REAL PEOPLE | REAL STORIES | REAL HOPE
The Power of Prayer
El Poder de la Oración
SET THEM FREE
Issue 01 / 2020
DELIVERS HOPE TO MEN &
WOMEN BEHIND BARS.
We provide testimonies of God’s
faithfulness and an opportunity for
inmates to receive further support
from our correspondence team.
Will you help us
carry out God’s
command to remember
those in prison?
Every inmate who writes to
our ministry receives personal
Bible teachings, and a personal
subscription to our magazine.
Since 2013, the lives of over
one million inmates have been
impacted because of the generous
support of partners like you.
to make a tax-deductible
Or call 352-478-2098
or text VLM to 77977 and
follow the prompts.
Are you an inmate who
PO Box 328
Starke, FL 32091
ISSUE 1, JANUARY 2020
I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you
not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create
rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
Publisher & Executive Director
Kristi Overton Johnson
Director of Partner Care & Development
Executive Project Manager
Social Media Manager
Digital Content Manager
Tina M. Brown
Lindsay A. Haugen
Kristi Overton Johnson
Robert Lowery III
Russell John Nestor
Dear Dee Photography
Dear Dee Photography
Geri Simpkins Photography
Director of Prison Correspondence
Victorious Living magazine is a publication
of Kristi Overton Johnson Ministries, a 501c3 organization.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible,
New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation.
Scripture marked NIV is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®,
NIV®, copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Scripture marked NKJV
is taken from the New King James Version®, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Scripture marked NVI is taken from la Santa Biblia, Nueva Versión Internacional®
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HOW TO REACH VICTORIOUS LIVING
General and Subscription Inquiries
• Victorious Living
PO Box 120951, Clermont, FL 34712-0951
• 352-478-2098 • firstname.lastname@example.org
All Inmate Correspondence
Victorious Living Correspondence Outreach
PO Box 328, Starke, FL 32091
Issue 01 / 2020
“When I found VL, I was
in a place of absolute
despair. God used your
magazine to bring me
hope for my future.”
—LILLIE, TEXAS DOC
“Your stories always
remind me that God
still loves me; He will
never abandon me.”
—THOMAS, FLORIDA DOC
“Reading VL is like reading
my own story. I have faith
that if God can help your
authors, He can do the
same for me.”
—IVEY, FLORIDA DOC
“I WAS IN PRISON, AND YOU CAME TO VISIT ME.
TRULY I TELL YOU, WHATEVER YOU DID FOR ONE
OF THE LEAST OF THESE BROTHERS AND
SISTERS OF MINE, YOU DID FOR ME.”
ISSUE 1, JANUARY 2020
Trusting God as Your
BY SHARON ASPINALL
BY RUSSELL JOHN NESTOR
Trusting God: Your First
Step to Wholeness
BY MARY ANN
The inability to change her son’s
heart condition brought Sharon to
a new level of trust in God.
Try a Little Kindness
BY LINDA CUBBEDGE-SMITH
What Do I Know To Be True
BY RACHEL OVERTON
God Will Help You
BY SHAWN ASPINALL
WITH KRISTI OVERTON JOHNSON
Mary Ann had tried many things
to make herself feel complete, but
nothing worked until she turned her
mind and heart over to God.
Deal with Deadly Emotions
Verbally and sexually abused by
those who should have loved her,
Tiffany turned to self-harm to relieve
the pain she felt inside.
The Gift of Forgiveness
BY DORI GREESON
WITH GENE GREESON AND
LINDSAY A. HAUGEN
Amazing things happen when we
forgive those who have committed
grievous crimes against us.
Change the Equation
of Your Life
Hold Out Your Hand
BY TINA M. BROWN
Change Your Course
BY KRISTI OVERTON JOHNSON
Finding Your Eternal Value
BY KENNY MUNDS
BY ROBERT LOWERY III
Counting on your own resources
to overcome temptation often
leads to failure. With God’s help,
however, success can be yours.
ON THE COVER
Robby taught his
parents, Dori and
much about the
power of God’s
gift of love and
they didn’t fully
magnitude of that
gift until they
BY STANLEY MCGRAW
Your life will reflect the choices
you make. For lasting change,
surround yourself with godly
people and wholesome activities.
The Power of Prayer
BY BJ EMERSON
God has given BJ Emerson and his
father, Allen, an incredible story
of restoration and hope. Together,
they share it with all who will hear.
30 El Poder de la Oracion
POR BJ EMERSON
Dios les a dado a BJ Emerson y
su padre una historia increíble de
restauración y esperanza. Juntos
la comparten con todos los que
IN EVERY ISSUE
You Are Not Out!
From the Father
I Am for You
Issue 01 / 2020
You Are Not Out!
VL Publisher, Kristi
visits prisons across
the hearts of inmates
and connecting them
with the ministries of
If you are interested in having Kristi
visit your organization or facility,
call Pat Avery at 352-478-2098.
elcome to Issue 1 of 2020. I
trust you will be encouraged
by the stories contained in
these pages. These are stories
from ordinary people—people just like you
and me—who have overcome extraordinary
trials. Their stories remind us that
God is real and very much at work in the
lives of His children today.
God never promised that His children
would experience easy, pain-free lives. To
the contrary, in John 16:33, Jesus said that
all God’s children would have trials and
sorrows. Nevertheless, we are not without
hope, because we know Jesus has overcome
every trial and sorrow we will ever
Sure, we get knocked around by life’s
turbulent waters; we might even find ourselves
temporarily knocked down from
time to time. But as children of God, we
are never knocked out!
Isaiah 43 says that when we go through
deep water, God is with us. When we go
through rivers of difficulty, we will not
drown. Why? Because we are precious to
God; we are His children, and He loves us
Our situations are not indications of
God’s love or lack of it. So many people
assume that trials mean God doesn’t care.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
God settled His love for us long ago when
Jesus died and rose again (John 3:16).
What trials do mean, however, is that we
have a real enemy who hates us, who seeks
to kill, steal, and destroy everything good
God ever intended us to have (John 10:10).
The good news is that nothing and no
one in this world can destroy a child of
God. Romans 8:37 promises that despite
hardships, we have an overwhelming victory
through Christ, who loves us.
Are you ready to start experiencing victory?
You can. Despite what you’ve been
through, you can move forward stronger,
wiser, and closer to your heavenly Father
than ever. If you put your life in God’s
hands, if you choose to trust Him and
surrender your future to Him, He will do
incredible things. God is powerful and,
according to Ephesians 3:20, He is “able,
through his mighty power at work within
us, to accomplish infinitely more than we
might ask or think.”
Friend, no matter where you are, your
life is not over. It’s just beginning!
This might sound crazy, but I think that
after you read these amazing stories, you’ll
see it’s true. God cares deeply about you
and your situation—even if you caused it.
He is ready right now to help you move
forward out of your pain so you can experience
something incredible this year.
Before I close, I want to thank you for
supporting this magazine, Victorious Living.
Your financial partnership enables us to
deliver hope to some of the most hopeless
places in the world—like prison. Currently,
this magazine is distributed in over 160
prison facilities across the United States.
Further, your support enables us to mentor
inmates through correspondence and
to connect them with our partners who
can help them transition into free society.
If you aren’t a current supporter, will you
consider helping us invade the darkness
of prison with the light of Christ through
the stories in this magazine? In 2020, we
aim to add another 50 prison facilities for
distribution of this quarterly publication.
Thank you for helping us deliver the living
hope that has the power to change both
lives and communities.
Kristi Overton Johnson
Publisher & Executive Director
6 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
YOUR DAILY SOURCE OF HOPE
Issue 01 / 2020
originally. Likewise, we can fill our lives with busyness
and superficial relationships and find some temporary
relief, but once we stop being busy or that relationship
no longer exists, we snap right back to those feelings.
Loneliness will never be solved with substitution; we must
address the emptiness.
Simply said, nothing on earth—not money, sex, drugs,
careers, athletics, people, or anything else—can give you
peace and fill the void in you that leads to loneliness.
Only God can cure our
feelings of loneliness, and
when He does, we realize
that we were never alone.
BY RUSSELL JOHN NESTOR
I KNOW THAT AS A PRISONER, SEPARATED FROM THE
world I once knew, it’s easy to fall into feelings of loneliness.
I can be surrounded by hundreds of people all day long,
even interact with many of them, but still feel alone. Have
you ever felt that way?
So how can we change or deal with these feelings? I believe
the best way to approach this subject is to start with
looking at what will not help. Once we understand that, it’s
easier to see what will help.
Often when we’re lonely, we turn to activities and relationships
to fill the void. Those things may temporarily
alleviate loneliness, but when we use them to combat a
greater problem, it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a deep
wound. It might cover the wound, but it won’t help it heal.
Lonely feelings are spiritual and are deeply rooted.
Loneliness is like a rubber band. You can stretch one, but
as soon as you let it go, it snaps right back to what it was
The world says humanistic psychology or therapy
will do it, but it won’t. Someone once said, “There’s a
hole in our soul so big that only God can fill it.” Only
God can cure our feelings of loneliness, and when He
does, we realize that we were never alone.
So how do we overcome our loneliness through God?
We draw near to Him. When we do, He draws near to
us (James 4:8). We start believing what He says in His
Word, that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews
13:5). That means, wherever we are, He is!
If Jesus loved us enough to leave the glory and splendor
of heaven to come to earth to die in our place, isn’t
that proof of how far He is willing to go in His love for
us? Proverbs 18:24 NIV says, “there is a friend who
sticks closer than a brother,” and that friend is Jesus.
Whether you are in an actual prison or a virtual one
brought about through feelings of loneliness and depression,
let the “God of hope fill you with all joy and
peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow
with hope” (Romans 15:13 NIV). If there’s one thing
I’ve learned along this journey of many years in prison,
it’s that we are never alone; Jesus longs to comfort and
Draw close to Him today through prayer—through
simple conversation with the God who loves you. Let
Him fill that void as He draws you close to Himself.
There is no loneliness in His presence.
RUSSELL JOHN NESTOR serves the Lord in federal prison and
mentors other inmates. He is passionate about helping people
know the God who has given him hope in the midst of trying
8 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
Your First Step to Wholeness
BY MARY ANN
I HAD BEEN WITH MR. WONDERFUL
a whole 21 days, when he robbed the First
Tennessee Bank. A good Samaritan followed
him back to where we were staying
and called the authorities. That led to
a three-hour standoff while Jessie had a
shootout with police. I had known Jessie
was a criminal, but I hadn’t expected that
to cost me my freedom. Nevertheless, there
I was, on December 4, 1989, in the Knox
County Jail in Knoxville, Tennessee, facing
charges as an accessory to bank robbery.
Jessie’s actions had knocked all the
soap operas off the air that day, as the
shootout was televised live locally. It was
later shown on other programs like Rescue
911, Trial Watch, and Code 3. A full-spread
photo of Jessie’s surrender was featured
in Time magazine and was listed among
the best photos of 1989.
I was found not guilty in federal court
and pled to a class D felony in state court.
I spent just over 13 months in jail, but I
thank God for that time, because that’s
where He revealed Himself to me. I entered
into a relationship with Him through
His Son, Jesus. I learned how valuable I
am, and how great is the mercy of God.
It’s greater than all my sin.
I discovered that God hears my prayers
and that He is able to change even the most
dire situation. Through the Bible, I came
to know God as my heavenly Father, and
He changed my life. His Word has given
me a foundation of truth and love that no
man or circumstance can ever take away.
I had read many self-help books, held
various jobs, been in and out of relationships
with multiple men, and enjoyed cars,
jewelry, drugs, and sex—but none of it had
ever made me feel whole or complete.
None of it could heal my heart or fill the
emptiness inside me. But Jesus Christ did.
God didn’t waste any time resurrecting
my life once I was released. Would you believe
that He gave me a job training banks?
You tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor!
Only He can take someone accused of
accessory to bank robbery and enable her
to be a client trainer for an international
company that provides services for over
15,000 different banks worldwide.
I’ve had a wonderful career since then,
and have had amazing opportunities to
serve my community. Today, I go into
jails and prisons to share my story with
inmates. I want them to know that God can
fill every void in their life. He can fill yours,
too—you just need to trust Him.
