Dear Praying Friends,
June has been a blessed month of ministry! Thank you so much for supporting us in prayer and in financial giving. You allow us to bring Christ’s hope to people in word and deed and I am so grateful. You are a vital part of all we do and I thank God for your partnership.
Another group of men completed the 36 week class on Authentic Manhood. This was our fifth time teaching this material to a group of 50 men at Jester III Prison, a new group of men each time. Graduation was this past Monday night. I wish you could have been there to hear testimonies of God’s work in their lives and their desire to serve Christ while in prison and when they are released. Here are some highlights.
- This time around, our team of volunteers included three of us from Christ EPC and three men from other churches. The offenders commented on our love for one another and mutual respect. We demonstrated that this is how men are supposed to love and sharpen each other in the Lord. We (the volunteers) developed close bonds of affection with the offenders over our 36 weeks together. And it was even more delightful to see deep bonds growing between the offenders that can continue after the class is over.
- Each week we sang two hymns from the Trinity Hymnal and I wish we could have recorded that for you. Those hymns are doctrinally deep and emphasize both fearing God and loving Him. The men loved learning that many hymn writers went through painful trials and times of doubt and depression, but the Lord upheld them. “We must go through many hardships to enter God’s kingdom.”1
- I lovingly warned them often of “jailhouse religion” that comes in a moment of regret and despair, and professes faith in Jesus without fully understanding what commitment to Christ means. Jailhouse religion sees Christianity as external and superficial, not life-changing. It’s put on and off, depending on who’s around, never really part of us. That’s why Christ calls us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.2 Jesus works transformation in us, not just giving information.
- The men were often overwhelmed to be reminded that the Son of God actually bled and died for the crimes we have done. That made them grateful and eager to gratefully obey the Lord. Other programs urge them to forgive themselves, but I gently taught that this is not a biblical idea and that accepting God’s forgiveness is far more powerful. Christ treads our sins underfoot and hurls all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.3
- The offenders loved being remind that the Lord can and does restore the years the locusts have eaten.4 This means that God can salvage the rest of our lives when we are committed to Him and bring more lasting fruit for His glory and our delight in the second half.
- The offenders often said that felt loved by us and by God. Many said this in the “open microphone time” at graduation. Families have disowned them, the state gives them impersonal numbers, and many feel less than human. Their faces beamed when we called them by name and we even gave some nicknames. They felt honored to be listened to, cared for, and remembered by us. And they loved it even more to be reminded that the Lord will never forget them and us.5
Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support that allow me to serve Christ as we watch and wait for His certain return. Thank God and thank you!
Very gratefully in Jesus’ love, Bob
From the blog
Blogs posted since our May 2019 update
- What God Is to Me: Elisabeth Elliot (Part 1)
- What God Is to Me: Elisabeth Elliot (Part 2)
- What God Is to Me: Elisabeth Elliot (Part 3)
- The Five Points of Calvinism (Part 1)
- The Five Points of Calvinism (Part 2)
- Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost?
Notes (various translations used): 1 Acts 14:22. 2 Mark 12:30. 3 Micah 7:19. 4 Joel 2:25-32. 5 Isa 49:15.