Terry Harrington spent 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit

A gripping story from Sports Illustrated about an Omaha man who unjustly spent 25 years in the Iowa State Pen for murder.  Here was an eye-opening paragraph:

Harrington recalls the prison experience with a string of “de” words: demoralizing, degrading, dehumanizing. He has stories of gang fights and riots and inmates throwing feces on guards. He says that by the end of his first week, two inmates had been killed, one of them “cut up and put in a laundry bag.” Still in possession of his faith, Harrington went to church services. He soon quit when he saw the chaplain, also a prison guard, clutching a rifle, threatening to blow an inmate’s head off. “This guy’s going to teach us about morals and forgiveness?” says Harrington. “No, thanks.”

The story is quite long, but it is well worth it. You will not be disappointed. It is a tale of an man seeking justice and needing an outside advocate to provide it for him. The parallels to the gospel fall drastically short; however, the story makes me thankful for Jesus, who was innocent and took our death sentence for us. It also makes me long for his return when he will make all things right and bring justice to all those who have been unjustly tried and treated.

Read the whole thing.


Is Lack of Education Really Our Biggest Problem?

If lack of education was the primary reason for the world’s brokenness (such as poverty, crime, hunger, disease, war, heartache, etc.), then universities and colleges would be the most moral and ethical places in the universe.   In case you haven’t noticed, they aren’t.

There must be a more fundamental reason for problems in our world.


Jesus is the Blazing Center of Social Justice

Last night here in Pretoria, I went to a showing of the newest Invisible Children movie.  Before the movie was played, I was in the main building where there were dozens of Christian ministries and non-profits represented.  I didn’t know everything would be so “Christian” because I knew that Invisible Children has never made any kind of profession to be religious.  So, I was hopeful that this night would be about Jesus.

The program started out with an Afrikaans girl who prayed.  Her first word was “Jesus…”  She prayed that God would open our hearts to the injustice in the world.  She prayed that we would be empowered to do something.  She prayed, “In your Name, Amen.”

That was the last time I heard Jesus’ name.

There were other people who spoke after the film.  They talked about how South Africa could help.  They said they “had meetings…and thought and prayed about” how to be involved.   They said this is an “interdenominational” movement.  They said that we “cannot turn a blind eye toward this.”

And you know what?  I would be all for it — if it had to do with Jesus.

By my guess, I’d say there were about 3,000 people at the program, and as always in a group that size, most probably do not follow Jesus.  As I sat there, I said to my friend Rylan, “They missed a huge opportunity to share the gospel tonight.”

Then you might say, “Well, James, this isn’t about the gospel.  It’s social justice.  It’s a non-religious movement.  It’s about people working together to make a difference.”

And I would reply that if that’s all it is, it’s a problem.  It’s a problem because there are thousands of people who may be fooled into believing that if you give a couple bucks, write a few letters, spend a night on the streets, and buy some merchandise you will have done your duty.  Even greater than that, it’s a problem because there are possibly thousands of people who will not understand the greatest injustice ever committed: we have sinned, and continue to sin, against Almighty God.

We will not properly understand injustice in our world until we understand the injustice of sin that lives in our hearts.   We have highly offended God.  We have trampled upon his glory.  We have committed awful crimes against the Creator.  We deserve to die because of our evils.

But God sent Jesus to earth.  The God-man came down to live and work and teach and bring us back to God.  He lived without any injustice in his heart, because he was God.  Even so, we couldn’t overcome our own injustice.  In fact, we are so unjust that we did the unthinkable.

We killed God.

But it wasn’t for nothing.  God used his own death to justify all those who come to him.  No one understands injustice more than God does.  Jesus was innocent, and he was murdered.  No one has been sinned against more than he has.    Because of this, we will not be rightly passionate about social justice until we understand the justice that God satisfied when Jesus’ died on the cross.  Therefore, if any social cause is not grounded in Christ, it is meaningless.

Invisible Children is neither a good nor a bad thing.  It depends on who you are in it for.  If the blazing center is Jesus, then it is good.  If it is for any other reason — noble as it may be — it’s bad.

The sad fact is that anything not done for Jesus — for the glory of God — is a sin.  As great as it seems for someone to rescue children from being slaves of a crazed terrorist, it doesn’t justify anyone before God.  If anything doesn’t bring glory to Jesus and  lead people to him so they might be rescued from bondage — physically and spiritually — it simply draws attention away from Christ and toward something else.

The prophet Isaiah puts it this way.  “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (64:6).  The phrase “polluted garment” in Hebrew means “bloodied rag.”  I know this is gross, but in our day, this is akin to a bloodied tampon.  You say that’s disgusting.  You say that’s vile.  It’s in your Bible.  Disgusting is the point Isaiah is making.  Anything “righteous” that is not done to the glory of God is like a bloodied tampon.  That’s how disgusting social justice is to God if it is void of Jesus.

Know that I’m not bashing Invisible Children. I don’t hate social justice campaigns.  This blog isn’t about that.  It’s about you and me.  It’s about our wrongs.  It’s about our injustices.  It’s about our hatred, resentment, bitterness, greed, envy, jealously, lust, malice, harshness, lying, cheating, stealing, mocking, jeering, and a thousand other sins that we commit daily.

It’s all injustice.  Against God.   Against his glory.  Against his perfection.  And it’s ugly.  So ugly that God had to die to forgive us.

My plea is that you examine yourself and repent so you don’t stand before God and show him a bloody towel and say, “Look at my good deeds.”  I pray that you stand before God and point to Jesus and say, “There’s my righteousness.  There’s my goodness.  There’s my justice.”


If I Ever Go to Jail, I Want this Guy to be My Cellmate

No wonder some people would rather be in prison than on the streets.  From msnbc:

SAO PAULO, Brazil – Officials in northeastern Brazil say they confiscated the equivalent of more than $170,000 and two pistols from an imprisoned drug trafficker whose jail cell was equipped with a plasma TV set, a refrigerator and gym equipment.

Jose Francisco Leite, head of the state of Bahia’s Prison Affairs Department, said the “posh prison life” Genilson Lins da Silva led came to an abrupt end on Monday when police raided his cell as part of a statewide crackdown on drug trafficking.

Leite said Tuesday authorities have ordered an investigation to find out how Silva got the money and guns into his cell.