Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Lawyer's Calling

At the end of August I had the opportunity/privilege to be the guest speaker at the Christian Chamber in Lakeland. The following are the notes that I used for the presentation. I won't say script because on more than one occasion, I departed from the outline.

No lawyer jokes here
Christian lawyer, oxymoron or contradiction in terms
More than a small handful of us out there.
Cary Gaylord (West Point ’69 and successful Tampa lawyer)

The Christian life is an adventure. I’ve used that line before our Church, and use it again today. You can experience a lot of excitement when you are about the Father’s business.

To be clear, God has not called us to live a life of excitement and adventure. Still, I do feel a certain level of passion and excitement as I strive to grow in my walk with the Lord.

In a few moments, I will explain why. But first, I would like to read a passage from the book of Isaiah Chapter 6.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory."
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Verse 5 talks about Isaiah being a man of unclean lips,
That is where I was, coming into the Army
21 years old, graduating from West Point and chasing the coveted Army Ranger Tab

God got my attention as I recovered from the Ranger School injury

Beginning of transformation
Took awhile to get into church
Involvement in small group
teaching Sunday School

1992, left the Army to attend law school
Drawn to group called Christian Legal Society
Although 600 students at law school, we only had about 6-10 members. But during exam time, we had special prayer meetings and our attendance briefly doubled or tripled.

At the end of the 1st year, I was voted as president of the group for the following year
looking back I thought mistake I made; we had a nice Christian club, but we weren’t outreach minded. We did not focus on bringing in other law students, particularly the lost

After graduation another mistake made – primary focus would be on legal career; thus I had no desire to pursue any leadership roles in any church
Thus, I became what I would call a spectator Christian
Faithfully present every Sunday, but not involved in anything beyond that.
Chasing the things of the world during the week.

First I spent two years working for a federal judge in Jacksonville, that was followed by the time spent at a law firm specializing in labor and employment law in downtown Tampa.
Labor and employment law involves legal issues surrounding the employment relationship, including advising and counseling clients on these issues
Nature of Florida law, discrimination and harassment are cases that the courts deal with on a regular basis

Early success
Disability case
whether employer discriminated against employee based on disability
store manager; memory problems due to head injury; store underperformed; claimed needed an asst. mgr
well represented by a Polk County attorney
Court entered summary judgment; assuming all of evidence viewed favorably towards her, she still did not have a case
Harassment case
fast food restaurant; young employees; boy girl; horseplay; claims a couple of touching incidents; including an unwelcome kiss near her ear
summary judgment entered in favor of restaurant
documentation is very important; keep good records because if your employment decisions are challenged; you want to demonstrate support for the decision making process
investigate all complaints of harassment; even if you believe that the person complaining tends to cry wolf all the time
Again had early success and there ws definitely a level of excitement associated with that success
As the years went by; I continued to enjoy the work; but I did not enjoy the atmosphere
This was in 2004-2005 time frame when I was really growing in my faith

Earlier mistake; focus on career; avoid church leadership

Then we look at Isaiah 6, and zero in on verse 8, which reads “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said ‘Here I am, Send me!’”

I believe this verse highlights our calling; what is our next step after the Lord tells us that our sins are forgiven . . . at that point we are ready to say “Here I am, Send me”

Before I highlight examples, I want to go back to my first job after law school.
A year before graduating I was interviewed by Judge John H. Moore in Jacksonville
Gator in every corner of the office.
Two strikes
Timing=> worked for Judge Moore the year that Gators were #1 and FSU was #2.

To salute Judge Moore, point to recent history and last 4 years of Tim Tebow, and the things that he accomplished at the University of Florida

Heisman Trophy; two national championships; the Speech

You have to admire his faith

Bible verses on eye black; How many people, Gator fans and opponents, picked up the Bible because of the Bible verses displayed on the eye black
Conversation regarding Eph 2:8-9 “for by grace you have been saved through faith; not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

God has given Tim Tebow the ability to play football well enough to win the Heisman trophy; and at the UF he has used that gift to share the Gospel w/ anyone who will pay attention

Again, in the words of Isa. “Here I am, Send Me!”

