Sunday, November 20, 2016

Life with a Capital L.

Many people wander aimlessly through a life with a lower case letter "l", breathing the air and eating the food.   Failing to grasp the deep meaning of possessing a soul, they merely exist on a daily basis.  Gazing at the mirror, they view their own reflection and inspect a me they see instead of the me God wants them to be.  Unfortunately the bottom line is that some people are willing to just survive when God wants them to thrive.  Can it be true that God's desire for us is that we refuse to settle for a life that's second best?  Thanks be to God for the capacity to realize that life isn't meant to be lived in the lower case.  Instead we can truly live Life with a Capital L in Christ.  The giant L describes the Life with God.  It's New Life, Eternal Life, a Life of incredible fullness in Jesus Christ. 

This Life with a capital L is described decisively in the Gospel of John.  As the Gospel writer John recognized, it is Father God who initiates the action by sending His Son Jesus into a world in desperate need (see John 3:16-17).   It is only through Jesus that God does His work inside us and among us, bringing about newness.  Thanks be to God!  In fact, John summarized the importance of this fact in his Spirit-inspired purpose statement: "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."  (John 20:31)   Truly the life of fullness comes as a result of faith in Jesus Christ.  In his important volume The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Frederick Dale Bruner spells out this truth: "John's Gospel believes that "Life" in the word's full sense occurs only where there is trust in ... Jesus.  Life exists, in the Gospel's conviction, where there is no longer the abysmal dread of death, the awful weight of guilt, the horrid emptiness of meaninglessness, the lifeless absence of God, and the futile quest of the world's multiple gods and idols.  Life is present wherever Jesus, and all that he means, is appreciated and finally trusted."  (p. 1196)

Sometimes this Life is misunderstood as something received in the distant future when Christ returns.  However, God's intention is for your Full Life with Him to begin right here and right now.  Recently we completed a four week course at the prison to prepare men for either baptism or profession of faith.  The final class described the Christian life.  In summary, the Christian life includes but is not limited to prayer, worship, walking the walk, love, service and mission.  One of the participants in the class, Rodney now understands that his life in prison is full of purpose.  He writes to encourage fellow inmates to "use this time in prison as a mission and not an intermission in your life."  Using prison as a mission means seeking out hurting individuals who are hungry and thirsty for the Lord.  Rodney is practicing what he preaches since he is one of a dozen men at the prison ready to begin the Stephen Ministry program.  Receiving the Stephen Ministry training will enable Rodney to reach out skillfully and effectively by giving quality Christian care to those in need.  Rodney concludes these thoughts with a prayer to his All Knowing Almighty Father that "I may whole heartedly follow your mission for my life and bring glory to your Kingdom.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen."  Will you share Rodney's prayer?  Pray that God's Spirit will move inside the members of New Life Prison Community to create newness and Life with a Capital L.  Pray too that God will invigorate your life so it will become a purpose-filled Life that's lived well for Him.

Rick Admiraal is the pastor of New Life Prison Community, a prison congregation in Newton, Iowa. New Life is in the middle of its 6th year of ministry to the incarcerated.  Rick & his wife Rose have a son and a daughter: John is a junior year at Calvin College while Annaliese is a freshman at Pella Christian High School.  Pella is home for the Admiraal family.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Eraser

Remember elementary school back in the day?  If you made a mistake on your writing or math you simply grabbed your No. 2 pencil with the pink eraser and started over.  God has an eraser too. One of the men in the prayer group gave me this Eraser poem recently.  I hope you know about God's eraser and the freedom it can bring to you.

Monday, May 4, 2015

So What's Next?

So what's next?  You may ask New Life that question after Brothers-in-Blue climbed the mountain peaks.  Well here are five things to look forward to:

  • Pentecost Service at the Newton Prison on the 3rd Thursday of May.
  • Weekly studies at the prison featuring "Doing His Time" and "Grace" by Max Lucado.
  • Baptism Service at the Newton Prison on the 3rd Thursday of June.  This is where the fruits of Brothers-in-Blue are harvested.
  • July 11 concert by Christian rock group Piercing the Darkness.
  • Pedal for Prisoners fundraiser at the end of July (our 5th straight effort on the bicycles)

Please pray for us as we ride the Spirit wave of God's revival at the prison.

Brothers-in-Blue - Part III

Here is a poem that Rick C. wrote after experiencing his first Brothers-in-Blue at Newton Prison this April.

We are Brothers-in-Blue
Drenched in Red
and Robed in White.

Praise God for Change!

Rick C. loved the worship times embedded in the Brothers-in-Blue.  He often sat in the front row.

As for me I'm thankful to everyone who played a key role in the Brothers-in-Blue event at Newton Prison on April 23-26.  There were many New Life volunteers represented as well as others coming as far away as Spencer and Cedar Rapids.  I'm especially grateful to Mark Willson - our fearless leader!  Mark combined a nice balance of humor and spirituality.  

