FELLOWSHIP AND THE WORD AT THE LADIES PRISON

Our monthly trip to the women’s prison went well. There were eight of us so we split into two groups of four. One went to what’s called MSU (minimum security unit) and the other went on the compound (medium security). Tracey and I always go to the compound which is inside the fence and tonight was no different.

After introducing myself and the others Tracey, Carl, and Doug I sat down. Tracey led us in a few songs from the hymnals that are provided. At first it seemed the ladies were all in, but as we finished the last song over half of them had taken their seats. I’m not saying people can’t sing sitting down, but I couldn’t help wonder what the sudden need to sit down might have implied. We never mentioned it rather we just kept on with what we were doing.

I told them about our friend Doug’s moped wreck 14 years ago. When all this happened Doug had to have a tube in his throat which caused damaged to his vocal chords and hinders his ability to speak clearly sometimes. Hence, the reason I spoke on his behalf. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and collided head on into a semi truck. The officers and medics at the scene couldn’t find a pulse and were talking about declaring him dead. Doug was taken to the hospital in Nashville without much hope of recovering. The doctors told his father even if he did survive he would most likely be in a vegetative state and have to be in a nursing home for the rest of his life. This is not very encouraging news to hear about one’s child, but his father cried out for God’s intervention and prayed. Without going into all the details let me just say as I shared how the doctors didn’t think Doug would make it he said, “They were wrong” which received almost a standing ovation from the ladies. Doug is walking, talking proof that God is alive and still performs the miraculous.

After Carl, our other friend that came with us, finished telling the ladies about Christ and encouraging them by saying, “We come here because we love you and to tell you to look to the Lord” It was time for Tracey to speak; so I got up and introduced her. Since she talks with and councils the ladies in our local jail on a weekly basis she talks with the women in prison with ease in an open and honest fashion they all seem to gravitate toward.

Tracey shared with them about our Christmas holiday and how it seemed to be focused on Jesus even more than usual. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the extras of the holiday’s and forget Jesus Christ is the point. She read to them from 2 Corinthians about how we are ambassadors for Christ and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Our role is to declare to people how God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. On top of that it isn’t just reconciliation to God but also to each other. As believers in Christ we are to be a forgiving people. We are to be an example of Christ to the watching world. While Christ was on the cross he said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He said this and it included even the very ones that nailed him to the cross. It takes a supernatural move of the Spirit, but if we are Spirit people we will have the same nature as our father won’t we?

When my time came to talk to the ladies I started by sharing my testimony with them. I told them of my addiction and how Tracey and I divorced. We were divorced for two years but thank God he had something wonderful in mind. You see he was going to bring us back together but this time it would be “In Christ.” He is the God of reconciliation isn’t he? I told them the message of the gospel is only for those desperate enough to receive it. If you still think you are okay then you probably won’t really hear the message.

The message of the Bible isn’t that we try to be a Christian. No, the message is without Christ you can do nothing. The Apostle Paul’s discovery was “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The Christian life isn’t about us and our attempts to be a “Good” Christian rather it’s about Christ, by the Spirit, living the “Christ life” in and through you. He is the only one who ever lived the Christian life, and guess what? He’s the only one that ever will. The good news is now because of the cross and the death, burial, resurrection and ascension we can receive the Holy Spirit and be made whole. All that we were lacking in Adam can only be realized in Christ.

One of my favorite things to share with people is how there is nothing outside of Christ himself that can fulfill you. I repeated three times to them “There is no other human being on the planet that can make you whole.” After the third time several of them clapped their hands because they finally were hearing what I was telling them. My experience has been there are so many men and women, particularly women, looking for some man to complete them. I told them when you get a man and women together looking for the other to bring them fulfillment it’s like two ticks with no dog. You end up sucking the life out of one another but in the end it simply can’t work. Whereas if you have two whole people, two people filled with the Holy Spirit, coming together not expecting to receive more from the other than is possible you find peace. This is God’s design for us. His plan is for two people, that look to him for their life, to come together and live as a demonstration of God’s perfect design for his people.

Of course I can’t write here all of what was said and done, but I hope you get the gist of our time with the women in prison. I ask that you pray for them and their families. For some of them, that have been locked up for a long time, and have a long difficult road ahead of them. The good news is they are learning to look to the only one who can get them through and his name is Jesus Christ.

