Discipleship, The Key to Christian Growth

Each week I have the privilege to sit down with a group of men in the chapel to discuss life and the gospel. During my time in settings like this, I’m reminded of the importance of discipleship. Though discipleship can take on many forms, however it always involves honesty, seeking advice, and Scripture, and someone willing to do all of the above. This time is essential in the growth of a Christian!

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes writes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10). The Preacher here is writing about the benefit of working together. Two are also better than one as we live out our faith in Christ. We really need each other, though we often try to go at it alone. We really need reproof and instruction, though we seldom seek it out. This is why discipleship is so important.

Discipleship builds humility. Our temptation might be to think we know what is best for ourselves. But Proverbs says that a wise man will hear and learn, and will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5). So we can safely assume that an unwise man will not hear from others, will shut them down and will not listen, will lack understanding and will not acquire wise counsel. We need to resist the temptation to be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7). We must humble ourselves!

Discipleship also unites us with fellow believers. The body of Christ isn’t meant to simply exist for us to gather together on Sundays and then move along with our lives the rest of the week. God’s word paints a picture of believers doing life together (Acts 2:44–47). Seeking counsel and discipleship is one way to invite others into your life. And also discipleship equips us for faithfulness. We become faithful when we make ourselves available. In I Corinthians 11:1, Paul tells the church of Corinth to follow his example as he follows the example of Christ. Paul was in the process of raising up leaders in the church and through this discipleship process he wanted them his example. If we want those who we are in discipleship groups with to follow our example then we better walk in faithfulness. And for those who are struggling in this area can learn and be equipped by those who are faithful.

Discipleship needs to happen among Christians! I would never trade the times I have and have had with these men. I have learned so much and I pray they have received from me as well.

“The Value of Life”

During World War II, German Nazis imprisoned about 7 to 8 million people, mostly European Jews, in 22 concentration camps. By 1945 they had murdered about 6 million of the inmates. Some were killed by firing squads, others died of starvation or as a result of experiments performed on them by German doctors and scientists, and most died in poison gas chambers.

When Allied forces liberated the camps in 1945, they found them littered with thousands of unburied dead, and the majority of the survivors were suffering from disease or starvation.

Major camps included Dachau, Buchenwald, Flossenbürg, Mauthausen, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Natzweiler, Gross-Rosen, Stutthof, Lublin, Hinzert, Bergen-Belsen and, for women, Ravensbrück,

German law at the time legally considered Jews as “not fully human.” They were classified as a “sub-human” species. Legally speaking, they were “non-persons.”

If I went hunting and I saw a bald eagle and shot it, would I be guilty of killing a protected species? Yes. Would the law punish me if I were caught? Yes.

Who decides that I killed a protected species? The government. What makes a bald eagle a protected species? The law. Who makes the laws? Other men. How do we determine that a life has value? Who makes that decision?

The German opinion in 1933 said that Jews were not human. The German government was stronger than the Jews and their opinion prevailed for many years. But it was not right.

Article I of the Constitution of the United States of America stated that African-American’s counted as only three-fifths of a person. This was not repealed until the 14th Amendment in 1865. So, before 1865, could I say that African-American’s were not fully human? Would it be right? No.

Here is the truth: There is only one opinion that matters in relation to you having value…God’s. People who do not believe in God can’t offer any objective reason for saying that they have value as a human being. Everything is subjective – one person’s opinion against another person’s opinion – and the strongest person’s opinion wins. Subjective means I believe something because I “feel” that it is right. It is my own opinion.

However objective means that we are not dealing in opinions or feelings. We are dealing in facts, pure and simple. No-one objects when an animal kills another animal. When a wolf kills a deer, it’s no problem. Without God, we are no different than animals.

The Bible says…

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

God created man and breathed the breath of life into him. Man is God’s creation.

Isaiah 45:12 I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.

God saw fit to create man in his own image and likeness. God made us. We did not make God. God is not a human idea! He is a universal truth.

A man once said that God made man in His image, and man has been trying to return the favor ever since! I believe that our biggest mistake is to try to make God like us, instead of us trying to be more like God. There are groups of people who build whole doctrines on the belief that God is like them. God is black or God is white or God is yellow. All for the purpose of making God so like them, and so unlike someone else.

