We live in a time of flux, change, and tumult. The old position of cultural privilege for Christianity in the West has eroded quickly. Since the time of Constantine, Christianity enjoyed a position of great influence in the West, but those days appear very much behind us. In the face of such radical cultural change, fear, anxiety, reactionary thinking comes easily, but how can we approach our new situation Christianly? Is there hope and opportunity in the face of so much change? Continue reading “Post-Christendom: A Time for the Church to Rethink Mission”
Moody officially releases the book Gospel Justice on Monday, June 3. Advanced copies have arrived at our office and I encourage you to add the book to your summer reading list. The book also makes a great gift. Please visit our website, www.administerjustice.org, to donate and receive a copy.
The hope of Gospel Justice is that “This book will stir your soul and prompt you to seriously consider what Jesus’ words, “Go and do likewise,” mean for you personally and practically. Bruce Strom intertwines moving stories of real people in crisis with scriptural truths, producing a compelling call to action that no reader will easily ignore.” Carol Thompson, Executive Vice President, Christianity Today.
Gospel Justice tells the story of my personal journey toward understanding God’s heart for justice. I learned much about His heart through the parable of the Good Samaritan and the book shares the lessons I learned. Along the way you meet real people with real needs who are beaten down by the effects of a sinful, broken world. These victims of injustice need good news. They also need practical legal help so they can be restored.
As my friend Ken Sande states: “Justice lies at the very heart of the Gospel. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus fully satisfied the conditions of God’s justice. Now he is calling us to spread the precious gift of God’s justice into every sphere of life. Gospel Justice beautifully proclaims this call to action. Read it … and then take up its challenge.” Ken Sande, Founder of Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360, author The Peacemaker.
The hope of Gospel Justice is that people will be inspired to take action. For many it is a reminder of why they serve. For others it is an opportunity to get engaged and make a difference. God’s heart for justice should be evident throughout the book. My prayer is that the book will be an encouragement to you and that you will respond as Ron Sider,
“Wonderful. The stories will make you cry. The biblical material will challenge your mind. The stories of success will thrill your heart. And the combination of evangelism and social justice is fabulous. An inspiring book that nurtures hope and action.” Ronald J. Sider, Founder, Evangelicals for Social Action, Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry & Public Policy at Palmer Seminary at Eastern University.
That hope and action is the hope of gospel justice. Read it. Share it with others. Then dare to go and do likewise.
The headlines shocked us as three women were rescued from a home in Cleveland after a decade of horrifick abuse. The girls were taken when they were 14, 16 and 20. One was forced to help the other with the birth of her child who is now six. Another was brutally beat in order to miscarry.
How can such evil be present in our neighborhoods? The perpetrators of evil count on our belief that it cannot happen here. The United States is a leading destination and transit nation for victims of human trafficking. While the State Department would define that term narrowly to forced prostitution and forced labor, even those numbers are staggering. When one broadens the field to include victims of sexual violence and exploitation that impacts 1 in 6 women today, and that may be low given the secretive nature of such abuse.
Last Saturday Administer Justice hosted a human trafficking forum which packed the community room at Gail Borden Library in Elgin. We were joined by the Elgin Police Department, World Relief, Metropolitan Family Services and Willow Creek. The panel discussed the myths, the challenge of people coming forward, and the legal issues encountered by victims. While most victims are American there are a significant number of foreign born victims who are exploited due to a lack of status. Whether undocumented or not, the perpetrators of violence instill overwhelming fear in their victims to rob them of hope and dignity.
Seargent Lullo with the Elgin Police Department described local prostitution rings where girls were moved from Aurora to several surrounding areas making it difficult for law enforcement to rescue them. Interstate 90 is the most used highway for trafficking persons and O’Hare airport is a major hub in trafficking. Combined the Chicago area has the 5th largest trafficking population in the nation.