Louie

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WHAT A TIME IN THE LADIES PRISON

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Seventy one women walked into the visiting area to attend church at the prison. Tracey brought our guitar to play a couple songs for them and while I attempted to tune it the noise level grew. There was just too much talking between the ladies for me to tune the guitar so I gave up and hoped for the best.

As I looked up I saw a long line of women walking down the sidewalk two by two. Each of these women wore a green vest indicating they were in what is called the S.A.P. program which stands for “Substance Abuse Program.” Most jails and prisons have these types of programs to help inmates deal with substance abuse and if they participate it takes time off of their stay. There are various rules that they have to follow that none of the other ladies do. For instance one rule is they have to all walk together and sit in their own group away from the others. I particularly like this because I feel with my background of addictive behavior I can relate to them and them to me.

Once everyone was seated and we passed around the sign up sheet I opened in prayer. Typically there are four or five of us that go but this night Tracey and I were the only ones. After sharing a little about the presence of the guitar I handed things over to Tracey, and she led us in a few songs from the hymnal. You haven’t heard singing until you hear seventy one female inmates singing “Victory in Jesus!” There truly is victory in Christ even in a prison.

After the third song the moment arrived. Tracey went over and picked up the guitar and made her way to the front. I grabbed a chair and moved the podium out of the way. She put her music in the chair in front of her. Her first song was a little shaky because of nerves but once she got into the second one you could tell she had settled down a bit and it was great. Everyone clapped loudly for her and seemed to really enjoy it. Now it was time to share the Word.

Seeing how it was just Tracey and I we had lots of time so we could cover plenty of ground tonight. She shared with the ladies how Paul uses an illustration of marriage to teach us in Romans seven. We humans, male and female, are represented by the wife. Our first husband is the Law who is very demanding and the only way to be released from the husband is if he dies. The problem is the Law will never go away or die so what ever will she do? God had a plan to have us to die in Christ so that’s what happened. In Romans six we learned we were co-crucified with Christ and raised again to walk in newness of life. So the wife, or us in this case, was the one to die in order to remove her from the marriage to the Law. Now we are joined to Christ in order to bear fruit for God. It is all about who we are joined to. Who is producing fruit through you?

Tracey plays guitar
Photo by Louie

When my time came to share with the ladies I took the opportunity to expound a little bit more on what Tracey had said. We talk about the Bible and these things so much among ourselves that we teach well together. I took them all the way back to Adam and Eve and told them of how Adam brought death into the human equation with the result being we are all born dead in our spirit. We are born with no connection to God and that is why we must be born again (born from above.) We have to have the Spirit of God to join himself to us, and resurrect our dead human spirit, in order to have the life of God within us. Then he takes over the command center as Lord, Savior, Boss, Master etc.

In the letter to the Ephesians Paul tells us this same thing he said, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Wow! So, Paul is telling us not only were we dead but we had another spirit at work in us. Just like the picture of the woman being married to the two different husbands we are never single. We, as humans, are never unattached. We are always joined to another.

The big lie from the beginning was “You will be as God.” We were born dead in our human spirit and apparently there was “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” that had taken up residence within us at the fall. This explains what Paul was saying in Romans seven. He said, “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me” (the spirit at work in us.) He then goes on to say in Romans seven “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.” Paul discovered the secret. It isn’t that we are not responsible for our own sin but we are not the originator of anything either good or evil. On the other side of this coin Paul says in Galatians 2:20 …It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” So you see we are always in union either with a sin spirit or the Holy Spirit.

At the cross of Christ there was an exchange of epic proportions. Christ became sin in order for us to become the righteousness of God in Christ. He took in the Sin that had been in us and we received his Spirit thereby making us righteous. It is all about the spirit within. Either we are a vessel of wrath or a vessel of mercy, but we are always a vessel.

Even after talking for about forty five minutes it seemed I could go on forever. I never get tired of sharing the truth of the Word of God with people. In the environment of jail and prison it is especially sweet because most of those in attendance are at the end of their rope. They are at a place where they are ready to receive from God. They have come to realize they cannot run their lives and are ready to let Christ do it. Oh, that we were all so ready!

Written by Louie