Jim Liske

Why It Matters

By Jim Liske | Posted March 23, 2015

Liske_154Many friends like you help us with Angel Tree year after year, whether it’s by praying, giving financially, wrapping a gift, or working at a Christmas party. This past Christmas, you helped us match 330,663 children with volunteers who delivered gifts, the Gospel, and personal messages from moms and dads behind bars.

But have you ever wondered whether Angel Tree truly matters? Does its impact continue once the wrapping paper has been thrown away, or the gift is worn out and forgotten?

Here’s just one story from an Angel Tree church coordinator, whose testimony reminds us why Angel Tree matters throughout the year, and often for all eternity:

We have an [Angel Tree] family, who had their inmate step-father and father die in prison last year. We, as a church, have continued to walk alongside the mother, Jennifer, and her kids. She has been attending our church for a few years and was able to lead her inmate husband to the Lord before he passed away. This year is the first time she has been able to participate with the program and she made deliveries. She was so elated to help and so blessed to share with other families. She wants to do it again next year.

Angel Tree supporters didn’t just give Jennifer’s children a gift at Christmas; they helped connect Jennifer and her family with a caring church community that walks beside them all year long, in joy and pain, and helps draw them closer to the God who is restoring their lives. What gift could matter more?

Learn more about the continuing impact of Angel Tree at www.angeltree.org.

Reaching the Unreachable

By Jim Liske | Posted March 16, 2015

Liske_154“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” – Acts 12:5 (NIV)

When Peter was thrown into prison at the order of King Herod, there was nothing his friends could do for him. They had no way to reach him—except to pray with their whole hearts. Their prayers were a game-changer. Though Peter was chained between two trained guards, an angel came in, took off his chains, and led him out the gate.

Ministering to men and women behind bars can feel just as impossible as rescuing Peter from the Roman guards. How can we make the freedom of Christ seem relevant to someone stuck in a small cell 23 hours a day? How can the message of redemption and restoration enter a heart as hard as concrete? How do we reach those who, from a human perspective, are unreachable?

The answer is the same for us as it was for the early followers of Jesus. We start by praying, continually and with our whole hearts, for all those affected by the cycle of crime and incarceration. We trust the Holy Spirit to bring about the spiritual freedom of men and women created in the image of God. And miracles follow.

Did you know that, in addition to giving and volunteering, you can support Prison Fellowship as a part of our prayer team? We are excited to offer you the opportunity to join with a community of prayer warriors all across the country who are praying for prisoners, their families, and the many ongoing events and activities that affect their lives. Learn more today at http://www.prisonfellowship.org/prayerteam/.

Arise!

By Jim Liske | Posted March 9, 2015

Liske_154The word “arise” runs through Scripture like the repetitive chorus of a song.

When the people of Israel were waiting on the east side of the Jordan River, hesitating to enter the Promised Land, their leaders encouraged them, “Arise … for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good” (Judges 18:9).

When Jesus healed a paralytic, he told him, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matthew 9:6). Even when confronted with people who had died, he raised them with the command: “Arise!”

When the Prodigal Son from Jesus’ parable had lost all hope, he finally decided, “I will arise and go to my father” (Luke 15:8).

At this time of year, the theme of “arise” is evident in the creation, as well. Flowers start to poke through the cold ground. Spring takes hold. Everything God has made arises. It’s all a joyful reflection of the most awesome “arising” of all—Jesus’ victory over the grave when God raised Him from death.

Will you help me carry the important Easter message—God’s call to “arise!”—into prisons and jails at Easter and throughout the year? Spreading the Good News to prisoners, families, and all those affected by the cycle of crime, is at the core of Prison Fellowship’s mission and vision. For more information on how you can be a part, please visit the evangelism section of our website.

Out of the Depths

By Jim Liske | Posted March 2, 2015

   “To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.” – Jonah 2:6, NIV

The wayward prophet Jonah had to go into the belly of the whale before He really understood the message of redemption God wanted him to preach in Nineveh. It’s probable that when he looked back on his life, Jonah thought of those three days, swallowed up in darkness, as some of the most profitable time he ever spent.

