Safe Place with Ruth Graham

The angels sat around drinking their heavenly coffee and discussing the last thirty years.They had been horrified when the Heavenly Father sent their precious Jesus to earth – that blue ball inhabited by rebellious people.

The Father had confined Jesus to the womb of a teenage girl then He was squeezed thorough a birth canal, wrapped in rags and put in a feeding trough! What on earth was God thinking?

They were thrilled to show the glory of heaven as they declared the good news: “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will to men.” But why to just a small number of smelly shepherds who then ran to see the baby Jesus.

This seemed like an odd way to announce the birth of a King. But they trusted the wisdom of God.

Then 3 kings had shown up to bring very expensive gifts and pay homage. That was more like it! After all, this was the darling of heaven.This was the second person of the Trinity – it was about time He was treated royally!

It did’t last long. The evil Herod in his jealous rage ordered all babies two and under to be killed. They warned Joseph in a dream. The family had to flee to safety. The heavenly host guarded the young family as they traveled to Egypt.

They watched Him learn to walk and run. They laughed at His antics and smiled as He took His first steps. They watched with pride as He helped his earthly father in the carpenter’s shop.

They hovered near as the family went to Jerusalem and then listened in as He talked with the Rabbis, impressing them with His wisdom. Of course! He had the wisdom of the ages! He was the Ancient of Days!

The last three years had been interesting as He got involved in people’s messes. He had healed all sorts of maladies, even raised Lazarus to life. He had taught from the hillside – but the people seemed not to understand what He was talking about when He told them they were blessed when they mourn, and should rejoice when persecuted.

What He taught was upside down: to gain their life they had to lose it; to live they had to die. They loved the times He multiplied the fish and bread to feed so many hungry people! That was fun.

The Scribes and Pharisees were a pain and always tried to trip Jesus up. They couldn’t. It made them mad. They’d have to keep an eye on them.

They liked to watch Jesus fish with His buddies. Peter was a character – they enjoyed his impetuousness. Like when Jesus had been transfigured and he wanted to build three tabernacles. And Peter seemed to get it when he declared Jesus was the Son of God. But there was one that seemed a bit squirrelly – Judas. He wasn’t like the others.

But today as they entered Jerusalem the people sang and waved palm branches and threw their coats on the path for Him to ride over. Maybe, at long last, the folks were catching on!

The angels rejoiced. This was going to be a good week.

Someone passed this on to me. I thought it was too good to keep to myself!

“The test will cover the last seven chapters”.

Those words or something like them still strike anxiety or fear in me.

It did help a bit if we were told “here is what you need to know”.

It would have been even better yet if another brighter classmate could have taken the test for me.

But now I find I need a substitute test taker for the driver’s test or the eye exam.

There is One who has created us, knows us, loves us, and examines us….and does so through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. He has taken the exam on our behalf and the results are clear, summarized in the bible verse that many of us learned as elementary children, John 3:16.

FOR GOD — The Greatest Deity
SO LOVED — The Greatest Caring
THE WORLD — The Greatest Company
THAT HE GAVE — The Greatest Gift
HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON — The Greatest Perfection
THAT WHOSOEVER — The Greatest Invitation
BELIEVES — The Greatest Simplicity
IN HIM — The Greatest Attraction
SHOULD NOT PERISH — The Greatest Promise
BUT — The Greatest Difference
HAVE — The Greatest Certainty
EVERLASTING LIFE — The Greatest Possession
— Source Unknown

It’s “what you need to know” as we look forward to Easter.

It was a joy to be able to return to Angola Prison two weeks ago. I saw many men I met years ago when the team for Ruth Graham & Friends went to hold a conference there with the men. It felt like a reunion.

We didn’t have a lot of time there. A group of us were there to witness the seminary program established by The New Orlean Baptist Seminary in connection with The Global Prison Seminaries Foundation. While Burl Cain was warden at Angola he had a vision to put a seminary in the prison for the men to get their degrees and then be used as chaplains either at Angola or other prisons.

That is taking place! So exciting.

When I visited Angola years ago a young man gave me the big belt buckle he won at the rodeo – they have a rodeo twice a year where the men can compete as well as sell their crafts to the public. It is a great event they look forward to. As does the public. It is a huge event.

I knew his belt buckle was a treasure to him and I was deeply humbled and honored that he gave it to me. I told him I would keep it safely and if he ever wanted it back, he could have it.

A couple of years later I went back to attend the rodeo. What a wild time it was! Since the men are in for life, they have nothing to loose! So they go for broke! Anyway, I took the belt buckle with me and asked to see the young man. When he came up to me after a chapel service, I again told him he could have it back. He sweetly said, no, he wanted me to keep it. Again, I told him I would keep it safe until he wanted it back – if he ever did.

Well, went I went back two weeks ago, I took the buckle with me hoping I would get the opportunity to see him. As we toured the new seminary building on the prison grounds we listened to the impact it was having in the men’s lives. As we left we were told one young man had just finished his doctoral dissertation. They held it up and told us the name of the young man: Alex Hennis. I let out a whoop! That was the young man who gave me the belt buckle!

I was thrilled. And asked if I might meet with him during lunch.

He came. It was a grand reunion. I am so proud of him. He not only got his doctorate but has earned 2 Masters degrees and is working on his third! His seminary professors attended his parole hearing, vouched for him and told the parole board they were going to make him an adjunct professor when he was released! Wow!

That is not reformation but transformation. And we are seeing that in every prison where there is a Seminary/Bible College. I am thrilled. I love it.

That’s how real prison reform takes place – in the heart. Not some governemt program. Not by throwing money at it. The men – and women – have to have a heart change by the power of the Lord Jesus.

This is real. The Global Prisons Seminary needs to be multiplied to reach every prison. I know they are now trying to get into the Federal prison system. This program has been researched and documented by scholars at Baylor University – it works!

Not reformation but transformation!

My new book manuscript is in! Praise the Lord! It’s like delivering a baby. Now the doctors (editors) say “Isn’t it nice. But lets’ take off this toe and this finger and rearrange this arm.” The editing process is grueling.

However, the Word of the Lord is eternal and true.

Psalm 123:2 talks about us waiting on the Lord like a servant’s eyes are on the master watching how they might serve. But it says a curious thing “our eyes wait upon the Lord our God until he has mercy on us…” (KJV) How do our eyes wait? The Amplified version says, “our eyes look unto the Lord.” That is probably more of the meaning.

The Message puts it this way:”We’re watching and waiting, holding our breath, awaiting your word of mercy.”

While those translations are true and help us understand I began to think about my eyes waiting…

Eyes are a reflection of a soul – a window to the soul. I was recently in the store and I went up to one of my favorite associates. She was her cheerful self but her eyes were sad. I told her she looked sad and she began to cry. Yes. Eyes tell us quite a bit. They can tell when we are tired. Angry. Puzzled.

When we are frantic our eyes can be rather jumpy, not able to focus on any one thing – just going from one thing to the next.

To get our eyes to wait we have to settle. We have to focus. This scripture tells us to have our eyes wait on the Lord. Carefully, watching. Focus on Him!