The restrictions in the maximum security unit have eased up a bit. The guys now can get both rec. time AND participate in the Bible Study. We still ran the study for two different groups. There were seven guys in the first group and nine guys in the second group.
The first group was a bit more subdued. A close family member of one of the men had died. The person who died was also friends with several other men in the group too. Tonight’s study was comforting to the men in the first group, and a positive challenge to the men in the second group.
The other volunteer led tonight’s study. As I’ve mentioned before, he uses a style that involves reading the passage the first time listening for a word or phrase that stands out. The second time the passage is read each man listens for how the scripture applies to his own life and circumstances.
John 14:23-29 (NKJV)
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.
29 “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.
The words or phrases that stood out for these men:
- Peace I leave with you
- Let not your heart be troubled
- The Helper
It struck me that these are words of comfort and encouragement in everyday life, not just for men awaiting trial, or for those who have just lost a friend or family member to death.
Some of the most animated discussion came when each man looked at how the scripture passage applied to his own life. Tonight was one of those night when the men do most of the talking and teaching and the leader just has to try and keep it to one conversation at a time.
An alternate term for the Holy Spirit is the Advocate. Who else had been an advocate for them?
Mothers and grandmothers were mentioned most often.
In one sense an advocate is like their defense attorney. The defense attorney is supposed to advocate for their defendant, and point up all of that person’s good qualities. One of the men remarked that the guys in maximum haven’t had great experiences with their court appointed lawyers.
Another man suggested that an example of an advocate was Don King, the boxing promoter. Here was a man who knew how to come up with catchy phrases like “Thrilla in Manila” and “Rumble in the Jungle,” and he could get people excited about his clients. So now they guys are imagining the Holy Spirit advocating on their behalf like Don King.
There was discussion about where the Holy Spirit lives. Two ideas discussed were: within each of us, and/or within a community of believers. They discussed how sometimes it is easier to see to see the Holy Spirit in others than in themselves.
This suddenly became a God-filled moment. There I am sitting in a room full of heavily tattooed young guys in jail jumpsuits discussing the power of a Holy Spirit filled community to raise up the broken, to encourage the downcast, and to transform lives through God’s grace. I watched and listened in amazement as the seed of kinship was planted in the maximum security unit.