Maybe trusting is hard for you. I understand
that. I had a terrible childhood
filled with much abuse, so I know it can be
difficult to make yourself vulnerable. But
taking that difficult step to trust God with
your life is your first step to wholeness.
God will not fail you. He will not abandon
you. He’ll meet you where you are, and He
will help you. His goodness and mercy will
resurrect your life, just like they did mine.
God has restored everything the enemy
ever took from me and everything I gave
away. He has given me a life far above what
I could have ever dreamed possible. All I
had to do was take that first step.
Take the plunge. Put your trust in God.
What He did for me, He will be faithful to
do for you as well.
MARY ANN has worked for multiple international
organizations in education and training. She is in
the Who’s Who of International Professionals. She
enjoys politics and community activities and has a
passion for prison ministry.
Issue 01 / 2020
BY LINDA CUBBEDGE-SMITH
any years ago, our son began
making bad choices.
He was still living at home,
so my husband and I made
sure he knew his actions
were unacceptable. But instead
of changing his ways,
he moved out. He wanted to
show us he was old enough to make his
We were crushed. We had tried to be
faithful in serving God and providing well
for our three sons and daughter. We had
never experienced such outright rebellion
before. My husband and I tried many
things to get him back on track. We took
his car from him. We tried to guilt him into
coming back home and doing what was
right. Nothing worked.
I have always prayed for my children,
but this time, I knew I needed to seek the
Lord more diligently. I needed His wisdom;
we obviously weren’t making any headway
I prayed. I cried. I poured out my broken
heart to Jesus. He graciously answered,
but not with the words I expected. I heard,
“Just try a little kindness.”
Be kind to our son who was acting so rebelliously
and selfishly? That just seemed
wrong. And I told the Lord that! But God’s
ways are always higher than ours.
In the end, I obeyed the Lord. I knew
that only He knew how to return our son to
the respectful, well mannered, and godly
young man we knew him to be.
Returning his car was the first act of
kindness the Lord led us to do. Then, He
told me to take him shopping. What?! Yes,
I was to be kind and treat him as if he were
the best son ever.
Several months went by without much
change in him—but I was changing. I was
more at peace, and I had more compassion
for my son. I learned to trust God more as
He showed me that our son needed kindness
as he charted his own path through
this world’s stormy waters.
10 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
So I continued to be kind. I tried to be
more compassionate and considerate,
generous and thoughtful, as well as patient
and gentle. And then it happened. Our son
asked to come home, and he promised to
do things the right way.
That night, with deep, godly sorrow,
he apologized for mistreating us. It was
a wonderful night, to say the least—a true
answer to our prayers. And it never would
have happened if we hadn’t obeyed the
Lord and been kind to our rebellious son.
Only the Lord knew what was needed to
change our son’s heart and to bring him
The kindness we extended to our son
brought him to repentance, changed his
ways, and brought him home. Today, he is
serving the Lord in amazing ways.
According to Romans 2:4, God’s kindness
is meant to lead us to repentance.
Repentance is birthed from the presence
of God in the heart of an individual. People
come to realize they need to repent
(change their ways) as they meet the kindness
of God on a daily basis.
Second Corinthians 7:10 (NIV) says,
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that
leads to salvation and leaves no regret,
but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Unless we understand how kind God is toward
us, it will be difficult to extend undeserved
kindness to others.
As the director of the Victorious Living
Prison Correspondence Outreach, I have
found that many of the inmates who write
to us have never experienced the kindness
of God through the actions of their parents.
In fact, some have never experienced it
all, from anyone. This breaks my heart.
The Bible talks a lot about kindness.
Psalm 117:2 says that God’s loving kindness
is great toward us. Psalm 36:7 tells
us it is precious; that it provides us a place
of refuge. So many see God as an angry
Being, full of wrath, eager to punish us for
the least little thing. But that is not our
heavenly Father. God longs to pour out His
kindness on both the just and the unjust.
The Bible also tells us that we, as believers,
should show God’s loving-kindness to
others—yes, even when they don’t deserve
it. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one
another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Unless we understand how kind God
is toward us, it will be difficult to extend
undeserved kindness to others. But once
we do, amazing things happen.
I prayed for godly sorrow to invade my
son’s heart and bring him to repentance.
God used our kindness to change our son’s
heart, to lead him to express sorrow before
God, and to take responsibility for his actions.
Our goodness toward him showed
him the goodness of God.
Every one of us has opportunity to show
God’s loving-kindness to undeserving
people, just like God does for us. Trust
in His loving-kindness. Let it change you
and help you forgive those who have been
unkind to you.
Kindness is what this world needs. This
world would be a different place if we just
tried a little kindness instead of always
demanding our own way, seeking revenge,
forcing people to do things our way, and
punishing them when they don’t.
Next time you face a difficult person or
situation, try pouring on the kindness. You
might be surprised at how your situation
changes over time. You can make a difference
in the lives of others as you treat
them the way God intends—the same way
He has treated you.
is Victorious Living’s
Outreach Director. She
is passionate about the
Lord and leading others
Issue 01 / 2020
BY ROBERT LOWERY III
I GREW UP IN
MADE SURE OF
THAT. BUT WHAT I
KNEW ABOUT GOD
DIDN’T MAKE IT TO
As I got older, I chose a lifestyle
that was far from godly. I smoked
cigarettes and marijuana, drank
alcohol, watched pornography,
and slept around.
I remember many nights,
hearing my mom say, “Robby,
you need to turn your life over
to the Lord!” Even intoxicated,
I knew she was right; but I just
didn’t want to do it. To keep my
parents happy though, I kept going
through the motions—I went
to church and even played drums
during the service. But during the
week, I did whatever I wanted.
Yet, God was tugging at my
heart to surrender my life to Him.
I remember smoking weed with a
friend while watching pastors on
television—even then, the Holy
Spirit was drawing me to Himself.
One Sunday, when I was 23
years old, I finally gave way to
Him. I was playing drums for a
special service. Missionary Essie
Jones, a longtime member, was
sharing the importance of turning
one’s life over to Christ, when
12 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
PHOTO BY JOMARYS LEON–LORENZO
she suddenly stopped, turned around, and
pointed her finger right at me.
“Robby,” she said, “you need to turn your
life over to Christ.”
I felt like we were the only two people
in that sanctuary. The Holy Spirit in her
was speaking straight to my spirit, and I
couldn’t turn away from her gaze. I knew it
was time to give my life to God. It was time
to move forward, to go from knowing about
God to knowing Him. I had gone through the
motions long enough.
I got up from the drum set and walked
toward the altar. As I did, the Lord showed
me through a vision how Satan had sought
to destroy my life through my relationships.
I saw the trap houses where I had hung out,
those places where drugs are sold. I saw
strip clubs and heard the music. I saw the
women I had chased after for sex. And then,
God revealed that by immersing myself in
a culture that said I could do whatever I felt
like doing, I had fallen prey to the enemy,
and I was being held captive by him.
I realized that I didn’t want to be Satan’s
captive any longer, and I accepted Jesus
as my Savior and Lord that day. I wasn’t
suddenly gifted with a deep knowledge of
God’s Word; I simply had a revelation that
I needed to change what I did and who I did
it with. I understood that was the only way I
could gain true intimacy with God and stay
clear of the enemy’s traps.
I went to my friend’s house, the one I’d
hung out with since elementary school. I
told him I’d given my life to Christ and that I
couldn’t do the things we used to do together
anymore. Thankfully, he understood, but
that was the last time we hung out.
Not long after, the Lord put on my heart
to move to Orlando. I thought God was giving
me a fresh start by removing me from
the people and places that tempted me.
He opened a door for me to attend a prestigious
automotive school. I’d always loved
cars but never thought I could do anything
with them. I certainly didn’t expect to attend
there because of the cost of tuition. But
then, I received a loan that I never should
have qualified for, based on our family’s financial
position. Who was I to say no?
I moved to Orlando in faith and found
an apartment that provided the first three
months rent free! I could see God’s hand at
work in my life.
I went to school, joined a local church,
and continued to study God’s Word. I
bought a Bible and was doing my best to
understand it. God led me to an evangelist
named Ravi Zacharias. His radio and video
teachings helped me have a deeper understanding
of God’s Word. God used him to
answer deep questions like who created
God and why would a good God allow evil in
the world? Dr. Zacharias was the only person
I had ever heard say, “It’s okay to have
questions.” God used him to move me past
the milk of salvation to the meat of the Word
(1 Corinthians 3:2).
I continued to grow in my faith and tried
my best to live according to God’s Word. My
actions couldn’t save my soul—only Jesus
could do that—but I knew they would keep
me in close fellowship with the Lord.
Three months after I accepted the Lord,
however, I jumped into a relationship with
a girl who I thought for sure was “the one.”
We made the mistake of getting intimate,
and after that experience, I fell into a deep
depression. I believe I opened myself up to
this darkness by choosing to walk in disobedience
to God’s will.
The experience made me realize the
seriousness of following the Lord, and it
gave me more of a dedication to God. I never
wanted to feel that darkness in my life
again. I committed to God that I would remain
pure until He blessed me with a wife.
It would be a long three years of celibacy.
Before this commitment to God to live in
sexual purity, I hadn’t thought much about
the devil, but now it seemed I met him
around every corner. Everything and everyone
that had ever been a source of temptation
in my life was right in front of my face.
I lived in a constant test.
I am still amazed. Before I gave my life to
Christ, I had aggressively sought relationships
with women. I’d viewed pornography
since I was ten years old. I had an appetite
for fast and easy women, but those relationships
didn’t always come easy.
Well, they didn’t, until the day I told God
I would avoid them. After that, women were
coming after me and blatantly asking me to
I worked the late shift at a convenience
store near a popular nightclub strip. Women
would come to the station to gas up their
cars before they went clubbing and give
me their numbers. Over and over again, I’d
have to say no to their advances and throw
their numbers away.
One night, I decided I’d had enough. I
took the trash out behind the store and
vented to God by the dumpster.
JUST BECAUSE I WAS A CHRISTIAN, THAT DIDN’T
MEAN I COULD PUT MYSELF IN ANY SITUATION AND
SAY, “I TRUST YOU, GOD, TO GET ME OUT OF THIS
MESS AND KEEP ME STRONG.” I HAD TO BE WISE.
“Lord, why does this have to be so hard?
Why do I have to keep resisting the same
temptation every single day?” Surely I’d
passed this test by now.
I can’t tell you how many times I knelt
down on the pee-covered bathroom floor at
that store. How many times I cried out amid
the stench—“Oh God, keep me strong! Help
me to keep saying no!” I knew I didn’t want
to go back to who I had been before, but I
couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t just
keep these women away from me. Why did I
have to keep resisting?
I didn’t get an answer from God that
night, but He did give me the strength I
needed to continue to say no. He reminded
me that these women were traps from the
enemy, and recognizing the enemy’s tactics
helped me stay strong.
During this time, I learned the importance
of respecting my flesh.
Just because I was a Christian, that didn’t
mean I could put myself in any situation
and say, “I trust You, God, to get me out of
Issue 01 / 2020
Robert and his wife,
and purpose while
including their children,
to do the same.
this mess and keep me strong.” No—I had
to be wise.
Being wise required me to actively set up
boundaries that would keep me from further
tempting myself. The devil tempts me
enough with his devices—why would I want
to add more temptation through disobedience?
I had to restrict myself from watching
certain television shows and movies
and from going places where women were
presented promiscuously. I knew I wasn’t
strong enough to see a woman’s thighs and
resist temptation. I knew I’d want more. So I
protected myself by refusing to allow sexual
images into my mind. This required dedi-
cation and a strong desire to be pure.
To resist any temptation, you must start
with a desire to be whole. Desire matures to
faith. Faith matures to belief that you can
and will be whole. Beliefs, acted on daily,
become reality. I set out to starve the evil
desires within me. I would not feed them
anymore, because I knew whatever I fed
would grow; whatever I starved would die.
God walked with me during this time, but
it was still hard. Every day, my flesh wrestled
with an enemy who taunted me with
the things I wanted most. And every day, I
had to resist them, over and over again.
