Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Finding Salvation in a Courtroom

The last place you would expect to see a clear picture of salvation is in a criminal courtroom.

You hear the clinking of shackles and handcuffs as prisoners as they shuffle in and out. You hear sobs and pleas of those who have broken the law. You sit by the families of victims and you sense their anguish and desire for justice. The state of the room is simply hopelessness.

Yet, while standing in support of a friend earlier this week, I saw one of the clearest pictures of our salvation in Jesus Christ that God has ever shown me.

I made it to the courtroom early and sat down in the back. Substance abuse offenders on probation were checking in with the judge for their weekly appointments. Most of them received a pat on the back from the judge for fulfilling their commitments to the court, attending treatment programs, obtaining their GEDs and finding jobs. More than 30 people talked to the judge, received his blessing, returned to their seats in the courtroom and waited until everyone else in the program had checked in.

But there was one young lady who had not fulfilled her responsibilities to the court. She had not gotten a job after two years in the program. She had not paid her court costs and fines. She had a daughter who was less than two years old, and she now she was going back to prison for the entire length of her original two-year sentence.

“I have no choice,” the judge said. “You have not done what is required by the court. I have given you plenty of time and plenty of chances. I’ll give you a couple of days to make arrangements for the care of your child. But I can’t help you any longer. I must enforce the requirements of this court.’’

This young lady had no hope. She sobbed and she nearly collapsed from the realization she was about to lose her freedom.

Then, something miraculous happened. A young man in the back of room, who had checked in with the judge earlier and had been widely applauded for his efforts to clean up his life, stood up and asked to address the judge.

“She has made mistakes,’’ he said. “But she can be a great leader. It’s tough out there right now. It’s tough to find a job. I believe she can do this. I believe in her. Can you make an exception and give her another chance?”

The judge sat back in his chair.
“Because this man has stood up for you, I’ll give you one more chance. You have 30 days to find a job.”

God, the Great I AM, has no choice to but to judge us. He loves and created us, but He is perfect. He is justice personified. He is impartial. He cannot look on sin or evil. He must destroy it. He is the great judge sitting at the bench considering our sins against Him. He has no recourse but to unleash His judgment on us.

Jesus Christ, the Son God, never sinned, but He has walked a mile in our shoes. He knows it’s tough down here on Planet Earth. He understands the temptations and struggles we face. He knows sin. He has carried the weight of it on the cross. But He also knows us. He loves us and he wants to save us. He wants to call us His friend. He wants us to lead. He wants us to succeed. He is fully God and fully Man. He is our Intercessor, the One pleading to God on our behalf, asking that our slate be wiped clean because of His blood sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus Christ has stood up for me in the courtroom today. He has interceded for me with the Father. I am a sinner, I have accepted His gift of forgiveness and I am grateful. He has given me new life.

He has given me freedom. Out of love and out of gratitude, I gladly take up His cross daily.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Genuine Idiocy in the World Today

Children can't play tackle football on the playground today, they can't play real dodgeball during P.E. and if there is any slight possibility that anyone might crack a fingernail or skin a knee, well, that activity is out as well.

So, what is allowed and encouraged? This nonsense.

If you believe our nation is headed down the tubes, this should help build your case. There is now actual school competition around CUP STACKING! The PC world is continuing to stretch the outer limits of complete absurdity and stupidity.

Is is any wonder that our society is producing a shortage of real men when this is considered a sport?

If you know me, you know this is one of my patented rants.

Return our schools to genuine sports. To real physical education activities. To real competition. To real cardio and strength building activities and weight loss.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Good News from the Election

If you're expecting one of those handwringing diatribes from a disappointed evangelical Christian right wing type, you've come to the wrong place.

I haven't been listening to Michael Stipe crooning "The End of the World As We Know It" and seeking to find a bunker in Montana to crawl into. I really do feel fine, even though I am a little red-eyed from watching 10 channels of election coverage in rapid fire succession.

Don't get me wrong, I am not pleased ...

about Barack Obama appointing federal judges for the next four years.

about a pro-abortion president being in office.

about any president who is intent on forcing wealth re-distribution on all of us.

But I am ...

proud America has elected its first African-American president. I would have been more excited and proud if it had been Condoleeza Rice or J.C. Watts.

proud a revolution took place in America last night and not a shot was fired.

pleased we have president who is physically able to play a respectable game of hoops and understands every day should include some basketball.

glad our new president expresses faith in Jesus Christ, even if his positions don't seem to line up with that faith. Heck, quite a few of my actions and positions don't line up with my Savior either.

jubilant about how many new voters took part in the election.

pumped up that America is truly the land of opportunity, where anyone can be president.

pleasantly surprised that a gay marriage ban was put on the books in California by voters. My guess is the afore-mentioned Mr. Stipe is probably not feeling fine about that balloting.

expecting in four to eight years there will be counter-revolution, complete with genuine conservative principles of governing. Remember the name Bobby Jindal, the current governor of Louisiana. He will be the next Republican president, either in 2012 or 2016. Count on it.

I will preach on one point here. It's time we cut George W. Bush a break. Try being president during a massive terrorist attack and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. He didn't create either of these situations. He just had to deal with them.

I have plenty of differences of opinion with W. But I do think history will be much kinder to him than America has been for the last 12 months.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Is Your Church Color Blind?

Generation WE: The Movement Begins... from Generation We on Vimeo.

