My heart is set on being a good writer. If I can accomplish “good”, then I will press on toward “excellent”. To be first “good at putting words together” (e.g. style), I figured that I should read a book about writing a book. Books on the subject sat on my shelf for years. I referred to them sporadically but this was different: my project was already underway. I wanted to know how to craft an interesting and readable book.

“Decide on who you are writing for is step number one,” the expert said.  Oh-oh, I did not have an answer for the most basic of questions: Who was I writing for? I was stymied. I could see why the question mattered. Everything would flow once I knew who my audience was.  But it was already sort of flowing. My quandary became how to identify the direction God was taking me.

As I examined my work, I came to the conclusion that I had been writing to God. (Now you know I’m crazy, right?) But that is how it is with me. From the beginning, the Spirit has prompted me to get busy and put the words and pictures to paper.

            As best I can, I describe what God reveals. Then, when I sense I have covered that subject, I listen for God’s prompting to begin the next topic.

In Jeremiah 1:11-14, God gave the young man, Jeremiah, a vision and then tested him. “What do you see?” the Lord asked. After he told the Lord what he had been shown, the Lord tested Jeremiah again. “What do you see?” As best I can, I describe what God reveals. Then, when I sense I have covered that subject, I listen for God’s prompting to begin the next topic. Before I am through, I try to feel God’s pleasure in what I have done. I write for God. He wrote in His Word for all of us.

The question of audience made me also realize that the Lord has someone in mind, beside himself, to read what I write. Who is it? Instinctively, I knew that I was not writing for the intellectual class within Christianity. My challenge was to make the complex simple enough for the babes to understand but deep enough to intrigue the mature believer. As I hear the feedback now, it amazes me when I see who it is that “gets it” and who does not. This is God’s business. I feel great joy when a fairly new seeker of wisdom and truth latches onto The People of God and the lights go on. For that matter, my heart is just as happy when a brother or sister that has had their face buried in the Word of God for decades “gets it” as well.

         A disciple is a follower of Jesus who learns as they go.  

So, what is the common thread? What binds together young and old believers? What is the link between the new disciple that relishes the understanding they receive from The People of God and the disciple that finds what they had been looking for after generations of study? I think the answer is in the definition I have used for many years of the word “disciple”. A disciple is a follower of Jesus who learns as they go.

I hold out a lot of hope for those who simply want to follow Jesus. I am not so optimistic that those who follow Bible teachers, popular pastors, theologians or writers, like me, or even the most renowned radio and TV preachers of our day will understand what I have written. Once a disciple is made, their minds have the imprint of their discipler. A herd of zebra can be very large. How can a foal tell its own mother from all the other mares that, from our perspective, look identical? At birth the mother zebra turns to one side and then the other so the foal can look closely at her markings and imprint. It is what parents do.

           As I recall, his statement that Noah and the flood were allegorical, was the last straw. Without any big ballyhoo my mother had us in another church the following Sunday.  

My mother was my most influential discipler. She taught me by example to study the Bible for myself rather than have another person study it for me. When I was around eleven years old, the new preacher at our local church began to proclaim liberal ideas. As I recall, his statement that Noah and the flood were allegorical, was the last straw. Without any big ballyhoo my mother had us in another church the following Sunday. Our next pastor preached salvation and believed the Bible was to be taken literally.

Why God chose me to write The People of God, a book on prophecy I believe had to be written, I cannot be sure. It was not because I am skilled at the craft. It was not because I am a particular strong intellect. It certainly was not because I am a perfect saint. If I was to offer a guess, it would be this: I am settled in believing the plain and simple words– every one of them– in the Bible. Another reason, perhaps, is that I am not part of any Christian clique or club. I do not belong to the associations and I have not been invited. I wanted to be in their class once but it never seemed to work out. Now I am glad.

My work among prisoners was God’s way of liberating me. Prison chaplaincy has given me the freedom that others in pastoral ministry simply do not have. Since my livelihood is not dependent on the members of the flock, as is the case for most pastors, I can speak the unbridled truth. The choice in prison is threefold: attend my Sunday services, join another faith group or do not go at all. There is no “alternative church down the street.”

Since my work is now part-time, I have the opportunity for study and writing. In the traditional pastorate, one is saddled with all kinds of time-consuming tasks such as board meetings and budgets. My role is different from the CEO model that most church leaders have. Since my job includes doing what I love the most (i.e. teaching the Bible), I have had the opportunity to develop my own in-depth curriculum on Revelation and have years of classroom give-and-take to help perfect it.

           Why did God choose me? Of all the reasons, my discovery of how God can use men in prison may be the biggest.

Surely there is someone far better prepared, academically and professionally, to write an important book on prophecy. What credibility do I have by virtue of my background? I am unknown. Why did God choose me? Of all the reasons, my discovery of how God can use men in prison may be the biggest. I have found a great untapped resource. Each time I teach, I learn something from my inmate students. Have I learned more from them, than they from me? I believe I have. Great insights come from great questions that force one to probe and research the pages of Scripture.

Teach the man of God to study the Bible not how to open a study Bible. Teach the man of God in prison to listen to the Spirit of God and not the TV preacher or evangelist. Open up the basics of how to understand prophecy, the meat of God’s Word, to a prisoner that hungers for truth and the Lord will do the rest. I stand on the shoulders of giants. Some are behind bars pouring over the more obscure prophecies in God’s Word that others are too busy to read. This is how I have learned. This is how I’ve been taught. The more I give the more I receive. This is my story.

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