A New Way to Live

by Christy Hoagland

Last week, at the end of one of our services, a young man, mid-twenties, surrendered his life to Jesus.  He was broken and distraught, he doesn’t know how to live any other way then what he’s known all his life.  He has two young children at home and one on the way, he doesn’t know to be a father, he doesn’t know how to work, he only knows dope – those were his words that night.  But now he has Jesus and a new way to live, one day at a time, one moment at a time.  And because of the Holy Spirit’s power in him, he is free and can stay free…and learn a new way to live.

His story is not unique, so many of these men and women in prison know no other life than addiction, abuse, jails, prisons…breaking these cycles begins with Jesus.  He is the only way to be free from the bondage of sin and when an inmate (or anyone for that matter) gives their life to Christ those chains are broken and their life really begins.  I cannot imagine how afraid some of them must feel, how difficult it must be for them to grow in their faith while evil is on every side because of where they are, while the enemy is constantly trying to bring them low, reminding them of their mistakes, to make them feel hopeless and unworthy. And here they are, trying to climb out of their old lives into this new one in Christ – filled with hope, love, grace and mercy.  It is hard for some of them to take in, to believe they can be forgiven, can really be free and have joy and a life full of abundance.  This new way to live, this new life, is possible through Jesus and a relationship with Him.  Once these men and women grab hold of that, believe and surrender, they will be free, they will be overcomers because of Christ’s work in their lives.

Picture this young man or women inside the razor wire…they finally muster up the courage to come to a chapel service in prison, they hear about this Jesus that loved them so much to die for them, take the punishment for their sin and offer them salvation, they accept this free gift and then they walk back to their cell and wonder what just happened… they now have the Holy Spirit (Glory to God!) and this hope, this immediate newness and they are overwhelmed.  Surrounding them is a vile and vulgar environment and they must block it out so they can grow in this new life.  They will be ridiculed and tempted and more.  Some will be able to stay strong through it all and some will fall and have to get back up.

And this… is why we go, to offer this freedom in Christ Jesus and to remind them they can stay free!  That they are no longer slaves to sin.  They need your help, pray for them and their families, surround them when they leave prison and come into your church, your community.  Love them like no one ever has before, if that seems difficult for you then remember what Jesus did for YOU too!  Love them like Jesus loves you!  Encourage them and remind them of their freedom only found in Jesus.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

This is why the Freedom Campaign is so important…we want these men and women to really be free, to be a light in the darkness inside of prison while they are there and a light in their families and communities when they come home.  This isn’t about us, this isn’t about money, God can make this happen without any of us or any donations from anyone…but I’m glad He chose me to be a part of it and maybe He is choosing you too.  Pray and seek Him about how He wants to use you in setting the captives free.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18

Unworthy Servants

by Christy Hoagland

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17:10

We, the Sing for the King Ministry team, is often thanked for serving the Lord.  I understand that you want to thank others for pouring into you and who are pointing you to the Savior, I have often thanked my Pastor for speaking truth into my life.  I think it’s a natural thing to thank those who are being obedient to God’s call on their lives but we are just doing what we are commanded to do…sharing Jesus.

I am constantly praying for a spirit of humility, I know that God gives grace to the humble and I want His grace over me more than anything else.  I can do nothing on my own anyway! I want to be used by Him and I can’t be used if I am prideful or boastful in myself.  None of the miraculous things we see is because of us or anything that we have done; God has granted us an amazing gift…a front row seat to His saving power, to His divine work.  We have seen many men and women come to faith in Christ and often times we only get to see that first transformation.  But once in a while we are allowed the honor to see beyond that first miracle and have the privilege to glimpse a little more of God’s marvelous work in the lives of those He saves.  After all, Philippians 1:6 says “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Here’s one of those miracles, we received this message recently:

