Thursday, September 28, 2006

Spiritual Traffic Stops

For the patrol officer, there is no such thing as a “routine” traffic stop. Seasoned officers know that their next traffic stop could be their last. An officer rarely, if ever, knows who is behind the wheel of the car he or she just stopped. The person might be driving an unreported stolen car. The person might have just committed a murder and the dead body is in the trunk. The person might be heavily armed having just committed a robbery, or maybe they are transporting a large quantity of illegal drugs. Maybe the person is a fugitive from justice. They know if they are caught they are going back to prison for a long time. So, they might as well kill an officer and return to prison with a reputation. Or, maybe the person behind the wheel is suicidal, but they don’t have the courage to take their own life. So, they force an officer into a position in which he or she serves as suicide’s deadly instrument. There is no such thing as a “routine” traffic stop.

While I hope I have changed your perspective about one of the most dangerous aspects of law enforcement, the purpose of this article is to use the law enforcement traffic stop as an analogy for why the Law of God should be shared with the unsaved before speaking to them about God’s judgment. God’s judgment should likewise be shared with the unsaved before speaking of God’s grace, love, and mercy.

Place yourself in the following scenario. You are driving through town when you come to a relatively quiet intersection. You don’t see any other cars around, you are in a hurry, and so you make what is popularly known as a “California Stop.” In other words, you slowly roll through the stop sign, never bringing your car to a complete stop. You think nothing of it. You’ve done it hundreds of times before, at this intersection and others. You don’t see it as a big deal because, after all, everyone does it.

Moments later, your heart skips a beat and you gasp when you hear the blare of a siren and look in your rearview mirror to see the flashing red and blue lights of a patrol car. You are being pulled over. “Oh, no!” You think. “What did I do wrong?”

You sit motionless behind the wheel, listening to the rapid beating of your heart, waiting for the ominous, uniformed figure to approach your car. The officer leans down and forward as he or she peers into your driver’s door window. The officer hands you a pen and his ticket book, and barks the following. “Sign here! You’re guilty! The fine is $200! See you in court!”

How would you respond? Would you be angry? Confused? Insulted? Would you sign the ticket without at least asking why you were being cited? You might even consider filing a complaint against the officer because you found his behavior to be rude and unprofessional.

Such is the likely response by the unsaved person to the so-called “fire and brimstone” evangelist. Such is the likely response to the person who stands on a street corner and insults passers-by, who points their finger at people, calling them liars, thieves, fornicators, adulterers, and sinners, who tells people that God has judged them and that they are going to hell. Granted, everything the “fire and brimstone” evangelist says might very well be true. The problem, however, is the manner in which the message is communicated (I Timothy 1:8). A message about God’s judgment sounds foolish, even insulting, to the unsaved person, if the message is not preceded by a clear presentation of God’s Law and the consequences for violating it.

Let’s return to the traffic stop. This time, however, when the officer approaches your car, he or she says this. “Hello, sir (or ma’am). I pulled you over because you did not come to a complete stop at the stop sign. There was a very serious accident at that intersection yesterday. A child was struck and critically injured when a motorist failed to stop at the stop sign. Because you violated the law, I’m going to issue you a citation. Please sign here. Your court date is at the bottom of the ticket.”

Does the ticket seem more reasonable now? Keep in mind that I didn’t ask if you liked getting the ticket or if you felt better about the second officer. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you feel about the ticket or the officer. The question is whether or not the ticket seems more reasonable now that your violation of the law has been explained to you. It should. Now that you understand why you were stopped and what you did to violate the law, accountability and punishment should not only seem reasonable—it should be expected.

As Christians (as seed sowers), it is vitally important that we expose the sin of the unsaved by holding in front of them the mirror of God’s Law. And we must do so before we confront the unsaved with the reality that they will one-day stand before the Lawgiver and Judge (James 4:12) of the universe, when they will be judged (Hebrews 9:27) in perfect righteousness, for every violation of God’s holy Law. Once an unsaved person honestly sees himself or herself for who they really are, in light of God’s Law (Romans 3:19-20), the idea, the truth of God’s wrath and judgment will make sense—whether or not the unsaved person likes it.

So what about grace? As my law enforcement brethren who read this will likely attest, more people talk themselves into tickets than talk their way out of tickets. Patrol officers have a certain amount of discretion when it comes to enforcing the law—especially when it comes to traffic violations. Such discretion is often referred to as the “spirit of the law” and the “letter of the law.”

