This is a devotional writing by OSWM (Old School Watchman), a Watchman for the Lord serving behind the walls at a west coast State Prison.
Many on my Tier woke up this morning to the sound of a man sobbing. Medical staff had to be called. He was having difficulty breathing. Though there may have been some underlying health issues, for the most part, the man, an army vet, was simply overwhelmed. Those without hope, a sense of self-worth, and an understanding of how much God loves them are easy prey for the one who “roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
In prison, there is an attempt to break a person’s spirit and make inmates feel small. In many ways, dignity is ripped away – often with a callousness so striking it reminds me of Jesus’ prophecy, “in the last days, love will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12).
When men are transferred to the prison where I am serving my sentence, they have their clothes stripped from them and their personal belongings put in a small paper bag. Items that will not fit in the bag are thrown away. Men are tightly shackled, undergo a thorough search. Next, they are fitted with a one-size-(almost)-fits-all orange jumpsuit, without underwear, and loaded onto a bus. My journey took 10 hours.
The bus has one open (no door or curtain) commode, which is difficult to use when shackled, so men tend not to eat or drink most of the day before. Food is not provided to inmates during the trip (though staff stop to eat).
When men arrive, they are assigned prisoner numbers. Men are referred to as inmates – nameless and faceless and all wearing the same uniform, drab, brown clothes issued by the State. There is a cemetery in the back corner of the grounds. Under prison policy, cemetery grave markers bear no names – only numbers, a reminder of the perceived worth of the men who live and die here. The status quo is surreal and dehumanizing.
It is difficult to pass through these stormy seas with a sense of self-worth intact.
In this environment, which emphasizes numbers more than names and putting men down rather than lifting them up, it should be no surprise that inmates look for ways to find some sense of value, identity, and self-worth.
Some chase after the elusive prize by lifting weights, hoping a good physique will bring satisfaction and respect. Others try to stand out by wearing their clothes inside out or backward. Some strangely tuck their pants into their socks. Others wear hats on the back or side of their heads.
Some attempt to feel special by drawing Nike logos on their clothes or shoes. Others attempt to convey importance via tattoos – one man here has “Gucci” tattooed on his face. Another has his last name (in large letters) tattooed across his back as if wearing a pro football jersey. These sad and vain attempts to find a semblance of self-worth are heartbreaking.
In these last days, many hunger for identity and a sense of value. Satan does not tire in whispering, “You are not good enough, rich enough, or smart enough. You are not pretty or handsome or important. You’re unworthy. You will never be enough.”
As the final prophecies of the last days unfold, there will be a whirlwind of stage-setting. Many will search frantically for ways to feel good about themselves and communicate, “I have value.” Even now, in this selfie generation, people compare themselves to their friend’s best life and wonder, “Why isn’t my world as great as theirs? What’s wrong with me?
Too many believe they must link their true value to the number of valuables they own – their self-worth is tied to their net worth. Too many listen to the scoffers rather than the Savior. There is a better way.
Satan loves to exploit every vulnerability. He is an expert at stealing joy and self-esteem. He loves to accuse and remind us when we fall short. He wants us to believe the lie that we have no value, to think we’re unworthy of even a name, to become discouraged and overwhelmed. There is a better way.
Scripture promises we are “more than overcomers” in Christ. However, to overcome, we must do three things:
1) We must believe in and be in a relationship with Jesus Christ
2) We must find our strength, confidence, value, and peace in Jesus, who offers to help the weary carry their yoke, the burdens of life (Matt. 11:29)
3) when we are searching for a sense of value, we must remember we “have been bought with a great price” (1 Cor. 7:23). When Satan reminds us of our past, we should respond by reminding him of his future. Do not be discouraged by the vitriol of Satan; focus on the promises in Scripture.
Whenever you’re tempted to see the poorest reflection of yourself, go to the list below and discover who you are in Christ and according to Scripture. It’s alphabetized, and there are many others, but use it as a reference and constant reminder of who God believes you are.
This is the A-Z list of the person Jesus died to save and who He created you to be. My prayer is that these promises will touch your heart and instill a sense of the incredible, valuable, unique creation you are in Christ.
– an Ambassador for Christ (2 For. 5:20)
– His Beloved (Psalm 60:5)
– Chosen by God (John 13:18 Acts 22:14)
– His Delight (Prov. 8:30b)
– Empowered (Acts 1:8)
– His Friend (John 15:14-15)
– Gifted by the Spirit (Rom. 5:18 1 Peter 4:10)
– Holy (Eph. 1:4)
– An Instrument of noble purpose (2 Tim. 2:21)
– A Joint-heir in Christ (Rom. 8:17)
– Kept by the love and power of God (Psalm 12:7, 121:5)
– Loved by God (John 15:9 Rev. 1:5)
– A Minister of reconciliation (2 For. 5:13)
– A New creation (2 Cor. 5:17)
– An Overcomer (1 John 2:13 Rom. 12:21)
– Prepared for every good work (2 Tim. 2:21b)
– Quickened (1 Pet. 3:18)
– Redeemed (Psa. 31:5, 77:15)
– Sealed by the Spirit (2 For 1:22a Eph. 4:30)
– A Temple where the Spirit resides (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19)
– Upheld by the hand of God (Psa. 51:12, 119:116 Prov. 29:23)
– Victorious (1 Cor. 15:57)
– Called to be His Watchman (Ezek. 3:16-19, 33:1-9)
– Yoked with Jesus (Matt. 11:29-30)
– Here by His Zeal (Isa. 9:7, 37:32)
Rejoice. You are loved and cherished by God. There is nothing more I can write – there is nothing more Jesus could do to prove His love for you. Receive it. Share it. Know who and Whose you are.
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