The panel included some amazing young women who are engaged in making a difference for the victims of trafficking. World Relief works with refugees, immigrants and immigrant victims of violence and exploitation. Metropolitan Family Services works with many Chicago agencies to comprehensively address the needs of victims. Willow Creek similarly seeks to partner with those who are removing branding labels, vigilant in tracking traffickers, and working with World Relief and Administer Justice.
Kim Spagui leads Administer Justice’s efforts in assisting victims of trafficking, eploitation and violence. Our AT LAST (Attorneys Targeting Labor and Sex Trafficking) program is designed to rescue and restore victims so they can have “hope at last”. Kim was recognized last week for her efforts with the YWCA’s Racial Justice Award. Kim’s work in the area is all-volunteer as she is only part-time on staff as our ESL Outreach Director. We want to change that.
Evil is present everywhere. Victims need help – especially in the suburbs of Chicago. We launched a campaign to bring Kim full-time so we can raise more awareness and serve more victims. If you want to be part of bringing hope AT LAST, please visit our web site, www.administerjustice.org, and donate today. Every dollar makes a difference. With your help we will continue to make a difference for our victim neighbors in need.
When did we become enemies? The law and Christ followers. May 1 marks national law day. May 2 marks the national day of prayer. Standing next to one another – but too often never to connect.
Both days grew out of the 1950’s. Law Day in 1958 and the National Day of Prayer in 1952. George Washington held the first national day of prayer, so a time of fasting, praying and seeking the Divine are not new. But as a nation of laws we made a day of prayer the law of the land codified in the United States Code – 36 USC 119 – which states: “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United State may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”
May 1 was Law Day and this year’s theme, “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All,” provides an opportunity to explore the movement for civil and human rights in America and the impact that it has had in promoting the ideal of equality under the law. The day emphasized the work that remains to be done in rectifying injustice, eliminating all forms of discrimination, and putting an end to human trafficking and other violations of our basic human rights. As Dr. King pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We are celebrating 150 years since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln foresaw “a new birth of freedom” in our nation that was not separated from justice, equality and faith. Lincoln was a lawyer. Lincoln was a politician. Lincoln was a Christian. He could wear all three under his stove top hat. Why can’t we?
I dont’ know why prayer and law should be separate. Washington bowed his knee in Valley Forge. Lincoln prayed continually. Shouldn’t we be praying for those who impact our laws and those who provide equal access to the law? Instead of telling lawyer jokes and pointing out all that is wrong with our laws, why not pray for lawyers, politicians and encourage them to study the Bible and make decisions influenced by the moral fabric of our nation and the tradition of western civilization. Christ followers should be leading the way by example to a watching world.
I came across an article this week which demonstrates this truth. I like Dan Cathy. He is the chicken guy. I don’t mean he’s chicken – he has a lot of Godly courage – I mean he heads up Chick-fil-a. He’s been in the news because of his supposed intolerance toward the gay community. I say supposed because I think Dan reflects the truth that true Christ followers do not sell out truth but neither do they shut out love. Dan has struck up a friendship with Shane Windmeyer, an enemy?, a gay activist picketing Chick-fil-a, who Dan reached out to – not to convince Shane he was wrong, but to demonstrate to Shane what the love of Christ looks like and why that motivates convictions based on love, not hate. The article is written by Shane and is worth reading
Maybe we can follow Dan and Shane’s example. Maybe law day and the national day of prayer don’t have to stand next to each other on a calendar and not say “hello”. I’m not saying we have to embrace all lawyers or all laws, but I am saying let’s be a little kinder and look for opportunity to build bridges of understanding. Let’s pray for the law. Let’s pray for lawyers. Let’s look for opportunity to support a ministry like Administer Justice. Let’s demonstrate the love of Christ to hurting people who are trapped in our legal and government system in need of help and hope.
The room was electric with the presence of over 100 volunteers gathered to celebrate at Administer Justice’s annual volunteer appreciation breakfast. Windows surrounded two sides of the room looking out upon beautiful greenery of the golf course at Elgin Country Club. Snow had fallen earlier but the sun was shining bright as a visual reminder of the cold storms that beset our clients and the truth we share that the sun (son)is still present and a better day is coming.
