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"An Inside Perspective"

December 2011


                           


My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Many years ago, in the early nineties, I first arrived in Trenton State Prison. Previous to that I had been in the county jail for a full three years, and I had been saved about the same amount of time. I was very zealous for the souls of men and would speak to anyone about the Lord, with no fear of consequence. I made many foolish mistakes back then, often ending up in many awkward, if not threatening, situations. Through it all though, the Lord delivered me. I still zealously speak today, but I like to think that I now use some seasoned wisdom. ?

At that time the prison had what they called the Big yard. It was used for recreation for the whole of general population. It was deemed the Big yard because there were also many smaller yards used for various other prisoners who, for whatever reason, were not in general population.

The whole Big yard was one massive slab of concrete. It had two full size basketball courts, a huge weight pile, card tables, hand ball courts and a nice size track for running. It was huge. I was out there every day doing something. In fact now as I reflect back on it, for my first ten years or so, I ran three to five miles a day, rain or shine, to keep in good shape. When we were done, we would get some water and then play basketball till we went back in! Any wonder that my back is sore all the time now? Ah, the optimistic vigor of youth!

The most important part of my yard movement was witnessing. On a sidebar, almost everything that we do in prison is called a “movement” by the institution. We have yard movement, mess movement, chapel movement, work movement, etc. They are all called mass movements because many prisoners are all moving at once and the officers must be on full alert in case of a “situation,” as they like to call it. A “situation” could be anything from a fight, to a drug deal, to a civilian being accosted, etc. If you ever believed one thing that I have told you, believe this. In prison, every day is full of “situations!”

We were allowed to bring playing cards, cigarettes, knee pads, weight belts, gloves, hats, walkmans, etc., to the yard, but no small Gideon Bible. God forbid, a brother should have a small Bible in the Big yard! That could be a real “situation!” ?

Nothing used to make me crazier than that! Why can all these flaming unbelievers bring out whatever they want and I can’t bring out my little spiritual derringer?!? I promptly wrote to the administrator, I thought, very articulately arguing my case. Surely he would see my point. Not! He could have cared less about the lucidity of my reasonings and he denied me forthwith by executive fiat!

I then used my sanctified reasoning to determine that said warden was therefore hindering the will and purpose of God in evangelizing the Big yard! I thus concluded that God must want me to put my Gideon in my shoe every day to bring it to the Big yard. I gladly obliged. ?

Thus began a long pattern and habit. I tucked that derringer in the heal of my sneaker for years every day. As soon as I got outside, I took it out and went to work. The Lord was gracious in the saving of many souls over the years. I thought no one in authority was any the wiser and that the Lord had blinded their eyes, so to speak. No one ever said anything to me so I just went joyfully about the Lord’s business. Little did I know.

One year later, I was walking down the hall by myself and a lieutenant was walking toward me from the other direction. It was just the two of us; I knew him and he knew me. I said, “Good morning, lieutenant.” And he said with a witty smirk, “Good morning, Mr. Bible in the shoe.” He just kept right on walking and so did I! I was stunned, to say the least. Talk about being caught off guard, he slipped me a mickey and I was rocked!

I went back to my cell and pondered it. I determined that it was his way of telling me that I wasn’t getting away with anything. He was saying, without saying, that he knew everything I did. He obviously permitted it, although it was not his perfect will for me. If he didn’t like me, he would have handled it completely different and I knew it. Believe me, in Trenton you can go to the hole just for looking at an officer the wrong way!

It is written, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:13)

Have you ever practiced a habit while wrongfully surmising in your heart that the Lord really doesn’t see? Perhaps deep down you have lied to yourself, justifying your ungodly behavior. Theologically, you really do know that indeed He does see. Maybe the Lord, with much longsuffering, has convicted you repeatedly by His Spirit concerning such? Beloved, just because He may have allowed it for a season does not mean it’s His perfect will for you. Don’t make him pry it out of your hand. Precious one . . .

“WHAT’S IN YOUR SHOE?”

JOYFULLY IN JESUS,
LOVE, PHILIP