We all have little voices, little reminders of what someone may have said to us in past times. They will convince us that no-one listens to us, certainly not God. We can get so wrapped up in religion or a puritan attitude that we ignore any reason for praying or seeking God. Mainly, it is the weight of sin which drags us down. Call it our conscience or that because humans are not always the most forgiving, we taken those thoughts on.
Inmates are no different. They are in a closed environment where someone in your cell or block has been through it before and can give you the value of his ‘expert’ opinion. Sometimes, we can’t forgive ourselves for allowing a situation to develop and this causes our mindset to drift into indifference, denial or even refusal to believe that things can change.
Psalm 1 verse 1 is clear - from the New King James version:
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
The New Living Translation states -
Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
Whether it is a jail or a closed environment where you are not allowed freedom to speak to others, the topic of conversation will normally result in the most talkative person or group imposing there will on everyone else. This verse is giving clear direction to consider where the advice is coming from and whether it can be trusted or not. When you have 24 hours a day to reflect on your situation, it can help when you hear the words of life and truth…
When we attend weekly bible study, the response we have is positive and the questions tend to be directed towards who God is and will He really forgive. It may take a few visits for the truth to begin to penetrate but with the help of one-to-one conversation, the realisation starts to arise. The realisation develops into revelation, where the unbeliever starts to recognize that God really does loves us and, irrespective of what the sin is, He will be listening.
I visited a radio station in the USA a few years ago and they gave me a T Shirt with GOD LISTENS emblazoned on the front. I loved wearing it! The looks, the shaking of the heads, the comments were a great introduction to where the statement was true or not.
This next step of the Life Recovery program is simple but profound.
We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
This is simple because, by faith, we have reached a point where we know that God exists. Whether we believe enough is the next step. “Shortcomings’ is a lovely, all embracing word to cover just about anything that - WE KNOW - is holding us back. This isn’t saying that we are evil or hateful, it us merely recognising that there are flaws in our character which may have caused the issue which faces us. We all have areas which need to be resolved or dealt with before they can develop. Ask any addict when was the first step into their situation. The smallest, most inoffensive, isolated act was left to progress, unchecked.
Conversation, relationships, interaction with family or loved ones will go a long way to develop a healthy mindset. Notice the word ‘humbly’ is used. This is a action, in the same way as committing the sinful act, was an act of the mind. In the original language, humility is a mindset relating to a gentle attitude, a meekness of approach. Jesus proved that meekness was not weakness. He showed strength of character, trust in His Father and a reliance on His character traits because He knew the truth that it is not good for man to be alone, isolated and restricted.
Once we have come to the understanding that God does exist and He loves us, unconditionally. From this truth, we have a belief that He is listening and He will, and is able, to forgive us. This is the strategy that Jesus adopted, this is the one that we adopt when we visit the inmates. Once, that has started to progress, the care and support AFTER their release is of prime importance. God is amazing at showing practical ways of the fruit of a relationship with Him. It starts with good healthy contacts. We should all recognise that He is forgiving and EVERY believer needs to ask for repentance for the smallest action to ensure that the enemy doesn’t get a foothold in our thoughts.
We must never think that we are imperfect and everyone else is perfect. No-one can make that claim but by staying close to the Lord and maintaining a right relationship with believers we begin the move away from temptation. Sharing difficulties and attending church are helpful towards being reconciled to God.
Please pray for our weekly contacts in Corrections that they will be healthy and positive - directed towards the rehabilitation of the inmates.