Tag Archives: prison ministry

Rev 21:1-3, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”  The Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos saw something he had never seen, something he really did not know what he was seeing, but he saw it.  We each see as we understand and we relate what we have seen in terms we know.  It is true for John and it is true for you and for me.

Tonight when I went to bed I thought about what I had been watching on TV and it included the movie Star Trek and Thor.  Now Star Trek is a 50 year old franchise of science fiction and in it man goes where he has not gone before, strange new worlds, and he goes boldly.  But the key word here is fiction.  It is man’s concept of that which does not exist.  From a logical perspective it all could be; the science of warp speed, transporters, strange new worlds and other civilizations make sense.  From a pure astronomical point of view we know there are billions of galaxies and billions of stars within each of those galaxies and that there must be billions of planets in each one so therefore there should be billions of other worlds complete with beings and some of them must be older than us and some must also be younger, some more advanced and some not as advanced as we are.  Makes sense to me and a lot of people think so.  But the bottom line is we don’t know.  What we do know is what we know and for each of us that is contained in our history.

Now one thing we do know and that is recorded in history is that there was a man named Jesus Christ.  He was born, he lived and he died.  We have records of his life and records of how he died, actually how he was murdered.  And these records say He claimed to be God’s own son, to be God Himself come down from someplace called heaven.  The records also record things that do not fit our understanding, Star Trek like things.  But how do these records get recorded?  Let’s consider the apostle John in the Book of Revelation, a book that is actually titled “the Revelation of Jesus Christ.”

John had been sent to a Roman penal colony on the Isle of Patmos because he would not worship the pagan Roman leaders.  This is because he, John, had met and knew that this man Jesus really was all He claimed to be, God come down to be a man like us.  When you know the truth you have to stand on it.  When you know God, when He has come into your life He changes you and transforms you as nothing else can.

So I am in bed trying to get my mind to be quiet and to drift off to sleep and to start to dream.  And Star Trek and other things want to play around in my mind and I am trying to tell my mind to think about real things, the things of God that I know are true and real, not this sci-fi make believe world.  And this gets me to thinking about this time of year, Christmas time.  Thinking about how this Christmas has been and why and what does it mean.  this Christmas season has been a hard one on me for a lot of reasons.

Christmas is always a difficult time for me.  It is both a very good time and a very bad time, very hard emotionally.  And it takes me for an emotional roller coaster ride which includes dreams and sleeping.  So I am trying to go to sleep tonight and I am trying to get a handle on reality and not some sci-fi nonsense and John on Patmos comes to mind.  Let’s take a look.  John saw a new heaven and a new earth and he wrote about it.  But he can only write in terms and words he knows and understands the same as you and I.  In a spiritual sense I have been to heaven a few times, caught up in the spirit as the Apostle Paul says.  So what did it look like?  I was in the great throne room of God Himself and the only words I can use to describe it come from the wizard of OZ because that is an image I can get a handle on.  But it wasn’t like that throne room; it was different, more glorious, more beyond description.  In H. G Wells “The War of the Worlds” the author describes these marching machines that are attacking the earth and they sound a whole lot like water towers that are walking and moving.  Again, I propose that H. G. Wells is relating what he cannot accurately describe in terms he can describe.

I submit to you that the reality is so much greater than we can not only imagine but conceive of or dream.  On Christmas Day, 2009, we took my wife to the hospital due to complications with cancer.  Lab tests confirmed her kidneys had shut down and she was in renal failure.  That is a nice clinical term for she was dying.  We transferred her to the hospice facility where on December 29th she did indeed die.  In these situations people who are going through it go into emotional overload.  During it your thought processes are numb but on the other side disbelief takes over.  This Christmas season a good friend lost his sister and another dear friend lost his father.  Christmas day I met a lady who lost her son a few months ago to a hit and run driver.  I was visiting a neighbor who had a friend over who lost her husband a couple of months ago.  Each of these individuals is grappling with what is real and what is not and is grappling with how to deal with it.

