Perseverance

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James 5:11; Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.  Only by Job’s suffering could he intimately experience and comprehend the Lord as compassionate and merciful.  

Charles Spurgeon said, “In shunning a trial, we are seeking to avoid a blessing.”  Patience and perseverance is a rare commodity in this technologically advanced world and microwave society.  Travel, communication, and basic daily chores are incredibly time efficient, if not instantaneous.  

The result is, we are not being trained in perseverance.  We are not used to pains that can’t be relieved quickly.  We are not accustomed to problems that can’t be corrected in short order.  When the problems of life come, you and I send up prayers with the same expectations as when we press the buttons on our microwaves.  We say to ourselves, “Within a few seconds or so, this omnipotent God that we serve will be all over this and have it straightened out in no time.”

But God doesn’t usually work that way.  He is thorough and precise, and He will not be rushed.  The time cannot be shortened and our growth cannot come more quickly.  We must learn perseverance!

There is no way to become a mature Christian without trials.  We may pray for Christlike character and hope it will come by spiritual osmosis, but, most often, it will not!  God’s plan for all His people is trial by fire. Matthew 3:11; “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” It is the only way to burn away the flesh and reveal the spirit.  It is the only way to grow and mature in Christ. No one has ever become a true disciple without perseverance and no one has ever persevered without pain and suffering.

One of the greatest – if not the greatest – trial I experienced, and had to experience, was incarceration.  If you don’t learn perseverance, and learn it quick in prison, you will soon be headed for the “bam bam room” wearing the “bam bam suit” (prison-speak for insanity).  As the Holy Spirit gave me supernatural strength to endure, I began to experience God’s love, forgiveness, and His amazing grace and mercy like I never knew before.

What is our reaction to trials?  Do we expect instantaneous answers to our prayers? If so, more often than not, we will be disappointed.  We have to change our perspective.  Rather than looking for an escape, look for the benefit of the trial and let patience and endurance have its perfect result.  Ask God what He’s accomplishing in you and then participate in it willingly. If you allow God to teach perseverance in you, you will be a rarity in this world, but well fit for the Kingdom of God.  Psalm 66:12 says “we went through the fire”, and for this we are being prepared every day

Several years ago, I read something in the Daily Bread that I would like to share with you, regarding this business of persevering through the fire:  

The refining process may be very painful, but it will not destroy us, for the Refiner sits by the furnace, tending the flame.  He will not allow us to be tried beyond our endurance; it is for our own good.  We may not understand why we have to endure such misery year after year. The ordeal seems endless and pointless.  Our days are wasted, or so it appears.  We feel as though we are doing nothing of lasting significance.  But God is doing what matters.  We are being refined.  He is placing us into a crucible in which we acquire patience, meekness, humility, compassion, perseverance, and the other quiet virtues our souls naturally lack. So, don’t be afraid and don’t fret.  Your present trial, as painful as it may be, has been screened through God’s wisdom and love.  The Refiner sits by the crucible tempering the flames, monitoring the process, and waiting patiently until He sees His face mirrored on the surface.

May His face be mirrored in you today!

Persevering to the end,

Steve Malek

Mentoring

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First Corinthians 11:1, NKJV, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

Fourteen years ago (at the start of the Gateway To Glory Ministry and prior to the opening of the first aftercare home) my mentor, Rev. Norene Snow, reminded me of something we had heard at a Prison Fellowship conference in Lansing. Prison Fellowship had done a 30 year study on the effectiveness of mentoring. This study determined that the recidivism rate is reduced from 67% to 11%, a huge decrease, when a mentor is brought into the released person’s life! This underscored the significance of mentoring and showed how important it was to have it implemented into the structure of the Gateway to Glory aftercare houses.

What we had heard, in a nutshell, was that out of all the programs that are available to help inmates upon their release (such as substance abuse, anger management, and general life skills, etc.) nothing works better to reduce recidivism than when a man or woman of God comes alongside a returning citizen. A mentor. The definition of the word mentor is: “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher”. A mentor becomes a friend, Biblical counselor, and an accountability partner.

