Jim Liske

Two Kinds of People

By Jim Liske | Posted August 3, 2015

Liske_154When I was growing up my father had a favorite saying. “There are two types of people in the world,” he would say, “those who need to share the Gospel, and those who need to hear it. So if you’re not sharing it …”

The words he left unsaid did most of the talking, and I always knew he meant it sincerely. My father had become a Christian as an adult, and he had a profound understanding of his own need for grace and his responsibility to share grace with others, including former prisoners that he befriended and gave work to.

My father’s simple piece of wisdom has stuck with me over the decades as a kind of plumb line, and it helps me to sort my priorities in life. Is a particular activity or commitment forwarding the message of God’s truth and grace? If not, is it really deserving of my time and resources?

With your help Prison Fellowship is committed to giving as many prisoners as possible an opportunity to hear and respond to God’s free offer of salvation. Every year we collaborate with like-minded ministries to hold evangelistic events on prison yards across the country, and we distribute more than 600,000 copies of Inside Journal, a newspaper with fresh and engaging presentations of the Gospel, to jails and prisons in all 50 states.

Just like you and me, men and women behind bars need to hear the Gospel. Won’t you help us share it with them? Learn more at http://www.prisonfellowship.org/programs/evangelism/

Agents of Restoration

By Jim Liske | Posted July 27, 2015

Liske_154“Restore us, LORD God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” – Psalm 80:19

To restore something, in a spiritual sense, is to return it to the state God intended for it. God created men and women in His image and gave us the privilege of loving Him and one another. He has called us to glorify Him and serve those around us, so that we can live in perfect community with Him and one another.

We’ve all chosen to reject God’s purpose and plan for our lives. Some of us have chosen to do so in such a manner that we have landed in prison. Those of us who have, by grace, repented of our wrongs, have done so with the help of people who have guided and cared for us on our own paths to restoration.

Now we are called to pay it forward. We must, through God’s power and grace, shine a light on Jesus’ road to restoration for those affected by crime and incarceration. If we don’t, we will have hoarded the Gospel. If we refuse, men and women will remain far from God. We must not allow that.

You can play a vital part in the restoration of all those affected by crime and incarceration, returning them to the joy, peace, and wholeness God intends. Learn how at www.prisonfellowship.org. Men and women behind bars and their families are counting on us

Remembering Prisoners—and Their Children

By Jim Liske | Posted July 20, 2015

Liske_154In a major criminal justice reform speech this week, President Obama brought attention to the steep rise in America’s prison population over the last few decades—and its collateral consequences for prisoners’ children.

“Around one million fathers are behind bars,” the president said. “Around one in nine African-American kids has a parent in prison. What is that doing to our communities? What’s that doing to our children? Our nation is being robbed of men and women who could … be more actively involved in their children’s lives …”

As he pointed out, incarceration is a weighty problem with serious consequences, and we will need to address it in the public square and in every branch of government for a long time to come. But there’s also some really good news right now. This summer, hundreds of thousands of incarcerated parents are signing their children up to receive a Christmas gift and the Gospel through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree Christmas program.

These children won’t just receive a wrapped present—with help from thousands of volunteers, they’ll get a moment of much-needed connection with an absent parent and the message of the Heavenly Father’s love for them. For many, it’s life-changing.

Will you help? As parents sign their children up for Angel Tree, we’re recruiting thousands of churches and organization from every state to embody God’s love for prisoners and their families. To learn more and sign up, visit angeltree.org or call 1-800-55-ANGEL

Leading the Way to Freedom

By Jim Liske | Posted July 6, 2015

Liske_154I’ve only ever been a member of one prison gang. Some time ago I was made an honorary member of “God’s Gang for Change,” the faith-based dorm at a correctional facility in Alabama.

On a recent visit I had the privilege of celebrating a worship service with my fellow “gang members.” I challenged them with a message about the life of Moses. Though he was an exiled murderer, God called him to loosen the chains of an entire nation.

Like Moses, the men in this unit are not people the world would choose to become leaders. But God sees their true worth, and they are becoming men who take responsibility for their own choices and take care of others.