So let’s take a look at what Christmas means and let’s start with the opening announcement that something special has happened.  So it begins with Mary giving birth to the baby Jesus in a stable.  Consider the story in Luke, chapter 2, where there are shepherds watching their flocks at night, just minding their business when very Star Trek like an angel appears (complete in glory) and scares the you know what out of them.  This stuff just does not happen and this record of it is written down by a doctor no less.  And the angel says, first of all, don’t be afraid (even though you have every right to be) because I come and bring good news not just for you but for everyone on earth.  Cool, this has got to be good, really something out of this world.  So here it is, the Savior of the world is born.  Okay, sounds good so far.  Go and you will find Him in a manger (feeding trough) in a stable (where animals are kept) and oh, did I mention He is a baby?  Now the angel is surrounded all of a sudden by a large number of heavenly hosts who are all singing praises for this infant child in a stable and then all of them just sort of Star Trek like transport back to heaven.  And you, being one of the shepherds left standing wondering what just happened because it is totally outside of any frame of reference you have go down to the town and guess what?  There is a stable and in it is a manger where a baby lays, a newborn.  The story that should not make sense is actually true.  Quit having jalapeno’s for a late night snack, okay guys.  What really happened with the angel and the heavenly hosts?  We don’t know but we know that the shepherds expressed it in terms they understood and they expressed what really did happen and Israel doesn’t have jalapeno’s so that isn’t what caused it .

I know the pain of people dying and it hurts.  But there are different depths of that pain.  I have had friends and family die and some of it has affected me more deeply than others.  On Christmas Eve, 1970, I was involved in a friendly fire incident in Vietnam where 12 GI’s died.  12 men who were counting on us to support them and we failed.  God, that left scars that still sear with pain even over 40 years later.  There has been much healing but the pain can never go away.  When my wife died I never knew there could be so much pain.  My heart and mind and very soul were ripped apart.  There has also been much healing of that. But what is the greater perspective of it all?

The greater perspective is that there is something more, something beyond all that we know and understand and we have had a taste of it and we can taste of it and know that it is so.  There is a heaven, a real place where people can go when they die.  There is a God, someone beyond our comprehension, who is and was and will be to come.  One of my spiritual “visits” to heaven is tied into my wife Deborah.  After she died, and I was totally consumed with grief and anguish and pain I finally started to get out of my shell.  I worked a Kairos weekend in prison.  This is a ministry where the team of volunteers goes into a prison to bring the love of Jesus to the inmates, and it is good.  So I was on the back table during a time of singing when they sang a song I don’t recall ever hearing.  The song is called “I can only Imagine” written by the group Mercy Me (Bart Millard).  And as we were standing there singing I was taken up in the spirit to heaven and I found myself in the great throne room of God.  It was full of people and it reminded me of the throne room from the Wizard of OZ (remember that we have to fit things in our understanding).  Well, my wife Deborah greeted me and she had the biggest, most beautiful smile on her.  And she takes me by the hand and leads me to a different part of the throne room.  She takes me up to Jesus and introduces me to Him.  That is the part that told me what was happening was real.  It was not about seeing Deborah, that was so wonderful in itself and oh yes, I missed her so much, it was about Jesus.  This vision, this other worldliness was so much more than I could have ever imagined or come up with for an image to heal my grief and pain.  And it was not about me, it was about something greater, Jesus, God Himself.

I can now think of those shepherds guarding their flocks and having the night invaded by heavenly beings, angelic hosts, proclaiming there is so much more.  I can picture John on Patmos at a ripe old age, at the end of a human existence, one who has seen and witnessed so much that is beyond comprehension.  He witnessed life before Christ, before Jesus came as a babe born in a manger, having witnessed the life of Christ and the death of the Savior.  John, who had witnessed and had seen all the pieces fit together who was now exiled and alone on this rock in the middle of the ocean, a man waiting to die and to go home.

