Finding Freedom in a Prison Cell

Finding Freedom in a Prison Cell, by Marty Friedman

This is a wonderful story of redemption. Marty Friedman came to the Lord in jail, and for two years was part of a fellowship we helped start in the housing unit where he lived. He became a leader in that fellowship, where he profoundly impacted many, many lives. Now that he’s out, I am privileged to call him my friend.

BTW, I’m not sure about that reference to me as his “Sunday pastor”.

Marty, we gotta talk about that… 🙂

Voices from Jail

A rap/poem by a brother in fellowship in the local jail, who is learning to become the man God created him to be.

A Brother in Jail

A Brother in Jail

Perfect Wisdom

When I reached out
You took me in
When there wasn’t a soul in sight
And all I saw was you
You took me in
Dusted me off
Cleaned me up
Asked me if I’d yet had enough?
Knew about my past
Had been there through the struggles
Said you’d carry my burdens
If I’d give you my troubles

I grabbed to my shirt
Expressed a cold smirk
Yeah I’d heard that before
Seems never to work

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Marianne and I have the greatest privilege in the world. God allows us to introduce Him to those who have reached the end of themselves, and then allows us to walk with them towards healing and wholeness.

We have the privilege of then seeing those who some consider the discards of society grow in the Lord to become mighty men and women in His Kingdom.

But the highest privilege of all is this: To call them friends.

This is the story of so many when we first met. Listen, and may the Lord move your heart to compassion.

Though You Slay Me…

I don’t know about you, but the Lord sometimes loves me enough to nearly kill me. And I’m not talking metaphorically.

In fact, for those who have given our lives to Him, the Lord loves us so much that some day He literally will take our lives so He then can give us eternity.

Short of death, however, the Lord sometimes kills something important to us or in us – some vision, some hope, some confidence, some quality or attribute, some accomplishment, or even something good He previously gave us.

It’s not that the thing He kills necessarily is wrong. It’s just that it needs to die so we then are free to be and do whatever He wants of us, and for us, as we move forward in Him.

As Job understood, in the midst of everything good in his life being stripped away, “Though you slay me, will I trust you Lord.” Job 13:15.

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Slaying Giants

giant-slayerOn Christmas eve, Marianne and I spent time with about thirty brothers in the jail. During our time of fellowship, one of the men read the poem below. Here’s the story behind the poem, then the poem….

Earlier in December, I had shared with those men how our journey in the Lord is like Israel’s journey from slavery in Egypt, through the desert, and then into the promise land.

God takes us out of the bondage of Egypt, but then uses the wilderness to burn Egypt out of us.

In the wilderness, God prepares us to take possession of the promise land – that place where we are able to own and responsibly manage the things He has created us to both be and do.

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Les Miserables

Marianne and I have never recommended a movie on our blog, but yesterday we went on a date and saw the new movie, Les Miserables.

Twenty or so years ago I saw the Broadway play in New York, and it was powerful. But the movie is … amazing.

I was hesitant to go to the movie, because I expected the original Christian themes of redemptive grace and forgiveness in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel to be watered down, if not eliminated. After all, that’s the way of Hollywood. They take culture created by Christians and bastardize it.

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Words have the power to not only define, but to create reality – for good or for bad. Too often, we forget the power of words: not only ours, but of God Himself.

power-of-wordsI don’t think it was a coincidence that God spoke the universe into existence, chose to reveal Himself through His spoken Word of scripture, or came to dwell among us as the Word made flesh.

I also don’t think it is a coincidence that God still speaks to us today, or that He has empowered us to speak authoritatively on His behalf.

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The Cultural Implications of the Great Commission

The Cultural Implications of the Great Commission

Rob Moley, in his blog Restore the Word, wrote yesterday on “The Great Commission: Discipling Individuals or Nations?”.

In it, he says this about the Great Commission:

Rather than being a command to influence nations with the principles and truths of God’s kingdom, the logic of the command in Matt. 28:19-20 is to make disciples from every nation. Then, as ambassadors of God’s kingdom, these disciples are able to influence all aspects of society, and God willing, even disciple whole nations.

His point is that the Great Commission is about transforming individuals into disciples who obey all that Christ commands, who in turn transform the world around them.

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Barbeque for Jesus

This picture has great significance for me. It is from one of our fellowships – this one meets in my home on Sundays.

Yesterday, as we gathered together, we prayed and give prophetic words of encouragement over Oscar, a close friend who is moving forward with his road-side pit barbeque business by signing a contract to have a mobile food service trailer built for him (Oscar’s Barbeque). He has worked faithfully towards this moment – as unto the Lord – for two years.

I’ve watched and walked with Oscar as he’s progressed over time, step by step, in growing, proving and succeeding in his business model as part of God’s call on his life.

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Love in Action

You tell me how in Christ love is everything.