This event helped men to discover a new way of life while drawing closer to God.  62 inmates and 19 volunteers completed the program.  Two of our volunteers were living, breathing role models for the men at the prison, having been locked up at one time in their past.  Overall, it was an absolutely inspirational event for all of us involved.

We were very grateful for the cooperation that we received from the staff.   We know that this event is beneficial for the men to discover a new way of life as they draw closer to God.

This is now the third year for the Brothers-in-Blue at NCF.  I know that this event requires additional effort from volunteers and staff.  However, we trust that all this extra effort will be worthwhile due to the positive impact.  It'd be great if this event could be held once again in the spring of 2016.  To paraphrase the famous words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "We'll be BACK!"

Friday, January 9, 2015

Blessings Behind Bars

 There are blessings from our brothers behind bars.  You just need to open your eyes so that you can recognize them.  One of our brothers in Christ wrote out the final verse of an inspirational Psalm - Psalm 19:14.  It is quite familiar yet strikingly beautiful.  It is prayerful, challenging the self to become the person he/she was created to be.  It also reminds us that God is our Rock and our only source of salvation.  He is the strong one who comes to bring about redemption.  It's just one more reason to praise Him.  

On the back of the baptism class booklet, one of the men at the prison drew this creative picture of what looks to be the "New Life Leaf" with an embedded cross.  I like what this picture has to say.  The green growth of inner transformation happens in and through the cross of Christ.  He is the inspiration for us.  If growth is to occur it must come in Christ, through Christ and for Christ.  And that's just one more reason to praise Him.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Alphabet Soup

One of the guys at our prison Bible study loves to do acronyms.  He is coming up with this form of "Alphabet Soup" all the time.  Sometimes he shares them with me and other times he will share them with the entire group.  Good stuff!  I hope you enjoy these.

"Every sinner has a future, because every sinner has a past."



(See how he flipped those two around?)

Here's one more.


Friday, December 19, 2014

The One in the Spotlight

Spotlight on Jesus

I'm not sure what experience you've had with spotlights.  Maybe you've seen spotlights at a car dealership shining a bright beam of light across the night sky.  The idea is to get your attention so that you'll be drawn in to the large inventory of brand new trucks, cars, and SUV's fully equipped with four wheel drive so that you don't slip and slide through the holiday streets.  Hoping to sell you a shiny new automobile or two, the car dealership uses the spotlight to make you as mesmerized as a moth moving in on a light bulb in your garage. 

The marketplace may focus our attention on products to purchase but God calls us to place the spotlight on Jesus.  This call didn't start in the last year or in the last decade or even in the last century.  In fact, two thousand years ago John the Baptist received God's call to put the spotlight squarely on Jesus, the Savior of the World.  Here are a few words in John 1:8 about John the Baptist: "He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light."  It's an important point of clarification.  It wasn't about John.  It was all about Jesus Christ, the Good News from God.  And John fulfilled his mission to call the people to repentance so they could fix their eyes on Jesus.  That's where the spotlight belongs! 

Certainly we can learn a thing or two from the example of John the Baptist.  It's not about us.  It's all about Jesus.  We also need to aim the spotlight directly on the Savior.  On a regular basis volunteers enter prison to shine the Spotlight of Jesus in a very dark place.  Just this past weekend a group of volunteers went into the Fort Dodge prison for a Brothers-in-Blue weekend.  On this four day spiritual retreat, 49 men were able to set aside their normal routines in order to focus their attention squarely on Jesus.  That's the focus of New Life Prison Community volunteers too: the spotlight is on the One at center stage.  His name is Jesus. 

Even in these last few days before Christmas, God continues to call each one of us to place the spotlight on Jesus.  The Christmas holiday season has a million and one distractions: Frosty the snowman and Santa Claus, cookies and candy canes, gift wrap and ornaments, colorful lights and giant inflatables on our front lawns.  These things are not bad in and of themselves but can sometimes distract us from focusing on the Babe born in Bethlehem. How you will shine the spotlight on Jesus this Christmas?  Maybe you'll take a few moments to reflect on the Gift from Heaven before opening your Christmas gifts piled under the tree.  Maybe you'll sing Silent Night or Joy to the World before devouring your Christmas dinner.  Maybe you'll read the Christmas story in Luke 2 for your family devotions.  These are just a few ideas.  Don't limit yourself.  Instead think creatively as to how you and the ones you love can focus your spotlight on Jesus. 

Rick Admiraal is the pastor of New Life Prison Community, a prison congregation in Newton, Iowa.  New Life is wrapping up its fourth year of ministry to men in prison.  New Life certainly appreciates its powerful prayer team, dedicated volunteer force, and loyal support base.  Rick & his wife Rose live in Pella with their daughter.  Their son attends Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.