When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai after meeting with God, his face shone so bright he had to wear a veil. My writing friend and blessed sister-in-Christ, Mrs. Lori Hatcher, has that same effect. In her case, God shines through her words. As both a friend and writing mentor, Ms. Lori has taught me the importance of “the power of story.” After praying with me about my Christian writing journey at a writer’s conference in Spartanburg, SC, she reminded me that Jesus Christ taught in parables. He used the power of story to impart knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in His ministry. She added, “If it worked so effectively for Him, then imagine what He can do through us if we follow His example.” If you get the opportunity to read one of her heartfelt devotionals, weekly blog posts, or hear her speak at a ministry event, take it. You too will then understand how her words exude both passion and compassion as she encourages us to join her in seeking a closer relationship with God.
It is my privilege to share an excerpt from her new book, Refresh Your Hope, 60 Devotions for Trusting God with All Your Heart. I’ve been blessed to pre-read this tremendous work, and can’t wait to receive a final copy, read it again, and share with those seeking real hope for their lives. As her book demonstrates, He is the God of hope (Romans 5:13). I pray you enjoy this post and encourage you to communicate your thoughts with Ms. Lori, after you order your own copy of course. Here’s that excerpt from her book. Enjoy this week’s guest post.
God is Patient
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
1 Timothy 1:16
When you’re so bad they don’t even want you in prison, you know you’re bad.
Really, really bad.
That was Jimmy MacPhee.
Jimmy didn’t start out bad. In high school he was a two-sport athlete who made good grades and enjoyed classes. When a part-time job gave him money and freedom, he made new friends who cared little about school. His new lifestyle included fast cars, promiscuous sex, a plethora of drugs—and an armed bank robbery. Jimmy pulled the trigger, critically wounding one man and killing another.
A judge sentenced him to die in South Carolina’s electric chair. He was twenty years old.
“I had become everything I despised,” Jimmy said. Angry. Violent. Condemned.
But God hadn’t forsaken him.
He sent Frankie San, a soft-spoken man who served as the jail’s volunteer librarian, to shine the light of Christ into Jimmy’s dark cell.
“I love you, and Jesus loves you,” Frankie said through the bars. “He doesn’t care what crimes you’ve committed. He will forgive you if you let Him.”
Jimmy wasn’t interested.
While he awaited execution, a technicality in the law commuted his sentence from death to life in prison, but even this lifesaving grace didn’t soften Jimmy’s heart. Each year he grew more angry and violent.
Although Frankie San continued to speak words of life and hope whenever he delivered books to Jimmy’s cell, he sank deeper into a mindset of rage and hopelessness. A final vicious attack on a guard removed him from the prison population and sentenced him to solitary confinement for the duration of his sentence. Jimmy was forty years old.
There in his ten-by-ten cell, he took stock of his life. He’d spent two decades in prison and had nothing to show for it except death and destruction. Hopeless, he wrote to Frankie San, his old friend from Death Row. “I’m tired of my life. I desperately want something different, but I don’t know what.”
Frankie wrote back and shared the same words he’d spoken to Jimmy twenty years before: “I love you, and Jesus Christ loves you. He doesn’t care what crimes you committed. He will forgive you if you let Him. Give all your pain, anger, and brokenness to God, and he will heal you.”
This time, Jimmy took Frankie’s words to heart. “I bowed my head, and as the tears flowed, I asked God to take what little life I hadn’t destroyed and do with it what He would. I prayed, confessed my sins, and asked His forgiveness for all the pain I’d caused.”
Silently, almost imperceptibly, a peace settled over his soul. Despite his sentence to spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement, Jimmy knew he’d never be alone again. For the first time in years, he felt a flicker of hope.
Saul of Tarsus followed a very different path than Jimmy. Born a Roman citizen and taught under the esteemed Gamaliel, Saul was an up-and-coming wonder boy. His extensive knowledge of the Torah allowed him to preach in the finest synagogues. He prided himself on his educational and professional credentials.