Resisting temptation is never easy. The
Bible tells us that if we resist the devil, he
will flee from us (James 4:7). Resist, in its
original Greek form, means to put up a
fight, to strongly oppose one’s adversary
and refuse to give ground. Resisting isn’t
for sissies! It’s an act of war, and that war
may last awhile. You must be prepared to
fight no matter what the enemy throws
against you. But as you fight, you can rest in
this truth: in Christ you will have the victory
Some people are delivered from strongholds
immediately; I was not. My deliverance
from sexual immorality was a process;
it was something I had to walk through.
For so long, I had defined my worth
through the relationships I had with women,
even if they were only one-night stands.
Those encounters made me feel important
and complete. Now I understand the danger
of allowing a person or thing to define your
value or make you complete. Only God can
do those things. Only when you are complete
in Him and know your value in Him
can you have a healthy relationship with
In God’s time, I met a beautiful woman at
church. She was on the praise and worship
team, and I could tell that she was a humble,
God-fearing woman. My pastor encouraged
me to call her, but I wanted to make
sure that was God’s will first. I didn’t trust
myself to make this decision on my own. I
had made those mistakes early in my walk
with God, and I knew I didn’t want to make
God affirmed our relationship, and she
became my wife. God used my time of celibacy
to make me into the husband and
father I am today. I’m glad we didn’t take
Are you tired of resisting the enemy? Are
you begging God to remove the temptations
that try your soul? I’ve been where you are.
Let me encourage you today.
Keep resisting in the strength God gives
you. Keep fighting. Do whatever you have to
do to protect yourself from the traps of the
enemy. With God, you can defeat whatever
taunts you. Do your part to stay pure, and
God will help you do what you can’t. He will
honor your commitment and help you stay
strong, and He will give you huge blessings
in the end.
ROBERT LOWERY III is an aspiring author who is
in the process of completing his first book. To learn
more, visit RobertLLowery.com.
14 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
What Do I Know To Be
True about God?
BY RACHEL OVERTON
I DON’T REMEMBER WHERE THE QUESTION CAME FROM, but it’s one that I
return to often. In fact, I keep a reminder of it on my workspace, and as it catches my eye
throughout the day, I ask myself: What do I know to be true about God today? Some days, I
struggle to find adequate words, but other days the answer is immediate, reassuring,
even convicting. It’s an answer that’s different every time I ask the question, because
I’m looking to somehow quantify the ever-changing relevance of a never-changing God.
So—what do I know to be true about God today? On its face, it’s a simple question. I
know all kinds of truths about God—I find them in His Word; I find them in His dealings
with me. But when I look deeper at this question, it can touch my heart. It can draw
me closer to Him, because the well of truths that I know about Him is deep. It contains
living water. It changes to fit my needs.
When I’m struggling to feel worthy, I know that He loves me, no matter what.
When I’m worried about the future, I know that He holds my life, the world, time, the
very essence of existence, in His infinitely capable hands.
When I’m happy, I know He rejoices with me. When I’m sad, I know He cares.
When I’ve strayed from His path, I know He pursues me even as I walk away.
When I stubbornly insist on doing things my way, I know He’ll gently correct me.
He is love. He is strength. He is patience. He is truth. He is wisdom. He is my provision.
He is my source of life. He is my refuge, my hiding place. He is my redeemer. He is my
Savior. He is my God.
What more do I need?
RACHEL OVERTON is a freelance editor who counts
herself blessed to be part of the team that brings you
Victorious Living magazine. Check out the Wordscapes/
Rachel Overton page on Facebook to learn more about
the editorial services she provides.
Issue 01 / 2020
BY SHARON ASPINALL
My husband and I learned that our infant
son, Shawn, had a heart murmur when he
was one day old. His primary care physician
detected it and sent us to a children’s
hospital for an echocardiogram. The situation
wasn’t dire. The doctor just needed
a benchmark for the future.
Almost two years later, however, the
physician noticed Shawn’s heart murmur
had increased, and he ordered another
echo. My husband wasn’t able to go to the
appointment with me, so I was alone when
the pediatric cardiologist told me that
Shawn now needed open-heart surgery.
His heart was 80 percent blocked.
When my husband picked me up and
asked how the appointment had gone, I
replied, “What would be your worst-case
scenario?” He knew immediately what the
doctor had said.
We went out to eat and attempted to act
normal. When the hostess asked how my
day was going, I smiled and defaulted to,
“I’m fine.” How do you tell a stranger you
just got the worst news of your life?
The surgery was set for six weeks out.
Shawn romped about, blissfully unaware
of what lay ahead—but I was completely on
edge. The doctors’ warnings about potential
complications made me hypervigilant,
and I grew more exhausted by the day.
Back then, whenever I faced a problem,
my solution was to fight my way through
it. I’m an athlete, so I’m used to persevering.
“Buck up and toughen up,” I’d say.
The motto had always served me well, but
in this situation, it didn’t. My toughness
wasn’t helping one bit.
Those six weeks seemed like eternity,
and I was coming undone. I prayed like I
knew I was supposed to, but I remained
unsettled, overwhelmed with what ifs.
What if he dies in his sleep tonight? What if
the surgery doesn’t work? What if the surgery
goes fine, but on the car ride home,
we get in an accident? Every imagined
scenario increased my dread and fear.
My spirit was ragged. I prayed and read
my Bible, but I had no peace. I was so used
to being in control, to fixing every situation
that came my way. There was no fixing this,
and being tough wasn’t solving anything.
I kept gritting it out, nonetheless.
I began experiencing abdominal pains.
At first the doctor thought it was sympathy
pains or a byproduct of stress. Suddenly, I
was hospitalized and undergoing surgery
myself for three different issues.
Life moved forward at a tediously slow
pace. Mentally, I was in a haze as I recuperated,
but I continued planning for Shawn’s
upcoming surgery. I had to find someone
to watch our daughter while we were at
the hospital. Our family would be apart at
Christmas. I was worried. I was sad.
Then I’d think about my son’s situation,
and I’d go from sad to downright terrified.
They were going to saw his sternum in
half, stop his tiny heart, and put him on
a heart-lung bypass machine during the
operation. Every fiber of my being was
full of dread. All these emotions made me
weaker by the day.
I knew I was supposed to trust God to
protect my children. And in past situations,
I had placed them on the figurative
altar without a lot of difficulty. But this
time, the situation seemed too big to surrender.
I just couldn’t find the courage to
give Shawn fully over to God. Worry kept
But then I thought of Abraham and how
God had asked him to place his son, Isaac,
on the altar and offer him as a sacrifice
(Genesis 9). The only way Abraham could
have faced that incredible situation was by
completely trusting God. I finally realized
the only way I would get through this was
by releasing my control and resting in His
loving arms. I needed to stop looking at all
my crazy what-if scenarios and focus on
16 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
stead of the negative circumstances in my
life. I learned that helping others during
difficult times brings joy.
The day finally came for Shawn’s surgery.
God was so near to our family during
this time. We clearly saw the evidence of
His heart toward us. When our brakes
failed on the way to the hospital, God protected
us from an accident and provided a
replacement vehicle. He sent family and
friends to the waiting room to comfort
us. He even provided opportunities for
us to encourage others. We were able to
pray with the nurse assigned to bring us
operation updates when she sheepishly
admitted she was nervous because her
daughter was having her tonsils removed.
My husband and I spent four nights in
that hospital with our son, and we learned
some great lessons on being thankful.
One mother in the cardiology wing had
been living there with her daughter for
six months. After several surgeries, there
were still no signs of improvement. Another
family’s daughter couldn’t be jostled in
the ambulance during her transport to the
hospital. The parents had followed that
ambulance for an hour at the agonizing
pace of 10 mph. Hearing heart-wrenching
LEFT PAGE: Twoyear-old
all smiles after a
LEFT: Seeing God’s
the trials of their
lives has given the
Aspinalls a desire
to help others know
Jesus Christ as their
Savior and Lord.
God—the only One who could see our family
through this situation. And when I finally
did let go and trusted Him, I found peace.
Through all of this, I continued pouring
out my heart to the Lord. I wrote raw
and honest journal entries about all that
was bottled within me. I read Scripture
verses and focused on God’s promises. I
kept in touch with friends via email and
read their encouraging responses. And
God strengthened me as I relied on Him.
Finally, it was time for Shawn’s pre-op
blood draw. In the waiting room, my husband
and I noticed a stash of books on a
cart. A sign offered them as free for the
taking. We loved the idea of books being
available to children at such an uncertain
point in their lives, and on our way home,
we discussed ideas for a book drive.
We began telling people about our idea,
hoping to take a good collection with us
on the day of surgery. To our amazement,
our community of friends rallied for the
cause. With their help, we donated over
1,000 books to the hospital!
I knew collecting those books would
bless others, but I didn’t foresee how
they would impact my life. The book drive
caused me to focus on a worthy cause instories
like these certainly caused us to
count our blessings.
That Christmas, we treasured the gift of
the health we had in a new way. Shawn’s
surgery was a success, and we came home
grateful to God for the many lessons He
had taught us. We emerged from that experience
knowing God much more personally
than we had before. Two years later,
when Shawn faced another open-heart
surgery, we approached that one with
confidence because we knew from past
experience that God was with us.
Because of Shawn’s surgeries, doors
have opened for us to minister to international
children who come to the United
States for open-heart surgeries through
the Children’s Heart Project, a Franklin
Graham outreach program. God has allowed
us through this particular “mess”
to proclaim a message for His glory.
If you met Shawn today, you’d never
know what this young man went through.
He has received a clean bill of health for
many years now. He’s not on regular medications
anymore. He plays sports like other
kids and, a just couple summers ago, he
learned to water ski. What brings the most
joy is watching our son use his story to tell
others about the faithfulness of God. You
can read his story on page 18.
Maybe you’ve received news lately that
has rocked your world, and you’re trying
to face it with a “buck up and toughen up”
mentality. Let the Lord be your refuge and
strength, your ever-present help in trouble
(Psalm 46:1). It’s the only way.
Ask God to help you turn your thoughts
heavenward instead of focusing on the
pain around you. Read His life-giving
Word, surround yourself with encouraging
friends, look for ways to serve others
during your own painful trials, and remember
to give God thanks for what you
have. As you trust Him, you will find the
strength and peace you need to face whatever
God is faithful. He is near. And He will
see you through.
SHARON ASPINALL is a schoolteacher and
martial arts instructor. She enjoys outdoor sports
and reading as hobbies.
Issue 01 / 2020
and bumpy water. But I trusted
Mrs. Kristi to help me. I’d
watched her teach the other
“My scars have
and I want to
use them to
glorify God and
to help others.”
I’M ONLY 12 YEARS OLD,
but I know that God loves and
cares for me. When I was little,
He kept me alive through some
scary surgeries on my stomach
and my heart. He helped
my mom and dad care for me.
Today, He helps me in school.
Sometimes school is hard, and
I want to quit. But God always
helps me face hard things.
I had my first heart surgery
when I was two and another
when I was four. I don’t remember
much about them—just my
mom telling me everything was
going to be okay.
The surgeries left some big
scars on my body, but I kind
of like them. They’re my life
tattoos! They have a great story,
and people ask me about
them a lot. When they do, I get
BY SHAWN ASPINALL
WITH KRISTI OVERTON JOHNSON
to tell them about how God
has helped me and my family
through some hard stuff.
Plus, they show other kids
who are facing heart surgeries
that I understand what they’re
going through. I get to help
them prepare for their surgeries
by showing them my scars
and telling them it’s going to
be okay, that they’ll get better,
and that God will help them.
They believe me because I’ve
been through what they’re going
My scars have great purpose,
and I want to use them to glorify
God and to help others.
I like Matthew 20:28. It reminds
me that Jesus didn’t
come into the world to be
served but to serve. Every day,
I have opportunities to help
other people. I can do that anywhere—at
school, in the classroom,
on the playground, or
even in the hospital.
One of my favorite ways to
help others is through a watersports
ministry called In His
Wakes. Years ago, Mrs. Kristi
Overton Johnson, the founder
of this ministry, taught me to
water ski. I was so excited! Now
I get to travel with my family
as part of the In His Wakes
team. I’ve helped hundreds of
kids experience victory on the
water and meet Jesus! It’s so
much fun. And seeing me out
there on my skis, even with my
scars, helps them let go of their
fear and get out on the water
The first time I skied, I was
pretty scared of all the waves
kids, so I knew if I listened and
stayed close, she’d keep me
safe and wouldn’t let me fall.