May I tell you that I do not care what color God is? If the Lord God Almighty is black, then PRAISE THE LORD!!! He is my God!!! If the Lord God Almighty is yellow, then PRAISE THE LORD!!! He is my God!!! If the Lord God Almighty is purple, then PRAISE THE LORD!!! He is my God!!! And if the Lord God Almighty is white, it doesn’t matter to me. I am no more like Him than if He was black, or yellow, or purple. PRAISE THE LORD!!! He is my God!!!

I do not serve a white God. I do not serve a purple God. I serve a LIVING GOD!!! I will serve the Lord with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my mind. My eyes cannot even conceive of His beauty. I cannot imagine. I will not dare to compare myself to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! I am content to be called His servant, and blessed to be called one of His sons. That is enough for me.

I believe that man has value to God, because he saw fit to create us. He did not have to, but it pleased Him.

Genesis 1:27-31 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

God said that everything He had made was “very good.”

Revelation 4:10-11 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

We were created for His pleasure and to bring glory to Him. There was no second class of people in this creation. He made man and he made woman and he instructed them to multiply. Every man, woman, and child on the earth came from these two people. Every black man, every white man, every red man, every yellow man. The same bloodline. God gave life to us all.

Acts says He “made of one blood all nations.”

Act 17:22-26 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

Make no mistake; you are special to God. God did not make any mistakes. Because you have sinned, does not make you any less important to God. He sent His Son to redeem you. His Son died for each of you. If there is anything in your heart that judges another man’s worth, put it out! Do not think any less of your fellow man than God does.

Jesus gave two commandments…

Mark 12:30-31 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

I can’t truly say, “I love you” if I look down on you or think you are less than a man. Followers of Christ, love each other, care for each other, think well of each other. Do not separate yourselves for any reason. Each of you is precious to God. He has loved you since before you were born. And since we are precious to God, we should treat each other that way.

We are one people. One bloodline. One family. One body of Christ. Show the world the love of God through the love you have for each other.

Time Alone With God

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Time alone with God is very important for the Christian. Every day we as Christians are faced with difficulties. Things in which we cannot approach by ourselves. Things in which will defeat us unless we are walking in the strength of our Father in heaven. Have we prepared ourselves? Have we spent time alone with God? Our excuses are often “But we don’t have enough time,” “I am just so busy” and “I will make time tomorrow” in which we know will never happen. Just our short “help me God” prayers are not what I am talking about. I am talking about withdrawing from our busy schedule and spending time by yourself with God. Time on your knees pleading for your family, your life, your neighbors and the unsaved in this world.

In Luke 5:16 it says that our Lord Jesus would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Why? What was the reason Jesus the Son of God needed to withdraw and pray? And by the way, wasn’t He also God himself? Jesus realized the importance of communication with the Father. You see the reason we so often stumble through our days is because we fail to communicate with our Father. The Father is our strength! We will never be able to bear the fruit that our Father desires if we forget the source of our strength. He never gives us more then we can handle but He desires for us to seek Him for our strength. He doesn’t want you to stumble through your day! He wants you to bear fruit, so all that you do and all the victories that you have may bring Him glory. Friends it is out of relationship, not routine life, that we are able to do the works of Him who sent us. Wouldn’t you rather spend alone time with God daily then to stumble through your day?

Complacency in Sharing Jesus

I recently came across a survey question that was asked of church goers in the United Stares. The question was asked in a statement asking them to agree/disagree. The statement was “I intentionally spend time building friendships with non-Christians for the purpose of sharing Christ with them?” I was deeply disappointed to discover that only 7 percent of respondents said they “strongly agreed” with the statement, and another 18 percent “agreed somewhat.” In fact I was so disappointed that I felt it was worth my time to write a post about it!

To think that only seven out of one hundred churchgoers can strongly affirm this statement is disturbing. No wonder most churches in America are declining or on a plateau. When looking at responses of other related questions in the survey I was even more shocked to find that when these same people were asked if they felt that it was their personal responsibility to share Christ with others 46 percent agreed strongly! A huge discrepancy is apparent. While 46 percent “agreed strongly” that it is their responsibility to share Christ, only 7 percent actually work on building bridges to do so.

