Archive for the ‘Ron’s Thoughts’ Category

A lot of Gs have told me that it scares them to have to close their eyes when they go to bed at night. It’s when you’re alone with yourself that all your misdeeds and crimes come back to haunt you in the dark. It’s when a G lays down and tries to sleep that he sees the people he’s hurt, the women he’s dishonored, the family he’s disgraced.  That’s when the faces of people he hurt come back to visit him in his sleep. It’s when he thinks of all the friends he’s lost and wonder where they’re at now. Is there a heaven, and more importantly, is there a hell?  It’s when a G wonders what’s going to happen to his own kids. Who’s going to get them? Will those kids face the same hopelessness as he faces? Will they grow up and have the same nightmares the G is facing now? What sort of legacy will this G leave for his own kids? Who’s going to remember him when he’s dead and gone, especially if the kids are dead and gone too. And that brings up another point. Its tough enough, its scary enough, when you’ve done bad stuff and have to get alone and face your past in the dead of night as you close your eyes. But that’s not the only time you lay down and close your eyes. As bad as the nightmares at night are to face, can you imagine what it will be like when you lay dying and have to close your eyes for the last time here on earth. What’s that gonna be like? What kind of fears will you face then? Oh, you’ll wake up, but this time it will be to face Christ, the divine creator that you’ve been dissing all your life, the saviour who you’ve ignored and even spit on, the eternal judge who has promised to dispense justice for those who remained unrepentant in this life. How do you think that’s gonna go…

To see how this affected a NYC gang leader go to:

https://ganglifechicago.com/2011/04/24/nicky-cruz-talks-about-his-life-as-leader-of-the-mau-mau-street-gang-in-nyc/

You might also want to try this video on for size:

Death Story by Lecrae:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cou5I3jcsRs

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Hey guys, I met some of you at Cook County this afternoon. I’m the guy from Crossfire and I gave you my card as we were leaving. The telephone number on the card is my cell. Your homey in Cook County won’t be able to reach me there since the guys in the County can’t call anyone’s cell, but if he wants to write to me, have him send the note to:

Ron Gorny

Harper Memorial Library

University of Chicago

1116 E. 59th Street

Chicago, IL 60637

Btw, your homey can’t call me, but you can! Let me know if you want to talk.

Ron

I was talking with a G over coffee and he surprised me by saying that he had gone to church for a while.  When I asked him why he stopped going, he said “It was boring.” I was taken aback by that statement, but maybe I shouldn’t have been. I find Christianity to be extremely exciting, but that’s probably because I try to stay out in the action and when I do that, I see God at work all the time.  In fact, there have been those periods of time when I woke up every morning wondering what God was going to do next. The anticipation was palpable. When I told him that, he was intrigued, but also perplexed. That wasn’t his experience at all. As we talked, it became clear that his mother had experienced a meeting with God and that the G had just been along for the ride, at his mom’s urging. His experience with Christianity had been sitting isolated in a church building and watching other people express their faith in ways he could not understand. Sitting there became boring, and ultimately it became a chore, so he left. What might have been more exciting would have been if he was out on the streets talking to people in need and seeing God respond to his prayers for those people. There is certainly a place for believers coming together and encouraging each other, but the real excitement in Christianity comes from going out and challenging the world to try Jesus. It comes from seeing human need and watching God answer your prayers for those in need. It comes from witnessing a person you might least expect, to come to Christ and have his or her life changed for eternity. Real excitement is being with jesus and going wherever he takes you. I can never tell where that will be, but the one thing I can say is that it will NOT be boring!

A G asked me the other day about evil. If God is so good, why does he allow evil in this world, and especially in my hood?  Why all the killing and pain? Why do people go hungry and starve? Why do people die in natural disasters? Why does it seem so hopeless that I hide behind closed doors to shut out the evil and groan in despair when I hear of another killing or catastrophic event. My response is simple: You’re asking the wrong question. The proper question is, “Why does God even think about allowing good in such an evil world?”

Understand, my friend, that we live in a fallen world destroyed by sin. We live in a world we have all helped to create through our own propensity to rebel aghainst God.  Evil and pain are the norm in a world controlled by powers and principalities of evil (Ephesians 6). The apostle John, in fact,  characterizes Satan as the “prince of this world.”  So, let’s think about this for a moment. If Satan is the “Prince” of this world, what kind of world do you expect to see? Certainly not one of beauty and goodness.  What results would you expect to see in a principality run by this kind of chief? I’ll tell you, its a world full of pain and suffering that groans for relief. It’s for that reason that Paul also says that the whole earth groans as it waits for salvation to appear (Romans 8:22). That’s Paul’s way of letting us know that creation has been overtaken by evil and agonizes in pain as it waits for God’s final redemption. You hear that groaning in your hood, in my hood, and throughout this city.

Understanding that we live in a world marred by human rebellion and shattered by purposeful sin helps us to understand the overabundance of evil that has appeared in this world. That’s why we have murder, rape, and the horrors of warfare all around us. When we consider a world that’s run by a “prince” who is the embodiment of pride, greed, arrogance, perversion, and hatred, we don’t have to look much further to understand the evil in our world and that should prompt us to ask a very  different question. I would suggest that we ask ourselves this, “If the world is so evil and if it’s ruled by evil powers, and settled by sinful rebellious men, why in all creation would God even consider giving us the slightest respite from the evil we have created through our own missteps? Why would he ever think of giving us a moment of peace?  Why would he ever consider allowing us to experience even the slightest hint of heaven’s beauty? Why would he ever allow us to experience even the slightest amount of good?

