Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Guest post from Linda Settles of Edict House

Therefore, since we are surrounded…what shall we do?

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1


     How does it feel to be “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses?” The answer to that question may depend on our past experiences. Someone who has been convicted of a crime because of the testimony of witnesses, may re-experience guilt and shame at the memory of having their actions brought before a judge by angry, hostile, or contemptuous witnesses. Others who have been unjustly accused and convinced by the testimony of deceitful witnesses may feel angry or even enraged.

     I know of such a case. Many years ago an innocent man was arrested, charged, tried, and convicted based on the testimony of corrupted witnesses whose stories didn’t match up. He was given the death sentence which was served almost immediately. The injustice of this story agitates us. The tragedy of his untimely death saddens us. You have probably heard his story before, and you will certainly recognize his name, for the innocent man was Jesus Christ.He knows what it feels like to face his accusers. He understands the response of the human spirit in the face of injustice. And he cares about the criminal who is convicted of crimes he or she undeniably committed.

      The last person to experience the compassion of Jesus Christ before his death on the cross was a convicted thief. A man who had, indeed, committed crimes worthy of his penalty. “Today,” Jesus said, “you will be with me in paradise.” Imagine the outrage of the ‘holier than thou’ religious officials who instigated the crucifixion of Christ. Here he was, hanging on a cross, bleeding from multiple wounds, in the process of dying, and yet he reached out to a man who clearly deserved to die. That man may be among the ‘witnesses’ who witness the way we live our lives. He knows what it is like to be justly accused and suffer for the crimes we’ve committed. He also knows what it is like to be forgiven, justified, and restored to the heart of God. If you share this man’s experiences, you can take heart because he may be one of the many witnesses among that ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who cheers you on in your walk of faith and empathizes with your sorrows. The Christ of Calvary, who suffered, though innocent of the crimes charged against him, is most certainly one of the witnesses who stands at the right hand of God advocating for you on a daily basis. (Hebrews 7:25)

        But remember, the writer tells us we are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses.”

      I don’t know if I have grasped the full theological significance of this verse, but I picture heavenly beings, perhaps spirits of departed loved ones and heroes of our faith, watching us run the course of our lives, cheering us on toward victory, rejoicing in our accomplishments. If this is true, what should our response be? The writer of Hebrews gives us direction here, too. “Let us throw off everything that hinders…” In other words, let’s get rid of our baggage. You know, the old ‘stuff’ that weighs us down—unforgiveness, bitterness toward those who have harmed us, guilt over our own bad behaviors, selfish ambitions, greed, and the list goes on. Get rid of it. “Throw it off.”

     And, finally, he says, “(throw off) the sin which so easily entangles us.” What is that sin? Some of us may think of lying, stealing, physical violence, etc. But at the core the sin that entangles every one of us is the same—it is unbelief. Failing to believe that God is big enough, good enough, faithful enough to take care of us. When we put our trust in him and pursue His good will, we find that our load is lightened and our path is straight –or as the writer of this passage says, it is “marked out for us.” What more do we need? Well, there is one other thing—perseverance. Endurance. The grit to get up and go on even when everything seems to be falling apart.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 Let us run the race with perseverance so that we will hear the words of Christ, the Divine Witness who went before us and marked out our path, who advocates our cause before the Heavenly Father, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your Lord.” Matthew 25:23b


Friday, May 27, 2011

Inmate Testimony

 We receive letters like this quite often and they always encourage us. We thought we would share one with you. This is the original letter in it's unedited form just as we received it. We changed the gentleman's name and certain geographical data to protect his identity but all other details are as he wrote them to us. It's a wonderful testimony of the power of Jesus Christ to set the captives free.


     My name is John Doe. I am 25 years old and I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. When I was five years old, my mother moved to Virginia Beach, VA. My real father died when I was three years old. My mother and step-father were drug addicts. When I was eight years old, my step-dad asked me if I thought I was a man yet. Me being young and seeking his attention, I said, "Yes Daddy." He got out a pill bottle and put a pill on a plate. He crushed the pill, snorted it and then handed it to me. I was doing drugs with him every day after that.
     My aunt and grandmother were Christians. My aunt took me to church almost every Sunday. I believed in God, but it was hard for me because I felt even if I did get saved, my step-father would still want me to do drugs with him and I couldn't tell anyone about it or I would be considered a snitch.

