Tag Archives: forgiveness

Really, don’t pay to have your grandchildren destroyed

Despite all the talk about women’s right to choose to have their unborn children killed, they often feel like they have no choice.  Many times they are being pressured by boyfriends (who will leave anyway 90% of the time*) and their parents (including parents who claim to be Christians).

Here’s an example I came across:

A lot of women don’t know. That’s so in my case, even through my daughter argued with me. She understood my motivation, but she was right and I was wrong!

Once they know, I totally agree. I’m a father who took his daughter to get an abortion; I had never considered anything about abortion; I just knew I wanted my daughter to have a chance at a good life and that I was already grieving for her.

The really horrible regret didn’t come for about 7 or 8 years, but when it did, I went reeling into a horrible depression realizing what I had done. As a Christian, I now know I’m forgiven, but I also have to carry what the consequences are . . . . one of which, I believe, is why my daughter still hates me.

No matter how bad things are, killing your children (or grandchildren) is not going to make things better.  There is a better way.  Start with your local Pregnancy Resource Center (aka Crisis Pregnancy Center).  They have lots of help to offer and all for free.

And if you did something you regret, please know that there is forgiveness, hope and healing in Jesus.  Abortion is not the unforgivable sin.  The blood of the cross covers it as well, but you must repent and believe.

*Let’s just say that guys who want to have their children killed aren’t the best marriage prospects anyway.

Repent.

Kevin DeYoung is a terrific pastor who wrote a great piece on repentance: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand.  I encourage you to read it all.  It is a key part of Jesus’ message that is so easy to leave out.

Revelation 9:20-21 “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”

God’s word to the peoples of the world is not only an offer of grace, nor even less simply a call to live rightly, nor even less still a promise to make all our dreams come true if we just have faith. We have not heard all that God wants to say to us unless we have heard his command to repent.

Ezekiel said “Repent and turn from your transgressions” (Ezek. 18:30). John the Baptist said “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). Jesus said “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Peter said “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). And Paul said God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).

Repentance has never been easy. No one likes to be told “Die to yourself. Kill that in you. Admit you are wrong and change.” That’s never been an easy sell. It’s much easier to get a crowd by leaving out the repentance part of faith, but it’s not faithful. It’s not even Christianity. Of course, there is a whole lot more to following Jesus than repentance, but it’s certainly not less. “Repent,” Jesus said, or “you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

If you don’t repent, you will perish.

His section on how repentance isn’t remorse, embarrassment or apology is important, because we often confuse those things and think we’ve repented.

. . . So regret is easy, embarrassment is easy, and apology is easy. Repentance, on the other hand, is very hard and, therefore, much rarer. Repentance involves two things: a change of mind and a change of behavior.

Repentance means you change your mind. That’s what the Greek word metanoia means– a changed (meta) mind (noia).

You change your mind about yourself: “I am not fundamentally a good person deep down. I am not the center of the universe. I am not the king of the world or even my life.”

You change your mind about sin: “I am responsible for my actions. My past hurts do not excuse my present failings. My offenses against God and against others are not trivial. I do not live or think or feel as I should.”

And you change your mind about God: “He is trustworthy. His word is sure. He is able to forgive and to save. I believe in his Son, Jesus Christ. I owe him my life and my allegiance. He is my King and my Sovereign, and he wants what is best for me. I believe it!”

Repentance is hard because changing someone’s mind is hard. In fact, when we’re dealing with spiritual matters of the heart, God’s the only one who can really change your mind. People are simply not predisposed to say “I was wrong! I was wrong about God and about myself. My whole way of looking at the world has been in error. I want to change.” That’s repentance. And it’s amazing when it happens.

. . .

Repentance also involves a change of behavior. It’s like a train conductor driving his train down the tracks straight for the side of a mountain. It’s one thing for him to realize and admit that his train his going in the wrong direction. It’s another thing to stop the train and it get it going in the opposite direction.

. . .

If we preach a “gospel” with no call to repentance we are preaching something other than the apostolic gospel.

If we knowing allow unconcerned, impenitent sinners into the membership and ministry of the church, we are deceiving their souls and putting ours at risk as well.

If we think people can find a Savior without forsaking their sin, we do not know what sort of Savior Jesus Christ is.

There are few things more important in life than repentance. So important, that Revelation, and the gospels, and the epistles, and the Old Testament make clear that you don’t go to heaven without it.

Confessing sins that you didn’t commit and forgiving actions not done against you

Kevin DeYoung makes some great points in Ruthlessness Accompanied by Unctuous Moralizing.  When people “confess” sins that they didn’t commit they are actually making themselves look pious when they aren’t.

It’s always right to confess sin, right?