“Happy Greetings! I just wanted to share something with you. While I was at Algoa I adored and anticipated Sing for the King each Friday. The difference the Lord made in my life through you and your ministry there continues! So I also was in a step-program. One of my sponsees wrote me last week. He told me that after I left (just 30 days ago) he finally surrendered and went to your Friday night service. And this passed week, he was BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He is now alive and happy and sharing what has happened in his life with others. What a long way God has brought him from where he once was just a few months ago. When I got to Algoa and decided to hit meetings and chapel every chance I got, I had no idea what God was about to do. I was absolutely NOT going to open up to another guy in grays. I was not going to share deep personal stuff with another fellow felon. Well, you see God knew me. Better than I knew myself. And he knows that in everything I have to go all in or let it go. And I did. I worked the steps. I became the secretary and a sponsor.  I became vulnerable and willing. And God softened my heart and gave me eyes to see others like he sees them. Beautiful. I couldn’t help but look at this young man and see God loved him and he needed to know it. That I had something in my life that was bubbling up out of me and I could not keep it to myself. I found the way to break every chain. The way to conquer fear, cuz it’s a liar. From victim to victorious. I shared just the right portion as I let the Lord lead me, telling him about some very personal things from my past. Things the devil used to shame me. To hide it. To isolate. To go full on introvert mode. Well, I took the chance. I shared my story. And that night he went to the step-program with me and within days his transformation was obvious. After my moving on, he continued working the program, he continued sharing his own story. He finally accepted God and now has the blessing of sharing it with many others. He is now a sponsor, he is now blessed with the mercy and grace that only comes from Jesus Christ, he attends chapel, he is baptized, he is alive…for the first time in his life. He is impacting other guys in gray, he told me that many guys come to meetings and chapel now (in just 30 days!!!!!!) because of him and his willingness to share with them. God poured into my life. It overflowed into his. And now it flows into many others. Guys in gray. Thank you. I feel God want me to share with you many things. So much is happening in my life, at times I have trouble believing it. Man, it’s just amazing what he is doing. I’m refusing to let doubt, strange emotions, etc control me. Instead I am standing on the promises of God. The TRUTH. I am reflecting on what he has done for me. Who am I to discount any of that? God loved ME, a guy who was once in gray, that HE came to earth as Jesus Christ and walked into his own story and died on the cross, bleeding out to purify a guy like me. For all the men and women he dreamed up and created. So that we, mere human beings, some of us even going gray (or bald hee hee) can be redeemed. We have hope. We have grace. We have mercy. No longer slaves. I am a child of God. And the joy that floods my soul I just cannot contain. He saved me from the cancer of myself. He rescued me from a pit. He healed my body, my mind and my spirit. As he continues to reveal to me, it just spills out, His love, His sweetness, His Kingship, it envelopes me and I just gotta put a stamp on it and send it out to others. Cool thought: God works in each life at just the right speed. For some it is lightning fast like email, text, messaging, and others it is more like snail mail. Doesn’t matter. When the student is ready, the teacher walks in. I love you. I love your ministry. And I love how the love of Jesus, of God himself flows from your hearts. And it BREAKS EVERY CHAIN! In church when they sing some of the songs we sang at Algoa I can’t help but tear up and wanna shout VICTORY!” – Former Offender, D.

I hope this encourages you to step out boldly for Jesus, the One who saved you, and share His story and yours…how He has changed you.  He wants to use you, for His Glory, for His Kingdom!  And just maybe, He will give you a sweet glimpse into His remarkable handiwork…we cannot even imagine it!

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Corinthians 2:9

2017 Year in Review

by Christy Hoagland

I don’t think I can adequately sum up all the beautiful and marvelous things God has done and allowed us to see over this past year.  He is so good and so gracious and we are so blessed and thankful to be able to be part of His story.

2017YearinReview_public

Our team could sit and talk for hours about the lives we’ve seen Jesus change – the brokenness made whole, the unloved loved, the captives freed!  It is only through the Power of the Gospel that any of this is possible, only HE is mighty to save, redeem, change!!!

We are most thankful to God for this wonderful work He has called us to and we are thankful for you as well – our supporters, our prayer warriors, our groupies…this is all for Him, about Him, and through Him and we thank you for allowing Him to use you to be a special part of this ministry.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

Real Love

by Christy Hoagland

Love….it seems like a common theme in the posts I’ve written but it is anything but common.  God’s love for me, for the men we minister to, and the people we meet continues to overwhelm me.  The Gospel overwhelms me – God’s love shown to me, to us by sending His Son to pay for my sin, your sin.  This is Real Love.

The month of October was intense, we were in 8 different prisons around the state and God poured out His love in the institutions, drew at least 87 men to Himself, and strengthened the faith of countless more.  I could probably write a hundred stories but I will simply tell a few.