That’ question is what underlies all Christian faith and is what provides us with the source of true meaning.  The answer, simply put, is that God has a love for his creation that goes beyond anything that we can begin to understand or imagine. As John wrote many centuries ago:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes on him, will not perish, but have eternal life.”

 Because of that love, God  brought all the beauty and splendor of heaven into this world as a preview of things to come. All that beauty and splendor came in the person of Gsus, his son and the second person in the trinity. Gsus, who was the creator of all things that exist and who embodies all the wonder and beauty of creation came to be violated on the cross to give you an alternative to the pain and suffering of this world. Because Gsus conquered death, God can still bring moments of  forgiveness, peace, harmony, joy, meaning, beauty, and love into a world filled with pride, selfishness, anger, lust and hatred . That’s a gift we don’t deserve. That’s a love we can’t underastand. Unfortunately, in our twisted wisdom, we confuse ourselves by thinking that those moments of goodness are the norm in this life, but they are NOT.  This is a broken world because we all embrace sin and that love of sin leads to further suffering and pain. Its a fact of life, we are hurting people and history tells us that hurting people hurt other people.  All you have to do is look around and the toll of sin becomes all too apparent. Those moments of goodness and beauty we long for are the exceptions to the rule, the moments when God sees fit to infuse glimpses of beauty and goodness into our present world of pain and falleness. He does this so that we may catch a glimpse of what he intended us to enjoy for all eternity, to understand and embrace the hope that was manifested in the person of Gsus. That picture of heaven,  presented through the life, death, and ressurection of Gsus, was given so that we might see what God has in store for those who can look past the evil of this world and are able to grasp the beauty of a life with God that is offered through the undeserved love of God or what we call GRACE.

So, when you see a hood filled with evil that manifests itself in the form of a new killing or rampant drug addicition, don’t wonder why God allowed that to happen, remember that its the norm for a fallen and broken world that we created. Instead of being shocked, be thankful that in the midst of such despair, God has seen fit to perforate this darkness in the hood with patches of good. Cherish those glimpses of goodness, the promise of things to come, the opportunity to see what is real.  Pray as Gsus taught his disciples to pray: “may your  kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven“.  Pray for more of his goodness to appear in the midst of  this present evil, and pray that you might be the conduit into your hood through which that goodness flows. See where YOU can make a difference. Turn around and be the hands and feet of Gsus in the hood, be that moment of brightness and good for another person as you let Gsus work through you.  That’s how you can make a difference that will last for eternity, one person at a time. Finally, pray that Gsus will return soon and that  God’s kingdom and all its goodness will then manifest itself on earth.

In the book of John (1:46), Nathanael, the soon-to-be disciple, is told by Phillip to come and meet Gsus of Nazareth, who he says is the saviour who Moses and the prophets talked about. Nathanael astonishingly asks the question, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”  This was a rather sarcastic response from someone who apparently had many doubts about Gsus, just because of the place he came from.

In order to understand Nathanael’s statement, you have to know a little about Nazareth. While we fondly think of Nazareth now as the place where Gsus grew up, we have to understand that Nazareth was really a pit, a rather nasty suburb of Jerusalem, the capital. It was the Humboldt Park of Jerusalem, a place with little respect and a place that everyone avoided. To put it another way, back in the day, Nazareth was considered to be the hood. That’s why Nathanael asked in true astonishment, “Can any thing good come from there?” In essence, he was saying, “What good can come from the hood?” Yo, dog, have you ever heard that same sentiment expressed about your hood??

If you look around, there are lots of Nazareths in the Chicago area. These are places most people try to avoid at all costs. You know the places, the ones with gangs, high crime rates, no housing, and bad services!  They’re the places where people don’t prosper and just try to survive. Sometimes people do things they shouldn’t,  just to make ends meet. Maybe you’ve heard someone ask, “Can anything good come from Humboldt Park?”, or “Can anything good come from Austin?”, or “Can anything good come from Woodlawn?”,  or “Can anything good come from Lawndale?”  Well, I’m going to say this right now and up front: if you hear that about your hood, or if you already believe that song and dance, it’s a lie. Never forget, Gsus came from the Nazareth hood and that’s as good as it gets! Jesus changed his hood and, in fact, he changed the world.

So what about Gsus? He had it all going for him, right? Not exactly! Keep in mind that Gsus didn’t come from a palace or a luxury penthouse. Not even a nice neighborhood. If you remember your Christmas story, Gsus was born in a cattle trough with animals in a barn. This was a less than auspicious beginning for the saviour of the world. How about you? If you were born in jail, maybe in the back seat of a car or the back room of a house, or if you were born in some other less than respectable way, maybe without a dad or born to a mom that couldn’t wait to get rid of you, here’s the good news, Gsus brings hope to the hood and he brings beauty to all the dark and lonely places of our lives. In his own words, Gsus said that he didn’t come to save the healthy (well-off and arrogant), but the sick (downtrodden and hopeless). He didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners (Matthew 9:12). And in case you forgot, Gsus didn’t just come a deliver his message to the hood and split. He stayed and took the great violation when he died for the hood with all its sin and tragedy.

