Thursday, July 7, 2016

Don't Answer The Accusations

On June 13, 1966, the Supreme Court decided in the case of Miranda v. Arizona, that suspects must be informed of their rights before any custodial interrogation as part of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination.  The person detained must be made aware of the right to remain silent, the right to consult an attorney, the right to have an attorney present during questioning, and the right to have an attorney appointed if they can’t afford one.  Without a Miranda warning, statements could be ruled inadmissible at trial.  

As a federal criminal investigator, I was well versed in suspect rights and the Miranda Warning.  Even though I could recite the Miranda Warning from memory, I was required by my agency to read suspects their rights from a card or form issued by my agency.  This was done so that if there was a question during trial as to whether I advised a suspect of their rights, I could testify that I read their rights to them via the agency issued card.

Most of us are familiar with these rights because of police programs and movies.  Others are familiar with these rights because a law enforcement officer has read these rights to them multiple times.  Some suspects that I arrested and questioned were so familiar with these rights that they were able to recite their rights aloud as I read these rights to them.  Whether a suspect was innocent or guilty, the smart suspects were not only familiar with their rights, they claimed their rights.  They knew that a knowledgable attorney knew how to navigate the legal system to work on their behalf.  They just needed to claim this right and stop answering the accusations.  In fact, I tell my family and friends that if they are ever questioned by law enforcement as a suspect, they should claim their Miranda rights even if they are innocent of the crime.

We are all sinners who have essentially been arrested by the scariest arresting officer of all time, Satan.  He will relentlessly accuse you of all your sins in order to drive you to despair.  Unlike law enforcement officers, he is not bound by the Miranda ruling.  He will not advise you of your rights because he is terrified of your rights.  He knows he will be defeated by your rights.  Are you familiar with your rights? More importantly, have you claimed your rights? In John 1:12-13, we are advised:

But as many received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

When we receive Christ or believe in Him, He gives us the right to become children of God.  This means that we have a legitimate claim to God as our Father.  Our Father’s love knows no bounds.  He loves us despite our sinful selves.  We must believe in His name.  We must trust Him for everything.  Believing means that you no longer rely on yourself and your “good works,” but instead, you rely totally on Jesus and what He did for you on the cross.  Don’t answer or try to explain away Satan’s accusations when you stumble and sin.  Instead, claim your right to the ultimate attorney and advocate who has already defeated Satan at the cross.  Tell your attorney what you have done and ask for forgiveness.  Call upon Jesus.  Call upon your Father.  Claim your right as a child of God.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Don't Block Out The Names

During my career as a criminal investigator, I found that I was always interested in the motive, or the reason that someone committed a crime.  Often, even after overwhelming physical evidence and even a confession from the suspect, I was not satisfied until I knew why the suspect committed the crime.  In one such investigation, I interviewed the suspect following his arrest.  After obtaining a confession, my partner thought I was done with the interview.  However, I had not yet learned why this suspect, who had a very well-paying job, a home, a car, and other luxuries, decided he needed to steal mail, assume the identities of victims to commit check and credit card fraud in order to obtain money and goods.  When I asked him why he committed these crimes, he said he became angry when he learned of other people that made money and obtained merchandise by stealing and not working.  He asked me, “Why should I work hard 12 to 14 hours a day when these people steal and have just as much or more than me?”  When I told him that his thefts caused others financial hardship, he said he wasn’t hurting anybody because the banks would pay for the thefts, not the individuals.  He also said that he blocked the individual victim names from his mind because “if you remember their names, it becomes personal.”  I marveled at his statement and his disregard of the effect of his actions on others as we seized multiple stereos, televisions, computers, and jewelry from his house that were purchased in the name of his victims.

What is your motive?  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines motive as: Something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.  The suspect's need or desire was to acquire money and goods with the least amount of effort possible.  He decided that fraud and theft was the best way to act.  His motive was greed.  What need or desire causes you to act?  What is your motive?  As followers of Jesus our motive should be to glorify God by serving one another in love.  Paul reminds us of this in Galatians 5:13:

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use Liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

As believers and followers of Jesus we are free from servitude to the law.  Jesus went to the cross to free us from the law.  We must look at Jesus on that cross before we act in this freedom. For if we use our freedom for the opportunity to serve our flesh, we will lose this freedom because we become slaves to the people or things we attempt to fill the hole of emptiness within us.  When we serve the flesh our motive is to fill the hole of emptiness with anything other than Jesus.