Karen Hippchen, our volunteer services director, led the event. A volunteer herself for many years she knows first-hand the theme from this year: Making a Difference in the Lives of Others. Another long-time volunteer and now staff, Phil Thacher, opened in prayer. Our friend Kimmy Vos led in worship as we ate, laughed, distributed awards and were inspired to further service. The theme was visibly demonstrated by testimony and the comments of those receiving awards.
Janet James volunteers on Saturday mornings and Thursday nights coordinating clients for intake. She is a paralegal who works in the mortgage industry realizing now the weight of people on the receiving end of the mounds of papers she processes. Janet told the story of a man, we’ll call him Jorge, who she met recently on a Thursday which is also the day of our heavily visited foreclosure workshop. Jorge spoke Spanish and did not understand the papers he received. Janet had time to calm Jorge with the help of a volunteer interpreter, and review his papers. She discovered that he was being foreclosed for failure to pay a city sanitation improvement assessment which was supposed to only last three years. Seven years later the assessment was still being applied and the city was seeking to collect with penalties, interest and fees. Janet recognized this injustice and prayed for an appointment opening – there was one, and it just “happened” to be with a real estate attorney! God answers prayers. What is more that attorney agreed with her evaluation and took the case pro bono which led to eliminating the debt and saving the home.
Deb Wolf received our True Mercy Award for years of faithful volunteer service in numerous roles including bookkeeper, making brochures, leading Fun Fest and coordinating our peacemakers. As she received her award she told the story of her sister who came to Administer Justice distraught and looking for a divorce. Her husband was an alcoholic and she did not know what to do to protect herself and daughter. The attorney prayed with her and recognizing she did not want a divorce provided practical ways to address the problem outside of the courthouse. She never saw the courthouse but did see her husband change. He quit drinking and their last few years together were a blessing before the alcohol abuse which destroyed his liver took his life. There would have been a very different ending if a lawyer had not encouraged peace over retribution in the hour of need.
Judy Berndt received our True Justice Award for her years of service including volunteering at least one day a week at the Elgin office, for her wonderful attitude and encouragement of other attorneys to use the gifts God has given them in the service of others. Judy shared the recent story of an 85-year-old woman who she was privileged to help. This dear widow was overwhlemed by various legal issues which Judy was able to help resolve, but hearing the worry and lack of resources, Judy pulled out her last three dollars and gave them to the woman. With tears streaming down her face she thanked Judy for lifting a burden and allowing the woman to celebrate at McDonalds.
Every day volunteers make a difference in the lives of others at Administer Justice. As they do their lives are also changed. There is power in each Samaritan who takes the time to stop and serve their wounded neighbor in need along the Jericho Road of life. That is the message of the book, Gospel Justice, and one I shared with our amazing volunteers. Please consider joining this wonderful team of people who are making a difference. Visit the volunteer section of our website and fill out the form. You will be glad you did.
Growing up i was not a fan of rules. My parents knew I would be a lawyer from my incessant challenging of rules. Now I have a son who likes to do the same and I have a deeper appreciation for rules. This week that appreciation grew from a new rule passed by the Illinois Supreme Court and a series of rules they are considering.
On Monday, April 8 the Supreme Court amended Rule 756 to allow attorneys licensed in another state to perform pro bono services under the auspices of a legal aid organization. That is great news. Just last week I was talking to my friend Luke who is an in-house counsel licensed in two other states who wants to help. One of our clients needed help in a consumer matter in court. They would be disadvantaged without a lawyer and he wanted to represent them but the rules prohibited him from helping. Not any more. Now he is able to help this family have meaningful access to justice.