One young man I met stood out from the others. He pulled a chair to the back wall and sat alone before the service. His body language was standoffish, and he had the telltale marks of an addict. When I talked to him, he told me that his name is Troy, and he has nine more months to serve. To be honest, I grew very worried about him. He didn’t yet seem to have a good plan for overcoming his addiction and finding support upon release.

I’m praying for Troy, and I have hope for him. God has placed him among mature, older believers in Jesus, right there in the prison. They are determined to love him, and as the Spirit continues to work on Troy’s heart, they will be able to present him with a credible testimony of God’s work in their own lives. Like Moses, these members of God’s Gang for Change are prepared to lead the way to freedom

When Disaster Strikes

By Jim Liske | Posted June 26, 2015

Liske_154The world has watched events in Charleston, South Carolina, with awe—and for good reason. In the wake of yet another mass shooting, some of the victims’ loved ones have faced the shooter with forgiveness, prayer, and a heartfelt call to repentance. They have modeled the Gospel at the worst time in their lives.

The slain leaders of Emanuel AME Church must have been doing something very right before their lives were cut short. Long before disaster struck, they were laying the groundwork of a solid identity that hatred and violence would not be able to destroy. They were storing up tools in their community’s tool box, so they would be prepared to react in the face of the unthinkable.

From his reported statements, it seems that the shooter meant to sow division and discord. In Charleston, he failed; love is overcoming hatred. But elsewhere, the battle is raging. All over the country, prisons are empty of true community and full of division. Men and women behind bars are isolated, disconnected from their loved ones, and separated from God. They are in deep need of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption.

With your help, Prison Fellowship is working every day to bring the Gospel to prisoners and build up the community of Christians behind prison walls. Men and women who love Jesus are becoming powerful leaders for the Kingdom in their facilities, reducing violence and modeling His peace. To learn how, visit www.prisonfellowship.org.

Good News About Prodigal Fathers

By Jim Liske | Posted June 21, 2015

The following post originally appeared on the Huffington Post website, and appears here with permission.

Father’s Day passes largely unmarked behind prison bars. For the men and women I’ve met, whose fathers were all too often dead, locked up, angry, violent, emotionally distant, or just plain gone, the third Sunday in June is nothing to celebrate.

Jim Liske_200x300More and more of us can relate. Today one in three American children grows up in a home without their biological father, and the national trend toward fatherlessness among all racial groups is an underlying factor in everything from gang violence to childhood obesity. Fatherlessness is part of the well-rehearsed script in media coverage of urban crime, entrenched poverty, and achievement gaps.

With its well-researched, widespread social consequences, fatherlessness is a plague on all our houses–not just the ones without good dads. But there’s some surprisingly good news. If good fathers matter so much–if they can raise their children’s test scores, keep them out of jail, help them graduate high school, protect them from poverty, and help them avoid drug abuse and premature sexual activity–then, just by supporting and empowering fathers, we can put a dent in some of our most intractable social problems.


In Their Father’s Arms

By Jim Liske | Posted June 18, 2015

Liske_154This spring I spent a gorgeous Saturday with dads, moms, and kids who were having fun playing games and running around outside. For lunch, we dined on chili dogs piled high with onions and cheese.

I can’t tell you how great it was to watch these fathers with their children. You see, we were in a prison yard, and these parents and children don’t normally get to spend a day playing together.

We were celebrating a wonderful group of Christian fathers who have given their whole selves to Jesus, thanks to discipleship programs in prison. These intensive, 18-month programs train participants to become the men God designed them to be. Graduates are better husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, and leaders!

That day, laughter filled the prison yard as families rejoiced in simple togetherness. For a few hours, the harsh realities of incarceration faded away. I saw a father and his 6-foot-3 teenage son strategize about pre-season football workouts. Dad will be home in a few months—in time for his son’s senior football season, and both are overjoyed. Another father carried his little girl in one arm and his little boy in the other, because at their tender ages, what they needed most was for Dad to hold them in the safety of his embrace.

And I thought, Thank You, Lord, that these men can go home and finish well as husbands and fathers.

Even from behind razor wire, a dad can receive forgiveness and healing from his heavenly Father and be restored to his children. This Father’s Day, thank you for helping to give children the Father and the dads they have needed all along!

