“Where is Barnabas?” A Plea From An Incarcerated Brother

doing3

The Apostle Paul had a very “sketchy” past.  He was of an elite sect of Jews, who persecuted Christians.  He had consented and participated in the arrest and death of Christians, including Stephen.  While he was traveling on the Damascus Road with a decree to arrest Christians, he encountered the Lord Jesus.

A blind Saul was led to Damascus where he encountered a man named Ananias who ministered to him, baptized him, and fed him.  Saul then started testifying to the goodness of the Lord and preaching “the way”.

Saul’s work was so mighty that the Jews plotted on killing him and he had to be smuggled out of Damascus and into Jerusalem.  When he arrived there, he tried to join himself to other believers, but they were afraid of him.  Their fear caused them to reject Saul until a man named Barnabas came to Saul’s defense.

Barnabas acknowledged that Saul indeed had done everything that he was accused of, but, nevertheless, he had experienced a legitimate encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and had been preaching and testifying mightily in that name.  The other disciples extended the right hand of fellowship to Saul, who would later become the Apostle Paul.  He would later go on several missionary journeys and would establish Churches all over the known world.  He also wrote epistles that were used to make up a large part of what we call the New Testament.

How can this story be applied in our daily lives?  There are numerous men in Correctional Facilities across this State whose pasts are just as “sketchy” as the Apostle Paul.  They have committed crimes against the State and the people who live in it.  They are guilty and deserve their punishment; there is no question or argument about it; however, like Saul, many have had a real encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.  The “scales” have fallen from their eyes and they see the truth.  Their life is different than it once was and they are testifying mightily in the name of the Lord.  They are going around doing the work of the Lord and are making a difference where they are at, even though they know they have been sentenced to die in prison.  Yet, they serve the Lord and are no longer part of the problem, but part of the solution.

But no one seems to know about them.  Where is Barnabas?  If a converted Saul can be given the chance to make a difference, what about the men today?  Murder is murder, and theft is theft, right?  Are the crimes of today really so different from those in Saul’s day?  The truth is that there are some “Paul’s” in the Department of Corrections; they have met Jesus and have been visited by Ananias, but where is their Barnabas?

Is this not what the Gospel is all about: sinners coming to repentance?  The message of the Gospel is that we are out of line, out of sync with God, but through the blood of Jesus, we can be back in right standing with God and receive our reward, even though we had “sketchy” pasts.  The blood of Jesus is stronger than any sin that has ever been committed or will be committed.  That is the truth of the Gospel.

Yet, even though God accepts sinners, rebels, and criminals into His grace through the blood of His Son, society still refuses to.  If a holy God, who has no sin or flaws in Him will receive a person, shouldn’t a society that has sin and flaws in it accept them also?

It is time for the men and women who are diligently carrying out the Great Commission to acknowledge that there are Paul’s in the prison.  It is time to help these “Paul’s” achieve their destiny.  There is no telling what potential these men have.

Venom is used to treat snake bites; fire is used to fight fires; ex-addicts are used to combat addictions.  What about using those who once broke the Law to help fix the ever-growing crime and recidivism rates?   We need to learn to forgive and restore those who were once broken.  If “Corrections” truly exists, then there has to be “Restoration”.  After all, it is the “Department of Corrections”, not the “Department of Everlasting Punishment”.

9/21/16 Prayer Request

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

This is my prayer this week as I continue to lead out in ministry at St. Clair Correctional! I want to encourage you to join me in this prayer! This should be our goal, to be used by God to bring peace to others. Jesus said this would be a common characteristic of God’s children. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” This week as we go forth as God’s children let us seek to bring peace and introduce Jesus to the troubled soul!

Episode 014: Roger Munchian, One Man’s Testimony Of Being Rescued Through His Arrest

In this fourteenth episode of the Detention to Redemption podcast, I interview Roger Munchian, from Phoenix Arizona. Roger is the founder of a ministry that is called “Rescued Not Arrested.” Roger shares with us his testimony of a life of sin and how God miraculously rescued him through his arrest. Roger spent a 2.5 year sentence in Arizona Department of Corrections and during this time God placed this ministry vision in Rogers’s heart. As a born again believer in prison he accepted his consequences for the bad choices he had made in the past and realized this was a true blessing in disguise and welcomed the sentence as a mission assignment from God. His personal experience in prison was essential to understand the hopelessness, helplessness and the brokenness of the least of these imprisoned and how that brought so much suffering to their loved ones since his wife and kids too were facing similar challenges. Roger goes on to tell us how today his ministry Rescued Not Arrested is reaching out to the incarcerated throughout the United States by suppling prisons with Bibles, church services and one on one mentoring.51OV+Y8Tb+L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Roger’s testimony has also been written in a book called “Rescued Not Arrested.” This book was authored by H. Joseph Gammage and goes more in-depth then what we are able to do on this podcast. It is very insightful and well written and will keep your attention as turn through its pages. I would encourage anyone that is interested in or currently involved in prison ministry to pick up a copy of “Rescued Not Arrested.”  If you purchase this book through Roger’s website, five dollars of this purchase will go to buy Bibles for the incarcerated.  You can buy this book by clicking on its image. 