We all may know it is true, but good intentions are not enough. Intellectual assent is not the same as actually putting feet to our intentions. As we sadly see in this survey, the intention to engage in gospel conversation with others that we daily encounter often fails. It points out the principle that there is no merit in good intentions unless they are acted on.

Another question asked to these same people was “How much do you agree/disagree: While interacting with others on a normal, daily basis, I seek opportunities to speak out about Jesus Christ?” The response to this question was only minimally better than the previous one: 10 percent said they “strongly agreed,” while 25 percent “agreed somewhat.” To state it another way, only ten out of one hundred regular churchgoers consistently seek opportunities to share Christ.

These answers to these questions were rather devastating and surprising discovery to me. I work daily in ministry and part of my vision, mission and goal for ministry is to disciple, equip and mobilize the church to make disciples among the incarcerated. The very goal of my ministry “disciples making disciples” is the very thing many Christians least desire to engage in, why? Why do so many struggle sharing Jesus with those they encounter? Why do so many have good intentions but fail to act on them? Perhaps we need to spend more time helping people understand the importance of relational evangelism. Maybe we need to share more success stories of one friend reaching another. Perhaps we need to allow more opportunities to share how God has used ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.

These questions led me to ask several Christians that I serve with what they thought could be the reason for these survey results. The following are several of their answers.

  1. The fear of being ridiculed, disapproved, rejected and persecuted by the world, especially those close to us. Also, to avoid harassments, to avoid debates that can end whatever relationship yours in, friend, work, social situations, networks, neighbors, etc.
  2. They don’t feel or think that they are qualified. Because their personal walk with the Lord is suffering, and they feel inadequate or hypocritical.
  3. Complacency, lack of compassion and passion, spiritual laziness. Also the fact that some Christians focus on what Jesus can do for them and not what they can do for Jesus. Discomfort, costs time and sacrifice, it’s not in the routine.
  4. Too many worry about “political correctness”. It’s not politically correct anymore to share your faith.
  5. Influenced by worldly culture. They have believed the lie that they are “pushing” their beliefs on someone. They think belief is a private matter instead of going out to make disciples. They would rather stay quiet then offend someone.

Friends, Christians must be taught, trained, and challenged to take the gospel to lost and unchurched people in their lives. Before Jesus sent out seventy followers to share the good news, He explained: “After this, the Lord appointed 70 others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go. He told them: ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'” (Luke 10:1-2) With so few Christians seeking opportunities, it is easy to conclude that we have lost our vision for the harvest God has prepared. We should be greatly encouraged that God always goes before us and is our witness. He is the One who changes the human mind and heart. Our part is simply to testify faithfully to the gospel’s truthfulness. Let’s make it our mission to encourage others to not let fear, complacency, worry and the culture around us keep us from fulfilling our Lords command, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20.

*Surveys were taken from the book “The Shape Of Faith To Come” by, Brad J. Waggoner

Honoring God

The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:10-11



I have heard the term “giving God honor” a lot recently, but what does it mean? When one looks around at the church today, one can get a mixed message on what honor actually means! In a culture of comfort, entitlement and self-indulgence, the lives of believers in Jesus Christ should declare a very different message. I don’t mean only what we say and sing on Sunday morning, but the very testimony of our living sacrifices, our whole bodies—flesh and spirit—presented to God as holy and acceptable (Rom. 12:1). When we honor God, we are demonstrating the high regard we have for Him. We are reflecting His glory back as praise and worship.

The Bible shows many ways to honor and glorify God. We show Him high regard and reflect His character by being sexually pure (1 Corinthians 6:18–20), by giving of our income (Proverbs 3:9), and by living lives devoted to Him (Romans 14:8). It is not enough to merely honor Him outwardly. God desires honor that comes from our hearts. “The Lord says, ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’” (Isaiah 29:13). We ought to delight in the Lord, seek Him in everything we do and make choices that reflect the place He has in our hearts, regardless of the cost or what others think of us! When we honor God in this way we bring Him the greatest honor.

