Helping and Enriching Lives Through Prison Ministry

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Love Demands Discipline


Dear Supporters, Brethren and Friends,

Again, let me express my thanks for the continued support. I write this report preparing to go on a trip to West Florida to visit inmates that I have been working with via the mail. I try to go see these men once a year. My plan is to visit seven prisons in four days. It is interesting to try and coordinate these trips with seven different Chaplains! These trips I believe are important. I can better understand Paul’s desire to actually visit the churches he worked with even though he was writing them letters. It is so much easier to study with a man face to face than through the mail. It is also amazing how encouraging a visit is in person. I am appreciative of the support you give that allows me to do this.

I fear sometimes my reports come across overly negative. I tend to write about what I am feeling at the time. I need to say before you read further that I am not discouraged at all. In fact, the men in our program currently are doing very well and I hope to write about some of these successes next time. However, what I am about to share with you is just the reality of the work. I accept that and I am resolute to continue to serve God by working with these men. So here I go, I recently had a hand in sending a brother back to prison. This brother stole one of the ministry cars after he relapsed on crack cocaine. This was proceeded by stealing some tools from my house, tools from the church, and items from his employer who is also a member of our congregation. This is the first man that has ever damaged me and the brethren here personally to that degree. The police found him a few days after he took the car while he was doing a drug deal in Seminole County. I pressed charges against him. He was sentenced last week to nine years in prison. I didn’t feel any joy. Instead, I felt a sense of profound sadness and asked myself if I did the right thing. A verse came to mind that I have shared with men in prison many times. It is from Isaiah 26:10 – If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness. Discipline is what this brother needed, but discipline is not pleasant. Love demands discipline. That is what the Hebrew writer tells us in Heb. 12:5-8…

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him. 6For the Lord disciplines

the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 2

Discipline is painful when inflicted on us by God, and it is painful to see others disciplined by our hand either directly or indirectly. Some might even mistakenly view what I did as unloving. I guess we hear those in the world often recoil when they see a child spanked or corrected “harshly” in public. However, I do believe the scriptures tell us over and over that discipline is good and that the withholding of discipline is actually not the way of love. Sometimes the easy way out is not the loving way out. To withhold discipline is to withhold love and to withhold a tool used by God to change and perfect us. Notice what these passages say about discipline …

Lamentations 3:39 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?

Jeremiah 10:24 Correct me, O Lord, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.

Proverbs… 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

27:5–6 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

29:19 By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond.

So many men in prison have seen discipline their whole life as bad, unfair, and unloving. They often speak of the people in their lives who have loved them as those who never treated them any differently no matter what they did. They “love” them by not turning them in or by lying for them or by supporting their unrighteous behavior. That is a dysfunctional and ungodly love. We can’t say we love the way God defines love if we are unwilling to discipline. Even when it hurts to carry it out. Our hope is that this brother will finally learn from the discipline he is receiving.

Thank you for supporting the teaching, encouraging, training and disciplining of men in prison and those released. It takes all of those things to show these men the real God of Love.

Daryl Townsend