Paul says that the goal is to obtain Christlikeness. To know Him, to be like Him and to have His mind, we should not let anything take our focus off that goal. I believe it’s not only the intention of our Heavenly Father, but His ultimate goal, that we be conformed to the very image of His Son (“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” Romans 8:29a). But in order for that to happen, we must start by doing this one thing, “…forgetting those things which are behind.” The Apostle Paul had big reason to forget those things that were behind. He had held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
The inmates at the Macomb County Jail, and all of us for that matter, have done things that we are extremely ashamed of and we live in the tension of what we have been and what we want to be. But because Christ is our hope, we have to let go of past guilt and look forward to what God will help us become, not continually dwell on the past.
In the last month I was able to meet with two different inmates, both had a lengthy rap sheet. The one man lost his dad to heart disease while he was residing at the Macomb County Jail. The guilt and shame of not being there, in person, with his father during his last hours was enough to send him over the edge. He wanted, desperately, to make things right between him and his dad, to make amends, ask for forgiveness and tell him he loved him. We made arrangements for him to call his dad. He was able to talk to him briefly just moments before his dad passed from this life into the next. I was able to meet with him just prior to riding out to prison. He still beats himself up over past mistakes and failures, making it next to impossible to move forward to the goal of Christlikeness.
The second man accidently shot and killed his friend with a gun he thought was not loaded. He had grown up in the Christian faith, making a commitment to Christ at the age of 13. But at the age of 25 he turned instead, to atheism and nihilism, becoming an apostate to the Christian faith. He told me that he didn’t believe there was even such a thing as a soul; he had become that deceived. But, can you say, “Our God works in mysterious ways?” Staring smack dab in the face of a 2nd degree murder charge, he finds himself behind the slider at Macomb County Jail. Behind the slider is reserved for very high security inmates who cannot mingle with the general population. They are let out only once a day for 1 hour to stretch, and during this time the rest of the population (approximately 75 men) have to be locked down. During his time behind the slider, he starts to ponder his past life. He begins to do some self-evaluation and examines his past relationship with His savior. There, in that 7’x9’ cell, he begins to sense the presence of God and even through this horrible season of his life, he realizes and comes full circle and is convinced that this God he once put his faith and trust in, has neither left him nor forsaken him. Although this man feels terrible about the death of his friend, he knows he’s been forgiven and that his Redeemer lives! His charge was reduced to involuntary manslaughter and he will serve a prison term of 3 to 5 years, but he has just recently recommitted his life and will to Jesus Christ. Now, doing that very thing it takes to move forward in this business of Christlikeness, he is “…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching for those things which are ahead.” The light has truly come on for this guy and it was truly humbling and uplifting to witness, first hand, the peace of God which transcends all understanding keeping this man’s heart and mind! Glory be to Jesus our Prince of Peace!
Like Paul, none of us have attained perfection, but we press on that we
may all lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us. He bought us with His precious blood, so that we can be redeemed and pass on the Good News that there is a Savior who saves us from our sin stained lives.
Macomb County Jail personnel and the Chaplain’s office coordinated to get all the names of male and female inmates who will be spending Christmas with us. If those inmates had children under the age of 18, they were allowed to participate in Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program. As a result of the cooperation between the Chaplain’s office, Jail Personnel and Prison Fellowship, 84 children will receive gifts from their mom or dad who are incarcerated this Christmas. This aids in maintaining strong relationships between inmates and their children during incarceration. Angel Tree also allows volunteers to share the love of Christ by ministering to the children and families left behind.
Gateway to Glory is proud to announce another graduation. Pete J. has completed one year in the Gateway aftercare and has attained one year of sobriety! His mentor, Jim, says of Pete: “I see that he wants to give the Lord more control and give God the reins of his life. He is also learning not to react impulsively. He is learning self control.” Congratulations to Pete!
“…reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I [we] press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Keep your eyes on the prize, He’s everlasting and eternally worth it!
All glory to the King Eternal,
Chaplains Steve and Robin Malek