That makes me think about
life. Everybody has bumpy water
sometime, but just like Mrs.
Kristi was beside me, encouraging
me and helping me know
what to do, God is with us. If
we listen to Him, He’ll help us
through bumps—the big ones
and the little ones—and we
When I face bumpy water
in life, I do it with God and my
parents, so I don’t have to be
afraid. You don’t have to be
afraid either. Isaiah 43:2 promises
that God is with us when
we go through difficult stuff. He
won’t let the bumpy water win.
Life is scary; I know. I’ve
been scared too. But you don’t
have to let fear stop you. God’s
got you. And you know what?
Even if you come out of the
water with some nasty scars,
if you’re willing, God will use
them in amazing ways.
Besides, if you ask me, scars
SHAWN ASPINALL is a middle
school student who likes to run track
and do water sports. He loves to help
18 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
Hold Out Your Hand
BY TINA M. BROWN
PHOTO BY GERI SIMPKINS PHOTOGRAPHY
IT WAS MY SENIOR YEAR AT EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY.
I was on my way back to my apartment after spending the
weekend with my family. The trip had started off like every
other drive home, but a few minutes into my journey, something
within me drastically changed.
I didn’t understand it then, but I was under spiritual attack. It
came without warning or reason.
Satan, the father of lies, began pouring powerful thoughts of
inadequacy and loneliness into my mind. I had experienced
these thoughts before, but as I drove, I mulled over the emotions.
I allowed the negative thoughts to find root in my heart, and they
spread through me like wildfire.
Before I knew it, all I could think about was how easy it would
be to end my own life. Me! A God-girl who’d been baptized at the
age of nine, who serves in the church and loves the Lord, who’s
blessed with amazing friends and family.
But that day, I remember thinking how quickly my life could
be over if I drove off the road or what would happen if I placed a
handgun to my chest and pulled the trigger. I was overwhelmed.
The darkness that was engulfing me was too much for me to handle
on my own. I couldn’t speak; I didn’t have any words to say.
The last stoplight before my apartment caught me,
and I sat there, completely brokenhearted. I had nothing
left in me with which to fight. And then, my Friend
took hold of my hand. He smiled at me. It was Jesus.
As the image of Christ filled my heart and my mind’s
eyes, I burst into tears. A flood of His compassionate
grace and love poured over me like a mighty waterfall.
I’m thankful for long red lights, because in those
few minutes, Jesus saved my life again. The fear left
me, and the loneliness dissipated as I remembered
that Jesus is always beside me. He’d promised never
to leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), and there
He was, beside me. I am exceedingly thankful that He
did not leave me that day.
This brief moment of darkness is not unique to me.
So many people, believers and nonbelievers alike, have had moments
like this. Inexplicable. Unexpected. Overwhelming. Those
who know me personally would never suspect that such mental
and emotional darkness would be part of my life. But no one
is exempt from hardship or temptation, not even you who are
reading this. If you’re experiencing feelings like these, please get
the assistance you need. There is no shame in asking for help.
In a matter of seconds, Satan can trap any one of us in a lie that
grips, suffocates, and destroys. But God’s grace is greater than
all the sin and darkness in this world. He is the God who saves
me every day of my life. He holds my hand when I feel broken
beyond repair. And He will hold your hand and your heart too,
whether you’re stopped at a red light, huddled on your couch, in
a hospital, or in a prison. God is always faithful. Turn your life
over to Him each day; He will shower you with love and mercy.
Hold out your hand to Him and receive all that He has for you.
G O D ’ S
G R A C E I S
T H A N
A L L T H E
DA R K N E S S
TINA M. BROWN is a child of God living in Eastern North Carolina. She most
enjoys the intimate gifts of life including family, friends, and fellowship. Her life
changed forever when she fell in love with Jesus, and she wants you to know
how much Jesus loves you too.
Issue 01 / 2020
BY DORI GREESON, GENE GREESON, AND LINDSAY A. HAUGEN
ARRANGED BY KRISTI OVERTON JOHNSON
COVER AND PHOTO ABOVE BY DEAR DEE PHOTOGRAPHY
DORI: It was the
call no mother ever
wants to receive. I had
just left a business
luncheon and was
sitting in a Starbucks
drive-thru. My mind
was on my son,
Robby, and I asked
God to bless him and
let him know that He
was there for him. My
phone rang; Robby’s
number showed up.
“Hi, Robby!” I said. Silence met
me. Then Robby’s friend, Kate,
began to speak.
“Oh! Hi, Kate,” I responded.
“How are you?” More silence.
“Kate, are you okay? Is Robby
“No,” she replied. “Robby...
It’s hard to put into words the
depth of my pain in that moment.
All I could do was scream out,
“No! Robby! No! Please, come
back! Oh God, help me!” I got
out of the drive-thru and headed
back to the office. It’s the only
place I could think of to go.
Alone in my office, I screamed
and wailed; I pounded my feet
on the floor and my fists on the
desk. My office neighbor ran in,
thinking I was being attacked.
I told her what had happened,
and she held my hand and sat
with me while we waited for my
husband, Gene, to arrive.
GENE: When I got there, Dori
was shaking violently. We held
each other tightly and sobbed.
Together, we cried out to God,
begging Him for answers. We
asked for strength and for Him
to help our other son, Ben.
We found solace in the truth
that Robby was safe and whole
in God’s presence. Robby had
indicated numerous times over
the years that he believed in
Jesus Christ and had trusted in
Him for eternal salvation. Robby
had learned at an early age
that Jesus had died on the cross
to pay for his sins, was buried,
and rose again to prove that His
payment was a satisfactory one.
Robby had accepted God’s free
gift of salvation, and according to
the Bible, that meant he was now
in heaven. His struggle with pain
and depression was behind him.
We also found solace in the
truth that God cares for us. No
matter how painful this situation
was, Dori and I knew God
was with us and was hearing our
cries for help.
DORI: While Gene and I were
still at the office, Kate called
again. She said Robby had been
murdered and that we could go
online and read about it. The
article I found only added to my
Issue 01 / 2020
pain. It left me with so many
questions. Why would anyone
kill Robby? And who?
We learned that Robby had
died by strangulation two days
earlier. To think that he had
been dead for two days was incredible!
The article reported
that a woman named Lindsay
was involved, and that she had
a 14-year-old child.
Gene and I were surprised to
feel concern for this woman—
our son’s murderer. We found
ourselves praying for her, her
son, and her mother. Only God
could have placed this compassion
in our hearts for her.
I was numb and had no idea
what to do. I didn’t know what I
wanted, much less what I needed.
Dear friends surrounded
us. We were so grateful for their
prayers and support. The pain
in my heart, the longing for
my son—it was all more than
I could have borne on my own.
Three days later, Gene and
I held a private ceremony for
Robby. We listed the names
of everyone we could think of
that we might need to forgive
regarding Robby’s death. The
list included those we believed
were partly responsible for his
path of destruction. Our own
names were on this list, as we
were blaming ourselves and
asking what we could have
done differently. And Lindsay’s
name was there too.
I forgave Lindsay and others,
but my pain remained.
My sadness ran so deep; I cried
for months. Sometimes I wondered
if I would ever be okay
again, but then I’d remember
that with God’s help, I had overcome
every trial I had faced so
far. That gave me hope that,
while I wasn’t okay right now,
one day I would be.
Months later, I shared with
my church family the depth
of my sadness and asked for
prayer. As our pastor prayed,
my friends surrounded me
with their loving arms. A few
days later, I realized my daily
crying had stopped. My sadness
had lifted, and I felt lighter.
I praised God for answered
prayer and thanked Him for
the love and care of my family
HOW COULD WE NOT FORGIVE HER? SO
God used Lindsay’s going
to prison to free her from
the power of sin and to
bring her into a life she
MANY PEOPLE WANT TO CELEBRATE GOD’S
I tried many times to write
Lindsay a letter, but the words
wouldn’t come. Gene, however,
had found the strength to write
to her. He mailed his letter 10
months after Robby’s death.
FORGIVENESS, YET REFUSE TO FORGIVE OTHERS.
GENE: I had forgiven Lindsay,
but it wasn’t until her case was
complete and she had settled
into a more permanent place in
prison that I felt I should write
to her. She had accepted a plea
bargain and agreed to a 60-year
sentence. She would be eligible
to appear before a parole
board after serving 25 percent
(15 years) of her sentence.
Until my letter, we were not
sure if she knew we existed.
Dori and I had had no contact
with her; we had not wished
to influence her sentencing
In my letter, I told Lindsay
that Dori and I had forgiven her.
As believers in Jesus Christ,
we knew we were supposed to
forgive anyone who has hurt
us. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) says,
“Be kind and compassionate
to one another, forgiving each
other, just as in Christ God forgave
you.” Furthermore, we’d
been forgiven by our Savior
countless times for countless
sins. How could we not forgive
her? So many people want to
celebrate God’s forgiveness,
yet refuse to forgive others.
We didn’t want to be so selfish.
It wasn’t easy, but it was
the best decision we could
have made. Harboring unforgiveness
would have been
like pouring our enemy a
cup of poison and drinking it
ourselves. Forgiving Lindsay
would free us to live again. In
my letter, I also shared the gospel
of Jesus Christ with her. The
only way Lindsay’s life could be
transformed would be through
the love and power of God.
Interestingly, Dori and I
had been involved with prison
ministry for years. Seems
God had already been preparing
our hearts to love Lindsay
by allowing us a perspective
of prison most people never
see. Lindsay responded to my
letter with great remorse and
humble gratefulness. Her letter
touched Dori and me as only
God could cause.
DORI: After I read Lindsay’s
response to Gene’s letter, I
decided it was time I wrote to
Here is part of what I said:
22 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
I have wanted to write you for a while, but I just
haven’t known what to say. I’ve wanted to ask you
all kinds of questions, starting with, “Why would
you kill my son?”
After reading your statement in Gene’s letter that
you loved Robby, I wanted to yell, “If you loved him,
why did you kill him?!” But I knew there are no good
answers that would satisfy me. I am glad you are
now getting the help you need.
When I learned you were being sentenced to 60
years in prison, my heart sank for you, your son,
and your mom. While I have the feelings I stated
above, I do not wish for you to live in prison the
rest of your life. I do not wish for you to be locked
away and removed from society. I care about you,
Lindsay, and I ask God to bless you and help you to
know Him and have a relationship with Him. I pray
you will grow to be a light on the prison compound
that will lead others to the Lord.
I forgive you, Lindsay. I forgive you! And Jesus will
forgive you, too. He loves you and paid for your sin
of murdering Robby. He has paid for all of your sins,
just as He has paid for all of mine. I need Jesus just
as badly as you do. I would be lost without Him. But
since my trust is in Him and Him only, I am forever
saved and free.
Gene and Dori with Lindsay (center) in the prison where she
is serving her sentence. Today, Lindsay is serving the Lord
behind bars and helping others find freedom in Christ.
I wanted Lindsay to know
that she could be forever saved
and free too.
Lindsay quickly responded
to my letter, expressing sorrow
over taking Robby’s life. Nothing
she said, of course, would
bring Robby back or satisfy my
longing for him. That has only
lessened because I know he is
with Jesus. I have faith that I
will see Robby again. Because
of Jesus, my son is okay, and I
am grateful for that.
LINDSAY: When I received
that first letter from Gene, I
had no idea who he was. But
as I began to read, I quickly
realized it was from Robby’s
stepfather. I didn’t know what
to expect! The guilt that had
been my constant companion
since that fateful day welled up
again in my soul. I kept reading,
however, and came across the
most incredible words I’ve ever
read. Gene said, “I want you to
know that I have forgiven you.”
This was almost too good
to be true. The letter even
said that Robby’s mom, Dori,
wanted to write me! I wanted
to believe it, but I was afraid to.
How could it be true after what
I’d done to this family?
I wrote back and sincerely
offered my apology and gratitude,
hoping that the forgiveness
being offered was real.
Gene had also included some
gospel tracts in the envelope,
telling me about Jesus. I read
them but was not ready to receive
them as truth at the time.
