The man (imprisoned!) wrote
And though enchained the joy-full note
Transcended dungeon, guard, and fetter
Enthused the Spirit’s lovely letter
And bid us grace and peace

In every prayer of mine!
For fellow branches in The Vine
The gospel spreads! And this is true
The One who began this work in you
Will bring it to completion

For Christ has more acclaim
When servants suffer for The Name
Though one may live or one may die
There’s joy when Christ is lifted high
Who grants eternal life

And strive to be as one
Like the Father and His Son
Like Jesus drawing humbly near
Regard the more our brother dear
More dearer than ourselves

Again I say, “Rejoice!”
With calm secure contented voice
For we have cast on Him our care
Knowing that He hears our prayer
And guards our hearts

I want you all to hear it!
Your prayers… the gracious Holy Spirit
Shall deliver me yet once again
No matter what may come… amen
For to die is gain!

–Paul’s letter to the Philippians


David Edwin Harrell, an American Historian and Religious Scholar, said something at a lectureship in southern California many years ago that I have never forgotten. He said that anyone who could write such a joy-filled letter, filled with as much gratitude and encouragement for others as this one is (while in prison), is a fellow who is either a complete lunatic, or a fellow who really has his head set on straight! A faith that can deliver a letter like this from a place like that is a faith worth looking into. Another friend of mine, Mike Mendez (missionary and minister of the Gospel), once told me something equally memorable, that true JOY is to be found in the ability to put Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. Something Paul illustrates very powerfully in this amazing letter. May the God of true joy be with and bless you all; and, may He sustain you with a profound and deep-seated joy that will be with you and persist even in times of great sadness and trial.


Fell James one day…

To the tyrant Herod’s sword
His crimes? The preaching of the word
And believing in the Lord
It pleased the king
To please the unbelieving Jew
And so imprisoned Peter as
His wretched status grew

With Peter bound
Amid the num’rous guards displayed
The little church at Mary’s house
Bowed and fervent prayed
It pleased the Lord
To hear the small but faithful crew
And answered with an angel sent
To do what angels do

Astonished! Beyond belief
A vision! Peter thought at first
Then found himself from dungeon freed
And freed from Herod’s worst
To Mary’s home
And to her outer gate he walked
Drew breath and clenched a trembling fist
Then began to knock

Astonished! Beyond belief
Rhoda heard him at the gate
This joy-filled servant’s gospel ran
(Leaving Peter there to wait)
Astonished! Why, it can’t be true
They wondrous walked to where
Those praying, doubting, skeptic few
Saw God would answer prayer!

Astonished! Herod heard
The unexpected, startling word
And in his temper things went hard
For that ill-fated Roman guard

Fell Herod one day…

To the Word, sharper than a two-edged sword
For claiming stature that belongs
Only to the Lord
Poor Herod
Must one, last lesson learn
How astonishing God can really be
When worms begin to turn!


“But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.”

–Acts 12:16;
–Be sure to read Acts 12:1-23 for the whole story!