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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Creation

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"The Power To Change Lives Today"

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I believe that the Christ who was slain on the cross,
Has the power to change lives today.
For He changed me completely, a new life is mine.
That is why by the cross I will stay.

Paul Stock 11/27/12Yesterday we met Paul Stock, an interesting Christian brother, who has been in a variety of ministry positions as well as working in the corporate world. He stopped by to visit with us as he is presently between jobs and wanted to get acquainted after learning about us through a mutual friend. He is proactively networking as he is pursuing whatever door may open next in his life, which is an attitude I especially admire. He accepted Christ in his late twenties and has a deep passion for souls. I think we both benefitted from the visit.

His most recent ministry assignment was with Prison Fellowship where he managed the ministry in the Mid-Atlantic region. Prison work is tough. Although many prisons have chaplains, much of the work is done by
 dedicated volunteers. I have visited inmates and preached in prisons as a guest but never had a regular prison ministry. I especially honor those who serve regularly and several long-time friends come to mind as I share this message today.

We remember these and many others serving in hard places who receive little recognition on this side. Their work at times
surely seems futile but God's Word assures us that, "God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them" (Hebrews 6:10).

There is much seed that we plant along life's journey that seems to resist germination. But I'm glad for those instances when, after planting a seed(s) from God's Word, we see the effect. From the dark places also comes the dramatic conversions. Paul told me a story that took place in one of the prison Bible studies in Virginia.

He was in the midst of leading the group when one of the inmates, who
 had been a part of the study for six months, raised his hand and asked, "Mr Stock, can I say something?" Paul told me you never know what someone might say in a setting like this but he allowed him to proceed.

He stood to his feet and said, "Six months ago if you would have asked me what it means to be a man I would have told you; conquer every woman you can, never back down from a fight and get as much as you can."  He paused, held up his Bible, and then shared, "But this Book has turned my world upside down. I now see that to be a man is to be faithful to one woman, walk in humility, and serve others. Thank you." And then he sat down!

Paul told me little else needed to be said that night and I told him that's a message that will preach! I hope I never cease to marvel at the wonder of changed lives and the keeping power of Jesus Christ.

What's your story? We all have one don't we? Christ works in whatever circumstance we are in. Today please consider your life. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Saviour? That is believing in Him to forgive your sins and make you a child of God. He indeed continues to change lives today and He is either changing yours or waiting for you to call on His Name to be changed. Please do so today!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, may I never cease to be amazed at the marvelous work You do in the lives of those who yield their hearts to You, however hard or darkened their lives may be. Hardened souls become pliable in Your skillful hands, our Master Potter.  You reshape and mold us into the image of Your Son, so that we are on equal standing with all repentant believers at the foot of the cross. We thank You for Your bountiful mercy and generous grace that gives us right standing with You when we come to You in faith and forgiveness. In Jesus' name we give You thanks. Amen.

We have several friends in prison ministry: Rick who for nearly twenty years has led a weekly study in a Massachusetts prison; Jim, who is seventy-eight with critical knee problems, leads a weekly study in a New Jersey prison; Mike and Kathy, who together mentor young men in a North Carolina prison; Scott who has ministered in the York County Prison for many years, and my present chaplain supervisor Al Worthley, who served for many years as a chaplain in the federal prison system.

Floyd and Mary Miles 11/12This brings to mind Floyd Miles whom I met while serving a church in New England. He now lives in San Antonio Texas where he serves as Men's Director of the Teen Challenge Center. Floyd was the connection that got our friend Rick involved in prison work in Massachusetts. I spoke several years ago when he served a church in Indianapolis and took this photo. I shared a portion of Floyd's testimony in this message. He has written a testimonial titled "No Chance on Earth".

Here's an abbreviated testimony from the Teen Challenge website:

My name is Floyd A. Miles III. I was born and raised in Harlem, NY. My mom died of a heroin overdose at the age of 28. My dad was a junkie for 20 years before being dramatically saved in an instant when he cried out to Jesus at the Teen Challenge center in Brooklyn.

