Thursday, August 21, 2014

Get Out of Jail Free

In Greece, people buy their way out of jail. Inmates serving time for minor offenses can reduce their stay by paying (on average) five euros per day. This program simultaneously reduces Greece’s prison population while generating revenue for the state.

This program is also great for criminals who have money. Rich criminals are able to pay off long jail sentences, serving little-to-no time. Poor criminals, on the other hand, are forced to serve their full sentences.

Learning about this disparity, a Christian minister began buying the prison sentences of Greece’s poorest inmates. Father Gervasios Raptopoulos devoted his life to paying off the prison sentences of inmates with the greatest need. After years of work, Father Gervasios has freed over fifteen thousand inmates. Inmates battling illness have been released to receive medical attention. Others with large families have returned home, able to work and provide for their spouse and children.

I don’t know a better illustration of Christ’s love in the world. Those who do not deserve and cannot afford freedom are liberated by a generous act of mercy. Their debt is paid. Their offense is forgiven. They are free to go through no work of their own.

As you go through the coming week, look for ways to share that type of love with the world. We all owe everything to Jesus Christ and his gracious work on the cross. Share it with those in need. Let the freedom you have experienced in Jesus drive your work for freedom in the world.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

M.C. Hammer, the Apostle Paul and Prayer

There is an old M.C. Hammer song that I love.  The song is called “Pray.”  The chorus sings and shouts: “We pray (pray)…pray (pray).  We got to pray just to make it today!”  I remember singing those words, dressed like M.C. Hammer (in knock off “Hammer pants”), wishing I could dance like the pop star.

Though the Hammer brand seems funny now, M.C. Hammer’s song lyrics were onto something.  We do need to pray just to make it today.  Our world is full of obstacles and temptations that undermine the Christian faith. Prayer connects us with God, helping us keep focused on God’s will and purposes.  As we connect with God in prayer, God cultivates character in us that helps us overcome adversity and temptation.  In these ways, you got to pray just to make it today.

In Ephesians 6, Paul teaches early Christians to be spiritually ready for overcoming hardship.  And, prayer is a big part of that preparation.  Paul likens spiritual preparation to putting on battle armor and then writes, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  Prayer helps us and empowers us for faithful living no matter what life throws our way.  In other words, you got to pray just to make it today.

In the coming weeks, pray.  Pray a lot.  Ask the Lord to help you.  Ask the Lord for direction.  Ask the Lord to cultivate character in you that stays focused on God and God’s purposes no matter the circumstance.  As you do, you will see that Jesus indeed helps His people.  You will also find a way to pray and make it today!

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Years ago, Leah and I attended a really great concert. One of my favorite bands played some of my favorite songs. The mix was crisp and clear. The lighting was tasteful. The crowd jumped up and down when they were supposed to. They sang along at all the right places.  By the end of that show, I thought to myself, “That…was…awesome!” 

I was right in describing the concert as awesome. It inspired awe. It gave me a sense of wonder and amazement. The experience of the show was (and still is) hard to put into words.

When Christians worship Jesus, we invite the same sense of wonder and awe. But instead of being amazed by rock bands, we are amazed by the Lord. God gives us a sense of wonder and amazement in worship. Sometimes, our experience of God’s goodness is hard to put into words.

In the book of Job, we find this type of awesome God. Job 5:9 says, “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” God leaves us amazed. God is hard to put into words.

As you worship this week, recognize the wonders of God and be blown away. Let His praise be hard to put into words. As you do, you will experience more of His goodness. You may even walk away thinking, “That…was…awesome!”