When God pricks our consciences and brings us to the point where we can see our sin, hate our sin, confess our sin, and turn from our sin and turn to Christ, it is one of the surest signs of the work of the Holy Spirit.

But not all confession is created equal. Confessing faults we don’t really see, just to get people off our backs, is duplicitous. Confessing sins that aren’t really sins is the sign of a conscience gone awry. And confessing the mistakes and moral blindness of others usually amounts to tendentious manipulation. It may be from the best of intentions (or it may not), but it is a dangerous thing to loudly confess a host of sins we have not committed and for which we are not individually, or even corporately, responsible.

Read his entire post.  It is quite good.  Leftists are great at doing what he describes.

On the flip side, sometimes people offer forgiveness when they don’t have standing.  If someone didn’t sin against you, there isn’t anything to forgive.

Do you accept God’s forgiveness?

I’ve enjoyed R.C. Sproul’s Does Prayer Change Things? that is available for free on the Kindle app (you don’t need to own a Kindle).  As always, Sproul makes profound points in brief and understandable ways.

Here he tackles a common issue, namely that of confessing to God and asking forgiveness but not forgiving ourselves (or not accepting forgiveness, however you want to look at it).  I’ve experienced this myself and seen it with others, especially when doing Kairos Prison Ministry.  We do a lot of forgiveness exercises — forgiving others and asking forgiveness — but as you can imagine these guys have a lot to feel badly about.

We have God’s promise that when we confess our sins to Him, He will forgive us. Unfortunately, we don’t always believe that promise. Confession requires humility on two levels. The first level is the actual admission of guilt; the second level is the humble acceptance of pardon.

A woman distraught about a guilt problem once came to me and said: “I’ve asked God to forgive me of this sin over and over, but I still feel guilty. What can I do?” The situation did not involve the multiple repetition of the same sin, but the multiple confession of a sin committed once.

“You must pray again and ask God to forgive you,” I replied.

A look of frustrated impatience came into her eyes. “But I’ve done that!” she exclaimed. “I’ve asked God over and over again to forgive me. What good will it do to ask Him again?” In my reply, I applied the proverbial firm force of the board to the head of the mule: “I’m not suggesting that you ask God to forgive you for that sin. I’m asking you to seek forgiveness for your arrogance.”

The woman was incredulous. “Arrogance? What arrogance?” She was assuming that her repeated entreaties for pardon were proof positive of her humility. She was so contrite over her sin that she felt she had to repent for it forever. She thought her sin was too great to be pardoned by one dose of repentance. Let others get by on grace; she was going to suffer for her sin no matter how gracious God was. Pride had fixed a barrier to this woman’s acceptance of forgiveness. When God promises us that He will forgive us, we insult His integrity when we refuse to accept it. To forgive ourselves after God has forgiven us is a duty as well as a privilege.

That is some serious good news, and a great reminder that God’s standards are infinitely higher than mine, and that I should immediately accept his forgiveness and move on.  Otherwise, among other things, I am ungratefully refusing his extravagant gift of grace.

Roundup

Bitter much?  Some good thoughts on dealing with resentment.

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Great piece by Randy Alcorn highlighting the many false beliefs of Mormons (and why they aren’t part of the Christian church) and why he will vote for Romney over Obama.

Yes, their doctrines really do teach these things, even if many of their newer members don’t realize it:

  • God was once a man like us.
  • God has a tangible body of flesh and bone.
  • God lives on a planet near the star Kolob… The sun receives its light from the star Kolob.
  • God the “Heavenly Father” has at least one wife, our “Mother in Heaven,” but she is so holy that we are not to discuss her.
  • Jesus was married.
  • There are many gods, ruling over their own worlds.
  • We can become like God and one day rule over our own universes.
  • Jesus and Satan (“Lucifer”) are spirit brothers, and they are our brothers—we are all spirit children of Heavenly Father
  • Jesus Christ was conceived by God the Father by having sex with Mary, who was temporarily his wife.
  • Before coming to this earth we lived as spirits in a “pre-existence”, during which we were tested; our position in this life (whether born to Mormons or savages, or in America or Africa) is our reward or punishment for our obedience in that life.
  • The Garden of Eden was in Missouri. All humanity before the Great Flood lived in the western hemisphere. The Ark transported Noah and the other survivors to the eastern hemisphere.
  • If a Gentile becomes Mormon, the Holy Ghost actually purges his Gentile blood and replaces it with Israelite blood.
  • A righteous Mormon will actually see the face of God in the Mormon temple.

But as Alcorn notes, you should still vote for Romney.  Obama displays no fruit of Christianity and he is a pro-abortion zealot, incompetent with economics, appoints bad judges, is trampling religious freedoms and is a lousy leader.