So, what’s all this matter to you? Let’s face it, stuff happens in the hood.  Got any bodies?  Got any thefts?  Got any robberies?  felonies? How long is your rap sheet?  A history of slinging drugs?  Are you dirty? Been heavy into ganbanging?  Well, you’re the type of person that Gsus came for! So, whatever hood you come from, remember that Gsus came for you; he came for the G. He came, no questions asked. He’s not asking why you shot that dude. He’s not asking where that drug money went. He’s not asking who all you banged. He’s not asking if you’re going to church or even if you’re a Christian.  He’s walking right down Division street looking for you, right down Austin Avenue calling out for you; right down 67th Street holding out his arms to take you back. All he’s asking is whether you want something better than what you have, something that will give you life and hope, something that you can proudly pass on to your kids. If so, he’s ready to give it up to you with no strings attached.  All you have to do is open the door to your heart and let him in. Remember this, the problem is not whether you live in the hood. The problem is whether the hood lives in you! Gsus is the one that can take the hood out of you, so while you may physically be in the hood (and that includes jail and incarceration), you can get the hood out of you be letting Gsus take its place. He’ll remove the hood from your heart and replace it with the peace of God that goes way beyond anything you can hope, dream, or imagine. That’s a pretty darn good trade. Then, the next time someone asks, “What good can come from da hood,” you can say, “Hey bro, I came from da hood. Me and Gsus together, that’s about as good as it gets!”

If you want to know more, see a local pastor or get in touch with us at Crossfire. In the meantime, you can begin by saying this prayer:

God-

I been in the hood ma whole life and done lots of things I wish i hadn’t had to do. Sometimes I see dem in ma dreams and just want them to go away. Even if I don’t see them, I know what I did and it makes me sick. I want to make it right, but I know I can’t make it right myself. I’ve tried and nuthin works. This guys sez, yu’ll forgive me of all that bad stuff – slingin, bangin, and even killin. I believe that Gsus came to earth from heaven and died to pay for my sins sins. I believe that he rose from the dead and that he has forgiven my sins as no one else can do. I need that forgiveness bad and I ask that all my sins be forgiven. I want to  kno that yur real and willing to help me make a new start. I got baggage so it won’t be easy but I believ that if you will help me, it will happen, just like he sez. So right now, I’m askin yu to come into my heart, and transform my life. Forgive me of evryythin bad i done. I kno i need you, without doubt, but its hard to walk away, so even if I play the G for a little while, guide my steps and watch over me. teach me your ways and open my eyes, help me to grow and walk away from this life, no matta wat. Give me and my family a new start. Reveal yourself to me just like dis guy sez yu will. Make me willing to turn away from this life and serve yu, no matta what. Thanks God!

If you sincerely said that prayer, God has heard and has forgiven you of all your sins. You are starting on a new journey that leads away from sin and takes you closer to God. I’m not sure where that journey will lead you, but this much I’ll guarantee you, it will be an amazing journey. Find a good Bible believing local church (ask us for suggestions if you don’t know of any). Start reading your Bible by reading the book of John. Start praying and make a practice of talking to God everyday. And let me know if I can help.

Ron

ps. Here’s a couple of raps for you to consider:  

Gangstaz Pain by Preachas in the hood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9hm84LZkts

Take me as I am by Lecrae:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHlxQnr9Y0g

There’s an old gang slogan that says, “blood in, blood out.” It simply means that when you get into a gang, there is a price to pay, and that’s usually by bloodletting, commonly a beating or a so-called violation, sometimes by killing. You get out the same way (or worse). Blood is an important symbol to those involved in the gang lifestyle but, believe it or not, blood is also important to the Christian world view. God understood that the G, once involved in the gang (blood in) would need a way out of his predicament. He understood “blood out” from the beginning of time and provided the G with a final one-time “blood out” violation, and by that I mean the spilled blood of Jesus Christ. The final blood.  It is only by the blood of Jesus, the blood shed on the cross, that we are removed from the curse of our “blood in” deeds.  By His blood we are provided with the opportunity to move beyond the blood of the hood to experience the sort of life that Gs can only dream of.  By our nature and our inclination to sin we have doomed ourselves to an eternal life without God,  but by His blood we are cleansed and made whole. By his blood we are removed from the house of death (hell) and brought to the house of life (heaven). Each of us paved our way into hell through a life of violence and sin –  blood in, but now we are removed from the  penalty of that violence and sin – blood out. The only difference is that it’s not your “blood out”!  That was Jesus doing the “blood out” thing on the cross. He took our “blood out” violation upon himself so that we would be able to accept God’s invitation to join him in heaven. You may have joined the gang by blood, and you may have gotten in the gang by blood, but there is a way out. The one and only way to real freedom is through the shedding of Christ’s blood for you. Blood in, Blood out. Believe it.  Accept it.  Live it.

When you meet Jesus it changes your destination.

That changes the way you think about life.

That changes how you perceive other people.

That changes the way you act and behave.

That changes the way people view you.

That changes the way others perceive Christ.

That changes their willingness to address Christ.

That changes their destination.

rlg

As many of you know, the first week in march is traditionally known among the Latin Kings as King Week. Its a time of celebrating the power, history, and lore of the ALKQN.  As I was thinking about this and talking to people I know in the Kings, I was reminded that the real author of power,  as well as  of freedom and basic human rights, is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. It’s to him that ALL power is given, that ALL respect is due. That’s because he took “the great violation” for all gangbangers when he was nailed to the Cross. When gangbangers talk about power, that talk contains only a small hint of what real power is all about. Let me give you a description of what real power looks like. In two passages of the Bible we get a description of God handing over power to his Son Jesus Christ, the one who will return to collect his own and to judge the rest of the world.

