"An Inside Perspective"

October 2007

My dear family in Christ,

Ever-precious greetings in the name of our LORD Jesus Christ! By the grace of God, this world is not our home! It is written, "But we are citizens of Heaven where the Lord Jesus lives." (NLT)

I was reminded of that recently, when suddenly, we lost our yard. A gang member was suspected of smuggling drugs while on a visit with his family, and he was roughed up by the officers. While dragging him to the hole, they brought him past the Big Yard, and all his buddies saw what was happening. I saw it too. Later on that morning, the gang members retaliated on the officers, and a fight broke out.

It has been forty-two days, and we are still on a partial lock-down. Since then, half of the jail has been delegated to a small yard, and we only go out with our own wing.

From my own personal perspective, the Big Yard was a wonderfully huge lake, divinely provided, that was full of the souls of men. We are able to go out three times a day, and to be honest, I loved it. If I was allowed to go outside, I almost could not control myself. I simply just had to go out.

There were probably about five hundred men in the yard at any given time. There were white skin-headed racists in one section, drug-heads here, black-radicals there, multiple gangs everywhere, and, homosexuals amongst them all. Don't be shocked. It is no different out there in the world where you are! (smile)

I would go out among them by faith, everyday, with an eye to share the gospel with someone. I called it friendship evangelism. I know I am a changed man because I would love them, before I even met them. I have observed over the years, that generally I cannot just storm into a person's life with the message of Heaven and hell.

It has been rightly said, "A person does not care about how much you know, until they know how much you care." I would have to first build a relationship, and so, a trust. I therefore sought out relationships, and by God's grace, I made new ones easily. The love of God was in me, and I truly loved these men, before I even talked to them. I prayed that the sincere love of God, and my own personal gratitude for salvation, would come through and touch their hearts. Now, suddenly, those opportunities were gone!

Everyday though, I also experienced temptation, albeit, not by something sinful. I loved to play basketball, and of a truth it had been an excellent avenue to build just such relationships. It seemed that some type of male bonding took place "in the paint," as two grown men played hard and sweat together. I would play someone I did not even know, and yet afterward, I then had the relationship, previously not there, for sharing the Word.

None of that is bad in and of itself, but I found myself increasingly more focused on basketball itself, than on my call to share God's Word. Then, suddenly the fight happened, those opportunities were gone, never to be back.

I sat back and I reflected on my bunk during the lock-down on how I had made excuses in my heart. I would tell myself, "I need the exercise, I will speak to 'so and so' tomorrow." Yes, I was building relationships, but at times. I was so exhausted from two hours of hard ball playing that I could not muster the energy to share the Word! I was distracted by that which I loved, and even though it was not sinful in and of itself, yet, it was that very thing that hindered me from God's purpose. Therefore, it became sin to me; because, it hindered God's will for me. I simply did not exercise discipline. I could have played ball, and shared the Word with a good balance, but I did not.

It is said, "The good is often the enemy of the best." I went outside everyday prayed up, with the right intent, and yet, it seemed as if the basketball court had some type of a homing device that called me! I always ended up there. (smile)

The world is full of wonderful tings that are not sinful. Therefore, it is needful for us to know that the Lord's will and call upon our love is, so that, we can find the proper balance. Your world can be turned upside down in a moment and all your opportunities vanished. Is there someone special on your heart, even now, that you have wanted to share the Lord with? I know, tomorrow you will share with "so and so." Reflect now, because . . .

Suddenly, all your opportunities may be gone!"

Joyfully in Jesus,
Fisherman Philip