I’m with Randy, and Martin Luther:

Christians are not needed for secular authority. Thus it is not necessary for the emperor to be a saint. It is not necessary for him to be a Christian to rule. It is sufficient for the emperor to possess reason.

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Death panels are real: Rationing Takes Its Toll Under British Socialized Medicine — As It Will Here — Too bad Romney isn’t hitting harder on this topic.  It is the inevitable result of socialized medicine.

It isn’t much consolation, but in a sense Olive Goom didn’t die alone. Bureaucrats have told general practitioners to cut expenses by putting 1% of patients on the “death list.” Yes I’m serious:

GPs have been asked to select one in every 100 of their patients to go on a list of those likely to die over the next 12 months.

The patients will be singled out for ‘end-of-life care’, potentially saving the NHS more than £1billion a year.

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Parents support abstinence education — Almost 60% of Democrats and more than 70% of Republicans oppose President Obama’s efforts to eliminate all funding for Sexual Risk Avoidance Abstinence Education.

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Yes, Obama was taught to destroy the middle class.  If you have never heard of Saul Alinsky then you probably don’t know about Obama’s worldview.  This is one of those “so bizarre that people wouldn’t believe it” things, but the data is all there.  The media just isn’t telling people about it.

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Have you heard anything in the liberal media about all the threats to assassinate Romney?  Yeah, me neither.

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Let’s see, it is really bad that Romney is wealthy via his hard work and business skills, but it wasn’t bad that John Kerry was really rich because he married someone who inherited wealth from someone who worked hard.  No class warfare here, folks.  Just move along.

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It was bizarre how Obama said that gas prices were low under Bush because the economy was bad and are high now because the economy is supposedly good.  How can his followers believe that?

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Despite what the President said, Planned Parenthood still doesn’t do mammograms.  But he’ll repeat what he knows to be a lie to advance the “war on womyn” meme and the media will talk about Romney’s shoes or something. Romney and his supporters should continually remind people that Obama & Co. are forcing pro-lifers to pay for abortions.  That isn’t pro-choice, that’s pro-abortion, and even most pro-choicers oppose that.

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Weight loss through real food — I recommend skipping any food claiming to be “diet.”  Just eat more natural things.

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Friendly reminder: The government makes more from gasoline than the oil companies do.

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Global warming ended . . . 16 years ago — it is sad how many people still believe the Leftist meme about how it is real and how humans are causing it, and how the only solution is for us to redistribute wealth and take a major reduction in our standard of living (but oddly enough, the leaders get to keep all their stuff).

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Tar pit shows complete absence of evolutionary change — false predictions from Darwinism.  Again.  Ask yourself if the media gave equal time to this compared to recent fossil finds that allegedly supported evolution (then quietly went off to obscurity).

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And that's why I sneer

Our Little Secret

Is forgiveness possible?

ER

A friend reminded me of this clip so I wanted to run it again.  The video is fictional, of course, but the premise occurs countless times every day around the world: People need and want forgiveness, but the world tells them lies.

Christianity has the truth and the Good News, but far too many people claiming the name of Christ are unequipped and/or unwilling to share it, even when asked.  If that applies to you, then do something about it.  Right away!  I recommend Tactics by Greg Koukl as a great way to learn how to share your faith as an effective ambassador and apologist for Christ, just as the scriptures command.

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

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It was surprising but so encouraging to see that the clip below was on the TV show ER a couple years back.

The chaplain is the classic fake Christian you’d expect to find in most theologically liberal churches today.  I love how the patient doesn’t buy her “just make up a god in your own image” type of platitudes.

The money quotes from the dying patient:

All I’m hearing is some new age “God is love” one-size-fits-all crap . . . I don’t have time for this now . . . I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real Hell . . . I don’t need to “ask myself,” I need answers, and all your questions and uncertainty are only making things worse . . .

I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness, because I am running out of time!

Hey Christians, time to fire up!  Some people don’t want the truth.  But there are lots of real people like this in the world who need and want the truth.  They must be so sick of the lies and the politically correct “God is whoever you want him to be” nonsense taught by the world and by far too many churches.  Is it really so hard to understand that you do not get to tell the creator of the universe how eternity works?  You don’t set the terms and conditions of salvation any more than you get to tell your boss to triple your pay and give you 50 weeks of vacation, or tell your teacher that he must give you an A without you coming to class.

Are you ready to tell people the truth and the Good News?  Forgiveness, redemption and eternal life are possible, but only through trust in Jesus.

Grudges

John MacArthur noted in a Podcast this morning how we are most like God when we forgive.  Someone once said that unforgiveness is like taking a little poison every day and hoping that it hurts your enemy.