In the Old Testament we find the Prophet Daniel giving us this description of power being handed to Christ (Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14):
9″As I looked, thrones were set in place,  and the Ancient of Days took his seat.  His clothing was as white as snow;  the hair of his head was white like wool.  His throne was flaming with fire,  and its wheels were all ablaze.  A river of fire was flowing,  coming out from before him.  Thousands upon thousands attended him;  ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.  The court was seated,  and the books were opened.

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

**********************

A similar portrayal of Christ is found in the New Testament (I Thessalonians 4: 16-17):

 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.

In both cases, we see Jesus as a coming king, the ruler of all things and the judge of all men. This is all made possible because Jesus was “violated,” not for what he did, but for what you did. Because he was blameless and took that “violation” for you, God has made him the sovereign king of all creation and the final judge of all men.  It doesn’t matter if you are ALKQN, NAACP, WASP, all of us must answer to Christ for the life we lived and ultimately answer the question, “How did you respond to my Son’s invitation to open your heart to My eternal plan of forgiveness?” For those who can respond that they accepted the grace of God, repented of their sins, and followed Christ, there is eternal life with the one who saved us from our sins. If our trust is in the nacion, the country, the President, or some organization, then we will have failed to put our trust in the right place and the cost is eternal separation from God. So, my brothers and sisters in the nacion, please spend some time this week reflection on what the Word of God, the Bible, has to say about God, love, truth, and forgiveness. Kingism is one of many philosophies that try to address the issue of man’s relationship to God, but only the Bible has the full truth of God’s love and of the King of Kings, the one who gave himself to not only set us free from sin and its results, but to give us the abundant life that God always planned for us to enjoy. This is all summed up in four short words, TRUST IN THE CROSS.

So Life Sucks…

I was talking to G the other day and his commentary on life was simply, “Life sucks”. I asked him what he was doing about it and he said he was waiting for Obama to keep his word and bring about change. Listen brothers, if there’s going to be change, if your circumstances are going to take a turn for the better, there’s only one person that can make that happen, YOU! You’d better not wait for Obama to change things; better not wait for your alderman to change things; better not even wait for your pastor to change things; because any change that’s going to take place around you has to start with you. So if you want to start, what do you do? Listen to this song be Toby Mac:

City on our Knees http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNA8sAxQ4pk&feature=related

The Man Behind the Mask

I talk to a lot of Gs on the streets that walk with the typical gangster swagger. They’ve got an attitude and if you look at their face, you see a set of emotions that say “I’m tough. Don’t mess with me.” But when you look into their eyes, you understand that the face you see is only a mask covering up a whole set of fears and emotions that a G is trying to hide from the outside world because they reveal weakness and vulnerability.  When the mask comes off, the vulnerabilities and fears become clear; how did I get here? Who am I? Why do I feel this dread?  Why was I born without having a chance? Why did my parents leave me in this situation? Am I going to repeat their mistakes with my kids?  Why am I so angry? Why made me shoot that guy? Are they coming after me? How am I going to survive out here? Why do other people have it better than me? How am I supposed to live I when I don’t have a future? Am I going to spend most of my life in jail? What’s that going to do to me? Am I going to go insane? Why does everyone hate me? Is God really watching me? Does he really care about me? If so, why is my life so bad?  What’s going to happen to me when I die? Am I going to hell?  Why am I so scared of that? Why do I have to hide behind this swagger? Why can’t I find someone to love me for who I am? These are all questions that inform the gangster persona.

So gangster, where do you go from here? How do you make a life? You can fool people for a while, but sooner or later the mask comes off for all to see.  You can only hide behind the façade of gangster life for so long before your true self is revealed. Sooner or later you’ll be forced to face reality. All your fears and inadequacies will be revealed. Maybe it will happen at night when you try to sleep and there’s no one there but you and God. That’s when all the dirt you did when you were down with the gang come back to haunt you. Maybe it’s in a confrontation when come apart and run and your fears are revealed in front of all the brothers.  Maybe it’s when you’re thrown into jail and you sit in your cell wondering how it all went wrong.  Maybe it’s when you die and you stand face-to-face with God. No masks gonna help you there! You can’t go on masquerading in front of Him. The mask comes off and what’s left for everyone to see all too real. Not only will your mask come off but you’ll be naked before the almighty with all your sins and evil deeds exposed before heaven and earth. No amount of swagger helps then. But, does it have to be that way? Is there a better way to remove the mask?

Go ahead and ask yourself:  when I look in the mirror, what do I see? Who is the man hiding behind the mask in your life?  What is it that you’re trying to hide behind that mask of ganglife swagger? What scars do you have that you don’t want anyone to see?  Whatever’s there, Jesus died to heal. Jesus can deal with all the scars and of the gang lifestyle, so why not let Jesus gently remove the mask and embrace your scars. Why not let Jesus heal those scars so you’ll never have to put on a mask again. Let the world see the real you. Let the people of God embrace you for who you are, and in turn, you’ll be able to embrace others who are also reeling from the effects of gang life. Authenticity is critical in the Christian life. Transparency is paramount.  In fact, Paul the Apostle was able to say In I Thessalonians 2 that “we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed.” Paul never covered up who he really was for any sort of gain. He was real. Can you say the same? Why not be real too? Take off the mask of gang affiliation and let Jesus plug you into a set where you can experience real life and life in more abundance that you’ve ever imagined.  Let Jesus take care of your fears and give you joy.  Let Jesus love you for who you are with the authentic love of God. When that happens, something wonderful begins to take place. When we take off the mask of gang affiliation and begin to contemplate God for who he is, and not what we want him to be (I.e. false and contrived gang theologies and “isms”), then we find that we “who with uncovered faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). You want to change? You want to have a second chance? You want to know God? Take off the mask! The result of uncovering your face, of unmasking your appearance, is that we begin to change. We begin to be transformed into the image of God. That’s a where real change takes place and where real life begins. Sure there’s a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking. So, get rid of your mask and let the world see the man behind the mask, the real man, the man standing with God. It’s not the guy with swagger, not the guy with juice, not the guy with a ride, and not the guy with a load. Let the world see that it’s a guy with life, dreams, and hope. It’s the guy with Jesus.