Also on Monday the Supreme Court Rules Committee was taking testimony in Chicago on a series of proposed rules that would clarify limited scope representation. The rules would allow an attorney to help someone in a case on a specific issue without having to be in the entire case. This would be a significant benefit to low-income and no-income individuals. Low-income individuals can pay for certain services where most needed without paying for entire representation that is usually cost prohibitive. No-income, and those who qualify for free legal assistance, will be better able to receive help because attorneys will be more willing to donate time when they know it is for a limited matter. The one catch which Administer Justice, Prairie State Legal Services, Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services, the Illinois State Bar Association, Chicago Bar Foundation and the Lawyers Trust Fund all testified to was the need to change the current proposal from requiring a motion to withdraw to a simpler notice of withdraw. Filing and serving motions would be a great time barrier to many attorneys and would not make sense in cases of limited representation on depositions, mediations or out of court matters such as written discovery. The Supreme Court Rules Committee asked excellent questions and it is likely they will reconsider that requirement thanks to these few organizations who stood up for those of low income.
The other major rule considered by the Court on Monday was “ghost writing”. This is a practice whereby attorneys help draft documents and coach clients in their presentation. 24% of Administer Justice’s cases last year involved this type of service. The rules would allow an attorney to assist in this way without listing their name on the documents. Administer Justice and the other groups who testified Monday, except for one non-legal group, support this position. The documents are the clients and they present them in court. Sometimes the client makes changes after they meet with an attorney which should be their right, but should not reflect back on the attorney which is the primary reason for allowing “ghost writing”. The court is likely to adopt this position.
I concluded my testimony with the voice of our clients who benefit from these new rules. “I am so glad that there is help out there without being told you need thousands of dollars to inform you of your rights. The attorney explained the language the courts use to do the process and helped us with the paperwork. We were comfortable presenting our case. Thank you.” “The lawyer gave me a good framework to base my case on which I eventually prevailed.” “Thank you for helping me know what to write for the court.” “Thank you for getting all of the paperwork together and explanations, and the jump for my car (LOL).”
I thanked the Rules Committee for providing an important “jump” to access for justice. Rules are important. They provide clarity and these rules will help a significant number of people in need across Illinois.
Our nation is in the midst of heated debate over gay marriage as the United States Supreme Court considers Proposation 8 from California and the Defense of Marriage Act. The State of Illinois is legalizing gay marriage. Facebook, Twitter, evening news and radio are all buzzing. In the midst of the heated discussions I think we may have overlooked some important truths.
First, as Christ Followers the end is not an American system but Christ Kingdom. Religious leaders in Jesus day wanted to engage him in politics. Once they brought a woman caught in adultery and they asked him what they should do – adultery, like homosexuality, was a sexual sin clearly punishable by death. But Jesus didn’t serve broken systems established by imperfect people. Jesus served sinners. He simply said let him who is without sin cast the first stone (honestly that would have been Jesus and he chose not to do so). The accusers left. Jesus did not stop there. He told the woman to go and sin no more. He lovingly demonstrated truth. On another occasion the leaders wanted to trap Jesus on the issue of taxes. A very hot topic as tax collectors were notorious in exhorting more than was owed. A great opportunity to cry out against the evil of Rome, but Jesus knew his kingdom was not of the earth (Jn. 18:36) and so he simply said to give to Ceasar what was Ceasar’s and to God what was God’s. On another occasion, the leaders tried to trap Jesus on the subject of marriage. The “church” was split on the issue of the resurrection of the dead and one faction wanted to prove their point by the absurdity that a woman could have seven husbands in this life following the death of each, but how could that be true in heaven. Jesus pointed out their error – “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” Mk. 12:24-25.
I believe strongly in the sanctity of marriage. I think we should encourage young people to save sex for marriage and married people to remain faithful, but I do this out of my love for them not to legislate behavior. I love America. I thank God I was born here. But my ultimate citizenship is in heaven. Heaven is less concerned about marriage as an institution and far more concerned about people’s faith and hearts. Heaven is concerned about justice but that justice is tempered by mercy – “judment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” Jms. 2:13. Heaven is concerned about love, but not as we define it. Heaven’s love is that God so loved us that he died for us. God so loved all people that even though all of us have sinned he still loves us and desires a relationship with us. Jesus was telling his disciples he was going to heaven ahead of them, but he wanted them to know how to live: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” Jn. 13: 34-35. That love compelled Jesus to serve others, to wash the feet of one who would betray him, one who would deny him, and others who would flee from him. Jesus loved anyway. So should we.