So John is there and God gives him more.  “And I saw….” is such power, power you and I cannot question or call to account.  John saw that there is more than can be seen by us, by rational people and that it is for us to see for ourselves. John goes on and tells us more of his vision and yet just a chapter later in the Book of Revelation, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, he finishes and simply says, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”  Such completeness can only come in such simplicity, Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.

Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Thor, and all the other phony worlds we make believe are not just fiction, they are such a weak and far cry from reality that it is unreal.  When Jesus comes back we shall know the greater.  We shall see and know that we are so much less while at the same time being of so much more worth that anything we can dream of and conceive of.  We are God’s chosen, His holy people, called by God Himself to know Him, to walk with Him, in perfect love.

My prayer is that I might love with as much of His love as is possible for this frail, fragile human form.  My prayer and heart’s desire is that I might share some of the knowledge that He is, He was, and He will be to come.  He is here now, He lives in me and I pray you seek Him to know Him yourself, personally.  He is there, and He beckons you, even you to so much more.  Amen, come Lord Jesus.

When I Gaze

This post originated while at the gym tonight.  I have a pulled groin muscle which at this time really hurts, as in pain.  When I hurt my thinking goes way off track which can be good or sometimes not so good.  The thought processes are altered because my mind is distracted (in this case by pain).  There is actually a psychotherapy technique called EMDR that uses a distracted mind to help patients approach problems.  That is a totally different subject that is way off track.  So, on to this post.

I don’t know what you believe or what led you to your beliefs.  Me, I believe in the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible.  To further clarify that I believe that Jesus is all He said He was, that He died for our sins and that we can invite Him into our hearts to live as Savior and Lord.

Music to me is meant for the heart.  Yes, I know that there is all kinds of technical and even mathematical aspects to it, but I like music that moves me.  Quite often it also speaks to me, volumes, about life and love and good and bad and about people.  I would like to share about three songs (of the many) that have had great impact in my life and which help me gaze in awe at the most wondrous, and Awesome God, the Great I AM.

The first song I heard live in 1971 and it is “Shauna’s Song” by Barry McGuire.  I was a new Christian and he performed during a seminar I attended.  Several aspects of it still stand as a testament to God’s love.  Barry was also a fairly new person in Christ and the testimony of his life and that is exhibited in this song is one of a life changed and transformed completely by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  It was so clear and obvious that Barry had been touched by the Holy spirit and made new.  The Christian term is Barry had been “born again.”  Here are the lyrics.

Shauna’s Song

I don’t know            why he loves me

I don’t know            why he cares for me

You know I ran from him, oh yes, I ran from him

I turned my back and slammed the door in his face

But still he said to me, said, “I love you”

Said, “I love you”

I don’t know            why he wants me

I don’t know            why he’s so concerned for me

You know I’ve hurt him so, oh yes, I’ve hurt him so

But still he comes to me with his arms outstretched

Whispering these words, “I forgive you”

Says, “I forgive you”

I just don’t understand a man who’ll stand and say, “I forgive you”

Say, “I love you”

But don’t you know

Now it’s true

I love him, too

Like Barry I don’t understand how God could love me how God could send His only Son to die for me, how Jesus could and would choose to die for me and love me.  But He does and He did.  Jesus hung on the cross to pay for my sins.

When I talked in the last post about gazing at the Great I AM I used the picture of astronomy because it was a very good image of gazing at something so vast and awesome and unknowable.  I don’t care what science says, they really don’t have a clue about the greatness of the universe.

Over Christmas of 2009 my wife of 37 years, Deborah, died from cancer and it shattered my life.  Well, God often speaks to me through music and this was no exception.  The first music He gave me was a song by Julie Miller titled “All My Tears.”  Like Barry when you see Julie in the context of her music you see someone who is very spiritual and very much in touch with God.  To me there is an innocence in her love for Jesus.  God gave me this song as being Deborah’s song.  Here are it lyrics.

