August 29, 2008
In Joshua chapter 22, the Israelites west of the Jordan River prepare to go to war. They’ve already conquered the land that God promised them 400 years ago, so there are no Native Canaanites to conquer. No—they are going to war against the Israelites east of the Jordan River, who have constructed an altar. The westerners assume that the purpose of the altar is to worship God, but inappropriately and disobediently. Knowing that God has held them accountable for the sins of their fellow Israelites in the past (they cite the Peor incident from Numbers 25 and the Achan incident in Joshua 7), this time they confront sin—or the potential for it—head-on. They are prepared for war.
Fortunately for the easterners, a delegation is sent to request an explanation, and war is averted. Just two chapters later, in the last few verses of the book, the author asserts that Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the priests who outlive Joshua—a remarkable statement, considering Israel’s history both before and after Joshua’s time. But during the days of Joshua, discipleship was taken seriously. Sin was taken seriously. The Lord was taken seriously.
We finished our study in Joshua on Wednesday nights at the Brig last week, and we took this past Wednesday to spend our entire time in prayer (as we are now doing on the last Wednesday of every month). This next Wednesday, we will begin a study through Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Attendance at the monthly all-prayer nights is noticeably less. Norm, who is faithful both in attendance and in prayer, asked God to change this—for the Christians in the Brig to see the need to be in prayer for one another, to write down prayer requests, and to pray throughout the week.
Otherwise, attendance has been encouraging lately. There are usually around 10 men from the B-1 dorm. Indeed, those men state that a Revival is occurring there. Alas, the other two male dorms (B-2 and B-3) have had either one or none attending in recent weeks, so the flame of Revival seems unfortunately contained for now. God’s man in B-2 would seem to be Joshua, who has been unable to attend the last two months because of job assignments. God’s man in B-3 is Chris S., a winsome young man who is growing consistently in his faith.
One of the men in B-1, James, is a parole violator having his second visit to the Brig. On his first visit, he showed no signs of spiritual alertness, although he spent many hours talking with Bruce, who has come every Wednesday for over a year now. Upon his parole violation last June, however, the Spirit of God was working in James. He asked to speak to a chaplain, and an Air Force chaplain in Tucson pointed James to the Scripture and nothing has been the same since.
Since meeting James in June, I’d been asking him to put in the paperwork so that I could meet man-to-man with him. I wanted to help him get grounded before he is released (for good) in October. For some reason, the paperwork kept hitting snags, and eventually the Brig chaplain forced the issue. For whatever reason, the Brig has now disallowed one-on-one visits with inmates outside of the regular Bible study time—a practice that has been going on in one form or another since the Brig opened. The chaplain and several other volunteers plan to take action on this, but first there is an inspection coming up that has everyone painting, cleaning, and repairing things (I was told this week that every light bulb in the Brig has been replaced). In the meantime, the chaplain has enabled me to meet with James for thirty minutes before the Bible study on Wednesdays.
In the midst of all the rule bending, breaking, and stretching, there is the possibility that volunteers will once again be granted the freedom to visit with inmates during the weekend visitation period—something we’ve been prevented from doing since early 2005. Please ask God to make this happen—and to allow us to have a Bible to use while we’re visiting.
I made some contacts with some Navigator staff in Tucson in order to find someone who can help James when he is released. They eventually put me in touch with an Air Force chaplain who has been wanting to get involved with jail ministry for the past several months. In a clear work of the sovereignty of God, this is the same chaplain that pointed James to the Scriptures back in June. As James said, this is the man who got this all started. James and I will continue to meet as God provides the time, and when James returns to his wife and children in Tucson this October, the chaplain will help him.
Another man to pray for inside the Brig is William, who put his trust in Christ just a few weeks ago. William is still in the A-1 dorm, awaiting his court martial. He is a vibrant witness to the Gospel, and has brought as many as six friends with him to Bible study on Wednesdays.
If you’ve been reading these letters for a while, you know that I’ve asked for prayer for a man to help with the group on Wednesdays. For the past month, Steven has been joining me and is about to fill out the paperwork to become an official volunteer. Pray for Steven as he learns the ropes of ministering to prisoners and in the military context.
I continue to hear from NCBM “Alumni,” and received a call two weeks ago from Tom, who spent three of his nine years of incarceration at Miramar. Tom lives in Tacoma, Washington, and is involved with a church that he had been in contact with for several years before his release in October of 2007. Tom is dealing with some “acceptance” issues with some people in his church.
I regularly correspond with Javier, who is now serving about five years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Herlong, California (near Reno, Nevada). Javier is asking serious questions about the Faith, and I’m praying that God will provide the time and money for me to make a trip up there sometime soon to visit for a weekend. Javier and I studied through Galatians together when he was released from the Brig back in 2002.
As always, thanks for your continued prayers and support for this ministry.