Monday, April 6, 2020

Life Restored

Even though the COVID-19 virus may seem to have a death grip on our society, new life has been restored to the earth after a long winter. Despite the best efforts of a global pandemic to steal our joy, spring has come to central Iowa. In our walks around town, we witness not only returning robins and green grass but also brilliant yellow and pure white daffodils.  I took a bike ride in Pella this past Saturday to view other signs of spring.  Although the Pella Historical Society had to make the unfortunate (but wise) decision of canceling Tulip Time this year, the tulips themselves are showing great promise of a late April or early May bloom.  Another sign of spring is seeing the children outside.  Our town’s playgrounds have been roped off with yellow caution tape but that can’t stop the children from playing. One favorite activity is using sidewalk chalk to make colorful designs and write encouraging words.  Last Saturday one eastside family was coloring in a beautiful stained glass cross on their driveway.  While riding my bike on the Volksweg Trail, my spirit was lifted up by two important words written in sidewalk chalk: JOY and HOPE.

When Easter comes each year, it brings us Hope and Joy.  Certainly Easter will feel different for us this year. It just won’t feel the same without our large group gatherings for Easter worship, Easter egg hunts or Easter dinners with extended family. Many of our local churches have opted for virtual worship using video technology or Facebook live. Perhaps it’s helpful to realize that the very first resurrection appearances were not large group gatherings.  In fact, the resurrection account at the end of Matthew’s Gospel mentions only Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, easy qualifying for the guidelines put in place by Gov. Kim Reynolds to prohibit gatherings of more than ten people.  Even without a massive number of people, Easter is still coming.  In fact, Easter is now here and there’s nothing the coronavirus can do to stop it.

How will you celebrate the new life brought about by the resurrection of Jesus Christ?  Allow me to make two suggestions.  Read Matthew 28 or a similar Scripture at the end of one of the gospels.  Reflect on the new life that has come to you through our Living Lord Jesus.  After the Bible reading, slow yourself down by practicing a “breath prayer.” In a breath prayer, you breathe in God’s grace and breathe out God’s praise.  For Easter, breathe in “Christ is Risen” and breathe out a strong “Alleluia!”  Try this several times.  I’ve been reading about breath prayer and other spiritual practices in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Calhoun suggests that we breathe in “Healer” and breathe out “speak the word and I shall be healed.” (p. 204)  This will propel your prayers toward the healing of the world during our current health crisis.  In this radically different Holy Week may you become more aware of the real presence of the Living Christ, the Son of God who restores life.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Key - Robbie Robinson

(Left to Right) Tricia Groves, Aaron Groves, Robbie Robinson, and Emily Robinson. 
Aaron & Robbie are the founders of DH517. 

Volunteer Spotlight - Robbie Robinson

1. Tell us about yourself & your growing family.

My name is Robbie Robinson, I’m married to Emily Robinson and we have 6 kids together. One is a newborn! I have been so blessed to be able to lead this family for the Kingdom of God. It is so much fun and crazy at times too!!
I am in full time ministry and my wife stays home with the little ones. I am the Founder and Executive Director of Discover Hope 517 Ministry. I’m also going to school for my Commission Pastor degree. God have given me such an opportunity to be a part of the mission for the Kingdom. Discover Hope have been an inspiration to me and a great way for me to give back. To make a difference one life at a time.

2. What did it mean to receive the key to the city of Newton?

Words can’t explain how it felt to receive such a reward. Not only was God glorified with receiving such an award, but God allow the ministry to lead the charge. I’m truly honored that God has allow the ministry to be known in the community and that it is making a difference in many lives. We believe that God is breaking the bondage of addiction. Jesus will become the face of recovery!!! There are so many that played a part in the growth and sustainability of Discover Hope. The leadership team of 12, all the volunteers that serve and give. All the financial partnership of individuals, Church partnerships, and Community support. Our heart is that God will continue to use Discover Hope to change lives in our community as well as surrounding communities. To change a Life, Is to change a Community!

3. How has Discover Hope 517 made a big impact?

God is using DH517 to set apart the unhealthy community and begin to focus on creating a place where lives and families can be healed and restored through the power of the Holy Spirit. Many peoples are coming to DH517 to seek something new. They are finding that in Jesus life can be redefined and true transformation can take place. Out with the old and in with the new! 2nd Corinthians 5:17. Our community center is a place where anybody can come and start their recovery, serve, build healthy relationships, grow spiritually, or just pray. It's truly a safe refuge for many who are looking to change their lives.