Jesus calls us to serve one another in order to reflect Him and glorify God.  Our motive for this call should be love for if we serve one another without love, we are serving with the wrong motive and are simply serving our flesh.   Love must be our motive for everything because true Christian love is the motive of true Christian conduct.   Don't block out the names of those you serve so that service becomes an impersonal action devoid of love.  Instead, make your service personal and full of love so that you reflect the ultimate service that Jesus has done for you on the cross.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Don’t Be Unhappy in Seattle

Before I accepted my job in federal law enforcement, I was told that after I completed training at the 12 week academy, I could be assigned anywhere in the United States, including territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Even though my recruiter hinted that I would probably be assigned to my home city of Riverside, California, I was not officially informed of my assigned location until the last week of the training academy.  In the weeks leading up to the “big” reveal of our first assignment domicile, one of the instructors kept asking me how I felt about Seattle, as if that was where I was going to be assigned.  Since this was before the age of Google and the easy ability to look up anything on the internet, I searched only my memory for anything I knew about Seattle.  The one word that continually came to mind was rain. 

By the time the week arrived to announce our final assignments, I wondered if I would need to change my wardrobe.   As a native Southern Californian, my rain gear consisted of nothing.  I did not want to shop for new clothes and I did not want to spend money on new clothes. I did not want to move to Seattle. When the assignment announcements were made, they were done in alphabetical order.  Since the letter T was near the end of the alphabet, I listened as my classmates received their assignments.  One of my classmates who was from Boston, was assigned to Des Moines, Iowa.  I laughed after she asked the instructor how to spell Des Moines, because he replied, "H-I-C-K."

I heard stories of others who quit after they learned the location of their first assignment.  I wondered if I would be unhappy in Seattle and want to quit.  But then I recalled the job description that was provided to me before I accepted the job and underwent 12 weeks of intense and very costly training.  I was advised throughout the hiring process that assignments were made based on the needs of the service and the needs of the agency outweighed the needs of the individual. 

When the instructor finally made the announcement of my assignment, I was actually thinking about my future in the cloudy and rainy city of Seattle.  When Riverside was announced as my first assignment, I was both disappointed and relieved.  I was willing to accept whatever assignment I was given because that is what I had agreed to when I accepted the job. I determined not to be unhappy in Seattle and focus on how grateful I was to be selected for the position.

If I was grateful to be selected for my career position, shouldn't I be even more grateful for the position the Lord has selected for me to serve Him?  I should not be reluctant to serve the Lord even if He asks me to serve in a manner in which I feel is undesirable or I feel unsuited for.  When God called Isaiah, he responded instantly.  We read of this in Isaiah 6:6-8:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.”  Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Isaiah was so grateful to God for cleansing him of his sin, that he answered God’s call to service without even knowing what he was volunteering for.  It did not matter what the assignment was, where it would take him, how long it would take, or even how much it would cost him.  All these so-called “sacrifices” pale in comparison to the sacrifice made by God’s own son in going to the cross for our sins.  

Like Isaiah, I have been cleansed of all my sins by Jesus.  God’s unconditional love should move me to serve Him unconditionally.  I am reminded of this every time God touches my lips with the body and blood of Jesus when I partake of communion.  God's call outweighs my desires, goals or perceived suitability and skills.  God's plans take precedence over over Teri's plans because His plans are so much greater.  God's plans are perfect.  When God calls, I should immediately answer, “Here am I! Send me,” even if my destination might be a cloudy and rainy city named Seattle.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Don't Be Consumed By The Noise

From a very young age, I always seemed to gravitate towards sports.  I played many sports, but I was especially drawn to basketball.  In elementary school, I was a ringer on a Mormon basketball team.  That is, even though I was not Mormon and did not plan on becoming Mormon, I was allowed to play on this Mormon basketball team simply because I was blessed with above average basketball skills.

I became aware of my natural talent in basketball and began to practice basketball skills on my own.  My attention was diverted from activities such as dirt clod fights and riding my bike off the school roof, to perfecting my jump shot and my weak hand layup.  I often spent hours at the outdoor basketball courts at the school near my house challenging myself to make 25 free throws in a row and then I would increase it to 50 and then 100.  I spent so many hours shooting baskets, that a concerned neighbor who lived across the street from the school called my Mom one day and asked, "Did you know Teri has been shooting baskets at the school for the last six hours?"

I became dedicated to perfecting my basketball skills.  I always seemed to have a basketball nearby to practice with.  I read books on basketball fundamentals and skills.  I watched basketball games to study talented players.  I even convinced my parents to send me to basketball camp.  While I would not describe my basketball abilities as star quality, I became so proficient at basketball that it led to a college scholarship.

When I reflect on my years of dedication to the sport of basketball, I realize that my dedication to Jesus pales in comparison.  What if I spent as much time studying God's Word, praying, and telling others about Jesus?  I could tell myself that I had more time as a child to perfect my basketball skills than I do as an adult with grown-up responsibilities to perfect my Jesus skills.  But that would be a cop-out.

