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Free at Last, Free Indeed!
What an awesome God we serve! He is a restorer of all we lose or let the devil steal.
In 1994, I was convicted of 7 felonies in two different counties; two charges of trafficking meth, two charges of cocaine possession with intent to distribute, two charges of marijuana possession with intent to distribute, and one charge of possession of a concealed illegal weapon. There were several other charges, but they made these stick. When the dust cleared, I lost my freedom, citizenship, family, house, lands, vehicles, even the clothes on my back; in the middle of it all, a 1991 Harley Davidson Road King. Bummer, bummer! I wound up with 20/do 10 years in one county, 15 years in another county, and a total of $365,800.00 in fines to pay upon release. This was beginning to look pretty bad.
When you finally hit bottom, there is only one way to turn - up! Looking toward heaven from a thin mattress on the floor in Jackson Prison, I committed my life to Jesus, asking Him to be Lord of my life. From that moment on, things began to change. Oh, I had many heartaches and problems, but I began to fill my heart with God's word and allowed God to begin a restoration in me. I had to be set free inside myself before anything could change outside. I was a backslider who had fallen from God's wonderful grace into a life of crime and sin. When I called upon the Lord, He rejoiced to bring me back into His kingdom, just like the prodical son's father, recorded in Luke 15:11-32. How gracious and wonderful our God is .
I spent five years and seven months in prison. During that time, I saturated myself with God's word, preaching in the chapel, big yard, back yard, cells, mop closet, and anywhere else I could get an audience of one. We saw salvations, rededications, miracles of all kinds, and people gloriously filled with the Holy Ghost, with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. We baptized many in the mop closet with a mop bucket full of water
On August 25, 1999, I walked out, on parole, with almost nine years of parole, 14 years of probation after that, and over 1/3 million dollars of fines over my head. But I had a heart full of the word of God and faith working in my heart.
God had begun a restoration of all things in my life. He sent me a precious woman close to the first of this long hard haul. We were married in prison four years before I was paroled. Proverbs 18:22 says, Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing and obtaineth favor with the Lord". It didn't say, "Who finds a woman and makes a wife", but "Whoso finds a wife". In other words, she was a wife before she was found. Well, God sent me a wife, who has stuck with me through thick and thin. When a man does time in prison, so does his wife, and mine did four years with me, meeting every need she possibly could for me while I was in prison. I named her "Precious" because that is what she is, and God favored me enough to give me this precious wife.
After completing three years of parole, my parole officer put in for a sentence commutation. I didn't even know it - and that's the favor of the Lord. He called me and told me to come by his office, handing me a letter from the Parole Board. They said after reviewing my case, they thought justice would be best served to count the prison portion of my sentence as "time served now", which commuted the remainder of my parole and over $360,000.00 fines. Hallelujah! Praise God forever! Now, that's the favor of the Lord!
This left me with about 11 ½ years of probation and a small fine. God gave me the fine money and we paid it off. After a little over a year on probation, I got another hearing before the judge, asking for commutation of 10 years of probation, so I could get certified as a Corrections Department Volunteer. My loving congregation filled half the seats in the courtroom and the Spirit of God filled them and everything else. That's the favor of the Lord! As they prayed, God gave me the words to speak. Even the County D.A., who was there to oppose my request, spoke up in my favor, and the judge granted my request. The judge signed the paperwork on July 20, 2004 and it was filed in the courthouse the 23rd. I am a free man!
John 8:36 says, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. " God has restored all things in my life. Now I have a 1997 Harley Davidson Road King, paid for in full. God has called Precious and I to pastor what I think is the best church in the whole world. And that is the favor of the Lord!
We're free at last, free indeed!