Cleveland County Site Chaplain Larry Heikkila and his wife, Janet, also a Cleveland County volunteer chaplain, hosted a staff luncheon recently in their home. Janet, I assume, decorated the tables with Mardi Gras mementos, cooked gumbo and made King Cake replete with its traditional hidden baby Jesus figurine.
Larry asked me before the meal if I wanted to share anything with the group. I felt it was best to be one of the team and to sit back and enjoy Larry’s leadership and the group’s fellowship. When the meal was finished, one of the two guests who had been invited to the gathering to hear more about our ministry asked me about the purpose of OJPM.
I easily shared our mission statement of “transforming people on both sides of the bars!” After a brief description of how that has developed over the years, Kathy Jones, Lori Rahhal and Bill Farley graciously brought the statement to life by detailing how it was being lived out in their lives.
Kathy, a five-year volunteer chaplain at Cleveland County, shared about her experience with incarceration in both jail and prison, her coming to know the Lord and her six years of sobriety. Lori, a first-year volunteer chaplain at Cleveland County, shared about her long-time walk with the Lord and how she was enjoying the hands-on ministry of OJPM.
Bill, long-time volunteer chaplain and director of development, excitedly told of how that morning he had picked up an Uber rider that recognized him as the chaplain who had shared with him back in June of 2009 and that he was walking with the Lord, married with children and had not been back to the county jail. Three transformations on display!
This Cleveland County OJPM luncheon was a sweet time of food, fellowship and testimony. I am so thankful to be a part of our OJPM family that the Lord is working through in “transforming people on both sides of the bars!”
Unleashing the captives,
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (New International Version 1984, Romans 1:1-7).
The calling of God is a holy and personal touch. If you are a follower of Christ who has confessed Him as your Lord and Savior, then it is upon you.
With the start of a new year my pastor, Bill Hulse at Putnam City Baptist, Oklahoma City, preached on this passage this past first Sunday.
It was a fresh reminder of what God values and where His heart lies. People. Individual people. That one person. That chance encounter. That long-prayed-for loved one. That neighbor. That schoolmate. That fellow worker. That man, woman and youth who have lost so much and are looking for hope and direction.
Pastor Bill’s message was a renewed challenge that I am a key part of what God is up to in this world. That means you are also a key part of what God is up to. Do you find yourself getting lazy, apathetic and frustrated with life?
I would ask you if you are getting tired, but I know that is true for us all. How about a fresh kick in the pants from the Holy Spirit about how valuable you are in God’s eyes and for His kingdom? Also, how about those valuable other people?
I do not know about you, but I have a hard time finding people to talk with about God. Some of that is on me and I am praying about that. However, we have a great mission field in our county jails. Men, women and young people are waiting and wanting to talk about God, hope and forgiveness.
The question is not are you with OJPM in this new year of outreach to every county jail in Oklahoma. The question is are you with God and do you understand and accept His calling upon your life?
Grace and peace to each of you!
Unleashing the captives,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (New International Version 1984, John 3:16)
You can celebrate your best Christmas ever by unwrapping three gifts!
First, unwrap God’s gift of hope. Jesus said in John 3:16 that the Father “gave his one and only Son.” God’s promise! There are over 100 promises of the hoped-for Messiah in the Old Testament.
It begins in Genesis 3:14, 15 where the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, ‘Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’”
It continues in Isaiah 7:14 where it was prophesied that, “The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
It closes with Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” This is the season of hope.
Second, unwrap Christ’s gift of love. Jesus said in John 3:16 that “God so loved.” God’s presence!
God’s love demonstrated as God’s presence is declared in 1 John 4:9 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”
Third, unwrap your gift of belief. Jesus said in John 3:16 that “whoever believes in Him.” Your Action!
I say unwrap because even your belief is a gift from God. It is a graceful mixture of God’s work and your responsibility.
Romans 10:9–10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
Several years ago, Mary and I had prayed, hoped and had even talked with our son, Joseph, hoping that he would be home from Iraq for Thanksgiving. He couldn’t tell us the specific day. Finally, he called and said that he was at Ft. Hood. We knew he was safe. We knew he was back, but we couldn’t see him yet. After a couple of days, he was notified that he was free to leave for Thanksgiving.
We believed he was there. We believed he was free to leave. But what did our belief ultimately do? We acted! We made arrangements to get off work and we got in the car and made the five and 1/2 hr. trip to Ft. Hood and picked him up. That is the difference between believing factual information and believing a truth that moves you to action.
Act out your belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior of your life.
- Surrender your will to Jesus Christ as Lord this Christmas season
- Share your faith with those around you this Christmas season
- Pray for and give toward OJPM this Christmas season
God’s presence is His present to you!
“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him_and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well’” (New International Version 1984, Luke 17:11-19).
“What do you get if you cross a centipede with a turkey? Fewer fights over who gets a drumstick at Thanksgiving” (Bonham, Clean Church Jokes).
Thanksgiving is approaching! What an opportunity to check our own attitudes and see if we are giving thanks for the blessings God has given us.
My pastor, Bill Hulse at Putnam City Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, is preaching on praise and thanksgiving through this month. He mentioned the passage above in his message last Sunday. The word ‘return’ caught my attention and as I have been meditating on this passage the Lord has reminded me of four ways that I can return thanks to Him.
First, by giving my attention to Him. It is important to note that only one of the ten returned to Jesus and expressed thanks. It is easy to give attention to our hurts and wants and to think that we have nothing to be thankful for, especially to God.
This one man was a Samaritan and a leper. He could not have been more of an outcast in his community. Yet, he is the one that recognized God’s hand moving in his life and returned to Jesus and said, “Thank you!”
Second, by demonstrating commitment to Him. When Jesus blessed this outcast and the outcast recognized he had been blessed by God he returned and ‘threw himself at Jesus’ feet.’ This is a universal picture of submission that each of us can recognize and follow.
Third, by showing affection to Him. This man’s reaction is similar to the prostitute who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and perfume. Just as most in our story did not give attention, commitment or affection to Jesus; most in the prostitute’s story scorned her and Jesus’ reaction to her.
In that story Jesus’ response was, “‘Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven_for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’” (Luke 7:47-50).
Fourth, by offering sacrifice to Him. Affection leads to sacrifice. We see this many times in people who have repented of much and yielded to Christ. Zacchaeus returned his thanks by saying to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).
Return thanks this Thanksgiving by giving your attention, commitment, affection and sacrifice to the Lord each and every day!
Unleashing the captives,