Today I was with a group of men in the jail. One of them was very troubled because his son was getting into all kinds of trouble. He couldn’t understand why, because (he claimed) he loved his son and was always telling him he loved him.
I felt something stir in my spirit, looked him straight in the eye, and said that was a lie. He didn’t love his son, he loved his drugs more – and thus had not cared enough to be part of his son’s life as his son was growing up. This deeply wounded his son, who felt unloved and worthless because of it – and was now acting out.
This afternoon, I’m driving to Richmond, Virginia, to attend the graduation of a young man I first met in jail years ago. He’s receiving his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, with honors, from Virginia Commonwealth University. From jail to now has been an intense journey as Marianne and I stood with him during the hard times and refused to let him fall through the cracks. Now, we get to rejoice with him as he achieves this major milestone.
Following God’s Presence is something I wrote five years ago about him, and the church he was part of in the jail. In fact, he’s one of the brothers who asked to pray for me, as I recount in that piece.
I’m not going to use his name, because he is very humble and doesn’t like publicity. But you know who you are, and I am so very, very proud of you! Even as I write this, I’m tearing up thinking about the honor it’s been to be part of God’s plan of redemption and restoration in your life.
~ Jim Wright
Unfortunately, I lost my John Hagee “Bible Prophecy Secret Decoder Ring”, so I was unable to determine the true meaning of last night’s “blood moon” before I went to bed.
Within nothing more to do, I decided I might as well get a good night’s sleep, wake up in the morning, and get on with my life – just like normal.
Now that it’s morning, I see that the world’s still here – with its normal complement of good news and bad news.
What a bummer. I was hoping for something more exciting, given all the hype.
Several of our fellowships want to open additional recovery homes in the county for those putting their lives back together following abuse, imprisonment, addiction, economic distress or other major disruption. Over the last several years, we have teamed up with another ministry to support this local need, but its focus is only on addiction – which is very much needed. However, we also need similar homes for those dealing with other issues.
Our desire is to create transitional, peer recovery homes where there is functional, Christ-centered community within each house. This would involve mutual support, encouragement and accountability among the residents – with appropriate outside support and oversight.
Our experiences to date have confirmed that such a focus is essential for real change to occur among those in each home. Otherwise, the houses become little more than a warehouse for knuckleheads, and become a detriment rather than an asset for those seeking to put their lives back together.
Until we understand that the Gospel preached by Jesus was the “Gospel of the Kingdom”;
That “Christ” wasn’t His last name, but meant “the King”;
And that He claimed “all authority” over all things,
Both in heaven, and “on Earth”…
I applaud my brothers and sisters in Christ who stood firm in Ukraine against oppression and earned with their blood the right to now rebuild their nation.
Cynicism and retreat are popular today among some Christians who have never suffered national tyranny, corruption and malaise, but enjoy the ease of privileged comfort because of past sacrifices by others.
They have not earned the right to criticize those – in Ukraine or elsewhere – whose faith is big enough to redeem cultures, affirm virtue, and establish liberty.
Tonight, Marianne and I will have a romantic dinner at the country inn where I asked her to marry me.
Our friends often kid us, because we take time to celebrate key events in our life together. Our first date, our engagement, our wedding, and other anniversaries are important to us.
We don’t go on anniversary dates to create intimacy and passion between us, but to express the amazing, ever-deepening intimacy and passion that continues to grow between us – from the first time my heart unexpectedly fluttered at the sight of her, to the profound thrill I still feel when I see her.
There is a love between us that I seldom see in others. It, and our marriage, are testaments to the power of God to redeem lives.
Grace is the means – God extends undeserved mercy, forgiveness and truth.
Repentance is the result – I accept, submit and change.
Among our fellowships, we keep it real.
We have to. We have no choice.
Continually, people are coming to the Lord through us from places of deep bondage and despair.
When we think of redemption we usually think about Christ’s atoning blood which delivered us from our sins. Yes, on the day we personally surrender ourselves to the Lord and ask His forgiveness, He redeems our soul and we become His children.
Christ’s sacrifice was vital. We can now partake in His kingdom here on earth and when we die join Him in heaven. However, I believe that Christ’s act of redemption is far more encompassing then simply making a way for us to enter heaven.