When you consider the religious freedom we enjoy in America, it is difficult to imagine many instances where following God would be costly, especially compared to some places in the world where such a choice can cost you your life or family. But don’t be mistaken we are faced with choices each day and our decisions reflect on who we are honoring. Refusing to cave in to pressure at work could cost you a promotion. Choosing not to join in on some activities could cost you socially. Sharing your faith in Christ may invite some strong opposition from others. Distancing yourself from gossip may cost you friendships. Choosing not to push the envelope on tax deductions will cost you financially. We are faced with these and many other choices daily that cost us! But in the end there are no real sacrifices because nothing is better than honoring and obeying God. The Lord rewards those who choose to honor Him and follow His ways. At the time such choices can be painful, but faith enables us to push through these uncomfortable situations. Making choices that honor God is one way our faith is developed. If all our choices were easy, our faith would be weak. We can be grateful that God gives us opportunities to face opposition because few meaningful things in life come without a cost. So Christian, regardless of the cost of the decision you are facing, honor God! Don’t make decisions because they are easy, make decisions that are right in the eyes of God! This is what it means to give God honor!

Mistaken Identity

thoughtspicture640In the world around us many live with a mistaken identity. When I write of mistaken identity I am referring to the way we view ourselves. I have found that it seems easy for us to persuade ourselves that we are deserving and better then we really are. Meaning that we fail to acknowledge our weaknesses and tend to undermine any evidence of our guilt as sinners. My days that I spend ministering inside of prison I often am approached by men who claim innocence of their convictions. On one occasion recently I asked one of these men why he thought God would allow him to be placed inside of prison if he was so innocent? His answer to me was that God allowed him to be locked up because he must’ve not had known his true intentions of why he did what had done. Sadly this man was serving a life sentence on a murder but somehow even though someone had been killed he was innocent. The person whom I was talking to was asserting that God our Creator must have incorrectly assumed something of him that wasn’t true.

Friends, I believe knowing who we are, truly is important. But don’t be mistaken, our Father and Creator in heaven knows more about your identity then you do! Your personal identity no matter how you would like to distort it, it will never undermine the fact that you are sinful. When we embrace our sinful nature, it means we’ve looked at ourselves long enough to know we can’t make it without looking to another. Embracing doesn’t mean that we obsess over the evil that we have done but rather look at who we really are and how badly that we need God.

Tim Keller once said, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” What a paradox this is — and one, it seems, that very few people can comfortably embrace. I have witnessed many respond to the simultaneous realities of their sinful corruption and God’s great love in one of two erroneous ways. They either minimize the extent of their sinfulness or refuse to believe God could possibly love them. The former deny the depth of their wretchedness and embrace desires they should mortify; the latter compulsively obsess over the evil within them and retreat into self-hatred.

Friends we need to humbly embrace that we really are as corrupt, distorted, and sin-ravaged as God says we are. It is only through this humble reality that we can understand God’s love towards us. A love that is not thwarted by our evil condition but so high and fierce that he, at great cost to himself, provided a means for us as wretched, guilty sinners to be reconciled to him. The bloody Cross of Jesus demonstrates both the extensiveness of our corruption and the enormity of God’s affection for us — and the only proper way for us to respond is in humble belief.

Pray for me as I challenge men daily inside of prison to not make excuses for where they are at but embrace that they are there because of their sin and that the only way their lives and identities can change is if they humbly submit to the one and only Savior Jesus Christ!

What Is Effective Ministry?

servantWhen I talk about effective ministry I like to refer to Romans 15 which gives us a look into what Paul’s ministry looked like. No one would argue that Paul was very successful in ministry and I believe there is a lot we can learn from Him. The key words that we find in Romans 15 are the words “minister” and “service” and if you read through this passage you’ll find that Paul had two different types of ministries. A ministry to unbelievers and a ministry to believers. His ministry to unbelievers is was to share the good news. He says, “My mission in life is to share the good news with as many people as possible.” Specifically it was to share it with the Gentiles. He also then had a ministry to believers. He tells us his ministry was to meet the needs of believers.

As believers on mission just like Paul we also have two different set of people that we minister too. Because of this I took some time studying this passage and have come up with seven keys that I believe are necessary for effective ministry.

  1. An effective ministry is based on God’s grace.

The first thing you have to realize is that you don’t deserve to be in the ministry. I don’t deserve to be a Christian, much less be in the ministry. I don’t deserve forgiveness, much less to be able to be used by God. That’s an extra, added privilege. Constantly, I need to remind myself, God is using me in this place of service simply because of His grace.

