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Setting Prisoners Free with Today in the Word | Today with Dr. John Koessler

  • November 2017 Issue
Today with Paul Nyquist

“As I look back over my life, all the pain I went through, the craziness, the hatred, and all the things I tried to do to find happiness, it was really God’s schooling to prepare me for my life’s work—working in prisons,” says Phil Wagner, who has spent his career reaching men and women in prison with God’s love.

He founded Set Free Ministries, which is partnering with Today in the Word to distribute this devotional to more than 4,000 prisoners every month. Your gifts to Today in the Word help make this outreach possible!

“The Word of God changes people,” says Phil. “A lot of people have different ideas of what people are like in prison. Many inmates have never experienced love in their life. Their lives are so messed up. The Bible says that unto those who have much, much is required. We have to understand that.”

In 1966, Phil began volunteering at the Cook County Jail. “I treated everybody like I would have liked to be treated,” he said. In 1971, he founded Set Free Prison Ministries, an organization that provides Bible study materials to those in prison.

Last year, Moody contacted Phil and Set Free Ministries for help in distributing the print devotional to prisoners. “Today in the Word is so super because it gets you into the Word of God. It is relevant teaching that you can apply to your life. It has been fantastic!” Phil says. “It’s the Word of God that changes people.”

In addition to Today in the Word’s current readers, Set Free now provides the devotional to an additional 4,000 active students in prison. “We’re swamped!” Phil said. “Other inmates are seeing it and asking for it.”

Giving devotional material to prisoners meets a spiritual need at a critical time in their life. “While they’re in prison, they have time to study. So this is a precious time,” Phil said. One inmate said, “I didn’t get arrested; I got rescued.” Some have even said they are happy they went to prison because that is where they found the Lord and had time to get into the Word of God.

Your gifts to Today in the Word provide financial support for this important outreach. As Phil says, “Prisons are universities of crime unless God’s Word and God’s Son come into their lives and change them from the inside out. Through the gifts you provide, you reach inside prison walls and touch a life. We may never know the full value of that gift on this side of eternity!” 

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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