When I worked patrol, my rule of thumb when it came to ticket writing was simple. If a person wanted to argue with me about a violation, or if they had a bad attitude, the person always received a ticket (the letter of the law). I would cut the conversation short, have the person sign the citation, give them their copy, and told them to take their chances with the judge. No one ever argued his or her way out of a ticket. Why? The reason was that there was no contrition on the part of the violator. There was no humility and no remorse. The likelihood was that the person would continue to thumb their nose at the law and continue to violate it with impunity. I saw no reason to extend grace (the spirit of the law) to such people—motorists who would not appreciate grace and would likely take advantage of it in the future.

The same principle should apply in evangelism. When we present the Law of God and the consequences for violating it to an unsaved person, and there is no contrition, humility, remorse, or an appropriate level of fear of God’s righteous wrath and judgment, then we should not talk to them about God’s amazing grace. We should not cast the pearl of Jesus Christ’s redemptive and atoning work on the cross, before people who do not and cannot appreciate it. We should not share the gospel of God’s amazing grace with people who are not humbled by the truth that they have sinned against almighty God and that judgment and hell await them (Hebrews 10:26-31). Why? There are two reasons.

First, a message of grace and forgiveness of sin is foolishness (I Corinthians 1:18) to the unsaved person who either finds such grace and forgiveness to be unnecessary, or who finds such grace and forgiveness to be something they deserve. Grace is only amazing to the unsaved sinner who, by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, recognizes grace for what it truly is—unmerited, undeserved, unearned favor. A right understanding of God’s Law and judgment (again, by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit) is the only means by which God’s grace—as well as His mercy, love, and forgiveness—can be rightly understood.

Second, there is a terrible risk involved with presenting God’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness before or without first helping an unsaved person come to terms with how God truly sees them—as a sinner who has broken God’s Law and is worthy of His judgment and eternal punishment. The risk is producing false converts—people who think they are saved when they are not. Just like the person who is left to think they are above the law or worthy of an exemption from the law when they get out of a ticket, so to is the person who is offered and accepts a message of grace and forgiveness without first being humbled at the foot of the cross, recognizing they are a lawbreaker who deserves nothing more than God’s swift, terrifying, and eternal judgment. Neither the person who gets out of a ticket, nor the person who is offered a worthless “get out of hell free” card, are brought to repentance—a turning away from sin and an authentic changing of one’s mind. The motorist will continue to roll through stop signs, and the unsaved person who accepted Jesus will continue to sin without fear of consequence and with out genuine concern about offending their heavenly Father.

So the next time you are conducting a spiritual traffic stop, the next time you have the opportunity to witness to an unsaved person (which should be today), make sure you explain the reason for the stop. Help the person to understand how they have violated God’s Law. Then, make sure they understand the consequences for violating God’s Law—which, unless they repent of their sin and put their trust in Christ alone for their salvation, is eternity in hell. Finally, and only if the Law and the reality of God’s judgment has humbled the person, offer them the message of God’s amazing grace, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only message that has the power to save their life (Romans 1:16).
Who will you stop today?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Letting Theology Dictate Methodology

William C. Nichols has carefully and concisely collected and edited some of the great evangelistic sermons of Jonathan Edwards, in a book titled, “Seeking God: Jonathan Edwards’ Evangelism Contrasted with Modern Methodologies.” Prior to the text of each sermon, Nichols gives a brief synopsis of the sermon, along with observations that contrast the preaching of Edwards with modern-day evangelism strategies. Nichols wrote the following in his introduction to the book:

“What should dictate how we do evangelism? Should tradition or the Word of God be our guide? Should we do things the way they always have been done in our lifetime, because it seems to produce outward results? Shouldn’t our theology dictate our evangelistic methodology? Yes, it should, but does it? If you really believe in total depravity, that man is dead in trespasses and sins, then why do you do evangelism that is dependent upon the one who is dead raising himself from the dead? If you really believe in divine election, then why do you do evangelism which elevates the free will of man above the will of the sovereign God? If you really believe in sovereign grace, then why do you teach that God is under obligation to save every vile rebel who prays the sinner’s prayer or asks Jesus into their heart? Is tradition the most influential factor in the way you do evangelism, or the Word of God?”