Paul did not allow his grown-up responsibilities to hinder his dedication to Jesus.  Paul studied, prayed and shared Jesus with others in all circumstances.  He shared Jesus in freedom and imprisonment.  Paul shared Jesus in peaceful times and amidst rioting.  Paul shared Jesus in hunger and in fullness.  Paul shared Jesus in good times and after he was beaten and stoned.  Paul shared Jesus when he was sailing and when he was shipwrecked.  Paul even shared Jesus when he was under house arrest for two years.  He studied Jesus, he wrote about Jesus and he shared Jesus with others.  We are told of this in the last two verses of the Book of Acts in Acts 28:30-31:

Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

I questioned what I would do if I was under house arrest with a watchful prison guard for two years.   Would I brood over the fact that I could no longer drive to the beach to gaze at the ocean or go to the park and play ball with my dogs?  Would I lay around feeling sorry for myself and complain to any friends or family who dared visit me in such a state?  Would I become consumed with the injustice of my incarceration by rallying people to my defense via the press, a blog, or an internet site?  Would I spend all my time mounting a legal defense by browsing internet sites and legal documents?  Or would I waste my time daydreaming of a plan of escape to somewhere far, far away?

Paul did not become consumed by the noise of worry and concern by engaging in any of these type of activities.  Instead, he became consumed by Jesus.  Paul remained dedicated to Jesus no matter what or where his present circumstances took him.  He studied Jesus. He wrote about Jesus.  He spoke about Jesus and he shared Jesus with others.  Paul's decision to follow Jesus and his subsequent relationship with Jesus was life altering.  This change of direction in Paul's life resulted in a dedicated focus upon Jesus.  Everything about Paul was about Jesus.  He desired to become more like Jesus.  As a result, he became confident and bold in proclaiming Jesus so that even his prison guards were affected by his dedication so that he was not forbidden to continue speaking of Jesus while he was under house arrest.

Even though basketball may have helped shape certain attributes in me such as discipline and teamwork, it was not life altering.  It may have paid my college tuition, but it became an activity of my past once I graduated.  Even the fact that I graduated from college was not life altering.  The only thing that has been truly life altering was my decision to follow Jesus.  Jesus not only altered my life, He altered my eternal destination.  This reminder from Paul's life in the Book of Acts, has rekindled a renewed focus and dedication to Jesus.  Like my beloved basketball from childhood, I not only need to constantly keep Jesus nearby, I need to live, breathe, talk, eat, and sleep Jesus.  I need to study, write, pray, and share Jesus with others.  Like Paul, I need to be all about Jesus so I am not consumed by the noise of worry and concern.  I need to dedicate my life to Jesus so that despite the noise, I will always be able to proclaim Jesus with confidence, boldness and without hindrance.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Don't Perish in the Fatal Funnel

As a law enforcement officer, I continually attended mandatory training in tactical movement.  One of the of the things I was cautioned about during this training was the fatal funnel.  A fatal funnel is any location that focuses on an area where a suspect can expect police movement such as a doorway, window, or stairwell.  These areas are narrow and confining.  Fatal funnels offered very little or no cover or concealment if the bad guy started shooting.  I was instructed that the fatal funnel areas often left me with very limited tactical options.  I was shown ways to limit my exposure in the fatal funnel, but the image of the fatal funnel left in my mind was a choke point where I could die.  

With that image in mind, I had to face the reality that there were times I would have to cross the fatal funnel in order to complete my job.  In crossing that fatal funnel I relied not only on my training, but on my partner.  Each of us had a specific job that we were entrusted to carry out as assigned by the operational commander.  It was imperative that I carry out my assignment and not obsess or become envious over my partner's assignment.  For if I began to compare myself against my partner and think I could do my partner's job better than my partner, it would cause me to neglect the job entrusted to me in an attempt to complete the job entrusted to my partner.  This would cause confusion and chaos resulting in a literal fatality in the fatal funnel.  There was no room for pride, arrogance, envy, or discontentment in the fatal funnel.

As a servants of the Lord in ministry, we must also train in tactical maneuvers because we face our own fatal funnels.  While these fatal funnels may not always expose us to physical danger, these dangers are much more deadly in that our fatal funnels expose us to spiritual dangers.  As we all know, pride, arrogance, jealousy, and discontentment exist in ministry. I know...Shocking!!!   Since we are all sinners we will find ourselves facing that fatal funnel.  We may be shot with pride and attribute all our accomplishments and successes to ourselves and not to God.  We may be shot with arrogance and think we can do a job better than someone else.  We may be shot with jealousy and begin to feel ungrateful, resentful and discontent because we feel that God has blessed someone more than us.  So what do we do?  What tactical movements do we undertake to survive the fatal funnel?