Although the word “mentor” doesn’t appear in the Bible, Scripture gives us numerous examples of mentoring. The greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Moses, was mentored by his father-in-law, Jethro. Elijah mentored Elisha and Elisha mentored King Jehoash. Eli mentored Samuel. Jesus mentored the disciples. Barnabus mentored Paul and Paul mentored Timothy.

I, personally, have had a mentor since my release from prison 23 years ago. My current mentor, Bob, has been a real asset in my Christian walk. He encourages, teaches, and corrects me. He has been a faithful brother and friend in the faith. I attribute much of my success in ministry to my mentor, Bob.

Most men coming from prison or jail to Gateway’s aftercare, have no father figure. The women who come in to the women’s home, are also coming to us lacking good role models. As part of the program, a mentor is assigned to each man and woman resident. We have seen how these male mentors become like father figures to the male residents. Further, our female mentors do their best to embody the Scripture that says, “these older women must train the younger women…”

We are very proud of our mentors at Gateway to Glory who come alongside our residents and say: “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.”

All glory and praise to the One who ransomed us,
Chaplain Steve Malek

Trusting God Regardless

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Isaiah 55:8-9; “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
 
I met a man approximately 8 weeks ago at the Macomb County Jail while doing a one on one clergy visit.  He informed me he was being charged with a very serious crime and, if convicted, could possibly spend the rest of his life in prison.  He informed me of his involvement within his church.  He also shared with me the position he held working with a very well-known international corporation.  He is a very prominent man of society and a lover of God’s word which gave him the opportunity to teach at his church. 
 
During one on one visits, I do my best to keep the focus on spiritual concerns instead of legal issues.  However, this man insisted that I know some things about his case and that he, indeed, was truly innocent of all charges.  So without hesitation, my response is always, “if you are truly innocent, God has allowed this for a bigger and greater purpose we may not understand at the beginning.” 
 
Sometime after that visit, I received a call from the family of my friend, stating that he was found guilty on 8 counts and sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison and asked if I would please visit him before he left.  I was sure I would find a man very angry at the system and dealing with a whirlwind of emotions.   But, to my surprise, I met with a man who had the peace of God all over him.  He had no complaint whatsoever about the decision of the jury.  In fact, he was more concerned about the welfare of his fellow inmates battling with drug addictions and was asking if there was a way he might be able to help them.  He also stated (which really ministered to me) that he was going to “trust God in all this knowing that God has a greater purpose…” understanding that he could be a part of what God wanted to do.
 
I left the visit, shaking my head in awe – saying, “God, give me that kind of faith and trust and help me remember that Your ways are higher than my ways and Your thoughts are higher than mine!”
 
Anytime I hear a story like this about a truly devoted man of God charged with a crime that could put him away for life who is claiming total innocence, the huge “WHY?” question comes.  And I know that when the why questions come, there’s only one answer and that is, “Because...”  Because He is God and we are not.  The disciples and many other followers of Jesus didn’t ‘get’ the cross, and we know the big “why?” question came for them. 
 
We look at the story of Joseph: a truly devout man of God completely innocent, but wrongly accused.  Joseph spent approximately 13 years in prison, according to Bible scholars.  Pilot, during the trial of Christ said, “I find no fault in this man”, yet he was sentenced to death by way of crucifixion. 
 
Whether it be Jesus, Joseph, or my friend in the Macomb County Jail, the Lord God has a greater and bigger plan for those who have to endure monumental hardship to bring glory to Him.
 
Trusting in the sovereignty of God,
Chaplain Steve Malek

The Power of the Gospel

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First Corinthians 6:9-11, NKJV, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God…” So, what is God’s response to these sins? Judgment!  We will all be judged if we practice any of these things. To claim anything else is to compromise the truth of God’s Word, which clearly states, none of them “…will inherit the kingdom of God.” This is very serious, and should not be taken lightly!
 
