Where to find bread

I made this video for the New Hampshire Bible Society about two years ago. Some of the details have changed: I now minister in only one county jail in New Hampshire, but I spend a good amount of time there, teaching Bible studies and visiting inmates one-on-one. I still give out a lot of Life Recovery Bibles and other Christian literature. What a blessing it is to get to know these men, to hear their stories, to relate to them as someone who cares and understands, and to share with them good news of the hope and healing they can find in Christ.

*****

matt-and-chrisI raise my own financial support for my ministry, and it is the primary income for my wife and I. If you are interested in contributing you can send checks to:

Rev. Matt Kantrowitz
Isaiah 61 Ministries
C/O The Church at Prison, Inc.
Box 8318, Essex Junction, VT 05452

You can email me for more information at mmkantrowitz@gmail.com. All donations are tax deductible.

Save</spa

Save

Give yourself to love

I was Protestant Chaplain in Maine State Prison for 18 years. Many of the men shown here involved in Hospice were good friends of mine.They were part of the Christian Fellowship I had the privilege to serve behind the walls. And yes, some men I was close to have died in prison. It’s a comfort and a blessing to know they did not die alone.

Like the Hospice Program, the K-9 program in Maine State Program is a great way for “hardened criminals” in Maine State Prison to use their prison time to do something positive, constructive, and even loving. God spoke though the Prophet Ezekiel about a time to come when he would take away our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:24-27) It’s a great blessing to know that this is happening through these programs at Maine State Prison.

Watch a news story about the K9 Corrections program here.

*****

matt-and-chrisI raise my own financial support for my ministry, and it is the primary income for my wife and I. If you are interested in contributing you can send checks to:

Rev. Matt Kantrowitz
Isaiah 61 Ministries
C/O The Church at Prison, Inc.
Box 8318, Essex Junction, VT 05452

You can email me for more information at mmkantrowitz@gmail.com. All donations are tax deductible.

Dreams of my father

My father graduated from Brown University just 90 years this week. My nephew Alex will graduate from Brown Sunday. By my count he will be the ninth in our family to graduate since my father paved the way. (I include Alex and his Aunt Diane, although their connection is mostly through me.)

Recently we had a wonderful visit with my sister Deb. She reminded me of some warm, loving things my dad used to do for Jonathan, Deborah, and me. He used to make up stories like “Sinbad the Sailor” to tell us at bedtime. He would take us for rides in the car, and we would take turns choosing the route. We called this “Getting Lost.” He would take us into New York to see the Yankees.

A few years ago, my cousin Bonnie shared with me a note my dad sent to her when she was young. Bonnie had found the Aficomin, (This is the middle piece of the three matzoh on the table as part of the Passover Seder. It is hidden after the ceremony, and the little children search for it. The one who finds it is rewarded with a small gift.)

These reminders of my Dad have been very healing to me. There was a time when things I had done hurt him and disappointed him. I wish I had humbled myself and begged him to forgive me before he passed away. But since I didn’t, my own guilt and shame had kept me from appreciating what a good father, and a good man he really was.

Maybe because I’ve been thinking more about him lately, I had a dream about him last night. In my dream, I overheard someone use the term “gelt” in a conversation. “Gelt” is Yiddish for “money.” The most common usage nowadays is “Hanukah gelt,” chocolate coins given to the children when the Hanukah Menorah candles are lit.

So the term usually has a gentle, positive, loving connotation. but not for the man in my dream. He spoke the word bitterly, sarcastically, and hatefully. He was perpetrating an old anti-semitic slur: The idea that successful Jews were “shysters” who came by their “gelt” dishonestly.

So I challenged the man in my dream. I said, “My father was a Jewish man who had some material success in life. But he was a man of integrity, and he earned every penny honestly. He is remembered today not for his material success, but for his outstanding achievements as a husband and father.” And for some reason, the one example of this I gave in my dream was inspiring so many in his family to go to Brown.