Seeds of Salvation

By Jim Liske | Posted June 15, 2015

Liske_154Recently I met a remarkable dad. When his adopted son started stealing, he made a heartbreaking decision: he took him down to the police station, hoping that facing the consequences of his actions would turn the boy around.

Sadly, the boy wasn’t ready to change—at least not yet. He went in and out of juvenile facilities. He became a habitual offender. He rammed a stolen car through a police roadblock, drawing officers’ fire and emerging miraculously unharmed. He broke his father’s heart over and over again. Finally, he earned a prison sentence of 27 years. His dad came faithfully to visit him all those years, planting seeds of love that he hoped would bear fruit someday.

In many prisons, the son encountered Prison Fellowship programs. He sat on the edges of Bible studies and heard stories about Jesus. He knew something was different, but like many prisoners, he still wasn’t ready to give his life to God. The volunteers came faithfully to these prisons anyway, scattering seeds of the Gospel and praying transformation would grow.

The son was released from prison four years ago. Two years ago, he made a decision to follow Jesus and was baptized. After decades of faithfulness and prayer, the seeds sown by his father and by many volunteers have sprouted and borne fruit that was worth the wait.

Important, heart-level change often follows years of patient investment. That’s why I’m so grateful for friends like you. When you join us for the long haul, faithfully giving of the time, talents, and treasure God has entrusted to you, you are planting seeds of salvation that might bear fruit tomorrow or in many years. You allow Prison Fellowship to abide with the broken—no matter how long it takes

Learning to Pray

By Steve Rempe | Posted June 11, 2015

On May 31, Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske returned to speak to his former congregation, Ridge Point Community Church in Holland, Michigan, on the challenges of prayer.  Reflecting on the concept of restorative justice and the idea that all people are created in the image of God, Liske recalls attending an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights marches in Montgomery, Alabama, where he was seated between two women who were veterans of those marches.

As teenagers, these women were present in Montgomery, praying for a day when they would not be treated as second-class citizens.  Now, 50 years later, these grandmothers were able to see the daughters of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and Alabama Governor George Wallace embrace in a display of unity that was an answer of many years of prayer and supplication.

If you have trouble viewing the above video, click here.

“Understand that prayer is a two-way dialog that is meant to change you, not to change God,” Liske says in his message.  “That in that process you will receive answers, like these two grandmas did, that will actually shake your world. And while you receive answers, you will become more and more holy, and more and more capable of praying within the will of God so you see more and more answers revealed before your eyes.

“Scripture says that in prayer we move the cosmos—we affect the direction of what God is doing in our lives, and you communicate with the high and holy. I pray that you want to learn to pray, because in that you communicate with God almighty.”

Prayer is at the root of everything that Prison Fellowship does.  From major reforms in the justice system to the transformation of the individual prisoner, nothing is achieved without God’s people taking these requests before the throne of God.  To be a part of God’s continuing work in the lives of prisoners, their families, and the criminal justice system, join our prayer team.

Thankful for Prison

By Jim Liske | Posted June 8, 2015

Liske_154Recently I received a letter from a mother. She’s a college professor with a stable marriage. She and her husband raised their children in a loving, God-fearing environment. Her son wasn’t “supposed” to go to prison, and when he did, her world turned upside down.

Somewhere along the road, this mother’s son made a wrong turn. He grew distant from God and made a choice with terrible consequences. Now he’s behind bars, and his mother wrote to tell me she is thankful.

Why? This mother is thankful because prison gave her son the wake-up call he needed, and he has given his life back to Jesus. She is thankful because Prison Fellowship has been there for him, surrounding him with encouragement and hope, giving him a purpose and vision for the future. She is thankful because, through their circumstances, she and her husband have been inspired to undertake the rewarding calling of jail ministry themselves.

And she is thankful because, as she writes, “You and I both know Jesus is the only answer” for those in prison—and for those who love them.

I am also thankful—for partners like you. When you support Prison Fellowship through your prayers, when you volunteer behind bars or in the community, and when you share God’s gifts to help those affected by crime and incarceration, you give many other people a reason to be thankful, too

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