Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Legacy of King's Message

Philip Yancey, an author I greatly respect and admire, wrote the following excerpt in his book entitled "Soul Survivor." This excerpt is a powerful tribute and reflection on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. It is long, but it is well worth the time to read! You can check it out here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Remembering Trevell

(Trevell is the player to my left, technically off my right shoulder)

(Trevell is in the blue polo shirt. He and Baby T were rapping at our hip hop service).

On the late evening of Friday January 7th (or possibly into the early morning of Saturday January 8th) 18 year old Trevell Martin was gunned down outside of a party in the south suburbs. He was shot 3 times in the chest and 1 time in the back. There are different stories and theories circulating as to what led to his shooting. It is believed to have been "gang related." However, the particulars that led to his death seem almost trivial when I reflect on the tragedy of a high school senior with so much potential losing his life in the midst of the senseless cycle of violence that is claiming so many young men's lives on the streets of Chicago. Another sobering detail of Trevell's death is that he is survived by his twin brother Terrell. However, Terrell is currently serving a 9 month sentence in Cook County Jail. I traveled to the prison with another neighborhood pastor to deliver the news to Terrell, that his twin brother Trevell had been shot and killed the night before. Pastor Brad had to yell "the news" through the prison glass as Terrell sat and cried into his prison uniform.

I first met Trevell during the summer between his 7th and 8th grade year. That summer he played for our basketball team in the Miracle League. That same summer he also spent a week at Sunshine Cove with the rest of his teammates (His mother recently told me, that week really impacted he and his brother.) That next school year I would attend 4 or 5 Fiske grade school basketball games to watch Trevell and the other guys (Terrell, Baby T, Pierre) play in their regular season and then playoffs. Later that spring I attended Fiske's 8th grade graduation. Over the next 3 summers I would coach Trevell and the guys in the Miracle League. During the summer of 2009 Trevell was even interviewed and featured as part of our web site and Sunshine's blog. That same summer, I also did a blog entry highlighting my Miracle League players.

I wrote the following about Trevell in that particular blog entry...
Trevell "I Need More Touches" Martin - After one of our first games, Trevell told me and his teammates that we would be better off if he just "got more touches." As the season progressed I believed him. Trevell is a streaker shooter with 3-point range, and an ever-improving mid-range jumper. He models his game after his idol, Tracy McGrady, and he continues to develop his game each summer. Trevell will be a junior at Team Englewood High School this fall.
I remember Trevell consistently reminding me with his big smile that he had NEVER missed a practice during ALL his summer seasons with the Sunshine Warriors. Trevell loved the game of basketball. He loved playing with his "guys" from Fiske. He loved to laugh and clown with his teammates. On the court, he played intense defense and was a streaky perimeter shooter. I could count on Trevell to motivate his teammates in a positive way.

This past summer, I dropped down and coached a junior high team. My high school players continued to play in the league with Sunshine, but they played for some different coaches. Every time I would see Trevell at Moody's Solheim Center (where the league games are played) he would approach me with a big smile and say, "Coach Dave we need you to come back." Even as recently as the week after Christmas he had created a "Bring Back Coach Dave" Facebook page. He had invited Pastor Brad and all of the former players to the page, and was trying to convince me to come back and coach the high school team for one more season.

Trevell had aspirations to play college basketball. He would have graduated from Team Englewood High School this spring.

It really hurts my heart as I reflect on his life and on his tragic passing. I do know that we had Gospel conversations over the course of the summers that I coached him. I know that he consistently heard the Gospel each week during the Miracle League season. I wish I could say with confidence that Trevell had believed on the Gospel, but I can't. I only know that IF he did, there is eternal hope.

Trevell is the second of my players (who I began with in the summer of 2006) to lose their life to gun violence. Damian Turner was also tragically shot and killed late last spring. They are certainly not the only young men whose lives have been claimed by violence over the last year. It just doesn't make sense. The youth homicide statistics in Chicago right now are sobering. These "numbers" are personal to me now. I know this ongoing violence breaks God's heart. I am asking Him to continue to break my heart for my young brothers who are caught up in the streets, in search of identity and community in the wrong places. More importantly, I am asking God to break the Church's heart for these same young men. May we not view them with suspicion or fear or self-righteousness, but may we view them through the lens of Christ so that we might respond with compassion and courage.

