"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
We all wonder, don't we? Who we are, what is our purpose, and who's in charge? I think the above verse answers these questions.
1 - We are God's workmanship - a child of God, He made us
2 - We were created in Jesus to do good works - our purpose
3 - God prepared our works in advance - He's in charge
This is just the beginning of the story of our relationship with the Father. I love tales of God's sovereignty. I'm in awe how all the pieces of our life begin to fit together perfectly, in ways we'd never have planned. Often, the only thing God expects of us is to "Be still and know that I am God..." Psalm 46:10. That may be a lot harder than you think. Our natural tendency is to 'do' something.
In the early 1970's a book by David Wilkerson, The Cross and the Switchblade, was written about the life of Nicky Cruz. He was a Puerto Rican involved in gangs, drugs and alcohol in New York City. He came to believe in Christ and not only did his life change completely, he started a ministry to the street kids and their lives changed. This was a very popular book read by thousands. I was one who read it. God planted seeds and gave me a small glimpse of what He had in mind for me.
In the mid-1970's my husband was transferred from the LA area to Raleigh, NC. I had started a Bible Study Fellowship class a couple of years prior to our move. After our family was settled, I joined the BSF class in Raleigh. We were doing a study in the book of John. I was very impressed by the young woman teaching the study. She was very knowledgeable in the Scripture. Her name was Ann Lotz. After a couple of weeks I remarked to someone that Ann was an excellent teacher. "She's Billy Graham's daughter you know" was the response. No, I didn't know that!
There were over four hundred of us in this class. We broke into small groups to share the lesson. I found myself sitting next to Gloria Cruz, the wife of Nicky who had lived the story of the book. One day she begin to talk about the ministry she had at the Woman's Prison in Raleigh. I heard her words and took note. Slowly but surely the Lord began to work with me and one day, I could almost hear Him audibly tell me, "I want you to work with inmates, this is what you will do." Really? Okay Lord, show me where, when and how to do this; I'm willing. We always feel like we have a choice, that we need to be 'willing'. But the Lord likes to keep us humble. We're not to take a bow and steal His Glory. One day you come to realize that your "work" has been assigned since the creation of the world - yup, carved in indestructible stone! King David understood this. In Psalm 139:16 he wrote of the Lord. . .
"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
Twenty years went by, nothing happened. Once we moved from Raleigh, we never lived near a jail or prison, no one told me about a ministry I could become involved in, nothing. I began to think that I had imagined God speaking to me about having a ministry for inmates. Then one day, shortly after moving to the San Diego area, I was driving down a highway with a new neighbor.
"What is that big structure being built?" I asked.
"Oh, don't you know? That's a new jail facility."
I was so excited! A jail close to my home. I found out it wasn't going to be that easy to get my foot in the door, and several more years passed by. Finally, March 2001, I went in to teach my first Bible Study for women inmates. Nearly twenty years had passed since I'd sat in the class next to Gloria Cruz listening to her share about her jail ministry. Twenty years! There wasn't anything I could have done to 'hurry' the process. God had a time and a place that He'd pre-determined. He's in charge.
In October 2013, I was asked to teach a class in creative writing for a new program at the jail. This was to be a pilot program in collaboration with the Veterans Administration called Veterans Moving Forward. A module would be filled with thirty- two selected veterans from all branches of service; they'd be given special privileges. Volunteers would come to teach classes in writing, finances, stress management and career planning. Their substance abuse problems would be addressed and talents explored, like music and art.
This sounded like a great program, but I don't consider myself a writing teacher. I'm a Bible teacher. However, I felt that familiar nudge, and showed up the first Monday of November. I consider myself a facilitator, not a teacher. For the past nine months, I've watched these men bond with one another and write their stories to share with the others. This took a while, it was a process, but now stories pour from them, they encourage each other, delight in other's experiences, and applaud one another.
My idea was to help get the program started, build a team, and then escape into Bible study for those veterans who are interested. The 'team' hasn't appeared! The Lord sent us 'Randy', who has been a great help. He's a good teacher, compassionate and so willing to help these men. I'm still working on adding a couple more dependable people. In the meantime, these thirty-two great guys have given me much joy in getting to know them. I pray for their success, and I feel God's hand on this special group.
". . .for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Philippians 2:13.
I believe we should always be on the alert for that special 'work' God has planned for us. Sometimes it might be something we never thought we'd be doing, but do it we will, because God has ordained it to be a part of our life. I feel especially blessed to be able to take an active role in a program that benefits our veterans by promoting an environment of responsibility and accountability. Those who have been chosen to participate, are expected to demonstrate positive actions and work proactively toward their own success. So many in the program are men of faith and understand the value of having Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. They understand the truth of Philippians 4:13...
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Thank you Lord for these men you've given me to encourage. I may only see them once a week, but you bring them to mind daily. I see their faces, and I pray they find Your strength to help them overcome difficult circumstances. Thank you for designing the perfect work for each of your children.
Bobbe Van Hise
- Over the past few years my blog has been visited by people from all over the world. Very few know me, or of me, they simply are looking information concerning the Bible and discover my blog. After many years of intense study and teaching, I've come to believe we are vulnerable to misguided and incorrect teaching if we don't understand for ourselves the teaching of God's Word. My 'hot buttons' are - grace, sovereignty, exhortations and sanctification. If you understand these basic principles of Scripture, and apply them to daily life, you will understand what it means to have peace, joy and absolute security in any circumstance.