At Ozark Correctional Center in mid-October we held a Yard Event with some musicians, James preaching, and Johnny testifying…12 men surrendered their lives to Christ! And, we had pictures taken during the event, unfortunately we were not able to have any with offenders but we are grateful nonetheless.

The following weekend we traveled to St. Joe, MO to do two prison concerts on Saturday.  We brought some special guests and saw several more lives come to the Lord.

IMG_20171021_164947064

On Sunday, James, Johnny and I held a service in Maryville.  Several offenders from other prisons we minister in had been transferred there for treatment.  It was so good to see them still standing strong in their faith and hearing their stories how God is using them.  The service was incredible, it certainly wasn’t about anything we did, God was revealing Himself, His truth to these men and 16 came to faith in Jesus.  The chaplain cried, we cried, the men cried…we were in awe of God’s power and His marvelous grace.  We’ve been invited back to take part in a baptism service for these new lives at the end of this month…wow, God!  Thank You!

A few days later and we were back at Algoa Correctional for a baptism service.  27 men were baptized!  Several different ministries all came together for this baptism, God’s family.  A couple testimonies from the men being baptized really touched me.  A large black man shared how he had been searching for real love; he had encountered carnal love, puppy love, lust, etc, etc but he had finally experienced real love in the person of Jesus Christ, in God sending His Son for him.  Another gentleman had been in the military and had done two tours in Iraq.  When he came home he was having trouble dealing with the things he had done and his life began to spiral out of control and he ended up in prison.  It was through surrendering his life to Christ that set him free from his past and gave him peace.  One man sat in the baptistry and just wept.  So many more miracles and stories, each one precious and full of God’s grace.

On the last Sunday evening in October we drove to MECC in Pacific, MO.  These men were so hungry for the Word, for love, for hope and they were so very sweet, they applauded after every single song, prayer, the reading of scripture, everything!  And at the end of the night 9 men found real love, real hope through Jesus Christ.  The chaplain invited us to have a quarterly spot…how good is God!

Our regular services throughout the month were just as miraculous, 7 salvations at the maximum security prison in Jefferson City and many more at Algoa, KCRC, and Boonville.  God’s LOVE, His GOSPEL is being proclaimed and lives are being changed.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

I don’t know why God has called me to prison ministry but He has given me a special love for these offenders.  I want them to experience “real love” through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  I want them to know that I love them and that there are others that do too.  And I want them to love others and share their new found faith, His Love with those around them.

Who are you sharing real love with today?

 

 

Something to Live For

by Christy Hoagland

Our team had a pretty incredible week, 4 services in 4 different prisons in a span of 7 days; we are scheduled for 18 prison events/services in the month of October…isn’t God amazing?!?  Here’s week one…

On Sunday night as we were getting ready to begin, I was singing a song as offenders were entering the chapel and I looked up to see Johnny talking with a man we knew from another prison.  I finished the song and excused myself to go to him.  He had left and gone home only to return a short time later.  He was crying, ashamed to come to our service but wanted to see us all the same, to which I was glad.  I just held onto his hand and told him I loved him.  He just kept saying he wasn’t strong enough to which I replied ‘Jesus is’.  The power of addiction had overtaken him and he had yielded to it.  He will be out soon and we encouraged him to apply to a men’s christian life program so he can grow in his relationship with Jesus and be surrounded with men who will love him and keep him accountable.  I was heartbroken for him but thankful he came to the chapel.  The Holy Spirit drew 8 men to receive Christ this night…wow!

A revival is breaking out at KCRC, our Tuesday night service has quadrupled (or more) in size and men’s lives are being changed.  There is a boldness there that is amazing to witness, several offenders can be found in the hallways asking men to come to church, one man hand writes scriptures on tiny pieces of paper and hands them out while inviting them to church, some come and some do not but most take the slip of paper containing God’s Word.  God is on the move!

Friday night was remarkable, it began with something simple.  We had noticed that one of our regular guys hadn’t come to service the past few weeks, we asked about him and since there was still a few minutes until the service started one of the offender chapel workers said they would go talk to him, we told him to tell him we missed him.  It turns out he had just gotten lazy…can’t we relate?…he came in with a smile, he just needed a nudge, accountability, and for someone to tell him they cared.  The Holy Spirit was moving throughout the entire evening and during my first session of songs I was overwhelmed and tears fell, even my own… Later as Johnny was speaking he said “I am not ashamed to say I Love Jesus Christ!” and one by one men began loudly exclaiming “I love Jesus Christ!” until they were overlapping.  It was so amazing!  And at the end of the service, 6 men gave their lives to Jesus Christ!

