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Prisons – The Impact On Us All (continued)

June 1, 2013

Man imprisoned, a captive to his own demons or author of his own destruction, seems at times to be the natural state for those that struggle with worldly issues. I am not speaking about prisons constructed of barbed wire fences and large concrete walls but more about the prison that we commit ourselves to when we are separated from God.

As I consider the effect that prison’s have on us, I am drawn back to the article I referenced in yesterday’s post (5-31-2013). If you look at the influence that the prison has on both the inmate and the individuals hired to supervise them (the correction officers (COs)). You find that the concentration of sin that abounds within those walls exacts a heavy toll on those that work there as well as those that are forcibly detained there.

Though there is much evil and temptation within those walls, God is there as well. When I first read the Book of Acts, I was in jail waiting to be released, staring out of a thin slit window to a field guarded by motion detectors, double twelve-foot fences topped with concertina barbed wire with dogs that roamed between those two fences. I pictured God whose presence I felt, delivering me and some of the others from captivity.

Later I began to realize that my freedom had already been given to me as I began to see that God’s love and mercy, His grace had redeemed me from the depths of my sin. That is a place far worse than the physical prison walls that contained me. From that, point on I became aware of my need to share His love whenever I could. The scripture below I think illustrates this better than I ever could.

Acts 16:16-40

New International Version (NIVPaul and Silas in Prison

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household. 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

We see a multitude of lessons how God works in situations where no man can see a positive solution. If you believe, as I do, that we are placed in situations where we have the potential to bring glory and praise to our God because we are only to simply show up and be attentive to His commands. Paul is sitting in prison doing what he yearns to do, giving praise to God. It does not say that he is praying for release for his bonds. During a Bible study one of my fellow inmates said that he would have run out of the place to his freedom. There were times when I would not have had a second thought about joining him, but God had Paul in this situation because Paul had been conditioned and taught by God to obey His commands. He wanted to please God, to love Him as he was loved by Him.

The danger in prison is that the level of evil and temptation is so great. That is why God is there with such an amazing presence. This could be the last chance for some of us to finally “get it”, to understand what God wants from us, our obedience and love. Jesus is present in the Bible studies and the church services. Those that allow Him to join with them find peace and contentment. I can testify to the truth in that statement. Paul, who was imprisoned many times for the sake of our Lord, states in his letter to the Philippians “10I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do all this through him who gives me strength. “ (Philippians 4:10-13 The Holy Bible New International Version (2011))

Satan is also there when he whispers in the ear of an inmate or CO and provokes them into ungodly action. He was there when those female COs decided to succumb to the temptation or pressures of the inmates that they were to be watching. Without a truly righteous guard at the door it is no wonder that these things can and do happen. Without the proper diligence, we can fall prey to the Adversary’s influence. He knows exactly which of our buttons to push and how to get us to doubt and despair.

(continued)

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From → Prison Ministry

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