As I conduct services and engage in one-on-one ministry at Macomb County Jail, I hear all too often of a man living with a woman to whom he is not married. Each will claim to be Christian, and even believe he or she will go to heaven. Then when I reveal First Corinthians 6:9-10, I’m in no way attempting to bring damnation to the person, but rather loving conviction – so that person can turn away from and repent of their sin, and embrace the only hope of salvation that is available to all of us sinners. That hope is, of course, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ own words in Luke 13:3, “I tell you no; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” He reiterates two verses later, in verse five, “I tell you no; but unless you repent…”
 
First Corinthians is clear about the eternal consequences for those who practice fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and the like. But – there is good news! No matter what the sin is, God has provided forgiveness, salvation and hope of eternal life to those who repent, who embrace the Gospel of grace.  Right after Paul identified those who will not inherit the kingdom of God, he said, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor. 6:11, NKJV
 
So – what should our response be to the fornicator, homosexual, adulterer, thief, or drunkard, etcetera? Our response should always be the Gospel. We should be equipped to confront him or her with the truth of the scriptures that condemns the behavior as sinful, yet points the sinner to the only hope of salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ – leaving the results to Him!
 
Staying true to His Word,
Chaplain Steve Malek

In Memory of Kevin McHugh

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Psalm 34:22 says: The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned. 
 
I saw Kevin as a true servant with a servant’s heart.  He loved to serve at the Macomb County Jail and hardly ever said no to an invitation to take a service or visit with an inmate one on one.  Kevin exemplified John 12:26; “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”  How does He do that?  By redeeming their souls!
 
The secular mind will never understand or accept this call, the call to servanthood.  Kevin not only understood it, but he fulfilled the call.
 
A servant is one who accepts and acknowledges a place beneath those who He serves, one who is willing to forsake what the “system” says about social status and values.  Kevin made no nevermind about social status and the world’s standard of values, he was willing to place himself beneath those who he served.  Jesus placed Himself right alongside the least of these, as He stated:  “When I was in prison, you visited me…”
 
Kevin not only considered it a privilege and an honor to minister at the Macomb County Jail, he also considered it an opportunity where he could be close to his Savior.  “Where I am, there my servant will be also.”
 
Every true servant will ultimately be honored by the One they serve and who has promised them honor for that service!
 
If we serve our King in that act of service we are elevated to a place of honor, “…him my Father will honor…”  Kevin could not be in a better place of honor than where he is now.  In the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Savior, Jesus Christ for all of eternity.
 
In His Service,
Chaplain Steve Malek

When We Serve Him, We Serve Ourselves

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One of the hardest aspects of the Christian life is to learn to submit to God in all things.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light, yes, but remembering to actually take His yoke upon us is difficult.  We worship Him, we thank Him for His love and goodness, we ask for wisdom and direction, but all the while we stumble profusely at following and listening to that small, still voice.  When it comes to making decisions, we still like our independence.
 
What is it about our independence that so intrigues us?  Why are we so obsessed with making our own decisions?  It’s exactly what Satan wants us to do.  It’s the very root cause of our sin.
 
That’s what the fall of man was all about, mistrusting God and seeking our own interests and that is still what sin is all about.  When we choose our own will over God’s, we’re not trusting Him, but trusting ourselves.  When you think about it, it is just absurd!  It’s the basics behind all Biblical teaching.  God’s will!  God’s will be done – we pray it all the time.
 
Are you and I totally convinced that “…thy will be done…”?  We have to know deep down in our hearts that His will and commands are for our best interests.  Instead of seeking our own self-centered interests, we need to be totally God-centered, or as Jesus said in Luke 17:33, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it.”  When we forsake our own wills and submit to His, that’s when fulfillment comes.  When we serve Him, we serve ourselves.
 
Believe it and apply it and see what happens.  His word is true and we can trust it when it says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”
 
In His Service,
Chaplain Steve Malek

Rest Giver

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Where do you go when trouble hits?  You know that it does for all of us at one time or another.  It could be a sudden death, an unexpected divorce, a child’s declaration of atheism…there are a ton of things that can rock our worlds.  I often wonder where I would go for strength to continue if I didn’t believe. 

Some of us have gone to drugs or alcohol to deaden the pain, as I did at one time. Problem was drugs and alcohol wear off.  I had to “come down” at some point and when I did, the problem was still there, but because it wasn’t taken care of, it was worse. Others go to tv, computers, food, gaming, etc.  They are all ways to get away for a moment, but they don’t handle the problem or help us to cope with what has come our way.