Unlike, the limited tactical movements available in the fatal funnel I faced in law enforcement, the tactical movements provided by the Lord are unlimited and all powerful.  As servants in ministry, each one of us has been chosen by the Lord so we must enter the fatal funnel as partners armed with the ultimate weapon, the Word of God hidden in our hearts so that no bullet can penetrate.  His Word is the ultimate bullet-proof vest.  We must enter the fatal funnel in prayer for one another knowing that each of one of us has been entrusted with specific positions that have been assigned not only by the operational commander, but the Lord Himself.  It is imperative that we carry out our assignments and not compare ourselves and what we have been asked to do, to the servant serving beside us. 

We must remember that comparisons diminish God's standards.  No matter how hard you work at something, it always seems that someone else is making a bigger impact or someone else is making less of an impact.   But we must remember that "bigger" and "less" depend on our perspectives, not on God's perspective.  

In 2 Corinthians 10:12 Paul instructs:

For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

Paul criticized the false teachers who were trying to prove how good they were by comparing themselves to others rather than to God's standards.  God does not hold us to the standards of others, but to His standards.  His standards are all that matter.  As servants in ministry, we must continually ask ourselves how our service measures up to what God has called each one of us to do. 

Don’t perish in the fatal funnel.  Stop obsessing or worrying about what your fellow laborers in Christ have been assigned to do.  Instead, focus on what He has assigned you to do and you will find that you will become more grateful for your assignment and role in ministry.  You will realize that you are blessed to serve and you will work as partners with your fellow servants to survive the fatal funnels.  Most importantly, you will reflect Christ in carrying out your assignment because you will focus on the role of Jesus in your duties.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Don't Allow an Earthquake to Cloud Your Vision

During my career as a postal inspector, there was a major earthquake on a Sunday morning that caused extensive damage throughout the area. I was called to help assess damages sustained by post offices in the immediate earthquake zone. During this time, I was advised that an employee at one of these post offices seemed very confused as to whether the damage at his post office was due to the earthquake or a burglary. I never received a burglar alarm activation, but knew that the earthquake had also caused some damage to phone lines. As a result, even if the alarm had been activated, the damaged phone lines may have prevented the security system from making phone notifications. The postal employee advised that there was mail on the floor from the post office box section, but did not know if this was caused by the earthquake or a burglary.

I responded to the post office and observed hundreds of pieces of mail, including parcels, on the floor of the post office box section. When the employee asked me if the earthquake caused the mess, I told him that while earthquakes might cause things to fall to the floor, I had never seen an earthquake cause the contents of ripped open letters and packages to disappear. When the employee looked at me as if he was waiting for further explanation, I told him that there was most definitely a burglary as the contents of the torn mail were nowhere to be found. When he continued to stand there in disbelief, I also pointed out that one of the side doors of the post office appeared to be pried open. This employee still seemed skeptical until I finally pointed out that someone had also unsuccessfully attempted to pry open the vault door. Since this employee expected to see damage to the post office caused by the earthquake, that is the only thing he saw. The earthquake loomed so large in his mind, that it clouded his vision.

Is an earthquake clouding your vision? Are you only seeing what you expect to see? Are you allowing temptations, trials, or circumstances to stumble your faith? In chapter nine of Matthew we read of two blind men who followed Jesus and cried out to him for mercy. When Jesus asked them if they believed he could restore their sight, they said, “Yes.” Then in verse 29 we read:

Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.”

These two men did not allow their blindness to prevent them from following Jesus. They did not allow their affliction to prevent them from crying out to Jesus for mercy. They did not allow their inability to see to blind their faith. These blind men expected that Jesus could restore their sight. If they were doubtful and came to Jesus with an attitude that they could not be healed, then they may have never been healed. Their doubts would have literally clouded their vision. Their doubts would have prevented them from seeing the truth.

Don’t let an earthquake cloud your sight or hide the truth. Instead, allow your faith to grow by immersing yourself in God’s Word. Allow your faith to expand with each new circumstance or trial. Allow your faith to see that truly clear vision is obtained only by focusing on Jesus.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Don't Believe You Are An Extinct Species

After 15 hours of pain in my left side and repeated vomiting, I realized I needed to visit the emergency room of my local hospital. I was severely dehydrated and the pain was excruciating. The doctor told me he suspected I had kidney stones, but he needed to do a CT scan to confirm it. As a result, he wanted to know if there was any possibility that I was pregnant. When I said no, he replied, "Everyone says that."