Both of my sons are color blind. And I confess I love it because they see differently than I do. I am just blind, but at least my vision is becoming more Christ-focused when it comes to color.

They can discern green from red or brown from blue, but when it comes to human beings, they just don’t SEE the way I do.

When I ask them for a physical description of a friend they are speaking of, it invariably begins with a phrase like “they have curly hair” or “they’re taller than I am” or “they wear glasses.’’ To be completely honest, in contrast, when I describe a person, I too often find myself starting with different labels, tagging someone as Asian, Hispanic or Black. My sons Ethan and Spenser, NEVER start a description with those labels.

They tell me they think racism is ridiculous, and when they hear racism coming from the mouths and actions of some of our older family members, it gnaws at their hearts. It gnaws at my heart, too, but it’s the pain of a recovering racist, not the pain of a heart that has never validated racism. But that’s my story for another day.

It’s a sign of progress. A sign of the times. A sign churches need to pay close attention to if you are going to succeed in Young Adult Ministry.

Let me give you some statistics from a newly published book called Generation We, which does an exhaustive study of today’s 18 to 29 year olds. It’s an interesting book, but let me forewarn you the authors of this book don’t look at this generation through a Christian lens, but instead through a political lens, so read it with discernment. You may pick up some of that from the video I have posted above.

The statistics are eye-popping.

This generation is the most diverse in American history. Hispanics make up 18 percent of the population, Blacks are 14 percent of this population and Asians number five percent of this generation.

82 percent of White 18- to 25-year-old Millennials in 2003 disagreed with the idea that they “don’t have much in common with people of other races.”

95 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they approve of Blacks and Whites dating,
and 60 percent of this age group said they had dated someone of a different race.

These are some of the secondary reasons Threads Media has just released the Bible study Red Revolution, a message about seeing the world through the lens of Christ. It’s because this view of the world is essential to successful Young Adult Ministry in any church.

The primary reason is because Jesus Christ taught us to love and reach out to all nations without boundaries.

So, let’s be honest for a minute and let me ask some tough questions.

Is your church really ready for complete racial diversity or are you still living in a church culture that maintains Sunday morning as the most racially divided hours of the week?

Do the people at your church have trouble treating people in interracial marriages like every other couple who walks through the doors of your church? Do you really subscribe to 1 Corinthians 6:14-18 as THE litmus test for marriage?

Would it cause a stir if a Black college student began dating the White daughter of a deacon in your church?

Would it cause a problem if an Asian young woman who was adopted by a family in your church many years ago grew up to marry a White young man she had been friends with since they began attending church together in the first grade?

If any of these questions cause sweat to break out on your brow, it’s time you started changing the culture in your church. If you don’t, you won’t get far in reaching today’s Young Adults. They’re color blind and they are searching for the genuine love of Jesus Christ in today’s churches. It’s a love without racial boundaries.

If they don’t find it, they will be gone before you can even begin to describe them.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Tribute to Gayle Williams

There are more important things than the stock market.
Or how busy you might be
Or the presidential election.
Or the price of gasoline.
Or fill in the blank of anything you might be doing today that has NO eternal significance.

Somebody important passed from Earth to Heaven on Monday, and I really know very little about her other than her name. Gayle Williams was an aid worker for an organization called Serve Afghanistan. She was 34 years old and she loved the outdoors and any kind of physical exercise. She held dual citizenship in South Africa and the UK.

She sometimes wore glasses, had beautiful red hair and was equipped with a great smile. I think she would have been a blast to get to know.

She was murdered in Kabul by two men on a motorcycle.

"This woman came to Afghanistan to teach Christianity to the people of Afghanistan," Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press. "Our [leaders] issued a decree to kill this woman."

People die every day in the name of Christ while we -- the church in America -- fret over any number of completely inconsquential issues.

Gayle has no worry of any kind today.

"For this reason they are before the throne of God,and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary. The One seated on the throne will shelter them. They no longer will hunger; no longer will they thirst. No longer will the sun strike them, or any heat. Because the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them. He will guide them to springs of living waters and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:15-17

So, Gayle is fine today.

We are the people in need -- of focus, fire and passion for the things of God.
It's time we got what Gayle lived during her days on Earth -- right now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Power of Confronting Problems

After 44 years of life, I should have learned this by now, but I learned it afresh today.

When you have a problem, confront it -- head on.

For the past two weeks, I have been waking up in the middle of the night, worrying about a challenge I am facing. Roadblocks have been piled in the way day after day, making an imposing challenge seem completely impossible. It has caused a crisis of faith in my life, a crisis of commitment and a crisis in my family life. I felt like the ultimate ostrich, sticking my head in the sand and nearly asphxiating myself with the problems in the process.

I have been praying to God for wisdom, but I have been unwilling to put legs to what He was calling me to do -- talking it out.

Today, I sat down with two of my friends who are shareholders in this effort and talked through all of the roadblocks and what we could do to remove them.

About two hours of frank discussion later, we all feel better about the future and this challenge we are all facing together. They were refreshed to see that someone else had run into the everyday issues they face. I was refreshed because they saw the issues, acknowledged them and pledged to help me remove the roadblocks.

Sometimes, I am willing to turn my life upside down to avoid a tough conversation.

We have to have tough conversations, not only for us, but for the betterment of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Death by Love

You simply have to watch this video. Powerful message. Powerful book.