A Heart of Flesh

The  America’s Keswick Colony Grad Reunion is coming again on Mother’s Day weekend, as it does every year.  This will be the fourth one in which I will participate, the first one being May 7 – 9, 2010.  I had arrived at the Colony of Mercy only 9 days earlier and have several memories of that first weekend.  There was a rather energetic speaker named Manny Mill who shared the story of the prodigal son in a way that changed my understanding and interpretation of Luke 15:11-24 forever.  I recall many happy and warm embraces shared between people who were genuinely full of joy and gratitude, and I heard stories of how their time in the Colony had saved their marriages, their jobs, their very lives, and their relationship with Jesus.

I witnessed how happy and joyous the staff members of Keswick were to see these men and their families.  There was a look of satisfaction and contentment, maybe the same look the man must have had in MT 25:21 when he heard his lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”

There were many other things I remember, but one memory really pierced my heart and gave me a cause to pause.  The auditorium had been a beehive of noise and laughter, one conversation being louder than another as people were sharing how great life is when we take ourselves from being the center of our lives and put Jesus there.  That one decision gives us life and gives it to us abundantly (John 10:10); when we walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh, we experience life and peace (Romans 8:6).  In the loudness of the room, I suddenly noticed heads turning toward the big screen on the stage and all became quiet, the kind of silence that practically screams.  As I watched the screen, I realized that there were pictures of graduates who had died that year, some from natural causes but many from a poor decision to remove Jesus from the throne of their lives and replace Him with the idols of drugs and alcohol.  Those were the same idols that originally brought them to the Colony of Mercy.  I will never forget the sadness I felt despite not knowing any of the men personally whose pictures were shown.

Sad to say, this year there will be pictures of men I not only knew but grew to love, and their deaths hurt my heart, the heart of flesh that God gave me during my time at the Colony, the heart of flesh which continues to beat for Jesus, my Jesus who sits on the throne and is my life. Remember that these men were much more than just photos but were living, breathing hearts of flesh and let us commit to praying for the loved ones they left behind. May the death of our Colony brothers remind us that Jesus is THE bondage breaker and THE only solution to the problem of addiction. May we be the ones who carry this message to the world.

For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.  Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean;   I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;  I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36: 24-26

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Feelings Are Not Facts

Dear Jesus,

Lately it has occurred to me that not all of my sins were forgiven at Calvary.  I feel as if You may have left a couple of mine out when You were on the cross.  I’m thinking about many but here’s one: I don’t feel as if I have been totally forgiven for abandoning my children all those years when I was drinking and drugging.  I neglected my responsibilities as their father and now my middle one is having his own battle with drugs and alcohol and thoughts of suicide.  I feel as if I need to do something, to work harder, to prove that I really am sorry for what I did.  There has to be a way for me to feel as if I didn’t fail.

So, can You do me a favor and come back and repeat that day?  I know it was the worst day of Your life on earth but can You leave Heaven again and make sure that my sin was forgiven?  I just don’t feel as if it was.  Can You go to the Cross one more time?  Thanks.

Your child,
Joe

Dear Joe,

No, I won’t be doing that day again, not because I don’t love you or that I don’t care that you are suffering this emotional anguish but because My crucifixion really did conquer ALL sin and death forever, past, present, and future.  My sitting on the throne at the right hand of My Father is proof that when I said, “It is finished,” it is.

It is true that there is nothing you can do.  I did it all, I paid the price, My death reconciled you to My Father.  When you asked Me into your life to become your Lord and Savior, all that you have done, are doing, and will do has been atoned for.  You received a new past, a beautiful present, and a glorious future.  Though you may not feel it, remember that feelings are not facts.  It was only through the love of My Father that you are truly forgiven.  One and done.  You need to accept your acceptance, and your acceptance is based on what I did at the Cross.  You could never do anything that would duplicate what happened that day.  So you may regret the path you took to get to Me, and I know that if you could change what you did, especially abandoning your children, you would.  My death, burial, and resurrection have taken care of ALL your sins.

Check out John 3:3, John 3:16-17, John 5:24, and II Cor. 5:17.  These verses will help you in the areas of your salvation, assurance, and security.  II Cor. 5:21 will help you to know that through My death, burial, and resurrection, you are accepted 100%.

I love you,
Jesus

Many of us who come from a background of drugs and alcohol abuse, poor choices, and selfish decisions don’t feel forgiven.  God is not interested in how we feel but rather that we accept and trust what Jesus did for us that day at Calvary.  He paid the price in full because we never could.  Our Father loved us so much that He gave us Jesus, who did the will of the Father.  As the result of His obedience and His actions, we are set free from sin and death in spite of how we feel.

Trust, obey, and have faith that the past is what you did and not who you are.  Because of, and only because of the Cross, we are forgiven.

Father, thank you for the opportunity, through the crucifixion of Your Son, my Savior Jesus, to become a member of Your family, and that it is not from human acceptance or people pleasing that I am free from the penalty of sin and death.  Thank you, Jesus, for paying my sin debt in full that day on the Cross at Calvary.  I love You and my life is Yours.

Joe’s Testimony

My name is Joe Freeman and as of April, 2010, I am a new creation, one of The King’s kids!  Receiving Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and making Him the center of my life has transformed this former alcoholic/drug addict into a disciple of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  I have decided to follow Jesus until I am called home to Heaven.