Men and women behind bars tell a similar story. Countless times, we hear them say that without prison, they would be dead or living on the streets. Without prison, they would never have met Jesus Christ. Without prison, they would never have found true freedom.

Robert was one of those prisoners. Winding up in jail saved him from a worse fate on the streets. There, he met Jesus, attended Prison Fellowship seminars, and grew strong in his faith. When he was released, he felt called by God to go back into prison and preach the Good News he first learned “in the belly of the whale.” For years, he faithfully volunteered at Prison Fellowship evangelistic events across the country and headed prison ministry efforts at his church.

As we prepare our hearts for Easter, it’s valuable to remember the depths from which God has saved us. The hardest circumstances in our lives may have helped us gain a real understanding of His redemptive love. And that might be just the Good News someone around us needs to hear

A New Task Force for Criminal Justice Reform

By John Stonestreet | Posted February 23, 2015

The following post and interview originally appeared on the BreakPoint website.

The criminal justice system was a vital concern to the late Chuck Colson and the organization he founded, Prison Fellowship. The need for Reform is ongoing. And to that end, John Stonestreet welcomes former Congressman J. C. Watts, who’s chairman of the new congressional task force working to promote both reform and rehabilitation.

J.C._Watts

Task Force Chair J. C. Watts

Watts, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, is someone Chuck Colson respected deeply. So when Congress set out to select a chair for the bipartisan Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, Watts was the natural choice.

“I think the life of Chuck Colson puts a smile on the face of our Lord,” says Watts. “Chuck gives us a picture of what life can look like even after mistakes. And as I said, I don’t think there’s any such thing as a lost cause in Heaven.”

Together with eight other members, Watts is examining the challenges to the federal corrections system and developing practical solutions for Congress. The task force also includes Alan B. Mollohan, a Democratic Congressman from West Virginia, as well as attorneys, a federal judge, an economist, a criminologist, a reentry specialist, and state corrections officials. Another key member is Prison Fellowship CEO Jim Liske, who not only brings to bear the legacy of Chuck Colson, but the ongoing policy expertise of Justice Fellowship, Prison Fellowship Ministries’ justice reform wing.

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Keeping Watch with Jesus

By Jim Liske | Posted February 23, 2015

   Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” – Matthew 26:38

Jesus’ deep sorrow in this verse takes on special significance when we see it through a prisoner’s eyes. As He sat in the Garden of Gethsemane with some of His closest friends, Jesus was waiting to go through a judicial process. He was about to be arrested, imprisoned, tried, and eventually executed. He would be separated from those He loved. His so-called friends would pretend they never knew Him. He would be mocked, shamed, and rejected by society.

Only another prisoner could fully understand the way He felt at that moment.

In that moment of anguish, Jesus reached out with a simple request: “Stay here and keep watch with me.” He wanted His friends to be present with Him.

We can do the same thing today for prisoners facing the anguish and solitude of life in prison. Though in the vast majority of cases their punishment is deserved, their need for companionship, for trusted friends and mentors who can speak the love of Jesus into their lives, is huge.

And the impact of loving prisoners is awe-inspiring. It yields lives changed forever by the grace and truth of Christ, and it changes volunteers forever, too! As we go behind bars, remembering the prisoner according to the command of Jesus, we learn more than we ever thought possible about God’s redemptive power at work in our own lives.

Learn more about volunteering to go behind bars with Prison Fellowship by visiting http://www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved/.

“Justice Can Be Restorative”

By Steve Rempe | Posted February 19, 2015

In January of 2014, the U.S. Congress established the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections.  Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske was asked to serve on that task force, representing the interests of Prison Fellowship, and providing a voice to millions of prisoners and their families.

Last month, the task force—a nine-member, nonpartisan committee co-chaired by former U.S. Representatives J. C. Watts and Alan Mollohan—convened for the first time to discuss strategies for reducing the existing prison population, improving prison conditions, and making the judicial process more just and responsive.

