(Written on 7/13/17)
I love jury duty. I know most people loathe it and are frustrated by anything involving the government but it is one of my favorite things to do. I have only been summoned twice and I have never been picked for a jury but I still love it. It is basically a one week study hall where I can read in peace, write with no distractions, and play on my phone without ignoring my family and frustrating my wife. A typical Gibson week is usually filled with activities and busy things to do around the house so those quiet free time breaks are such a blessing when they do happen!
I say all of that as I sit at the Chicago Cubs Bar and Grill in O’Hare airport watching a thunderstorm cancel not only my flight, but several flights throughout the airport. I do have a rebooked flight that should get me to Ohio later today just in time for today’s prison visit to Richland Correctional Institution (please pray that this rain lets up so I can like actually do this whole prison ministry thing and not just be a big talker!). I am looking forward to a couple hours of free time to get my mind and heart in order to talk to the men that I will see this weekend.
The last couple of times I have had the opportunity to speak in prison, I have brought up the recent prison visit to Angola, Louisiana. This is the largest prison in the United States and is pretty unique as it has a huge farm, a Bible College on site, and a biannual rodeo that the inmates participate in (so far the Illinois inmates said they would rather stick to softball instead of having a rodeo!). One day during our stay, we visited the museum by the front gate of the facility. It was interesting to see the history of this prison. At the end of the tour, there is wooden chair that was used as the electric chair for capital punishment. (My first thought was to get a selfie while sitting in the chair, but my teammates took my phone away and said that would be disrespectful and stupid! Props to good teammates!) It was rather sobering to look at the chair and realize that people had died sitting there. I also thought about the capital punishment that Jesus had to endure on the cross for the sin that Tom Gibson and all of mankind has committed or will ever commit.
I am in the book of Matthew for my morning devotions (when people lead with the topic of where they are at in their devotions, I always think to myself that they just made that up and that they really bailed on their yearly Bible reading plan halfway through Leviticus in February!). In Matthew 26, Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemone. He prays to His Father three times pleading with Him to find another way other than the cruxifiction that he was about to endure. He knew that He was going to have His Father’s wrath poured out on Him for the sins of the world. The Bible says that He was sorrowful even to the point of death. The book of Luke records this by saying that Jesus bled from his forehead while he prayed. When I think of Jesus I don’t often think of Him like this. I think of Him confidently talking to the Pharisees and compassionately preaching to the crowds about how no one could come to the Father but by Him. It is hard to see distressed Jesus in my mind but the Bible records it and shows the fact about how seriously God takes sin. God is a perfect judge and He has to punish sin. I often use the illustration that if I steal a TV from Best Buy, I am not going to make it very far and that I will undoubtedly face a judge who will sentence me for that crime. If that judge lets me go by saying, “You’re free to go, just don’t let it happen again…”, he would not be a fair judge.
God is the perfect judge and the Bible says that we all have sinned and deserve judgement for the sins we have committed. I know that there will be several inmates (as well as people who read this) who think that is crazy to think that a loving God could ever punish people with hell. The real part that doesn’t make sense is John 3:16 when we are reminded that God loved us so much that He sent His son to die in our place. As a parent, that hits hard as I can’t imagine taking the hand of one of my kids and leading them to that chair in Angola so that they could take the punishment of an inmate at that prison. Watching them crying so hard that their foreheads are bleeding, begging for another way is gut wrenching. That is a disturbing thought but that is the reality of what God did for us.
This is the message that we will be sharing in Ohio this week. There are men there who know that they have messed up. They are told daily that they have messed and that they are bad. God’s Word says that these men are so valuable that He sent His son to die for them. I want to tell them about the gift of salvation that Jesus offers to those who repent and follow Him.
Please keep this trip in prayer that God will draw these men to Him! The logistics of the trip are off to a rough start so please keep our team in prayer as we are going to meet up in Ohio at some point.
Thank you to everyone who has prayed and supported this trip. This is cliche but I really am blessed to combine softball with ministering with men in prison!
I am looking forward to keeping everyone updated this week!