When life is rough, PRAY. When life is great, PRAY.
At this time of the year, we all seem to be full of joy and energy. It may be the cold weather because we are trying to get warm so we try to snuggle with our friends. But let us not forget the reason for the season. Our great God sent His son to fulfill the prophesies of the Bible. Jesus died to provide a way for us to have our sins forgiven and never more be remembered. God has given us the reason to be joyful and loving. Praise God!
Ryan Hall will celebrate his birthday on Dec. 19th and my daughter, Lisa Howard, will celebrate on Dec. 21st with family and friends. Her husband, William, will be here through Christmas Day and we will visit with all of my children, grand children and great grand children in and around San Antonio.
We will celebrate the birth of Jesus on the 25th.
Remember the Christmas Eve Candlelight/Communion Service at 6:00 p.m. at Art and at 7:00 p.m. at Castell.
Pastor Cliff Krcha spent 5 days inside a maximum security prison in Kenedy. This is a look at this visit from the inside of the prison.
The good news for that prison is that they have a new warden, one that is “openly” Christian. He spoke to us and to the “new” Christians on Thursday afternoon. It was especially “hopeful” for Christian inmates in that place. Maximum security generally implies that many of the folks there will “never” be paroled. Many have three 99 year sentences. If you were given a 300 year sentence, how would you live? Would you be concerned about any ‘new’ consequences of how you live your life? Not really.
People without hope can have quite a tragic view of life. They also have quite a view of life after death. Can you see how they might not have much to “look forward to”?
On each prison visit, we always have a meeting with the “new” Christians during our last day with them. The question is: “now that we are followers of Jesus, how then shall we live today and tomorrow? Tomorrow when you go back into prison population and when you will face persecution and ridicule and be accused of being a “hypocrite”. You see, when someone repents, and chooses to leave a gang, the ‘gang” can be much like the Sadducees who challenged Jesus. Losing even one gang member is not good for them. The gangs lose power and control.
We point the new Christians to a time that is very similar to theirs; the time when Jesus was getting ready to go to the cross. He had finished all of his teaching. He had performed all of His miracles. He had healed the boy born blind; He had walked on water; He had changed water to wine; He had taught the beatitudes: He had “finished” all that God had given him to do. He had celebrated the Passover with the disciples, and washed their feet, including Judas. But now, the devil was in Judas, and Judas was on his way to betray Jesus. It was about to be “game on” for the disciples.
We teach them that Jesus felt it was most important for them to know at that time that Jesus gave us a “new” commandment: “Love one another”. Of course, that is not “new” to a Jewish person. That is in the Torah in Leviticus Chapter 19 verse 18.
The “new” part was to love one another the “way” Jesus had loved them. That was the “new” part. When Jesus said He was the way, the truth, and the life, “love” is the “way”. “Love” is the truth. And “love” is life. We tell the prisoners that the “plan” to transform the Connally prison is love. Not justice reform. Not education or getting a GED. Those are “good things” to do, but they will not transform a prison. Those things will not fully bring in the Kingdom of God on earth.
We tell them that the “plan” is love. The plan is self giving, humility, and obedience. Some of them face the prospect of going to the gang and telling them that they have become a Jesus follower and they can no longer be a gang member. For some inmates, that means getting physically and brutally “beat” out of the gang. They accept choosing to be beaten to a pulp so they can follow Jesus.
For other gangs, that means being stabbed out. That is being stabbed over and over again. You can know that they knew of these consequences BEFORE they decided to follow Jesus. It is not a decision that they make lightly. That is exactly what Jesus says in Luke 14:28. Count the cost first before becoming his disciple. And we tell them that the ‘reward’ outweighs whatever they face in the next few days. We tell them that Jesus wants to transform the Connally unit just as much as they do. And we tell them that Jesus is counting on them to live their faith “with love”, ”with humility”, “with obedience”. We tell them to always expect opposition; Our spiritual enemy won’t give up the prison without a fight.
My prisoner brothers thank you for your cookies, your prayers. They are so appreciated. When their biological families have given up, when the state government has given up on them, receiving your love is a powerful blessing for them. I told them I would thank all of you.
We tell our new brothers: To have faith, to really believe, to hold onto hope. We are called to lay ourselves upon the altar of God and to cry out with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and until the day when He shall stand upon the earth, I will serve him.” [Job 19.25]
Breaking bread with my prisoner brothers changed me. It gives me hope. It puts “my” circumstances in the right perspective, a Heavenly perspective. I am blessed to go there and be with them. I am blessed to pray with them, cry with them, and praise God with them. They are our brothers and I love them so. If you want to go to prison and see Jesus, let me know, and I will explain the TDCJ rules to you. But count the cost, first. Once you see Jesus in prison, you will begin to wonder why all Christians don’t go to the prisons.
I pray the words of my mouth and the mediations of my heart are acceptable and pleasing in the sight of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.
Pastor Cliff and John Koock have been to prison. Talk to them about their experiences.
Want something to do? Bake cookies! Put four cookies in each baggy in your freezer. They will come in handy.