“Remembering The Prisoners”
May 4, 2016
Message Summary: Whether we are on the outside the prison cell or imprisoned within, the Spirit of God inhabits those who call on His name and live for His cause. Today we urge all our readers to make a commitment/recommitment to being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
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“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them” (Hebrews 13:3).
Today I have a luncheon meeting with a group of chaplains. I will probably be the only corporate chaplain in attendance since it’s a rather uncommon form of chaplaincy. Most chaplains work in the military, correctional or healthcare fields. Manny Cordero, my current chaplain supervisor, who is a friend from college, will lead the meeting. Manny had a calling to correctional chaplaincy while in college in the mid-seventies and spent his entire ministry career in the federal prison system.
Today let us consider those who work for the Lord seeking to reach and disciple inmates for Christ.
It’s interesting how words and concepts can be misunderstood or how we can make an assumption and then “invest” in that assumption.
I read about a lady who found an interesting kitchen gadget, or so she thought, in a second hand store. It didn’t have any labeling but she thought it was some type of a spatula or scoop for preparing food. Maybe it was a fancy French cooking utensil from a store like Williams-Sonoma. She used it for awhile as an innovative spatula impressing her guests who visited. But then she found a brand new item identical to hers in a store with the labeling on it. Turns out, it was a pooper scooper!
Sometimes when we read Scripture we can make assumptions without really giving the matter much thought or further study of the background. We may make the same mistake when reading our daily text, “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them”. This verse is often used as a basis for prison ministry. However the writer’s main intent, I believe, is to remember those imprisoned specifically for their faith, those seeking to live for the Lord, which is happening in many places even as you read this message.
However this is certainly not to be taken as a dismissal of the validity of prison ministry. Although some of those in prison are there due to an unjust conviction or due to one’s faith, the vast majority of prisoners are doing time as punishment for breaking the law and committing evil deeds. The repentant thief on the cross recognized this when he said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:41).
However the prison system has a goal not only of punishment, as well as protecting society at large, but of rehabilitation.
The greatest form of rehabilitation is spiritual transformation in Christ although this is becoming much more difficult with the poison of progressivism infecting virtually every institution. Increasingly, in many settings (including hospitals, military, and prisons) Bible-faithful chaplains and prison volunteers are being restricted especially when it comes to proclaiming the moral standards as taught in the Bible. Given the current trajectory it won’t be long before one is punished for refusing to call a man a woman, if that’s how he wants to “self-identify”!
The first New Testament example of prison ministry was when Paul and Silas were unjustly imprisoned in Philippi. They ministered to others while in prison by singing of their faith and led the jailer to belief in Christ. His life was transformed although we have no information about what became of him following his conversion. I have always believed he became a part of the Philippian church that Paul later wrote a letter to.
Whether we are on the outside of a cell or imprisoned within, the Spirit of God will inhabit anyone who will call on His name and live for His purpose. Today we urge all our readers to make a commitment/recommitment to being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we thank You for the thousands of godly chaplains and volunteer helpers who reach past the prison bars to touch the hearts of men and women who desperately need the gospel message implemented in their lives. As Fanny Crosby wrote, “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” The blessed transforming message these Christian workers deliver sets even the most hardened prisoner free from their chains of sin. And then we think of those imprisoned for standing boldly for the cause of Christ. Discouragement, even despair must surely fill their thoughts as they endure abuse, isolation, scorn, and separation day after day, months and even years from their loved ones. We thank You that though they suffer tremendously they also have opportunity to reach their captors with the life changing message of the Gospel. You are a miracle working God that performs the impossible in evil places where Your messengers will likely suffer or die, and yet the gospel message is not silenced but is often regenerated by the abusers themselves who caught a glimpse of salvation and radically turn from their sins. Nothing is impossible with You! Amen.
Study note: Yesterday I made a brief note considering the significance of the word “makes” in the phrase from the 23rd Psalm “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” David Penley, a friend and professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth Texas) dug deeper and elaborates: “Stephen, I really enjoyed your teaching today. Your note at the end about “makes” caught my interest also, so I did “what I do” and I know you do also – I researched. What I found was very interesting. According to Harris, Archer, and Waltke’s “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament” the Hebrew word’s most basic meaning is “give” such as giving a gift as in God giving rain in Lev. 26:4; Deut. 11:14. In fact it is used for God giving grass to cattle in Deut. 11:15. So the idea I think is not that God forces us to rest in His “green pastures,” but offers and allows us to rest in the green grass He provides. I like the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation on this: “He lets me lie down in green pastures.” It’s something He offers us to be blessed by. By the way, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon also has “give” as the first meaning. I hope this helps. I know it helped me. Isn’t it wonderful that God is always teaching even old guys like us? Thanks for making me think, look, and learn once again. Your brother in Christ. David”
David came across Daily Encouragement many years ago while searching for photos of PA, where he had once pastored. He and his wife Sabra have become good friends and visited us here in PA and we visited with them several years ago when we were in Texas. They have an excellent writing ministry at “Simply One”
A tribute to those who work in prison ministry. Today I consider friends and ministry associates who are working or have worked in prison ministry. My pastor John Keefer did so for a number of years when he lived in Florida. He periodically alludes to his prison ministry experience in his sermons. Jim Schmidt is an older friend and brand new resident of Lancaster County who for many years led a prison Bible Study in New Jersey. Then I recall Mike Matangelo, Rick Masciantonio and Scott Reynold who each were a part of churches I pastored and have ongoing prison ministry. In fact Mike serves along with his wife Kathy. This type of service surely meets the criteria for what Jesus called “the least of these” in Matthew 25:31-46.
This morning I have a breakfast meeting in Camp Hill, PA with the Pennsylvania Family Institute, an organization seeking to see traditional morality values defended here in Pennsylvania. We encourage our readers to pray for these and other organizations seeking to stand up for righteousness in this evil age. Tomorrow is the National Day Of Prayer here in America and we will have a special message on prayer.
Here is a photo I took late last night of our robin nest under the eave of our barn. Due to an early morning meeting and long day away from home I will be unable to take a photo Wednesday morning. The first egg hatched Monday morning and yesterday morning two were hatched. And now three as of last night! So as you can see from this photo the family is growing!
“I’m Amazed” Video Times Square Church Choir
“My Life Is In Your Hands” Video Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir singing at a large state prison.
“He Leadeth Me” Video Marshall Hall
“Rescue The Perishing” Video Altar Of Praise Chorale
Finally today: This coming Saturday evening I am taking my Amish friend Jesse and several of his children to see the Lancaster Barnstormers Minor League ballgame. (Brooksyne and Ester will be going to a lady’s banquet). Now that will be fun but what makes the game especially special is… Cowboy monkey rodeo is coming to town! Now if you’ve not seen this it’s really entertaining. Monkeys ride dogs dressed like cowboys to herd sheep. It’s really funny to watch but what occurred to me as I talked to Jesse last night is that this really illustrates today’s message how we can make an assumption and then “invest” in that assumption. You see, actually the monkeys are really not doing any herding but are attached to border collies, who like our border collie Mollie, instinctually herd. But when you watch it sure looks like those monkeys are cowboys! See video.
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