I grew up the eldest of nine boys in the Philadelphia area before moving to the shore town of Wildwood Crest, NJ.  As a child I was physically and emotionally abused by my father.  My mother lived in fear of my father and was controlled by his anger and dictatorial style.  He was a punishing father, physically, emotionally, and verbally.  He hit first and did so often.  Degradation and public humiliation were the norm.  He expected us to do as he said, not as he did.  He drank a lot, smacked my mother around, and by all indications was unfaithful.  An agnostic at best and an atheist at times. he acted as if he were smarter than God and was angry with God.  My mother sent us to Catholic church on Sundays but she was too afraid of my father to go herself.  I never saw my father show forgiveness to anyone.  If you did it, you paid for it.  A mistake was a screw-up, not tolerated and generally beaten out of you.  He was brutal, not gentle.My opinion and image of God was that He did not love me or even like me.  God was a brutal punisher who looked for me to fall and then swiftly and brutally punished me.  He could never forgive me for even the smallest offense and I could never please Him or make Him love me.

I was also sexually abused by a female babysitter starting at age 11 for a year and a half.  This led to further pain and turmoil in my soul and damaged my concept of intimacy.

I began to drink heavily in college and ultimately became addicted to drugs, alcohol, and women, which continued for 40 years, costing me my marriage, family, job, and health.  I trusted no one and relied only on my three best friends; me, myself, and I.  I ended up in a crack hotel, broken in body and soul, and ready to blow my brains out because I saw no hope.

A friend told me about the Colony of Mercy at America’s Keswick, where he had found deliverance form the bondage of addiction.  I practically crawled across the street to the hotel office to make the call to the intake coordinator at the Colony and was able to go to Keswick in April, 2010.  My life was radically transformed when I began to understand the truth of Galatians 2:20, that Christ IS my life.  I had known of Jesus in earlier years but  had never had a personal and intimate relationship with Him nor the knowledge of what He had done for me that day on the Cross.  I went through the 4 month program, stayed for the Discipleship program, and then was offered an internship to work alongside the chaplains at the Colony of Mercy.

My wife and I were introduced to the ministry of Grace Fellowship International through the books of Dr. Charles Solomon.  We attended the conference/workshop/school in November of 2011 and have felt God’s calling on our lives to share the message of the Exchanged Life and Jesus as the Bondage Breaker on a full-time basis.  We desire to teach others that Christ came “so that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Health Update and Cherri’s Change

(May 3)

Joe is doing better in many ways.  His fistula is completely closed, to the point that he doesn’t even have to put a bandaid over it.  The main issue now is that his knees and hips are very painful, as is his left shoulder.  It is very hard for him to get up and walk in the morning, as his legs don’t seem to want to respond.  Once he is up for a while, it gets easier to walk. Please pray that we will get some answers as to the cause of this and how to treat it.  He doesn’t want to have knee-replacement surgery if at all possible until he really has to.

I had mentioned in my last email that I was planning to give notice at my job at the end of May.  Well, God had other plans.  The head doctor had thought that he was hiring another doctor to join the practice but that did not happen, so they were actually overstaffed by one (that was me).   The decision was made to lay me off, which was just fine by me.  It is such a relief to not be gone 12-13 hours a day.  Dr. Sataloff was so nice about it and did everything to make the transition smooth, such as covering my medical insurance cost for the month of May.  My last day was on Wednesday, much to the surprise of the rest of the people who worked at the office. It felt good to leave knowing that this was clearly the hand of God freeing me up for the ministry.  It feels strange not to have to get up so early, but I  think I will manage to get used to it.

What will not take time to adjust to is the immediate loss of income; however, we are not dismayed in the least, as we are trusting God to provide for all of our needs as we finally enter into full-time ministry. God obviously sees this as our time to join Him in His work. Beginning next week, we will provide you with information regarding what we will be doing with Grace Fellowship International and how you can help us in our mission to share with the saved and the unsaved that Jesus Christ is the only answer to the problem of addiction as idolatry.

Grace Fellowship Associates

(April 22)

I promised you some more good news, so here it is.  Joe and I have been praying about ministry with Grace Fellowship International ever since we attended their conference/workshop a year and a half ago.  We will fill in more details soon, but on Friday the board of GFI voted to make us full-time field staff -“Associates”.  We will be focusing on Jesus as the bondage breaker and sharing the truth of the exchanged life message of Galatians 2:20 as the only hope for addiction.  We are so excited about this opportunity and would appreciate your prayers for the next steps of raising support and beginning to go out to churches and share this message.  Because Joe is feeling better we are now able to go out and speak at churches.  We are the first staff to be added to GFI in 10 years and are so grateful to the amazing ministry team and board there for the love, friendship, and support they have shown us.  We will be sharing more about this soon.

Health Update – April 21

Joe saw his primary care doctor on Friday, who gave him a very good report. No, make that an amazing report. His MRSA is gone, accordingly to his latest culture.  His bloodwork is completely normal for the first time in 10 months.  The granuloma is gone and the fistula seems to be closed  There is no hydronephrosis (fluid buildup due to blockage) in the kidneys. There are no complications related to the original Whipple surgery. Joe also saw his GI doctor.  He said that he doesn’t need to go back to see him for six months!  That is nothing short of a miracle. Other than the pain in his knees and his shoulder, he is doing so much better and has been given the green light to begin working out in the gym and swimming in the pool.  Please pray he doesn’t try to get it all back in one day 🙂  We are so grateful to God for what He is doing in Joe’s body and know that the prayer support from all of you has been a key component in his survival and healing.  Thank you.