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Exceptional column. I think...inspired. Thank you for writing it.
- Diana M., Ranger, Texas

Monday, October 14, 2019

What's In It For Me?


October baseball is here.  Major League teams have played 162 games over six months for this moment.  Stadiums are packed with hopeful fans. As I write the Yankees and Astros are battling it out for the American League pennant and the right to meet either Washington or St. Louis in the World Series. There is nothing quite like baseball.

The 1989 movie, Field of Dreams is rated number five among the favorite baseball movies of all time. In the story, Ray Kinsella responds to a “voice” that urges him to build a baseball diamond, complete with lights, in the middle of his Iowa corn field.  After doing everything the “voice” commands him to do, Ray is stunned to see Shoeless Joe Jackson and some of the greats of the game emerge from his cornfield to play the game as they did in their youth.

The story climaxes with an invitation from Shoeless Joe to join them in the cornfield, a dimension beyond the edges of this world. But Ray, who has risked everything to build the field, is not invited. Instead, Jackson invites the cynical 1960s writer, Terrence Mann.  Ray explodes in a fit of frustration demanding, “What’s in it for me?”  To which Shoeless Joe asks, “Is that why you did this Ray, for what’s in it for you?”
                                                          
It is a good question.  According to experts in marketing, it is the question we all ask when we consider purchasing any product or joining any organization. In our age of seeker-sensitive churches, it seems to be the dominant question asked by anyone considering a church. “What’s in it for me?” But, is it the right question?

When Jesus invited Peter, James and John to leave their home, their families and their boats, I wonder how He would have responded if they had asked, “What’s in it for me?” Perhaps He would have responded as He did when the young man with great possessions refused to give up his wealth.  How much do we miss of what God has for us because we are so focused on “What’s in it for me?”
Jesus’ invitation to join Him on life’s eternal journey sounds strangely different than our twenty-first century marketing plans.  Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25). 

Perhaps what is “in it” for us is the same thing that was “in it” for Jesus: the pleasure that comes from obedience to the Father. “My food,” Jesus said, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John  4:34).  When the Apostle Paul reached the end of his journey, he measured it in this way, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” (2 Timothy 4:7). “I did not prove disobedient to the Heavenly vision.” (Acts 26:19).

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

I Want the Best For You


A year ago Amber Guyger returned to her apartment after a long day as a Dallas police officer to find what she thought was a intruder in her home. She drew her gun and fired, killing a young black man, 26-year-old Botham Jean.  Only it wasn’t her home. The apartment she entered was one floor directly above her own and the man she killed was her neighbor, at home eating a bowl of ice cream.

Amber, who is white, was fired from the Dallas Police force.  It has taken a year for the trial to work its way through the courts.  Last Tuesday, October 1, the jury unanimously found Amber Guyger guilty of murder.  She was sentenced to 10 years in prison without possibility of parole.  Many celebrated the fact that a police officer was held accountable for killing an unarmed and innocent young black man.  Mr. Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, raised her hands and cried “God is good.”  Others were jubilant.

But the courtroom was stunned when the victim’s brother, Brandt Jean, asked permission to speak.  Nervously tugging at his collar, Brandt looked at Ms. Guyger and said, “I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother did, but I personally want the best for you. And, I wasn’t going to say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail.  I want the best for you. Because, that is exactly what Botham would want you to do.  And the best is to give your life to Christ.” He paused, wiped his eyes and spoke to the judge. “I don’t know if this is possible, but, can I give her a hug?” The judge consented.

Brandt Jean met his brother’s killer in front of the judge’s bench.  He said to her, “If you are truly sorry, I know … I speak for myself, I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask him, He will forgive you.”  They embraced one another as they wept.

The courtroom that a few minutes before was jubilant with vengeance fell silent except for the sound of people sobbing.  Even the judge wiped her eyes. And, once the court room was cleared, embraced Guyger and gave her a Bible. None of this, of course, changes anything in terms of the verdict and the sentence that Amber Guyger will serve. But it changes everything in the matters for the heart. 

The scene was replayed repeatedly on the national media.  It ignited conversations on network talk shows.  People began discussing the power of Divine forgiveness.  A glimmer of light flickered on the national stage that perhaps our conversation could change from prejudice, vengeance, resentment and rage to acceptance, forgiveness and love. 

Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14).  When Peter asked Him, “’Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22).

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other jus as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Jesus gave us the supreme example when he hung upon the Cross, blood dripping from his wounds, surrounded by violent men who cursed Him and spat upon Him.  He lifted His eyes to heaven and prayed, "’Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34).