SPIRIT LED DISCUSSION IN JAIL

Walking in the Spirit doesn’t mean you won’t have feelings of nervousness. It also doesn’t mean you will be sure what you’re supposed to do all the time either. For instance I go to the jail several times a month, and I still get the butterflies from time to time. Tonight wasn’t any different.

There were two subjects I thought to teach on tonight and I wasn’t sure which one it would be right up to the moment I started introducing myself. It turned out to be the S.A.P. guys tonight. For those that don’t know S.A.P. stands for substance abuse program. There were about ten of them and no doubt they were exactly the ones that were meant to be there.

As I started just chatting with them while they passed around the sign up sheet a guy in the front asked me about Satan and was a little confused about how he fit into God’s plan. I told him “You know I wasn’t sure what to talk about tonight, but I think this is a good topic right here.” After I prayed I gave them a quick “Louie” version of the story of Joseph from Genesis. Finally arriving at my point found in Genesis 50:20 where Joseph said to his brothers “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” As I shared with them about how God had orchestrated everything in Joseph’s life for the good of others they seemed to understand.

From there we looked in Acts 2 where Peter said, “Jesus was delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put him to death.” Once again we read where godless men meant evil toward Jesus, but God meant it for good. Whereas Joseph went through his trials to save lives by giving them earthly food; Jesus went to the cross in order to provide eternal life.

In between scriptures there was discussion and questions from just about all of the guys. This is why a smaller group is sometimes better. I love the interaction between each of them and they showed great respect to each other. They all genuinely seemed to want to help each other get through their difficulties. One of which is how to deal with other cellmates who get on their nerves.

Just living in the world brings with it a certain amount of challenges because of clashes in personalities but at least as a free person we can get away from them. In jail you’re in a cell with many others that sometimes just don’t care how you feel about things and they say and do anything they want to. The longer I do Bible studies in jail the more I hear the complaining about cell mates and the questions on how to handle them. One thing I’m quick to tell them is “I don’t have a magic answer, but God does have a way to keep you.” The best thing I know how to do is point them to Christ by sharing the Word with them.

As we were finishing up our discussion I read to them from John 21 where Jesus told Peter “Follow Me!” The Bible says, “Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved (John) following them…So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” When it comes to others and how they are serving or not serving God it really isn’t our business. These men in jail tonight are struggling with other men that profess to believe in God but everything in their language and behavior screams otherwise. I gave them the same answer Peter received from Jesus “Follow me!”

Just before I prayed I shared with them about how I have had times when co-workers didn’t seem to be doing their share, and I thought to myself “I’m going to point this out to the boss.” It never failed though that this very story, of Peter worrying about John, would come to my mind. It was as if God was saying the exact same thing to me “Louie, what’s that to you? You follow me!”

I closed in prayer and asked God to give them wisdom on how to deal with their cellmates and that he would grant them peace and joy even in the midst of the turmoil. As they were walking out every one of them shook my hand and thanked me. One guy came to me and said, “There’s this guy in my cell that came up to me and asked me if I could help him learn about the Bible, but I don’t know that much about it myself, so what do you think I should do?” These are the nights I love the most when these men are truly engaged in wanting to know God and learn how to walk in the Spirit. I just told him “Well, just read the Bible with him and ask God to give you wisdom.” That may sound overly simple to some but that’s what I did and even now I continue to ask him for insight in order to teach others.

Written by Louie

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AN INVITATION TO REST: IT TAKES A MIRACLE

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Tonight at the jail was our chance to speak to those in the S.A.P. program. S.A.P. stands for Substance Abuse Program so obviously all of the guys we saw tonight are battling addiction problems of some type.

While I believe all of us, even those not deemed addicts, have something in our lives we have had to battle. This was my kind of group. While we did have a few laughs they all seemed to really be listening and wanting help. That is the perfect combination isn’t it? I mean there are plenty of folks walking around us everyday that are in need but simply don’t want help…yet.

Out of around 20 guys only four of them knew me. As many times as I’ve been at the jail I was sort of surprised by those numbers but at the same time I was glad. It’s always exciting to get to share Christ with new people and tell them how he has delivered me from drugs, reconciled my wife and me and keeps me everyday. I love telling people Jesus Christ is the answer to their pain, frustration, and bondage.

Seeing how those guys are involved in S.A.P. many of them have been involved in twelve step programs on the outside also. I told them Jesus Christ is the only real way to be set free. I said, “I’m not saying programs are bad; I’m just telling you my experience. A twelve step program may just be the way you come to Christ, but eventually you will have to come to him if you want to be free.”

I shared with them about how I was in a methadone program for about a year and a half. Of course they wanted me to attend a 12 step program as part of my recovery but my counselor said she would count church as a meeting. Looking back I can see how God was sort of lining things up in my life. I never thought a 12 step program was for me so the church option was great. Little did I know that I was going to be born again shortly thereafter. That’s what happened though and it’s been an adventure since.

I told them it isn’t that I haven’t had the opportunity to go back to drugs or alcohol but God has kept me. One time I sort of nonchalantly told a guy I had a headache. He reached in his shirt pocket and put a prescription pain pill in my hand. I looked at it and handed it right back telling him I don’t think this is going to help. There have been several times I have been around alcohol, but I know that never worked for me in the past so why would I want to go through that again? Once you have been set free why in the world would anyone want to take that awful trip again?

One of the guys said, “I went through the same methadone clinic you did but when I got off of it I went right back to doing drugs. What happened to you?” I told him I never relapsed, but I’ve heard that relapse is part of recovery. Most people do have at least one time when they use again but rather than just give up they get to start over again the next day. Even after receiving Christ we have plenty of opportunities to mess up but the great news is He’s there to pick you up and get you back on the path. Another one of the guys said, “I’ve heard methadone is harder to get off than heroin. If that’s true you must have had something working in your life.” I told him “Yes I did, and still do, it’s Jesus Christ. He is the only way. It takes a miracle everyday to live life in the Spirit.”

Usually I have some scriptures I want to share and I did quote quite a few tonight but mostly I just talked to them about how God transformed my life. Getting off of drugs isn’t a bunch of hard work it takes a supernatural empowerment. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I told them being yoked with Jesus Christ means we become one with him and that means we are in this together…it takes a miracle!

Written by Louie

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