He pulls me close with nail-scarred hands into His everlasting arms.
Many times I hear a Christian song and immediately think about Jahar because the lyrics speak of what I so deeply desire for him. That song then becomes associated with him in my mind, and I sometimes use it during prayer for him.
“Boldly I Approach” by Rend Collective is a song that I literally only fell in love with yesterday. Though I’m connecting the song to Jahar in this post, originally it made me think of someone else.
Prior to praying for Jahar, I could’ve cared less about anyone in prison. But when I started praying for him, God started breaking my heart for prisoners and showing me that they are not beyond redemption. I also started becoming very anti-death penalty due to research I was doing. That led me to want the death penalty abolished everywhere in this country, but even more so, I wanted death row inmates to know Jesus.
God placed it on my heart to start a prayer ministry called Operation Life along with five other sisters in Christians United for Jahar. The mission is simply to pray daily for death row inmates. I was assigned to pray for Jeffrey Ferguson, an inmate on Missouri’s death row.
I found out that Jeffrey became a Christian while in prison and was transformed into a far different man than he was back when he committed the crimes (kidnapping, rape, and murder) that landed him there. He was truly a new creation in Christ. He and his lawyers were fighting hard for clemency, arguing that he was a changed man who was a valuable part of the prison because of his impact there. To me, if anyone deserved clemency, it was him.
Last night, the governor of Missouri denied clemency, only a few hours prior to Jeffrey’s scheduled execution. I was devastated by the news. I went for a drive and cried out to God for my brother Jeffrey. Instantly, I was filled with a joy and peace that hasn’t left since. My brother was going home to Jesus! I had no reason to mourn for him, but I had every reason to rejoice.
After all, in only three hours he would experience what he was so joyfully looking forward to:
I don’t have any fear in my heart at all. I’m ready to do this. I’m ready to go. I’m going to go up there, they’re going to pull the curtains open and my family is going to be there. And I’m going to look at them and I’m going to smile and then make a funny face at them and they’re going to laugh, and then I’m going to tell them I love them and then I’ll go to sleep and die. Then I’m going to open my eyes and it’ll be Jesus and he’ll be going, ‘Come here, man!’ and it’ll be fantastic. That’s the plan.
(Read/hear the rest of his interview at http://www.missourinet.com/2014/03/19/
As I was praying, “Boldly I Approach” came on in my car, and it was so perfect for the situation. The chorus goes:
Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty
Brother Jeffrey died this morning at 12:11 a.m. But I know that in Christ, he lives. By the blood of Jesus, he was able to run into his Savior’s arms, blameless despite all that he had done. Now he’s “face to face with love Himself,” experiencing the unspeakable joy of being in God’s presence forever.
Is that not the same amazing future that can await Jahar? I pray that the words of this song would become as true for Jahar as they are for Jeffrey. May Jahar become a new creation in Christ just like Jeffrey did.
This is the art of celebration
Knowing we’re free from condemnation
Oh praise the One, praise the One
Who made an end to all my sin
One day may we celebrate—just like I was able to do yesterday and today for Jeffrey—along with Jahar that he’s free from condemnation and that Jesus made an end to all his sin. The world will forever condemn him, but through the cross, he can one day run into Jesus’ arms, blameless in God’s eyes.
Rest in peace, brother Jeffrey.