Evangelism methods that can be found in Scripture include the proclamation of the Law and the gospel through one-to-one conversations and open-air preaching. While these may not be the only evangelism methods that can be drawn from the pages of Scripture, they are certainly the predominant methods, with the greatest scriptural support.[i]

On Friday evening, 09-01-06, I joined a group of about twenty-five other like-minded Christians to engage strangers in one-to-one evangelism conversations, and to gather crowds of unsaved people to hear the preaching of the Law and the gospel, in the public square—thus doing what we could to make sure that our methodology was supported by our theology.

We spent the evening at the Burbank (CA) Town Center. More than two hundred people, in two sessions, heard the preaching of the Law and the gospel. Many other unsaved people would find themselves talking to Christians in one-to-one conversations about how they have violated the Law of God and were worthy of His righteous judgment, and about salvation from the wrath of God to come through repentance and genuine faith in Jesus Christ. Still other conversations took place with professing Christians who never heard the combination of the Law and the gospel preached before, or who never heard it preached in the open air of the public square.

The hecklers were few that night, but they were interesting, to say the least. During the first session a lady announced that she was from New York City and believed that Burbank was heaven. She went on to insist that she was a christ because the love of God was in her. I explained to the lady that she was not the Christ. When she tried to argue the point, I explained to her that when Jesus Christ returns He will be surrounded by His glory (Luke 9:26; see also I Thessalonians 4:16-18). I looked at her and said, “I do not see any glory around you!” She eventually walked away in disgust saying that she was going to get some ice cream.

The crowd was even larger for the second session. The “christ” lady was nothing by way of distraction compared to the emotionally disturbed (and possibly demon-possessed) woman who quickly made her presence known during the second session. As soon as I chose someone (not her) to take the “Good Person Test,” she jumped in front of me and shoved a crucifix in my face. “See! I’m good! I have this!” Every muscle in her body tensed and her eyes opened wide.

For the next ten minutes she continually ran back and forth in front of me, yelling, often incoherently. When I could understand her, she was yelling things such as, “I love God. I love you.” She bounced back and forth in front of me. She would lunge toward me and then crouch low like a wild animal ready to pounce. At one point, she through her arms around my waist. (I was standing elevated slightly above her on a box.) I grabbed her arms, broke free from her grasp, and pushed her away. I pushed her hard enough to move her, but I was careful not to push her in such a way as to cause her to fall to the ground.

I could tell that the woman was distracting the crowd, many of whom were stunned by what they were seeing. I watched the eyes of the people in the crowd as they tracked the movements of the woman. I was losing them. So, I yelled louder and explained to the crowd that there was a spiritual reason why the woman was being such a distraction. There were spiritual forces at work that didn’t want them to hear what I was saying. I pleaded with the people to ignore the woman and pay attention to what I was saying. Their lives could depend on it. They listened.

When I stepped off my stool many in the crowd moved closer. What ensued were several great conversations with people who were sensing various levels of conviction and concern for their eternal well being. The entire team was actively engaged in these important conversations. The distracting woman continued to try to interrupt. At one point, I had to ask Jeff, one of our team members, to keep the woman away from me, which he quickly and gently did.

One conversation in particular was very special—a conversation I had with a young couple by the names of Colin and Brianna. Brianna left the conversation unsure if she had ever truly repented, while Colin walked away still unrepentant, but concerned and in deep thought about his eternal destiny. Both were appreciative of the conversation, and I was blessed and thanking God for the opportunity.

It looks like we will be returning to the Burbank Town Center as many Friday nights as the Lord permits. I was told by other teammates that people were asking, with anticipation, if we would return next week. As I preached to the crowds, my heart went out to them. Certainly there were those present who were simply curious and found the preaching humorous—even weird. Some were there to see what the “crazy lady” was going to do next. But there were others in the crowd who had looks of deep concern in their eyes. I could tell that they were hearing the preaching of the Law and the gospel and that the Lord and His Holy Spirit were at work.

Pray with me that those who heard the preaching of the Law and the gospel would be brought low under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Pray with me that even now, several days later, that people are wrestling with their conscience. Pray that the Lord, as part of His sovereign will, would draw many of the unsaved that were there that night to genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation. And may He, and He alone, receive all honor, praise, and glory due His name.

[i] See passages such as: John 3:1-21; 4:7-38; Acts 3-5; Acts 6:8-7:60; 8:25-40; 10:34-48; 16:13-15; 16:22-34; Acts 17:10-12; 17:22-34; Acts 22; Acts 24-26.

(C) 2006

The Sting of Death

I opened the door this morning to head out for my morning walk. The pre-dawn sky was still filled with stars. As I stepped out the door, I picked up the morning paper to put it inside the house. I was stunned by one of the headlines. “Crocodile Hunter Killed by Stingray.”

