A Love Story: part one…

A true love story written by a dear sister and friend as told to the ladies inside.

Good Morning My Sisters,

It is always such a JOY to spend time with you.  Today I have more testimony for you.  May I share a beautiful Love story with you?  My love story?  So let’s back up a bit for those of you I haven’t had the joy of meeting.  I did my 3‐ish years inside at Colorado Women’s.  I was released to a halfway house.  After a couple of weeks, I was sent out to find work – on foot each day all over town.  One day I was in a particular part of town where there are many small businesses.  I decided to stop by a non‐profit a friend of mine worked for.   She, too, was a felon and worked there and loved her job.  I dropped off my resume and noticed next door was a Prison Ministry I was familiar with.  So, of course, I stopped into say “Hi”.  It was such a great visit.  I told them I was looking for work and stopped in when I saw their sign.  They invited me to share birthday cake with them as one of the ladies who worked there was celebrating her birthday.  The Pastor/Founder of the ministry joined us and asked me about my job skills.  I have quite a varied background of skills.  When done, he told me of their current data base administrator giving her notice that morning – THAT morning.  She was pregnant and had a toddler.  She and her husband decided for her to be a stay‐at‐home mom.  I was offered the job on the spot.  Our God is amazing!  Of course, I took the job.  We had to jump through some special hoops with the CDOC to allow me to work there, but all went well and I began my employment with them.   My office area was near the back of the building so I was unable to hear people come in the front door.  One day, I heard this booming, joyous laughter.  It certainly caught my attention.  Again, I heard it so I stuck my head around the corner and asked my office mate who it was.  She responded that a friend of the pastor’s was visiting from California and was going to spend a few days in town working on a joint ministry project.   About a half hour later, this tall, buff (big shoulders), brown eyed, gentle giant came into my area.  He introduced himself as “David” and asked me my story.  He’d already been told it up front, but asked me to share.  I gave him the abbreviated version.  He asked if he might pray with me.  Of course – I never refuse prayer.  He prayed the first of many beautiful, articulate, blessings over me.  I was a bit overwhelmed at what he prayed.  It was like he knew my struggles and me.  When he left, I offered to shake his hand and thanked him. He boldly told me he didn’t shake hands and gave me the warmest bear hug I have ever received.   He came by once more during the week.  We prayed.  I got hugged – he made quite the impression. Over the next couple of years, we spoke often on the phone.  We always prayed.  He always showed a genuine interest as I was released, did ISP, then parole and was finally on my own.   About that time, he decided to move to Colorado and work part time at the ministry.  He quickly became a close friend.  I booked him and others into prisons to minister to the men of CDOC.  He had a regular Bible study at the local jail.  He always shared what he was teaching and how it had gone.  We often prayed for the inmates he visited.  We were a team to visit churches to promote and share the ministry.  This was the best as he was bold in his worship and outspoken and confident in his beliefs.  It was fun to overwhelm the most conservative churches that didn’t know what to think of this gregarious man who loved Jesus more than life.  His name, David – a man after God’s own heart – suited him perfectly. At one point, David made contact with his former high school sweetheart who lived out of state.   Her husband had died a few years earlier.  They reconnected and their relationship seemed to blossom over the phone and Internet.  They decided it was time for him to visit her over the holidays and take their relationship another step.  We, the office, staff was thrilled at this new found happiness for him.  About a week after he left, he called me to say he was on his way home.   He said she wasn’t who she used to be and he wasn’t who he used to be and they weren’t going to work out for a number of reasons.  He was heart broken.  He was to get home the next afternoon.  I told him (didn’t ask) he was going to my church’s night at the zoo with me that next night.  He needed a little pick‐me‐up.  We went and sang Christmas carols around a fire pit, made s’mores and got accosted by the little kiddos from my Sunday school class.  At one point, we found ourselves on the carousel acting and laughing like children.   When the ride was done, he helped me down by taking my hand.  When I was safely on the ground, he didn’t let go of my hand.   Hmmm We held hands for the remainder of the night.  We spoke of our friendship and how much we cared for each other.  I had no interest in dating as I still considered my life to be a bit of a mess  – felon, and all.  He told me that our pastor had told him I was “off limits” that first day we’d met.   We set those things aside and confessed our true feelings for each other.  From that moment, he began to “court” me – genuinely, biblically, court me.  I have never had a man so honor me and treat me with such beautiful respect.    One of many sweet things he did was buy me roses.  He always found a particular kind – creamy white pedals on the outside, with a deep pinkish red on the inside so the red would curl outward as the buds opened up.  Beautiful.  I never could find them when I looked but they were the only ones he would buy for me.

