Friday, March 2, 2012

Greater Love Has No One Than This

This story was written on August 4, 2009, and is reposted from another blog.

From the Officer Down Memorial Page: Deputy Arthur Pelino was shot and killed by a mentally deranged suspect. Deputy Pelino was a Resident Deputy in Gorman, which is located in a rural section of Los Angeles County. He had arrested a mentally deranged suspect that was known to have been violent. Deputy Pelino cancelled deputies that were responding to back him up stating he had the situation under control. Deputy Pelino took the suspect back to his office to start the booking process.

During the booking process, the suspect started to struggle and was able to get Deputy Pelino's service weapon. The suspect shot and killed Deputy Pelino and sat down in the office.

Two of Deputy Pelino's children found him and the suspect and ran to get help. Deputy Pelino's wife was able to get the suspect into a cell and call for assistance.

Deputy Pelino had been with the agency for 21 years and was survived by his wife, three sons, and three daughters.

From the Officer Down Memorial Page: Deputy Hagop Jake Kuredjian was shot and killed after responding to back-up another deputy and federal agents who were attempting to serve a warrant on a man for impersonating a police officer and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.

When officers arrived at the residence in an affluent neighborhood, the man came to the door several times but refused to go outside. As the officers attempted to gain entry through a window the man opened fire with an automatic rifle, striking Deputy Kuredjian in the head.

The suspect then held other officers at bay for several hours before his house caught fire and burned to the ground. The suspect had previously been a police officer.

Deputy Kuredjian had served with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for 17 years.

September 11, 2002

The day was beautiful. The occasion was solemn. It was the day of the official dedication, of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station Memorial Garden. The garden was located in a small area between the station and the courthouse. Unless you were familiar with the station, you would have no idea the garden was there.

On a brick wall were mounted the portraits of Art Pelino and Jake Kuredjian, the only two deputies killed in the line of duty, at Santa Clarita Valley Station--my station. A plaque was mounted on the wall between the two portraits. Engraved in the plaque was a verse. The command staff of the station came to me and asked what verse might be appropriate for the plaque. Only one came to mind.

By September 11, 2002, I was serving as a full-time missionary to the law enforcement community, and serving as a chaplain for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Santa Clarita Station is where I had served as a patrol deputy, field training officer, and a gang/juvenile crime investigator. Now, I was ministering to the same men and women with whom I had hit the streets.

As the station chaplain, I was tasked with saying a few words and then offering a prayer during the Memorial Garden dedication ceremony. It was a small but very special ceremony with members of the station, the Kuredjian, and Pelino families present.

August 4, 2009

After a wonderful time of evangelism and fellowship outside the North Hollywood Metro Station, and an uneventful doctor's appointment, I decided to spend some time carrying my cross along Valencia Boulevard, outside City Hall. I wanted to make sure I got some "cross time" in today, since family plans for the evening would keep me from doing so later in the day.

There was quite a bit of mid-morning traffic on Valencia Boulevard, so a lot of people saw the cross. The pedestrian traffic was very light, but I did distribute a few gospel tracts.

My sister, Cheryl, called me. As we chatted, a young man walked past me. The only distinctive characteristic about the young man was the bright red with gold lettering lanyard that hung from his right, front pants pocket. The gold lettering read: "United States Marine Corps." He seemed too young to be a Marine; but, then again, I'm getting older every day. My doctor enjoyed reminding me of that fact this morning.

With a cell phone in one hand and the cross in the other, I couldn't reach into my pocket to retrieve a gospel tract. So, I just said "hello." He gave me an inquisitive look, returned the salutation, and continued on his way. I was enjoying the phone fellowship with my sister, but I was disappointed that I missed the opportunity to give the young man a tract.

Several minutes later, I saw the same young man walking toward me, returning from wherever he had been. The piece of paper resembling a job application in his left hand, which wasn't there when he walked by the first time, indicated to me that he was out looking for a job.

"Did you get your million dollars yet, today?" I asked as I handed him the gospel tract.

He took it from my hand and examined it.

"Are you a Marine, thinking about becoming a Marine, or do you just like Marine stuff?" I said as I pointed to the lanyard still hanging from his pocket.

"I'm not a Marine, yet. But I've signed up. I got one more year of high school."

"Well, thanks for your willingness to serve."

"So, what's this about?" He asked as he pointed up at my cross.

"Well, it's about the million dollar question. Are you ready for eternity? What's going to happen to you when you die?"

"I'm not sure. But I think something's going to happen."

"Do you believe that heaven and hell exist?"

"I believe there is some kind of heaven and some kind of hell."

"Do you believe God exists?"

"I believe there is a god."

"So, what do you think a person has to do to get to the heaven you think exists?"

"Do good and hope for the best. I'm sure there must be some kind of test."

"No way." I thought to myself. "Did he really just say that he has to pass a test to get to heaven?" I did my best not to allow too big a smile to appear on my face. But I must admit, I was chuckling on the inside.

His name was Josh.

"You know what?" I said. "If you want to get to heaven on your own, you do have to pass a test."

The look on his face told me that he was surprised by what I said. I took Josh through the Law. He admitted to being a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart.

"So, Josh, if you were to die today or if someday you were killed in battle, and God judged you according to His Law, would He find you innocent or guilty?"

"I would be guilty."

"If He found you guilty, what should He do with you? Heaven or hell?"

Josh thought for a moment, as so many people do, trying to come up with an answer--any answer--other than the obvious one.

"Well, I kinda believe in second chances. I might just stay in limbo."