You will be blessed and challenged by this interview so I encourage you to listen to it and share this podcast with your friends.

 

SHOW NOTES

Rescued Not Arrested

 

If you have been touched by the music that is shared during this podcast you can buy an album that was written and recorded inside of prison at http://anothercaptivefree.com/

9/14/16 Prayer Request

And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. Jeremiah 29:7

This verse is part of a letter written by the Prophet Jeremiah to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. He directs them to seek the good of the country where they were captives and to pray for it.

I have used this verse on several occasions at prison to encourage the men there to seek the good for the prison and to pray for peace therein. We have had several hard days at prison and would like to request you all to join us in this same prayer! Pray for peace the cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension. Pray for the safety of all the inmates and officers at the prison! Pray that ultimately God would be glorified and men’s lives would be changed for eternity.

The Prison of Sin

The Prison of Sin

This following thought was shared with me by an incarcerated brother one day as we were sitting in the cell block discussing the likeness between sin and prison.

As I sat one day just looking around at my situation, I thought to myself how awful a place like prison is. But on the other hand, there is another prison that is just as costly and demeaning as this one where I sit today. This is the prison of sin. This prison of sin has held mankind captive since the fall in the Garden of Eden. This prison of sin has no bars, no razor wire, and no guards to keep me in its tight grip.

Oddly enough, we’re held prisoners more or less at our own choosing. This prison of sin can be pleasurable and fun for a season, but the end of this prison sentence is separation from God for all of Eternity. There will be no appeals or reprieves. God’s Word is final.

Oh, but there is hope. One came from God to open the prison doors, to set the captives free; His name is Jesus. He is the only hope that we have of being freed from this prison of sin. Friends we have many opportunities in this life to accept the pardon that Jesus offers, but death seals our fate. Who will be free today? Choose Jesus. He is the only way out of this prison of Sin. Amen.

9/7/2016 Prayer Request

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

Our finite knowledge gets tested when we come to the subject of prayer. There are times we know what to pray for, and at times we do not. It is in such times that we do not know that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf.

This week I don’t have any Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, Time specific (aka SMART) prayer requests so please let the Holy Spirit guide you in your prayers for the ministry at St. Clair Correctional Facility.

Episode 013: Angela Wolf, A Christian Blues Artist That Uses Her Past To Reach Those In Prison

In this thirteenth episode of the Detention to Redemption podcast, I interview Angela Wolf, from Louisiana, the singer and songwriter of the Soul Salvage Project. Angela Wolf’s gutsy lyrics and Soul Salvage Project’s unforgettable sound cuts through the wasteland of stereotypical Christian & Crossover bands blazing a new trail. With her deep soulful voice, Angela weaves stories that are saturated with truth and emotion. During the course of our interview, Angela shares with us her first-hand experience of living a life that was distant from God. She also shares with us her love for the incarcerated and how her inspiration, motivation, and dedication to her divine mission are clearly tied to Jesus Christ. Today, Angela and the band write music that document life’s struggles, heartbreak, and an uncompromising faith in God. Angela performs in many prisons throughout the United States and shares with us the importance of reaching out to the incarcerated. Her passion for prison ministry and love for God have inspired many, including me, and I believe you will be blessed by this interview.

SHOW NOTES

Soul Salvage Project,   Soul Salvage Project Facebook Page

Fly Right MinistriesBehind The Walls Ministry

Inmate EncounterKairosPrison Fellowship

The Way of The Master MinistriesThe Evidence Bible

Sharing Jesus Without Fear (Book)Experiencing God (Book)

Steps to Peace With God (Tract)

8/31/16 Prayer Request

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim. 

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show Your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.