So this is more than forty years late, but thank you, Dad. I’m sorry for the things I did that hurt you back then, and for not recognizing what a good father you really were to me.

In love, gratitude, and respect,

Matthew

My parents Beatrice and Ralph with my sister Deb, brother Jonathan, and me on my dad’s lap

The one who calls you is faithful

Jesus began his earthly ministry in his hometown, as described by Luke:

“He went to Nazareth, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 He  said,  “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

Jesus was reading from Isaiah 61. If he had continued further, he would have read:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor ,to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion: to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes, the oil of joy ,instead of mourning, and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord           for the display of his splendor. ” Isaiah 61:1-3

 

Jesus is our “Anointed One,” our Messiah. So I call my work “Isaiah 61 Ministries.” Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 at the  start of his earthly ministry.  Then, near the end, he said this:

 “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…  ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  —Matthew 25:35-40

This passage also has been important to me in prison ministry for the last 35 years. I try to always see Jesus in the prisoners, and even to be Jesus to them. Apostle John says, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.” 1 John 4:17 To be like Jesus is a challenge. But, as Apostle Paul puts it:

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do:  I press on toward the goal  in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:10-14

Currently I am somewhat disabled by “Inclusion Body Myositis,” a rare neuromuscular disease that has weakened my legs considerably. But by the grace of God, my mind is still somewhat intact. I still can lead Bible studies, worship services, and one-on-one “Clergy Visits” in Rockingham County Jail.

I give special thanks to the Bible Society of New Hampshire, who have generously offered to reimburse me for every Bible and Christian book I send in to inmates. I still stay in touch with ex-offenders and those who are still incarcerated, from Maine State Prison, New Hampshire State Prison, and Rockingham County Jail.

To be able to send them Bibles and books is a blessing. With heroin addiction filling the prisons and jails, God has provided many good books on “The 12 steps for Christians.” Men who are “clean and sober” in jail often start to think about how they might really change. If they accept Jesus as their “Higher Power” and “turn their will and lives over” to him (Step 3) they will be healed.

chrismatt
Chris and I with my electric wheelchair

God has provided us with a handicapped accessible apartment, a motorized wheelchair, and a wheelchair van. Folks from my church drive me to the jail. I thank Tracey, Kelley, Ann and David for this blessing. And special thanks to Dan, who has helped me with Bible studies at the jail for years now.

Another kind of support has come from churches and individuals who donate to Isaiah 61 Ministries. Chris takes care of me full-time. Our resources are limited. We collect Social Security, but without your support, we would fall short every month.

Sometimes I get down. It’s hard to be confined to a wheelchair. But whenever I go into the jail, the Lord reminds me that he’s not finished with me yet.  “…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)  I thank you all for your support, especially your prayers:

“On him we have set our hope, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”               2 Corinthians 1:11

“Keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”Eph. 6:18

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

In Christ,
Matt K.

*****

matt-and-chrisI raise my own financial support for my ministry, and it is the primary income for my wife and I. If you are interested in contributing you can send checks to:

Rev. Matt Kantrowitz
Isaiah 61 Ministries
C/O The Church at Prison, Inc.
Box 8318, Essex Junction, VT 05452

You can email me for more information at mmkantrowitz@gmail.com. All donations are tax deductible.

Leaving shame at the cross

April 11 is my “Spiritual Birthday.” It’s been 44 years, but I’m still far from perfect.

I became a Christian on April 11, 1973, at a Christian Recovery Program called His Mansion. At that time, I was full of shame. It was important in my family to go to a good college .I had gotten into Brown University, just like my father and my brother before me, but by my junior year I had been using so much acid, meth, and cocaine, I had to drop out. My parents were hurt and disappointed with me, and I began to be disgusted with myself

It wasn’t just dropping out of school. It wasn’t just letting my family down. I felt that I had let myself down. I had everything going my way, and I blew it. I knew that the drugs I was using could make you sick and could make you crazy, but I used them anyway, and I wound up using a lot more than I ever planned.