I wish our rhetoric were more kingdom focused. At the end of the day we are not working for a better America because it will disappear. Everything will pass away and all will be made new in the kingdom to come. In that kingdom everyone will come before the throne of justice and righteousness to be judged. But that judment is based not on systems but a Savior. That judment is based on a heart that loved God and demonstrated that through love of one’s neighbor – even the neighbor that was an enemy (Lk 10:25-37). Jesus told us of that day. He said he would judge but the question would be did you serve the least of these. Mt. 25: 31-46. Too often I think we ignore the real needs of the least of these in our midst while we argue over politics. While I strongly support the right to be heard in a democratic republic, I hope our voice is one of truth and love. I hope people see the kingdom through our actions and I pray that we focus more energy on the needs of the least of these and the difference we can make in serving, loving and pointing them to the kingdom.
Excerpted from the book Gospel Justice:
JERUSALEM WAS ABUZZ. “Did you see the crowds when Jesus entered yesterday?” “They say Jesus will be king.” “I heard Jesus makes the blind see.” “Jesus is coming here from Bethany.” “Maybe we’ll get to see Jesus perform a miracle.”
The name electrified the air. Many made their way through the temple’s court of the gentiles, using it as a shortcut from the Mount of Olives. The temple court bustled with merchants selling birds and animals for the Passover.
As the people longed for a king to free them from Rome, they saw the money exchangers trading Roman currency for the temple coinage. Even as they hoped to see miracles, they saw gentiles trying to pray amid the noise and smell of animals.
They saw, but they did not see. They were thinking of Jesus. They were thinking of the greatness they might see. They wanted change—and believed Jesus could bring it. Focused on what that would mean for them, they marched past the injustice among them.
Jesus was coming. The air was tense with anticipation. But today Jesus would not enter on a colt to the crowd’s praise. Today He would shock the people. His popularity would evaporate. Jesus wasn’t who they wanted Him to be. Even now He stood before the city, resolute in what He must do.
Jesus examined a fig tree in full leaf. The disciples thought it strange He should look for fruit out of season. They were surprised when He got angry and cursed the tree, which would wither and die. Not seeing what Jesus saw, they failed to understand.
Jesus knew what awaited in Jerusalem. While His heart wept for the lost (Luke 19:41), it burned against the proud. He knew the hearts of people who looked good on the outside, but bore no fruit. The fig tree served as an illustration of fruitless lives. Without another word, He set out for the temple.
Entering the court of the gentiles, he ignored the whispers of staring people. He was glaring at the injustice they ignored. Poor pilgrims were being robbed. Merchants were taking advantage of them as they needed an offering for the Passover. The money lenders used dishonest scales to exploit the poor. Jesus responded in righteous anger. (See Matthew 21:12–13, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45–46.)
“Crack!” The sound of a whip shattered the noise of people and animals. Those gathered around Jesus fled as coins went flying, merchants scattered, cages burst, and birds took to the air. An angry voice cried out, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17).
Jesus intentionally quoted Isaiah and Jeremiah. The Isaiah passage began, “Be just and fair to all. Do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you and to display my righteousness among you” (Isaiah 56:1 nlt).
Do what is right and good. Be just and fair to all. Jesus is coming to rescue and display His righteousness in anger against those who exploit others.
Jeremiah called the temple a den of robbers because the people exploited foreigners, orphans, and widows:
. . . don’t be fooled by those who promise you safety simply because the Lord’s Temple is here! . . . But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows. (Jeremiah 7:4–6).
Jesus could not abide injustice. He refused to stand by while people were exploited. The lesson of Jesus is that He got engaged and enraged in the face of injustice. He took action. He commands us to do the same, to “go and do likewise.”