I looked him in the eye and said, "I'm pretty sure you have to have sex in order to get pregnant and since that has never happened, then there is no possible way that I am pregnant."

The doctor shrugged his shoulders and gave me a cup in which to urinate so he could determine whether I was pregnant or not. I advised that I had nothing to give since I was dehydrated. When he gave me water to drink, I told him I could not keep anything down. He told me to try to drink it. I did, only to have it immediately come back up. So he gave me a shot to prevent vomiting, so I could drink water, so I could pee in a cup, so it could be determined that I was not pregnant, so I could have a CT scan to determine I had kidney stones. I felt like I was the subject of a mutant version of the nursery rhyme called "The House That Jack Built": that went something like this:

This is the girl dehydrated in pain
That even water, her stomach could not contain
That a shot was given so water would remain
That urine could flow in a cup like rain
That a test could determine, No Baby Jane
That her word would remain without stain
That a CT scan could simply explain
That the pain was due to kidney stones
That morphine could be used to stop the moans
That lay in the hospital emergency room

It was frustrating that I was not believed. I was indignant that this doctor would not believe me because he said everyone lies. Everyone? Really? Was I not believed because I was a single female approaching age fifty? Are there no singles my age who are not sexually active? But as I thought about this later and put myself in the doctor's place, I may have reacted the same way. Since we are constantly deluged with sexual immorality in this world, it has become socially acceptable to be sexually active outside of marriage. Those of us that choose to follow God's Word about remaining sexually pure, do not flaunt our purity like those that flaunt their sexual conquests. So the world believes we are an extinct species. But God knows. He commands purity. Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 6:18:

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

Flee sexual immorality. If you flee it, you will not be caught by it. Sexual immorality is a direct attack on the Holy Spirit who lives inside us. We defile the temple of the Holy Spirit when we engage in sexual immorality. This temple, my body, is not even mine to defile because God owns it. Jesus paid the ultimate price for it when He went to the cross.

I struggled to even write about this subject because I have always considered my commitment to sexual purity as something that was between me and The Lord. I thought that if I spoke about it, I would open myself to attacks from Satan who does not want me to follow God's commands. But God's plans are always higher than my own.

After much thought and prayer, I realized there are others who may think they are an extinct species because of their commitment to remain sexually pure in a world filled with socially acceptable sexual immorality. No one wants to feel alone so the pressure to be like those around us can be extremely high. Don't believe you are an extinct species. Rather, know that your species thrives because God provides strength that can withstand any amount of pressure to those that remain obedient to His Word. Pray for me as I will pray for you to continue in this commitment we have made to The Lord.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Don't Ignore The Evidence

After working as a postal inspector for many years,  I learned that greed was often the motivator that caused victims to be defrauded in some sort of mail fraud in which the perpetrators promised large amounts of money for very little investment.  One such promise asked victims to send five dollars in return for twenty dollars of hobo cash.  When I read the letter that was sent to numerous potential victims, I thought that no one could possibly have been duped into sending money to these people.  Not only did victims send five dollars, but some victims had sent upwards of one thousand dollars in hopes of quadrupling their money to four thousand dollars in hobo cash.  Their hopes did come true if hobo cash was acceptable as a form of payment for items other than property in the board game of Monopoly.   I wondered if the real crime was trademark infringement since the perpetrators were calling Monopoly money hobo cash.  There is an old adage used by fraud investigators when instructing the public about frauds and scams.  "If it sounds to good to be true, then it's probably not true.”

While it may be healthy to be skeptical in this life, the opposite is true when it comes to eternal life.  In Matthew 28 we read what seems to be a story that is too good to be true.  A story of the dead coming to life.  A story in which Jesus had risen from the dead to fulfill His promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  Even though Jesus told His followers that this would happen, we read in Matthew 28:17:

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

As a fraud investigator, I instructed potential victims that when something sounded too good to be true, it was imperative that they thoroughly investigate before investing their hard earned money.  The evidence must be laid out to examine.  Jesus’ disciples seemed to have more than enough evidence to believe the claim that He was the Son of God who offered forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  After all, they witnessed Him heal the sick, turn water to wine, cast out demons, feed thousands with a few loaves and fish, calm the stormy waters, and even walk on water.  Yet, when Jesus rose from the dead as promised, some still doubted.

Since I have always been a natural skeptic, I wonder if I would have been among the doubters.  Initially, I may have doubted.  Every time I sin, I demonstrate doubt by temporarily forgetting that Jesus died and rose from the dead for me.  I usually overcome this doubt when I stop to examine the evidence before me.  Then I too, overcome my doubt and worship Jesus.

