Statement about SDPD

As you may know, two San Diego Police officers in the Gang Suppression Team were shot last night in San Diego.  Officer Jonathan DeGuzman was murdered and Officer Wade Irwin is in serious condition but expected to recover.  There are a few related matters I want to ask you to pray for, and I am writing to share some things you may not know about some of the people involved here which I have been privileged to meet and serve with.

SDPDBadgeFirst and foremost, please pray for the families of the officers who were shot, especially for the family of murdered officer DeGuzman whose wife and kids are without a husband and father today and need our support and prayers.  For officer Irwin, that he would recover fully and that his family would be strengthened and supported as well.  “Finest” is not simply a nice term we use for the police to decorate their vehicles, it is a statement of character and sacrifice and honor that these brave men and women deserve.  And when they are attacked here or elsewhere in the country, it makes everyone less safe.

I simply cannot find the words to express how deeply saddened I am for these officers and their families.  I ask you to pray for Chief Zimmerman and all of the San Diego Police Department and their families.  Especially pray for those in the Gang Unit who are greatly affected by this.

This shooting happened two blocks away from a location where several of these incredible San Diego Police officers in the Gang Unit meet together monthly with officers from other law enforcement agencies, city officials, and a wonderful group of community activists and volunteers who like them are committed to preventing exactly this kind of thing.   This group also organizes regular walks in this very community were these officers were shot.   Uniformed police, detectives, and the sergeants they work with dedicate time going door-to-door along with these community volunteers in order to listen to residents, to better understand their concerns, and to learn how they can better protect the children at the schools along with everyone else who lives in a neighborhood  burdened with strife and violence and hopelessness.  Both the police and community leaders do this at great risk and with great courage, and they are making a difference.  They are committed to knowing and being known by residents personally as this heightens trust and makes everyone safer.

Along with the police, this team includes pastors, some of whom are former gang members themselves.  These pastors work so tightly with the police that when there is a gang related shooting, the police immediately notify them and they come to the scene, or they go to the hospital where a gang member or a police officer is being treated.   These people reach out to gang members and offer hope and a way out of that life.  They work hard with the police, churches and community organizations to prevent kids from joining gangs in the first place.   The meetings are not religious in nature, yet, they often end with a prayer, where police officers, pastors, city leaders, community activists and volunteers, all of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, stand in a big circle holding hands and asking God to bless their work and keep them safe. It’s an incredible sight to see and very emotional to be a part of it in light of the increasing problems our nation is facing.

With the state of our nation being what it is, and the negative and false narratives and politically driven coverage that these shootings so often receive, I want you to know there are people doing great work related to these matters who you never see on television.   They are police officers, teachers, bankers, pastors and more who are not looking for fame, they just want to end the violence and improve life for everyone.  Please pray for the many people here in San Diego and around our country who beneath the smoke of it all are risking life and social standing to save lives and improve communities.  I want you to know that there are incredible people right here in San Diego who do not agree about politics, who do not agree about how to do police work, who do not agree about a great many things, but who get together in a room and spend time listening to each other and working together to make life better and safer for the people they serve.  These people are heroes.  They understand justice and peace. They are grieving because of what happened here.  Please pray for them that they will not lose hope, that they will continue to go the extra mile in serving and protecting our communities.

Additionally, please pray for the shooters involved here, and for the many who are connected to gangs and violent groups in San Diego.  Pray that justice is done and that it is done swiftly, and then pray that whatever the case, like the pastors who are a part of the team I’ve been speaking of, that their hearts would be changed for the rest of their lives.  Pray for the kids today who are being pressured to join a gang, which happens at a very young age, that they would turn away and be safe.  Pray that they would hear the voices of wise mentors above the noise of the foolish tempters.

Finally, I ask you to pray for police chaplains, specifically my good friend San Diego Police Chaplain Chuck Price, who knew Officer DeGuzman personally and and often would be found as a ride along with him.   Last night, Chuck left his shift doing a ride along with a Gang Unit officer less than 2 hours before this shooting.  Our police chaplains are often exposed to the violent scenes and the grief that follows and are also unsung heroes to an increasing number of police families who have lost loved ones while they were on duty.  Please pray for Chuck and for the other chaplains and ministers who are tending to many who are affected today.  They have a unique calling to serve those who serve.