Trouble hit our home this past weekend.  Our world was rocked.  But Jesus...  As I write this Chaplain’s report at 5:05am (after another sleepless night) Today, I am assured that God has it all under control. This doesn’t mean sleep comes easier nor does it mean I “feel” better, but it does mean I know this issue didn’t take Jesus by surprise.  I know He is trustworthy and all sufficient.  I know He is God Almighty and He can do anything.  He is my rock.  The One I can hold on to when all of life seems topsy turvy and out of control.  He is stability.  My Bible holds the words and wisdom that serve to strengthen me, comfort me and hold me still while the battle rages on. 

As the founders of Gateway To Glory and chaplains of the Macomb County Jail, we hear the stories from men and women who have had the bottom of their worlds drop out.  They have tried using “things” (drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, etc) to help them cope with what the world throws at them, to no avail.  Quite often they have gotten hooked on substances, causing them to lose everything.  Others have ended up incarcerated. They are crying out for something to hold them together.

Faith and reliance on Jesus is the answer! As believers, we get to share our hope with men and women who have come up empty after trying to cope using the world’s methods.  When they hear that there is a God who sees, cares and knows their hurts, one who is able to give hope and strength to continue, a spark ignites in their heart.  We see countenances light up with hope for a new life and, as they begin to grow through mentoring, local church attendance, making new friends and linking arms in ministry, we hear praise reports!

If you know Jesus, the storm calmer, you have something to share with the rest of the world.  Share Him.  Help others come to know the One who holds you through the times of crisis.  Now, I’m going back to bed, and I will have peaceful sleep, because I know the Rest Giver.   "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." ~Matthew 11:28 & 29
 
 
In the shelter of His arms,
Chaplain Robin Malek

Outsiders

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In the Bible, from start to finish, we see a God who pursues the outsider – foreigner, the helpless, the stranger, the outcast.

Adam and Eve who were outside the Garden of Eden, Hagar outside the camp of Abraham,  Lazarus outside the gate of the rich man –prostitutes, lepers, thieves, the down and out and demon possessed – the Bible is filled with outsiders pursued and transformed by God’s relentless love.

What an awesome privilege and honor it is to be a part of what God is doing in the Macomb County Jail and the aftercare of Gateway.  We are able to watch God pursue the outsider, the down and outers with His unfailing love shown through the volunteers (who consist of Pastors, lay clergy, and even a couple of ex-offenders!)

God has organized one body of fellow workers to accomplish three things:  1) to share the love of Jesus, 2) to water, plant and win souls for Him, and 3) to disciple the men and women upon their release to society.  To help them become productive citizens and restored to their families.  Essentially to be the men and women of God they were called to be!

In the last three months, we’ve taken in 7 new men at the aftercare homes. They have all been enrolled in our new “Rooted” class at church.  This class gets then rooted and grounded in the Word of God.  They will be instructed and participate in God’s sacraments of baptism, holy communion, foot washing, holy matrimony, laying on of hands with the anointing of oil, and confirmation.

Thank you to all our volunteers, prayer team, jail ministers, mentors, aftercare Bible study teachers and Board of Directors.
 
All for Jesus,
Chaplain Steve Malek

In Memory of Raymond Ralph Accorsi

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Ralph

His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ ~Matthew 25:21
 
It was my distinct pleasure to give honor to a man of God who exhibited faith, sacrifice and humility at his home going at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church in Clarkston, MI on Monday, September 10th.
 
It has been said that true humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather, thinking of yourself less, and that was Ralph Accorsi.  Ralph knew the love of Jesus, so he had to share his heart.  When you truly know that love, first hand, it’s hard to shut up about it!
 
Ralph would drive great distances through snow storms, and all kinds of inclement weather (and in his wheelchair, no less) to share the love of Jesus to the inmates at the Macomb County Jail. Ralph truly answered the call the Lord laid upon his heart to preach the Gospel to the least of these.
 
