Wednesday, September 26, 2007

And That's What I See in You

The following is the text of a message I brought during an Officer Appreciation Luncheon, in Canon City, during my recent mission trip to Colorado Springs. About 20 members of the law enforcement family, from the Canon City Police Department and the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, attended the luncheon.

The luncheon was hosted by Living Stone Calvary Chapel.

Pray for Chaplain Dustin Whitson, who, in addition to serving as the assistant pastor at Living Stone Calvary Chapel, is also the chaplain for the Canon City Police Department. Chaplain Dustin was responsible for putting the luncheon together, which afforded me the opportunity to present the Law and the Gospel to members of the law enforcement family.

Thank you Chaplain Dustin, Pastor Sean, and the entire Living Stone family for reaching out to your law enforcement community, with the love of Jesus Christ.


Much of what I’m going to say to you, my brothers and sisters behind the badge, are things you already know, somewhere in your heart. But sometimes it can be encouraging to hear it. So, what I would like to do is share with you a few things I see in you, my brothers and sisters behind the badge.

Believe it or not, the Bible contains story after story about people made of the same mettle, the same grit and determination, that’s in the man or the woman that chooses a career of service as a member of the law enforcement family. I would like to take just a few minutes of your time to share a few of these stories, which serve as examples of what I see in you.

In the Book of Genesis there’s the story of Abram. The story recounts the time when a group of kings combined their forces and made war against weaker nations, weaker communities. Abram’s nephew, Lot, was kidnapped as a result of the attack. A person managed to escape the carnage and bring word to Abram about what was happening. Abram responded by gathering 318 men, pursuing the gang of thugs when others were likely running away. Abram rescued Lot, and recovering all of the stolen property. Abram and his men were outnumbered and outgunned (so to speak). But that didn’t matter. Abram received a call for help. He answered the call, and handled the call to completion—protecting life and property.

There’s a verse in the Book of Proverbs, a verse that others have shared with me when I needed some encouragement and a reminder that what I did as a deputy sheriff was important. It says this. “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29). That’s what was seen in Abram’s life.

Although he was not a perfect man, Abram was a man of faith and courage, with a sacrificial heart. He was a man who was skilled in his work, skilled in his service to others. I see that same kind of courage, skill, and selflessness in you, my brothers and sisters behind the badge.

Then there’s the story of Caleb and Joshua. These two men, among a group of twelve, were sent by Moses to do some recon to make sure the land they were about to enter was safe for the nation of Israel to inhabit.

Ten of the twelve came back with their faces in their hands having seen only difficulty and danger, impossibility and fear—each of them unwilling to take even reasonable risks to accomplish the mission. They had no faith. They were not men of courage.

Caleb and Joshua saw things differently. After the ten gave their initial report, Caleb told the people to stop their whining and sniveling. Then he turned to Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of [the land], for we will surely overcome it” (Numbers 13:30b).

Like the good street cop on a burglary in progress or a barricaded suspect call, Caleb and Joshua did the recon, had an ops plan in mind, weighed the risk, and saw only victory as the outcome. They weren’t about to back down. Fear did not keep them from advising Moses to do the right thing.

“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” That’s what was seen in the lives of Caleb and Joshua. And that’s what I see in you.

Many of you are probably familiar with the story of Daniel, in the Bible. Daniel was a man promoted to a high position in the government of King Darius—not because of whom he knew or whom he stepped on along the way, but because he was loyal, trustworthy, wise, and skilled in everything he did. Like the vast majority of us who wear the badge, Daniel was not concerned about the political correctness of the day. All that mattered to Daniel was doing the right thing regardless of the consequences, being a man of integrity, and serving his God without hypocrisy.

Those of us who have been on the job for any length of time may have experienced, in a figurative sense, being thrown into the lion’s den for sticking to our guns and doing what we believed to be the right thing—thrown into the lion’s den whether by way of citizen complaint, media scrutiny, or the ever-popular lawsuit.

Daniel experienced the lion’s den in a very literal way. Yet he didn’t waiver, he didn’t falter. He didn’t cave in to the pressure. He didn’t compromise. He stood his ground and kept the faith, all the while knowing that the consequences for his decision could be uncomfortable, to say the least.