 

Playing the Trump Card 

Ever play any card games, something like Spades, Hearts, or Euchre? If you have, you know that many card games that have what are called “trump” cards. A trump card is a card from a particular suit that when played, “trumps” or overpowers any other card from the non-trump suits. Generally, one has to follow suit, but if you don’t have a card of the suit being played, you can throw a trump card and that trump card will win the hand.  In other words, if you are playing a card game and hearts is designated as “trump,” a 2 of hearts trumps or overpowers and captures an ace or any face card from a non-trump suit.

I ask this because we’re all in the game, whether we like it or not. It’s called the game of life. As you have realized by now, there are a lot of power cards in this game and you usually don’t control them.  This is particularly true if you’re a gangbanger. There are the aces, and kings, and queens of life, and they somehow seem to control everything. People like supervisors, bankers, politicians, policemen, and teachers all seem to have the power cards.  You sit at the table hoping that fate deals you a fair hand, but what you don’t know is that you sit at a table where the cards are rigged. Everyone else holds the power cards. It’s not clear how they got them or what they had to do to get them, but they have them, and they use them. Others in the game may not want to admit it, but the game is stacked against you and they know it.

The truth is that many of you are gambling your lives away by just being in the game. It’s true for me as much as it is for you. It’s even truer, and more serious, in the spiritual realm where many of us are gambling with our eternal destinies, throwing our souls into the pot and hoping to score big in this game of life. In all truth, when you gamble like that, you are in a bad position from the start because Satan holds most of the cards in this earthly gambit. He’s sitting at the head of the table with all the chips in front of him and a smile across his face. He’s smiling because, if you could look over his shoulder, he’d be sitting there with a full house of three aces and two kings.

Before we continue describing the progress of this spiritual card game we’ve gotten ourselves into, let’s evaluate our position. Our lives are all far from perfect. In many of our lives the imperfections are even glaring. They stand out for everyone to see. We’ve killed someone, gotten caught with another person’s spouse, stolen money from our employers, and cheated in innumerable ways, all glaring defects in our character. This may be especially true for a gangbanger, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are any better. Our thoughts and sins may not have lit up the public media like those of a gangbanger who is on trial for murder, but they are just as damning. Our own sins may come to light some day in this world, but maybe they won’t.  If not, they will be revealed in eternity in which case, we will still need the same help as the person with the glaring media-hyped sins. Sin is sin and needs a remedy.

The Bible is very clear on sin. It points out sin and describes it on varying levels of intensity. Not that this is all that necessary because all of us know deep down what is right and what is wrong, what is good, and what is sin. We possess an innate sense that tells us when we are doing something in opposition to God’s desire for our lives. Still we choose to do it. This is sin. The Bible makes it clear that sin, no matter how small or how big, separates us from God and that a remedy for that separation is needed in order to restore that relationship. Sin can come in the form of inappropriate relationships, bad or evil deeds, dark thoughts, and just plain selfish desires. Sin is not only something bad that we have done, but as Paul taught in Romans (7:7-13), and in agreement with what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5:21-22 and 5:27-28), sin can be as small as a wayward thought.  Gangbanger, if you ever hated an opposition member, even if you’ve never touched him, you’ve earned yourself a trip to hell. If you ever looked at a girl (or guy) with sexual desire, you’ve established your eternal abode in hell. Sin starts in the mind. It starts small. It’s a thought, an image, a desire. In the end, it’s death.

I suppose that our primary context for knowing about sin comes from the 10 commandments found in the Book of Exodus (20: 1-18). These are the “thou shalt nots” that function as the core of the law and at the center of the “rules” that people often get so bent out of shape about. These are the commandments that were expanded in the books of Moses and throughout the books of the prophets into the rules and laws of the Bible that people do not like. Well, we may not like them and may not obey them, but they are there for a reason. Those rules are not there to save us because we could never keep all of them. Paul admits as much in Romans. No, those rules are there to act as a mirror so that when we look into that reflection and see all of our imperfections, we will brought to the point where we want to do something about it.

Our response to the reflection we see in the mirror may vary. Some people will not like what they see and simply get rid of the mirror which, of course, does not change the reality of the imperfections it exposes. Those imperfections are still there for all to see. Others, however, use the mirror as a tool to try and deal with the imperfections, constantly looking into it and using it as a guide to spiritual health and well-being. The user must remember, however, that the mirror itself cannot clear up the imperfections illuminated in the mirror. It simply provides a reflection of a reality that can’t be seen with eyes that are merely looking forward. That reflection can, however, point out the obvious flaws and indicate to the viewer that he/she may want to consider the need for a doctor. That’s what the Old Testament laws do. They point out the need for a spiritual doctor that we might not know without reflecting on those laws. Then, in the New Testament, we find that Jesus is the only person capable of providing a remedy for the infection of sin. That’s where Love comes in.