As modern day believers we have evidence of the risen Jesus laid out for us in God’s Word in the Bible.  We have evidence of the abundant life that Jesus offers through the Holy Spirit who was sent to lead us to His truth.  We have evidence of a living Jesus when we believe in Him and allow Him to dwell within us to rule and reign our lives. 

Don’t ignore the evidence and be fooled by scams and frauds such as hobo cash.  Instead, examine the evidence daily through prayer and the reading of God’s Word so you no longer have doubts regarding the story that is true because it is good.  The story that you will be compelled to tell others. The story of the risen Jesus in the truth of God's Word. The truth of the gospel as summarized in John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Don't Be An Eye If You Are An Ear

During my career in federal law enforcement, I was asked to assist in a multi-agency investigation of a nationally known trade school suspected of fraud and possible ties to a terrorist network. As part of the investigation, search warrants were issued for all branches of this school throughout the country. My assignment on the morning of the search warrant of the local branch of this school was to wait for the first employee, believed to be the custodian, to arrive in the morning so that entry could be gained to the school without unnecessarily damaging the doors. Once my partner and I gained access, we were to make sure that no records were destroyed and to radio the rest of the agents waiting nearby to conduct the search.


As I waited in the very early morning hours in a parking lot adjacent to the school, an agent from another agency drove up and voiced concern about a white van that he believed was conducting counter surveillance on our operation. When he pointed out the van, I told him that I had seen that van and it was not involved in any nefarious activities. When he asked me how I could be so sure, I told him the van just dropped off patients at the kidney dialysis center and was probably headed out to pick up more patients.


The problem was that this agent attempted to complete a job that was already assigned to someone else. As a result, he abandoned his own post and assignment. The agent in charge of the entire operation counted on each agent to complete their own job assignments. The agent in charge saw the big picture and how each assignment would lead to a successful outcome. Though it was not critical in this instance, disobedience of the agent in charge of the operation could have been critical, and even deadly in a different situation.


Have you abandoned your post and your own assignment? That is, have you abandoned your spiritual gifts in the pursuit of ones that you deem more important or more exciting? In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares our spiritual gifts to parts of the body. Each part is important to the body's function. If one part of the body fails to complete its role, the body may experience sickness, disability, and even death. Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 12:17-20:


If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.


God as the Holy Spirit is in charge of the distribution of spiritual gifts. He sees the big picture and He knows which gifts are needed and when they are needed. He created a great diversity of gifts that are to be used in cooperation with one another. Don't disobey the Agent in Charge and attempt to be an eye, when you are assigned to be an ear. Instead, embrace the gifts that the Holy Spirit has assigned to you so that the most important operation of all, serving and glorifying God, can be completed harmoniously and successfully.





Friday, May 31, 2013

Don't Feed Your Wolf


Since I worked the same territory during my entire federal law enforcement career, there were many recidivist law breakers that became well known to me. There was one such offender that I felt progressed through his career of crime in parallel to my career of crime fighting. This suspect repeatedly committed the same offenses for which I arrested him at least seven times throughout my career. Because he repeatedly committed the same offenses, I would look up the date of his release from prison because I knew within a couple of months I would once again chase him down in order to arrest him. My fellow agents joked about it and posted a picture in my office of the old Warner Brothers cartoon of the sheepdog and the wolf who greeted each other every morning while they punched a time clock. Their "work day" activities consisted of the sheepdog chasing the wolf who was bent on eating the sheep. Then they would say goodnight to each other as they clocked out for the evening. On the picture in my office my co-workers labeled the sheepdog, "Teri" and the wolf with the name of this suspect.


On my last day of work before retirement, I picked up this cartoon and thought of the divergence of each of our paths. My path led to retirement and new opportunities to serve The Lord, while the suspect's path led to a long prison term. This divergence in paths was due to the choices each of us made. I shared my faith with this suspect on several occasions, gave him a Bible and even invited him to church. Yet, he always seemed to return to that time clock as a wolf.


Are you punching the time clock as a sheepdog or a wolf? That is, are you living according to the Holy Spirit in that you serve Jesus, or are you living according to to the flesh in that you serve yourself and your selfish desires? Sometimes sheepdogs can become wolf-like when they snarl, growl and bare their teeth. After all, sheepdogs and wolves are closely related species that belong to the scientific genus, Canis. Inside each of us a deadly war is raging between the sheepdog and the wolf. The wolf greedily latches on to the temptation and sin around us, while the sheepdog desperately fights off the overwhelming hunger of the wolf. In Romans 8:13 Paul tells us:


For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.