In September 2016, I received
my first letter from
Dori. It blew me away. I couldn’t
mistake the ache of this mother’s
loss and the question of
why, but above all, I heard the
wonderful faith and hope she
had that she would see her son
again in heaven. She knew this
because Robby had told her that
his faith was in Jesus Christ
alone to be his Savior. Dori also
expressed forgiveness toward
me and told me about the forgiveness
Jesus offers me.
I didn’t deserve this. Even
now, I find myself speechless. I
had hurt this woman so deeply,
yet she cared enough to share
eternal life with me and to
close her letter with the words,
“God bless you.” She helped me
see and experience God’s unconditional
love. It caused me
to realize the realness of God.
There was no way human beings
could forgive such a great
offense in their own strength.
It had to be from God.
Their gift of love and forgiveness
came at the lowest point
of my life. I was lost and alone,
filled with regret and hopelessness.
I was 32, facing a 60-year
prison sentence. The guilt of
my actions, the harsh realities
of prison life, and the consequences
of my choices were all
around me. I was a murderer—
nothing could justify what I
had done. It didn’t matter that
Robby and I had been on the
same road of destruction or
that alcohol had clouded both
our minds. There was no one
to blame but myself.
I couldn’t imagine anything
but hopelessness as my destiny.
But then God reached down
from heaven and, through the
love of the Greesons, revealed
hope for my dead-end life. Jesus
Christ had redeemed my
mistakes through the shedding
of His blood. And through Jesus’s
blood, God was offering
me forgiveness of sins, according
to the riches of His grace
(Ephesians 1:7). I received
Issue 01 / 2020
God’s gift of forgiveness for myself,
and in Jesus I found hope.
Jesus said, “whoever hears
my word and believes in him
who sent me has eternal life,
and will not be judged but has
crossed over from death to life”
(John 5:24 NIV). My acceptance
of Jesus’s love and sacrifice
caused me to pass from death
into life. I have hope for my
eternal future—and for my life,
even now, while behind bars.
DORI: For four years now, God
has been working out for good
so much, had we held onto
our hurt. Not only that, my
own life would have been destroyed.
I would be bitter, angry, and
resentful, living in constant
pain and emotional turmoil.
And that ugliness in me would
have overtaken and destroyed
everyone around me (Hebrews
12:15). God’s gift of forgiveness
has freed us all to live fruitful,
joy-filled lives, even in this
most difficult season.
GENE: It’s amazing to see how
HAD I NOT FORGIVEN LINDSAY, I WOULD BE A
BITTER, ANGRY, RESENTFUL WOMAN, LIVING
IN CONSTANT PAIN AND EMOTIONAL TURMOIL.
the horribly wrong and tragic
murder of my son, just as He
promised in Romans 8:28. As
Psalm 34:18 says, “the Lord is
close to the brokenhearted,”
and He has been here for us.
It’s hard for some to comprehend
our forgiving Lindsay.
What they don’t realize is that
doing so set Gene and me free
from despair and enabled us to
be healed. Forgiving Lindsay
was a gift for us too. It allowed
us to experience God’s great joy
and peace, and the good things
He has in store for us.
When Gene and I reached
out to Lindsay, we didn’t know
how God would work in our
lives. How could we have imagined
that she’d become like a
daughter to us or that we’d
travel 2,300 miles to visit her
in prison? And how could we
have imagined that God would
use her to bring so many other
people into His kingdom?
We would’ve missed out on
God has transformed our lives.
For example, Lindsay, who,
at the time she killed Robby,
would’ve claimed to be an atheist,
has been transformed into
a most dedicated Christian.
She’s becoming a giant in the
faith. We are proud to know her
and are grateful for the privilege
of being part of her faith
journey. God surely answered
Dori’s prayer for Lindsay’s life!
LINDSAY: When I think back
on life prior to receiving that
first letter from Gene, I’m
blown away by how my outlook,
my plans, my hopes, and even
my memories have changed;
all for the better. I have a real
purpose in life now, to share
my story—our story—so that
the good news of God’s forgiveness
in Christ can reach
as many people as possible.
So they, too, can be free.
Being forgiven doesn’t make
what I did acceptable, nor
does it take away the pain I
caused, but it does allow God to
use me for His great purpose.
In His grace, I am now leading
those around me to Jesus. He’s
using the evil I’ve done for His
good. Robby’s life lives on, all
for God’s glory. I’m so thankful
for the grace of God and for the
DORI: Gene, Lindsay, and I
want everyone who reads our
story to experience God’s gift
of forgiveness. We all need it,
because we’ve all sinned; we
all fall short of God’s perfect
standard (Romans 3:23). Some
sin is obvious to the world, like
Lindsay’s. Other sins are often
overlooked—like pride, greed,
DORI AND GENE GREESON have been married for 23 years and have
been involved in prison ministry in Florida for 15 years. They have also
ministered internationally on many short-term mission trips. Learn more at
LINDSAY HAUGEN gave God the worst mistake of her life, and He is using
it for good, as many are coming to know the Lord through her ministry in the
prison facility where she is housed.
Dori and Gene miss their son but praise God for
the unexpected gift of a daughter in Lindsay.
envy, unbelief, and yes, even
not forgiving someone.
The good news is that God’s
gift of forgiveness and eternal
salvation is available to everyone,
no matter what we’ve
done (John 3:16). And it’s free.
There’s nothing any of us can do
to deserve it (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Jesus lived a perfect life and
then died a horrible death to
provide forgiveness to us. And
all we have to do to receive that
forgiveness is believe.
Once we receive God’s gift of
forgiveness, we can extend it
to others, even those who have
deeply hurt us. And that, my
friend, is the greatest gift we
can give, both to ourselves and
to those around us.
God’s grace and forgiveness
enable us to move forward, no
PHOTO BY DEAR DEE PHOTOGRAPHY
24 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
Change Your Course
BY KRISTI OVERTON JOHNSON
IT’S SO MUCH EASIER TO KEEP DOING
the same things we’ve always done than it
is to make the changes we know we need
to make. Maybe we consider the money
and time we’ve invested, or maybe we’re
overwhelmed with fear, guilt, worry, or
even pride as we imagine the potential repercussions
of making that change. “What
if” scenarios cloud our vision and keep us
pressing forward on that old path, even
though we know we shouldn’t take another
step in that direction.
There’s a story in 2 Chronicles 25:6–10
that teaches us about God’s faithfulness
during change. King Amaziah was setting
out to war against the Edomites. He
had strengthened his own army by hiring
100,000 mercenaries from Israel and
paying them 100 talents of silver for their
But as he readied his troops, a man of
God warned Amaziah that if he moved forward
with the men from Israel, he would
be defeated, because the Lord was not with
Israel. Even if Amaziah’s army went and
fought with all the courage they could muster,
they would still be defeated.
Amaziah asked the man of God, “But
what about all the money I paid for these
The man of God replied, “The Lord can
give you much more than that.” And so, relying
on that promise, Amaziah dismissed
the mercenaries and sent them home.
For me, this would have been difficult. I
mean, these were trained men of war who,
humanly speaking, should have bettered
Amaziah’s chances of winning. And then
there’s that money! In today’s economy,
100 talents of silver would have been millions
of dollars. He’d already invested the
money; it couldn’t be recouped.
But the biggest hang-up for me would’ve
been the reaction of the people. I’d have
worried that the people I was sending
home—men fired up and ready for battle—
would be a bit perturbed with my decision.
Not to mention that my advisors would
think I’d lost my mind!
So how did Amaziah walk away from his
commitment and investment and obey
God without looking back? Easy. He trusted
the promise, “The Lord can give you
much more than that.”
That statement pretty much settled it for
the king. Would it have settled it for you?
I’ve already admitted it would have been
a hard pill for me to swallow.
This passage, and really the entire Bible,
teaches us that if we want victory, we must
obey God, even when it’s hard. We have
to be willing to let go, to cut loose, and to
move forward in a different direction when
the Lord instructs us to do so.
Over the past six years, God has directed
me to change my course. He’s asked me
to let go of things and people and plans.
Things I had invested large amounts of
time and money into. At times I resisted as
I counted the cost and worried about the
reactions and judgments of those around
me. Surely, I thought, if I just keep pressing forward
in faith with courageous perseverance, I’ll
be victorious. But I’ve learned, sometimes
the hard way, that true victory—like God’s
blessing—comes only through obedience.
(See Deuteronomy 28.)
I don’t know what God is leading you
to do or what changes He’s asking you to
make, but whatever it is, you can trust
Him. Lay aside your concerns about all
you’ve invested. God can give you more
than that. Don’t worry about other people’s
reactions or judgments. You can’t control
that. The Bible says those mercenaries
were furious and acted out their anger,
but that didn’t affect Amaziah’s victory!
It only affected theirs.
No matter the cost, remember: God’s got
your back. Your only responsibility is obedience;
God will take care of the rest. And
He will more than redeem all that is lost.
KRISTI OVERTON JOHNSON encourages and
equips people for victory through her writings,
speaking engagements, and prison ministry. To
learn more, go to kojministries.org.
Issue 01 / 2020
BY STANLEY MCGRAW
spent 20 years in prison on what I
call the installment plan. I’d be incarcerated
for a while, get out and
try to do right, then mess up and
head right back. Breaking this cycle
Life started out pretty good for me, but
then my parents split up. Mom took me and
my siblings and moved to New York. She did
the best she could, but a single mom raising
three kids alone in Queens, New York, isn’t
a good situation. I was 11 and thought I was
tough. It wasn’t long before she lost me to
As I grew up, sin gained a strong hold on
my life. I followed the impulses of my heart
and flesh with no regard of what it might
cost to me or anyone else. Sometimes I realized
my need to make better choices, but I
never set myself up to actually make them.
I stayed in the same circle of friends and
hung out in the same places on the street…
and without fail, I did stupid again.
In 2014, I found myself back in Florida
and in the Duvall county jail, facing serious
time because of my past record. While I
was there in the jail pod, an inmate told me
about his plans to participate in a program
at the Trinity Rescue Mission in Jacksonville,
Florida, when he completed his time.
Soon after that, we were each transferred
to separate facilities within the Florida Department
of Corrections. I didn’t see him
again until 2018, when I got out of prison.
Once released, I set out to start my life
I was going to be a truck driver. I had
earned my certificate of completion for a
Florida commercial driver’s license while
in prison. I had an excellent driving record,
so I thought this career path would be a perfect
fit for me—I could make good money,
and I’d get to travel.
I soon found out, however, that my certificate
and excellent driving record couldn’t
compete with my rap sheet. Every time a
company discovered my past criminal record,
I was turned away as a liability. I can
understand their position, but the constant
rejection was hard to take.
For 90 days, I tried to get a job, with no
success. I was frustrated. I wanted to do the
right thing—and I was trying to do it—but it
26 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
wasn’t working out. I was just about to give
up, when the Lord intervened in my life.
I borrowed a friend’s car for a week and
drove aimlessly around Jacksonville. One
day, I found myself parked in a field across
from a building. A lot of people were waiting
for the building to open so they could
get food. I had no idea at the time that it
was the Trinity Rescue Mission that fellow
inmate had told me about.
I walked across the street to get a bite
to eat, and much to my surprise, there on
the porch was the guy I had met in jail in
2014. He didn’t recognize me, but the next
day when he saw me, he called out, “Stan
Stan was my first name. Pinochle was
the card game I had taught him in jail. Man,
was he ever terrible at that game! We shook
hands and marveled at seeing each other
the equation of my life. Every time, I had
attempted to change in my own strength.
Even though I believed in God and had even
accepted Jesus as my Savior 18 years before
in New River prison, I’d never thought
to bring Him into my life. I had kept Him at
a distance, never realizing He could help
me change. And I had kept godly people at
a distance too.
I hadn’t realized the importance of surrounding
myself with people who would
help redirect my sinful thoughts, attitudes,
and behaviors or who would teach me about
God. Trying to change without God and the
godly example of others doesn’t work. I’m
proof of that.
I entered the program and met a Jewish
believer named Barry Luxenberg, the director
of the Freedom Farm. Usually you
have to be at the mission for 90 days before
Stanley and his mom, Catherine, celebrating
his newfound freedom in Christ.