white rose red tip

About three months into our new relationship, he invited me to a fancy big dinner and told me to  “dress up” -something I didn’t often do.  I dressed up.  We went to the restaurant and ate an exquisite meal.  I was stuffed.  He asked me what I would like for dessert.  Not a thing – I was stuffed.  No, he said.  The desserts here are amazing.  No, I really can’t eat another bite.  He was quite insistent.  I finally agreed to share one dessert.  I then learned that ‘dessert’ was the que for the wait staff and restaurant manager to bring out this enormous bouquet of flowers – including my special roses.  David dropped to one knee and asked for my hand in marriage.  I later found out he had called my dad (out of state) to ask his permission.  Yes, oh Yes!  How I loved this Godly man. We chose a date a few months away.  Our pastor at work would do the honors.  My best friend agreed to stand with me.  I had chosen my dress – purple.  We had chosen a beautiful outdoor location.  All things were falling perfectly into place.

…To be continued…

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Bible Study & Prayer …

Before class began, one of the women asked me to pray for her because she had just finished a very difficult program designed to help her stay away from drugs once she was released.

She felt so good graduating from that program, but was faced with yet another difficulty. The prison system put her on farm duty, which meant she had to work outside for eight hours a day on a farm harvesting crops.

You know how hot it has been lately. We have had temperatures in the 100’s now for several straight weeks.

I really felt bad for this inmate. She is not a young girl and not in the best of health. I personally felt that it was not a good idea for her to be in that unbearable heat for eight hours.

The other inmates all had ideas on how she could get out of the farm work. I listened for a while and their ideas were all based on deception and rebellion.

Finally, I said, “Listen, ladies, I have a better idea. Why don’t we pray and ask God for His help in this situation. If you belong to Him, he will take care of you. Remember that Jesus Himself said, Apart from Me you can do nothing. And Paul reminded his followers that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So the only way to face any difficult situation is to take it to Jesus in prayer. We simply cannot face all the trials that this life serves us without Jesus. But with Our Lord in the situation His grace is sufficient for us.

So we spent some time asking God for His help for this inmate. God knows our frame and our limitations. He never leaves us or abandons us. Listen to this story of great faith in the book of Acts. Luke told this account of his friends Paul and Silas who were whipped with rods and then thrown into prison and chained so that they could not even move.

about midnight paul

 

Acts 16:16-34
Luke says, As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Paul and Silas were beaten and chained up in a prison because Paul cast a demon out of a young girl who was being used by certain men to earn money. Once the demon was cast out the girl was useless to those evil men. So they threw The apostle Paul and Silas in prison. Now that was a very difficult situation to be in. But how did those godly men respond. They prayed.

There are three things I see in this story that we can apply to our lives and situations.

The place of prayer in the life of a believer. Paul, Silas and Luke were on their way to pray. Prayer was the greatest work that these men did. Without prayer, their work was empty and powerless. God has given us a great privilege — the gift of prayer — the opportunity to talk directly with Him, the Creator of the universe.

To ask Him for help in our time of need, to thank Him for His blessings, to seek His forgiveness for our sins, and to plead for the life of our loves ones. What a gift!

We can’t even approach our president to ask for help when we need it. And he is only a man just like us. There is no chance in the world to get an audience with the Queen of England, and she is only a woman, just like us.

But we can come directly into the throne room of heaven and approach Almighty God. He will never turn us away. He always has time for us. We don’t even need an appointment. We don’t have to call ahead of time to make sure He’s home.

We just come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, as Hebrews 4:16 says. When Paul and Silas were chained up in the prison cell, bloody and bruised from the beating they had just endured, they couldn’t sleep, they wouldn’t complain, and they refused to lose hope.

Their hearts were filled with praise for the God they knew was with them. The Scripture says, At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.

In the worst of conditions, these men were praying and praising God. What an example for us. We are probably never going to be beaten and chained and imprisoned. We are comfortably settled in our homes. Yet how many of us neglect this great privilege of prayer.

The second thing I see in this story was the result of the men’s prayer. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. It was a miracle! God sent an earthquake to break the chains and set them free.

Our prayers reach to God’s throne. He hears our weakest plea for help. He will not turn a deaf ear to our prayers! When the Israelites cried out to Him to deliver them from slavery in Egypt, He told Moses, I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. Ex 3:7. God told Moses that He was coming down to deliver them out of the land of slavery and bring them into a good and large land a land flowing with milk and honey.