Thank you for praying for our great city and the San Diego Police Department, our city’s finest.  Especially, pray again for the families of officer DeGuzman and Irwin.  Please keep these matters in prayer as you pray for our nation and its people.



Thanksgiving Posture

Thanksgiving.  It’s my favorite holiday.

Turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, and sweet potatoes with an argument about whether they are actually yams. Then there’s the green beans topped with fried onions, cheese and baked in cream of mushroom sauce.  I’m pretty sure this recipe disqualifies the green beans as a vegetable.   Sweet rolls, dinner rolls, and rolling off the couch a few hours later for leftovers. Wait, who won the football game?  I must have dozed off in a turkey coma.   Pass the cranberry sauce please.

But it’s doing all of this with family that is the best.  Some of our most meaningful and most ridiculous discussions have occurred during this annual gathering.   Many times we’ll share something specific that we are thankful for, which is also nice, but Thanksgiving is about much more than that.  It’s actually a reminder about our posture.

When George Washington gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1789, he was instructed to do so by congress in order “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”   This proclamation was not some sort of perfunctory duty of a head of state, it was great leadership.  Washington and the Congress understood that the new nation’s posture must be one of thanksgiving or else the nation would fail.

Thanksgiving is a posture.  It is not merely a list of things we are grateful for, but it is an attitude, a guardrail on the road to success for a nation and also for an individual.  Washington understood this as he continued in his address:

“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.” – George Washington

A posture of thanksgiving is the foundation of these values he envisions for our national character:  humility, empowerment, performance of duty, blessing, consistency, wisdom, justice, discretion, faithfulness, protection, guidance, efficiency, peace and harmony, education, true worship, ingenuity and invention, discovery and prosperity.   Where these are missing, you will find a posture of thanksgiving is missing. Instead, you’ll find a posture of victimhood, cynicism and arrogance.

Lincoln-Thanksgiving-ProcalamtionThe holiday we now celebrate was inaugurated by President Lincoln exactly three score and fourteen years later to the day, October 3, 1863.   He gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation during the height of the Civil War, a few months after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.  After some discussion of the nation’s blessing, Lincoln would write:

“They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” – Abraham Lincoln

Our sins” primarily refers to american slavery, of which we had been unrepentant to God and also unrepentant to our own founding documents and ideals.  But even in the course of civil war and what Lincoln believed was divine punishment and consequence for these national transgressions, he knew how important it was that we maintain a posture of thankfulness, even through the darkest of times.  There could be no union without a thanksgiving posture.

The need for a posture of thanksgiving has not changed.  Today, our nation is slouching more than it has in a long time, and we need to adjust our posture.  Increasingly, we have a posture of victimhood and selfishness.  We are ungrateful and jealous, unrepentant and prideful. This posture is contrary to who we are called to be and it is having an effect.  Just turn on the news and witness the absurdity on all sides.

This year, let us renew our posture of thanksgiving.  When we are thankful, we remember that we are a people called to lead with our freedoms, in humility and truth, with sacrifice and generosity and strength.   When we see or experience injustice, we must not wallow in it or leverage it to our own petty interests or useless ideologies. This is short sighted and the opposite of a thankful posture. Instead, a thankful people work through their differences to solve problems rather than affix blame for a political or financial advantage. A grateful people know they are beneficiaries of life, liberty and renewed opportunities, and that the benefactor of these rights is self-evident.  Only in thankfulness for these things can we be just and faithful and proper in our administration of justice and mercy.

Let us be thankful, for we are not a nation of victims and of the fearful, but we are a nation of helpers and of the brave.  Our desire is to use our liberty to repent of our own injustices, and to shine a light on injustice elsewhere, wherever it may be.  With a foundation of thankfulness, we will have the moral authority to do so, bringing the hope of resolution and reconciliation, of reconstruction and redemption.

Finally, let us be grateful to God that, in spite of our current national sins of which there are many, we are still blessed more than any in history.  Perhaps our apparent decline is a new divine punishment, perhaps it is mere consequence. Regardless, let us fix our posture, being penitent and thankful to the Living God that we still have time to do so.  We have so much to offer a world that still longs to be free, including the Good News that frees us all from tyranny and hate and the sting of death.