When you enter prison to minister, the inmates often can get a good sense what you believe about yourself and it often affects your testimony with them. Make sure my friend to remain humble and remember that you are not any greater than the men and women you are ministering to. Everything God does in your life, through your life, for your life He does by grace through faith. We are all on the road as maturing Christians. We’re not matured Christians. We’re maturing Christians. While we’re growing, we’re giving. While we’re growing, we’re serving. That’s the goal – grace.

  1. An effective ministry is built on God’s word.

Paul says in Romans 15, “I have the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God.” What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news of Jesus which is found in God’s written Word the Bible. This doesn’t mean that the only thing you can do in ministry is preaching and Bible studies. But it means that whatever you do should be built on God’s word. I have found that while serving inside of prison that sometimes more effective than just doing Bible studies are doing classes that address the issues that these men and women face. When in doing that make sure these classes are still built on God’s Word and not contrary to it.

  1. An effective ministry is done for Gods glory.

It’s not built to promote a personality. Paul wanted people to be more impressed with God than he wanted people to be impressed with himself. “Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.” He says God did it through me. He serves in the ministry for the glory of God.

This is one of the things that really concerns me. I have encountered many who believe that they are super stars in ministry. They take great pleasure in sharing of all that they have accomplished in ministry rather than acknowledging that the accomplishment was actually the work of God. It’s very important that we realize that God does things through people. You may be gifted in a certain area and God is using that gift to accomplish His mission. Remember your gift is greater than you my friend!

  1. An effective ministry is performed in God’s power.

In Romans 15 Paul says, “By the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit, I fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. But apart from Me you can do nothing.” If you are not preparing yourself spiritually for the ministry that you’re in, then I would encourage you to do so. Every solider before he goes to the war zone has to prepare himself for combat. He will not and cannot be effective in battle if he is not prepared. So many I fear go into prison with last week’s sermon or an excerpt from a recent book that they read and spend little to no time to prepare for their chapel service or class. That is why so often these men feel unconnected with the teacher because the issues they face are never addressed. They feel as if they are not important enough to the teacher in order for him to study. Friends, don’t just do ministry in the power of your own personality. Always be mindful that your spiritual health is important, you will not be affective if you are unplugged from your power source whom is God. On my strength alone, I cannot do ministry. But on God’s strength “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

  1. An effective ministry is planned according to God’s purpose.

Paul says, “It’s always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. But now there is no more place for me to work in these regions. I plan to do so when I go to Spain.” Notice that Paul made plans.

Some of you may think you should just get up in the morning and say, “Lord, what do You want me to do today?” and kind of free-float through life. I have often heard this from men who are given the opportunity to share at a Chapel service. Often they will refer to scriptures that speak on the leading of the Holy Spirit. While some of that may is good we can see here in Romans 15 that Paul chose to still prepare. I believe life’s too important to go without a plan. I think we need to be strategic. If you read the book of Acts, Paul had a very clear strategy. His strategy was to go to the key cities in the Roman Empire and all the places he went — Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Colosse, all these major places were all trade centers, travel centers, crossroads in the Roman Empire. He said I know I can’t get everywhere so I’m going to go to the most strategic places I can and spread the Gospel there.

God has given me a tremendous privilege of being allowed to spend my work week inside of prison and in order to be the most effective that I can be I need to plan my days. I need to be strategic in where and who I spend my time with. Ministry is demanding and lots of things and people want your attention so not planning is devastating. When preparing a message I need to think through who I am trying to reach and what illustrations I may need to use in order for the audience to relate to what I’m saying.

  1. An effective ministry is backed by prayer.

Prayer is one of the most essential keys to effective ministry. In fact I believe it so important that you should do nothing without first going to prayer. Without consistent prayer, we have no direction or hope. If we are not praying, how can we be sure that we are following God’s path? How can we face our challenges? How can we receive God’s provision?

Working on your ministry is exciting as well as time consuming. As much as you want to spend time in prayer, it’s almost never enough. This is why having an intentional and activated prayer strategy, with an engaged prayer team, is critical. Your ministry must be covered by prayer if it is to be effective and protected from attack.