I once held a grudge against my boss’s boss, who I felt had done some serious wrongs to a good friend (among other things).  He was like the pig character in the comic strip and I was like the rat.  He was also a bully to nearly everyone in various meetings, including my team.  I knew how to stand up to him, but others didn’t.  Then one day I realized that I had to let the personal stuff go and just forgive him.  That was liberating.

But with respect to how he treated my team I realized I had a different obligation.  I let him know that his bullying, swearing and yelling were counter-productive to the results we both wanted to achieve because they were stifling discussions.  People were afraid to speak up and solve problems because of his shoot-the-messenger approach. The appeal to his self-interest worked, and he made a surprisingly rapid change in his approach.  And I didn’t get fired!  (I wasn’t a Kamikaze; I let Human Resources and my boss know ahead of time that I was going to confront him.)

Things don’t always work out that well but parsing the issue into the personal (forgive and let it go!) and the professional/ethical (turning the other cheek on behalf of those getting injured isn’t noble) made a huge difference.  God’s approach really works.  Go figure.

This is a sobering passage about unforgiveness:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Matthew 18: 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servantfell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

The longer you live the more things you’ll have to forgive.  If you hold grudges you’ll just become more and more weighed down with bitterness.  Really, let it go.

As MacArthur noted, the sins of others offend God way more than they offend you — just as your sins offend God way more than they offend others.  Let him deal with it.  You’ll love the freedom that comes with forgiving others, and your relationships will improve.

Kairos prison ministry weekend reflections

kairosjesusbehindbars.jpg

The Kairos prison ministry weekend went really well.  As always, it was exhausting and amazing.  This is probably my favorite ministry.  I’ve never seen anything that has such broad and dramatic impacts on so many lives.  I’ll share a little background, then a few observations.  If you want more background on the ministry there is additional information at the bottom.

Overview of the ministry: It is an opportunity to share the Gospel with those who aren’t believers (No one is pressured, though).  Many of the participants are already Christians, so it is a great opportunity to fellowship with and encourage them.  And it is just an all-around way to share God’s love with people who are often depressed and forgotten.  It is educational in laying out Christian principles for living and creating a Christian community wherever they are.  It helps teach them how to love and forgive others (and themselves). It has a dramatic impact on recidivism, which means less victims and lower costs for society.

Kairos doesn’t advocate for either the prisoners or for the criminal justice system. A transaction took place between the state and the prisoner. The prisoners did the crime and are now doing the time, so we don’t get in the middle of that. We just reach out with Christian love to all and with Christian fellowship to believers.  We try to show that they aren’t forgotten.

There is also a Kairos Outside program for the moms / wives / daughters of the prisoners.  It is completely free, including transportation to the event and childcare if necessary.

Observations from the weekend (other volunteers are welcome to leave their own in the comments section)

  • The speaker at the closing ceremony was a former Kairos participant who was paroled against great odds.  He noted how he continually and aggressively resisted the Gospel for decades.  Bibles brought in by new cell mates were thrown out of the cell or ripped to shreds and then thrown out of the cell.  But eventually he converted.  One lesson: Keep sowing seeds in people’s lives, but don’t cast pearls before swine.  Leave the results and timing to God.
  • I loved a quote passed along by one of the guys at my table (he was quoting Oswald Chambers, but I can’t find the original).  It was something like, “If you aren’t about your Father’s business where you are, what makes you think you’ll be about it where you will be?”  In other words, don’t tell yourself that when such-and-such happens you’ll be more generous, helpful, etc. if you aren’t doing those things now.  That fit in well with the talk I gave and with the general theme of the weekend to point them to have their own Christian community right where they are.
  • A prisoner at the closing ceremony told everyone to go home and tell and show your kids that you love them.  A few of the inmates came from solid homes, but most did not.
  • Another interesting moment at the closing ceremony: One guy asked how many people were raised going to church.  Lots of hands went up.  Then he asked how many were taught the Bible at home.  Most hands went down.  See Ephesians 6:4, Christians!  We need to teach this to our kids ourselves.  What they learn at church is just a bonus.
  • One guy noted how he thought love was just something in books and movies, and that he never experienced it until this weekend.
  • The birthday cakes and cards brought a lot of tears, especially by some who never had them growing up.
  • Our leader, Mark, did a great job of keeping us focused.  He noted that if all the offenders left the weekend just thinking about how nice we were to come then we would have failed.  The purpose is to get them plugged into their own Christian community and accountability relationships.
  • We took in literally thousands of cookies and other good food, which they really enjoy, but surprisingly they talked the most about the pleasures of having fresh fruit.
  • The forgiveness exercises were powerful, as usual.  There were many public apologies for wrongs done.  One offender noted how harboring unforgiveness makes it hard to pray.
  • There were lots of opportunities to coach and encourage them on what to do when they get out: Finding a good church, ensuring they have people to hold them accountable, etc.
  • Several ex-offenders were on the volunteer team as well.  It was great to have them and a tremendous example to those on the inside that success is possible.
  • I eat more cookies on one of these weekends than I do the rest of the year.  Seriously.
  • I never get tired of seeing lives transformed by the Holy Spirit.