The prophets and the apostles all talk about sin a lot, so we sometimes think that their message is primarily about the things you can’t do because they are outside of God’s plan for us. Paul often writes, for instance, in all-encompassing categories of activities that are contrary to God’s original plan (such as in I Cor. 6:9). These are categories of behavior drawn from the Old Testament laws that include all of us. Because we are sensitive to our own rebellion and failings, we may fail to recognize what Paul is really saying. Because we don’t like one categorization of sin that may apply to us, we toss out the whole passage and ignore the underlying thrust of what the passage was intended reveal. The funny thing is that, if we are honest, we would have to admit that if we were to exclude that one part of the passage we don’t like, we would STILL be covered and accused by other parts of the passage! In a simpler passage to the Romans Paul says it more clearly when he write that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  It’s as simple as that. All the prophets and all the apostles do the same when they speak of sin. Their words are meant to be a mirror that reflects who we are and what we’ve done, to show us that we are in need of something more than our own efforts to gain salvation. That’s where Jesus comes in. That’s where love comes in and takes hold of us. Jesus came as the fullness of love and died on the cross for our sins because of that love. Paul tells us that those who accept that sacrifice become “new creations “in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), and above all, that means we become creatures where the love of Christ is abundantly reproduced for others to see. That love, in turn, becomes the greatest testament or proof of our relationship with God. That’s what characterizes our lives and guides our activity. Let me share with you what Paul writes in I Corinthians 13:

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

This chapter of scripture is the truth that lies at the core of Paul’s entire theology and emerges from Jesus’ own teaching where he said (Matt 22:37) that the greatest commandment was to

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 It’s the same truth that other prophets and apostles also saw (Deut 6:5). There are certainly other theological issues we can speak about within the microcosm of Paul’s teachings, but this particular truth reveals what he understood to be the macrocosm out of which God’s plan and purpose originated. This was a plan and a purpose that is played out in Jesus’ substitutionary and atoning death on the cross. Without that love being displayed in Jesus, we are lost, and just as truly, if that love is not being displayed in our lives, we are just as lost. Why, because when a person becomes an authentic Christian, the love of Jesus is reproduced in his/her life. If it’s not there, it’s a good bet Jesus is not there. It’s a truth that the Bible makes clear, and a truth that is available to all who ask, to the gangbanger as much as to the athlete, the lawyer, or the doctor.

After thinking about all this, I believe that people misunderstand the purpose of the law and the commandments of God. We have all heard people say that God hates this and God hates that. In all honesty, I’m convinced that God does not like, appreciate, or condone certain behaviors. The word “hate” has been used to describe God’s lack of appreciation for behaviors that he is not pleased with. Those include anger, pride, selfishness, lying, theft, and a whole host of other activities that he has not sanctioned. All of us are more than covered by that list alone, to which many more “thou shalt nots” could be added. The point is, however, that God is larger than his lack of appreciation for what we have done wrong. In the end, God provided a force that outweighs hate and that force is love. That is why Paul can write in Romans 13:8-10:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

In the end, these lists and descriptions of sin, these rules and commandments, are not meant so much to harangue and castigate us about sin, but to reveal to us our true nature and to make us aware that our nature has led us far beyond the bounds of God’s intentions for our lives. Although the lists of commandments can seem stunningly harsh, I am convinced that the list of commandments and expectations found in the Bible are not intended to show that God hates us because it’s clear throughout the Bible that he loves us. That’s clear in both the Old and New Testaments. If there is anything that he hates it is the separation that sin brings to the relationship between him and us, and the Bible is all about restoring that relationship. That’s why 2 Peter 3:9 states that:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

The commandments of God are not meant to be so much a promulgation of hatred and punishment as it is an explanation of the rift between us, more of an invitation to safety and deliverance.  They are meant to serve more as an explanation of why the sacrificial death of Jesus was necessary. They are meant to show us just how short we fall in terms of meeting God’s demands on our lives, and are intended to lead us to the knowledge that it is humanly impossible to achieve the perfection needed to share in God’s abode. That list of commandments is meant to lead us to the answer and not to keep us from the answer.

 So, what has the mirror of God’s word showed you of sin in your life? Have all the things you’ve done wrong vexed you? Have your murders haunted you? Has your adultery gnawed at your conscience? Have your sexual relationships led to an unfulfilling lifestyle? Have you harbored malicious thoughts that, while never carried out, have influenced other behaviors? Have your thefts burdened you with guilt? Has your anger and hatred hindered your ability to form productive relationships? Have your misconceptions left you farther from God instead of nearer? Does life seem hopeless with everyone else holding the power cards? If so, I want you to recall that there was a thief on the cross next to Jesus when he died. He was hopeless, dying indignantly, reviled, penniless, and mocked. In a last act of desperation, the thief asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his Kingdom.  Jesus replied back saying, “I tell you now, that this very day you will be with me in paradise.” With those words, Jesus trumped all the bad things that the thief had ever done to other people, as well as all the bad things others had ever done to him. At the last minute, Jesus used his own passion to trump the expected outcome of the thief’s crucifixion and death. Instead of hopelessness and pain, we see in that moment the promise of hope and joy that only Jesus can bring. Love trumps all. And it’s the same for you.

