Blessed Through Jail Ministry

August 10, 2010 at 11:31 AM 4 comments

In jail and IN Christ...

The Lord has led me into doing something I never thought I’d be doing – ministering to inmates in jail.  If someone had said to me even a year ago or less that I would be not only involved in ministering to those incarcerated and that I would be gain a deep sense of blessedness from doing it, I would have said they were crazy.

Jails and prisons are two things that I have dutifully avoided by not stepping over the line from legal to illegal activity.  This is not to say that everyone behind bars is guilty, but the very idea of being in a cell, losing privacy, and being at the beck and call of prison officials is not something that seemed at all attractive to me.  I have done everything I can to avoid jail.  Now, that may seem as though I am guilty of something and want to avoid incarceration.  No, I’m not guilty of anything and it has been the fear of jail at least in some ways that has kept me out of trouble all my life.  Don’t ask me why I have had that mindset.  Maybe the Lord placed it there, but it has been a huge deterrent.

For instance, when friends of mine during high school days would go out and get drunk, it never occurred to me to do the same thing.  First, I was a Christian then (and still am).  Second, what if I got drunk and then killed someone because I thought I could handle a car while under the influence?  So the penalty of doing something really stupid like that made me aware of the fact that it is better never to be drunk in the first place.  During college, when some of my friends were experimenting with drugs, I avoided them like the plague.  Why?  First, I was and remain a Christian.  Second, what if while under the influence of some illegal substance, I did something tremendously stupid and illegal, was arrested for it, and was then sent to jail?  Not good.  I’m claustrophobic to a certain extent.  The idea of losing my freedom really scares me.  It literally gives me the willies.

I firmly believe that the Lord placed that fear within me, because as I was growing up, we all have a tendency to do really stupid things!  Here’s one:  when I was getting ready to sell my first car to the dump for metal, my friend and I decided we should try to take the gas out of it, since it was going to be towed anyway.  Hey, gas was 56 cents a gallon then!  My hourly wage was $1.85 (five cents above minimum at the time).  So, we jacked the back end of the car up, and proceeded to try to knock a hole in the gas tank from under the car.  Unable to knock a hole in the tank, we gave up.

The next day, while we were both at work, my friend came over to me and mentioned how stupid we had been because the car could have fallen on us, or a spark from the hammer and screwdriver we were using might have set something off.  Brilliant!  God protects His own, even when they are morbidly asinine.

We have all done things like that and we look back wondering “why” we did them?  Immaturity, I suppose.  Not being able to think things clearly through to see the ramifications of our actions.  The Lord absolutely and without doubt protected me from myself during those days.  Now that I am older and a bit wiser, I watch shows like “The World’s Dumbest…” or “Shocking” or some other reality show that highlights the stupid behavior of people all over the world and I can tell you what is going to happen way before it happens!

When we were raising our first child, I followed her around like a hawk, doing everything in my power to protect her from falling, bruising herself, or knocking her teeth out.  I had an uncanny ability to see into the future to what MIGHT happen.  I was on it, making sure that the things I could envision did not happen.  I was also exhausted because I could not relax.  Eventually our daughter grew up and I worry far less these days because she also has that ability to see the ramifications of actions before they occur.  The same with my son.  They have been instilled with the idea that you follow your intended actions through before you do them.  This helps to understand the possible outcomes.

But here I was recently, sitting with a number of inmates in the “tank.”  This particular jail has a “bubble” or control center, and from there, all the cell areas, or tanks, are visible to the officer in charge.  He or she can see all the activity in each area quickly.  The inmates know that, although that does not stop all bad things from happening.  A short while ago, a new inmate was introduced to the existing population of one tank.  He no sooner stepped through the door when another inmate came up to him and without warning punched his lights out.  There was blood everywhere and within seconds, the entire tank was locked down.  It stayed that way for a few weeks to help the inmates understand that those type of actions have consequences besides simply getting time added onto their stay.