“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” That’s what was seen in Daniel’s life. And that’s what I see in you.

Much of what Christians would refer to as the New Testament chronicles the life and the writings of the Apostle Paul. Paul is hands-down the greatest preacher and missionary Christianity has ever seen. Paul was a man whose life was marked by many great character traits, many of the same traits I see in my brothers and sisters behind the badge.

But Paul never let it go to his head. Like the tens of thousands of cops around the country that do heroic things everyday yet refuse to call themselves heroes, Paul never lost sight of the fact that he was simply a man—simply a person made of flesh and blood that was more than capable of making mistakes, just like you and me.

Another way Paul reminds me of the members of the law enforcement family is in his perseverance. You don’t need me to tell you that what we do as law enforcement professionals requires a great deal of perseverance.

The career each of us has chosen requires perseverance as we take on the responsibility of handling and solving the problems of other people—people that either can’t or won’t help themselves—while we set aside our personal concerns and needs, for the time being, so we can get the job done.

The career each of us has chosen requires perseverance as we experience, up close, the very worst man can do to his fellow man, while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy in our own lives, all the while fighting off the very real tendency to become bitter or indifferent.

The career each of us has chosen requires perseverance as we set aside our own fears, going into places and facing circumstances most of the public would never even fathom facing themselves. That’s why they call us. It’s the kind of perseverance that enables us to walk down a dark alley, or approach a blind corner, or make our way—“Code-3”—toward gunfire, brawls, smoke, or screams realizing that most people would see what we’re about to do as unreasonable—even foolhardy; but we see it as a call to duty, a call to honor, and maybe even a call to sacrifice.

Paul was called by God to fulfill His mission. And God gave Paul the necessary perseverance to get the job done. Paul humbly described his own perseverance in one of his letters. Paul writes that he was wrongly imprisoned several times, “beaten times without number, often in danger of death.” Five times he received thirty-nine lashes, beaten with rods on three occasions, and once he was pelted with stones. He was shipwrecked three times, spending an entire night and day drifting in the open water.

Paul also said, “I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brothers; I have been in labor and hardship, through sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches” (II Cor. 11:26-28).

Paul was a man whose life was marked by incredible perseverance.

“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” That’s what was seen in Paul’s life. And that’s what I see in you.

Paul, Daniel, Caleb, Joshua, and Abram were all men skilled in their work. But they also had something else in common. They were people of faith—people who, regardless of the circumstances, put their faith, hope, and trust in God. They realized that no matter what the world threw at them, the Lord would see them through, if they would only place their trust in Him. They believed in their heart that God would never leave them or forsake them. They believed they could do all things through Him who gave them strength.

Each of them believed the truth contained in Paul’s words when he wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (I Cor. 10:13).

There is one more Person I would like to mention as I reflect on what I see in you, my brothers and sisters behind the badge. And that is Jesus Christ. Over the centuries, Jesus has been described in many ways—some accurate, and some not. One word used to describe Jesus is “meekness.” Now when we think of meekness we often think of it in terms of weakness.

If asked what kind of person we would want to roll to assist us if we needed help, meek would probably not be the first descriptive term to come to mind. That’s because the world’s definition of meekness is inaccurate. The true definition of meekness is “power under control.”

And who in our society is called, everyday, to exert more power while exercising more control than us—the law enforcement community? Something that separates us from the criminal element of our society, with whom we do battle everyday, is our ability to exert power under control.

Every day we hit the streets carrying with us the authority to take away someone’s freedom or preserve it, to take away someone’s life or preserve it. Everyday we are faced with temptations, from a variety of sources—temptations of the type that if we fall prey to them can cause us to exert the power and authority given to us in the wrong way.

We have been entrusted with a great deal of power and authority. And along with that power and authority comes a great deal of responsibility. It’s the ability to exercise “power under control” that, in part, makes the law enforcement community so special, and so very worthy of our nation’s and our communities’ respect.

As a Christian, I believe there is no greater example of “power under control” than Jesus Christ. The night in which Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas, along with a contingent of 600 Roman soldiers, servants, and civilians came to the garden to arrest Him. Peter—the apostle who often acted first and thought about it later (a supervisor’s nightmare)—drew his sword from his belt and cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave.

