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JAIL HOUSE RELIGION Some say that God must live inside the walls of prisons since so many seem to find him there. Is it really surprising that the Creator reveals himself in dark places? Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible contain great stories of jailhouse religion. Joseph’s prison experience demonstrates that the God of the Old Testament is the same loving and faith-inspiring one found in the New Testament. Joseph was the head slave in Potiphar’s household. The master’s wife tried to seduce him, but he fled the scene. The woman claimed that Joseph tried to rape her, and her husband believed the tale. As a result, he spent approximately 10-12 years in jail—labeled as a sex-offender. Despite the injustice of it, Joseph was a model prisoner. Both his fellow inmates and the prison’s staff respected him. God gifted Joseph with the ability to interpret dreams. Despite the justified anger he might have felt towards Egypt, and its rulers, he used his gift to help Pharoah’s staff, and then the king himself. The apostle Paul, and his partner, Silas, went to prison frequently. They dared proclaim what they had seen and heard—that Jesus is risen from the dead! Their boldness led to tremendous church growth, and it angered Rome’s leaders. So, they were beaten and jailed. Like Joseph, they were model inmates. They sang praises to God late at night. Then an earthquake shook the prison, resulting in open doors. Nevertheless, Paul and Silas stayed in their places, as did all the prisoners. The head jailer was so amazed that he and his whole family converted to faith in Jesus. Why did Paul and Silas stay put? Why did Joseph use his supernatural gifts to help Egypt? These prisoners had faith. God showed himself inside those walls, so they could believe that all would end well. The results vindicated their faith. Joseph correctly predicted that a severe famine would hit Egypt, and then administered stock piling and rationing. Ultimately, he saved his own family, and his “host country” from starvation. Similarly, Paul and Silas received apologies from the magistrates, and were publicly escorted out of the jail, completely exonerated. Christians believe in life turn-arounds. We welcome those releasing back into our churches. Some have even turned from lives of crime to full-time service in gospel ministry. Why not? Adam and Eve committed the original sin, yet taught their children to sacrifice offerings to God. Moses killed a man, yet led Israel out of Egypt. King David committed adultery, lied about it, then had the woman’s husband killed. Nevertheless, God declared him a man after his own heart. In much the same way, Paul was the Christian church’s most zealous opponent, yet he becomes author of over half of the New Testament. “Jailhouse religion” is a phrase oft-spoken with cynicism. This prison chaplain enthusiastically endorses the kind of faith found during incarceration. After all, were we not all captives of our own sins and follies? Listen to the audio presentation of this message at: http://www.anglelake.org/resources/online-sermons/?sermon_id=382