Last Friday was International Women’s Day and March is designated as International Women’s Month. The idea grew out of a rally of 15,000 women in New York City who gathered in 1908 to advocate for shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. Today 27 countries recognize the day as an official holiday.
Yesterday the white smoke rose from the sequestered conclave at the Vatican announcing the selection of Pope Francis. Pope Francis will be the 266th pope and chose the title in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. A native of Buenos Aires he is the first Pope from South America and the first Jesuit. What the new papacy will look like remains to be seen, but the Jesuits have a long history of humble service to the poor and vulnerable.
Early news reports were busy criticizing the Catholic Church for excluding women from the priesthood. The truth is the Catholic Church has a higher percentage of women in leadership roles than most fortune 500 companies, but the further truth is that the call for shorter hours, better pay and voting rights has not been fully realized by women around the world. In too many countries women are still property, labor or sex slaves. While women in America have seen significant advances, there still remain inequities in pay and our women comprise the majority of the poor in this country with the poorest American being a single mom with a child under the age of six.
Administer Justice celebrates women. Our board is better because of the women who help guide our future. Our staff is stronger because of the women who demonstrate mercy and compassion to the poor and vulnerable every day. Many of our volunteers are women who gladly give their time to help others regardless of their sex, race or other status. We do this because we are Christ followers. Jesus could not have ministered without the support of faithful women. He treated women with dignity in an era when that was simply not done. He demonstrated the infinite worth of women who would play significant roles in building and serving the early church. We hope you will take time to read about the amazing women of Administer Justice by going to our home page and clicking on the celebrate justice banner. Even as we continue to work toward a global recognition of the critically important role of women, we celebrate the contributions and advancements made since the early 1900’s.
Thank you to all the women of AJ and to women everywhere who work to make this world better in ways great and small.
Yesterday, March 6, marked the 177th anniversary of the slaughter at the Alamo. One hundred eighty nine brave men took refuge in a mission as they stood against Santa Anna’s army of 1800. Thirteen days they fought to the last man. Their courage is remembered to this day by the cry, “Remember the Alamo.”
That statement rallied people across Texas. How could they stand passive in the face of such injustice? Just over one month later, Sam Houston engaged the enemy in the Battle of San Jacinto. Under cries of “Remember the Alamo”, Santa Anna’s army was defeated.
Sadly, many people don’t like history. To them it is the story of a bunch of dead people and hardly seems relevant today. I disagree. I am glad my sons join me in the love of history and what we can learn from the past that can inform our present and inspire our future. When my boys were only four months old I took them to San Antonio, Texas where the Alamo remains surrounded by the city. We were attending a Christian Legal Society Conference. Here is an excerpt from the book Gospel Justice which recounts my first visit to the Alamo and hearing the echo of the cry against injustice across time:
“One of the early CLS legal-aid conferences was held in San Antonio, Texas. A young successful attorney listened.
That attorney spoke afterward with John Robb and Chuck Hogren. His wife and new born twin sons were with him. As he toured the Alamo where courageous men had stood against impossible odds, but they stood in the gap because it was necessary, he knew the Bible was filled with such men. Would he have the courage to launch a new organization or would he question, “How can I be certain of this?” Would he look at his circumstances with a wife staying home and newborn twins and pass the opportunity by. He did not.
I stopped and Administer Justice began four months later. Administer Justice would lead this new wave of Christian Legal Aid, where Gospel Justice for the poor was the principal rather than just one of the purposes of Christian Legal Aid.”
We need men and women of courage who are willing to stand against injustice wherever it may be found. Those who bravely serve our country, who travel to distant lands to fight hunger, disease or trafficking, and those who quietly but courageously stand on behalf of our neighbors in need right next door. Gospel Justice will be released June 1. I encourage you to read and study it. Learn about injustice and dare to take a stand.
The cry of the Alamo can be heard echoing down through the ages. How much more the cry of our Lord and Savior. His cry is a challenge to love mercy and seek justice. His cry is to “Go and Do Likewise.”