This prayer from Sir Francis Drake has been challenging me recently! I am challenged at how often we tend to think we have arrived in our Christian lives when in reality we haven’t. How often we tend to lose our thirst and zeal to be more like Christ and how our vision of heaven has a tendency to grow dim. So often we hang up the Do Not Disturb sign on the door of our lives because we don’t like our comfort, safety and status quo living being interrupted by the turbulence of big dreams, the deep waters of radical obedience, the rough seas of suffering, and the dark nights of uncertain adventures.

Pray this week that the men at St. Clair would be disturbed, that they would not lose their thirst for the waters of life and would step out with courage, having placed their faith in God. Pray that while on this sanctification journey that they would open their eyes and identify those “smooth sailing” areas of their lives. Pray that the Church at St. Clair will become more like Christ and be a radiant light to the rest of the population.

Why is Ministry Inside of Prison Important?

th

First of all, I would like to ask another question.  Why is ministry anywhere important? There are so many places we can go and so many things that we can do. Why do we do it?  The answer is simple, but also profound.  We do it because of our faith, to share Christ, to heal the wounded and brokenhearted, to serve others as Christ came to serve, to be ambassadors of the Kingdom in this dark and fallen world.  Jesus called us feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to take in the stranger, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, and yes, even to visit those locked up in the prisons. And you know what? He didn’t qualify it. He didn’t say to clothe and feed the man who did everything right, but is just down on his luck.  He didn’t say to take in the stranger if he speaks and dresses well, maybe smells good.  He didn’t say to care for the sick or those in prison if, you know, maybe it’s not their fault they are sick, or because they were falsely accused or wrongfully convicted.  He made it very plain and without conditions.  When we do these things, these kind things and thoughtful things, to the least of these (the homeless, the vagabond, the HIV patient, the convicted criminal, etc.) we are doing it to Him.

 

Jesus Christ came to the earth, not to condemn, but to bring life.  Not to steal, kill, destroy, but to give life, and life more abundantly.  Speaking of those in prison, they have each allowed the devil (our true enemy) to affect their lives and the lives of others in horrendous ways.  It was the devil’s plan to steal their hopes and dreams, the devil’s goal to kill their aspirations and ambitions, and the devil’s delight to destroy their reputations and their futures.  But that was not Jesus’ plan, or goal, or delight.  He came to give life and life more abundantly.  Even to the prisoner.  Paul said in Philippians 2:4-5 “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  We are to have the mind of Christ in all things. What He cares about, we should care about.  His goals become our goals, His desires become our desires.  Christ cares for the orphans, so I do.  Christ cares for the homeless, so I do.  Christ cares for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, so I do too.  And Christ cares for the prisoner…so, what do I do? I do, too.

 

You know, I understand more that most the pain and suffering that many of these men and women have caused.  But I also know that, but for God’s grace, I could be there, too.  And so could most of you.  One bad day, one bad hour, even one bad moment, and you could be the prisoner.  Most of us just didn’t get caught.  But our wonderful Lord, He didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us.  He didn’t come to point a finger at our transgressions and sins and iniquities. He didn’t come to cast us away.  He came to free us from those weights that so easily beset us.  He came to break the chains of bondage and darkness, to set us free from the prisons we have found ourselves in.  To cleanse our sin.  His mercy renewing every day.  The men and women incarcerated are no different from us.  They desperately need our love, our compassion, and our commitment to share with them the love of Christ, the love that was shown to us.  We need ministry in prison, now more than ever before.  We need to be lights in dark places and prisons are very dark places.  I can bring my candle, my little light, and I can banish a little bit of that darkness.  But if you will come with me, and maybe bring a few friends, we can put our lights together and, pretty soon, if enough of us come, those dark places will be no more.  We will light every nook, cranny, and corner of those prisons for Jesus.  Jesus is encouraging us to let our lights shine.

8/24/16 Prayer Request

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Acts 17:24-28

Prayer is a life-changing experience and a key component for all of the ministry at St. Clair. It is about embracing God and ourselves in all our complexity and mystery and realizing even when it seems we are all alone that God is actually not far from us. It is through prayer that we feel our way toward God and find Him. Prayer generates hope. Because of this we meet in the chapel several times a week for prayer!

This week I want to request the you lift up our weekly Prayer Meetings. These prayer meetings normally have about 25 men in attendance, who cry out on behalf of the violence in the camp, administration, the church, the unsaved, illness, injustices, and sins in their own lives. These men look forward each week for these Prayer Meetings and have recently often been disappointed due to security canceling it. Please pray that these men will be able to gather and pray this week! Pray that they would seek God and their life’s would continue to change and that their hope in God would be strengthened.