 

I believe there is more I can add to each one of these keys but I think you get where I’m going with this and will grasp that ministry is not about ourselves but about God. You are where you are at today because of God’s grace and that in itself should compel you to serve Him humbly!

An Unexpected Blessing

There is no denying the ability of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to come into a man’s heart and change him from the inside out. There is no denying the power of a changed life. There is no denying that when we learn to love each other, to care for each other, that people will be affected for the better.  Lives will begin to change when shown the selfless love of Jesus. Too often, we walk down the street, or through the mall or somewhere else, and we see hurting and needy people, but most of the time, we just pass on by. Indifferent, maybe. But sometimes, just reluctant to get involved. It’s not our problem, we say. We can’t help everyone. It’s not that we don’t care, but, really, I mean, what good could we really do, anyway? So we walk on by. And we miss our chance to make a difference, to heal a hurt, or even to save a life.

In our Correctional Facilities, there are housed what are considered the worst of the worst our society has to offer. Murderers, Rapists, Drug-Dealers, Child Molesters, Robbers, and Thieves. Some of these people are still pretty unscrupulous. Some of them are still wrestling with their issues. But in every prison and every jail there are also those who have made some changes, experienced some growth, and turned away from their former lives of crime. Some of these men have accepted Christ and have really bought in to what it truly means to be a Christian. Some of these men put me to shame. Let me tell you a story, a very true story, of compassion from the inside…

In this prison, there is a man named Jeff who has struggled with drug addiction and mental illness for many, many years. Jeff has been incarcerated for decades with Life Without Parole and has very little support from the outside. He works in the prison kitchen, and, from time to time, he can make a sandwich or two to sell, but for the most part, Jeff doesn’t have too much. Jeff’s story is not unusual for prison, but, actually, very common. Jeff likes to sing, and every once in a while, he will come out to the Chapel and sing a song or two to the Lord. I have talked to him many times and I know how he struggles. A joint or a pill or a shot of dope are never far away.

One day, Jeff got an unexpected blessing. His sister sent him $50. He was thrilled. I suppose maybe he should have thought about the future, maybe saved a bit of it, but Jeff was so excited, he went to our Snack Line, and spent it all: 9 Cheeseburgers, a dozen Pastries, a case of Coca-Colas, and plenty of Potato Chips. It was more stuff than Jeff had had in a very, very long time. Two grocery bags full of food. He was going to be able to pay off all of his debts and still have stuff for himself. He went back to his dorm, walked into his cell, and put the sacks on his bed. Two guys walked in behind him. A few moments later, Jeff had nothing. These guys had pulled a knife, put it to Jeff’s throat, smacked him around, and stole everything he had.

I would like to say that there was some justice to be had for Jeff, but, unfortunately, there was not. Angry, frustrated, miserable, and humiliated, all Jeff could think to do was get his own knife and pay these guys back. Instead, he went to the prison Chapel.

The Chapel was mostly empty. Jeff sat alone on a bench, crying softly to himself. If he stabbed these guys, he’d be locked up for a year or two, he’d lose his job, he might even lose his life, but he didn’t know what else to do. As he sat there, another inmate named Sean walked by, stopped, and sat down beside Jeff. “What’s wrong?” he asked. Jeff couldn’t speak. Sean put his hand on Jeff’s shoulder and just sat there. After a few minutes, Jeff finally croaked out, “They took it all” as he pulled out his receipt from the Snack Line. “Tell me about it” Sean said. It took a while, but finally Jeff was able to tell the whole story, and then he told Sean what he was going to do about it.  Sean sat quietly for a minute or two, looking at the receipt. “Jeff,” he said, “If the Lord Jesus could give you all of your stuff back, everything on this list, right now, could you forgive these two guys who robbed you?” Jeff choked up, unable to respond. Sean asked again, “If Jesus gave it all back, right now, could you forgive them?” Jeff finally nodded his head. “Yes” he croaked. “Come with me, then.” Sean said, as he got up and walked out of the Chapel. A few minutes later, they were standing at the Snack Line and Sean was making an order: 9 Cheeseburgers, a dozen Pastries, a case of Coca-Colas, and a dozen bags of Potato Chips. He handed the sacks to Jeff, said “Jesus loves you, Jeff”, and walked away with tears in his eyes. Sean spent his own store money, not just so Jeff could have his stuff back, but also to save the two thieves lives and to keep Jeff out of trouble. He did it out of love, because Jesus loved him first. He is walking the Christian life, deep behind prison walls and fences.