How it transcends morality, truth and even scripture itself…

How if we just expressed your concept of love, the world will beat a path to Jesus…

Yet you recoil at basic truth, like the reality of sin and moral precepts.

And you reject much that God has revealed in His Word to help us understand His own nature and thus the parameters of authentic love – for the good not just of individuals, but whole societies.

Somehow, you have been deceived into thinking that authentic love is freedom from truth, when actually it is truth set free.

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Another Great Wedding

This afternoon, Marianne and I are hosting an outdoor wedding by our pool for a couple in one of our fellowships.

One of my greatest delights is seeing God redeem lives, and being part of that process – especially when it comes to performing weddings for men I’ve mentored in the Lord.

The groom is someone I got to know while he was in jail, where I helped introduce him to Jesus. Since his release several years ago, I’ve had the privilege of continuing to walk with him as he’s learned to let the Lord put his life back together.

There were some hard stretches, like when he ended up living in the woods, homeless, for several months while God burned some unhealthy attitudes out of him. Some would have rushed out in “mercy” to save him from that fate, but I knew that it was what the Lord wanted. So rather than “save” him from being homeless, I drove him to the store to pick out a tarp for his tent, then dropped him off at the homeless “community” behind the local K-Mart.

Rather than run from what the Lord was doing in his life, he manned up to his issues and let God do His sovereign work of transformation. I was privileged to be there for him as an older brother in the faith, and to help him during that difficult time go to those places in his life where he finally got real and allowed the Lord to bring healing.

Since then, he’s been on a fascinating journey as he’s been developing his own successful business. I’ve had the privilege of helping as a trusted counselor, based on my own entrepreneurial background. In fact, he was the subject of a TV program that was broadcast last year on several local stations about some of what we do in our fellowships to mentor folks – including business.

Since then, he has grown greatly in the Lord and is one of those brothers who is always there when someone needs help.

God delights in bringing beauty from ashes. Today, we celebrate yet another step in yet another man’s journey as he continues to grow in the authentic life in Christ – along with is wonderful bride.

As I perform the wedding, I will share about what marriage is about – as God created and ordained it. As we see the institution of marriage assaulted on all sides, maybe we need to re-affirm these principles.

So here’s part of my “pastoral” charge for the new couple:

“In Genesis 1, Scripture tells us that God created humanity in His likeness and image. I believe He did this by putting His essentially masculine qualities into men, and putting those aspects of His nature that are more feminine, into women. That’s why, I believe, the Bible says He created us as male and female.

“He then ordained the institution of marriage, which represents the coming together of those masculine and feminine qualities so that we, in marriage, can reflect the completeness of His own nature – in unity of purpose, in the security of lifelong fidelity, and in the bonds of joyful, sacrificial love.

“The challenge, and the delight, of marriage is learning to honor and esteem those essential differences that we possess as husband and wife …”

To Oscar and Nicole, may the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.

May the Lord turn His countenance upon you and give you peace.

~ Jim



Yesterday’s wedding of Oscar and Nicole was one of the most amazingly joyous celebrations we’ve ever had the pleasure of hosting at our house. Life was breaking out all over. And the dancing as awesome.

Marianne and I want to thank everyone who came for your help. It was the Body of Christ – and community – in all it’s glory.

The way everyone pitched in, especially when we had to figure out at the last hour how to move everything indoors due to the rain, was a blessing beyond measure. We totally enjoyed ourselves – which is something hosts can’t often say.

Again, thanks!

Here’s a couple of pictures. We Christian’s sure know how to have some fun! 🙂

The bride, groom and friends joyously celebrating. And that woman in the red dress? She and her husband spent time doing pre-marriage counseling and are leaders in our churches. Yup. She’s dancing! (Oh, the scandal!)

Oscar and Nicole, on the left. The second couple married two years ago and now have a family, and he too has been a spiritual son. Their lives also are a testament to how God brings beauty from ashes.

I Want More Religion (Part 2)

I’ve heard privately from some who were offended with my use of “lazy-assed” in my blog, I Want More Religion (Part 1).

In my own defense, I was going to say “stinkin’ white-washed sepulchres” and use a whip to toss some tables, but I thought I’d tone it down and used “lazy-assed” instead. 😉

Seriously, if we don’t get out of this post-modern, introspective, insular, Jesus-is-all-about-affirming-my-own-sensibilities funk, then there is no hope of redemption and wholeness – for ourselves, for those He calls us to tangibly love and bless with real deeds, or for our culture.

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Acceptance with Joy

My wife, Marianne, wrote this. Where I am vision and logic, she is feeling and heart. The Lord speaks to us in very different ways, and we have learned to passionately value those differences.

Anyway, I think this was for both of us, and maybe it will speak to you too as the first of hopefully many devotionals from her.

