"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
So what becomes of our boasting?
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.
So what becomes of our boasting?
If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar.
So what becomes of our boasting?"
Apostles John and Paul
If we're honest, which is the only Christian thing to do, we admit there are some things about following Jesus that we don't like and don't wanna do and try to avoid.
For example, in a world of dragons, He never gave permission for us to breathe fire.
No eye for an eye; but, instead, turn the other cheek...walk the extra mile...love enemies...pray for antagonists...
In a world, especially America, and often church, it's all about me, myself, and I; but, instead, authentic not posing Christians invite, welcome, include, and agape strangers...visit the sick...visit jailbirds...visit habitual jailbirds...visit jailbirds who should be in jail because they aren't civilized enough to live in society...care for the hungry and homeless...love the unlovable...like, uh, those jailbirds and...
If we're honest, which is the only Christian thing to do, we admit there are some things about following Jesus that we don't...
If we do what we don't like and don't wanna do and try to avoid because we wanna follow Jesus, He will bless us.
Jerry cornered me in a small San Anselmo, California restaurant many years ago: "Bob, what is the one thing that Jesus wants you to do for Him that you won't do?"
Me: "Well, Jerry, I've got lots of stuff that I won't do for Jesus."
Jerry: "Until you do what Jesus wants you to do, you will never experience His best blessings in your life!"
Nothing of what follows is confidential.
It's all in court records and cyberspace and newspapers and gossiping grapevines.
May 26, 2015.
Boone County Courthouse.
As I recall, it was a windy and rainy day.
Docket had been cleared for the sentencing of a man convicted of horrific crimes.
15 people in the courtroom.
Four witnesses and advocates for the prosecution.
A representative from DCFS.
Two court reporters.
No family members or prison chaplains or friends.
The prosecution asked for 54 years.
Pastor spoke: "I am not here to speak to innocence or guilt. Existentially, that's a matter for judge and jury. Eternally, that's a matter for God. I am here because of the Christian ethic of our family of faith that compels me to say this is a tragedy for everyone involved; and our family of faith will provide, as requested, care, prayer, and support for all involved."
Sentence: 36 years.
May 28, 2015.
I sat in the Boone County Jail with a man who will most likely spend the rest of his life in jail.
Frank began, "You don't think I'm innocent."
I repeated what I said in court.
We talked a long time.
He spoke of a courtroom filled with antagonists; but empty of family, two prison chaplains who said they would be there, and people who said they were his friends; weeping while telling me of family who never came to visit, a girlfriend who stopped visiting long ago, and friends who never visited.
Before we prayed for a long time, I said, "Frankly...[and he laughed when I began that way]..., your family has deserted you, you will never see your girlfriend again, people who said they were your friends have proven otherwise, and if you ever see your children again, it will be many, many, many years from now...if ever."
If there is one thing that I learned from Don Norek, there is never any time for false hopes.
Instead, I offered the only hope for him: "You can be blessed even now. Many people before you have been incarcerated for the rest of their lives and been spiritually supported and liberated. The martyrs found freedom even in death as bonded and emboldened and elevated through Jesus. You now have an opportunity to become one of the humble and confessional and repentant saints who find peace and calm and sanity even while spending the rest of their lives in jail."
We talked long, hard, and hopeful about 1 John 1:4-10.
I continued, "Jesus said we are blessed/refreshed and resurrected in time and forever by being totally dependent upon God. It's the first beatitude. It echoes Psalm 62 that I urge you to memorize, digest, and breathe for the rest of your life until you go to heaven by grace through faith in Jesus."
Then, as my own tears welled then flowed, I said, "I must remind you that you have been abandoned by everyone - family and friends; but God will never abandon you.
Together, we read Psalm 62.
He asked if I will see him when he's in the big house.
I said, "Frankly...[he laughed again]..., once you're settled in, let me know where you are and I'll visit once a year and correspond not as often as you'd like...[he laughed again]...and let me know what you need because our family of faith has some continuing Matthew 25 privileges as well as promises to keep with you as Him and Him as you."
Since Frank's been convicted and jailed for the rest of his life, many people have gone out of their way to tell me how bad he is and how he got what he deserved and how they hope he gets what he deserves in the big house.
I haven't heard much about Jesus, redemption, and forgiveness.
While most of those comments have been outside of our family of faith...
It's obvious to me that I have failed with too many in explaining...Jesus...faith...agape...
Even as I write now, my tears well and start to flow...
Such hatred...and not just about the crime/sin...
The judgmentalism and unashamed and rationalized self-righteousness have been nauseating; reminding me of many things that Jesus said; not least among them being, "The measure you give is the measure that you will get...You will be judged as you have judged."
Of course, lots don't believe that/Him.
God knows "they" don't believe Matthew 6:12, 14-15.
God knows "they" don't believe any of the truths at the top of this edition.
God knows I now know more than ever before why Jesus warned, "You will be hated for loving Me...and trying/praying to follow Me."
For as I have tried to love Frank as Jesus would and as Jesus commands people who say they love Him...
Hate runs deeper in our world and America and even...than I ever thought possible.
Sooooooo I must apologize to everyone ever on the receiving end of me saying they never took the course on original sin.
I'm more naive than I could have ever imagined.
I really thought people who have been forgiven by Jesus and say they love Jesus would...
I was wrong about so many people who told me that...
Annnnnnnd I am more grieved than I have ever been in life and ministry.
For the first time in a long time, I wonder why I bother to...
The Eagles singing about "Wasted Time" is ringing in my...
I find myself repeating, "Come now, Lord Jesus!"
I find myself begging, "Take me now, Lord Jesus!"
I am serious.
Yeeeeeeet I hear John and Paul and Don Norek and...Jesus...
Psalm 62 is not just for Frank and...
Unfortunately for me and those on the receiving end of salt, light, and leaven, I will continue until I'm knocked off by an Islamofascistnutball or former member who can't wait another decade or two for the next pastor to come before they return or get what I deserve for not wearing a helmet.
I used to scoff at people who said hell is existential as well as eternal.
Blessings and Love!