The Macomb County Jail is a very unpleasant place.  It’s ugly, it’s dirty, and it’s smelly.  Evil and darkness live there!  It’s a place where men and women have lost their way and have lost their hope. It’s a place where people are oppressed and depressed.  They can’t see their way out of the nightmare, and for some, despair sets in.
 
There is more uncertainty there, than you will find anywhere.
 
Oh!  But out of all the craziness and madness, out of all the commotion, confusion, violence and utter mayhem, comes a cry.  An honest to goodness bonafide cry from those society seems to have forgotten!  It’s a cry that’s heard by our Savior, and He shows up through people like Ralph Accorsi to give them hope through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
Jesus said the greatest in the kingdom was the servant.  Ralph Accorsi, indeed, was a faithful servant with a heart for the lost.
 
Ralph was sure to have heard, when he entered heaven: “Welcome Ralph.  Well done good and faithful servant…”  He will be missed at the Macomb County Jail by the ministry team and, especially, the inmates!  Our sincere condolences to the family.
 
Please see the newsletter for updates on the jail ministry and aftercare.
 
In His Service,
Chaplains Steve and Robin Malek

Are You Trying To Make Me Feel Guilty?

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John 8:3; Then the Scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery.
 
In John 8 we read about the woman, not caught before or after the act of adultery, but right smack dab in the very act! (I have to wonder, what were the Scribes and Pharisees doing to have “caught” her…and where was the man she was with?  Why wasn’t he brought before Jesus too?)  But, I digress…
 
The wrath of God’s law brought the woman, caught in adultery, to the feet of the Savior.  That’s the function of the law, to condemn.  That’s what it does, it reveals to the sinner that he is already condemned. He who does not believe in Jesus is condemned already (John 3:18).
 
Ask a person which one of the Ten Commandments makes him feel guilty?  When the Bible says, “You shall not steal”, do you feel guilty? If so, why do you think that is?  Could it be because you are guilty?  God gave us our conscience so we would know when we break His law.  The guilt we feel when we do something wrong tells us we need to repent.
 
The law is God’s mercy because it shows us there is danger, and we are in desperate need of a Savior.  Unfortunately for them, the Scribes and the Pharisees messed up.  They brought this woman to the wrong man.  You see, this man – the God Man – not only came to fulfill the law, but He also came to save sinners!   Jesus then makes a statement that stands as one of the most convicting statements of Scripture:  “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  Of course, we know the men saw the error of their ways and walked away and the woman was saved from death and saved from eternal separation from God.
 
At the Macomb County Jail, we preach the law of God, not to judge, but to simply tell the inmates of God’s judgment on sin.  The most beautiful thing the volunteer ministers find is that you don’t have to convince an inmate that they have transgressed the law.  They know it and, especially after sentencing, they accept it.  That’s why jail and prison ministry is so effective.  Ministers don’t have to get over the hurdle of, “I’m a good person…” because the community knows they are in jail, their friends know they are in jail, their brothers and sisters know they are in jail, and even their mama knows they are in jail!  Luckily at that realization, the cross becomes a glorious sight!
 
At the aftercare, the newsletter tells of two men who have graduated the one year program (completed a six month foundational class, have been meeting regularly with their mentor, have been gainfully employed, and are showing growth spiritually) and are being reestablished in the community.  We are super proud of these two men!
 
We would be remiss if we were to close this Chaplain’s report without mentioning something that will be taking place on Thursday, August 23rd, 2018.  Being in the jail, the chaplains and volunteers see how drug addiction takes over people’s lives, destroying the addict and wrecking their families.  On Thursday, August 23rd, Bethesda Christian Church has graciously offered their church as a venue for a prayer gathering to combat this drug and opioid epidemic plaguing our communities.  We invite all to attend.  Forty to fifty churches from all over Southeastern Michigan are making the time to come and pray that the Lord of Hosts would do battle and end this scourge once and for all. Please plan to come and join us!  Bethesda Christian Church, 14000 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights, MI 48312 at 7pm.  Doors open at 6:00pm.
 
Guilty no more,
Chaplains Steve and Robin Malek