So I tried to get some help. That’s what you’re supposed to do. But I really didn’t think that anyone could help me. I didn’t believe I could ever change I thought that I was damaged goods, and I always would be. And the worst thing was, I had done this damage to myself. I hated myself for being so stupid. I hated myself for completely losing control. I was full of shame, and I thought I would always be.

But you’re supposed to get some help. You’re supposed to go to a program. You’re supposed to get “rehabilitated.” I went to a regular rehab, but they didn’t like my attitude, and I didn’t last long. I decided to try His Mansion, even though it was a Christian program.”What the heck,” I thought.

So I arrived at His Mansion full of shame. It wasn’t just guilt. When you feel guilty, it’s about things you’ve done. But shame is about who you are. And that’s why shame is so toxic. To hate yourself, to see yourself as a loser, a failure, a hopeless addict– you can get stuck there for years.

But God was good to me when I got to His Mansion. He didn’t let me stay stuck in my shame. I remember the first day I was there I was sitting there on a bench. I guess I didn’t realize how bad I looked. But there was a lady there. Her name was Eleanor Wagner. She looked at me and said, “Why don’t you take all that guilt and shame and wrap it up like you were taking out the garbage, and leave it at the cross. That’s where Jesus took care of it.”

So I prayed, and I pictured wrapping up my shame, and leaving it at the cross. And Eleanor was right. From that moment on I stopped hating myself, and seeing myself as a loser or a failure.
I had an experience that the Bible describes in Psalm 34:4-6:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

The heart of Biblical justice

the-persistent-widow
The Persistent Widow by WJ Webb

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”Luke 18:1-8

Widows were in a precarious position in Ancient Israel. If a woman lost her husband, she was often left without any means of financial support. Such women were considered under God’s special care. Psalm 68:5 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” God’s compassion goes out to them, and he expects his people to do the same.

The Lord speaks through Moses in Exodus, saying “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.  If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.”Ex. 22:22-23                                                                                          

 The way the nation of Israel treated the widows among them was a good indication of how they  were practicing Justice toward all the poor, the oppressed, the prisoners, the blind, and the hungry. So Jesus moves from the story of one widow seeking justice to all of us seeking justice:

“And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.

Justice in the Bible was an important moral principle .When they spoke of the coming Messiah, the Old Testament Prophets saw him bringing justice.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.
 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.
 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth. Is. 42:1-4

Jesus came to bring forth justice, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. So when he began his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth, he read from Isaiah this prophecy of the Anointed One, Messiah, the Christ:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives    and recovering of sight to the blind,  to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Is. 61:1-2) ( Lk 4:16-21)

And he said,” Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Justice in the Bible begins with God. He is the defender and protector of the poor, the homeless, the debtor, the widow, the orphans, the refugees, the addicts, and the prisoners And if we really belong to God, we too are called to practice Justice .  .  Jesus has given us the ministry of bringing justice to the world. When he returns, Jesus will establish his justice completely. Until then, he has called us to work for justice. The Old Testament Prophets heard his call: Micah said,

Micah said:”He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
” Micah 6:8

Amos said,” Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

Jesus says, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. and then he says “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”Will he find us doing his Justice in a fallen world? Perfect Justice will not be ours until Jesus returns, but until then, aren’t we called as Christians to work for justice and do what we can to bring justice into this fallen world?

Bible teacher R.C. Sroul sees the mission of the church as twofold: “First, there is the work of world-wide witness, making disciples and planting churches. Secondly, Christians are called upon to do works of mercy and compassion”.

This is the kind of Justice that the Old Testament Prophets wrote about. Christians should respond to God’s command to love our neighbor with generosity and compassion  concerning all forms of human need. Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, forgave the sinners, and  brought the lost sheep home.  Christians should learn from his example.”

