At our most recent board meeting I was listening to both Lil and Peter talk about what they do at Chester County Prison every day-the people they talk with about significant issues of life. I heard them use a phrase which caught my attention. They talked about “finding favor.”
“Finding favor” is a Biblical phrase. If you and I were sitting over a cup of coffee and I asked if you could tell me about someone in the Bible who “found favor,” who would you choose? One such person would be a young woman who “found favor” with God. You could tell me the story about young Mary when the Angel of the Lord announced she would be the mother of the Messiah in Luke 1. You might come up with several others-God looked with ”favor” on Abel’s offering in Genesis 3. Noah “found favor” in the eyes of the Lord in Genesis 6.
But what does this have to do with Peter and Lil at Chester County Prison?
As I listened to them talk, I reviewed in my mind the 34 years Onesimus has been faithfully’ “offering the life-changing good news of Christ” to those we serve. It seems as though Onesimus has “found favor” with the administrative staff who have invited us to come to CCP. I thank God for the privilege of serving the Lord in this manner. Doug Burnette had the vision in 1978 when he asked if he could “go back to prison” – to the same place where he came to know the Lord twelve years before as the result of a crisis which profoundly changed his life.
As I listened to Peter and Lil talk about men and women who want the life change for themselves, I thought about another image from the Bible – leavening. You ask what is “leavening?” Leaven is the King James Version’s word for yeast. The Bible uses “leaven” both in a positive/good way as well as in a negative/bad way.
Jesus said in Luke 12: 1: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” This is an image of yeast in the negative sense, suggesting our sin and rebellion will bring more sin and rebellion in ourselves and others. We know the negative use of this image in the saying “One bad apple spoils the bunch. ”
But yeast is also used in the good sense. Galatians 5:9 says: ”A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Or in Matthew 13:33 where Jesus told another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough. ”
Yeast works its way through the whole batch of dough. What a wonderful picture of what Peter and Lit and others are doing among the folks they serve at CCP. Their friendship, teaching, prayers, and ministry are producing a positive impact on others around them, as they learn more about the forgiving grace of God. Somehow, “like yeast spreading through dough,” the Holy Spirit changes them, bit by bit, line upon line, precept upon precept.
My prayer for Peter, Lil, and those they serve is from Ephesians 3: 16-21: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, “may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!