"...and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever!"

Monday, February 28, 2011

Victim of Injustice?

Talk about bad luck! Anthony Graves served 18 years in a Texas Penitentiary, 14 of those years on death row, for a wrong conviction! That's right! The man served more than a decade and a half behind bars for something he DIDN'T do!

How should the government compensate Graves after taking 18 years of his freedom? It certainly doesn't replace the years he lost, but Texas law allocates $80,000 a year, for each year served, to any individual who was wrongly convicted. This means that the state of Texas owes Anthony Graves $1,440,000! But to make thigns even worse, Graves won't receive a penny! When ample evidence was presented by Graves' attorneys proving that Graves was innocent, the Brenham prosecutor's office of Brehnam, Texas decided to dismiss charges orginally filed against Graves, instead of retrying him all over again and finding him "Innocent." Sure, it was thoughtful to refrain from dragging Graves and his family through a long trial and courtroom chaos. However, unless there is proper documentation filed with Texas courts stating that Graves is "Innocent", Graves receives zero monetary compensation. No one disputes Graves' innocence. Everyone says he deserves the money. And sadly enough, this how Graves comments on his misfortune, "It doesn't feel good being a 45-year-old man and having to depend on your family just to make sure you eat. It's kind of embarassing. But right now, this is my life."

I feel like Graves and I have something in common, but not because I served 18 years behind bars. I can't imagine how terrifying and lonely that must have been! But like Graves, I too have been a "Victim of Injustice!" I've been found "Innocent" when my life clearly proves that I'm "Guilty!" Perhaps Isaiah said it best when he spoke of Jesus in this way, "He was assinged a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth." (Isaiah 53:9) Everything I've done wrong, and every sin I still committ, Christ Jesus paid the price! How amazing, how wonderful, how meaningful it is that because of JESUS, God holds back what I DESERVE!

The truth is that all of us are "Victims of Injustice." Jesus didn't go the cross just for me, but Jesus "...gave his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28) So here's the real question: What will YOU do with YOUR Freedom? Graves can't replace the years he lost, and we can't change the things we've done wrong! But all of us can repent; all of us can be cleansed by the blood of Jesus in the waters of baptism. And like Paul, all of us can "forget what is behind", "strain toward what is ahead", and "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus!" (Philippians 3: 13-14)

Now that's what I call compensation!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Lesson from the Lottery?

Have you ever thought about how you would react if you won the lottery? Besides struggling to keep your sanity as the rivers of excitement and unbelief flow through your body, what would you feel? Would you wait to take possession of that life changing check, or would you get in your car and speed for the sum? I don't know about you, but if I won the lottery, it wouldn't be long between my winning and taking!

However, for lottery winners Raleigh and Erin Hill of North Carolina, this wasn't the case! When they learned that they would be mega-millionaires, the Hills didn't claim their million-dollar ticket for six months! In fact, they waited until the day before the ticket expired to claim their winnings! Why the delayed gratification? It wasn't because they didn't need the money. They were worried the money would control their lives! When time was almost up, the Hills cashed their winning ticket. In a matter of minutes, they progressed from living "paycheck to paycheck" to being set for life.

I admire the Hills for their hesitancy to focus on the big bucks. It's obvious that they're down to earth and they understand the evils greed can bring! On the other hand, their reluctance to become millionaries reminds me of our reluctance to become spritually "rich." Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross, and because of His sacrifice, He offers us so much more than any lottery! Unfortunately, we aren't too quick to claim what is ours! We know the "wealth" that awaits us, but we continue with our current lifestyle of sin because we are more "comfortable" living how we want to live! And then we remind ourselves, "That offer will always be on the table, and whenever I want it, it's mine for the taking!" Not necessarily. We don't know when our ticket to salvation will "expire!"

As I think about the Hills, I can't help but to think about Paul. He was punctual and he was ambitious, and when he spoke of his own conversion story, he said it best. "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name!" (Acts 22:16) Please take the time to listen to that lesson!

Monday, February 14, 2011

“Seto was Vetoed”

The NFL football season has officially come to an end. Our "Cheese Head" friends to the North are reveling in their prestigious victory and restoring honor to the "Green and Yellow." On the other hand, the rest of the teams are brainstorming about what they can do differently next year. The "offseason" is always a critical time for professional organizations, but one component is often considered; the hiring and firing of coaches. Rocky Seto, assistant coach for the Seattle Seahawks, has always been a "behind the scenes" coach. However, a few weeks ago, he had secret conversations with UCLA about becoming their new Defensive Coordinator. A promotion from an assistant coach to a Defensive Coordinator is certainly climbing the ladder, and Seto must have been very confident about the direction of the meetings, because he couldn't contain his excitement. The next day, he texted reporters and told all of his friends and family that he was the NEW UCLA DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR, even though UCLA hadn't reached a formal decision!

As Seto was watching congratulations pour in on his Facebook page and living the "coaches" dream, he received a heartbreaking phone call from UCLA. Since Seto had broken confidentiality and rampantly spread a rumor that wasn't even true, UCLA decided to "pursue other options." In just a matter of minutes, Seto was demoted from a proclaimed Defensive Coordinator to a Disgusted Assistant Coach. Seto was "Vetoed!"