The question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the Earth?” I think is answered, at least partly, by Matthew 25:32-40 : Jesus said,

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Feeding the hungry, sheltering the strangers among us, giving clothing to the poor, and visiting the sick and the prisoners: All this, including taking care of widows and orphans and much more, is the heart of Biblical justice. In our day, millions of refugees are fleeing famine, war, persecution ,and poverty. And there are thousands afflicted with the disease of drug addiction  As much as we practice justice, and keep praying boldly and persistently for justice, Jesus promises he will answer. He might even send us to be his answer, for those who are crying to him day and night for justice.

***

matt-and-chrisI raise my own financial support for my ministry, and it is the primary income for my wife and I. If you are interested in contributing you can send checks to:

Rev. Matt Kantrowitz
Isaiah 61 Ministries
C/O The Church at Prison, Inc.
Box 8318, Essex Junction, VT 05452

You can email me for more information at mmkantrowitz@gmail.com. All donations are tax deductible.

As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8

Widows were in a precarious position in Ancient Israel. If a woman lost her husband, she was often left without any means of financial support. Such women were considered under God’s special care. Psalm 68:5 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” God’s compassion goes out to them, and he expects his people to do the same.

The Lord speaks through Moses in Exodus, saying “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.  If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.”Ex. 22:22-23                                                                                          

 The way the nation of Israel treated the widows among them was a good indication of how they  were practicing Justice toward all the poor, the oppressed, the prisoners, the blind, and the hungry. So Jesus moves from the story of one widow seeking justice to all of us seeking justice:

“And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.

Justice in the Bible was an important moral principle .When they spoke of the coming Messiah, the Old Testament Prophets saw him bringing justice.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.
 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.
 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
Is. 42:1-4

 

Jesus came to bring forth justice, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. So when he began his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth, he read from Isaiah this prophecy of the Anointed One, Messiah, the Christ:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives    and recovering of sight to the blind,  to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Is. 61:1-2) ( Lk 4:16-21)

And he said,” Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Justice in the Bible begins with God. He is the defender and protector of the poor, the homeless, the debtor, the widow, the orphans, the refugees, the addicts, and the prisoners And if we really belong to God, we too are called to practice Justice .  .  Jesus has given us the ministry of bringing justice to the world. When he returns, Jesus will establish his justice completely. Until then, he has called us to work for justice. The Old Testament Prophets heard his call: Micah said,

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Amos said,

“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

Jesus says, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. and then he says “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Will he find us doing his Justice in a fallen world? Perfect Justice will not be ours until Jesus returns, but until then, aren’t we called as Christians to work for justice and do what we can to bring justice into this fallen world?

Bible teacher R.C. Sroul sees the mission of the church as twofold: “First, there is the work of world-wide witness, making disciples and planting churches. Secondly, Christians are called upon to do works of mercy and compassion”.

This is the kind of Justice that the Old Testament Prophets wrote about. Christians should respond to God’s command to love our neighbor with generosity and compassion  concerning all forms of human need. Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, forgave the sinners, and  brought the lost sheep home.  Christians should learn from his example.

The question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the Earth?” I think is answered, at least partly, by Matthew 25:32-40 : Jesus said,

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Feeding the hungry, sheltering the strangers among us, giving clothing to the poor, and visiting the sick and the prisoners: All this, including taking care of widows and orphans and much more, is the heart of Biblical justice. In our day, millions of refugees are fleeing famine, war, persecution ,and poverty. And there are thousands afflicted with the disease of drug addiction.  As much as we practice justice, and keep praying boldly and persistently for justice, Jesus promises he will answer. He might even send us to be his answer, for those who are crying to him day and night for justice.

***
matt-and-chrisI raise my own financial support for my ministry, and it is the primary income for my wife and I. If you are interested in contributing you can send checks to:

Rev. Matt Kantrowitz
Isaiah 61 Ministries
C/O The Church at Prison, Inc.
Box 8318, Essex Junction, VT 05452

You can email me for more information at mmkantrowitz@gmail.com. All donations are tax deductible.