"Nope, Josh. Limbo is a place man created, just like purgatory, because the thought of hell is just too unpleasant for them. There's no such thing as limbo."

"Then I guess I would go to hell."

"Does that concern you at all?"

"Not really."

"It doesn't?"

"I don't think so."

"Josh, what if you found yourself in Afghanistan. You and your fellow Marines are in a firefight with the Taliban. You didn't sign up to be part of a peacetime military."

"I know." Josh said with a serious and almost apprehensive tone.

"Josh, would you stand up in front of the enemy during that firefight and say, 'Go ahead! Kill me! I don't care about my life!"

"No." Josh said with a chuckle.

"No. Of course you wouldn't. You would hunker down with the rest of the Marines, return fire, and fight. Why? Because you care about your life."

Josh nodded his head.

"Josh, if you care about your physical life, which is but a vapor--which is here today and gone tomorrow; shouldn't you care even more about your soul that will live forever?"

"I guess I should."

"Do you have any idea what God did so you might not have to spend eternity in hell?"

Josh looked up at my cross. "Jesus died on the cross?"

Josh paused for a moment, trying to think of something else to say. "What else did he do?" He mumbled under his breath.

"Josh, let's say you were arrested for breaking the law and you found yourself standing before the judge."

I pointed across the street to the courthouse. "I was a deputy sheriff for twenty years, so I spent a lot of time in that courthouse."

"You were?"


"Did you know my grandfather?"

"Who was your grandfather?"

"Art Pelino."

"Really? Well, your grandfather was killed before I became a deputy sheriff; but I certainly know about your grandfather."

Josh smiled.

"Josh, how old are you?"


"Were you there for the dedication of the Memorial Garden at the sheriff's station?"

"I was."

"So was I."


"I was the chaplain that spoke and said the prayer."

"That was you?"

We were both smiling, now.

I took Josh to court, sharing with him the analogy I so often use before presenting someone with the gospel.

"Josh, that analogy is a picture of what God did. Two thousand years ago, God the Father sent His Son to Earth in the person of Jesus Christ--fully-God and fully-Man, but without sin. Unlike you and me, He never once violated the Law of God in thought, word, or deed. He couldn't. He was God in the flesh--the sinless Lamb of God. He was born of a virgin, just as the prophet said He would be, 750 years before His birth.

"Thirty to thirty-three years into that earthly existence He voluntarily went to the cross. He suffered, shed His innocent blood, and died a horrific death. The Bible says that he was so badly beaten and mutilated that He could barely be recognized as human. He suffered and died, taking upon Himself the punishment you and I rightly deserve for violating God's Law. Three days later He rose from the dead and forever defeated death. Unlike the false gods of every other religion on the planet, Jesus Christ is alive and He will return at a time of the Father's choosing.

"What He commands of you, me, and everyone else is that we repent--that we turn away from and forsake our sin; and that we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior."

"I took a world religion class in school. So, I've studied about a lot of different religions."

"Josh, do you know the difference between what the Bible says and virtually every other religion?"

"The name of the god?"

"No. Here's the difference. The other religions of the world say to believe a certain set of beliefs. Obey a set of rules. And maybe, just maybe, in the end it will work out for you. The Bible teaches that there is absolutely nothing you can do to save yourself. Why? Because you are dead in your trespasses and sins. There is nothing you can do to earn or work your way into a right relationship with God. A person is saved by the grace of God, through faith, and not as a result of any good works.

"And that's why you need a Savior, Josh. Jesus is the only one who can save you from the just punishment for your sins against God. If God saves you-causes you to be born again, then you will want to repent of your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. If He does that for you, then He will give you a new heart with new desires. You will want to do that which pleases him--not because it earns you anything, but because you are so grateful for the free gift of eternal life that He has given you."

I stopped talking for a moment. Josh didn't say a word. He just looked at the ground. His eyes seemed to begin to water.

"Josh, do you know what is written on the plaque, next to your grandfather's picture?"


"It's John 15:13. It says, 'Greater love has no one than this, than he who lays down his life for his friends.' That's what your grandfather did, Josh. And that is what Jesus Christ did for those who repent and receive Him as Lord and Savior."

"Wow. You've certainly given me a lot to think about this day."


"Well, I've got to get going."

"Okay. Thanks for talking with me."

We shook hands.

"Josh, God bless you. And thanks, again, for your willingness to serve."


Josh smiled and walked away. Within moments, he was sprinting down the sidewalk. I thought of many reasons why the young man was running. Only God and Josh know for sure.

As I watched him run away, I thought that I might not ever see him again. He may very well end up in Afghanistan and lay down his life for his country. I thanked God that He had given me the opportunity to share the gospel with Josh.

And then I thought back to that Memorial Garden dedication nine years ago. As a chaplain, department policy and protocol precluded me from even mentioning the name of Jesus Christ while serving in an official capacity, during a department function. What our sophisticated culture would deem tolerance and sensitivity is, in reality, intolerance and hatred for the Lord Jesus Christ and those who truly worship Him.

So, seven years ago, when Josh was just nine years old, he didn't hear the gospel from me. But today, as I stood across the street from the sheriff's station and that Memorial Garden--as I stood there in civilian clothes holding my cross, Josh heard the gospel.

There are no coincidences in God's economy. Contrary to what some of today's heretics would say, God is omniscient. He knew seven years ago (He knew from eternity past) that I would minister to the grandson of a hero, today. And I thank Him for the opportunity.

To God, and God alone, be all the praise and honor and glory. For He alone is worthy.

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