When I listen to the conversations of Christians, it concerns me how many things we discuss that we don't even know for sure! What "stories" do we feel like we have to tell? At the dinner tables and at the coffee shops, what "dirt" do we thrown on "good names" just for entertainment? Solomon, the wisest King to ever live, understood the danger of these conversations that God calls "Gossip." Solomon illustrated the power of gossip when he said, "The words of a gossip are like chocie morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts." (Proverbs 18:8) But Solomon also reminded us about the pain gossip causes when he uttered "...a gossip separates close friends." (Proverbs 16:28)

Take a lesson from Seto! Don't pull the tongue's trigger without a testament of the truth! Because if gossip controls your chatter, Seto won't be the only one who's "Vetoed!"

Monday, February 7, 2011

How Much Do You Really Spend?

Have you ever considered how much you spend on the small "luxuries" of life? No, I'm not thinking about cars, homes, home renovations, boats, or anything that you have to finance. I'm referring to the day to day, week to week, month to month hobbies or habits you might have. Last week, I read a very interesting article that analyzed this question. It contemplated the trade-offs we make when we don't consider the long term costs of our "pampering", because as the old saying goes, "There's no such thing as a Free Lunch!" The article presumed and argued that if we didn't spend money on certain things, we would have saved the money and earned an average of 8% on our investments. Here are just a few of my favorite expenses on the list:

Item, Today, Over 10 Years , Over 30 Years

Coffee/Donut, $4 a day, $22,389,$190,453

Manicure, $40 a week ,$29,857, $253,969

Golf, $75 a week, $55,983, $634,924

Isn't that amazing? Obviously, these figures aren't exact and they do vary from person to person, but nevertheless, they speak volumes! I'm not too worried about the costs of manicures because I've never had one and I never will, but I'm a chump for coffee and golf! I guess I'll just have to plan ahead, because I will continue my steady relationship with java and the links! However, I don't think I'll pay $75.00 for one round of golf unless it's a special occassion!

But here's the real scary thought: Have you ever considered how much your sin builds up over time? Chances are very good that you will committ a sin today because your human flesh will make a human mistake! Now, multiply your sin, or even sins of today, by 10, 20, and 30 years! I don't know about you, but when I consider my life, it sure does give me new understanding of the words from Isaiah's pen in Isaiah 53:6, "...and the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all." When I think about how many "iniquities" I will place upon the shoulders of Jesus in my life, I can't help but to think about Calvary! I can't help but to survey the wondrous Cross! And words will never fully describe my appreciation when I read what Isaiah prophesied about the King of Kings, "...but by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) We will all continue to spend money because it costs money to live! And it's ok to spend money from time to time on "luxuries" that we don't always need! But we must make it a priority to put down our checkbooks, to flee from our credit cards, and to spend our time and our money for the Savior!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

“I Went to the Super Bowl!”

Sunday marks the greatest day in the tantalizing world of the pigskin, Super Bowl Sunday! By now, avid football fans are amply prepared. They've already picked their tastiest snacks, chosen the most entertaining house, found the biggest TV, and pulled out their most comfortable pants to watch the big game. They do all of these things for one main reason--to see which squad of "brutes" will be Super Bowl Champs! But even those who aren't football fans love the Super Bowl! They have the chance to see the most creative and amusing commercials of the year. Music fans also look forward to the half time show which encompasses the biggest stage in all of music entertainment!

For some reason, this year the Super Bowl has demanded my attention more than usual. It doesn't have anything to do with the teams, because if it's not the Cowboys, I'm not too interested. It has nothing to do with the half time show because most of the time, I'm still at church winding down Sunday activities. As far as commercials are concerned, I enjoy them, but I'm never swayed to purchase. This year, the price of everything keeps striking my radar! Most recent reports show that they average Super Bowl ticket costs well over $1,000! You don't even want to know the price of downtown hotels, but I even heard that a Super 8 in Arlington is charging $800.00 a night! What's "Super" about that? But here's my favorite crisis of commerce--fans can pay $200.00 to stand outside the Cowboys Stadium during the game. That's right, stand OUTSIDE! Can they walk in and use the restroom? Of course not, but for $200.00, they are more than welcome to stand on the sidewalk and "take all of it in!" What exactly are they taking in except the bitter cold in their fragile lungs? I guess they can look back and say, "I went to the Super Bowl!"

I'm afraid that's how many people see Heaven. Whether they admit it or not, they believe they can live how they want to live, and still stand outside the pearly gates and take in the pleasure of paradise! Jesus seems to disagree! He uses words like "Unless you deny yourself", or "...drop everything", or "...follow me daily." And even after we do ALL of these things, only by the grace of God will we ever enter Heaven! Heaven comes with a cost, but the cost is certainly worth the reward! And if you listen to Jesus, one day you will say, "I went to Heaven", as you sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come!"