~ Jim


As I was in the midst of an intense struggle over some situations in my life, the Lord spoke to my spirit: “Acceptance with joy.”

I responded, “Lord, I don’t even know what it is that I am to accept, but whatever it is, there certainly is no joy.”

For me, it became pray, pray, pray: I cried my heart out in hopes that somehow He would let me see what He wanted.

With me, the Lord speaks in pictures, and the picture He showed me was not encouraging.

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Becoming Our Past

Often, longstanding hurts, disappointments and emotional wounds are like old, familiar friends. We let them become so engrained into our sense of identity that they begin to define us.

When that happens, we often aren’t willing to transparently expose and turn them them over to Jesus, but tightly hold onto them like a child clinging to a security blanket.

Instead of finding transformation and wholeness, we become our past.

If this is a struggle for you or someone you know, let me suggest an old blog I wrote years ago called God Shows Up. It’s a good starting point on the road to healing.


If we are not about redemption, then what hope do any of us have?

This is my passion.

This is my cause.

It ain’t neat, and it ain’t tidy.

It’s raw and sometimes ugly.

But if Jesus doesn’t work for the worst of us, then He works for none of us.

I Am Content


Marianne Wright

I’ve advised Presidents and heads of state,

And ministered forgiveness

To murderers and inmates,

In Your name.

I’ve been rich,

But know poverty.

I’ve plowed the earth

And wiped sweaty dirt from my face,

Yet poked holes in clouds.

I’ve seen the world,

Stood firm against oppression,

And dodged its secret police,

While dancing with gypsies.

I’ve changed laws

And the course of nations,

While counting the homeless

Among my closest friends.

I’ve led the march of thousands,

And brought stadiums to their feet,

Yet walked with death and a cane.

I fought the mob and won,

And quietly saved my daughters

From their threats,

Yet been broken and used up.

I’ve known the joy of hopeless battles won,

And the brotherhood of warriors brave,

Yet cried alone before their graves.

I’ve spoken truth to power,

Hugged the brokenhearted,

And helped set the captive set free.

For all these things, Lord, I am grateful;

It’s been a life well lived.

But most of all,

I thank You that love did not pass me by:

For the joy of Marianne’s embrace

And the wonders of her grace,

I am content.

~ Jim Wright



The Road to Grace

For the institutionally religious, the road to grace is the toughest journey they’ll ever face.

For me, this certainly has been the case. And although the road to grace has been a wonderful journey, there have been many bumps and detours along the way. But slowly, I’m finally starting to find my way forward.

It’s Jesus in me and Jesus through me, so that it becomes possible to have Jesus in us and Jesus through us.

So much of my life over the last five years has been about the Lord reducing me to that simple truth.

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A Hollow Gospel

Sometimes I get angry and need the Lord to settle my spirit.

I am so frustrated over the shattered lives of man after man who I help find the Lord in jail, who then go to some on-fire, podium-focused, pastor-centric church when they get out.


The Show

Inevitably, I will see those men back in jail again a year later, or I’ll hear that they have relapsed and fallen back into addiction or bondage.

Why are they back in jail or back in bondage? Because that “church” is little more than glory-halleluiah feel-good meetings with exciting sermons framed by manipulative emotional intensity which masquerades as “worship” – all deliberately designed to serve as a platform to showcase the gifted pastor and his gifted team.

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I Saw Satan Fall

On Tuesday evening, I understood how Jesus felt when his disciples finally “got it” and reported back, after He sent them out to minister on their own for the first time, that the sick were healed and darkness conquered. In His joy, the Lord said He saw Satan fall from Heaven because of them.

On Tuesday I’m teaching and mentoring a class of students on how to minister in the areas of confession, forgiveness and repentance. After seven weeks of foundation laying, the students this week started doing ministry sessions on their own and – wow! – it was amazing what God did through them that evening.

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Beauty from Ashes

Since early this year, I’ve been working on a huge sex abuse case involving a large, local Assembly of God church.

Hurt and Confusion

The human carnage and shattered lives have been great.

I take on these kinds of cases not only because I believe in justice, but because I also believe in redemption. Often, I have the privilege of seeing God’s grace shine through as healing comes and the survivors begin to find the strength to reclaim their lives – and their stolen voices.

As I interview and get to know various survivors and their families, I’m often asked if the pain will ever stop. I tell them how I have seen God bring beauty from ashes time and again, both in others and in my own life.

It is hard, but once we pass through the fire and begin to see what God does with the ashes of our lives, we experience gratitude for who we start to become.

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Been Hearing God Lately?


Life and Joy

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Jesus fellowshipped with Adam.

It was in the garden, where the two of them walked side by side and talked face to face in the cool of the evening. Jesus met Adam in his full humanity, where life sprang forth both in and around Adam.

It took me a long time to learn that it’s OK to be human and that God wanted to meet me too in my full humanity.

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