I saw this song on my younger daughter’s Facebook page one day and thought it fit in well with the ministry theme of Kairos: Listen-listen-love-love.  Love people for who they are, not for what they have done or what they’ll become.

Here’s a previous post with more background information

Matthew 25:36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

This is a follow up to the Off to prison (ministry) post.  The Kairos prison ministry weekend went really well as did the follow up session the next Saturday.  We were at the Carol Vance unit in Sugarland, Texas, a medium security unit (though it seemed more like medium-light to me).

I am looking forward to the monthly follow-ups.  We’ll go see the prisoners for a couple hours one Saturday morning per month.  If we just met them once on the Kairos weekend that would have been good, but it is more meaningful if we can visit them repeatedly.  I’ll probably do one of the weekend events each year from now on.

There are so many things to like about this ministry. It is an opportunity to share the Gospel with those who aren’t believers (No one is pressured, though.  One guy at my table was a Muslim but he really soaked it all in and was very appreciative).  [2009 update: The Muslim gentleman ended up converting to Christianity!] Many of the participants are already Christians, so it is a great opportunity to fellowship with and encourage them.  And it is just an all-around way to share God’s love with people who are often depressed and forgotten.  It is educational in laying out Christian principles for living.  It helps teach them how to love and forgive others (and themselves).

But even without all that, the proven reduction in recidivism would make the preparation, the weekend and the follow up worthwhile.  Based on statistics from larger sample sizes, 33 of the 42 participants would have returned to jail within 5 years if they hadn’t gone through this program.  Going through the weekend program cuts that down to 15, and it goes down to 5 if they all participate in the follow up program.

So roughly speaking, that will be 18-28 less people returning to prison once they are released.  That’s a tremendous cost savings, but more importantly it means a lot less victims and a lot less pain and heartache for the prisoners and their loved ones.

Kairos doesn’t advocate for either the prisoners or for the criminal justice system. A transaction took place between the state and the prisoner. The prisoners did the crime and are now doing the time, so we don’t get in the middle of that. We just reach out with Christian love to all and with Christian fellowship to believers.  We try to show that they aren’t forgotten.

There is also a Kairos Outside program for the moms / wives / girlfriends of the prisoners.  It is completely free, including transportation to the event and childcare if necessary.

Random highlights and observations

I never get tired of watching lives transformed by Christ.

All of the presenters prayed with an inmate who had already gone through the Kairos program.  Before my talk I got to pray with a man who was 14 yrs. into a 17 yr. sentence.  We had lots of talks at the tables, but I appreciated the one-on-one discussions the most.

Lots of time was spent educating them on how to conduct their own “Prayer and Share” accountability groups.  These are vital to keep them supporting one another and growing in their faith.

Several of the outside volunteers were was inmates themselves.  Their presence and message lets the inmates know that change is possible.

Watching otherwise reticent prisoners really light up during the songs.  I was playing guitar so I got to see their reactions.

You could really see the pain and regret in eyes of many of them.  They are haunted by not being there for their families.

There are a lot of good programs available for them to improve their chances of success when released – mentoring, Bible studies, Toastmasters, and more.

We make it a point not to ask why they are there or how long until they will get out (if ever), but they sometimes offer it up during discussions.  Most of the infractions were from violence and/or drugs.

Each prisoner got a bag of hand-written letters from everyone on the team plus others.  Some prisoners got more mail in one sitting than they had received their whole lives. We left the room when they got the letters. The leader said the reactions were strong – ranging from stunned to weeping to being like kids at Christmas. It made writing the 42 personalized letters worthwhile.  One older gentleman was still talking about the letters the next Saturday.  He was going to keep them forever and re-read them.

There was a rather large former gang member who, in his words, laid down his flag and accepted Christ over the weekend. He got choked up at the closing ceremony and was joined by one brother, then two, then three, then about fifteen surrounding him and supporting him. Then he came over to his ~80 yr. old table leader who was standing in front of me. The former gang member gave him a big hug and affectionately said, “Hey Old School.”

Some guys commented on how they not only felt the love but learned how to love and how to forgive. During testimonials and discussions we learned that many didn’t have dads or had dads who were unloving and lousy role models. The other prisoners were their family.

