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.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Graduation!

Yesterday I attended the High School Graduation at the prison.  One of the teachers in the education department at the Newton Prison invited me to attend.  Formerly this was called the GED program but now it's called the HiSET - high school equivalency test.  Anyway I'm glad I attended.  I'm proud of all the graduates for what they've accomplished.  It's a big deal for guys who are locked up to finally finish what they've started.  It gives them a feeling of satisfaction that they can overcome obstacles in order to realize their goals.  One of the men graduating had recently been baptized at our November worship service.  He was one of the keynote speakers and emphasized "perseverance" in his talk.  Perseverance is so important in the Christian life too!  Two other graduates had made profession of faith at the November worship service in the prison gym.  One of them was actually the valedictorian of the class having scored quite well.  This man is very quiet in our New Life small groups but if you look at him it appears from his face that he is processing things internally all the time.  His brain is engaged even though he doesn't contribute much to the discussion.  His teachers are encouraging him to go to college because his mind is sharp.  When I spoke with him afterwards I asked him what his best subject was in school.  He said mathematics - that was always a strong point for me too.  Overall it was a feel good moment to attend the graduation ceremony - the men were in cap & gown and also had family members there to witness the proud moment.  I really enjoyed it and hope to attend in future years!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Baptism & Profession of Faith










On November 20, New Life had a Thanksgiving Service in the Newton Prison Gym.  Featured prominently were baptism and profession of faith.  A high-water mark was reached in both: 11 men were baptized and 5 men professed their faith in Jesus Christ.  Glory be to God!

Here are some words from two men who participated.  Denny was the last in line to be baptized.  As it says in the Word, "The first will be last."  Denny had to wait a LONG TIME to be baptized.  He said he first believed when he was 10 years old out in Oregon but his family was not religious.  So he waited until now…  Here are Denny's words: "I wish to thank everyone from New Life.  I was truly blessed by my baptism.  I had wished to be baptized for FORTY YEARS.  Thank you to my extended New Life family.  They truly are a light in a dark place.  For the giver of new life truly is Jesus Christ.  Jesus answered, 'Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.' (John 3:5)  Thank you to everyone that attended my baptism.  The transformation is amazing.  Sincerely a Spirit-filled believer at the Newton Prison."

Matt was one of the 5 guys to make a stand for Christ and profess faith in Christ.  He reads from Psalm 27:1-5 every day as it is a great encouragement to him.  Here is the first verse of that Psalm ~ "The LORD is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?"  Matt understands that the reason for these worship services is "to plant seeds in people's hearts to bring them to Christ."  He took encouragement in seeing two men who were recently baptized reading the Word of God together back at their housing unit.  Here are a few more words from Matt: "When I professed my faith, it helped me in so many ways.  For a long time, I never wanted help with anything and at times felt unworthy.  Though I sometimes struggle still, God makes me feel worthy.  God has shaped me in ways I myself can't understand.  I don't think I'm supposed to understand it but just live as he's making me into a better man so that I can be fulfilled in His name.  Thank you all!  Thank you Lord for everything including my memories of loved ones.  You are a blessing to me.  Love you all.  Thank you for all your help and prayers." 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ministry Report

What's been happening at the prison?  Let me tell you….


On Tuesdays, we've just finished up a study on Ephesians called power prayer.  We had stops in Ephesians 1, 3, and 6 learning that you can pray the prayers of Scripture.  Our final lesson was about the armor of God!  As you can imagine, the armor of God is extremely useful in the prison setting where spiritual warfare is extremely intense!


Soon we'll begin our next baptism and profession of faith class.  For four weeks we'll be preparing men to make a strong public stand for Jesus Christ.  The class has four sessions: Knowing God, God's Story, the Meaning of Baptism and the Christian Life.  November 20 will be our Thanksgiving worship service featuring baptism and profession of faith.  Can't wait!


On Thursdays, we've been viewing the DVD "Satisfied" by Jeff Manion.  So far it's been really interesting.  
Manion, the lead pastor of Ada Bible Church in Michigan, takes a hard look at all our stuff.  Manion reminds us that our identity is in Christ not in all our material possessions.  In the last session (we're at the midway point), Manion brought in a quote from Fred Rogers (the children's show host was also a Presbyterian Minister) - 
"The older I get, the more I've come to believe that nothing I buy can take away my loneliness, fill my emptiness, or heal my brokenness."  Overall this has been a tremendous study.

Both groups have been well attended.  We've been averaging 15-20 men on Tuesday afternoons and 25-30+ men on Thursday nights!  May the Spirit of the Living God continue to move behind prison walls!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mountain Climber!


On Thursday, August 21 New Life will be hosting visitors from Lynnville Friends Church.  The prison gym will hold an inspired worship service.  Pastor Mark Porter will share his testimony and a message from God's Word about being "Called."  Julie Jones will lead the praise team but also share with the men in prison something important she's planning to do in September.  Embracing the challenge, Julie is ready to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise support for One Child Matters.  Watch the video to find out more…


Where Will You Be? from One Child Matters on Vimeo.

The Lord's Prayer

On Tuesday afternoons we've been studying the Lord's Prayer at our prison prayer group.  So far so good.  It's been a highly beneficial study and the group of men attending has been inspired.  One man was moved to write this Acrostic Poem summing up the Lord's Prayer.  He is a deliberative person so he took his time and did a good job.  See what you think.





T ruthfully
H allowed
E dification

L oving
O rdinances
R ecited
D eclare
S overeignty

P rayerful
R epentence
A ssures
Y ahweh's
E verlasting
R efuge

Amen!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Our 4th Pedal for Prisoners


Pedal for Prisoners IV

            This year, three bicycle riders support New Life in their fourth Pedal for Prisoners.  Unfortunately we'll be going our separate ways.  Due to a family wedding, Pastor Rick will be opting out of RAGBRAI.  Instead, he'll ride TOMRV XXXVII.  TOMRV is shorthand for Tour of the Mississippi River Valley.  It's a two day ride in early June featuring gigantic hills and epic views.  Corrine will ride in late July, tackling her 18th RAGBRAI - Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.  The route for RAGBRAI XLII is a fairly flat journey across northern Iowa but still covers 418 miles in one week.  Corrine's ride will traverse Iowa from West to East, starting in Rock Valley and ending in Guttenberg. The riders will enjoy Lake Okoboji and Mason City, hometown of the Music Man!  Finally Bill Schinkel rides in August - Bike Van Buren XXVIII.  This two day ride covers the scenic country in and around Keosauqua, Iowa.  Bill has done this ride before; he loves it so much he's doing it again!            Even though we're doing different bike rides, we're united in our devotion to New Life Prison Community.  We're all riding for one purpose - helping New Life make a huge impact on the men at the Newton Prison.  Will you support New Life financially by sponsoring one of us?