WHEN I SURROUNDED MYSELF WITH
PEOPLE DRAWN TO SIN, I BECAME
LIKE THEM. BUT WHEN I CHOSE TO
DRAW CLOSE TO GOD AND SURROUND
MYSELF WITH GODLY INFLUENCES, MY
BEHAVIOR FINALLY CHANGED.
again. I sat down on the porch and started you can go to the farm, but after 25 days,
telling him how I was struggling. I had been Barry invited me to move up. I wanted to go,
out of prison for 90 days and still couldn’t but I knew I needed to finish the full 90 days
get it together. I was about to give up like at the mission first. He thought I was crazy,
I’d done so many other times before. It just but I had never finished anything in my life.
seemed easier to go back to prison than to My completing what I’d started was crucial
keep trying to make it on the outside. But to my future success.
deep inside, I didn’t want to go back. I wanted
a different life.
farm. Barry recognized leadership quali-
I completed the program and went to the
My friend told me to go inside and ask ties in me and put me where I could develop
them. It felt good to have someone who
to be part of the program. I remembered
that’s what he had done when he got out. As believed in me. Barry spoke into my life in
I turned to go inside, he said, “Stan, whatever
you do, don’t leave the program.” Then mom and sister. For years, they had tried
ways no one else had ever done, except my
he told me it wouldn’t be easy, but if I stuck to tell me the importance of having God
with it, I could make a lasting change. in my life and making better choices, but I
I started the program and soon realized wouldn’t listen to them.
why I hadn’t been able to change all those Thankfully, God sent other people like
other times—I’d never brought God into Barry to open my ears and show me how to
live a life of godliness. Barry and others at
the farm are answers to my momma’s lifelong
I’ve spent so much time with Barry now
that I’ve picked up many of his characteristics.
The guys at the farm have given me the
nickname, Black Barry. We’ve all had a good
laugh over this, but it serves as a great reminder
that we become like those we hang
out with. When I surrounded myself with
people drawn to sin, I became like them.
But when I chose to draw close to God, and
when I surrounded myself with godly influences,
my behavior finally changed. Sin no
longer had a hold on me.
Perhaps you’re ready for a different life.
You’re ready to break the cycle of what e ver
has been holding you back. If that’s you,
bring God into the equation of your life and
surround yourself with people who will
help you walk in freedom.
With His help and theirs—and honest
commitment on your part—you can finally
do it the right way.
STANLEY MCGRAW serves on staff at the Trinity
Rescue Mission. He eagerly awaits the day he can
volunteer in prison to help others break free of the
cycle of sin and incarceration. To learn more, go to
trinityrescue.org or call 904-355-1205.
Issue 01 / 2020
BY BJ EMERSON
The local headline read, “Emerson Faces
76 Years.” The national headlines weren’t
any better: “Jail Term Set in Extortion”
and “Man Suspected in Hoax Charged in
Pennsylvania.” It looked like my dad would
be going away for good.
In 1983, the FBI arrested my father for
a string of crimes including 26 counts of
extortion across three states. His addiction
to drugs, alcohol, and gambling had
driven him to find creative and bold ways
to get the money needed to support his
lifestyle—a lifestyle that I observed from
a distance as a young teen.
Our relationship could have been described
as shallow and lacking substance.
He was not what you’d call a role model. My
mother and father were divorced before I
can remember, and he was largely absent
while I was growing up.
His father before him had departed
also, but differently. Abandoning his family
when my father was just a child, my
grandfather had left no trace. We didn’t
even know if he was alive.
Things just did not look good on that
side of my family tree. As a young man,
you’re supposed be able to look up into
that tree and find inspiration, not incarceration.
Legacy, not felony. With no good
father figure in my life, my own trajectory
and destiny were questionable at best. I
searched for different things to fill the void
in my heart. I am certain the prayers of
godly people from the other side of my
family tree are all that kept me from following
my father’s path early on.
My father’s incarceration caused him
to miss a number of critical events in my
life. Fathers are supposed to be there when
you get your license, your first car, graduate
from high school, and all those other
milestones. You’re supposed to see him in
the audience, hear his encouragement and
support from the stands. But if there were
cheers, I couldn’t hear them coming from
my father’s prison cell. And each missed
event added another layer of bitterness
to my growing pile of disillusionment and
But God was already moving in our lives.
My father was sent to a federal prison
hospital in Springfield, Missouri, to start
serving his time. Shortly after his arrival,
fellow inmates invited him to some church
services held by volunteers from a local
church. Hurting and broken, he agreed
to attend, but he was not the kind of guy
who wanted a hug from a volunteer, and
he told them so.
It wasn’t long before he found himself
responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ,
and a transformation began to take place.
He didn’t go to that prison hospital for a
heart transplant, but he got one when he
accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.
He didn’t know it yet, but that decision
and another he made there—based on
Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house,
we will serve the Lord”—would impact our
family for generations to come.
As my father began trusting God with his
life, he began praying for the other people
he cared about. With good reason, two of
his biggest concerns were my brother and
me. During their phone calls, my mother
would tell him about the trouble we were
getting into, and he was all too familiar
with the direction we were heading.
Another concern was his estranged father,
whom he had not heard from in over
30 years. Regardless, he started praying
and, in his Bible reading, he ran across
Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will perfect that
28 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
which concerns me” (NKJV). His prayer
for all of us was simple: “God, please send
someone to share the gospel with them.”
My father wanted us to experience the
same love and forgiveness that he had
come to know through Jesus Christ.
His bold prayers began a slow-moving
chain reaction in my family tree, although
the answers were not exactly the ones
my father expected. The fruit of the Holy
Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control—began showing up in his life.
They were evident in his writings, phone
calls, and our visits. I saw the change in
my father, but I didn’t yet understand it.
After serving his federal time, my father
had yet to face his state time, but favorable
sentencing released him in less than five
years. It was clear that God had plans for
him. Upon leaving prison, opportunities
to go back inside and minister to others
began presenting themselves.
Meanwhile, my own trouble had begun,
and my solutions for dealing with it were
not working. I was in the Navy and recently
separated from my wife. Heartbreak was a
common occurrence, and the things I had
put my hope in were letting me down. At
a desperate place in my life, I went looking
for something to relieve my pain, to
fill the hole in my heart. One day, I found
myself so desperate that I grabbed a Bible
and a phone, crawled into my bunk, and
called my father for help. Simply put, he
had access to a power that I did not have,
and I needed relief.
I told him what was happening and,
through tears, I asked “Where do I go to
find the help I need? I have a Bible—what
page number do I turn to?” Our unresolved
issues no longer mattered. I didn’t even
care that my bunkmate was hanging out
in the rack above me. All I knew was that,
if this God were real, I needed His help.
The pain was too great, and my efforts to
fix things were not working.
I read the verses my dad recommended,
but I kept trying to fix things in my own
strength. I didn’t understand the concept
of surrendering entirely to God. Things
I returned from the Gulf War with a broken
relationship, a broken car, no money,
and uncertainty all around. I was lost. But
in the middle of that very dark time, my
father showed up. He was waiting on the
pier when we arrived; he was there when
I really needed him. God had been preparing
both him and me for this moment.
He came to live with me, and for the first
time, I realized my need for Christ. God
used my father to share the gospel with
me so my life could be forever changed.
I laid all my heartache, brokenness, and
sin at the foot of the cross, where I found
forgiveness and wholeness.
When you finally understand the context
and depth of your own depravity and
experience God’s forgiveness, you will
run to forgive others. Colossians 3:13 encourages
us to “forgive as the Lord forgave
you.” That’s what I did, and my relationship
with my dad was restored.
But the restoration story doesn’t end
there. In 1993, my father traveled to Florida
for a ministry conference. As he prepared
to return home on the last night,
he felt led to open the phone book on the
nightstand in his hotel room. Right there,
in black and white, was his father’s name,
Allen M. Emerson, Sr.
The next morning my father called the
When you finally understand the context and
depth of your own depravity and experience
God’s forgiveness, you will run to forgive others.
Allen Jr. and Allen
reunited after 30
years when Allen Jr.
found his father’s
name in a Florida
number he’d found. He asked the man
who answered if he had a son born on a
certain date, and the man said he did. They
agreed to meet. That day, my father and
grandfather were miraculously reunited
after 30 years. Their relationship was restored
and, for the next nine years, they
called and visited each other often. But
my grandfather did not yet know Christ,
so my father’s prayers continued.
When my grandfather was on his deathbed
in the hospital, my father read Jesus’s
words in John 14:1 to him. “Do not let your
heart be troubled,” he said. “You believe in
God; believe also in Me.” As he breathed his
Issue 01 / 2020
last, my grandfather
came to know Jesus.
And again, God had
answered my father’s
prayer to send someone
to share the gospel—
but instead of someone
else, He used my father
to reach those he was
God has used my
father to bring hope
to thousands behind
bars during a 30-year
career in prison ministry.
If you’re reading
In their book, BJ and Allen
unfold their incredible story
of restoration and hope
that has touched lives both
inside and outside of prison.
If you’re reading this from
prison, I haven’t been where
you are. But I’ve been where
your children are. You may
not be able to reach out to
them physically, but your
loving heavenly Father hears
POR BJ EMERSON
this from prison, I haven’t been where you are. But I’ve
been where your children are. You may not be able to
reach out to them physically, but your loving heavenly
Father hears your prayers. He knows your concerns,
and when you put your trust in Him, He will use you to
impact your family as well as those around you.
Prayer is a powerful thing, and God can do miracles
when we have faith that He will do what we cannot.
My father’s prayers from prison changed the course of
history for our family. Your prayers can do the same.
Reach out in faith to Him today.
BJ EMERSON and his father, Allen, live in the Carolinas and have
had the opportunity to share their amazing restoration story with
many who are incarcerated and need hope. Their book, The Hearts
of the Fathers, is available through amazon.com. Proceeds from the
book go toward its distribution to incarcerated persons and their
families. Connect with the Emersons through their Hearts of the
Fathers Book page on Facebook.
El encabezado local decía, “Emerson Se Enfrenta a 76
Años.” Los encabezados nacionales no eran mejores:
“Condena Fijada por Extorsión” y “Sospechoso por Cargos
de Engaño en Pennsylvania.” Parecía que encerrarían
a mi papá por siempre.
En 1983, el FBI arrestó a mi padre por una serie de
crímenes que incluían 26 cargos de extorsión a través
de tres estados. Su adicción a las drogas, el alcohol,
y las apuestas lo llevaron a buscar formas creativas y
audaces de conseguir dinero para mantener su estilo de
vida—un estilo de vida que observé a la distancia desde
Nuestra relación se podría describir como superficial
y vacía. No era lo que llamaríamos un modelo a seguir.
Apenas si lo conocía—mis padres se divorciaron antes
que yo tuviera uso de razón, y él estaba mayormente
ausente durante mi crianza.
30 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
El padre de él también había partido,
pero de forma distinta. Abandonó a su familia
cuando mi padre era sólo un niño. Mi
abuelo se fue sin dejar rastro. Ni siquiera
sabíamos si estaba vivo.
Las cosas no lucían bien de ese lado
del árbol genealógico de mi familia. Se
supone que como joven debes mirar hacia
tus ma yores y hallar inspiración, no encarcelamiento.
Dejar un legado, no un delito.
Sin una buena figura paternal en mi vida,
mi propia trayectoria y destino quedaban
en juego. Busqué cosas que llenaran el
vacío en mi corazón. Estoy seguro de que
las oraciones de personas piadosas del otro
lado de mi árbol genealógico fueron las
que me alejaron de seguir en los pasos de
mi padre a temprana edad.
Por estar en la cárcel mi padre se perdió
una serie de eventos críticos en mi vida. Un
padre debe estar presente cuando obtienes
tu primera licencia, consigues tu primer
carro, te gradúas del bachillerato, y todos
los demás logros de un hijo. Debería haber
estado entre el público, debería haber escuchado
su ánimo y sentir su apoyo desde
las gradas. Pero si existían aplausos, no los
escuchaba salir de la celda de prisión donde
se encontraba mi padre. Cada evento que
se perdía agregaba una capa de amargura
al monto de mi desilusión y decepción que
iban en aumento.
Pero Dios ya estaba actuando en
Enviaron a mi padre a un hospital de
prisión federal en Springfield, Missouri,
para comenzar a servir su condena.