One of the key exercises involved “forgiveness cookies.”  Volunteers make many thousands of homemade cookies for the weekend.  There is a continuous pile at each table, and the prisoners get a bag every night to take back with them.  On Saturday night they are given an extra bag and told to give them to the person they need to forgive the most.  The next morning we heard many touching stories of what people did with the cookies.

Many participants were already Christians and knew the Bible better than we did.

Other than our presentations, we didn’t have to say much.  We mainly got them talking.  The theme for the team is listen-listen-love-love.

Most of the serving (food and otherwise) was done by prisoners who had already participated in a Kairos weekend.  I was impressed with their servants’ hearts and how much they cared for their fellow prisoners.

Most things in prisons are viewed from the perspective of “inside” or “outside” the prison walls. But as I pointed out to several prisoners, God looks at the world as those who are inside his kingdom vs. those who are outside.   From an eternal perspective there are just people with forgiveness of sins and eternal life and people without them.

Doing something new typically takes you outside your comfort zone. Being in the prison wasn’t that stressful for me, though. What was more challenging was just meeting and interacting with dozens of new people from morning until evening (I’m somewhat of an introvert, so I find that exhausting).

It was a joy to serve with friends from church and to make some new friends from other churches.  My good friend Steve did a fantastic job leading the weekend.  We were thoroughly prepared and everything went smoothly.

As Steve would say, “It’s official: I have now hugged more men in my life than women.”

Carol Vance Prison visitation tip: Don’t wear all white unless you want to stay permanently.

If you have any interest in this or other prison ministry programs, I encourage you to check them out.  They may not be for everyone, but you won’t know for sure until you try.  There are roles inside and outside the prison.  God is doing great things through this powerful ministry.

More links

Kairos of Texas

Prison Fellowship

To find ministries in your area, check out the links below (or just call your local prison – they may have other ministries going as well)

Kairos locations in Texas

Kairos national ministry map

Prison Fellowship Field Offices

Weekly Roundup

Marie continues her series on forgiveness, addressing several important points:

  • Why we should forgive — primarily to obey God . . . the benefits we receive in peace are secondary
  • The seriousness of the topic — you had better take the parable of the unmerciful servant seriously — Matthew 18:23-27
  •  The tough question about whether we must forgive if the offender doesn’t repent

The NY Times spiked this story about Obama and Acorn before the election.  It is sad how un-surprising that is.

Man and his family flee Brazil to escape “homophobia” charges —  Coming soon to a country near you.  The real homophobia comes from those so scared of the gay lobby that they agree to all sorts of bizarre and perverse things, including abandoning their God and his word.

Great send up of the G20 protestors

I think that they have looked back at 5,000 years of human history – at pestilence and famine and disease and degradation, at genocide and civil war, at fear and loathing, at bigotry and ignorance, chauvinism and dictatorship – and concluded that our biggest problem is… shopping.

[…]

[T]hey should start with an acceptance that in the long violent saga of mankind we have rarely done anything as benign as going shopping, rarely devised anything as socially advantageous as property rights and the rule of law, rarely enriched the poor or enhanced lives as we did by creating capitalism.

Atheists are getting de-baptized

Unable to make a positive case for their positions and continuing to demonstrated their inability to base their atheism on anything but opposition to God (almost exclusively the one of the Bible) and religion (almost exclusively Christianity) atheists worldwide; from the UK, Italy, Argentina and the USA are de-baptizing.[1]

The latest publicity stunt stars the National Secular Society who are making de-baptism certificates available, for, of course, a price. They have made a few thousand pounds already as announced by the National Secular Society president Terry Sanderson.

One de-baptist, whom I am tempted to refer to as an extremist militant atheist but whose sentiments are becoming frighteningly mainstream, referred to infant baptism as, you guessed it, “a form of child abuse.”

“Child abuse?”  Sure.

I prefer a believer’s baptism over infant baptism, though I understand that many who practice the latter don’t claim any salvific properties to the event.

Roundup

Edgar asked me on my Facebook what the last five songs I purchased on iTunes.  What were yours?

  1. Cleveland Rocks by Ian Hunter — Trans Siberian Orchestra played it in Cleveland as an encore.  Nice touch.
  2. Fool for the City by Foghat — heard it on the radio in Cleveland
  3. Beautiful Scandalous Night by Robbie Seay — the praise band at church played it
  4. You Never Let Go by Matt Redmond — learned it on guitar for the Honduras trip and really liked it
  5. Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath — great theme about trying to see things as Jesus does

New Year’s hope for post-abortive women and men — The author emphasizes that we should focus on the transforming power of the Gospel and not just the pain of our mistakes, and he has some good suggestions in the section about “Preaching the Gospel to Yourself: Replacing False Beliefs with Truthful Ones.” 

