fact, pickling is a slow process causing the cucumber to become one with the vinegar. Beware!

Beloved, are you being pickled by the world’s vinegar? Are you so desensitized to sin that you do not even see it for what it is anymore? Have you noticed that the world has taught Christians that sin is now entertainment? A lie, but most have embraced it. Sadly, but much to the Devil’s delight, Christians willingly pay (using the Lord’s money) to have “worldly vinegar and spice” piped (cabled) right into their very homes! Grievous!

Precious one, are you pickled? If so, repent; of yourself, you can’t get unpickled. Thankfully, “once pickled, always pickled” isn’t true spiritually. Be encouraged, there is yet hope. God will still turn a pickle back into a cucumber. Beloved, don’t let Satan wear the pickle crown in your life. Always remember...