Jesus’ response was amazing. Instead of calling for a full-on assault, Jesus simply told Peter to put away his sword. Jesus reminded Peter that He was more than able to call twelve legions of angels, some 72,000 angelic warriors for back-up—calling them down from heaven to handle the situation. But that would not have been in keeping with His heavenly Father’s will. Jesus knew that He must sacrifice His very life on the cross to fulfill His mission—to handle His call to completion. So, in the greatest demonstration of love, compassion, and sacrifice we see the perfect example of “power under control.”

Jesus once said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). More than 120 members of the law enforcement family from around this nation have made the ultimate sacrifice so far this year. Many others have endured tremendous physical and emotional pain and suffering because they were willing to give their all to protect a fellow officer or maybe someone they had never met before their critical moment in time. These brave men and women, our brothers and sisters, serve as the earthly embodiment of what Christ modeled for us all —“power under control.”

“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” Jesus Christ was the perfect fulfillment of this verse, all the while maintaining perfect meekness. He perfectly exercised power under control. While such perfection none of us can attain, we have no better role model for this character trait than Jesus Christ. During twenty years of law enforcement service, I have seen brothers and sister like you exercise remarkable power under control.

Part of my encouragement to you today is this. Never forget that what we do as law enforcement professionals is important. As men and women skilled in our work, we are important to the safety and well-being of every member of our society—whether it is the person living in poverty, or the President of the United. And it is an honor to serve alongside you people like you.

While I hope what I’ve shared thus far has been an encouragement to all of you—especially my law enforcement brethren, there is something of vital importance I must say to all of you.

Let me begin by sharing the following analogy.

You and I are working as patrol partners. You’re the driver and I’m the book-man. We see a car and decide to stop the car. I know the car. And I know the driver of the car. I’ve arrested him before. I know that he is often armed.

I quickly get out of the car to provide cover as you make your approach to contact the driver. I let you make the approach without telling you what I know about the driver. I let you walk into a dangerous situation without warning you about the danger.

Are you getting angry? I’m getting angry just thinking about it. Would you think I was a good partner if I allowed you to approach the vehicle without warning you about the danger? Of course you wouldn’t! In fact, not only would I have no business being your partner, but I would have no business working the streets as a patrol officer.

A good partner would warn you about the danger and would tell you what you should do to avoid getting hurt. We would conduct a felony traffic stop and do everything we could to safely remove the driver from the vehicle.

I know that what I’m about to say may offend some of you. But I care too much about each of you to be concerned about how you feel about me when I finish speaking and return to my seat. Like a good partner who would warn you about a danger you might not perceive, because I love you and care about you, I must tell you this.

Those of us who wear the badge know that every 57 hours one of our brethren is killed in the line of duty. We likewise know that every 10 minutes one of our brothers or sisters behind the badge is assaulted somewhere in this country. Those of us who don the badge know what the rest of society struggles to comprehend. There is no such thing as a routine call. We know that on any given call, on any given vehicle stop, on any given contact with a suspicious person on the street or in a park could be our last.

We know these things are true, but we don’t like to talk about them. Why? The reason is that we cannot worry about such things and safely do the job, at the same time. We cannot approach a person, a building, or a vehicle and hesitate because we are preoccupied with what might happen. We know that hesitation could be deadly.

But because I love you and I care about you, I must ask you this. Are you ready for the next call, the next building search, or the next vehicle stop? I’m not talking about being physically or mentally ready. I hope you are ready in that way. I’m talking about being spiritually ready.

There is one statistic that no one in this room can avoid. 10 out of 10 people die. No one knows that better than the members of the first responder community—police, fire, EMS, and emergency room personnel. While my hope is that no one in this room will face death, the reality is that every person in this room (myself included) will face it one-day. Are you ready?

The conversation I am having with all of you, right now, is a conversation I have had with thousands of people around the country—people with whom I’ve shared a patrol car, people who have found themselves in the backseat of my patrol car, and people who will likely never sit in the front or the back seat of a patrol car.