Somewhat related topic: Cool billboard in San Francisco seen by 100,000 people per day

Is Mormonism Christian?  No, despite the shift in the last 25 years from claiming not to be Christian to saying they are just another denomination.  Excellent video by James White explaining why.

The church and the military — Many folks misunderstand church history and default to pure pacifism, which is not Biblical. 

Palestinians boast of using civilians as human shields — it is amazing to me that the liberals still side with Hamas & Co.  In their own words:

Death has become an industry . . . We want death just as much as you desire life.

And here’s a must-read by Charles Krauthammer about Hamas and Israel. 

New addition to the blogroll that I think orthodox Christians will like — check out Religion and Morality

Ten thoughts Darwinists need to ponder before breakfast — great list.  A couple examples:

6. Darwin admitted that based upon the data published in his Origin of Species, one could come to “directly opposite” conclusions. For example, natural selection can prevent major evolutionary change from occurring on a gradual step-by-step basis by eliminating useless transitional stages thus explaining the lack of transitional sequences leading to all of the major body plans (phyla) in the fossil record.

“I am well aware that there is scarcely a single point discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts on both sides of each question, and this cannot possibly be done here.”

Charles Darwin
The Origin of Species
1859

10. The ultimate origin of Nature itself cannot be natural. Either Nature or a Natural Law Giver has always existed. Nature has not always existed. What do you conclude?

When scientists tell you that the origin of everything natural must be explained purely in terms of natural processes, we need to remind them that no natural processes existed before Nature came into existence. We hold this truth to be self-evident, don’t we?

Creation preceded evolution.

How would you respond?

I just love this clip, an excerpt from the TV show ER.  I posted on it early this year but was thinking of it again as I I’ll be sharing it with the high school youth at church this Sunday.  I thought I’d come at it from another angle. 

The money quotes:

All I’m hearing is some new age “God is love” one-size-fits-all crap . . . I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real Hell . . . I need answers, and all your questions and uncertainty are only making things worse . . .

I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness, because I am running out of time!

So how would various worldviews answer this man in his quest for forgiveness and getting right with God?  I would expect something like the following:

Hindu — Well, you are close to death so you probably can’t impact too much at this point.  Perhaps if you do a lot of good things you can get reincarnated as a  slightly better human vs. a slightly lesser human, but you just can’t move the needle that much at the very end of your life.

Muslim — Well, you are close to death so you probably can’t impact too much at this point.   If your good deeds are just under your bad ones, then a last minute push might save you.  Otherwise, you are pretty fixed in your destination.  What’s that?  You don’t have a cumulative weighted average of your good vs. bad deeds?  Well, I guess you could do some more good deeds just in case.

Atheist — Souls aren’t real, so you’ll just cease to exist.  Morality is relative, so your quest for forgiveness makes no sense.  There is no God, so who are you asking forgiveness from?  By the way, if you are suffering, just get a physician to help you commit suicide.  There is no need to suffer needlessly.

Theologically liberal Christian or New Ager Just see the lady in the video and add some statements like, “Don’t worry, everyone goes to Heaven.”  The writers did a good job of showing how even the character seeking forgiveness could see that while he didn’t know the truth that whatever that lady was peddling was nonsense.  So it is with Christians or “Christians” too wimpy, selfish, deceptive or uninformed to tell you the truth about repenting and believing.  Eternity is a mighty long time, and these folks will send you the wrong direction.

Orthodox Christian — I have great news for you:  I don’t know everything, but I know how you can find forgiveness and eternal life.  I know the God you sinned against, I know that He has the power to forgive you and I know that He wants to forgive you.  God sent his Son, Jesus, to live the perfect life and die on the cross in your place, and He will accept that as payment for your sins if you trust in him.  You need to repent of your sins and trust in Jesus.  You will be completely forgiven.  All your sins will be transferred to Jesus’ account, and his perfect righteousness will be transferred to yours.  You will spend eternity with him in Heaven. 

Of course there would be more to cover, including demonstrating why Christianity is true and other belief systems are not, but that is a starting point.  In short, I’d tell him the truth — which is Good News. 

How would you respond to someone like him, and why?   If you are a believer and don’t have a somewhat ready answer, then that is your homework assignment for today.  As evangelism goes, discussion starters like the character’s request don’t get any easier.  Remember, you don’t have to know everything — just enough to get started and to know when to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

Weekly roundup

Was the Dark Knight really a pro-Bush / pro-Iraq War piece? 

Seeking a little escapist entertainment last night, I took two of my kids to see the new Batman film “Dark Knight.” Instead of escapist entertainment, we found a Hollywood parable of the war on terrorism. Gotham City has become New York City [Ed. note: later corrected to be Chicago]. The Joker had become a master terrorist (although the Joker, unlike Osama bin Laden, is a frank nihilist). The use of torture for interrogation is debated and enacted, as is comprehensive communications surveillance.

