Jim Liske

Easter in Prison

By Bekah Lowe | Posted April 16, 2014

Texas_Easter_Prison_Visit_300x200Last Easter, Prison Fellowship Ministries® President and CEO, Jim Liske, visited the Central Florida Reception, a large prison camp with different wings for prisoners who need hospice care or are too young to be housed with the general population.

In the chapel, Jim preached about Timothy, who grew up without a father, and told the young men, “No one is disqualified from God’s grace.”

Jim spent some time with men in the prison’s infirmary, where seriously injured and terminally ill prisoners serve out their sentences.  One prisoner named Michael wore a helmet to prevent further injury to his brain. Weighed down by unthinkable guilt, he was serving 40 years for a drunk driving accident that killed his best friend.

Michael broke down in tears at Jim’s message of grace. “I’m the one who should be dead,” he cried.

Jim explained that the Lord had a purpose for keeping him alive, and that through God’s sacrifice of His Son, Michael could have the life-changing gift of forgiveness.

What an amazing discovery: Michael heard the Gospel message and realized God still loved him despite his past!

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Four-Letter Words

By Jim Liske | Posted April 14, 2014

Liske_154A prisoner I’ll call Jared is getting ready to be one of the first graduates of a new Prison Fellowship pre-release unit. This is his third time behind bars. He has spent most of his life as a drug dealer and a petty thief, governed by that troublesome four-letter word: self.

Jared admits that he only started the Prison Fellowship classes to ‘game the system.’ He wanted to have something positive on his prison record and to get out of his cell for the day. If he could convince prison officials that he was changing, he might even get out of prison early. But it was all another scheme.

That something unexpected started to happen. As Jared studied the Bible and received the love of Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers, he became interested in Jesus. Finally, he gave his heart to Him! Now, Jared is a changed man. He has a new vision for his life, a vision that has nothing to do with his old routine of hustling on the streets.

Through lessons on money management, parenting, anger management, and life planning – all based in the Bible – Jared says he feels, “more ready to go home and change [his] life” than ever before. Over and over again, he told me, “I have hope.” That’s a four-letter word we need to hear more of behind bars!

The love of God changes hearts and produces hope – the joyous expectation of God’s good gifts – where none existed before. How will we respond to that love? Will we let it shine through us for all to see? Learn how today at prisonfellowship.org.

Frontlines: Prisoners in the Church Choir

By Prison Fellowship | Posted April 3, 2014

In this special Easter edition of the Frontlines video series, Prison Fellowship Ministries President and CEO Jim Liske recounts his recent visit to teach at a church where an inmate choir led the congregation in worship, sharing a beautiful picture of the unity of God’s Kingdom inside and outside prison walls. Hear how lives and hearts are changed through the message of the Resurrection, and hear how you can be a part of Prison Fellowship’s ministry behind bars this coming Easter.

Rejoice Always

By Jim Liske | Posted April 2, 2014

Liske_154It was like a prison from a Hollywood film set: thick limestone walls pocked with small windows; dark, oppressive cells; and narrow corridors full of musty, unmoving air …

As I passed through many layers of security and entered the cell block, I could feel the oppression of hopelessness surrounding me. But in the heart of all that darkness, a light was shining. I went through a door into a simple chapel, where 60 men were worshiping Jesus. Their voices were deafening as they smiled, clapped, and sang. The setting was still dark, but it was brightened by the joy these men had deep in their souls.

Were these men joyful because of impending freedom? No, most were facing decades more behind bars. Their joy came from the Good News: God’s gift of salvation in Christ. Their happiness burst forth because they had allowed God to be in control and trusted in His great love. Through them, God is changing the prison!

I always leave prison visits like these feeling encouraged and humbled. Prisoners teach me how to rejoice always. They show me what simple faith is – faith that moves mountains.

I am always anxious to go back “inside” to worship with my brothers and sisters in prison, because there I can see Jesus and meet Him face to face. He is true joy. He is true freedom.

