Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Beyond Scared Straight' Where is Jesus in our prisons? Part 2

“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” (Malachi 4:6)
       Last week, I was reminded of the horrors of prison life from a spectator’s perspective as I watched Beyond Scared Straight, the critically acclaimed hour-long documentary series on A&E that follows inmate-run intervention programs that expose at-risk teens to the realities of life behind bars.
       The prison environment is hostile, violent and chaotic at best. Fear, anxiety, anger, wrath, and rage are the predominant emotions. Inmates scream and yell obscenities within their cells. You can be killed, beaten, stabbed, raped, and assaulted any minute of the day.
       My question was why? Why? I just didn’t understand it.
       Why is there so much hate and violence among the prisoners? Where is Jesus in the midst of this hell? I know prison ministries exist, but from the looks of things the kingdom of darkness seemed to be winning the war against the Kingdom of Light.
       Not so at Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola State Prison — a maximum-security facility that won a reputation for being one of the most bloodiest, violent jails in the country. Reason: Jesus stepped into the picture through the Awana® Lifeline™ prison ministry. Many inmates have received Christ, and as a result, the entire prison environment has changed. The Lord walked in, and the violence walked out. The prisoners were set free from the rage, violence, and other besetting sins that plagued them.
      Lifeline is touching the hearts of these inmates through its ground-breaking prison program Returning Hearts Celebration™ and Malachi Dads™. Returning Hearts Celebration is a carnival-style event that allows day-long interaction between inmate fathers and children. Inmates have the opportunity to reconcile with children they may not have seen for years. The program debuted at Angola and has expanded to 17 other prisons and jails across the country.
       Malachi Dads is a yearlong program that trains and equips inmates to become better fathers and spiritual leaders to their children. Last year, 119 men graduated from the program at Angola (Source: Christian NewsWire).
       This is great news that should bring us infinite hope as Christians. That there is power in the gospel to change lives, even the lives of those who seem to be eternally lost. Take a few moments to watch this powerfully inspiring video. As one of my friends warned: It will bring tears to your eyes. Enjoy!

** This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays where you can visit Charlotte and Ginger's incredible blog that gives glory to God. Enjoy! **

Sunday, February 13, 2011

'Beyond Scared Straight' Where is Jesus in our Prisons? Part 1

“I, the Lord have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6-7)

“Line up right here!” Get in a straight line!” “Do what I tell you to do!” “When you hear the code 2 alarm, crouch down on the ground, and don’t move!” screamed a prison guard to about 10 teenage boys who were visiting San Quentin State Prison in California, a historic prison known for housing the most violent criminals in the country.
       In horror, I watched Beyond Scared Straight, the hour-long documentary series on A&E that follows inmate-run intervention programs that exposes at-risk teens to the realities of life behind bars. 
       These particular teens were participating in the Squires program, a juvenile delinquency deterrence program that brings delinquent youth to San Quentin Prison to speak to inmates and witness firsthand the horrors of life in jail.
       The teens were there because they’ve disrespected authority at home and in school, sold drugs, robbed and assaulted innocent people, stole cars, and used drugs.
       My heart went out to them because many came from broken homes, were simply misguided, and were seemingly without hope. But what was even more shocking were the conditions at San Quentin State Prison.
       The prison environment at San Quentin is hostile, violent and chaotic at best. Fear, anxiety, anger, wrath, and rage are the predominant emotions. Inmates scream and yell obscenities for sport within their cells. You can be killed, beaten, and maimed any minute of the day. Rape, murder, and assault are commonplace.
       My question is why? Why? A naive question I know. But I just don’t understand it.
       I know prison ministries exist, but from the looks of things they don’t seem to have as big of an impact as the Kingdom of God should have on the kingdom of darkness. I’ve heard that people get saved in prison and turn their lives around, but it seems as though Satan and his kingdom rule and reign. So I ask, “Where is Jesus in the prison system? Where is He? The prisoners, guards, and the administrators need the Lord of Glory badly.

Prayer: Lord, please have mercy on those young teens who are witnessing firsthand the harsh realities of prison life, and help them turn their lives around before it’s too late. And may your powerful Holy Spirit permeate the hearts, minds, and souls of all the prison inmates, guards and administrators in America and abroad, in your Name we pray, amen!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Stop Being a Worrywart!

 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life  —whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

       In this day and age, there is so much to worry about. If you lost your job, you worry if you’ll find a new one — fast! If your company downsized and moved you into a job you despise, you worry if you’ll ever find a new position you’ll love. If you’re a student, you worry about homework, exams, and keeping up with all of your assignments. If you’re a mom or dad, you worry about your children. If you’re a daughter or son of elderly parents, you worry about their welfare. If you’re in your late 40s or 50s, you worry if you’ll have enough money for retirement. Then, there’s the terrorism, wars, and the rising crime rate.
       The list can go on and on.
       It’s in these times that it’s so crucial to know the Lord and to be in constant communication with him. Not only for the salvation of our souls, but to have an almighty, all-powerful God to lean on and trust in. Jesus simply tells us not to worry about anything, because He loves and cares about us more than we could ever imagine, and He’s got everything in our lives under control. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like He’s got everything under control when it seems as though many aspects of our lives are out of control.
       I’ve been worried and anxious lately about a particular aspect of my life. And I haven’t been in the best of moods. In fact, I’ve been in a real funk. But recently, the Lord reminded me of the passage in Matthew. Just weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised by a large flock of Robin Red Breasts that descended on one of my trees in my front yard.
       They came to eat the crab apples on the branches and those that fell on my snow-covered lawn. They didn’t seem to have a worry in the world as they pecked and ate the hard-shelled fruit, perched on the branches to rest, and chirped with one another. And it was freezing outside. It was an unusual site for a snowy January.
       But it was during this time that this passage came to life. Birds don’t have a worry in the world because our heavenly Father feeds and takes care of them — even in the dead of winter. And since we’re more valuable than they are, we’re not to worry about anything either. Why? Because God promises to take even better care of us than He does of them. He promises to sustain us, protect us, and look out for us no matter what.
       Knowing this brings me great peace. And I hope it gives you peace as well as you navigate the often rough terrain of life.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we watch the birds build their nests, forage for food, and fly through the air carefree, may we be reminded that we are more valuable than they are, and that you’ll continue to feed, cloth, and provide for us even more so. In Jesus name, Amen!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...