We can only defeat sin (the flesh) by starving it and replacing it with righteous and Godly behavior. Jesus triumphed over sin when he willingly died for us on the cross. When we follow Him and obey Him through the leading of the Holy Spirit, His victory becomes our victory in that we will have eternal life. We obey the commands of Jesus by filling our minds with God's Word and staying in constant communication with Him through prayer. Don't feed your wolf. Instead, unleash the power of prayer and God's Word upon your wolf so that your Sheepdog may triumph.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Don't Groan at Authority

Early in my career as a postal inspector, a local post office was robbed at gunpoint, during which a clerk was injured, money was stolen, and a crime scene of evidence was created that spread over the entire post office lobby.  When I arrived, I was told by my supervisor to secure the crime scene and stand guard at the front door to advise postal customers that the post office was closed until the crime scene could be processed.  I remember inwardly groaning as this monotonous and unchallenging duty was assigned to me.

As I stood guard at the door, one man approached me and said he wanted to retrieve his mail from his post office box.  I explained that the post office had been robbed, the entire lobby was a crime scene and was temporarily closed.  This man said he needed to get his mail and yelled that I was delaying his mail which, was a federal crime.  He said he was going to report me to the authorities.  I calmly pointed to the lettering, "Postal Inspector" on my jacket and said, " I am that authority, so consider it reported."

This man forged ahead with his own agenda without a thought to the events occurring around him.  He was only concerned with his own itinerary and plans and became frustrated when someone in authority thwarted his agenda.  Do we engage in this same behavior?  Well, I had just exhibited this behavior when I inwardly complained about being assigned the unenviable task of guarding the front door.  Even though I was not vocal about my dissatisfaction with the authority that assigned me to this task, my inward groaning led to an inappropriate response to the man who in turn, was dissatisfied with my authority.  If we cannot submit to those in authority in this world, than how can we ever submit to the authority of God?  In Romans 13:1-2, Paul tells us:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

We don't like authority.  The world celebrates those that call their own shots and run their own lives.  We want to be our own bosses and don't want anyone to tell us what to do. It becomes all about me, and whatever makes me "happy."  This type of thinking comes from Satan and not from God because God has established the entire process of submission and authority.  When Jesus came to us as a man, He submitted himself to the authority of the Father while the Holy Spirit submitted to the authority of Jesus. 

We all have authority figures in our lives, whether they are parents, teachers, bosses, police officers, pastors or even supervisors within the ministries that we voluntarily serve in.  We sometimes mistakenly believe that since we are volunteers, we do not have to obey those who have been placed in authority in that ministry, especially if that person is another volunteer.  We are subject to authority no matter who it is and are to obey that authority unless they command us to break God's Word.  When you have a problem submitting to authority in your life, you will have a problem submitting to God's authority.  Likewise, when we submit to God's ultimate authority, we will find it much easier to submit to the authorities in our daily lives. So don't groan when an authority figure gives you a command.  Rather, submit to that authority in order that you may glorify, please and reflect the character of Jesus.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Don't Leave Others Outside Your Wall

 Approximately one month before I was due to retire from my law enforcement career, I assisted on a search warrant and arrest of a suspect and his girlfriend well known to our agency as repeat offenders.  My position as we approached the house was to cover the side yard in case the suspects attempted to flee out the windows.  As my fellow agents approached the front door, both suspects ran out the back door into the side yard.  With my firearm pointed at them, I ordered them to stop and put their hands up.  The male suspect immediately scaled the eight-foot high wall dividing his yard from the next yard.  His girlfriend also attempted to scale the wall.  When she discovered that she was going to be unsuccessful in this attempt, she called out to her boyfriend, "Help me, don't leave me, help, help!”

Her cry fell on deaf ears as her boyfriend continued his quest for freedom. Officers covering the perimeter area caught her boyfriend in the backyard of the neighbor’s residence.  As I took this young female suspect into custody, my usual sarcasm arose as I said to her, "Wow!  He did not even hesitate as you called to him for help. He just left you behind.  He's definitely a keeper.”

When I thought about this incident later, I wondered how many people I have left behind.   When I talk about leaving people behind, I do not mean that I have ever ran from the police, scaled an eight foot wall and left my fellow cohorts behind to be arrested and taken to jail. Rather, I wondered how many times I did not recognize the suffering of my fellow Christians in my hurry to "serve in my ministry.”  I wondered how many times I failed to rejoice when a fellow believer was honored.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:26:

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

As I ruminated on this passage of scripture, I must admit that I do not always suffer when my fellow believers suffer and I do not always rejoice when my fellow believers are honored. While I have never worn my emotions on my sleeve, it does not mean that I do not experience these emotions.  So if I experience these emotions, should I not share these emotions with fellow believers?  As a believer, I am called to fellowship with other believers.  I am called to support other believers.  I am called to regard other believers as part of my family.  However, I often find myself enclosed in my own little world, in my own little circle, hiding behind my poorly built wall in an attempt to protect myself from these uncomfortable and unwanted emotions.  The unintended consequence of taking refuge behind my wall is that my empathy and compassion also remain hidden behind this same wall.