Al poco tiempo de su llegada, sus compañeros
de celda lo invitaron a unos servicios
que realizaban voluntarios de una
iglesia local. Herido y quebrantado, aceptó
asistir, pero no era el tipo de persona que
quería abrazos de parte de los voluntarios,
y se los hizo saber.
Al poco tiempo empezó a responder al
evangelio de Cristo y comenzó a realizarse
una transformación en él. No había ido a
ese hospital de prisión para un trasplante
de corazón; sin embargo, recibió uno cuando
aceptó a Cristo Jesús como su salvador.
No lo sabía aún, pero esa decisión, y
otra que tomó allí—basada en Josué 24:15:
“Por mi parte, mi familia y yo serviremos
al Señor”—impactarían a nuestra familia
Conforme mi padre comenzó a poner su
vida en manos de Dios, empezó a orar por
aquellas personas a quienes amaba. Con
justa razón, dos de sus mayores preocupaciones
éramos mi hermano y yo. Durante
sus llamadas, mi madre le contaba de los
problemas en los que nos estábamos metiendo.
Conocía demasiado bien la dirección
Otra de sus preocupaciones era su padre
desaparecido del cual no sabía nada
desde hacía más de 30 años. Independientemente,
comenzó a orar y, en su
lectura bíblica, se encontró con Salmos
138:8: “El Señor cumplirá en mí su propósito”
(NVI). Su oración por todos nosotros era
sencilla: “Dios, por favor manda a alguien
Allen Jr. y Allen Sr.,
de 30 años cuando
Allen Jr. encontró
el nombre de su
padre en una guía
que comparta el evangelio con ellos.” Mi
padre quería que nosotros experimentáramos
el mismo amor y perdón que él había
llegado a conocer por medio de Jesucristo.
Sus fervorosas oraciones comenzaron
una reacción en cadena en cámara lenta
Cuando al fin comprendes el contexto y
la profundidad de tu propia depravación y
experimentas el perdón de Dios, entonces
buscas perdonar también a otros.
en mi árbol genealógico, aunque las respuestas
no fueron exactamente las que mi
padre esperaba. El fruto del Espíritu Santo—
amor, gozo, paz, paciencia, benignidad,
bondad, fe, mansedumbre, y templanza—
empezaron a manifestarse en su vida. Eran
evidentes en lo que escribía, sus llamadas,
y nuestras visitas. Vi el cambio en mi padre,
pero aún no lo comprendía.
Después de servir su condena federal,
aún le faltaba a mi padre cumplir su
condena estatal, pero una sentencia favo
rable lo liberó en menos de cinco años.
Era evidente que Dios tenía planes para
él. En cuanto salió de prisión, empezó a
Issue 01 / 2020
Si estás leyendo esto en
prisión, no he estado donde
tú estás. Pero he estado
donde están tus hijos.
Posiblemente no puedas
alcanzarlos físicamente, pero
tu Padre amoroso en el cielo
escucha tus oraciones.
buscar oportunidades de ministerio otra
vez dentro de la cárcel.
Mientras tanto, mi propio problema
había comenzado, y mis métodos para
solucionarlo no estaban funcionando. Yo
estaba en la Marina y recién separado de
mi esposa. El desamor se había vuelto algo
común para mí, y las cosas en las que ponía
mi esperanza me estaban decepcionando.
En un momento de desesperación en
mi propia vida, salí a buscar algo que
aliviara mi dolor, para llenar el vacío en
mi corazón. Un día me encontraba tan
desesperado que tomé una Biblia y un
teléfono, me metí en mi litera, y llamé a
mi padre pidiendo auxilio. Yo sabía que él
tenía acceso a un poder que yo no tenía,
y yo necesitaba alivio.
Le conté lo que estaba sucediendo y, a
través de lágrimas, le pregunté “¿Dónde
encuentro la ayuda que necesito? Tengo
una Biblia—¿qué página busco?” Nuestros
asuntos personales sin resolver ya no tenían
importancia. Ni siquiera me importaba
que mi compañero de litera estuviera en
la cama de arriba. Lo único que sabía era
que, si este Dios era real, yo necesitaba
su ayuda. El dolor era demasiado intenso,
y mis esfuerzos para solucionar todo no
Leí los versículos que mi papá me
recomendó, pero seguí tratando de solucionar
las cosas con mis propias fuerzas.
No comprendía el concepto de rendirme
por completo a Dios, y las cosas empeoraron.
Regresé de la Guerra del Golfo con una
relación rota, un auto descompuesto, sin
dinero, y rodeado de incertidumbre. Estaba
perdido. Pero en medio de toda esa
obscuridad, mi padre llegó. Me estaba esperando
en el muelle cuando arribamos;
estaba presente cuando más lo necesité.
Dios nos había estado preparando a los
dos para este momento.
Llegó a vivir conmigo, y por primera vez,
reconocí mi necesidad de Cristo. Dios utilizó
a mi padre para compartir el evangelio
conmigo y cambiar mi vida por siempre.
Dejé todo mi desamor, fragilidad, y pecado
al pie de la cruz, donde encontré perdón
Cuando al fin comprendes el contexto y
la profundidad de tu propia depravación y
experimentas el perdón de Dios, entonces
buscas perdonar también a otros. Colosenses
3:13 nos anima: “Así como el Señor
los perdonó, perdonen también ustedes.”
Eso es lo que yo hice, y mi relación con mi
papá fue restaurada.
En su libro, BJ y Allen relatan su
increíble historia de restsuración y
esperanza que ha tocado vidas tanto
dentro como fuera de la prisión.
Pero la historia de restauración no termina
allí. En 1993, mi padre viajó a la Florida
para una conferencia del ministerio.
Cuando se preparaba para regresar a casa
la última noche, sintió el impulso a buscar
en el directorio telefónico que estaba sobre
una pequeña mesa en su cuarto de hotel.
Ahí mismo encontró, en blanco y negro, el
nombre de su padre, Allen M. Emerson, Sr.
Al día siguiente mi padre llamó el número
que había encontrado. Le preguntó al
hombre que contestó el teléfono si tenía un
hijo que había nacido en cierta fecha, y el
hombre le dijo que sí. Entonces se pusieron
de acuerdo para encontrarse. Ese día, mi
padre y mi abuelo fueron milagrosamente
reunidos después de 30 años. Su relación
fue restaurada y, por los próximos nueve
años, se llamaron y se visitaron frecuentemente.
Pero mi abuelo aún no conocía
de Cristo, así que mi padre siguió orando.
Cuando mi abuelo estaba en su lecho
de muerte en el hospital, mi padre le leyó
las palabras de Jesús en Juan 14:1. Él dijo,
“No se turbe vuestro corazón. Creéis en
Dios; creed también en mí.” Cuando estaba
tomando sus últimos suspiros, mi abuelo
llegó a conocer a Cristo. Y una vez más,
Dios contestó las oraciones de mi padre
de mandar a alguien a compartir el evangelio—pero
en vez de alguien más, otra vez
usó a mi padre para alcanzar a aquellos a
Dios ha utilizado a mi padre para llevar
esperanza a miles tras las rejas durante
30 años de ministerio en prisiones. Si estás
leyendo esto en prisión, no he estado donde
tú estás. Pero he estado donde están tus
hijos. Posiblemente no puedas alcanzarlos
físicamente, pero tu Padre amoroso en el
cielo escucha tus oraciones. Él conoce tus
preocupaciones, y cuando pones tu confianza
en él, te utilizará para crear un impacto
en tu familia y en los que te rodean.
La oración es poderosa, y Dios puede
hacer milagros cuando tenemos fe que él
hará lo que nosotros no podemos hacer. Las
oraciones de mi padre en prisión cambiaron
el destino de nuestra familia. Tus oraciones
pueden lograr lo mismo. Clámale con fe
BJ EMERSON y su padre, Allen, viven en las
Carolinas y han tenido la oportunidad de compartir
su increíble historia de restauración juntos a
muchos que están encarcelados y necesitados
de esperanza. Su libro, The Heart of the Fathers,
está disponible en amazon.com. Conéctate con los
Emersons a través de su libro Hearts of the Fathers
Book en Facebook.
32 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
BY KENNY MUNDS
When Kenny found his 1973
Academy of Country Music
Award in his backyard shed,
he realized how much God
has changed his priorities.
I REALIZED RECENTLY THAT I’VE BEEN
hoarding some material things in my shed that
are no longer useful to me. In light of that revelation,
I decided it was time to clean it out.
One of the most interesting objects I stumbled
upon was my 1973 Academy of Country Music
Award. Our band, Brush Arbor, won Best Vocal
Group that year, along with another award for
Touring Band of the Year. The two trophies went
to our manager at the time, while the six members
of the band went home empty handed. A
year or so later, he presented each of us with a
copy of the award.
For years, I’d kept that trophy in a protective
case. I’d displayed it proudly in my living room.
It had meant a lot to me. Yet now, it was lying unprotected
in a box, with smudges and scratches
on what used to be a shiny, polished surface. It’s
funny how our values change over time.
For much of my life, I thrived on presenting
myself with impressive credentials like, “Academy
of Country Music Award Winner!” “Toured
with Johnny Cash!” “Appeared on the Grand Ole
Opry!” “Worked onstage in Las Vegas!” Hearing
those things made me feel important. And for
some reason, they seemed to make other people
think I was important too.
Today, however, I live in a one-room studio
apartment right down the street from the Family
Dollar in a small town with four stoplights, far
from the attention and bright lights I’d craved.
I used to thrive on performance and recognition.
My only goal was to be a country music
star. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but anyone
aspiring world fame for their own glory will find
themselves headed to a dead-end life. I know. I
lost everything I valued, all for the “glory” of my
addiction to booze and low self-esteem.
But in that loss, I found something else that
will never lose its value: I found Jesus.
These days, I understand how unimportant all
those things are apart from knowing Christ. Like
Paul says in Philippians 3:8: “Everything else is
worthless when compared with the infinite value
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I
have discarded everything else, counting it all
as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.”
When I turned my focus to Him, listened for
His voice, and gave my musical talents to Him, I
found living hope. I found a life of purpose. I found
salvation and love that can never be taken away.
I no longer stand on large stages or travel the
world. I live alone now; I even lost my little dog
last year and my phone seldom rings. My stage
is usually a prison yard or chapel.
The fast life with all that stuff I thought was
important is far behind me, and I’m glad because
now my life has eternal purpose. When I surrendered
my musical talents to God and sought to
use them for His glory, He gave me a front-row
seat to seeing lives change from despair to hope…
from death to life. There’s nothing greater.
Today, my desire is that I’ll live a life of faith
that only seeks God’s approval, so that when the
time comes and I enter heaven’s gates, He will
greet me with these words: “Well done, my good
and faithful servant. You have been faithful in
handling this small amount, so now I will give
you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate
together!” (Matthew 25:23).
Maybe you’re like me and you’ve valued the
things of this world over eternal things like
knowing God. Maybe you’ve even got a shed full
of stuff to prove it. Let’s empty our sheds and let
go of our past. Let’s get to know Jesus. He is the
only thing worth holding on to.
KENNY MUNDS takes the good news of God’s love and
forgiveness into prisons across America. To learn more
about his ministry, go to kennymundsministry.org.
Issue 01 / 2020
STRAIGHT UP: I HATED EMOTIONS. I hated
feeling angry, sad, hurt, or any other emotion
that didn’t make me feel good. I thought I was
supposed to be happy all the time, and even when
I went through hard times, I thought I was supposed
to look like I had it all together. Because of
those unrealistic expectations, self-harm became
a quick fix for me. I could pretend to be happy all
day at family gatherings, school, and even church,
but when I was alone, I would face the true emotions
I was really dealing with. Cutting gave me a
release from the pressure to be perfect.
A huge contributing factor to my self-harm was
that two family members were sexually abusing
me, and I believed I had done something
to deserve this. I even remember thinking that
maybe if my abusers saw the scars, they would
be grossed out and leave me alone. I thought if
I made myself unappealing to them, they would
stop. That didn’t work—but the cutting seemed
to help me. It felt good because it provided a
temporary distraction from the inner pain and
all the fear and insecurity inside of me. It was a
way of escape.
34 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
My perception of God was that He was a distant
lawmaker. I thought I had to follow the rules. I’d
never experienced a personal relationship with
Him. The church I grew up in was all about what
you could and could not do—I don’t remember
ever seeing a display of love or grace.
