January 28, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Masterpiece by the Bay
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I grew up on the East Coast and was excited when my family decided to visit San Francisco for our vacation. My heart's desire and prayer for each day was that we would see God's handiwork and be reminded of His greatness as we ventured out like three eager explorers to discover new aspects of His creation.
We traveled south along the shore line and were amazed at the 200 foot regal cliffs that rose from the earth, pushing heavenward with waves splashing at their feet. Then we traveled north and drank in the beauty of acres and acres of vineyards on grassy rolling hills in the Napa Valley wine country. We hiked through the majestic Red Wood Forest and stood under 1,000 year old, 260 foot giants, dwarfed by their towering branches.
But the most amazing sight was in a place called Alcatraz. There in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, just a mile and a quarter from the sights and sounds of the beautiful city, sits a rock island, known by some as the "Devils Island of America." From 1934-1963, Alcatraz was a prison where the country's most corrupt, incorrigible criminals were housed. Al Capone, and Machine Gun Kelly were just two of the more colorful residents.
There is no road to the prison, so we took a ferry across the bay. As we taxied up to "The Rock" and stared at the shell of concrete walls, barbed wire, and iron bars, an eerie feeling crept over my body. Each of us picked up head phones and a cassette recorder and toured the prison while listening to the taped voices of various prisoners recount their days behind bars. I walked in a cell called "the hole," closed my eyes and tried to imagine what it would be like in solitary confinement with no light, no sound, and no other voice but my own. My heart was heavy as I thought about the souls that passed those halls, souls full of darkness, depression and despair.
But as I rounded the final corner of the tour, I saw an amazing sight; a white haired eighty year old grandfather, with crystal blue laughing eyes and a radiant smile that spread across his wrinkled face. A line formed as tourists stood waiting for him to sign his name and number on his autobiography, Alcatraz: From the Inside. This precious man before me was Jim Quillen, ex-prisoner #AZ586. He had spent ten years of his life, from 1942-1952, behind bars in this prison built to house the most dangerous criminals of his day. I looked in his eyes as we spoke. This was not the face of a dangerous man. What had happened to change his life?
I didn't have to flip many pages in his book to find the answer. In it he wrote, "It was only through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and His intercession, that my life of hopeless incarceration was averted. His help and forgiveness permitted me to obtain freedom, family, and a useful and productive place in society." I want back over to Mr. Quillen and sat by his side for a minute or so. Then God spoke to my heart, "You prayed that you would see My handiwork and be reminded of My greatness. This man is some of my best work."
On my trip to San Francisco, I was reminded of God's unchanging strength in the majestic rock cliffs of the shore-line and of His nurturing care as the Vinedresser in the hills of the wine country. I saw a picture of God's protective canopy over His children in the towering Red Woods of the forests. But when I looked into Jim Quillen's eyes, I saw God's most incredible masterpiece, a changed life. Jesus had stood knocking at the door of Mr. Quillen's heart and now ex-prisoner #AZ586 served as a beacon of light, welcoming and inviting others to meet the One who sets that prisoner free.
My prayer for today:
Dear Lord, thank you that you have come to set the captive free - not just the prisoner behind man made bars, but prisoners of shame, prisoners of fear, prisoners of past abuses, prisoners of betrayal, prisoners of sin. I praise You for setting me free from the prison bars that kept my own heart from soaring. Thank you for sending Jesus, the Truth that sets us free! Amen.
Ask God to show your areas of your own life that may be in a type of bondage or prison?
If you are a prisoner of fear, shame, or past mistakes look up verses of God's promises that are the key to swinging the prison doors wide open?
Memorize this verse today..."Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)
Is there someone God is calling you to pray for today? Perhaps that person appears lost beyond hope.
Do feel that you are a prisoner who longs to be free in some area of your life?
What was Jim Quillen's explanation of his eventual "freedom?"
How does that apply to your own life?
Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Romans 7:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Psalm 146:7 The LORD sets prisoners free.
This story is taken from At Home with God by Sharon Jaynes
All Scripture is taken from the NIV Bible
At Home with God by Sharon Jaynes
Ultimate Makeover by Sharon Jaynes
Originally published Wednesday, 28 January 2004.