     I've always had a relationship with God. I will always remember one experience I had with Him. All the way up until I was twelve years old, I had really bad ear problems. They hurt and leaked. If any water got in them, it would become worse. One day I was at church with my aunt and they were having a healing service. My aunt told me to go up to the altar. I went and the preacher asked me, "Do you believe that Jesus can heal you?" I said "Yes, I believe." I haven't  even had an ear ache since!!! God is so amazing!!!

     I was also a cutter. Although I did drugs and cut myself to get happiness, I still felt an emptiness... a void that only God could fill. When I turned 17 years old, my mother and step-father split up. With him gone, I had to get the drugs on my own. I cheated people, I robbed and stole from people, I would do whatever I had to do to get my drugs. 

     After turning 18, I went crazy on a crime spree, robbing and stealing until I was caught by law enforcement and given twenty years in prison. In prison, I went to church services, but continued to use drugs and live the same old life. 

     On November 9, 2009, I went to a church service and felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I said to myself, "okay, I'm tired of playing." I asked the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart and gave him my all. 

     I've had so much joy since I gave the Lord my all... a joy no drug or cut could even start to give me. It's like I tell my grandmother, "I'm in prison but I'm freer than I've ever been." Thank you, Lord!!!

     To anyone who may read this testimony, and you're looking for peace, comfort, and joy. There is no greater joy than that which the Lord Jesus Christ gives. Thank You, and God bless you.

Friends, this is what Hope Aglow is all about!  " But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?" Romans 10:14 NLT

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Would you pray with us?

We know the Holy Spirit is very much involved in what we do, and we want to continually tap into our source of power. Would join with us?  It would mean so much. All we want is a way to communicate with you, lay our requests before righteous men and women who will pray for us and the needs of  prison ministries. 

Would you be willing to sign up to pray with us by email? We are trying to increase our prayer partners and feel one way to connect with you would be to send you a monthly email from our ministry. We have many prayer requests from inmates, from volunteers, the Department of Corrections and leaders of our government.

Send us your email address- Email hopeaglow@earthlink.net put PRAYER PARTNER in the subject line and we will add you to our Monthly Prayer Partner List. Thanks so much. I know it pleases our Lord when we pray. 

It will be a short email, once a month to request prayer for needs we are aware of specific to the prison ministry as it relates to sharing the gospel. We will never share, sell or giveaway your email address.You can unsubscribe at any time.

In case you haven't heard on Monday ( May 23, 2011 ) "a sharply divided Supreme Court affirmed a controversial prisoner reduction plan forced on California prison administrators that requires the state to reduce its inmate population by tens-of-thousands to ease overcrowding." Fox News

"Critics of California's prison system contend the cells are so overrun with inmates that proper care has been obliterated."  When our director heard this news he replied, " State law makers want the courts to do this. They [prisons] have no money and no back bone to handle their problems with over crowding so the law makers force it into the courts. Then they blame it on the courts because they did not have the spine to handle the problem before it became so bad. This is coming to Virginia and other states soon also. We must transform the whole system. It is a system designed for failure. We must bring all corrections back to the local community. This is the only place it can be carried out in a meaningful way. "

Garry has written an excellent article entitled,  How To Turn Inmates Away From A Life of Crime

Everyone should read it.

While crime is America's fastest "growth industry," our penal system is our least efficient industry. America's prison system has a failure rate of more than 75 percent, that is, more than 75 percent of the people released today will return to prison within three to four years. More than 50 percent will return for crimes committed within the first few months of freedom. It does not seem to matter how long a sentence a person serves, the return rate is the same. 

Any business with a product return rate that high would face stockholders demanding a change. As the "stockholders" in this "business," why have we not demanded a change? 

I believe the prison system suffers from a basic design flaw, in that it almost always removes an inmate from the local community where he is most likely to be returned upon release. This results in increased family breakdown as family members are unable to regularly travel great distances to visit. This also prevents local organizations, such as the local church, from working with the inmate to prepare him to return to society.

Projects in several states where inmates were matched up with a free "world mentor" who became his friend in prison and continued to help him upon release have shown incredible reductions in the return rates, reversing them in some cases. 