I hope you have a happy holiday, and not just one with food and family and friends, but with a renewed sense of purpose that comes from a Thanksgiving posture.


The Carl Identity

This is a personal note.Carl Flores

My good friend Carl Flores passed away unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago.  He was only 45.  While he had some health problems, his death was not expected.  I was privileged to be the officiant at his funeral, and also honored to be a part of it with so many long time friends who made it an amazing celebration of a person’s life.

Perhaps the most profound realization we walked away with is that most of us, the 300 or so in attendance, really had no idea what Carl did for a living.  His professional resume, whatever might be on it, was not on display.  No one mentioned it.  His military service was acknowledged as is proper for those who have served our country, however, the honor guard was not the usual military provided contingent.  Instead, it was made up of Navy friends including a classmate from the Naval Academy.  Indeed, Carl was honored by several from the Navy, officers and enlisted persons, not for any particular Naval award, rank or achievement, but for his enduring friendship to these men.

His friendship extended to those he knew and served from his church, his job (wherever that was), and various social circles, most notably southern California dance clubs and other related fun.  People from each of those relational worlds described him in the same way – as kind, generous, a servant and a great friend.

What should not be missed is that Carl did not live a life of duplicity.  He was the same Carl whether he was spending time with church going friends and non-church going friends.  He was the same Carl to those he knew well and to those he had just met. The Carl who was in the Naval Academy Glee Club was the same Carl who sang in the Baptist church choir.  The Carl who danced and sang in clubs was the same Carl who was a church Deacon visiting the sick.  Everyone saw the same guy.

Hundreds of different kinds of people lined up to say thank you to a guy who by most standards was not accomplished.  He wasn’t married and didn’t have kids, he wasn’t wealthy, healthy, or tidy.  He had no significant titles or championships or celebrity.  By no means was he perfect or without the personal battles that everyone has, and these were known to many as well.  But to state it simply, Carl was a true friend, both to the righteous and to the sinner.  He was grace on display in so many respects.  This is something a Christian should be known for.

Carl was a successful man, a follower of Jesus, who loved God and loved people.  I believe he followed Jesus into resurrection, and I will see him again one day.

Want to watch Carl’s memorial service?  It’s long, but the music is good, the speakers are interesting and funny, and the inspiration and legacy of my friend Carl might even change your life.


I Didn’t Make The List

I didn’t make the list.  A list that should not exist, should not have been published.

The Top 100 Christian Leaders in America.”   (Wouldn’t these then be the Bottom 100 Christian Leaders, Biblically speaking?)  It received some funny attention on Twitter this week:

Let me ask you something – who is the face of Christianity in America?  Please don’t say Jesus, he didn’t make the list either.

Captain StubingNo, I mean, when a Christian perspective on some issue is given somewhere in the media, who get’s the call, the call to represent the Body of Christ on national TV, or in a major newspaper or cable news network?  Sadly, it’s a lot of people on this list.  Sure, some listed here genuinely promote the Gospel of Jesus and do a great job.  But some others promote something or someone else entirely and don’t represent Jesus well at all.  The latter is who you see on your TV more often that the former.

Perhaps you think this list is a product of ignorant left-wing media.  While it’s true that most left-wing sources would have a similar call list, it’s the ignorant right-wing media who created and published this catastrophe.   This is because the face of Christianity in America, at least in the minds of many who produce or publish, is highly political, entertainment based, and wacky in general.

The list of course doesn’t really matter, but it provides an opportunity for this reminder.   The foundation of the Christian faith is not the Church nor any of its leaders or celebrities.  It’s not a set of moral teachings or even the Bible.  The foundation of the Christian faith is instead an event:  the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  Without this event, Jesus is just like any other religious founder or philosophical guru.  Dead.  Still dead.  Take it or leave it.  We might as well then rank each other by whatever arbitrary scale we can come up with.

Instead, let’s put Jesus on the list and call it finished.  He invites people to follow him, and as for me, a guy who predicts his own death and resurrection and comes through is worth following.

I suppose if Heaven keeps such a list as the “Top 100 Christ-Followers”, we probably have never heard of those people, who humbly serve other and sacrifice all they have in the name of Christ.  Those people need our prayers and encouragement, but not strange accolades from political news magazines.