Here's the latest inspirational post as I attempt to tune out the strains of classic ballet on the flat screen while my daughter slips into a medicated, post-op slumber after this morning's wisdom teeth removal ... 😬
Remember those in prison as if you were fellow prisoners. Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)
Not too long ago, the Lord led me to read through the book of Jeremiah.
Tough reading. Not the stuff of Hallmark cards. Far from uplifting and whimsical like the Psalms (most of them anyway). But here and there I discovered beautiful, rock-solid promises tucked within this weighty book.
When I came to chapter 37, my heart wrenched at one particular verse.
“Jeremiah was put in a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time.” (verse 16)
First, he was innocent. Then, imprisoned for "... a long time".
What, several hours? A day. A year … or more?
God doesn’t say.
If someone you cared about was put in prison for “a long time”, wouldn’t you beg to know exactly how long?
I wondered ... Did Jeremiah have anyone on the outside with whom to correspond who knew of his predicament?
A bigger question is, if he'd written them, would they have responded?
A few days after I read Jeremiah's account, God nudged me to contact the director of a local prison ministry with which I’ve served for several years. According to the director, Forgiven Ministries receives letters on a regular basis from inmates all over the country. A good number of them ask for girlfriends, money—that which the ministry can’t (nor wouldn't) offer. But there are those precious percentages of inmates who are sincerely seeking, the eyes of their heart and mind opened and curious.
The questions go something like …
*Does God care?
*Is He out there?
*Will anyone provide me with spiritual material … a Bible … so I can know him better?
*My faith isn't too good, but maybe this is God's way of getting my attention.
These are worthy of response. They need to be acknowledged as if I were one among them.
Heck. Writing is what I do. Why not use the opportunity to let inquisitive inmates know they are seen and heard and being prayed for by name. To assure them of the hope and forgiveness found in Jesus.
It made me consider the four letters Paul wrote to encourage (and admonish) early Christians during the time he was under house arrest in Rome—Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, referred to as the 'Prison Epistles'.
If those select letters received by Forgiven Ministries are due a response, how much more should we respond to Paul's God-breathed letters (II Timothy 3:16)?
All 66 books of the Bible, for that matter—an inerrant collection of letters that provides answers to every fear, regret, sorrow, or stronghold.
As a ministry volunteer, my responsibility is to respond to these letters and direct inmates to the Source of all their needs.
But not one word I write will be effective unless I'm regularly reading (or listening to) God's letters. Because if my spiritual tank is empty, my responses will be also.
Who might benefit from knowing you're praying for their needs, demonstrating your care with action?
When have you experienced a connection with the time (more or less) you've invested in God's word and the quality of your responses to others?
Most important, have you responded to God's love letter to you?
If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NIV)
Thanks for reading!
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Until next time,
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✏️Here's a link to the talk I gave in April with a dear friend of mine. Shining Your Light in Brokenness has received over 135 views!! May it encourage you in seasons of hardship and realign your perspective.