Jim Liske

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

A Dream Realized

By Jim Liske | Posted January 26, 2015

   It was just a few months before Chuck went home to Jesus. We were sitting in his home in Naples, Florida, and he was “schooling” me, as he did several times in the nine months he and I were together at Prison Fellowship. On this particular afternoon, he was flipping through his ever-present yellow legal pad, talking about his special passion for ministry in the federal prison system. Chuck served seven months in the federal system, and it was there God touched his heart and lit the fire of future ministry.

Chuck went on to talk about how we needed to find a way to convey the message of restoration and redemption to the Department of Justice because, he believed, “if they could just see the change that takes place in a prison when the inmates come to Jesus and live out their faith, they will want us in every prison in the country!” I can still hear the passion transparently displayed in his voice and see it on his face.

In 2014, the Department of Justice announced the formation of the Chuck Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections. This Task Force, a nine-member, bipartisan commission, will make recommendations to shape the federal prison system into a more effective, redemptive institution. I have been asked to serve on the Task Force to represent Prison Fellowship Ministries, Chuck’s point of view, and prisoners and their families across the country. Though Chuck has gone home, God is giving him his heart’s desire. We now have a profound opportunity to influence the future of federal corrections!

What Is Justice?

By Jim Liske | Posted January 20, 2015

   In the Bible, justice is about much more than fairness or catching and punishing “bad guys.” Biblical, or restorative, justice centers focus on restoring everyone affected by wrongdoing—including the offender, the victim, and the community around them. It’s based on shalom, a Hebrew term encompassing peace, wholeness, righteousness, and harmony.

Justice Fellowship is the arm of Prison Fellowship Ministries that promotes the principles of restorative justice in the public square, advocating for laws and policies that reflect the human dignity and value of each person affected by the cycle of crime and incarceration. We envision a criminal justice system in which those who violate the law are held accountable and restored to their full potential, victims are respected and supported, and communities and churches are deeply involved in the work of restoration.

One of the most important places we need to see restorative justice is in the laws of our respective states and the country as a whole. Since 1993, Justice Fellowship has fought for important reforms like the Second Chance Act, the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and the Fair Sentencing Act, as well as legislation at the state level. But we’ve never fought alone. Friends like you step up to call your representatives, write letters, ask for meetings, and make informed decisions about criminal justice in your community and your state.

Would you like to be a part of establishing biblical principles of restorative justice in your community? Learn how by clicking here.

Looking Back on 2014

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted January 16, 2015

AT party Baltimore 2014 093 vWith the help of so many volunteers and partners around the country, Prison Fellowship spent 2014 bringing the Gospel to prisoners, helping former prisoners successfully return to their communities, and supporting families affected by crime and incarceration. This past year, thousands of men and women behind bars surrendered their hearts to Christ, and 50 new “bridge churches” began walking alongside newly released men and women. We’ve seen God work through Prison Fellowship and our partners to transform lives and equip Christian leaders to change the culture of prisons and communities.

Here are just a few of the incredible ways God propelled prison ministry, justice advocacy, and Christian leadership forward last year:

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