Unless a positive support system exists, both studies and experience have demonstrated that many men released from prison with nothing but good intentions, including men who have come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior while in prison, return at the same rate as the general population. There are several reasons for this, all of which could be dealt with if we were to adopt a system of community prisons. 
While in prison, an inmate loses the ability to make decision, as all decisions of any importance are made for him. I have known of men getting out after long terms who were unable to even choose what to eat from a restaurant menu. When released into a community where no one trusts them to start with, and no one is there to help with making decisions and adjustments, they soon find themselves in trouble again.
If we were to replace the current prison system with community prisons, that is, local prisons in easy reach of every community, many of the problems that lead to recidivism could be dealt with.
With local prisons, family could visit on a regular basis, keeping that support system intact. The local church would be able to invest its time and effort in the local prison, knowing that these inmates are from their community and upon release would be living in that same community. Local civic groups that already volunteer in prisons would be working with inmates who would be living in their own neighborhoods when released. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Two Mothers

Mary with the man who murdered her son

Long time ago, so I have been told,
Two angels once met on streets paved with gold.

“By the stars in your crown,” said the one to the other

“I see that on earth, you too, were a mother.

And by, the blue-tinted halo you wear

“You, too, have known sorrow and deepest despair...”

“Ah yes,” she replied, “I once had a son,

A sweet little lad, full of laughter and fun.”

“But tell of your child.” “Oh, I knew I was blessed

From the moment I first held him close to my breast,

And my heart almost burst with the joy of that day.”

“Ah, yes,” said the other, “I felt the same way.”

The former continued: “The first steps he took-

So eager and breathless; the sweet startled look

Which came over his face – he trusted me so.”

“Ah, yes,” said the other, “How well do I know”

“But soon he had grown to a tall handsome boy,

So stalwart and kind – and it gave me so much joy

To have him just walk down the street by my side”

“Ah yes, “ said the other mother,

“I felt the same pride.”

“How often I shielded and spared him from pain

And when he for others was so cruelly slain.

When they crucified him – and they spat in his face

How gladly would I have hung there in his place!”

A moment of silence - “Oh then you are she -

The mother of Christ”; and she fell on one knee.

But the Blessed one raised her up, drawing her near,

And kissed from the cheek of the woman, a tear.

“Tell me the name of the son you love so,

That I may share with your grief and your woe.

She lifted her eyes, looking straight at the other,

“He was Judas Iscariot: I am his mother.”

Author Unknown

The poem “Two Mothers” was the inspiration for the healing groups that Mary Johnson initiated for parents whose lives have been impacted by homicide. On Friday, August 27, 2010, she and Carolyn Green, the mother of the young man who took her son’s life, met and reconciled...17 1/2 years after harsh words were exchanged in the courtroom. At the time, each mother was under an enormous amount of stress...one having lost her only son to homicide, and the other about to lose her only son to prison. In the end, LOVE won out.

http://www.bewhoyouare.info/fromdeathtolife/healing_groups.html  < Read more

Thursday, May 12, 2011


“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. John 3 : 16-18

Standing before a judge with the realization that he or she has the power make a decision that will effect your life must be frightening, whether you are innocent or guilty. Any visit to a jail to minister to those incarcerated there will usually involve a conversation about trials, sentencing, lawyers and judges. Every inmate knows all about the judge they will stand before. They speak with fear about some of them, and relief about others.

The legal process is a frequent topic of conversation and most inmates want to share their story. Not the story of what they did wrong, rather the hopeful details of the best outcome for them. They don't seek your opinion, they want you to pray. It's always the first prayer request. " My court date is___________ and I hope Judge so and so will ________. This blank usually involves release. We counsel them to place their hope in the Lord Jesus, not in a judge or a date.

The mission of Hope Aglow is to share the good news that with God, judgment ended at Calvary. Jesus Christ has justified us, our debt is paid. Removing the fear of judgment is powerful, life changing and redemptive.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

We lost so many good Bibles today.

Garry Sims, the Director of Hope Aglow shows us all how to have a great attitude even when the roof falls in and your feet get wet.

If the Lord lays it on your heart to donate to the "replace a wet Bible fund", by all means- listen. Thanks.

Hope Aglow Ministries
P.O. Box 10157
Lynchburg, VA 24506