So even though I believed there was a God, He
wasn’t a personal God to me. I knew I wasn’t perfect,
so I didn’t believe He cared about me or the
things I did. I certainly didn’t feel I deserved His
love. I was looking for someone to blame for all
the bad in my life, so if I thought about God, it was
only to blame Him for my pain. In reality, He was
the only one who could truly free me from pain.
My dad was physically abusive, and my mom
was verbally abusive. I struggled daily, wondering
if they even loved me. They told me I was fat and
that I would never amount to anything. They told
me I was a mistake. I figured, if my own parents
didn’t want me around, why would anyone else?
It was all too much, and one night I planned
to commit suicide. I didn’t really want to die, but
I didn’t want to live this way either. Desperate
for help, I called a lady I knew as a last cry for
someone to care. She picked me up from my
house and took me to hers so we could talk. She
listened as I expressed all my frustrations and
the tangled mess of emotions that I could not sort
out on my own.
When I was done, she told me that God had a
plan for my life and that He was going to take all
that the enemy meant for my destruction and
turn it around for my good. She also told me that,
someday, I would encourage other girls who were
struggling with the same things because I would
understand them. But, she told me, I had to let
God work in my life first.
I was looking for someone to blame
for all the bad in my life, so if I
thought about God, it was only to
blame Him for my pain.
At that moment, I knew things had to change. I
wanted to stop hurting myself, but I didn’t know
how to do that. Even if I could go to church every
Sunday and Wednesday and read my Bible
faithfully, I didn’t know how to apply what I was
hearing or reading. No one had ever taught me
what to do when I was struggling or how to handle
difficult situations. At that point, I was still living
with my family, so I couldn’t escape my circumstances.
I had a hard time trusting people and
was very guarded. How could I make anything
change? Nevertheless, I was determined to fix
the problem myself.
My addiction to self-harm had affected every
relationship in my life. When I was with my
friends or family and needed to cut, I would get
agitated, impatient, and angry, looking for an
opportunity to be alone. I had to isolate myself
from everyone so I could focus on cutting. The
process took time, preparation, anticipation, the
act of doing so, then cleaning up, bandaging myself,
and making sure I had it all together before
I went back out with the people.
My life was one big, terrible cycle, and I wanted
out! I heard about Mercy Ministries, a place that
offered help for girls like me. God opened the
door for me to enter the program.
While I was at Mercy, I realized that making
a change wasn’t only about choosing new
behaviors—I had to get to the root issues that
were causing me to want to cut myself. Facing
my problems head on and not trying to escape
took a lot of work. I did not want to face all those
painful emotions and memories from my past
that I had spent years trying to avoid, but I had
to deal with them so I could heal.
I had to make up my mind that no matter how
hard it got, I was going to do whatever it took to
be free. That took a lot of humility because it was
something I could not do on my own. I had to
reach out to God and the people He had placed
around me. I also had to be vulnerable and honest.
Learning how to have a real relationship with
Christ has opened my eyes to who I really am. I
know that my identity does not come from past
experience or who others want me to be—it’s
found in who God says I am. Knowing that I am
loved, cherished, wanted, valuable, and fearfully
and wonderfully made gives me the courage,
boldness, and tenacity to fight on.
Speaking God’s Word out loud also became an
important part of my daily life as the truth began
to expose the lies I believed. As I heard myself
speak the truth out loud, faith rose up within
me to believe it. My emotions were based on so
Issue 01 / 2020
Beyond Cut is one of six
volumes in the Mercy for
series. It includes Tiffany’s
story, along with many
others. Learn more at
many lies that it was important for me to renew
my mind with God’s Word so that I could believe
it and my emotions would line up with the truth. I
set aside time to do this every day because having
structure doesn’t leave much room for feelings.
A huge revelation for me was that I am to live my
life based on truth, not controlled by my feelings.
Healing and freedom came as I experienced
the love and kindness of God. I graduated from
God does not hold our past mistakes
against us once we have asked for
forgiveness, so we shouldn’t hold
them against ourselves either.
Mercy and then got connected in a church. There,
God began to use other people to demonstrate His
love for me. People would come up and tell me
that I was important to them and encourage me.
I was afraid others would hold my past against
me, but instead, I have been surrounded with
people who are willing to look beyond my past
and see me as a new creation in Christ. God has
brought people into my life that I have learned to
trust. Through them, I have learned that if they
can show me love and forgiveness like this, then
how much greater is the love and forgiveness of
God toward me?
My strength comes from the Lord, and through
that strength, I continue to walk in freedom, forgetting
what is behind, because I know God has
forgiven me. He is a forgiving God—it was forgiving
myself that was hard.
God does not hold our past mistakes against
us once we have asked for forgiveness, so we
shouldn’t hold them against ourselves either. In
order to receive God’s forgiveness, I had to forgive
myself. This is something I have to do daily—I
must live with an attitude of forgiveness, being
quick to forgive others as well as myself.
I thought that, when I graduated from Mercy,
I would have my life together. I thought that if I
struggled even one bit, it would mean that the
last year of my life had been a waste. Obviously,
this was a lie.
I have to be real and honest with other people
and with myself. I have to surround myself with
godly people, and I can’t let myself become isolated.
I have to avoid setting myself up to struggle.
God does not want me to walk in perfectionism.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us come boldly to the
throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and
find grace to help in time of need” (NKJV). God
understands our humanity. He does not expect
us to be perfect! Knowing this brings me peace
and an ability to enjoy life.
There is hope. Dealing with feelings and emotions
can be scary, but they are there for a reason.
God gave them to us to signal that something
happening inside of us needs to be addressed. I
want you to experience the freedom and victory
I have found. It begins by opening your heart to
God and to others who want to love you. I did, and
I am forever changed.
I’m going back to school to finish my degree in
psychology to become a counselor. I want people
to experience the true love, joy, and peace that
are found in Christ. I want to share with others
what God has done in my life. In Mark 16:15, Jesus
tells us to “go into all the world and preach the
gospel to every creature” (NKJV). That’s what
I’m going to do!
TIFFANY’s story can be found in a book entitled Beyond Cut:
Real Stories of Real Freedom. This book presents personal
stories from young women who have found freedom from
self-harm. It guides readers through practical steps to
break free from their self-destructive behavior.
The book is not designed to be a replacement for
professional help. If you are struggling with self-harm,
we ask you to use this book in conjunction with Christian
counseling or mentoring.
36 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
FROM THE FATHER
Do you need rest today?
Peace? Freedom? Forgiveness?
Restoration? Call out to Jesus,
accept Him as your Savior, and
you will be made whole.
Pray: “Jesus, I invite You into my life. I
confess that I am a sinner in need of a
Savior. Thank You for saving me from my
sins and making me whole. Thank You for
laying down Your life for me so that I can
have a new life in You. I receive, by faith,
this forgiveness of sin. Take my life, my past
and my future. Guide my steps and speak
to my heart, Lord. Use me, God. Amen.”
¿Necesitas descanso hoy?
¿Paz? ¿Libertad? ¿Perdón?
¿Restauración? Clama al Señor
Jesús, acéptalo como tu Salvador,
y serás hecho completo.
Ora: “Jesús, te invito a mi vida. Confieso
que soy un pecador y necesito un Salvador.
Gracias por perdonar mis pecados y por
hacerme de nuevo. Gracias por sacrificar
tu vida por mí para que yo pueda tener una
nueva vida en ti. Recibo, por fe, el perdón
de mis pecados. Toma mi vida, mi pasado
y mi futuro. Guía mis pasos y habla a mi
corazón, Señor. Úsame, Dios. Amén.”
I Am for You
MY DEAR CHILD, I KNOW THAT LIFE
has not always been easy. Even now, you
are facing difficult circumstances. Do not
listen to the voices in your head that tell
you there’s no hope for you. Those voices
lie. Instead, listen to Me—only to Me and
to My truth.
The truth is, I love you with an everlasting
love. The truth is, you are forgiven. The
truth is, I have great plans for you. The
truth is, nothing is impossible when I am
on your side! And I am on your side.
I am for you, not against you. Through
Me, you have the very power of God living
inside you. Because I am fighting your
battles, you can’t help but be victorious!
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
no past mistake can stop the plans I have
It does not matter what you’ve done,
where you’ve come from, or where you’ve
been. It does not matter what possessions
you hold in your hand. It does not matter
what people have said about you or to you.
If I am for you, nothing can overcome you,
for I have overcome the world.
So rise up, My child. In Me, you have all
you need. I know your fears, your doubts,
and your pain. Give them to Me and rest.
Be anxious over nothing; you are not alone.
Issue 01 / 2020
Victorious Living aims not only to
encourage your heart with stories
of God’s faithfulness, but also to
equip your mind and empower your
life with the truth of His Word.
We hope you enjoy this interactive
section of the magazine. As you
answer the following questions and
apply the scriptures to your life,
you will find yourself experiencing
a deeper relationship with God
and a greater level of freedom and
victory in your life. (All scripture
referenced is from the NIV.)
What temptations do you regularly battle? What
trips you up and causes you to lose intimacy with
God? If you’re not sure, ask God. He’ll tell you.
Pray Psalm 139:23–24: “Search
,O God, and
know my ; me
and know my anxious
. See if there is
any way in me, and me
in the way .”
Answers: me, heart, test, thoughts, offensive, lead, everlasting.
What temptations has God
revealed to you?
THE SOURCE OF TEMPTATIONS
In Resisting Temptation (pg. 12), Robert
Lowery candidly shares his battle of resisting
sexual temptation. His first step to victory
was realizing that certain life choices, people,
places, and mindsets were tripping him up
and keeping him from God’s best for his life.
He then had to choose to separate himself
from those things and determine to stay pure,
no matter the cost. Finally, he had to fight
daily in the strength God gave him. Now it’s
your turn to fight for freedom.
Where do temptations come from? We often
assume God sends them, but in reality, temptations
come from our own evil desires and from Satan.
James 1:13–15: “When tempted, no one should say
‘ is tempting me.’ For God cannot be
tempted by evil, nor does he
but each person is tempted when they are
away by their own
. Then, after desire has conceived,
it gives birth to sin; and
, when it is fullgrown,
gives birth to .”
Answers: God, tempt, dragged, evil desire, enticed, sin, death.
Ephesians 6:12: “Our
is not against
and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the
of this world and against the spiritual
in the heavenly realms.”
Answers: struggle, flesh, powers, dark, evil.
38 Issue 01 / 2020 VICTORIOUSLIVINGMAGAZINE.COM
Matthew 4:1: “Then
was led by the Spirit
into the desert to be by the .”
Answers: Jesus, tempted, devil.
Go deeper in Matthew 4 and read how Jesus fought
the tempter with the Word of God.
Can you identify three specific
sources of temptation in your
VICTORY OVER TEMPTATIONS
Your freedom, like Robert’s, will not come without
a fight. Even Jesus was tempted! But temptations
don’t have to overcome you. Here are some verses
that will keep you from falling into temptation:
James 4:7: “ yourselves, then, to .
, and he will
Answers: Submit, God, Resist, devil, flee.
1 Peter 5:8–9: “Be and of mind.
Your the prowls around like a
roaring lion looking for
. him, standing firm in the
, because you know that the family of
believers throughout the world is undergoing the
same kind of .”
DEALING WITH TEMPTATIONS
Now it’s time to deal with the things that keep
tripping you up.
Hebrews 12:1 tells you how: “Let us
that hinders and the that
so easily entangles. And let us run with
marked out for us.”
Answers: alert, sober, enemy, devil, someone, devour, resist, faith, sufferings.
Choose one verse above and
explain how you will apply it to
your situation today.
Answers: throw, everything, sin, endurance, race.
You have a part to play in gaining your freedom, by
removing everything and everyone that hinders your
walk with God.
What are some ways you can
separate yourself from the
things that trip you up?
You might have been fighting evil desires for a long
time. So long that you think you’ll never have victory
over them. Don’t lose hope.
Always remember Philippians 4:13: “ can do all
this through who gives me .”
Answers: I, him, strength.
Speak this promise every day. Do what you can to
strengthen your defenses—put on God’s armor of
faith. God will give you the strength to overcome.
Issue 01 / 2020
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