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Friday, November 2, 2018

"The Chain Breaker"

Message summary: We may not all be called to prison ministry but we can all pray for the ministry that is taking place behind prison walls.

Note: A podcast was not prepared for this message. Just too tired and another early morning on Friday!

"Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me'" (Matthew 25:34-40).

This week we have been gleaning lessons from observations we made while walking across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco two weeks ago. The first four dealt with the bridge itself. But today we want to consider a can't miss scene from the bridge as you look toward the city skyline, Alcatraz, which most famously was a federal prison from 1934 until 1963. About twenty years ago when we were out that way to attend my niece's wedding my Mom and I took a tour, which of course required a ferry ride since it's an island. It was an amazing experience.

Due to the harsh waters of the San Francisco Bay the prison had a reputation for being escape proof. "During its 29 years of operation, the penitentiary claimed that no prisoner successfully escaped. A total of 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts, two men trying twice; 23 were caught alive, six were shot and killed during their escape, two drowned, and five are listed as 'missing and presumed drowned'" (Wikipedia)

Prisons are notoriously rough places with huge problems of violence, inmates learning new ways to do evil and recidivism. But today we consider the redemption that extends into the harshest conditions.

I have friends that are prison chaplains such as Manny Cordero, who I went to college with. Manny served his entire career in the federal prison system and is now the leader of our chaplaincy department (my boss). I also consider the labors of several friends in churches I served such as Mike and his wife Kathy who serve as volunteers in a prison in North Carolina and Rick and Tom who take turns leading Bible studies in a prison in Massachusetts. Rick has done this since 1993! What incredible sacrifice with often disappointing results.

Eric 11/1/18However I get to work with the good results! Yesterday morning I visited with Eric, who spent 15 years in a state prison here in Pennsylvania. Eric is doing a good job staying on the right track for several years now and we have the opportunity to encourage him and several other ex-cons we see in the course of our work. (Eric gave me permission to share his photo and story.)

Listing the characteristics of a faithful follower Jesus stated, "I was in prison, and you came to Me". Explaining what he meant He told His disciples (including us) that
"Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me".

We may not all be called to prison ministry but we can all pray for the ministry that is taking place behind prison walls.

For several years I have enjoyed the song "Chain Breaker" by Zach Williams. I just found this version recorded live in a Tennessee prison (link below). What a blessing to see the men sing out. May they all experience the power of the Chain Breaker!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, thank you that whom the Son sets free is free indeed. What a blessing Your redemption is to all of us who have experienced it. We especially pray today for the ministry taking place in prisons all around the world. It can be very hard and discouraging but we thank You for those who are being redeemed and experiencing the wonder of new life. You continue to seek and save the lost and to break the chains that bind us. Amen

Alcatraz (10-18-18)
View of Alcatraz from one of the cable car lines.

Alcatraz (10-18-18)
View of Alcatraz (left) from high above the Golden Gate Bridge

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Chain Breaker"  Video  Zach Williams

Finally today:

Golden Gate Bridge supports
Helping hold up the Golden Gate Bridge!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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