Today, Jeff is doing well. Still working in the kitchen, trying to make it. I see him from time to time. The other day he came out to the Chapel to sing…

Heartbreaking Disappointments In Ministry

acceptable-man-cryThere are always disappointments in life regardless how hard we try to avoid them. In the last several years of ministry I can think of several disappointments that I have faced. One of those was with a man who came to the chapel one day with the goal of accusing me of being unfair with him.  After yelling insanities at me for some time, he left the chapel visibly upset. I wish I could tell you that I talked to him the next day but I never got that chance as he was pushed down the steps in his dorm that night and died. I was gravely disappointed! I asked God why? He was not a Christian but I had been involved in his life a lot through him being enrolled in my classes and his frequent chapel visits. I was disappointed because here was a man that I had grown to love as a person but yet after all our talks about forgiveness and redemption he still hadn’t chosen to follow Christ.

A few months ago I was faced again with another disappointment that impacted me even more. A man that had lived in the Faith Based Honor Dorm at the prison, who had been released a year ago had his picture back in the news. According to the authorities this man had robbed a Gas Station at gunpoint and ending up killing the attendant. This was a man I had spent a lot of time with, someone that I had seen making an effort to do right but always seemed to stop short of surrendering to God. I can still vividly remember the day that he was released and how he asked me to pray for him. I still remember the fear on his face but the determination he voiced.  I remember most of all the last words he said to me before we parted, “Chap I will be ok.”

When I saw the news I couldn’t help but shed tears.  Why God? Why didn’t he surrender to you? Why didn’t he make it? Why? What could I have done differently? Today there is a family that lost a loved one, someone’s daughter and the man responsible is someone I had a chance to impact. I understand that God is the One that draws men to Him, but I still feel a responsibility to make a more effective impact on the men I serve at prison. Pray for me as I continue to serve my God by proclaiming Christ and discipling inmates daily inside of prison. Pray that men would surrender to Jesus and that I would never have to see another chose hell over heaven.

Blessed By 2016, Excited For 2017

As 2016 is coming to a close I cannot help but stop and reminisce the many blessings that God has bestowed on us this last year.  This year did come with its challenges but never was there a time that God’s love and grace didn’t shine through.

Amidst the challenges that we faced in prison we were still able to end the year knowing that God was at work in the hearts and lives of the men that I have privilege to serve. One of these men is Jared. Jared showed up one morning to my “Knights of The 21st Century” class just to get away from the stressful environment in his prison dorm. During the class I noticed that he looked like he was troubled by something so I asked him to stay behind after the class was dismissed. This being the first time I had met Jared I didn’t expect him to open up to me but rather wanted to introduce myself and offer my time if he ever wanted to talk. We spoke briefly about his new prison sentence that had placed him inside the prison that I serve at as well as how he was adjusting to living inside of a maximum security prison.  Little did I know that day that God would use me in Jared’s life the way that He did. Today four months later Jared is a surrendered follower of Christ and has been clean from using drugs for 36 days. This is only one story amidst many more that I could share with you!

As you see ministry can be extremely rewarding, men’s lives are being changed, the chains of bondage and addiction are being broken, but ministry can also be heartbreaking at times. It can be difficult, sometimes. There are so many men that I encounter daily who are so close, so heartrendingly close, to making a decision for Christ. They are on the cusp of a life-changing decision but have not taken that final step in 2016. But as a follower of Christ I have been challenged to rest in and trust that the God that I serve is working in their lives and someday very soon they too will be my brothers in Christ. So as I press forward in 2017 I will continue to seek to glorify my God by discipling, equipping, and mobilizing the church inside of prison to join me in reaching out to these men and encouraging them to repent and surrender their lives to Christ.  Join me in 2017 and engage in prison ministry, whether it’s at your local prison and jail or partnering with me through prayer and financial support and let’s make an impact in the lives of the men and women that are incarcerated!

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