And then there’s Saturday…we were invited to hold a yard event at Potosi Correctional Center, a maximum security prison.  Most of these men (99%) will never leave and some of these men are on death row.  The offenders had to sign up to come to the event and it was open to everyone, even those on death row.  Up until six months before their execution date they are able to be among the general population in the prison.  I was thankful for this news, I was eager to see God work and change lives, to give hope and to give these men something to live for.  Jesus is so worth living for and even dying for.

I shook many hands and looked into the faces of murderers and saw their victims behind their eyes and my heart broke for both.  This encounter affected me in a different way than any had before, but I still loved them and so does Jesus, so much so that He gave His life for them too.  It rained on us and we brought our equipment into the gym, Johnny shared his story and two men responded and surrendered their lives…their life sentences to Jesus.  Then I sang with them, acapella, it was precious.

We all have something to live for when we belong to Jesus, this life of abundance isn’t excluded for those outside the razorwire, it is for the least of these and although they will never be outside the prison walls and fences they have something to live for…eternity with our King, our Savior and peace for the present, freedom from the past, a mission to share His love, His Gospel with those around them and to Glorify Him.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:15

 

From Strangers to Family

by Christy Hoagland

On Friday afternoon I received a phone call asking if we would visit a man’s dying father, his son was worried about his spiritual condition and desperately wanted someone to tell him about Jesus.  He was in a hospital not far from us and it was on our way to our prison service that night so I told the caller that we would be glad to go see him.

We arrived at the hospital and asked the woman at the front desk for (we’ll call him Bob).  The woman told us he wasn’t in their system…we could’ve just walked out, maybe there was a mix up by the caller or maybe he had already passed…but the woman got up and said she would go check and quickly went down the hall.  She returned and told us he was in the ER.  We walked to the ER and asked for Bob and they let the three of us right in (I thought that was odd), we found his room and it was packed with his family.  I walked in and said, “Bob? I know you don’t know me” and he said “No, I don’t”.  I told him we had been sent to see him and by whom and the entire family minus one daughter immediately got up and let us have the room with him.  As they were filing out the doctor came in and told him more about his condition, he would see the radiation oncologist on Monday and that he could go home today but to come back if he got worse.  He left and then each of us began telling him about the Gospel.  Bob said he knew there was a God but that he was not a Christian, he had not given his life to Christ and he didn’t want to. He said he didn’t want to be fake.  As we talked about the hope, forgiveness, and love that Jesus gives I felt like he was shutting down and wanted no part of what was being said.  In my mind I was saying “the Spirit is not drawing him”, we will just have to pray with him and be on our way and hope that a seed was planted and would take root.  The doctor came in again and told Bob that he had a little bit of good news for him, that he needed to stay in the hospital and begin treatment and that things didn’t look quite as dire as before.  The doc then left and James turned to Bob and said “let Christy tell you a quick story”, I was going to tell him about my mom and the miracles God has done through her battle with cancer.  Bob said “I don’t need to hear anymore”…for a split second I thought he had really had enough and was going to kick us out…but instead he said “that’s the first positive news I’ve had in my whole life”.  God became real to him for the first time in his life.  Johnny asked him if he wanted to give his life to Christ and Bob said “Yes, I do”.  He prayed to receive Christ, we were all crying and thanking God for the Spirit’s mighty move upon Bob.  His daughter through tears was looking heavenward and saying thank you, thank you.  We all hugged Bob and Bob even kissed me on the cheek.  In a matter of probably 30 minutes strangers became family, walls were torn down, strongholds were destroyed and the Holy Spirit moved into another heart and life.  Bob’s daughter hugged us tightly and said “that was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, I gotta go tell mom!”

Ezekiel 36:26 says “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  And this is exactly what happened before our very eyes, it was one of the most miraculous things I’ve ever witnessed.  What an honor it is to tell about Jesus and watch Him work. Go tell someone about Him today…you might just see a heart of stone turn into a heart of flesh.