Yet his heart was as violent as Jimmy’s. In his religious zeal, he stood in solidarity while an angry mob stoned Stephen the apostle. “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man,” he confessed in 1 Timothy 1:13. “I persecuted the followers of this Way [Christians] to the death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prisons” (Acts 22:4). As was the case for Jimmy, Paul’s anger and violence almost consumed him.
“But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me,” Paul testified in Galatians 1:15–16, he was transformed. Paul went from denying Christ to proclaiming Him.
After his conversion, Jimmy threw himself into study. He read his Bible and other books for hours each day. Little by little the truth of God’s Word changed him from a blaspheming murderer to a Spirit-filled peacemaker.
Sixteen years after he was sentenced to solitary confinement and twenty-five years after he was sentenced to die in the electric chair, Jimmy was released into the prison population. He continued to apply for parole, but most agreed he’d probably spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Jimmy invested the next twenty years into becoming a writer, speaker, teacher, and mentor to troubled younger prisoners and gang members. He led many men to the Lord as a servant leader. In 2017, he was chosen as one of only a few inmates to pursue a Bible college education from Columbia International University through its prison initiative. There he was trained to be both a missionary and a peacemaker to the most dangerous prison yards in South Carolina.
Paul’s transformation, described by the awestruck disciples, was equally glorious: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:23). Paul testified of Christ to Caesar, wrote thirteen books of the New Testament, and planted numerous churches throughout Asia. As the self-proclaimed “worst of sinners,” Paul shared his story as living proof of God’s immense patience for those who think they are beyond redemption.
Paul became the apostle to the Gentiles and partnered with the disciples he once persecuted, evangelizing most of the known world. Jimmy became an ambassador to the prison population, sharing Christ with the inmates he once terrorized.
Paul was executed by Nero around AD 67 after spending the remainder of his life in prison. Jimmy was released on March 18, 2020, after forty-five years and seventeen parole board hearings.
Now an ordained minister and founder of On the Rock ministries, Jimmy speaks in churches, youth groups, and prisons. His message brings life and hope to those who wonder if God’s patience extends to them.
“If He did it for me,” Jimmy says, “He can do it for you.”
If you or someone you love feel God’s Spirit drawing you, no matter what you’ve done, it’s not too late. God’s patience makes room for you.
From the Heart
Father, sometimes I lose heart when I see the path my friends and loved ones are taking. I want them to surrender their lives to you, but I see no evidence that you’re at work. All I see is death and destruction. Thank you for Paul’s testimony and Jimmy’s that prove that you are infinitely patient and always at work, even when I can’t see it. Soften my loved ones’ hearts toward you. Deepen their desire for your ways. Give me hope, as I continue to pray, that, one day, your patience will bring about their salvation and transformation. In the strong name of Jesus I ask, amen.
This devotion is an excerpt from the book, Refresh Your Hope, 60 Devotions for Trusting God with All Your Heart and is used with permission. Requests for permission to quote this book should be directed to: Permissions Department, Our Daily Bread Publishing, PO Box 3566, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, or contact by email at email@example.com
On Amazon: https://amzn.to/3UswCC3
On Christian Book: https://tinyurl.com/4kndjhc3
Lori Hatcher is an author, blogger, pastor’s wife, and women’s ministry speaker. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including Our Daily Bread, Guideposts, Revive Our Hearts, and Crosswalk.com. A contest-winning Toastmasters International speaker, Lori uses high-impact stories to impart transformational truth. Find out more about Lori and her well-loved 5-minute devotions at LoriHatcher.com.
Give-Away Opportunity for Refreshing Your Hope, 60 Devotions for Trusting God with All Your Heart
While no purchase is necessary, you do have to enter. To enter, share this post on social media and leave a comment for Ms. Lori to both encourage her writing and help promote this hope-instilling book. I will randomly select the winner from the names of those who both share this post and leave a comment. Good luck and God’s blessings.When you trust God with all your heart, His hope becomes a wellspring for your soul. Let Him Refresh Your Hope today. #RefreshYourHope Click To Tweet
 “Death Row to Abundant Life: Jimmy MacPhee,” On the Rock Ministries, accessed October 13, 2020, https://ontherockjimmy.org/.