On Saturday, over sixty people gathered for a mass baptism at our house, involving various fellowships and ministries relating together here in Virginia.
After we buried lots of old natures, and lifted lots of new believers up into that same resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead, we enjoyed a cookout and just hangin’ with each other.
This is the one year anniversary of a wedding I performed for Oscar and Nicole.
Marianne and I hosted the wedding in our home, and they are part of the fellowship that meets there.
I was very sick at the time, and had to have a stool beside me just in case I felt weak and needed to perform the ceremony sitting down. But I made it through on my own two feet and it was a great time of celebration!
This was a highlight of ministry for me. Oscar and Nicole mean a lot to Marianne and me, and are evidence of how God delights in redeeming lives.
Here’s more of the story…
Today is our wedding anniversary.
Our marriage is a testimony to the greatest gift two people can give each other: The ability to love, and be loved.
Finding Freedom in a Prison Cell, by Marty Friedman
This is a wonderful story of redemption. Marty Friedman came to the Lord in jail, and for two years was part of a fellowship we helped start in the housing unit where he lived. He became a leader in that fellowship, where he profoundly impacted many, many lives. Now that he’s out, I am privileged to call him my friend.
BTW, I’m not sure about that reference to me as his “Sunday pastor”.
Marty, we gotta talk about that… :-)
A rap/poem by a brother in fellowship in the local jail, who is learning to become the man God created him to be.
When I reached out
You took me in
When there wasn’t a soul in sight
And all I saw was you
You took me in
Dusted me off
Cleaned me up
Asked me if I’d yet had enough?
Knew about my past
Had been there through the struggles
Said you’d carry my burdens
If I’d give you my troubles
I grabbed to my shirt
Expressed a cold smirk
Yeah I’d heard that before
Seems never to work
I have learned that God sometimes lets us walk through things that others could not bear, in order to buy a grace they will not fathom – yet because of it, the world around us is forever changed.
This blog by Kelly Clark embodies that kind of grace.
Marianne and I have the greatest privilege in the world. God allows us to introduce Him to those who have reached the end of themselves, and then allows us to walk with them towards healing and wholeness.
We have the privilege of then seeing those who some consider the discards of society grow in the Lord to become mighty men and women in His Kingdom.
But the highest privilege of all is this: To call them friends.
This is the story of so many when we first met. Listen, and may the Lord move your heart to compassion.
I don’t know about you, but the Lord sometimes loves me enough to nearly kill me. And I’m not talking metaphorically.
In fact, for those who have given our lives to Him, the Lord loves us so much that some day He literally will take our lives so He then can give us eternity.
Short of death, however, the Lord sometimes kills something important to us or in us – some vision, some hope, some confidence, some quality or attribute, some accomplishment, or even something good He previously gave us.
It’s not that the thing He kills necessarily is wrong. It’s just that it needs to die so we then are free to be and do whatever He wants of us, and for us, as we move forward in Him.
As Job understood, in the midst of everything good in his life being stripped away, “Though you slay me, will I trust you Lord.” Job 13:15.
On Christmas eve, Marianne and I spent time with about thirty brothers in the jail. During our time of fellowship, one of the men read the poem below. Here’s the story behind the poem, then the poem….
Earlier in December, I had shared with those men how our journey in the Lord is like Israel’s journey from slavery in Egypt, through the desert, and then into the promise land.
God takes us out of the bondage of Egypt, but then uses the wilderness to burn Egypt out of us.
In the wilderness, God prepares us to take possession of the promise land – that place where we are able to own and responsibly manage the things He has created us to both be and do.
Marianne and I have never recommended a movie on our blog, but yesterday we went on a date and saw the new movie, Les Miserables.
Twenty or so years ago I saw the Broadway play in New York, and it was powerful. But the movie is … amazing.
I was hesitant to go to the movie, because I expected the original Christian themes of redemptive grace and forgiveness in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel to be watered down, if not eliminated. After all, that’s the way of Hollywood. They take culture created by Christians and bastardize it.
Hyper grace teachers deny the need for confession and forgiveness in the life of a believer. What they fail to understand, though, is that confession and forgiveness for a believer are NOT about obtaining justification, but about obtaining wholeness.