Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"Why did you call my name?"

From Dave:
I was sitting at a table when a man walked by and took a calendar without saying anything. About 10 minutes later he sat down right opposite me and asked, "Why did you call my name?" I replied that I didn't call him, nor did I even know his name, but was pleased to meet him and talk with him. I keep a 3x5 card of personal information on all the inmates I meet. I asked the man to tell me a little about himself and any needs he might have. He was coy at first when I tried to get the usual information from him. Finally, he told me his name, "James," and I got other information from him.

He spent quite some time asking me about who I was and what was I doing there. A little while later, James asked again, "Why did you call my name?" All at once he did a complete turn-around in openness so I presented the gospel to him. He was very attentive and hung on every word of Scripture I gave him. After a time, James confessed his sins and received the Lord Jesus. We did some talking and praying, and James left a saved man.

This story reminds me of the call of Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:1–10. Samuel was only a boy when the Lord called him to be a prophet. Samuel heard the Lord's voice, but thought it was Eli, the priest, who was calling his name. Eli instructed Samuel to say, "Speak, LORD, your servant is listening." Samuel did so and came into a personal relationship with God.

It seems that the Lord was calling James to salvation. Who knows how many people around you and me the Lord is calling to Himself right now?

Friday, July 21, 2006

I found the Albanian New Testament

In a previous post, I mentioned that I met an Albanian inmate who, although he was a Muslim, was interested in reading the Bible. While at my church conference last week, I met a man who is connected with missions in Albania. He pointed me to an online version of the Albanian New Testament. I busily cut and pasted sections of the gospel of John for Ibush to read. Unfortunately, (or fortunately), Ibush was released from jail so I wasn't able to give them to him! But if I ever run into another Albanian inmate (or person on the street), I will be prepared!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Charlie's an angel? (Part 2)

I had been sharing the good news of Jesus with Matt yesterday. Just at the point when he was considering a decision to accept Christ, the warning came that it was time for all the inmates to go back to their cells.

"Brian, I'll ask the deputy if we can continue our conversation in the conference room. I still have a few questions and concerns. I'm really weighing this decision and I want to do so in a private place."

I was encouraged that Matt took the initiative to ask the deputy's permission to continue talking. The deputy graciously granted Matt's request.

When we got to the conference room, Matt shared the heart of his concerns. "My biggest fear is that I won't be able to follow through on my commitment to Christ. When I get out, I'm going to see a lot of the people who were bad influences on me. What if I fall back into old habits?"

I had already told him that every Christian continues to struggle against sin, and that we need God's forgiveness and the support/prayers of other Christians to follow Christ. We discussed this some more. Finally, I told him, "Matt, when you get out, temptations are going to come. That's guaranteed. If you turn your life over to Christ, you will have the power of the Holy Spirit available to you to resist. If you don't accept Christ, you won't have any power to resist."

After considering everything, he said, "I'm really ready to do this now. What do I do?" "Tell God you're sorry for your sins, that you believe Jesus died and rose again for you, and that you want Jesus to be the leader of your life." Matt did so, and it was my joy to see a new birth into the Kingdom of God. I gave Matt some Bible studies produced by Good News Jail & Prison Ministry, and I also encouraged him to get involved in a Life Transformation Group with another Christian inmate. Pray that Matt would grow in his new faith. I encouraged him to come to my church when he got out early next year.

Charlie's an angel?

"Hey, Brian, will you visit this guy named Matt?" Chaplain Lou asked. "He's been very depressed. A relative of his named Charlie asked me to visit him," he continued. "I saw Matt and I think he's sitting on the fence as far as salvation."

I had a lot of faith going up to talk to Matt because it was a specific request of the chaplain. When I got to the jail pod where Matt was, my faith increased because I noticed that the deputy on duty was someone I knew to be a strong Christian.

"Can you tell me where Matt C. is?" I asked the deputy. "He's walking around the gym area. I'll call him out for you.

I sat down with Matt, a young man not yet 20 years old. "Hi Matt, I'm Brian, and the chaplain asked me to stop by and see you because one of your relatives named Charlie was concerned about you."

"This is all so strange," Matt said. "I told the chaplain that I don't have any relatives named Charlie or Charles."

"Well, Charlie could be an angel for all we know. But I do know that God loves you and has a plan and purpose for your life. And that He sent me today to talk to you. Has anyone ever told you how you can be forgiven of your sins and have a personal relationship with God?"

