Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jesus is Gentle

More nuggets from Nouwen:  Today I was reading the May 25th entry from Bread for the Journey.  Needless to say, I liked what I read.

Henri Nouwen writes: Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and freedom to prisoners (Luke 4:18-19) in all he says, and thus he reveals God's immense compassion.  As his followers, we are called to that same gentleness.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pedal for Prisoners

Front Row (L to R):

Corinne Verhoef, Karin Sajdak, Corrine Verschuure
Back Row  (L to R)
Gary Verhoef, Bill Schinkel, Pastor Rick

This group of bike riders is getting ready to Pedal for Prisoners.  We're going to ride RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) this July.  We're training our minds and bodies to tackle the hills, heat and humidity that we'll face while riding Iowa's roads with thousands of others.  It will be quite a challenge. Why?  For two reasons: Fun and Funds.  First - it's fun.  All of us like to ride our bicycles, to pedal from place to place.  Second - we want to raise funds.  We want to raise funds for New Life Prison Church to promote sustainable ministry.  Will you rise up to the challenge too & sponsor one of us?


The corn is growing in central Iowa.  The other day I took this photo near Pella Christian High School.  It's a picture of a one inch high corn plant.  Only a week or two back, it was planted as a small seed in the rich Iowa soil.  And now it's growing inch by inch.  And God.  God makes it grow!

It's hard to believe that this tiny shoot will be taller than me in a few short months.  With adequate sunshine and rain, the tiny green plant will tower over my six-foot frame in no time.  Before you know it, the stalk will get thicker & taller; eventually this corn plant will contribute its part for the harvest.  

It reminds me of the father in Mark 9 who wanted healing for his son.  He approached Jesus with the boy.  He asked Jesus to heal the boy if he could.  Jesus replied: If you can?  EVERYTHING is possible for one who believes.  Then immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.'  (Mark 9:22-24)

It's the same for the prison church.  Right now we're a small church plant only a few months old.  And God.  God will make it grow.  Sometimes it's hard to believe.  It's hard to dream forward and envision a new community where disciples are trained to follow Christ.  It's hard to believe in the formation of a congregation within a prison.  But God is gracious.  By his Spirit, he strengthens our faith so that we can approach the future with hope.  

Golden Rule on the Hall of Justice

Yesterday I ate lunch at PJ's Deli in Newton.  The Deli (good stuff) is in downtown Newton.  Anyway, I parked my car in downtown Newton and passed the county courthouse on the way to getting my sandwich.  As I looked at the ancient hall of justice, I noticed some writing high above the sidewalk.  It said:  "Whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them."  It was the golden rule carved out in stone on the impressive structure.  Jesus taught this principle in His sermon on the mount: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."  (Matthew 7:12)  While eating my sandwich, I reflected that the world would be a much better place if people lived according to this gold standard.  If human beings thought deeply about how their actions impact other human beings, it may just empty out the prisons.  Or at least there would be a great decrease in the population of incarcerated men and women.  We'd have fewer cases of robbery, abuse and assault - that's for sure.  And we'd treat other people with the respect that they deserve as image bearers of God.  May the Spirit of God invade our society so that we may live in the ways of justice and peace.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 21, 2011

Here's a card I received from some individuals handing out tracts last weekend at Tulip Time.  The followers of Harold Camping and Family Radio believe that Christ will return on May 21, 2011.

I did a little research on this and most of Camping's conclusions go back to the Noah flood.  He reads Genesis 7 symbolically and says each of the 7 days represent 1000 years.  So 7x1000 = 7000 and he holds that the date May 21, 2011 is exactly 7000 years from the Noah flood, which he dates at 4990 BC.

I think it's a big problem.  For one, it contradicts the Bible: No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24:36)

In addition, speculating on the date of the Second Coming often leads to other heresies.  One is the misunderstanding of the Bible as a secret code book to crack.  Instead, the Bible gives us as much as we need in this life for God's glory and for the salvation of his own.  (Belgic Confession, Article 2)  Second is a rejection of the institutional church.  Harold Camping says that the church age ended May 21, 1988  (May 21 seems to be a key date for him).  Perhaps he rejects the church because the church has rejected him.  Nevertheless, the church is the Bride of the Christ waiting patiently for the Groom to arrive.  Third I believe Camping rejects the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  Instead of understanding a Triune God in three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Camping holds strictly to one God with many names (modalism - an ancient heresy).

In terms of the prison ministry, guys in prison are often drawn to end-times speculation.  It's sensational to dream of the apocalypse and it's also a means of escaping a negative situation.  As a result, the Left Behind series is often extremely popular.  I've had to do some damage control among my prison flock.  Some are clinging to the hope of Camping's prediction rather than clinging to Christ himself.  May God equip me for the task.

Pink Badge - it's a Big Deal

This past week I received a pink badge from the Iowa Department of Corrections.  It's a big deal.  But not in the sense that it's a status symbol or to say: "I've arrived."  That would make me too proud and my big head would swell up to fill a room.  

Instead, for me, it's the realization of one of my goals for Phase I of the New Life Prison Church.  Currently we're in the building phase of the new prison congregation.  In the Spirit's power, we're building a ministry on the inside, building relationships with churches & supporters on the outside, and building trust with the Department of Corrections (D.O.C.).

The badge means that the D.O.C. is beginning to trust me.  The pink badge means that as a prison pastor I'll be able to go in and out of the prison without the escort of a corrections officer.  In addition, I won't need to get patted down upon entry.  This is a big form of trust because they trust I won't be bringing in any contraband and I'll be respecting the rules of the institution.  Overall, I'm grateful to God for this small step forward along the Way.

Pastor Rick
May 14, 2011