All My Tears

When I go don’t cry for me
In my father’s arms I’ll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I’ll be whole

Sun and moon will be replaced
With the light of Jesus’ face
And I will not be ashamed
For my savior knows my name

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

Gold and silver blind the eye
Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from heaven’s store
Come and drink and thirst no more

So weep not for me my friend
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to him
Who will raise the dead again

In and through these word I knew Deborah was home, healed and whole.  There was great peace which came (and still comes) from listening to this music.

The final song has a slightly stranger story behind it for me.  I don’t like a lot of modern Christian music because it seems to lack a depth of knowing and loving Jesus.  A lot of modern music seems written to sell and to stimulate, not to express the Holiness of the relationship we can have with the Father.  This is just some of my thinking so please don’t hammer me for it.  I am not making an absolute statement here.

I have worked in prison ministry with a ministry called Kairos where we go in for a weekend and “Listen, Listen, Love, Love” 42 inmates at a time.  There are broken down to 7 different tables where they sit with volunteers.  During the first Kairos weekend I worked after losing Deborah I was sitting at the table with inmates and ours was in the back of the room.  Over the course of the weekend we sing songs.

Before I go on I should say that I believe in the Holy Spirit and I believe there is a supernatural world that is all around us.  I love the Holy Spirit, believe in the Baptism in it and have seen God do miraculous things in this world.  Really.  Oh, and that is not part of the Kairos plan and is not encouraged.  The book contains the plan and we strive to stick with it.

So we were having a singing time and were all standing up having a good time.  Our music leader lead us in a song I suppose I had heard before but I had never “heard” it before like I heard it that day.  The song is “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me.  I swear I hadn’t heard it before today, okay.  Well, the Holy Spirit took me, in the spirit, up to heaven and there I was in the great throne room of God.  And Deborah was there to greet me with this great big smile that simply radiated with her eyes bright as can be.  Now you are probably thinking yea, the guy goes to heaven and sees his wife and she is hunky-dory.  I would be thinking that too so I don’t mind if you do.  But, this is my vision of heaven so follow along.  Then Deborah takes me by my hand and she leads me over and introduces me to Jesus.  The message God had for me came through loud and clear, it is all about Jesus  Here are the lyrics to “I Can Only Imagine.”

I Can Only Imagine

I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk

By Your side

I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When Your face
Is before me

I can only imagine
I can only imagine

[Chorus:]
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I
fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When that day comes
And I find myself
Standing in the sun

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever
Forever worship You

I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of You be still

Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I
fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine
I can only imagine
yeah
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I
fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine
yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever,
forever worship you

I can only imagine

When I went to the gym this evening I played these three songs in a loop over the course of about an hour and at times I buried my face in my workout towel and cried, weeping over the emotions these songs stir up in me, songs that stir up Christ in me.  Just like my vision which occurred in prison, it is about Jesus and the depth of the meaning of knowing Him.  Do you have a belief that is strong enough to carry you through life, through good and bad, to take the weight of all the wrongs in your life (called sin), a belief that can stand in the storm?  I do, I believe in God, the God, the Great I AM.  And along with Barry I don’t know why He loves me.  And with Julie I know that one day all my tears will be washed away when we see Him face to face.

To gaze at the I AM can be outward, heavenly, or it can be inwardly, inside each of us.  Gaze, be in awe.  Dare to look and seek to know Him who is.  Yes, we truly cannot comprehend Him but we can gaze and we can seek to but touch the hem of His garment and be made whole.

Below are YouTube’s of the three songs.  For Barry it is his performing it live, laid out like the question it is.  All My Tears has been done in many variations by many artists.  I give you Julie singing it in a simplistic version that I think lays open the music and bares it for the soul.  I Can Only Imagine is Mercy Me’s original version of the song.  Blessing on you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxv6Os66U3I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YzreoXax1A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lrrq_opng