In a commentary on the Fox News website, Liske explains the role and importance of Christian values in establishing effective and meaningful changes in the criminal justice system.  “The time is right for prison reforms that aren’t just evidence-based, but values-based, reflecting our beliefs in the God-given dignity, value, and potential of every human being,” says Liske.  “Justice can be restorative when we make sure that the opportunity for both accountability and redemption are balanced at the core of our criminal justice system.”

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A Heavenly Orientation

By Jim Liske | Posted February 16, 2015

Liske_154There is a bend in the Elbow River as it winds through the Canadian Rockies. Above that bend is a cave, and in that cave I often used to sit alone. When my wife Cathy and I lived in Canada, raising two small children and pastoring a church, I would go there to think and pray, but mostly I was waiting.

I was waiting for God to re-orient me. In the craziness of everyday life, it was easy to forget that He was in control. He was the leader, and I was the follower. He was the parent, and I was His child. Being in nature, where God so effortlessly displayed His creativity and power, put my life back in its proper perspective.

Maintaining a heavenly orientation—one fixed on God’s sovereignty and love instead of the details of our daily circumstances—is one of the great challenges of the Christian faith. It’s important for us to seek out experiences that keep drawing us out of the shell of our own fear and busyness to reflect on God’s greatness.

God’s creation does that for me. So does spending time with His people behind bars. His extraordinary activity in the lives of prisoners and their families keeps me from forgetting who’s in charge. Have you ever been into prison with us? Have you wondered about volunteering? Visit www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved today to find out more. I promise you one thing: You’ll get much more than you give

Seize the Joy

By Jim Liske | Posted February 9, 2015

   Jesus never told His followers to “keep the faith;” He taught us “go into all the world” and make disciples. When we allow our faith to become insular, we miss out on all the joy of serving others and seeing their lives transformed by God’s grace.

Bob almost missed out on that joy. He was a successful businessman who spent decades building his nest egg. As he worked toward retirement, he envisioned all the golf and sunshine in his future. He would split the year between Florida and the Midwest, spending his leftover time on his grandchildren and a smattering of church activities.

Bob had raised his family in the local church, serving faithfully there. As he entered retirement, he planned to ease back on his church commitments, letting other, younger folks take the lead. But God had other plans.

Bob was asked to mentor Louis, a young man coming home from prison. Within a month of accepting the challenge, Bob said, “All of the Bible verses I have learned and the sermons I have heard now make sense, because I am able to teach them to Louis. I can now see what the Church of Jesus is about, and the men we are working with need this faith community.”

As he volunteered, the truths Bob carried in his head came alive in his heart.

Today, Bob still divides his time between the Midwest and Florida, and he still finds time for his grandkids and a few rounds of golf. But he and his wife have become mentors and guides for those returning to their communities. As Bob let go of his own plans for his retirement, he found out that God was trying to give him even more joy than he had planned on.

What Love Is

By Jim Liske | Posted February 2, 2015

   My son, Josh, is in the last round of interviews for a criminal justice position in a nearby county. The final step before getting the job is a background check. They not only look at criminal records, but also at financial, family, and psychological factors. A few weeks ago an interviewer from the county came by to observe Josh’s family members, living situation, and neighborhood. Even the neighbors got a visit and were asked questions about Josh’s reputation.

At one point, the interviewer called me into a room and asked me a series of questions about Josh. The one that caused the most conversation was, “Do you have any reason to believe that Josh harbors anger, resentment, or prejudice toward those who have broken the law?”

I was able to answer completely to the contrary. Josh has gone into prison with me and worshipped the Savior alongside men in blue jump suits. He has helped those returning home from prison. He has shared fellowship with them, never thinking he was better than those who had served time.

Josh is an extraordinary young man, and Cathy and I couldn’t be prouder of him. I believe he’ll serve Jesus faithfully in a criminal justice career. And I pray that God would always grant me a heart like Josh’s—a heart that doesn’t make distinctions between me and “those other people,” a heart that serves prisoners with humility instead of pride, and with genuine love.

Love is not the absence of hatred or prejudice. That’s just apathy. Love is the presence of empathy, compassion, and warmth, lived out through action. Let’s all be willing to let God put His love for prisoners and their families in our hearts




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