Please continue to pray for Trevell's mother Pat, his twin brother Terrell (who is scheduled to be released in May), and for his many friends!

Jesus: Servant & Savior (Blog #2)

Here is the second part of my message that I shared. If you have not read the first part, you should read it first in order to understand the context.

II. Jesus came to Save

I want us to think about each of these examples for a minute. For we should be able to see us in each of the people that I just went through…

Children - We are like children in that we have no social status. We have no standing on our own before God. But yet Christ receives us. We have standing before God because of Jesus’ status (Paul learned this, and shared it in Philippians 3. Jesus is our list!). We are defenseless and in need of a spiritual Father and a spiritual adoption. We need God to become our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ (John 1:12).

Lepers – We are like lepers. We are unclean because of our sins. Our sins separate us from a Holy God (Romans 6:23). We too are in need of the cleansing touch of Jesus. We are in need of His work on the cross, and for His blood to wash us clean. Without Christ, we find ourselves "outside of the camp" in need of the fellowship and intimacy with God that Jesus offers.

Tax collectors – We are also like the tax collectors. We may not be hated by men, but we are enemies of God – unless we have received the reconciliation that Christ offers according to Romans 5:10. Through the Gospel we are transferred positionally from being "objects of wrath" to being seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Women & Samaritans – We too are like the women and Samaritans of Bible times in that while society might not esteem us as having value, Christ paid the ultimate price for us on the Cross (Romans 5:8). Christ says we were worth dying for. He obtained us with His own blood(Acts 20:28).

Our rescue by the Great Samaritan – Finally, in the story of the good Samaritan we can find ourselves in the man who was beaten and left by the side of the road. The man in the story was completely helpless, there was nothing he could do…he was stuck…he was beaten down…he was exposed…in fact, if someone didn’t intervene, he would have been in a potentially very dangerous situation…he needed treatment and help to get back to health but he couldn’t afford the payment…he needed someone to pay for his treatment, someone else had to pay to restore him.

We are the man found beaten and left for dead on the side of the road…
-we were not deserving of help
-we were completely helpless
-there was nothing we could do
-we were stuck
-we were beaten down
-we were exposed
-we were jacked up
-we were in a dangerous life and death predicament

But Jesus…
He came to our rescue, He left His comfort, He came down and identified with us, He selflessly sacrificed His own life in place of ours. He paid a debt that He didn't owe, and that we couldn't pay. He paid for our restoration.

The Gospel is such a beautiful message! We need Jesus as our Savior. And it’s only through the transformation that His grace and His love brings, that we can love and serve others after His example.

Matthew 20:18 ...the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jesus: Servant & Savior (Blog #1)

On the second Sunday in January, I got to share the following message with some of our families and staff at Sunshine. This is the first part of the message...

Jesus Part 2: Servant & Savior
Matthew 20:18 ...the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

I.Jesus came to Serve

(1) Children
-Children were people of no social status. In other words, they were socially powerless and dependent.
-There was a high infant mortality rate. One scholar recorded that only half of all children lived beyond the age of 8. Poorer Gentile families often discarded babies if they felt that they couldn’t afford them. They would simply place them out with the trash to be taken to the dump. It was not uncommon for such children to be taken home by the worst kind of people, who molested the children, sold them into prostitution, or forced them into slavery.

But Jesus...
-Jesus treated children differently. He valued them. He welcomed them.
-Even Jesus’ birth was significant in this. He came as a child. He was born into poverty to a young mother. He was seen by many children in tragic circumstances as giving them both dignity and hope. As Marc Driscoll states, “By coming as a child, Jesus honored childhood.”
-Children were the recipients of Jesus’ miracles – Matthew 9:23-25; Matthew 14:21; Matthew 17:14-18.
-Jesus spoke of the importance of both having the humility and faith of a child in Matthew 7:11; Matthew 11:25;Matthew 18:1-4.