Steve Irwin, known worldwide as the “Crocodile Hunter,” has entertained people for years through his Animal Planet television shows. Each week Irwin would wrestle crocs, tangle with venomous snakes, and educate his television audience about exotic animals. He was enthusiastic, passionate, and seemingly fearless.

I spent part of the day working on this article, in one of the local Starbucks. At the table next to me sat a couple and they were talking about the tragic death of Steve Irwin. As I eavesdropped on the conversation, I could hear the couple saying things similar to what was said in my own home this morning. “Wow. The kids have grown up watching Steve Irwin.” I can remember a time when my three daughters were much younger, when we saw Irwin on television for the first time. The program was about the life of an Australian dingo (a wild dog). In our home, Irwin was affectionately known as “The Dingo Man.”

Irwin leaves behind his wife and sidekick, Terri, and two children, Bindi Sue (8, and named after one of Irwin’s favorite crocodiles and his dog) and Bob (2). In 2004, Irwin received worldwide criticism for taking infant Bob into a crocodile enclosure while he fed the man-eater whole, dead chickens, during a show at Australia Zoo.

Irwin was filming a new show in the Great Barrier Reef, about the world’s deadliest sea creatures, at the time of his death. According to published reports, Irwin was swimming in shallow water when he swam overtop a stingray. He must have startled the animal, which reacted by thrashing its tail. The barb at the end of the stingray’s tail, which can reach up to a foot in length and contains gelatinous poison, is capable of penetrating a quarter-inch of plywood. The stingray’s barb pierced Irwin’s heart. Experts say that the injury was like being stabbed in the heart with a box cutter or a dirty dagger. Apparently, there have been only seventeen recorded deaths by stingrays.

As I walked around my neighborhood this morning, I prayed for the Irwin family. I also prayed for the likely millions of people familiar with Irwin who might be contemplating the manner and suddenness of his death and, in turn, might be thinking about their own mortality. I prayed that the Lord would use the tragic death of this contemporary icon to draw unsaved sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout the morning, the following passage of Scripture was on my heart and mind.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ I Corinthians 15:55-57

Sin is the “dirty dagger” that has pierced the heart of every person—man, woman, and child—since the fall of man, in the Garden of Eden. Just as the venom from the bite or sting of a poisonous animal travels through a persons bloodstream destroying healthy cells and tissue, sin, having penetrated every person’s heart, has infected every aspect of a person’s life—his or her thoughts, emotions, motives, and actions. And just as venom, if not arrested and counteracted, will kill the person infected, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). The inevitable end of a life infected by sin—if that life is not saved by stopping and reversing sin’s deadly course through the gift of repentance, and by the direct and miraculous intervention of God’s saving grace through the atoning and redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross—is not only physical death, but also eternal death in hell.

Steve Irwin entered the water this morning to do what he has done thousands of times: interact with the animal world around him. He knew that his chosen profession and passion was dangerous, but he likely entered the gorgeous and majestic reef not thinking that he would soon stand before a holy and righteous Judge—God, the maker of heaven and earth, and his Creator.

I do not presume to know where Irwin has now begun to spend the rest of his eternal existence—heaven or hell. I did not know the man, and I did not know his heart. “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy (James 4:12a), and I’m not Him. However, I can say with absolute certainty (because this is what the Bible teaches) that if Steve Irwin had never repented of his sin and put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation, then the heart-piercing strike of a scared stingray is nothing compared to the eternal sting, pain, and misery he is now experiencing in hell. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides in him” (John 3:36). And Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

If Irwin had never repented of his sin and put his faith and his trust in Jesus Christ, then he is like the rich man in the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus. “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame’” (Luke 16:23-24). As I think about Irwin’s death, knowing I cannot pray a dead man into heaven, my hope is that the rich man’s eternal punishment and existence is not Irwin’s.

The good news is that if you are reading this, your time has not yet come. Your day of judgment has not yet come. “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The God who gave you life has granted you yet one more day (a gift you do not deserve) to turn from your sin and put your faith and your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation.