Brand New Lives

by Christy Hoagland

“I’m brand new?!?” was exclaimed over and over by a young man that had just prayed to receive Christ.  Tears were rolling down his cheeks as three other offenders who had just prayed that same prayer embraced him.  Four lives changed forever by the Gospel of Jesus.  Let me give some backstory regarding this “brand new” man… he had been coming to our KCRC service but then missed a week, another gentleman asked for prayer for him, he was worried about him especially since he hadn’t come to service.  Then Tuesday came, with the very first song I noticed God already moving, particularly on this young man.  Later during our Bible study another gentleman talked about how thankful he is for God’s unconditional love and that grasping God’s love has been a process and hard to wrap his mind around.  The entire night was pretty incredible and at the altar call in a tiny concrete block classroom 4 men became brand new!  I’ll never get over it, what a precious gift it is to share the love of Jesus and watch the Spirit draw people to Himself and change them right before our eyes.

The following night a 15 year old girl at Johnny’s church brought him $60, she wanted to sow into our prison ministry, she had wanted it to be more but this is all she could bring. How precious, what a blessing!

Friday…at the start of this week’s service one of our chapel workers, an offender, told us about a young man that had been at ACC for a year now but had never come to a Friday night service yet.  This man had been searching, he had been dabbling in Wicca and other religions and the night before had come to another Christian service at the chapel.  The chapel worker told me that he had talked with him earlier in the day and asked him to come to tonight’s service and he agreed.  He sat rather stoic but still introduced himself when the welcome of newcomers was given, I couldn’t tell if he was singing along with the other men but I just continued to pray for him, that the Spirit would draw him.  When Johnny got up to speak he was giddy, he introduced the man that had come and said that he couldn’t wait until the end of the service to give his life to Jesus, he wanted to do it right then!  God…You are marvelous!  At the end of the night he came to me and I congratulated him on his new relationship with Christ, he said he had been reading Romans today and he knew he needed Jesus.  Just wow…the power of God’s Word, the Spirit’s leading…wow…

I’m so grateful for these opportunities, we all are (the Sing for the King team) and because of Jesus’ calling and people sending, even 15 year old girls, and so many of your prayers we are able to go and give the Gospel and see its power remove strongholds, break down walls, and make men new.  Thank You for praying, for sending, but most of all, thank You Jesus for saving.

Our New Brothers

Brian
Rocky
Casey
Lebaron
Chris
Danny
Shawn
Chad
Michael
Kevin
Jerry
Cory
Robert
Frankie
Mike
Earl
Justin
Robert
Johnny
Latrell
Adam
Morris
Robert
Ralph
Willie
Daniel
John
Jason
Rick
Franklin
Anthony
John
Shawn
Terrance
Jason
Ricky
Lawrence
Robert
Angue
Jimmie
David
Carl
Chris
Rickey
Thomas
Curtice
Andy
Curtis
Louis
Bobby
Jeremiah
Christopher
Bryan
James
Richard
Jeremiah
Christopher
Jody
Chris
Michael
Richard
Joe
Marcus
Jeremy
David
Darrel
Irvin
Kevin
Lenzy
Brandon
Mike
Spencer
Chris
Anthony
Marvin
Curtis

These are just a few of the names that have been added to the Lamb’s Book of Life the past few months…and this is why we go, this is why we share Jesus and His life changing Gospel.  These are people, image bearers of God, souls that needed saving.  Look at the names of these men – one has life without parole, another is already home, countless others are sharing their newfound faith with their loved ones over the phone or during visits, some are struggling with this new relationship not knowing how to live this new life and need our prayers, a few may have fallen and so much more…. but all have been set free, all are forgiven, all are new creations, all are our brothers in Christ.

 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

Sing for the King,
Christy Hoagland

Sweat and Goosebumps

by Christy Hoagland

Sweat and goosebumps…how is that even possible? God! That’s how! Last week, the Sing for the King team had the privilege of participating in a baptism service at Algoa Correctional Center along with many other ministries. We have attended before and have always been abundantly blessed but this night was like none other. The chapel was crowded with offenders and volunteers, 27 men were going to be baptized, it was hot and I was sweating along with everyone else I’m sure. As I began leading this body of believers in song I was completely overwhelmed by the presence of God. And as we were singing His praises I felt goosebumps on my sweaty arms, I’ve never seen (or felt) anything like it but what was more amazing? That was just the beginning. God had a big night planned and my heart would continue to be overwhelmed.