And then finally, I see the effect of our prayers on others. The jailer whose life was in jeopardy if the prisoners escaped, fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, and he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

The Jailer recognized the hand of God in their release from their chains. And he wanted in. Whatever power was responsible for the earthquake, he knew was the Almighty power and he wanted to be a part of that. He had heard the prayers and singing the Paul and Silas were doing at midnight. He knew they were not just ordinary prisoners. These were men whose words were heard by the One True God of Heaven! And he wanted to be a part of that family. In fact his whole family became believers in Jesus and were baptized.

This difficult situation turned into such a blessing not only for Paul and Silas, but for a family that were lost in sin and hopelessness. It all began with prayer and it all finished in prayer.

Do you know what The female prisoner who feared working at the farm said after we prayed? She said “I know God is in control and even if I died of the heat, I know where I will go and I am not afraid.”   That’s what prayer does. Prayer stabilizes us, gives us hope, helps us to see our situation from God’s eyes, not our own, settles our hearts so that we can truly believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

~written by a R.O.C. volunteer

Update: The lady was taken off of the farm crew a week later. God answered her prayer.

A short note from R.O.C.

A note from a Relying On Christ volunteerpic-with-bible     

     ROC, relying on Christ, lives up to its name. Without Him we would not be able to minister God’s truth and His love to these precious women. He is so faithful in bringing speakers, worship leaders and prayer warriors to our monthly Sunday worship services. Last month we were all so blessed to hear from a former inmate who has continued to walk with the Lord and who encouraged the ladies to continue to walk with Him especially once they are released. The ladies were elated to meet someone who made it with the Lord’s help.

Wednesday night Bible Studies are equally exciting. We have so many ladies attending that sometimes we have to turn some away because of limits on attendance due to limited space. The spiritual growth we see in these ladies is so very encouraging. Bibles and pens in hand they come ready to hear what the Spirit has to say to them. The discussions, the questions, the comments and the personal testimonies of God’s work in their lives bless our hearts to no end. We have studied the Faith chapter in the Book of Hebrews and what James has to say about faith, and we are currently going through the Book of Esther. In their weekly prayer requests they pour out the cries of their hearts and the praise and thanksgiving in their spirits, and we on the outside can see how difficult it is for these women to endure the separation from their families.

We have said goodbye to several of the ladies and continue to pray for their close walk with the Lord on the outside, reconciliation with family members, and success in finding jobs, housing, and all the appropriate necessities for living in a world without razor fences and dull green uniforms. Please continue to pray for these ladies. Most of them will be leaving us at some time and we sincerely want them to succeed in their lives, especially spiritually.

 

The Master’s Chosen Slaves

slaveofchrist

A few notes from Pastor Dan’s sermon to the women:

The Master chooses His slaves. The slave doesn’t choose his Master.

God chose Noah to build the ark. Noah did not come to God saying I will build an ark for you God. Noah was given grace.

God chose Abraham out of his family’s idol making factory and he didn’t even know where he was going. God changed his name to Abraham. Abraham didn’t request to be chosen.

God chose Moses to go back to Egypt. Moses did not go to God and ask if he could go back to set his people free.

Pastor Dan read a true story from the 1800’s stating the desire of a slave who wanted to be purchased by a worthy master. Nothing he could do or say would make the master purchase him. The same is true for us. There is nothing in us that would cause Christ to purchase us as His chosen slave. It is by grace alone, through Christ alone and for God’s glory alone.

Master’s chose and purchased their slaves. Our Master paid a heavy price for His chosen slaves. He paid for us with the price of Christ’s blood.

He read through the beginning letters of Romans, James, Peter, Jude, Revelation and how each one opens the scriptures stating they are a slave (bondservant/servant) of God and Christ Jesus.

If we are a slave of Christ’s know we were bought with a price; may we not become slaves of men.

Who is our Master?

Serve Him!

Our Beliefs

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Sola Scripture: Scripture Alone

We believe in Sola Scriptura, or Scripture Alone, as the basis for our faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:15-4:4; Psalm 19:7-9; Psalm 119:1-176; 2 Peter 1:3-11). Within this reformed distinctive is the foundation of all we do, i.e., that the Bible is sufficient for what we do and how we do what we do. We do not believe the local church is to be a place for entertainment with skits, dramas, lights and show, but the drawing near to God in passionate worship in song, prayer and listening to the preaching of sacred Scripture, which alone is able to grow us toward the likeness of Christ.