When Jesus took our sin upon himself and died on the cross, he cornered the market on trump cards so that he could make a trump card available to you, and to me. His life and death, and his resurrection, showed just how willing he is to play the trump card on our behalf. This is a card each of us can call on. And even if we are in the deepest pit of hopelessness, like the thief on the cross, we can call for Jesus to play that trump card at any time. Satan thought that he had defeated Jesus by nailing him to the Cross, but all he did with that action was to assure us of the ability to play the trump card and win, even when we’re holding absolutely no chips.

So, the next time you go to- to-toe with Satan in the game of life, remember the trump card and who holds it. You don’t hold it in your hand, but you have access to the one who does. Remember that in this game Jesus ‘death changed the rules and introduced a new element to the game, the substitutionary player. Even when don’t possess the card yourself, you can call on Jesus. He’s your lifeline and when he takes your place in the game, he WILL play the trump card. Inexplicably and undeservedly, you win. Of course, while you’re playing your hand, Satan will try to overwhelm you with all his bluster and try to get you to throw it all in. He’ll try to get you to forget about who it is that holds the trump card. He seems to have a strong case.  At first, he’ll throw down the Ace of Spades and say, “You murdered someone, maybe more than one.” Then, he’ll throw down the Ace of Diamonds and say you’re an adulterer, you had sex with so many partners you could never clean yourself up.” Then he’ll throw down the Ace of Clubs and say, “You’ve led so many people astray that God could not possibly want to have a relationship with you. And for good measure, if you’re not feeling bad enough already, he’ll throw down the King of Spades and the King of Diamonds and say, “ You’re a drug dealer and got no education, man, you’re a loser, you got nothin’.” He’ll try to close the conversation with something like, “God hates you so just give up and throw it all in!” You sit back and think. In essence Satan is right. You’ve got very little and you deserve to have even the very little you possess to be taken away from you. You deserve to lose it all. But that’s when you remember that Jesus is standing there right behind you with that trump card. That’s when you can smile and let Jesus stand in for you. It’s when you, like the thief on the cross, let Jesus trump everything bad you’ve ever done, and then let him trumps everything bad others have done to you! So next time you pull out the scorecard and see all the demerits; when you start to think about how unsalvageable and irretrievable you are, that’s when you call on Jesus and ask him to get in the game for you. James says, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). In terms of what we’re talking about here, play that trump card and see Satan’s smirk turn to fear. Jesus will always play the trump card on your behalf, if you ask, and when he does, it’s game over. Love trumps all. You win. That’s when you get up and walk away from the table for good. That’s when you repent of all your “gambling” ways and allow Christ to call your game . From that point on, it doesn’t matter who has the chips, doesn’t matter who runs the game at the table, doesn’t matter what you’ve done or what’s been done to you. No more stacked games. Love trumps all, but only if you let it. The alternative is to give over control of your destiny to the one collects souls in this heavily rigged game of life. There’s hell to pay for betting on the wrong horse. My bets are on Jesus and the redemptive process where Love trumps all, so long as you play the trump card.

Two songs that speak to this issue:

What Love Really Means – J. J. Heller – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGUKWiw7Wk

Testify to Love – Avalon – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRqo3xwgRnk

Hey Gs-

I know from the many hits on the Crossfire/Gang Life Chicago site (and from all the searches) that a lot of Gs are looking at this site. I wish I could talk with all of you and personally share the message that I’m trying to get across in this blog site. That might be possible if you’re willing to give me an invitation to meet with you somewhere for coffee and a talk. I have God-given connections with a variety of sets, but its only a small percentage of the sets in Chicago. I want Crossfire, its message, and it’s resources to be available to all the sets in Chicago. It’s a tall order because there are so many Gs out there, so many sets. I’m letting you know that this ministry is not about sitting behind a desk and sending off blog notes to whoever may come across the site. It’s about people and being there for them. Its about being out on the streets where the Gs are. It’s about making a difference, one life at a time. Just wanted to let you know that I’m willing to talk if your willing to listen. Holler at me.

The Book says the Gsus Nation started when God raised Jesus from the dead, but did it REALLY happen? That’s the 64 gazillion dollar question Gs: Did Jesus rise from the Dead? If he did, what does this mean for all you gangbangers (and for the rest of us too)? Read more at:

http://www.y-jesus.com/body_count1.php?gclid=CO_s2M_T06YCFQTNKgod1G0AJA

Cravings

Ever drive by the local White Castle restaurant and see the sign reading “Crave Pack?” It refers, of course, to a pack of sliders that’s meant to satisfy your late night craving for a burger. A craving is, as you know, an insatiable desire for something that we don’t have; something that we just can’t get enough of, that we can’t get along without.

What are your cravings? I have them.  Gangbangers have them too. Gangbanger cravings, however, can be dangerous, if not lethal. Those include a craving for drugs, a craving for sex, a craving for blood, a craving for power, a craving for thrills, and a craving for respect.  We could add more. These are cravings that you will do anything to satisfy. They’re also called addictions.

Cravings and addictions don’t spring out of nowhere and just appear one day. They are rooted in our normal needs for things such as love, safety, respect and accomplishment.  God’s original plan was that he would meet our needs as part of a two-way relationship between him and us. That plan, unfortunately, is often thwarted by the individual’s rejection of God and his role in our lives life.  When that relationship is broken and our pride spins out of control, it actually encourages our basic needs to become addictive and controlling. Since we can’t meet those needs ourselves, and we don’t allow God to meet them, we look or a third party to meet those needs. Satan subtlety moves in with his alternatives and the perversion of normal need into an addictive behavior begins.

