Reviewed by: John O. Kinnaird
Date posted: 04/18/2010
Changed behind Bars: The History of My Redemption, by Chandler Fozard. Published by Hope Prison Ministries, 2009. Paperback, 141 pages, list price $15.00. Reviewed by OP ruling elder John O. Kinnaird.
I was fascinated. Having taught Bible studies in prison for over four years, I had never encountered an inmate who thought in terms of "the history of redemption." When asked to review this book, I jumped at the opportunity to read it. So should you.
I was not disappointed. This is a book that all who deal personally with an individual's redemption, whether in prison or outside, can profitably read. In his acknowledgments, the author gives thanks "first and foremost to the God who elected me, the Son who saved me, and the Spirit who called me and keeps me: my Lord and my God, blessed Three in One." I had never heard an inmate speak like that. I thought, "This man has had some good mentoring along the way." As he continues to give thanks, familiar names jump up—names like Rick Shaw, Jay Adams, Skip Ryan, Ed Welch, and the OPC, RPCNA, and PCA—all sources of good instruction and support.
I found Fozard's chapter on "Total Depravity" most interesting. He writes, "Total depravity does not mean that I am as bad as I can be.… It means that sin has enslaved every part of my faculty, including my will.… I remember my reaction the first time I read this: 'Duh!… At last! Someone finally agrees that I really am messed up.'" At the end of the book, he speaks of his sinful attitude prior to Christ and of his deliverance. He writes, "I was restless to get what I wanted.… Today, I am restless to be free of this sin forever." Christ was the answer to his depravity.
The reader of this book should come away understanding that witnessing and mentoring are most effective when they boldly proclaim the truths of the gospel—what we call the Reformed faith—in terms of the person, attributes, work, and purposes of the three persons of the Trinity as historically revealed to mankind. God has accomplished salvation for his people, and now applies it to the hearts of the redeemed in order to bring about repentance, faith, obedience, and praise—all to the glory of God—in the transformed life of the Christian.
This book is designed for use by study groups. There is a section with questions for discussion at the end of each chapter. Large orders for such purposes are available at discount directly from the author.
Here's the bottom line: buy and read the book. Then take the Reformed faith in all of its beauty and holiness to all those to whom you witness, whether "inside" or "outside." And, above all, open your homes, your hearts, your churches, and your Bible studies to those ex-cons who are coming outside.