Many 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.
“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.
The 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).
“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.
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.
There 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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
“This is what the LORD says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters … See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
If you found out tomorrow that you had received a sizable inheritance, what would you do with it? Pay off debt? Buy a new car? Take a vacation?
This month William, a prisoner serving a lengthy sentence in Virginia, did something astounding with an inheritance he received: He gave a substantial portion of it to Angel Tree, so that the children with an incarcerated parent can receive a Christmas gift and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Angel Tree blesses hundreds of thousands of children each year, but did you know that it also leads their incarcerated parents closer to Jesus?
At a time of year that can be full of sorrow for parents separated from their children, Angel Tree allows moms and dads to reach out from behind prison bars with a message of love for their families.
My wife Cathy’s family calls this time of year ThanksMas. As Cathy’s brothers married, and we all moved away and starting having kids, her family made up this holiday to create a time to gather. The meal consists of both Thanksgiving and Christmas fare, and we give gifts.
President Abraham Lincoln signed a document in 1863, declaring a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” to fall on the last Thursday in November.
Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation came not at the victorious conclusion of the war, as might have been expected, but in the midst of its stormiest days, when the future of the country was far from certain.
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