Many people with whom I speak of such things often assert that they will go to heaven because they are a good person. They believe God will judge them according to a standard they have established for themselves. Many of my brothers and sisters behind the badge have been led to believe that serving in the most noble of professions is somehow a ticket to heaven. I wish this were so, but it is not.

I once believed that if I were a good person, I would one-day go to heaven. And, early in my law enforcement career, I was convinced that my chosen profession earned me extra, heavenly credit. But then I looked into the mirror of God’s Law—the Ten Commandments, the basis for the laws we enforce today. What I saw in the mirror concerned me.

This being a gathering of law enforcement professionals and those who appreciate the law enforcement community, let’s take a look at God’s Law and see if we are, indeed, good.

Who among us has never told a lie?

Who among us has never stolen something? The value of the item matters not. Oh, and it doesn’t matter how long ago we’ve broken God’s Law. Time does not forgive sin.

Who among us has never taken God’s name in vain—using His holy name as a curse word, or using it flippantly or as the punch line of a joke?

Who among us has never committed adultery in our hearts, by having lustful thoughts about people other than our spouses?

Well, if you are like me and guilty of breaking God’s Law in this way, then God doesn’t see you as a good person. He sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart.

Maybe you’re thinking that you are not guilty of all of these things—keeping in mind, we’ve only looked at four of the Ten Commandments. Maybe you can look in the mirror and say, “I’m only guilty of breaking one of these laws.” That won’t help you. The Bible says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10).

If you were to die today and stand before Almighty God, do you think He would find you innocent or guilty of breaking His Law? If He finds you guilty, because He is good, holy, righteous, and just He will sentence you to eternity in hell as the just punishment for breaking His Law.

That may offend you. But think about it this way. As an officer, you make a good arrest of a murderer. The evidence is solid. The suspect voluntarily confesses to the crime. The case goes to trial and the jury takes all of an hour to deliberate, coming back with a guilty verdict.

On the day of sentencing, the guilty criminal stands before the judge and says, “Your honor, I know I am guilty of a horrible crime. But because I believe you are a good and kind judge, I hope you will forgive me and let me go. Besides, while what I did was terrible, I’ve done more good things than bad things in my life. I think you should let me go.

The judge looks at the criminal and says, “Okay. You’re free to go.”

What would you think of the judge? Would you consider Him to be a good judge, following the law? Do you believe justice was served by letting the criminal go simply because He was sorry and asked to be let go?

The answer to those questions should be obvious.

Well, God’s standard is high above that of any earthly court. God is perfectly just, and because He is perfectly just and holy, He cannot let people escape the punishment for their crimes against Him, simply on the basis of their confession or their own perceived goodness.

But there is good news. While, yes, God is holy, righteous, and just; God is also merciful, gracious, and kind. God provided the only way to escape His wrath to come. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth by way of the virgin birth. He lived a perfect sinless life and died a horrible bloody death on the cross—the just for the unjust. Through His death on the cross he took upon Himself the full fury of God’s wrath. He took upon Himself the just punishment each of us deserves for breaking God’s Law. Three days later, He rose from the grave, forever defeating death; and He is alive, today.

My encouragement to each of you, today, is this. Repent. Turn from your sins and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation. Salvation is a free gift. We cannot earn or deserve it. We will never be good enough to be worthy of the gift. The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

If you will repent and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the promise is this. When you stand before Almighty God—and it doesn’t matter whether or not you believe you will one-day face God. What matters whether or not it is true—when you stand before God, instead of receiving the just punishment for your sins against Him, which is eternity in hell; you will receive what you don’t deserve, which is God’s grace and mercy and the free gift of eternal life.

That’s my hope for everyone, here. My hope is that one-day everyone in this place will spend eternity in heaven.

I know there are some of you, maybe many of you, who did not like what you just heard. But I was asked to bring you a word of encouragement today. And there is nothing more encouraging than the offer of eternal life. I care too much about you to bring you words that might be pleasing to your ears, but provide no benefit to your souls.

Please consider my motives. Yes, I want you to be encouraged; but of greater concern to me is where you will spend eternity. So, it is with love that I say these things. Most of you, I may never see again. Just as a good patrol officer will not knowingly allow his or her partner step into harm’s way, I thought it important to care enough about you to do the same for you.

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