Will you join us behind bars, too? I promise – you don’t know what you’re missing! Learn how at prisonfellowship.org/get-involved.

Consolation for the Grieving

By Jim Liske | Posted March 25, 2014

Liske_170The son of some dear friends of mine died recently, and they asked me to speak at the service honoring his life. In nearly three decades as a pastor, I was called upon many times to offer words of hope and consolation to families and friends who were grieving. Each situation of grief is unique, but they also have much in common: the shock, the sadness, the profound sense of absence and loss …

I get the same sense whenever I sit with the families of the incarcerated and hear their stories. Especially when the families are surprised by the arrest and conviction, there is a sense that the person they thought they knew is gone – never to return. There is shock, betrayal, and deep hurt, coupled with fear about their loved one’s fate.

But praise be to God, Jesus is the answer for these grieving families and the ones behind bars. Just like 1 Thessalonians 4:13 promises, prisoners’ families don’t need to “grieve like those who have no hope.” Through the Gospel there is hope for everyone affected by crime and incarceration. Christ brings light into darkness, hope into situations of despair, and life where there was only death. Hearts, lives, and communities are restored to the peace, wholeness, and security God intends.

Since God prompted Chuck Colson to start Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976, we’ve grown into the nation’s largest outreach to prisoners and their families, thanks to the prayers and partnership of many friends like you. To learn how you can be part of this ongoing story of hope and consolation, visit www.prisonfellowship.org.

Would You Jump?

By Jim Liske | Posted March 19, 2014

Liske_170When fear and insecurity fill our hearts, we respond with selfish indifference to the needs of our neighbors. But when faith rules our lives, when we have wrestled with God and found Him true, we become secure in His ability to care for us, and we cease to doubt and fear.

As president and CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries, it’s a big part of my job to invite people to partner with us in ministry, whether that means volunteering to go behind bars and lead a Bible study, rearranging the family budget to make a financial gift, or committing to regular prayer for inmates and their families. I get a thrill every time our partners make the leap from fear to faith, trusting God to meet their needs when they make sacrifices for the “least of these.”

When we have journeyed with God and have experienced His power, grace, and forgiveness for ourselves, our love for our neighbors will pour out of what we have been given, knowing God will replenish it continually. Love that comes from this depth of faith has the power of God. It transforms lives. It penetrates defenses. This love is not just a reflexive act of charity. It is the expression of a heart that is secure in the knowledge of God’s love. When we have felt God’s love and know He is capable in all things, we come alongside others with a sense of well-being that brings them the same security and hope.

Every day, Prison Fellowship volunteers and partners are making the leap from fear to faith, responding to God’s love by meeting the needs of inmates and their families. Will you jump with us?

Ready for Easter?

By Jim Liske | Posted March 10, 2014

A couple weeks ago I got to teach at Christ United Methodist Church in Texas. It was a thrill! The church meets in a beautiful building with dazzling stained glass and a gleaming organ. The angel-voiced choir was dressed all in white – but then, these particular singers, who are members of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative values-based reentry program at the Carol Vance Unit, are always dressed in white; that’s the color of their prison uniforms.

It’s always wonderful to worship with prisoners. I feel like it’s a foretaste of heaven, when God’s restored people will worship as one, no longer preoccupied with any of the things that divide us now on earth. I especially love to worship behind bars on Easter – a tradition Chuck Colson began and continued until his death, and which we joyfully continue today.

In 2014, Prison Fellowship will have a number of Easter weekend events in various parts of the country. We will celebrate the power of the Resurrection to restore light, life, and purpose to the darkest cell, and we will share the Gospel with many who might not yet have heard it. As we move through the season of Lent, will you help us prepare for these events through your prayers? Would you ask God to prepare the way before us, and cause every heart to awaken to His amazing grace? In everything we do, we are dependent on God and on your prayers and support. Thank you for your partnership!

