Sunday, August 27
“...on this Rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
- Matthew 16:18
Until I began to study the Bible seriously, I simply thought that this was another weird thing Jesus said. I vaguely pictured “the gates of Hell” beating against a church building.
I learned that the word “church” actually doesn’t refer to a building, but to a gathering of people.
I learned that ancient armies would send groups of soldiers to attack the gates of a city they wanted to capture. These soldiers would have shields all around them and spears and battering rams at the front, to attack the guards and smash the gates so they could get into the city.
So what Jesus was saying was that his gathered followers would be in the business of breaking into Hell / Hades for God’s sake. Smash those gates !
So, church ! Who wants to go attack Hell ?
Our prison chaplains. That’s who.
You know that Jesus said, “I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25)
You know that we must pray for those who are in prison, as though we were in there with them.
Now I am asking you to pray for our prison chaplains, who go inside day after day to get the hell out of there— that is, to remove the hell and replace it with the Grace of God.
Here in Virginia, our prison chaplains are not state employees. They are paid through a charity called GraceInside. www.graceinside.org
GraceInside needs our gifts of money to pay the chaplains, and they especially need our prayers as they confront evil directly and batter against the gates of hell.
GraceInside’s Director of Development is Rev. Lynn Litchfield, one of our Shenandoah Association UCC Authorized Ministers.
Recently, Rev. Litchfield has begun sharing prayer requests with anyone who would like to pray about specific situations that our chaplains are confronting. Here are a few:
Two of our chaplains with a combined forty years of chaplaincy experience between them have been banned from entering any of the state prisons, related to separate incidents. Neither of these chaplains had done anything illegal or against the rules. GraceInside is currently working to arrange meetings with the authorities to overcome the misunderstandings that led to these dedicated chaplains being put out of service.
† “The future of the Faith Based ReEntry Program may also be at risk. This 100% successful program relies on some state funding that GraceInside has not been resourced to support if they decide to pull it. We are concerned that Evil wants it closed.
† “We have several new chaplains getting settled in their positions.
† “Much of our leadership has also been under attack. We've endured everything from misunderstandings to electronic issues to human error and (non GraceInside) work crises as well as health crises for our staff and Board. We have two women in our GraceInside family facing cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well.
† “Additionally, we'd love prayers for unity, clarity, hope, understanding, compassion and strong leadership moving forward.
“We would like to invite you to pray intentionally for this ministry, for our people and for our purpose. Our folks work in a world where Evil has a hold and darkness can be overwhelming. We want to be sure we are consistently and constantly lifting this GraceInside Family into the light of God— for the darkness cannot overcome the light!
If you feel the Holy Tug on your heart to join our prayer team....”
or subscribe through the GraceInside website to connect to this-