I planned to put up my anniversary/giveaway post, but a.) It's not finished yet and I want to get to bed soon, and b.) I just got from our worship service in prison and I wanted to share that experience with you.
Our God is amazing indeed and He does powerful things through those who say, “Here am I, Lord. Use me.” Our rag-tag prison ministry team can testify to that!
While the chapel was filled to capacity this evening, a restlessness settled among the inmates. As usual, the men gathered in the front enthusiastically sang and participated, but those in the back seemed more content to disrupt and disrespect. The officer in charge escorted a few out early in the service. But still, the cohesiveness I’ve witnessed seemed absent.
I was a little disappointed because selfishly, I’ve come to expect a certain level of spiritual oomph to replenish my stores. (Even as I type this, a voice in head shouts, “It’s not about you! Don’t you get that yet?!” I do, but I’m a slow learner.)
Tonight when we arrived, our leader Bob asked me if I’d lead the prayer. (Me, who would rather go to the dentist/babysit triplets/bathe a cat than speak in front of a crowd?) Apparently my predisposition to say, “No!” hadn’t crossed his mind. I saw no way out, so I agreed—surprisingly with little trepidation.
During our time of singing, I chuckled because between the out-of-tune keyboard and worshippers, never have songs of praise been offered up so joyfully off-key. But I know God heard them in perfect-pitch. Throughout the night I looked out on the sea of faces and prayed, Lord, use us to show these men You, the answer they’re looking for.
Soon enough it was my turn. I stepped up to the podium and grabbed the microphone. You can do it. With bowed heads, together we came to the throne. I had jotted down a few thoughts to use as a guide but much of my prayer came from within, words brought to my lips by holy prompting. The men responded with calls of “amen,” “Thank you, Jesus” and “Yes, Lord.” And in those moments, in those voices, among those broken souls, I encountered Jesus. His power. His love. His grace.
Lord, you used ordinary me for something as glorious as this. Thank you for the honor and privilege.
That’s what so cool about our prison ministry group. By ourselves each of us isn’t that remarkable. But when we show up and join together, each doing his or her part, God takes our offering and makes it extraordinary. It’s not a fluke, it's a promise. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Mt. 18:20 NASB)
Despite the foolishness and chaos of the evening, God had great plans for the night—over twelve men accepted Jesus as their savior or recommitted their life to Him. Praise God.
I want to share one of the verses Bob preached on tonight. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
Rest in the confidence that once you accept Jesus' invitation to “Follow Me,” your hope of salvation is assured.
Have you encountered the Living God? Is He calling you to follow Him somewhere new? Or to do something different? I'll tell you from personal experience, if the voice causes you to tremble a bit, you’re probably heading down the right path.
Come back on Thursday when I’ll host a fun anniversary giveaway…my first ever!