Friday, March 24, 2006

Spared Life

It looks like the Afghan man charged with converting to Christianity will be spared.

Praise God! and keep praying!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Prayer for a Persecuted Afghan Prisoner

Please pray for Abdul Rahman, an Afghan man who could face the death penalty in his country simply because he left Islam and put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I'm humbled by his courage to boldly proclaim his faith despite the cost.

"Lord God, turn the hearts of the men who would put Your servant to death. Convict them of their sin. Protect Abdul. Comfort and strengthen him by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Let more and more Afghan people repent of their sin and turn to Christ. Set the people free from the power of the devil. In Jesus' Name. Amen."

House call

Cliff was temporarily released from jail a while ago. He was one of the guys who wanted to work on restoring houses when he was finally released. He's out for a short time while his court case is delayed. He's living with his mom under house arrest. He's got the whole ankle bracelet thing going on. He is only able to leave the house for a few hours on Saturdays.

A short while back, a deacon and I went to visit Cliff at his mom's house. It was a blessing to see him in "normal" clothes and to fellowship with him. Because he was temporarily released, he was able to renew his hazardous material certification, which will allow him to work with lead paint, etc. that you find in old homes. That was a huge answer to prayer for him. It means he's one step closer to fulfilling his dream of being in the home restoring business.

Cliff is hoping to be able to come to church while he is temporarily out of jail. Pray that the courts will allow him to leave his house for at least a short time on Sundays so that he can come to church.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Restoration Ministries

After leaving the pod where there seemed to be a lack of interest, I went across the way to the adjacent pod. As soon as I walked in, I spotted two men sitting together with their Bibles opened. I thought I'd sit with them a while.

"How you guys doin'?" I asked.

"Doin' well," they said.

We started talking and I found out that "Mike" and "Darryl" were talking about plans they had for when they were released.

"Many people in my family are in full-time ministry," Darryl told me. "I've really fallen off the right path, but I know I need to live for Christ now. As a felon, it's hard to find jobs. You're instantly turned down when they see that on your application. What alternatives to guys in that situation have?"

Mike will be out in a few months. "I was involved in a church in another city. I played drums on the worship team and really enjoyed it. In fact, I went to school to eventually minister in music. Along the road, I fell into sin and ended up here. I want to be back in a church, using my gifts for the Lord."

"Mike and I want to start a company when we get out," Darryl continued. "Mike does drywall, roofing, siding, gutters, painting--you name it. I can do electrical and plumbing. We want to get into the construction business."

I told them the idea I had to help former inmates restore homes while getting their lives restored in Christ. They were very encouraged and wanted to see that vision come into being.

I've been meeting with some leaders from various churches in Rochester to talk through the vision. We're calling it Restoration Ministries. It's very much in the conception stage. We're doing a lot of dreaming out loud and trying to work out a game plan. Sometime soon we hope to have a day-long session where we really hammer out the vision, mission and ministry plan. I'm so out of my league on this! I just feel really blessed by the number of guys to whom God has given a similar heart and passion. These guys have a lot of experience working with addicts, former inmates, people in recovery, etc.

A while ago I was praying about this ministry and the Lord put on my heart Isaiah 61:4 "They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations" (emphasis mine). I believe He wants to take men whose lives have been devastated by drugs, violence and crime, restore them to Himself and use these guys to help restore a city that is in desperate need. When I think about how this all can happen, I get overwhelmed at the details. "Lord, is this really You? Or is this just a nice pipe dream?" I don't consider myself really a visionary. I'm much more comfortable doing what's safe and what's been done before. But I can't shake this thing!

Yesterday, we had a Restoration Ministries meeting at the church I pastor. While we were in prayer about the ministry, a former inmate named "Cliff" called. Cliff was the first inmate I told about Restoration Ministries. He's out of jail for the time being. It was a really cool moment to hear him talking on the answering machine at the same time we were praying for guys like him. That gets me going!

"Lord, I don't know what You're going to do with all this, but have Your way. Be glorified! Let the name of Jesus be lifted up in Rochester."

Shake the dust

On Thursday, I went to the jail pod I normally go to. All of the guys I usually have Bible study with were gone. They have either moved to the correctional facility, gone upstate, or been released.

There wasn't much going on in that pod. Generally, a few men will ask for Bibles, reading material, Bible study guides, bookmarks, calendars--something. But not here, not today. Everyone was interested in either poker or the latest soap opera love triangle.

There was a time when I would take such things personally. "They don't want to talk to me." But it's not about me. It's about Jesus--and what He's doing in them at the time. If you've ever been discouraged by someone's lack of interest in God, don't take it out on the person or on yourself. Just take it to God. Entrust them to Him. Shake the dust off your feet, and keep walking (Luke 10:10-11). Be assured that there are others who are ready and waiting to hear about the Savior.

Friday, March 03, 2006

New Releases

Robert and Corey are being released on Monday. I gave them both my "pep talk" about having a plan before they get out so they can walk strong. Imagine how difficult it would be to be in an isolated environment for a long time—away from much of the daily temptations to be found in the world, and then to suddenly be thrust into the world again. It's not easy for these guys. Pray they find connections with other Christians on the outside, and avoid the traps that got them into MCJ in the first place.