Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sad Stories--part 1

Prison ministry is no mean source of sad stories. Young men with lives shattered by sin--drugs, alcohol, lying, stealing, sexual perversions, etc. Old men with lives shattered by sin, thirty, forty years later, still paying the terrible cost extracted by the sins of their youth.....

It's also a place filled with great stories of God's redeeming love, of His power to change lives and to make new creations of fallen men. What a blessing it is to fellowship with our brothers who have been snatched as brands from the burning and washed in the Blood of the Lamb of God!

Last summer, I thought I had come across an inspiring example of this New Life in Christ in an inmate I'll call Brother G. In the middle of the week, I had gone into a minimum security unit where we hold weekly services (starting our 3rd year next month) and some of our "congregation" came up with an air of excitement to introduce a new resident in their unit: Brother G, a 40-ish black man with gang tattoos creeping out from under his t-shirt, up onto his neck, cheeks, even his forehead.

He proved to be a soft-spoken, humble fellow, with a mild speech impediment and an apparent love for Christ and His Word. He told me that he had seen me with the chaplain in the high security unit just the day before and could not wait to get involved in worship services in his new unit. And so he did, attending regularly our services and some of the others during the week, actively participating in testimony times and singing hymns of praise.

All his conversation was about our Lord; his Bible was nearly worn out and almost every verse was underlined or highlighted. He was always full of questions and seeking deeper understanding of God's Word. He'd not been raised in church and had no background at all regarding Christianity. All he knew was what he read in his Bible. He told me he'd been saved in July 2006, so he was a very young believer.

One story will illustrate his level of understanding scripture. We're usually seated just inside the door of the chapel as the men come in for our services. Most of them shake hands with us as they walk by. Brother G would come in, shake hands with the men who were seated ahead of me, shake my hand, then go to his pew, bypassing my wife. One night he asked her if he was doing the right thing, not shaking her hand. It didn't seem right to him but, he said, his Bible said that he should not touch a woman. So, we had a talk about that and he was much relieved to find that it was permissible for him to shake hands with a woman!

We were able to give him a good study Bible (MacArthur) and he reported that he was spending hours in it each day. He was a slow reader, a struggling reader, but he worked hard. Despite his hesitation because of the speech impediment, he would participate in the scripture readings and public prayer during the services.

In the Spring of this year, he began missing some of our services. I knew that he had had some conflicts with some other professing Christians as he was wont to confront them about inconsistencies in their lifestyle, pointing out that their behavior was not in line with the Word. Prisons are, just like the "free world," a place of "haves" and "have nots"--some inmates have money and some are penniless. Some have jobs (scarce in some prisons) and get $35-75/monthly; some have families which send them money; and some, like Brother G, have nothing. The state supplies essentials like toothpaste but the "wealthy" inmates have bi-monthly commissary purchases laden with canned drinks, tuna fish, Ramen noodles, and other delicacies.

Brother G, as I've said, knew only what the Bible says about the Church. He made the mistake of reading Acts 2 and taking it literally. He had the idea that the brethren who had should share with those who had not, liberally and joyfully. So, there were conflicts there, and disappointments.

When I saw him and asked about his absences and asked if he was going to other services, his usual reply was that he just holed up in his cell and read the Bible, staying away from other inmates as much as possible. I encouraged him to not forsake the assembling together with other believers and showed him the scriptural teachings on fellowship in the Church. He was also discouraged by having attended several times the services of one of the "baptismal regeneration" bunch, where the preacher openly scoffed at his testimony and mocked him because he had not been "properly baptized". be continued

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Powerful Preaching

For years, my wife and I, along with most church-goers, endured preaching which was at best mediocre. As our hunger for the Word increased, we sought out men who were preaching with power and listened to them expound God's Word via recordings, radio broadcasts, etc. During the past year, God lead us to our new church home where we are blessed with this kind of powerful preaching "first hand." Not only is our senior pastor endued with power but, to use one of my sports metaphors, the church has a deep bench. We've heard 3 or 4 other men preach from that pulpit and are grateful to God that they too demonstrate great depth and boldness in their preaching. These are not "guest speakers" but other members of the staff/congregation of this church.

During the lean years, when we had to travel far or use recordings to satisfy our thirst for the Word, God brought us into contact with some of His mighty men of today and the recent past. One of these men is Dr Alan Cairns, until recently Pastor of Faith Free Presbyterian Church in Greenville SC. A native of Northern Ireland, Dr Cairns was in Greenville for about 25 years until his recent retirement. Over 2000 of his sermons are available free on We have downloaded 400 of them and have listened to about 200 of those. Just recently, we listened to two messages which might make the "all time best" list for us and I'm going to put the links here so that you can listen to them if you like.

First, a message entitled The Law of God from a text in Exodus 20 which is about the relationship of God's Law and God's Grace:

Then, this message entitled The Love of Christ, based on Ephesians 3. A far cry from the syrupy, sentimental "love" we hear from so many pulpits....powerful!

And, here's a link to our church's website where you will find past services archived (audio and video):

Saturday, October 13, 2007

About this blog......

As will soon become apparent, I'm new to this blog world. Let me begin with a few comments about the name I chose for this blog. Perhaps you know the scripture from which it's taken:

Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
(2Ti 2:7-9)

I could not begin to count the number of times I've read that passage over the past 30 years, but it struck me particularly and personally most recently and I've had it on my heart and mind. This week, as I started doodling around setting up this blog, that phrase seemed to "fill the bill" for the name.

Thank God that His Word is not bound! Paul bound in chains in that Roman prison knew that his sovereign God was not thwarted by man's efforts to disrupt the spread of the Gospel. In fact, God used persecution of the Church as a means to expand its influence.

Thank God that His Word is not bound by the limitations of the men who preach it! I am an "uneducated country preacher" but am able to trust God to use my flawed efforts to bring glory to His name. As concerned and conscientious as I am about preaching pure doctrine, rightly dividing the Word, I am all too aware of my propensity for error. How encouraging are His promises!

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
(Isa 55:11)

The great evangelist John Wesley held some confused positions regarding justification and sanctification but God used him in a wonderful way and thousands upon thousands of souls were saved under his ministry. Our sovereign God is not dependent upon the intellect and education of preachers.

Thank God that His Word is not bound by the limitations of the men who hear it! There are those, even in the Church, who think certain classes of men are beyond redemption. Since I work in prison ministry, I hear that kind of stuff frequently....."Why do you go out there?....with those people?" There are some "hard cases" in our prisons, but my God is able!

Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
(Heb 7:25)

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
(Heb 4:12)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
(Eph 2:8)

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
(Rom 10:17)

Thank God, His Word is not bound!