May 20, 2006
The Bible says that life and death are in the power of
the tongue.* With our mouth we could encourage or discourage someone. We could build up a life, or destroy it. A cruel
word, for example, could send a person into the throes of a deep depression from which they may not recover.
This was impressed upon me yesterday when I received a letter from friends in Canada. They’re a married couple who are devout Christians. They support various ministries, especially those that help the persecuted churches in Third
World countries, and they love Jesus. Yet they have also been afflicted
by various medical problems. Most recently the husband, Larry, has been diagnosed
And when the wife, Gina, called a prayer line to ask for help and advice, the “counselor”
at the other end told her that God was “chastening” them with ‘many diseases.” Gina then asked me what I thought of this.
I was livid. After I read Gina’s letter
I had to stand up; and pace back and forth for several minutes to ease my mind. I
don’t believe I have ever heard of anything so stupid and insensitive, and coming from a Christian counselor no less!
I wonder what this counselor would have told the apostle Paul if he had called to ask
for prayer for his “thorn in the flesh”? What would she have said
to Job had he dialed the prayer line to seek comfort over the sudden deaths of all his children, and to ask for prayer because
of the boils which covered his body from head to foot?
Likewise it would be interesting to know what words this counselor would have given to
Epaphroditus, who was a faithful minister and one of Paul’s trusted companions.
The Bible says that he had become extremely sick and was very close to death “because of the work of Christ”. (Philippians 2:25-30)
It was the Lord Jesus Himself who said that while we are in this world we shall experience
trouble. (John 16;33) And the apostle
Paul said, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which
shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18).
I cannot find it anywhere in the Bible where it says that Christians will never experience
loss, pain, sickness or hardship. In fact we go through what everyone else does. But the difference is that we have a divine source to call upon and trust in for help
comfort and strength. Our God is all-powerful. He can fix a problem or change a situation merely by speaking a word.
Now I’m sure this counselor meant well. Yet
the advice she gave was so foolish that, had my friends not known the Scriptures for themselves, their faith could have been
Unfortunately, however, many individuals do get hurt.
Poison counsel is given and they become discouraged. They fall under condemnation
and false guilt. Then many of these victims stop going to church altogether. They depart from the faith and are ruined
Obviously, therefore, not everyone should be giving spiritual counsel.
I shared my thoughts with Gina and Larry because they asked me to. I also advised them to report the matter to whoever is in charge of this prayer line. The leadership of this ministry needs to be more selective and discerning with whom they allow to answer
At the same time, however, what happened to my friends has caused me to search and examine
my own heart. I also counsel others. So
I want my words to be good, wholesome, and only what the Lord would want me to say.
I must always be careful not to be proud, rash or reckless with what I say. This is a big responsibility because, after all, the Bible says that
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. (Proverbs 18:21).
My prayer is that I have a wise tongue. I
also ask God’s forgiveness if I have ever given incorrect and hurtful advice.
(Larry and Gina are not their
May 24, 2006
About fifteen minutes
ago a small squad of correction officers entered the cell block wearing their protective gloves and carrying nightsticks. They came to take a prisoner to “The Box”.
I don’t know what he did or had been accused of, but the prisoner is a young black
man, maybe in his early 30s. He was living in my cell block for about a year,
and although he never talked much, he was clearly the angry-brooding type.
No matter where he went in the facility I would observe Scowl Face walking stiffly. His muscles remained tensed in such a way that he reminded me of a lion getting ready
to pounce upon its prey. He gave off bad
“vibes”, too. So he was oftentimes seen sitting alone in the dayroom. His unfriendly face and his body language bespoke a clear message: “Stay the heck away from me!”
I do not recall ever seeing him smile. On
occasion I saw him arguing with a fellow prisoner or with a staff member. Men
with seething rage are a common sight in here, and Scowl Face was and obvious case of consuming fury.
I had watched as the team of guards who, along with a sergeant who stood by in his standard
supervisory role, handcuffed Scowl Face behind his back. Then with the cuffs
locked in place they marched him out of the building. He gave them no resistance
and he did not say a word. The entire operation took about five to seven minutes,
and Scowl Face was gone.
Taking a prisoner to “The Box” is a routine event. After a man is handcuffed, and assuming he offers no resistance, he is then escorted by several guards
along with a sergeant through the facility’s corridors to an area far from
the regular cell blocks. It’s benignly called the “Special Housing
Unit”, which the staff usually refers to by its abbreviated name, “SHU”.
SHU is basically a prison within a prison, and it is reserved for those who commit the
most serious of disciplinary infractions. A greater majority of the men, however,
when they break a rule end up confined to their own cells for twenty-three hours per day.
They will also lose all their privileges such as the opportunity to use the telephone, go to the commissary or the
main recreation yards, or take a daily shower.
The one positive thing that I remember about this man was when I was sitting in the dayroom
having an impromptu Bible study with a few of the guys, when I noticed him looking at us and listening intently to our discussion. But when I smiled at him and politely asked if he’d like to join us, he
immediately grimaced and said, “Naw”. Yet he continued to watch and
Mostly, though during the few times I said hello to him in passing, he would merely mumble
something under his breath and continue walking, never making eye contact.
Now, unfortunately, Scowl Face is going to have plenty of time to stew in his anger. He’s really a lonely man who needs God in his life.
May 25, 2006
ON THE RISE
The population of men
and women in America’s jails and
prisons continues to be on the rise in most states.
A recent article in USA Today said, “Nearly 2.2 million people---1 in every 136
U.S. residents---were behind bars in 2005.”
This was a quote from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
According to the story, some states such as Montana
and South Dakota had increases in their populations, but the states of Vermont,
Idaho and New York, the
number of inmates in mails and prisons was down slightly.
The article went on to say that “Women now account for 12.7% of the jail population,
up from 10.2% a decade ago.”
For quite some time I have been saying that our nation’s correctional facilities
are one of the biggest mission fields. After all, the Lord Jesus came into this
world to save sinners. And where else can such a large concentration of broken,
devastated, troubled and wayward lives be found that in these places?
The harvest is truly ripe!
Source: USA Today, Monday, May 22, 2006 (Page
3A) by Donna Leinwand