Boldly I Approach

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/
ferguson-execution-set-for-march-26-says-he-is-ready-to-go-audio/
)

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.

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5 Responses to Boldly I Approach

  1. brokenheart4whatbreakshis says:

    This is so beautiful Bri – I get chills reading it. My heart was so broken when I read that the governor denied clemency for Jeffrey. I cringed sending you that text. If anyone deserved clemency, our brother Jeffrey did. But like you – almost immediately, my feelings changed. I had the thought, “Okay, let’s do this. Let’s get him home to Jesus.” It is pretty much the most beautiful thing ever to imagine Jeffrey blameless in God’s amazing presence. I am so happy for him that he is finally free and resting in the arms of Jesus. I am just so completely in awe of the fact that we have such an incredible Savior who welcomes home all who come to Him, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. It makes me realize how much He loves me…..and it blows me away. Kind of reminds me of my post “The Nature of God.” 🙂 Another thing I’m completely in awe of: What God is doing through Operation Life. You often pray that Death Row would become Life Row……and I often pray that people would start to wonder what the heck is going on….why all of these inmates on Death Row claim to be going home to Jesus…..and it’s happening before our very eyes. I can’t wait to see what else God will do….and I can’t wait to have so many more brothers and sisters in Christ that are completely transformed by the blood of Jesus. And of course, I can’t wait to be able to celebrate for Jahar the same way we are celebrating for Dennis, Ray, Paul, Robert, and Jeffrey. I can’t imagine a more amazing joy.

    • Bri says:

      I was spending time in prayer last night, not asking God for anything in particular at first, just talking to Him about how I was inspired by Jeffrey’s faith and courage, and I was reminded of Philippians 1:18-26:

      “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”

      I believed that Jeffrey still could’ve done so much for the Kingdom, which is why I wanted clemency so badly for him, but “to depart and be with Christ… is far better.” Jeffrey didn’t lose on Wednesday; he won bigtime. All they did was grant him his freedom. What a punishment, haha. Instead of being locked up and alone in that cell, he’s free and with his beautiful Savior. PRAISE GOD.

      And that’s the hope I have for Jahar: that he’ll surrender his life to Christ, so that whenever and however he dies, there won’t truly be any reason to mourn but a million reasons to rejoice with him.

  2. burninglamp says:

    Bri, this story is so heartbreaking and touching. I couldn’t hold back my tears when I read and listened to his story on audio. I can’t imagine what Jeffery was going through when he was preparing to die, but he had a strong faith in God. The one thing I learned from his story is that he looked forward to meeting his Savior. He gained nothing in this life. Everything around him was nothing but a temporary home, and nothing satisfied him more than to look forward to eternity after being confined for so long. In Christ, he had nothing to lose. Death is the victory. He wasn’t so scared to die. He was bold. He had peace in his heart. To die as a Christian is to gain even more. It is to be with Christ where He is.

    But, it’s sadder out here beyond prison walls where I know people who don’t need God. They live in their own self-will. They are spiritually dead. I pray for them, but wonder when will they start feeling they are ‘running on empty’ to find God like these criminals who find God when they become bond in chains….and their freedom is taken away. Spreading the gospel is so important and I pray for the Lost and the prisoners who have not heard of Christ to pick up a copy of the Bible, start reading the gospel and let it change their lives, and give them hope for eternity.

    • Bri says:

      In his final statement, he said “I have no fear whatsoever, no anxiety or stress, and I’m ready to be with Jesus in heaven.” I truly believe him when he said that. He saw the joy that was set before him, so he had no fear. “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). I rejoice knowing that’s he finally home and free. Like he said, sure beats being in Potosi. I can’t even imagine the incredible joy he’s experiencing right now.

      It’s interesting how it’s actually a blessing for a lot of people to go to prison because it’s the perfect environment for them to see their need for Jesus. What a wonderful mission ground. But like you said, people on the outside are often just as lost and broken as the people on the inside. After all, everyone starts out on the outside. We need people sharing Christ in both places.

  3. Bri says:

    Was doing my reading plan today and this verse reminded me of Jeffrey (and by extension what I hope one day for Jahar):

    “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” – Psalm 17:15
    (awake here meaning awakening from death)

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