FINALLY Hollywood makes a film that says President George W Bush was right.

But director Christopher Nolan had to disguise it a little, so journalists wouldn’t freak and the film’s more fashionable stars wouldn’t walk.

So he hides Bush in a cape. He even sticks a mask on him, with pointy ears for some reason.

When Batman doubts the good he had done, Alfred urges strength: “Endure, Master, endure. Take it. They’ll hate you for it, but that is the point of Batman. He can make the choice that no one else can make – the right choice.”

10 things to remember about China as you watch the Olympics.  Not a pretty picture.

The truth about infant mortality rates – the U.S. system isn’t quite as bad as it is made out to be 

Would Jesus discriminate?  He did, and He will – just not in the way these manipulators and deceivers are trying to spin it.

Do science and medicine need Darwinian evolution?  Not really.  I’ve seen countless atheists insist that to criticize Darwinian evolution is to be anti-science and an obstacle to curing diseases.  As Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons says, “Won’t someone please think of the children!”

A great Christian witness by Steven Curtis Chapman and family on ABC

Whoa! This was on TV?!

ERIt was surprising but so encouraging to see that the clip below was on the TV show ER a couple years back. 

The chaplain is the classic fake Christian you’d expect to find in most theologically liberal churches today.  I love how the patient doesn’t buy her “just make up a god in your own image” type of platitudes.

The money quotes from the dying patient:

All I’m hearing is some new age “God is love” one-size-fits-all crap . . . I don’t have time for this now . . . I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real Hell . . . I don’t need to “ask myself,” I need answers, and all your questions and uncertainty are only making things worse . . .

I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness, because I am running out of time!

Hey Christians, time to fire up!  Some people don’t want the truth.  But there are lots of real people like this in the world who need and want the truth.  They must be so sick of the lies and the politically correct “God is whoever you want him to be” nonsense taught by the world and by far too many churches.  Is it really so hard to understand that you do not get to tell the creator of the universe how eternity works?

Are you ready to tell them the truth and the Good News?  Forgiveness, redemption and eternal life are possible, but only through trust in Jesus.

Pro-choice leaders worried?

pro-choice-baby.jpgI recently explored some reasons why the pro-life movement might eventually win (in the sense of making abortion on demand illegal; we know we’ll never have a 100% win).

Jill Stanek had a thorough analysis as to why some pro-choice leaders were conceding that their movement has lost ground.  Here are a few of the points they acknowledged:

  • decreased public support for willy-nilly abortions
  • increased personal responsibility
  • “science” 
  • ultrasound
  • advancements in fetal surgery
  • increased survival of preemies
  • our [pro-lifer’s] improved debate skills
  • our increased ability to elect pro-life candidates
  • advanced empathy for minority rights, including those of the preborn
  • the animal rights movement
  • “to end violence at all levels,” which I take to mean in part opposition to the death penalty
  • the phrase, “culture of life”
  • “hard questions about why women get pregnant when they don’t want to have babies,” in other words, how could any woman let this happen with the widespread availability of contraceptives?
  • graphic photos of aborted babies
  • their side’s refusal to acknowledge morality in the abortion debate
  • “We haven’t convinced people that we are the ones actually doing things to make it possible for women to avoid needing abortions,” in other words, public skepticism that their side may not be the solution but rather the problem
  • “The choice movement seems to defend every individual abortion decision,” in other words, their adamant opposition to any common-sense restriction on abortion whatsoever

Note how some of those are on our side and will always be there (all the scientific advancements and ultrasounds are to our benefit).

I agree with Stanek’s assessment of the pro-choicers’ claims to want common ground:

I for one will never try to “build common ground” with the abortion industry. There is no common ground. The culture of death is the sworn enemy of the culture of life. This is a war, a clash of civilizations.

I do stand ready to dialogue with those in the mushy middle who don’t understand the abortion cartel’s agenda. But we will never have a meeting of the minds on abortion.

Why did Kissling and Michelman write their piece? To shake up pro-aborts to undergo “a serious reassessment” of strategy, not to say pro-lifers were right.

I continue to pray that the middle ground will get more educated on the topic and return to the obvious view that abortion is a moral wrong.  Hey, even Planned Parenthood used to know that:

Is it [birth control] an abortion?

Definitely not.  An abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun.  It is dangerous to your life and health.  It may make you sterile so that when you want a child you cannot have it.  Birth control merely postpones the meaning of life.

In the mean time, remember that forgiveness and healing is possible for those who have participated in the abortion process.