During my visits, I have noticed one thing with respect to inmates’ attitudes towards me (and other chaplains).  They have tremendous respect for us.  They genuinely appreciate what we do because they know that we are there because we want to be there.  I am not a paid chaplain.  I am a volunteer chaplain and I go into the same tank every week to hold a Bible study with the inmates who are interested.  Even those who do not participate are so appreciative of the fact that someone from the outside takes time to come into their world and simply be there.

Not only did I ever think that I would be involved in jail ministry, but I never thought in a million years that I would not only like it, but be blessed because of it!  These men – many of them having become Christians inside jails – put me to shame at times.  They love God, they are quick with a “God bless you for being here,” and their lives show their intent.  They are human beings who have made mistakes; sometimes, very serious mistakes.  There is at least one inmate that does not believe he is savable.  He believes he is beyond salvation.  Of course, this is not true.  If a person is still breathing and coherent, they are able to receive salvation.

I have a church family.  Over the past two years plus, I have taught Bible study classes at my church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings to adults.  I’ve enjoyed it and I believe they have enjoyed it too.  But that’s not really the point of a Bible study, is it?  It’s not to enjoy it, but to be changed by it.  Because of the lack of persecution directed toward our church, many simply do what they do every day, carrying on their lives from one day to the next, not really extending themselves.  Fortunately, this is not true of all the members and those who attend the church I belong to.  There are many within the church who are suffering from one illness or another.  Others, are being sued by unbelieving relatives for this or that.  Still others have made mistakes in their lives that they are doing their best to live with before the Lord.

I am convinced that in the absence of persecution, God sends things into our life that we do not view as good.  He does this to keep our attention focused on Him.  When everything is going swell, who needs God?  Even solid Christians can tend to become complacent.  When we have difficulties we are facing, or persecutions, it becomes much easier to stay focused on Him and His Word.  That’s the only place we know we will receive help, so we throw ourselves on Him, because He cares for us.

I am blessed.  I have the privilege of ministering to those who have made mistakes and are living with daily incarceration as payment.  Their lives have changed, yet in the midst of this, something very good has happened to them and within them.  They have become my brothers in the Lord and they are on that road that is narrow and difficult and filled with potholes and problems.  The end is eternal life.

I think it is extremely interesting how God designs things in people’s lives.  It is proof that He wants no one to leave this life without His salvation.  For some, they can hear the gospel the first time and realize that’s what they need.  For others, it may take years of God gently wooing them to Him before they realize their need for Him.  Yet for others, they must have a life of misery coupled with very stupid decisions on their part before they begin to see that they need something or Someone far greater than anything they have had up to that point.  For many of these men, though they may have heard about Jesus and His salvation when they were on the outside, it never really struck a chord with them until they were brought to a place of complete dependence.  At that place, they were able to finally let go of all their excuses and embrace God Almighty, who came in human flesh to die for sinful humanity.  Having risen from the dead, He became absolutely victorious over sin and the devil.  Clutching that victory, He is able to offer salvation to anyone who will believe in Him.

Salvation is by faith in God.  There is nothing we can do to earn salvation, nothing at all.  It is 100% free, forever.  We do not receive a free gift, only to have to pay for it after we receive it.  Salvation is not earned at any point.  It is free.  Paul talks a lot about Christians and the need to persevere until the end of their life.  He also shares with us some examples of individuals who departed from that life, because the world became too much of a distraction to them.

People understand these examples by Paul differently.  Because I have had a good deal of interaction with those who have claimed to be Christians, yet completely walked away from it, I believe I have a greater grasp of the situation.  As I have talked to people who have walked away, it has become clear that in every case, I have not found one individual who clearly knew the Lord.  These individuals always talk about what they did, what they said, or how they acted.  They believe this is what made them a Christian.  Now that they do not do these things any longer, they are no longer Christians.  They have all left out something very serious here.  They never talk about the spiritual transaction that Jesus told Nicodemus that takes place in the life of every person who comes by faith to Jesus.