 So, acknowledging that we do have needs, how do we address the normal needs that are built into our lives without allowing those needs to become addictive and all-consuming?  God tells us that there is a higher craving that can free us from the desires and addictions of this life. Want to be free from the craving for drugs? Want to be free from the addiction to sex? Want to be free from the lust for power? Want to be free from the need for the things of this world? What if we have allowed ourselves to become addicted to thoughts, feelings, desires, and needs that we were never meant to be enslaved to? What if we develop cravings for things that will ultimately destroy us?  What do we do?

As we noted above, we all have built-in needs in our lives, but Satan works hard to turn those needs into addictions that control our lives. God admonishes us for letting these needs become addictions because he desires to provide for our legitimate needs in a healthy productive way. How does that work? Here’s a verse from the Bible that may get you thinking.  Matthew 6:33 reads:  

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 This is an interesting verse in many ways. In the first place, it’s a promise from God to meet the needs that we as people in this world may require in order to survive and prosper. I find it interesting, however, that the words “Seek first his kingdom” really don’t do  justice to the verse. They do not get at the real root of what Jesus is talking about. The Greek word that underlies the English word “seek” in this passage really means “crave,” so the verse in its original really means:

“Crave after his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

I think this understanding gives our relationship with God a whole new perspective.  And its not the only place in the Bible where this idea is found. In Psalm 63:1-3, for instance, King David wrote:

You, God, are my God,  earnestly I seek you;  I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you  as one who longs to quench his thirst in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”

Now that’s a craving! And it’s also an example for us. May our prayer be that, like King David, that we will crave after God. May our heart and mind be addicted to his love and purpose to the extent that I would be willing to do anything humanly possible to satisfy that craving for the one person who can give my soul peace, satisfaction, and rest from the addictions of this present life. So, the next time you see the White Castle “crave” sign, think of it as a reminder to keep craving after God!

No One Left Behind

The phrase “no one left behind” was popularized in the movie Blackhawk Down where US Army Rangers were called on to rescue brothers-in-arms left behind in Mogadishu, Somalia. The concept is pregnant with ideas of loyalty, brotherhood, and self-sacrifice. In essence, it says that the military will never leave anyone behind to face the indignities of capture, torture or abuse at the hands of enemy combatants.  It’s meant to provide confidence, hope, and maybe even valor on the part of those facing the dangers of battle on a daily basis. The original concept may well go back to the very first battles when those engaged in warfare were more than likely brothers and relatives. It would have been unthinkable to leave behind a family member, whether dead or alive, to suffer the indignities that captivity would bring. As the movie Band of Brothers shows, the concept of family and brotherhood remain an important part of the military relationship up to the present time.

The Bible often describes believers as soldiers or men in a battle. We’re inspired to “put on the whole armor of God” and to” fight the good fight.” Then there is the old-time Christian anthem “Onward Christian Soldiers,” a hymn that has inspired Christian service and devotion for decades. The struggle to live an overcoming Christian life is described as being at war. Believers are said to be battling not only for their own souls, but for the souls of men everywhere. While some could debate the political correctness, appropriateness, or even the utility of using a military theme to describe of the Christian lifestyle, most Christians would not debate the fact that we are clearly and certainly opposed in our ministry to a battered world by Satan, the enemy of our souls. The use of these images work because they make us understand the daily struggles we face and that living a successful Christian life, like that of a victorious soldier, boils down to being prepared for struggle, being in shape, having a thorough training, having a well-conceived battle plan, and being confident in our leadership. Despite the hesitancy some of us have to look on ourselves as soldiers and warriors, there may not be more appropriate imagery for a Christian than that of a soldier prepared to go into battle because, like it or not, a war for our souls is one certainty all believers have to face.

The use of the military metaphor to invoke images of the Christian lifestyle is particularly productive on various levels, but I want to discuss the concept of “no one left behind” in terms of the Hood and those of you Gs who have become Christians or followers of Jesus.  As a gang member, you had a particular “Band of Brothers” to which you belonged, a group of friends that you said were like brothers. When you became a follower of Jesus, you were rescued from the gang life and set on a new course. Does that new course, however, necessitate a removal of yourself from the scene or an abandonment of those men you saw as brothers? Not at all. When you become a believer, it was not so you could take up residence in a nice church building, admire the stained-glass, and enjoy weekly buffets of food in the church basement. You were saved so that your skills, your knowledge, and your talents could be unleashed to rescue other Gs from the bonds of Satan. You were saved to go back into the Hood and rescue your brother Gs who remain in captivity to Satan. You were saved so that none of your friends and relatives would be left behind to suffer the indignities, cruelties, and eventual judgement of Satan. Now, with your eyes opened,  look around the Hood and see the toll of the gangster lifestyle in the Hood, things like the insanity of drug addiction, the indignation of sexual perversion, and the widespread abuse of power. The torture and abuse of those you know and love is well under way. The question is, how much of this are you willing to endure? What will it take to make you go back into the Hood with a purpose? What will it take to inspire you to action so that “no one will be left behind” in your Hood, that those who matter to God will be rescued and allowed to share in the promise of a full and abundant life. Think of your friends and relatives still held in the Hood. Wouldn’t you want them to be rescued? Think of yourself. If that was you still stuck in the Hood, wouldn’t you want someone to come back and rescue you? Think about it, and then do something. The captives are waiting to be freed.

* * * * *

For a musical presentation of this same theme, listen to this rap: Urban Missionary by Thi’sl:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F3S3rsUhKk&feature=related