"Someone said I need to be reborn, but I don't understand all that."

I then explained to him that sin separates us from God—both in the here-and-now and for all eternity—but that Jesus paid the price for sin. I told him what it means to repent of sin and to put ones faith in Christ. By this time, three other men gathered around the table. It was a diverse group of men, but they were all believers and the fellowship was great. We talked and prayed for a while. Another one of the guys was struggling with his temper and with trusting God, so we focused our prayers on him.

After sharing a little of my testimony of how I really started following Jesus, I told Matt, "Today could be your day of salvation. You can have your sins forgiven, be born again and be a brand new person today." Matt was really wrestling with this decision. The Holy Spirit was bringing conviction to him. It was just then that I could hear the cell doors beginning to unlock. It was time for the inmates to go lock in. All around me, the other men were starting to head back to their cells. Where did the time go? I thought to myself, Lord, is Matt going to miss another opportunity to turn his life over to You? Will he ignore Your conviction when he gets to his cell?...

(I'll finish this tomorrow. I'm getting tired.)

Two hungry souls

My family and I were away at a church conference last week. I, of course, did not make it to the jail. Dave went last week and met a couple of guys who were ready to get right with God.

Stan came from a stable and caring family. “He’s a rather decent kind of guy,” Dave noted, “but he got caught up in drugs and alcohol.” He openly said that he knew that he had “blown it”—especially as far as the expectations of his family. He wanted help to get out of the mess that he made for himself and his family. “There is so much help for you in Jesus,” Dave told him emphatically. “You need to turn to God in repentance, receive forgiveness, and accept Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life.” Dave continued to share with him about new life in Christ. After doing so, Dave recapped everything that had to be done. With little hesitation, Stan made a heartfelt turn to Jesus for salvation.

Jon is a middle-aged hippie who stated that he had totally gone astray in life, and had no hope. He said that he had “searched so hard” for God and needed God to forgive him and help him. Despite all of Jon's efforts he found nothing to satisfy his situation. “I know I am lost, and I don't know how I can be found,” he said. After Dave shared the gospel of Jesus to him, Jon received it with tears of joy. Before coming to Christ, all he could see was a wasted life. Now he found the forgiveness he so desperately longed for.

Friday, July 07, 2006

"Now I fear God."

I normally go to the downtown jail, but yesterday I decided to go to the correctional facility to visit a man whom I had met in the jail. "Mitch" was transferred to the correctional facility to finish his sentence.

We talked about his release in August and what he would do after that. "I want to be baptized as soon as I get out. The last time I was in here [in jail], I had no fear of God. Now I'm afraid of God. I want to do His will."

"We've got a day of baptisms planned at my church soon after you get out," I told him. He was very excited to hear that. He said he wanted to become a member of the church. I encouraged him to get into a LTG, and a small group. I also encouraged him to participate in some newcomer activities, go through the membership class, and begin serving.

Mitch has a great heart, and eagerly wants to serve the Lord. Time in jail has humbled him. As we sat together, I watched him exhort and encourage a younger man. It really was beautiful to see Mitch speak the truth in love to this guy who was young and rebellious, and try to lead him to do the right thing. I need to tell Mitch how proud I am of what he did.

Pray that Mitch would stay on the paths of righteousness and walk the narrow road. Temptations await him when he gets out. Pray for wisdom for him to see the devil's tricks and to follow Jesus.

Fruitful conversations

Dave was in the correctional facility last night. He met a man named "Santli."

Santli is a Muslim from Turkey. They had an enjoyable time talking together. (Santli was not open to praying yet.) Dave was pleased with the time they had together, and so was Santli. Dave says, "I can't explain it, it is most always a good time of sharing the Lord Jesus with these Muslims. Santli and I agreed to meet again."

Pray for continued good conversations between Dave and Santli. Praise God for an openness on Santli's part. Pray that the goodness of Jesus would pierce Santli's heart.

Two men received Jesus as Lord last night. One was a man named EJ. Dave had been sitting at a table with some other men. Dave says, "One of his [EJ's] fellow inmates literally pulled him over to our table, and then the Lord Jesus got to him!"

Pray that EJ and Glenn, the other new believer, would get grounded in their newfound faith and grow as followers of Jesus.