Between January 12, 1990, the day the President of the State Bar of California swore me in as an attorney, and January 4, 2015 the night a triage nurse checked me into the Los Robles Hospital Emergency Room near death, if you asked me about myself I’d tell you straight up, “I am a lawyer.” Then I’d brace for a lawyer joke, a story of a horrible experience someone had in court, or an urgent legal need.
Despite the ribbing and criticism, I hid behind the prestige my professional identity projected. I could evade self-disclosure and candid communication when convenient.
In fairness, my wife and I built a good life raising our daughters, supporting our friends working overseas, and worshiping with and serving guests in our home.
My obsession was Isaiah 58 and James 5, fighting against worker oppression, civil rights and wage and hour violations. That’s how I spent my time at work, and it was important life-giving work. However, deep down, I was missing the bigger picture. I.e., the Great Commission. How many opportunities did I waste to serve the needy, my clients, other lawyers, witnesses, orphans and widows, how many opportunities did I miss to share the gospel, all in my efforts to get the job done.
After thirty-six years of advising and representing thousands of clients, short-term missions, advocating for human trafficking victims, writing on human rights, leading worship and home groups, and tutoring our kids, I was dancing around Revelation 2:4 like Fred Astaire on methamphetamines. In quiet when I dared drop my defenses, I’d hear a still small voice, “But I have this against you, you’ve lost your…”
Strange how I became that guy. On May 1, 1977, at twenty-four, I jettisoned out of the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light through confidence in Jesus Christ. A student of the Sermon on the Mount in my twenties and thirties, I taught others to seek God’s Kingdom first and to love God with a whole heart and a single mind. Churches, radio stations, Christian men’s organizations, youth groups invited me to share my fantastic testimony: Jewish young man yields to his Messiah after years of intellectual searching and religious ladder climbing in a cult.
The insidious leaven of pride and vicissitudes of life. I was immature and didn’t shake off my own press, the sincere adulation and encouragement that often follows and clings when you speak in public. Five years into my Christian life, my head swelled in impatience and arrogance. I thought I was God’s man for the hour. I wasn’t. The years went on. I battled through forgiveness to overcome devastating betrayals by family members and business partners. I’m not a bitter man by God’s grace, but I had changed.
“Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.”Matthew 6:12
One evening in 1978 I was walking to my dorm at Christ for the Nations Institute when a vision struck me. I saw a large tree covered in wealth and influence. Then an enormous axe swooped from heaven at the speed of sound slicing through its base at ground level leaving me terrified! Then, a second tree appeared in my mind’s eye, but incomprehensibly greater in every dimension.
“God, what was that?”
I sensed Him say, I’ll let you live a life your way. Then, I will cut you down at the root and show you my way.
“How long, Father?”
Tough to identify when I, the wayward man, came to my senses and returned to my Father’s house. But after my sixtieth birthday, after facing death a few times, I again called on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with all my mind, heart, and strength. Now if you ask me who I am, I’ll tell you I am a man who loves God, my wife and girls.
And, I write books and screenplays and I am pretty good lawyer.
To all you other men (and women) of a certain age, the following is for you.