People who become authentic Christians according to Jesus are born from above.  They are born again.  In essence – and as Paul elaborates on this in Romans and elsewhere – this new life is exchanged for my old one.  When I looked to Jesus in faith, and because He opened my eyes to the truth, I received salvation, a number of things happened.  First, through spiritual surgery, I was given a new nature.  That new nature is given to me by the Holy Spirit, who also comes to indwell me, guiding me in the Lord’s will.  The other thing that takes place is that my sin – all of it; past, present AND future – is eradicated.  It is canceled completely.  Why?  Because along with my new nature, Christ’s righteousness which is perfect, was also credited to my account.

When God the Father looks at me, He sees a perfect righteousness.  He sees someone whose sin – all of it, including every sin I will commit in the future – is gone.  In effect, as far as the Father is concerned, I am sinless.  This does NOT mean that I can live in sinless perfection here and now.  It simply means that this is the way God sees me, because of my faith in Jesus Christ.  When I do sin one of those “future” sins (that has already also been eradicated), my fellowship with God is dimmed until I agree with Him that I did sin and confess it accordingly.

Think about something.  If God says all my sins – past, present and future are gone – then how can I be judged for anything?  Paul states that we are no longer children of wrath because our “criminal” records have been completely expunged, as if they never existed (cf. Romans 5).  Romans 6 explains that it is because of this that we should live accordingly, not doing what our sin nature (still present, unfortunately) wants us to do, but what God wants us to do.

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

For he that is dead is freed from sin.

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:

Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.”

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof,” (Romans 6:3-12).

You may wish to go back and re-read that text.  Here, Paul is saying that all authentic Christians have died WITH Christ.  We were judged vicariously in Christ’s death on calvary’s cross.  Since that event occurred, then we are completely free of future judgment of the Lake of Fire.  All believers will stand before Christ in judgment, but this future judgment has nothing to do with our sin (which has been fully eradicated), but it deals with any rewards we might have earned in this life.

In Romans 6, Paul states that BECAUSE we have literally (not just figuratively) died with Christ, then we should live as He lived, with our minds set on Him.  The life we live now should be lived as Christ lived His when He walked this earth.  Because we have a new nature, we have the capacity to live that life.  Because the sin nature continues with us, we will also fall from time to time in this life.  We should, however, endeavor to live ONLY for Christ every moment of every day.

The inmates in jail – those who have finally come to a point of understanding that Jesus is the only Way, the Truth, and the Life, have begun that walk.  Like all of us, they stumble and fall, but they also, like us, grow through those circumstances as well.  They strive to live for Christ, not for themselves, and I cannot imagine doing that in prison, but they are not only imagining it, but doing it!

Paul adds in Romans 8 that we who are “in” Christ (authentic Believers) are no longer condemned, for anything at all.  Romans 8:1 states, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  Please note that Paul is NOT saying IF we walk after the Spirit.  He is saying that we DO walk after the Spirit.  In other words, he is saying “Those who are in Christ – those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit – are no longer condemned,” (pardon my paraphrase).  In fact, many scholars believe that the phrase “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” was added by scribes because not all the major manuscripts have this verbiage.  It’s almost as if a scribe read Romans 8:5 “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit,” and then possibly made a notation in the margin, which later may have become included as actual text.

Look at verse 9:  “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”  Paul is pretty straightforward here.  If the Holy Spirit lives within you, you are not in the flesh.  If a person does not have the Spirit of God, that person is not an authentic Believer, in spite of what they do, think, or say.  Paul is ultimately stating that there are two types of people: those who walk after the flesh and those who walk after the Spirit.  He is NOT comparing two different types of Christians.  He is comparing Christians with non-Christians.  Professing (but not authentic) Christians fall into this latter category.  They look like Christians, talk like Christians, do the things that Christians do, yet they are not Christians because they do not have God’s Spirit.  It is that simple.

