"An Inside Perspective"

September 2013


My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Most of you by now have met Carlos, if not in person, then over the years through the pages of these Inside Perspectives. He and I have been in the same cell together since about 2001, except for a few small stints, and have known each other since 1998. Needless to say, we have experienced much together.

It is hard to really voice what it is like living in a cell with another man. Imagine if you will though, living with and doing everything (and I mean everything) in the presence of another person in a space about the size of your bathroom, and that for 13 years! That’s how it has been for us.

Over those years, wonderfully, I have watched the Lord bring Carlos out of a gang lifestyle and enable him to pursue and receive his High School G.E.D. At the same time, I have witnessed the Lord grow him in grace, eventually making him a well-respected and sought-after leader in the Body of Christ. He has become a teacher in the church and also a teacher’s aide in the prison’s school system. Now to top it all off, he is enrolled in the prison’s new College Step Program and is pursuing an Associate’s Degree. To say that I am a proud father would be an understatement. The Lord’s hand is on Carlos’ life and I feel privileged to be a part of it. I am also very excited to see what the Lord will yet do in his future. Please pray with me toward that end.

In the course of this, Carlos and I have shared all of our growing-up stories together. He was brought here to the United States by his uncle at the tender age of ten; up to that point he had been raised by his grandmother. He didn’t meet his father until he was eight and was eventually united with him here. His father later became a United States citizen of which he was very proud.

Carlos shared with me a story about some of the first times he had spent with his father. Every Saturday his dad would take him out to eat at his favorite deli in Plainfield. Every time they went there Carlos would see the bowl of jelly packs on the table. He would then grab them and commence to eat them like candy; indeed he assumed they were candy. He thought nothing of it; in his mind he was in a candy store. One day his father saw him eating the jelly packs and became embarrassed because other people were watching Carlos mow through the bowl of jellies! He said, “Carlos, why are you eating those jellies like that for?” Carlos very innocently responded, “I thought they were candy.” His father lovingly pulled him to the side and said, “My son, that is not candy.”

It is written, “...and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple thereof.” (Rev. 21:21b-22)

You see, Carlos had come from a completely different culture. He had come from a country of needs to a country with plenty. To we Americans they were simply common jelly packs, but to a hungry El Salvadorian child, they were a great candy treat! What had value there, had no value here...none!

Likewise, here in prison I possess a word processor. It’s really just a fancy typewriter from the 1980’s, but in this prison culture, it is highly valued. I also own an awesome CD/cassette player that is very highly coveted in prison. They are worth tons in here. When I finally leave prison, though, I will not take them with me. What is as gold in prison is obsolete in this world. What has value here, has no value there---none!

So also, to the saints in the New Jerusalem, all the world’s goods are obsolete. There will be nothing from earth that will be taken to heaven. Gold is the status symbol of wealth in this world. Gold is to the saints in Heaven, though, as asphalt is to us on earth; they pave the street with it! When we leave this earth, all the things that are now highly prized by us will be obsolete in heaven. What has value here, has no value there---none!

It is written, “But upon Mt. Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.” (Obadiah 17)

Beloved, our real possessions are already in Heaven. One day, Israel and Christians alike will “possess their possessions” in full, even all that the Lord has promised them, both earthly and heavenly. When called to go, the only things you will take to Heaven with you are your works done as a believer, be they good or bad! Wouldn’t we be wise to dispossess ourselves of some of our “stuff” now in our hearts?

Precious one, let these truths make you rethink how you actually do possess “your” possessions here on earth. With what fervency of heart do you hold them dear? Sparkling as it is, a new car will go from rust to dust in no time. Perhaps in heaven they are traveling at the speed of thought anyway. Surely, they don’t use cars there, do they?

The only value worldly “stuff” now has is in the spreading of the gospel! That is our current mandate. Always remember, beloved, that what has value here, has no value there---none! Stay focused, be vigilant lest your Heavenly Father lovingly pulls “you” to the side saying...