4. Why do you feel inspired to help men in prison?

What truly inspire me about going into the prison is the HOPE that it brings to the men. Being able to go in and encourage them to see that there is life outside of the fences. The opportunity to minister to their heart and allow them to see that in Christ all things are possible. My heart is with the men because I once was a prisoner. Getting out and living a NEW LIFE in Christ is so amazing. Redemption in Jesus Christ is what truly allows us to be defined by who God has called us to be and no longer by what the world says who we are. I know how much it means to have the volunteers come in and show the love of Jesus to you. It’s very inspirational.

5. What do you enjoy the most in your volunteering for New Life Prison Community?

The family and ministry opportunity. Being able to pray together and worship together. Going into the prison, the only agenda we have is to show the love of Jesus to the men and staff. This is an opportunity to give back what I so freely received. What New Life is doing in obedience to serve the Lord fulfills one of the commands. Thank You!!

6. What’s next for Robbie Robinson?

I will continue to serve the kingdom of God with all of me. I have been praying faithfully for God to continue to challenge me and grow me. I need to be equipped and also ministered to. I want to grow as a leader for God’s mission field. My heart is to plant and make disciples for the kingdom. Trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding; but acknowledge Him in all that I do and He shall make my path straight! Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Words, words, and more words.  Society bombards us with thousands of words each and every day.  In a capitalistic country, many of the words attempt to sell us products.  When we drive along the highway, we're confronted with multiple billboards.  When we watch television, we're forced to endure countless commercials.  When we surf the web, we're faced with pop-up ads on our internet browser or spam in our email inboxes.  Even when we read this newspaper, we find ourselves negotiating a maze of printed advertisements in order to discover an article like this one.  So many words exist for the primary purpose of persuading us to spend our hard-earned money.  Well I don't know about you but I'm pushed away from all the words and pulled toward the Word.  The Holy Spirit leads me away from the plurality of the many words to the unity of the one Word.   In the midst of the complexity of the many marketing words, the Spirit whispers a gentle call to discovery the simplicity of the Word of God.

The Apostle Paul informs us that the Word of God is certainly not a commodity to be bought or sold.  After Paul left the city of Corinth to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to other places, the small house church in the massive city was invaded by false prophets who puffed themselves up with pride, claiming to be super apostles.  In response, Paul penned a second letter to the Corinthian believers, encouraging them to reject false teachings and embrace grace.  Paul boldly spills ink on the page: "Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God." (2nd Corinthians 2:17, NIV)

Sent from God, we enter the prison in Newton to speak the Word of God with sincerity.  In doing so we steer clear of peddling the word as if it were yet another commercial product in the marketplace.  Instead we provide the Word of God not as something to be achieved but as God's gift to be received.  Numerous resources are available at no cost to the men in prison.  For example, various Bibles are available for free, including outreach Bibles, Spanish Bibles, large print Bibles, the One Year Bible and pocket-size New Testaments.  In addition, devotional booklets such as Today and Our Daily Bread are always available in the prison chapel.  Lately we've been blessed with boxes of books like Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young and Doing His Time: Meditations and Prayers for Men and Women in Prison by James Vogelzang.  Last week, however, I found out that all these resources can present a problem of overwhelming the diligent ones with even more words.  One of the men at the prison shared with me his lengthy list of daily readings.  It looked less like grace and more like a burden.  I wondered out loud with him if there are times when more isn't always better.  Perhaps there could be some way to focus on quality instead of quantity.

This week we'll restore our focus on the Word of God by providing a class on the ancient spiritual practice of Lectio Divina, which means "divine reading."  Avoiding excessive quantities of Scripture,  Lectio Divina slows you down so you can hear a message from God's Word.  The class in our prison Bible study will present the four step process of reflective reading, patient meditation, conversational prayer, and restful contemplation.  You may already be aware of Lectio as a valuable spiritual practice that allows you to practice the presence of God.  May the New Year give you numerous opportunities to prayerfully read the Bible.  May you flee from the many words of the marketplace to a place where only God's Word of grace remains.

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!"