Romans 8 is the chapter that speaks of the Christian’s assurance, based on our perseverance.  The idea of our perseverance is not questioned.  Paul explains WHY we WILL persevere.  It is because we are IN Christ.  Jesus Himself states this in John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”  In other words, our faith allows us to receive salvation.  Once we have salvation, we HAVE (present tense) eternal life and we HAVE (present tense) already passed from death to life.  In John 10:28, Jesus said, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”  Jesus GIVES (present, continuing) eternal life to all who believe.  Because of this, we will NEVER perish.  The final phrase is an important one when He says that no man will take that authentic Christian out of Christ’s hand.  I talked to one individual who disagrees with the eternal security of the believer.  He understood this phrase this way (paraphrasing him), “Jesus said that no one can take me out of His hand, but that does not mean I cannot walk away from Him.”  In point of fact, it means exactly that!  No one – including yourself – can remove you from Jesus’ hand.  What, you think you’re stronger than God?  You think, “Wait, I have a free will to choose, so I can choose to walk away!  Because it’s my free will, Jesus will not stop me.

First, NO ONE has free will as Adam, Eve, or Jesus had free will.  The free will they had was PERFECT free will.  It was not tainted by anything.  The free will all human beings have aside from the three mentioned, is tainted by our sin nature.  Prior to being a Christian, we cannot help BUT sin.  That’s what we do, free will or no.  You could not use your “free will” to NOT sin.  In the same way, you cannot use your “free will” to live perfectly either as a Christian, though some within the holiness movement would like you to believe it.  This of course, does not mean that we should not try to submit to God every step of the way, but we also need to realize (sadly) that we will sin from time to time.

The inmates I minister to, understand this truth.  They know that in spite of their sin, Jesus will never leave them or forsake them.  He also will never allow us to leave Him either.  As stated, John 10:28, Jesus has GIVEN those who believe in Him eternal life.  How is it possible to cancel that?  How is it possible to walk away from that?  How is possible to be “unborn again,” or “unborn from above”?  How is it possible for the Holy Spirit to LEAVE us once He takes up residence within us?  He cannot, because Jesus said that He will never leave or forsake us.

The blessing I receive when I minister to inmates is manifold.  To see and hear these men speak of following Christ, in spite of their circumstances is not only amazing, but uplifting.  It causes me to stop and consider how I am living.  It makes me search my heart so that anything there that does not glorify God can be removed.  I am looking forward to ministering to many more inmates over time, as they come in and out of the jail where I volunteer.  The benefits of my involvement with them is eternal for them.  I would appreciate your prayers as I continue to serve the Lord in this capacity.

Entry filed under: alienology, Atheism and religion, Demonic, dispensationalism, Eastern Mysticism, emergent church, Islam, israel, Judaism, Life in America, new age movement, Posttribulational Rapture, Pretribulational Rapture, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, Satanism, Sharia Law, temple mount, ufology. Tags: , , , , , , .

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4 Comments

  • 1. marie swanson  |  August 11, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    Tell those in jail….that they are being lifted up in prayer. That they have brothers and sisters in Chirst…who care for them. And while we are strangers at this time….God’s family…..will be united.

    Tell them that some of us, Christians included, carry their sins where everyone can see and judge….and some of us…..our sins are hidden from the world where only God sees. So whether in a jail….or out in the world…..we walk among each other…..no one better than the other…..for we are all sinners saved by GRACE!

    Fred, you are on the front lines of battle. Working to save lives…..unveiling eyes, unplugging ears, and viviblely showing God’s love.

    God Bless < marie

    Like

    • 2. modres  |  August 11, 2010 at 1:58 PM

      Your prayers are greatly appreciated, Marie! I pray that God will be able to use my efforts for His glory!

      Like

  • 3. rspmouse  |  August 10, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    It is amazing how much God blesses us when we are obedient to Him and we give of ourselves to bless others.

    You make a strong case against those who think that they were once Christians because of their actions. I like the way you put it, that we can’t be “unborn again.” Those “former” Christians must think very highly of themselves if they think that they are stronger than Jesus, and can walk away on their own accord!

    Like

    • 4. modres  |  August 10, 2010 at 10:22 PM

      Yeah, I agree about being obedient and blessed because of it.

      Thanks for your comments. If someone can show me from Scripture how an authentic Christians can be “unborn again,” I would appreciate knowing it. It seems to me that the very act of being reborn is something that is eternal in and of itself.

      Like


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