Empathy and compassion requires us to stand in the shoes of someone and walk around.  To truly understand someone, we must attempt to take a hard look at their situation from their view.  We must stand at their front door and look around.  This is not the same as feeling pity for someone.  Pity is impersonal in that you look at someone's situation from the outside.  Empathy and compassion is to experience and identify with the emotions of another believer from the inside, whether it be suffering or rejoicing. 

Jesus is the example of compassion and empathy that we must strive to emulate.  He walked in our shoes so that we would know that He understands both the suffering and rejoicing that humans experience. Jesus tore down my wall of sin that separated me from God when He experienced the pain of my sin on the cross.  The destruction of my wall allows me to feel real joy and contentment in all situations.  Jesus has called me to share this joy and contentment with my fellow believers.  He has done the same for you.  So don’t leave others outside your wall.  Instead, allow Jesus to tear down that wall and allow yourself to fully experience the freedom from walls that He has so sacrificially provided.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Don’t Try To Keep Your Hockey Pads Clean

When I was in high school, I was actively involved in many sports.  Growing up in Southern California where the four seasons of the year are mild, I did not note the time of year by the weather, but rather by the sport I was playing at the time.  One of the sports I played near the end of winter between basketball and softball seasons was field hockey.  Field hockey basically involved players with sticks that moved a little hard ball down the field into the opposing teams goal.  When the opposing team approached our goal, I was the one they had to go through in order to score.  I was the goalie.

As the goalie, I was required to wear protective padding, a glove and face mask.  Since the padding that I was using was worn and falling apart, the coach procured new padding and gave it to me before practice during the preseason.  This padding was clean and very white.  Within minutes of taking my place on the field, the clean and white padding was soon decorated with grass stains and mud streaks as my team practiced shots at the goal while I stopped them by stretching, reaching and even sliding on the ground to prevent the ball from going through the goal.  My job was pretty simple and did not require a lot of thought.  All I had to do was prevent the ball from going past me into the goal. I did not think about dirt or grass stains as I carried out my job.

At the end of the practice that day, my coach was horrified when she saw the stained padding.  She rebuked me for getting the new equipment so dirty.  I was astounded and replied, "I can either stop the other team from scoring or I can keep the padding clean and white.  I can't do both.  If we want to win, I can't keep the hockey pads clean." 

My coach did not have much to say to that.  In the two years that I played field hockey, I am happy to say that the goalie padding no longer contained a trace of the original white color, as every team we faced was unable to score.  We won every game because I did not try to keep my hockey pads clean.

Is your padding pristine and white?  Are you afraid to get dirty?  Jesus got His hands dirty healing the sick and cleansing lepers.  If we want to grow in our relationship with Jesus, we must follow Him.  In order to follow Him, we must serve Him.  In order to serve Him, we must expect to get dirty.  Jesus gave us an example when he washed the feet of His disciples as described in John 13:3-5:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

Jesus removed his outer garments.  In scripture, a person's garments are often used as a symbol of their identity, such as a king's robe, a priests vestments, or a soldier's armor.  Jesus laid aside his garments, thereby symbolically laying aside His power and deity to wash His disciples feet.  The feet He washed were dirty, dusty and probably even smelly considering that Jesus and His disciples walked everywhere wearing sandals on their feet.  I can attest to this after touring Israel wearing only one pair of sandals the entire ten days.  At least I had access to cushy hotel rooms and showers every night.

Jesus put himself in a lower position than His own disciples when he removed His garments and washed their feet.  He became not only their servant, but also the lowest form of a servant since the servant with the lowest ranking normally did this work.  When He had finished washing their feet, we can read what He said in John 13:12-15:

So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you."

We can't have a real relationship with Jesus unless we are willing to follow Him in all things.  Does this mean that in order to follow Jesus, we have to wash other people's feet?  If that is what Jesus has asked us to do, then yes.  But more importantly, Jesus is telling us that in order to follow Him, we have to keep our hearts clean.  In order to keep our hearts clean we might have to get dirty.  We must follow His example so that humility will overcome our prideful hearts.  We are unable to serve in any meaningful way when are hearts are filled with pride.  So don't try to keep your hockey pads clean.  Instead, follow Jesus willingly as He leads you through the dirt of challenges, obstacles, testing, tragedy and servanthood, so that He can transform you into the person He created you to be.  That is, a person who will win the most important game of all; the joy of serving and glorifying Jesus now and in eternity.