You and I can do the same thing

I am not talking about putting eye black with Bible verses on our faces

What we can do is use our businesses as a platform for ministry

Small group leadership at our church
connecting with families and leading Bible studies (to lead had to be prepared) and that is where the growth kicked in
Involvement with this group
Evangelism and discipleship; purposefully, reaching out to the lost and growing and not only converting, but discipling others

With this spiritual growth came the vision of applying this to work
So in 2006, I left the Tampa law firm and my wife and I started our own law practice in Brandon,
The vision that we had was to use our law office as a platform for ministry
Actually, I used the terminology mission and ministry
That through the office we would reach out to the lost and to those who are Christians we would minister to there needs.


Employment case; discussing the case with a gentleman who lost his job it hit him really hard; some of us get very wrapped up in our work and it really defines us;

on one occasion he came to my office with his sister; on another he came with his mother

on his last visit he started talking about reading a book, sounded like a devotional; to encourage himself while he was feeling down; then he started talking about visiting different churches; at that meeting I had no intention on getting in a religious discussion; but he said something that really sparked a conversation that lead me to discussing different scriptures

I started talking about 1st Cor.; and from there I started talking about Acts. Then I would pause and note, that I am really an attorney and not a pastor.

I knew he was listening
He called me back

Woman came to my office; serious marital problems; concerned about her daughter
after over an hour of listening to her story, I was very direct and said as her, you need to pray for your daughter; but for your prayers to be effective your relationship with the Lord must be right

Then I went to my office; returned to the conference room and handed her a gospel of John;

I also encouraged her to call a lady at my church, who is good at counseling individuals with emotional needs and I also invited her to my church

This is a woman who has almost no spiritual background; her husband resisted her efforts to go to Church; and approximately 2 weeks later she showed up at our church.

Recent adoption case at Polk County Courthouse

young lady wanted her husband to become the adopted father of her daughter;
to adopt, you have to let the father know; we could not reach him, deployed to Afghanistan with Nat Guard

called into court
thought Judge might have challenged us; Judge reviewed filed; we had everything that we needed

granted the adoption; the mother was in tears; her attorney the Army guy was almost in tears as well.

Few other similar stories; I will confess right now, as there are great opportunities to witness to others, discuss my faith, there are missed opportunities as well.

Over the last few years I’ve realized that the investment in the lives of others is worth it;

Jesus told us to “To therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Matt. 28:19

I am involved in a number of ministries in the business community; but my favorite is CBMC

Every Wednesday morning meeting with a group of men at the Village Inn

As a result of these meetings, witnessing first hand the transformation in their lives

Eric has been with us for four years
he is in his 60s. Has a son my age;

he said for a long time he was afraid to read the Bible; not unusual; I believe most American Christians are that way

Now he studies it; he prepares for our lessons; and he is excited about the growth in his life

Dan – who is in his mid to late 30s
he joined us 4 years ago; in a wheelchair; when he joined us he had a hunger to seek God;

watched him move from a wheelchair; to a walker; and to a cane; to now he is on his feet

He has risen up to become a leader in our group;
Followed me as the Chair of Tampa Bay Leadership Prayer Breakfast;

Major role in success of last breakfast; prior events averaged about 500 attendees; he lead our team to bring 1000 attendees to the Joe Gibbs Breakfast

My thing is I love doing Bible Study. I love opening up the Bible and watching it change the lives of others
I’ve concluded that seminary is not for me.
God, has me right where he wants me . . . where I am able to reach people that would not be reached by the pastors at my church.

Again, you can use your work; your businesses to make a difference for the Kingdom of God

You do not have to be the one who approaches people and ask them if they are going to heaven; and you don’t have to be the one who leads Bible Studies,

Rom. 12:4 “for just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function.

v.6 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly; if prophecy according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches in teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives with liberality; he who leads with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Many of you have already taken that step to make a difference for the Kingdom of God; for those of you who haven’t I encourage you to consider what gifts have God given you and think of how they can be used to glorify God in the workplace.

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