The Light Yoke

By Jim Liske | Posted February 28, 2014

Jim Liske_200x300The world moves fast, doesn’t it? We’re always making another to-do list, reading another best-selling leadership book, and doing more. We buy things that promise to make us faster and more efficient – things that will let us be in a business meeting and at the dinner table at the same time. The busier and more productive we have been on any given day, the better we feel about ourselves – even if all that activity leaves us feeling exhausted. But it’s never enough, is it?

If you’re feeling tired, I’ve got good news: Jesus, who said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” did not come to give us a checklist of religious programs and practices. Rather, the daily Christian life is an invitation to be “in” Christ, as a fish is in water. It’s not about doing more, but about experiencing His fullness in all that we do as we become more like Him.

Prisoners have an opportunity to experience this in a unique way. While serving their time, they don’t have an opportunity to “do” much that the world would consider significant. But God’s presence and promises shine all the more brightly when compared to the loneliness and darkness of their surroundings.

Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers come alongside prisoners to help them know Christ and remain “in” Him while they are behind bars and after they return to the community. Is He prompting you to journey with us and these precious men and women – not as one more thing to do, but as an opportunity to encounter Jesus in our neighbors? Learn more at www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved.

A Step Farther

By Jim Liske | Posted February 21, 2014

Jim_Liske_2_200x300Just 445 words long, Paul’s shortest New Testament letter is to a man named Philemon, a well-to-do merchant in the garrison town of Colosse, who was also a leader in the Christian church there. He was a businessman, a family man, and someone respected among the community of believers.

But Paul challenges Philemon to take his faith a step farther, to love not just the people who are like him, but to love a person he might not have considered loveable – his runaway slave named Onesimus, a prisoner with no social importance, who had come to know Christ while incarcerated in Rome. Paul asserts that Christ’s love and grace should impel Philemon to welcome this redeemed ex-prisoner back as a guest, a brother, and an equal.

Friend, Christ’s call is the same for His people today! He is inviting us to welcome back the redeemed ex-prisoner – not as a second-class citizen, but as a brother or sister of incalculable worth in the Lord’s sight – just as God welcomed each of us when we did not deserve His grace. Welcoming ex-prisoners, and offering them grace, belonging, and accountability within Christian community, is a vital expression of the Gospel in our day, especially when at least one out of every 37 adults has spent time in prison. Today is the day to go a step farther than we’ve gone in the past!

Through the bridge church program, Prison Fellowship® offers congregations practical training and guidance on how to go about fulfilling the commission given to Philemon and to all of Christ’s Body. To learn more, click here.

God’s Valentine

By Jim Liske | Posted February 14, 2014

Jim Liske_200x300So many of the letters we get from prisoners start out the same: “I hope someone reads this …,” “I don’t have anyone left out there …,” or “I haven’t received a visit or a letter in years. I’m hoping you will help me know God …”

But the letter from Joe, a long-time prisoner in Virginia, was different. “[Prison Fellowship founder Chuck] Colson’s life and prison ministry impacted my life in such a way that it’s hard to describe,” he wrote. “I was once a recluse and would not even as much as talk to anyone. I was a loner. I was always angry at people for the mere facts that they seem to look down upon me for being a prisoner. So I had this attitude of well, if they don’t care about me, I sure … don’t care about them.”

Joe went on surrounded by relational walls until the day Prison Fellowship connected him with volunteers who started writing to him regularly.

“I never in my entire life dreamed that there could be such loving people out there in the free world,” Joe’s letter continued. “God works in many ways. My life has changed for the better. I don’t have no animosity in my life for no one anymore. Nothing but love for all of humanity. That’s how Mr. Chuck Colson’s life and ministry changed my life.”

Friend, you and I are God’s valentines, and He sends us out to the lost, the unloved, and the despairing – including prisoners like Joe – to represent His true, unconditional love. That love changes everything. Learn how you can help spread the message of God’s love on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year at www.prisonfellowship.org.

 




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