I was glad that God had given me my dad back; however, by then I was doing my own thing. Soon my life became ravished by drugs and I found myself living in an abandoned building. Things had gotten really bad for me. I had signed up to go into the Air Force in order to get out of the city but I never made it because my life spiraled out of control. I called my dad and he got me into the Brooklyn Teen Challenge Center.

I was still planning to go into the Air Force after I completed TC. However, God had other plans for me. One day while at a crusade I responded to an altar call and a man of God prophesied and literally told me all that I was thinking at that very moment. He told me that God had called me into the ministry (Jeremiah 29:11).

After completing TC, I went to Bible school (where I met my lovely wife Mary) and seminary. We have been married for 26 years and have 3 children. I also have a daughter and 2 grandchildren who live in South Carolina. In addition to me and my dad, my sister and my first cousin (whom I was raised with) are also TC graduates!

I worked at Teen Challenge New England for nearly 20 years. While there, God allowed me to plant the first TC center in Connecticut and start an inner city AG church—New Creation Outreach.

Prior to coming to Texas I was the senior pastor of Victory Christian Center and I worked as a Licensed Addictions Counselor at the Indianapolis Treatment Center.

To God Be The Glory!!!

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary"  Video  Gaither Vocal Band This is the song the opening lyrics in our message is taken from and has been among my many favorite songs since I was a young Christian. It still moved me and I hope it always does. I also hope they sing it next week when we go to a Homecoming Concert in Hershey!

"I'm Amazed"  Video   Jason Crabb and The Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers sang live at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

"Saved, Saved, Saved"  Video   Greene Mountain Men's Choir  I haven't heard or sung this song in many years but today's message brought it to mind due to the line: "Saved by His power divine, Saved to new life sublime!"

"This Is How It Feels To Be Free"  Video   Another song by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers live at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Prison Fellowship

I was so touched by the story that Paul told me of the inmate with the changed life that I wondered if it had been published. Apparently not but Paul shared that on Prison Fellowship's 2011 annual report (pdf) is a story that came out of the same prison.

Reggie Holmes — A New Man in Christ

Reggie was the only child of a single mom living in a troublesome neighborhood in Richmond, VA. In fact, his mom wouldn’t let him off the front porch due to the frequent shootings and rampant drug trafficking that occurred around them. As a child, he remembers attending church with his mom and happily building electric train sets in his bedroom.

Tragically, Reggie’s mom passed away just before his 16th birthday. After moving in with his aunt, he stopped attending church and started hanging out with a bad crowd. As a result of a botched robbery, Reggie was arrested, convicted, and sentenced. “I was scared to go to jail. You see prison movies, and you think the same things are going to happen to you, too.” But, halfway through his sentence, Reggie applied for the Prison Fellowship reentry program after encouragement from a fellow inmate. We’re thankful for partners like you who have reached out to Reggie with the Gospel through a program that would help him learn to apply Jesus Christ’s teachings to his entire life. “It felt really special to know that they wanted to help me,” says Reggie. “I had not felt that way in a while.”

In 2009, Reggie was introduced to his Prison Fellowship mentor, Stephan Hicks. Stephan was released from prison over a decade ago and had come to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of Christian cellmates. The two men met once a month and began to shape and pursue some post-imprisonment goals for Reggie. Stephan recalls his own release from prison, “No one greeted me. I didn’t know where I was going.” With that in mind, Stephan created a different experience for Reggie’s release. When Reggie walked out of prison, the parking lot had two carloads of relatives ready to welcome him home.

Since Reggie’s release, Stephan has remained close and always willing to provide assistance. He attended Reggie’s first meeting with his probation officer, attended Reggie’s baptism, and provided premarital counseling to Reggie and his fiancée Stacy. Reggie has also found a church home at the Tabernacle of Praise. After working up the courage to confess his past to the pastor, he found grace instead of judgment.

The bright spots in Reggie’s post-prison life don’t stop with finding a great church and full-time employment. Reggie and Stacy were married on January 26, 2011. “God’s been blessing me outrageously. First with a second chance at life and rebuilding it, and my beautiful wife, and now I’m patiently waiting for my son to make his grand entrance into the world! Thank you God for everything and I do mean EVERYTHING!”

a message to Stephen & Brooksyne

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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