Luke 18:15-16 Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God."

(2) Lepers
-Lepers were those who suffered from various skin diseases.
-They were not only sick and dying, but they were the outcasts of society.
-Leprosy made a person ceremonially unclean and thus excluding him from communal life (Lev. 13:46).
-They were looked down upon, abandoned, and socially isolated.

But Jesus…
“Jesus not only met their need for physical healing, but reached out His hand and touched them, giving them their first human contact in years.” - Tim Keller in Generous Justice
-In other accounts throughout the gospels Jesus can be seen eating in the home of a Leper, in fact is even mentions that he touched lepers, something that you just didn’t do because touching a leper made a person ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15:7).
-In Luke 7 and Matthew 11:4-6 – Cleansing lepers is noted as part of Jesus’ ministry
-In Matthew 8, Mark 1, and Luke 5 – Jesus heals a man with leprosy and touches him.
-In Matthew 10:7-9 – when he sent His disciples out, He told them to heal/cleanse lepers.

(3) Tax Collectors
-Tax collectors were employees of the Roman Government. The Roman government was brutally oppressive and known for corruption and excessive greed and injustice.
-Tax collectors were bitterly hated by their own countrymen and regarded as little more than traitors.
-They taxed people excessively and kept many people living impoverished while they lived well and passed part of their profits back to the Roman government.

But Jesus…
-Jesus chose a tax collector, Matthew to be one of His disciples. Jesus visited the tax collector Zacchaeus in Luke 19 and ate with him in his home.
-Jesus was criticized by the religious leaders of His day because He ate with tax collectors and sinners - Matthew 9:10-12.

The “Table Fellowship” of Jesus: Jesus intentionally reached out broadly to all He encountered, inviting them to participate in the life of his “congregation” of followers. This is most apparent in what scholars have called his “table fellowship.” Table fellowship symbolized those you found to be worthy of inclusion in your social circle. Whom you ate with made a statement about who where your friends. The Pharisees were considered a “table fellowship sect.” They used table fellowship to maintain the purity of their nation as well as to model what they believed should be the exclusive ethnocentric identity of Israel. Jesus disturbed and disrupted religious leaders of his time because he used table fellowship to model what he believed was the future of God’s people (and who were included in that group). -United By Faith pg 16

(4) Women
-In many ancient cultures women were essentially regarded as property of their husband.
-Women were generally omitted from theological instruction.
-Women’s testimony in court was not accepted/admissible.
-Women were not to be spoken to in public.
-Jewish men had a practice of praying and thanking God that they weren’t a Gentile and that they weren’t a woman.

But Jesus…
-He often challenged social taboos regarding women and in so doing honored them.
-Some of Jesus followers and supporters were women - Luke 8:1-3
-Jesus allowed Himself to be anointed by a sinful woman – Luke 7:36-50
-He used women as examples of persistent faith and radical generosity (Luke 18:1-5; Luke 21:1-4).
-He visited the home of Mary and Martha and spent time with them – Luke 10:38-42.
-Jesus appeared to women first after His resurrection – John 20:11-18.

In John 4:4-26 Jesus intentionally had a conversation with a Samaritan woman who was caught up in an immoral lifestyle.  

(5) Samaritans
-Jews often avoided Samaria by crossing the Jordan and travelling on it’s eastern side.
-Jews did not associate with Samaritans, they despised Samaritans.
-The normal prejudices of the day prohibited public conversation between Jews and Samaritans.
-The Jews held that Samaritan women were unclean from birth.

But Jesus…
-He approached the Samaritan woman in John 4 in humility, spoke with her, and told her of the living water that He had to offer her.
-In the Parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke chapter 10, Jesus made the Samaritan the "hero" of the story, and exhorted others to follow his example (Go and do likewise!).

As followers of Christ, we need to really think about the example of Jesus in how He loved and served others (1 John 2:6 on em!).