Wish you could have been there!! This was our second visit to the Delta Prison Correctional Institution. It was awesome. These big, strong, men--towering in many cases--came up to me and were respectful, polite, friendly; not dominating, ugly, or vulgar; not angry or bitter ... but BROKEN men desirous of Jesus to heal and save them.
As a women my first response to what I saw ... these are not safe men to be around, and I need to put my guard up. But those who came to greet me spoke kindly, respectfully with both their eyes and their words. You have to look deeper into these men's eyes and see them for who they are now in Jesus, not what they have been in their past! My experience in meeting them was refreshing, joyous and an encouragement to Christ In and with them.
They were Real Men wanting a better way. They wanted to KNOW, "is Jesus real? Can He help me? How do I change? I'm a mess." They are asking, "Do you KNOW Jesus?" If you do then they want for you to help them know Him as well!
They know they need help outside of themselves. They know they have messed up their lives. They are okay with paying for their mistakes--not begrudging or playing the blame game. For the most part they have dropped the typical facade of superficial Christianity that "I'm good," "I don't need any help thank you!" No ... Instead they acknowledge, "I'm" messed up!" How refreshing is this? They are thirsty and desiring practical "how to's" to KNOW Jesus in a real and tangible way. Will we give it to them?
These men sing from their heart. They want to express their heart cries with their voice and heart. They love to say the words, "I'm broken", but Jesus will restore me! The "Chains of habits" have taken me down, but God's will lift me up! The only answer for me is Christ In me. I cannot do it by myself but Christ came to empower me to walk again. Though I have fallen, I can arise with my Savior! Micah 7:8
Behind the sanctuary is a picture painted by one of the inmates. A beautiful rendition of a merciful, tender, loving, strong Jesus holding up a broken man in front of Him. The man is slouched, head down, in the hunter green uniform of the inmates there. There is nothing in himself of value--but Christ see's his value and will breath His life into whomever will let Him. The setting, the emotion is evident in the eyes of Christ and the man. It is breath-taking and Oh So Real!
Jim's message of "It's About People" was very meaningful, telling the inmates of the hope in Christ no matter what their past. Their past does not determine their present or their future. Jeremiah 29:11 In turning back to Christ they will be received and restored. When they repent Jesus will wipe their slate clean. Christ restores broken people who come to Him. Jim illustrates this message with the failures of Moses, Aaron, Abraham, David, Peter etc. and how they fell. Because their hearts were broken and they returned to follow God, they were restored to present and future usefulness as Christ's instrument. God could use them! There is no limit to God's power of forgiveness and restoration.
Oh, the men came up, each waiting to shake our hands, to express thankfulness for giving them such a message that met the deepest desires of their hearts. Forgiveness freely given to them by God was so precious to every one of those men. The promise of Restoration was a healing balm to their wounded hearts. Jesus was there and met the need of every man's longing heart.
Jim and I came away blessed by these men, and mightily blessed by God's presence. These men knew that they were in prison, in need of help, and were reaching out for Christ to come into their lives.
How many of us are in prison's of our own making, in the same condition, but will not admit it? We have prisons of "fears" hindering us from being the person God wants us to be. We follow man's ways not God's ways. We have prisons of "bad habits" needing change yet we doubt, we delay instead of taking the step out. Our prisons of a "miserable marriage" hold us in mundane, hopeless lives. We are prisoners of "disobedient children" that don't know God. We endure an empty, cold, unloving existence. Why do we stay here? Jesus is calling to us in the same way He called to each of those sin-damaged inmates. See the picture of Christ holding us up ... capable of breathing His life into us? The message is the same for us--isn't it? By faith, reach out and connect with our Savior.
The key in the hand of faith can unlock heaven's storehouse. This same key of faith In Christ can unlock all the prison doors we find ourselves behind. God's power works mightily for us, in us, through us when we choose to follow and Serve Him!
May we be BROKEN (Come to the end of Self), see our need of Christ. May we see there is no other way to live than In Him. May we acknowledge that we have messed up. We need a power outside of ourselves, and that power is Christ In Me. Let's seek Him as these prisoners do-with a humble, teachable, honest heart. Christ Longs to restore our lives In Him, and then restore our relationships with our families and everyone else within our sphere of influence.
Christ is Able to set All Captives Free to Serve Him,
Sally & Jim