The men are given an opportunity to share before they are baptized and we were all overcome by their testimonies of Jesus’ marvelous grace in their lives. Man after man told their redemption stories. Paul spoke of his son committing suicide last year and of Jesus’ work in his life to restore joy and peace. Daniel…he shared that he was the first in his family to be baptized…first! A curse was broken this night! I cried. How awesome is our God!?! Joshua…Joshua was last, he sat and watched as 26 men before him shared their stories and proclaimed their obedience to Jesus and then it was his turn. Joshua entered prison at Fulton Diagnostic and he planned on committing suicide there, he was full of hurt and pain and thought his life was not worth living anymore. God intervened and he wasn’t able to complete his task, he was then transferred to Algoa and thought he would be able to carry out his plan here. But God! God saves! Joshua shared that Jesus saved his life, spiritually and physically. Many men declared that although they had no family on the outside that they had gained a family in the body of Christ. There are so many more and I wish I could adequately express each one. My heart was so full and I felt as if I could just sit for hours quietly before the Lord, treasuring every moment. I never want to take for granted the work of Christ in these men’s lives or my own. He is alive and active and working in and through His people…and yes, even offenders, they are His and He is theirs. Many of them live more sold out lives than you or I and are a lovely reflection of the Savior, of His grace, hope, and love. Look for it, it’s there, share it, someone’s life may depend on it.

No Record of Wrongs

by Christy Hoagland

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

A man in our Friday night service has been asking for prayer over the past few months for his daughter.  He desperately wanted to hear from her and know she was doing okay.  His prayer was that she would walk with Jesus and that He would lead her life.  Her silence troubled him so he began to pray and asked us to pray with him.  This past Friday, he showed us a card he had received from his daughter with the very first words written by her…love is patient, love is kind…1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and the words “no record of wrongs” underlined.  He was overjoyed and we rejoiced with him, God answered his plea for this man’s precious daughter, not only that she would walk with Him but to let her dad know she was well and that she loved him and then to encourage him.  How good our God is!!

I’ve thought a lot about this phrase “no record of wrongs” and how this truth about our great and mighty God is so incredible and so important.  An inmate in our service last night, at a maximum security prison gave His life to Jesus.  This man’s sentence is life without parole, a ever-present reminder of his record of wrongs but he has found freedom through Christ Jesus because Jesus gave His life to stamp out that record.  An offender clearly has a record of wrong and they are constantly reminded of that record, with every court appearance, every time they look at the number on their clothes, every time they see a guard, and more.  But God sees the man, the woman…their identity is not defined by their wrongdoings, by their sin, but by Jesus.  This holy God, the creator of all things, loves more than we ever could.  That ultimate love is wrapped up in Jesus’ death on a cross for all mankind.  And when we become His, God remembers our sin no more. Psalm 103:12 says “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”  God can do this, see past our mistakes and remember them no more…but people…for some reason it’s harder for us to grasp, harder for us to love, harder for us to see past the wrongs and even harder to forget them.  I’ve seen this over and over again, people (even Christians) finding it difficult to love some who is incarcerated or has been incarcerated.  How sad…but we all do it, don’t we?  Someone who might have compassion for the homeless or an offender but not the crotchety old lady at church.  Or someone compassionate about missions overseas but not their next door neighbor.  Or perhaps somebody is really good at showing love to most anyone except the homosexual or transgender person they see in the store or on the news or in their own family.  You may want to stand up and say, “Hey! Their sin is an abomination, their sin is against a holy God!”  It is and they need a Savior, just like you do, just like I do.  They need the truth, that Jesus came to die for their sin too…whether their sin took them to prison or anything else we deem as undesirable and how dare we try to belittle Jesus’ sacrifice by acting like it doesn’t cover ALL transgressions.  The forgiveness Jesus offers brings freedom from remembrance, freedom from condemnation.  Us humans want to keep viewing others a certain way, those in Christ and those who haven’t received Him.  We have a hard time seeing people the way God does…as lovely, precious, forgiven or needing forgiveness.  I’m thankful for a God that loves us so much and pray that He will help me to love like He does.