My publisher, Concordia Publishing House, sent me the manuscript to read for possible endorsement, which I eagerly accepted. Why so eager? Tim Carter also happens to be one of my pastors.
Before answering God's call to be a pastor, Tim worked for the Texas penitentiary system for the better part of two decades. He lived inside the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas, better known as the "death house." He began as a rifle-toting gun tower officer, eventually served as an inmate disciplinary hearing judge, then finally became a member of the death squad where he participated in more than 150 executions.
The man that I know today is a kind-hearted, gentle soul who joyfully serves the Lord. I cannot fathom that in his early days as a prison guard, he could, in his own words: "...out-hate, out-cuss, and out-con the hardest of convicts or guards" (p. 7).
Throughout the book, Tim provides jaw-dropping insights into the execution process and those who people that world. From the condemned inmates and his/her family, to the families of the victims, to his fellow guards, Tim escorts us behind the walls of death row into a world that the vast majority of us will never see.
But beyond the physical and very emotional stories from death row, God was working out a bigger story in Tim's life: to turn him from a wolf into a sheep. To turn Tim's eyes from the world and onto his Savior. To transform a hard-hearted executioner into a grace-filled advocate of hope for the condemned and the families. He says:
"As one empowered to wield the 'sword of the state,' I went through a turbulent pilgrimage of experiences that shaped my heart and soul. Therefore the following story is not simply a gratuitous look inside death row; it is the story of the progression of my faith in Christ—a relationship that triggered a long and serious struggle to know His will concerning my authority and responsibility in wielding that sword" (p. viii).
Tim was warned by his mentor officer early on in his penal career: "You seem to be a nice guy, but that can be a problem. ... You see, in here, nice guys don't finish last—they just don't finish" (p.7). Over time, God worked powerfully to soften Tim's heart and he came to understand:
"As a Christian called to serve both God and country in the controversial role of inmate executions, my primary responsibility was the same responsibility held by every Christian. Jesus said that we must let our light shine before men so that they see what we do and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16)" (p. 154).
Although the true stories that Tim shares within these pages left my chin scraping the carpet, that's not what kept me riveted until the last page. Rather, it was seeing how God slowly but surely transformed Tim's heart to be more like His.
The spiritual disciplines that Tim describes caused me to literally grab a spiral notebook and a pen to make a list of areas in my own life where I desperately need to apply similar discipline. I have began applying those disciplines over the past few months and have seen hope-filled progress.
That is VITAL. Because, let me tell you, any book that leaves me scrambling to grab the Word of God to read, learn, and apply valuable spiritual disciplines is a book that I will wholeheartedly recommend to absolutely everyone.
As we all face spiritual battles and dark places, Tim affirms:
"Even in the most unlikely times and places, if the light of Christ is shining through His people, the hopeless find hope, the brokenhearted are restored, and hard, hateful hearts are softened. I have seen the hardest hearts melt like wax in the death house and give glory to God. I have seen the smallest sheep in the darkest corners of the prison reflect the light of Christ brighter than you could imagine" (p. 154).
The bottom line? If you long for God to powerfully transform any area of your life, this book provides significant, invaluable help. It has profoundly impacted my spiritual journey.
I WANT YOU TO WIN A COPY. To celebrate this amazing book's release, I am giving away a signed copy of The Executioner's Redemption plus a $25 Starbucks gift card to TWO lucky winners. To enter the drawing, please do the following:
- Leave a comment telling me what might interest you about this book;
- Share this post on social media. Every retweet on Twitter (tagging #Executioner) earns you one entry in the drawing. Every Facebook share will earn you another entry; and
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I wish I could give all of you a copy -- this book is that good. The Gospel is that great. I cannot wait to witness the ministry that God will bring through it.