Sola Fide: Faith Alone

We also believe salvation is by faith alone (i.e. Sola Fide), without some religious ritual or good works somehow buying our way into heaven (Ephesians. 2:8-9; Romans 3:23-31; Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:1-4:3). Within this reformed distinctive is the glorious good news that Jesus Christ offers salvation as a free gift to anyone who places their faith in His Person and work.

Sola Christa: Christ Alone

Central to our burden and that of the Reformers is the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e., Sola Christo), whose Person and work are at the core of all our assembled worship times (I Corinthians 2:1-5; Luke 24:25-32; John 5:39; Colossians 1:15-2:23). We believe the local church is a family where the beauty of Christ is to be set forth in the powerful explanation of Scripture, where His majesty is set before us continually and talking of Him becomes a natural aspect of our Christian lives. We believe the wonders of Christ, His centrality and our sufficiency in Him should be the theme of our praise in song.

Sola Gratia: Grace Alone

Further, we believe salvation is a free and gracious gift by God (i.e., Sola Gratia) not earned by anyone (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 2:11-13; Matthew 11:29-30; Isaiah 55:1-2). It is the favor God gives to His people, based on nothing in them but only upon HIs own love and determination. In essence, grace is shorthand for the whole wonder of a gratuitous salvation that not only forgives sin and removes our guilt but really transforms us progressively into the image of Christ by the might working of the Spirit. The Reformed distinctive of grace alone not only freed the thousands who were in Roman Catholic bondage but gave them a sense of awed jubilation, a song in their heart, a smile on their faces and a deep joy to share – salvation by grace though faith.

Sola Dei Gloria: Glory to God Alone

Obviously, the whole of salvation and life are focused toward the glory of God (i.e. Sola Dei Gloria). This is the Reformers’ conclusion of the other sola statements, i.e., as God is seen to be at the center of the whole process of gracious salvation and also at the center of all of life and eternity. Reading the sermons of Luther and Calvin, one gains a refreshing high view of their passion for the glory of God, almost a fanatical god-centeredness that consumed their hours, days, weeks, months and years.  All that they did, thought, said and taught promotes God’s glory.

Lordship Salvation

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The gospel that Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow him in submissive obedience, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer. Jesus’ message liberated people from the bondage of their sin while it confronted and condemned hypocrisy. It was an offer of eternal life and forgiveness for repentant sinners, but at the same time it was a rebuke to outwardly religious people whose lives were devoid of true righteousness. It put sinners on notice that they must turn from sin and embrace God’s righteousness.
Our Lord’s words about eternal life were invariably accompanied by warnings to those who might be tempted to take salvation lightly. He taught that the cost of following him is high, that the way is narrow and few find it. He said many who call him Lord will be forbidden from entering the kingdom of heaven ( Matt. 7:13-23).
Present-day evangelicalism, by and large, ignores these warnings. The prevailing view of what constitutes saving faith continues to grow broader and more shallow, while the portrayal of Christ in preaching and witnessing becomes fuzzy. Anyone who claims to be a Christian can find evangelicals willing to accept a profession of faith, whether or not the person’s behavior shows any evidence of commitment to Christ. In this way, faith has become merely an intellectual exercise. Instead of calling men and women to surrender to Christ, modern evangelism asks them only to accept some basic facts about Him.
This shallow understanding of salvation and the gospel, known as “easy-believism,” stands in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches. To put it simply, the gospel call to faith presupposes that sinners must repent of their sin and yield to Christ’s authority. This, in a nutshell, is what is commonly referred to as lordship salvation.

 

*From Grace Fellowship’s Distinctive Doctrine.

 

An offer of Thanksgiving

The Pastor shared a humbling message with the women yesterday. He spoke on Psalm 50.

Sometimes our worship services are mere ritual. Do we think we’re offering something great to God with our money, gifts and time? God already owns it all and He knows our heart’s attitude.

Ps. 50:9–13 “I will not accept a bull from your house.”
God refuses mere ritual; it is an abomination to Him. He, unlike the pagan deities, needs nothing; He created everything and owns everything.

Ps. 50:14 “Offer to God . . . thanksgiving.” Here is the sacrifice that always pleases Him.

Yes, as men we have thought more highly of ourselves than we ought. May we be humbled and bring God an offering of thanksgiving for all He has done. May Christ Jesus be glorified.

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