It’s Friday night and I’m spending it in the Howard County Detention Center. I’ve been locked up for eight (8) months now. I’ve lost all my worldly possessions, place to live, business, vehicle, tools, and fiancée. Tonight I sit here with a backache and a stomach ulcer. I’m in physical pain. yet…
I am at perfect peace in the midst of this tempest of life. Jesus has set me free and fillled me with His love and joy. Tonight I had solace in the Word of God. The Word made available to me by God’s servants through the Christian Jail Ministry ministries. May God bless those men and women who devote their time and efforts in order to make the Word available to forgotten folk like me. Yes, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things”. How beautiful indeed, thank you Christian Jail Ministry. May the LORD greet you on that day with a heartfelf, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Many inmates have a host of problems. Debts. Poor work history. Legal entanglements. Health problems. Addictions. These problems have to be faced after conversion for inmates who come to Christ behind bars. If a new believer in Christ is to overcome such a host of problems, he or she needs to get thoroughly grounded spiritually. This provides the person with inner resources: God’s marvelous peace, insights, wisdom from the Scriptures about how to deal with life problems, and comfort and refreshment for the person’s spirit. BUT more is needed most of the time. Addictions normally require the kind of help provided by AA, NA, and similar kinds of help. Medication may be required for bipolar disorder or other health problems. Patience and advice may be required for coping with debts and legal entanglements from pre-conversion behavior, and help may be required in finding employment. For many converted behind bars, it takes several years to climb out of the pit with their lives.
Few people, whether former inmates or Christians who never have been behind bars, manage to live without falling spiritually at times, and usually the person falls in a way that person has fallen before. The one who gossiped in the past gossips again. The one whose greed or covetousness made him or her write a bad check or shade the truth in reporting tax liabilities in the past, might do something similar again. And the former inmate with an addition problem might indulge in drink or drugs. Christian friends need to help and encourage our fellow believers even when they fall. Galatians 6:1 says those who are spiritual will help to restore the fallen gently. Unfortunately, too many Christians have a different attitude.
CJM focuses its ministry at Howard County Detention Center (HCDC). However, there are a number of ways that CJM reaches beyond HCDC, without distracting us from our focus. One is our ministry to families of HCDC inmates and to former HCDC inmates. Recently, an inmate at the Maryland House of Corrections completed the Bible Correspondence Course that CJM provides HCDC inmates (he had started the lessons while confined at HCDC, and had continued them when he was transferred to prison). The course completion certificate and the leather bound study Bible that CJM awards inmates who complete all of these lessons were mailed to him. Another way that CJM reaches beyond HCDC is to provide information and encouragement to those elsewhere who are interested in ministry to prisoners. In the past year, we have pointed several students, who have contacted CJM, to resources to help with a thesis, paper, or project. We have advised several individuals and church groups about ways to proceed in responding to the vision God has given them about their ministry to the incarcerated.
Recently, a great deal of attention has been given to a novel about the Da Vinci code. This story, which has enriched its author and will soon become a movie, is full of false statements and historical errors. While many have found the story an exciting read, some Christians are upset by the many misrepresentations in it related to Christ, the Scriptures, and various religious institutions.
False and slanderous ideas about Christianity have existed since the time of the apostles, as anyone can see from simply reading the New Testament. Some denied the resurrection. Some said people had to become good Jews before they could follow Christ. Others claimed license to ignore God’s instructions for living. The second chapter of II Peter warns about the ways of false teachers.
The problem of ideas contrary to God’s truth did not stop with the apostles, but has continued even to this current day. Sometimes the false ideas come from religious leaders. Sometimes the false ideas come from others, like the author of the Da Vinci code and those who want us to believe that aliens from space sparked the human race.
It is amusing to note how old the “new” ideas often are. Ignatius was an early leader of the church at Antioch, and was martyred about 107 A.D. In the longer version of his epistle to the Trallians, one of seven authentic letters attributed to him, he lists some of the heresies that were present in his day. These include denial of the virgin birth of Jesus, His death, and His resurrection. Ignatius also mentions those who denied the deity of Christ or His humanity, and those who rejected the idea of the Trinity. Many modern thinkers spout this old heresies, and some of them are so unlearned they think they have discovered new ideas.
CJM does not waste its time trying to identify and counter every false concept. Instead, we point men and women to the living Christ and encourage careful study of the Bible to learn the truth about God and His ways.
We encourage you to use the same approach. Open your heart and mind to the living Christ, and prayerfully seek to understand Him and God’s truth through patient and diligent study of the Bible, God’s Word. Expect God to reveal Himself to you as you study His Word, and His Spirit to guide you as you seek to live a life which pleases Him. May our Lord bless you as you seek to know Him and His truth better.
Your prayers, your contributions, and your help make these things possible.
During March, a middle-aged female inmate at HCDC was severely depressed. Several of the correctional officers mentioned her depression to Chaplain Nichols and urged him to meet with the woman, hoping he could help her. During the woman’s meeting with Chaplain Nichols, the Spirit of God touched her heart and she prayed to receive Christ as her Savior. Please keep this woman and the others at HCDC who open their hearts to Jesus in your prayers, asking God to guide them and draw them close to Himself. Ask God to give them wisdom and courage to make needed changes in their lives and to stay close to Him, even when the going is very hard.