“The power of sin is the law.” God has given you a conscience, so you know that you have broken His Law, His Commandments. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen anything, no matter how insignificant the item may be to you? Have you ever taken God’s name in vain, using the name of the God who has given you life to curse or express disgust? “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Have you ever hated another person? “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in Him” (I John 3:15). Have you ever looked at another person to lust after them? Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Then, if the above is true of you, by your own admission you are a lying, thieving, blasphemous, murderous, adulterer at heart. Maybe you’re thinking that you may have broken one or two of God’s laws, but you’re not guilty of breaking all of them. Maybe you think that if there are people in the world who are “worse sinners” than you, God will let you off the hook. Not so fast. The Bible says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). You have violated God’s Law and are therefore deserving of His final judgment—a sentence of eternal punishment.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57). Your only hope is Jesus Christ. “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21). Jesus Christ, fully man and fully God, died on the cross to pay the full penalty for your sins.

Read the following very carefully. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6-10).

Not only did Jesus Christ die on the cross for your sins, He rose again. And He is alive today! “To these [Jesus] also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

You will only avoid the wrath to come if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. There is no other way. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

You will only avoid the wrath to come if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. There is no other way. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

Repent. Turn away from your sins. “Therefore repent and return so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

You cannot and will not earn or deserve heaven. “For by grace you have been saved, by faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Believe with your heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Submit to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior so “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

If after reading this you’ve come to realize your need for salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ alone; if you do not want to spend eternity in hell, separated from God; then submit to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Pray—asking Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior. Acknowledge your need for His forgiveness. Tell Him that, with His help, you want to turn from pursuing sin in your life to living a life that is pleasing to Him. And thank Him for the salvation that only He can provide. Through faith in Jesus Christ alone, you will avoid the sting of eternal death and instead live the promise of the free gift of eternal life, which only Jesus Christ can give.

Then find a solid, Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church. Spend time in fellowship with other followers of Christ who will help you grow in your newfound faith in Him. Read the Bible every day and obey what it says. Spend time with the Lord in prayer, every day. And tell others about who Jesus Christ is and how He saved you from the just punishment for your sins.

If you need help finding a good church in your area, we would love to help you. If you do not have a Bible, or cannot afford one, we would like to give you one.

© 2006

Friday, September 01, 2006

Drunk Driving -- An Analogy Driving Home the Importance of Truth Over Belief

During my career as a deputy sheriff, I arrested hundreds of people for drunk driving. More often than not the people I stopped, after watching them weave all over the road, insisted that they did not have too much to drink. They believed they were okay to drive.

After having them perform a series of field sobriety tests, it was not uncommon for the impaired driver to say that they believed they passed the tests. (It never ceased to amaze me when drunk drivers thought they were a better judge of their performance than a sober deputy sheriff.)

After placing the drunk driver under arrest, I transported them to the station to administer a breath test. When I showed the person the results of their test, they believed the sophisticated and painstakingly calibrated piece of equipment was broken.

When it was time to go to trial, the person believed they would win their case by trying to poke holes in the arrest report.

Ultimately, it didn't matter what the drunk driver believed. What mattered was the truth--the truth that they had too much to drink and got behind the wheel of a 3,000 pound deadly weapon; the truth that they were too intoxicated to perform simple tests of coordination; the truth that chemical tests proved their blood alcohol level was above the legal limit; the truth that the written report that documented their crime was accurate.

Regardless of what the drunk driver believed about their innocence, it didn't change the fact that they were guilty of breaking the law. Likewise, it doesn't matter what the unsaved sinner believes about their innocence before God. What matters is the truth about their spiritual condition. What matters is the truth that they have broken God's Law and will one-day, maybe sooner than later, face God on the Day of Judgment. The unsaved sinner's beliefs, no matter how strongly held or asserted, will never change or supercede the truth.

One of the saddest and most frustrating aspects of working patrol was when I had to respond to a fatal traffic collision, late at night, involving a drunk driver. And I had to handle several during my career. Each tragedy could have been avoided if the drunk had submitted to the truth that they were too drunk to drive, instead of operating under the false belief that they were okay to get behind the wheel. I admit that there were times when I said to myself, "If only I had seen him (or her) on the road before they crashed."

Every time I arrested a drunk driver I was, in a sense, stopping and confronting a person about the truth of their physical condition, before their false belief about their sobriety caused their death or the death of someone else.

As born again followers of Jesus Christ, we must be like the police officer patrolling the streets hoping to take drunk drivers off the road, before it's too late. We must confront lost sinners with the truth of their fallen spiritual condition, before they die in their false beliefs. We must warn them of the wrath and judgment to come if they continue living life according to their false beliefs. We must patrol the streets, always on the lookout for people who need to be confronted with the Law of God and presented with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must patrol the streets as if lives depend on it--because lives depend on it.

(C) 2006