Danny… The Expanded Story of Grace

by DanWolgemuth on November 20, 2020

19. Still a teenager, but with enough pain, brokenness, confusion and trauma to cover a lifetime.

Drugs, alcohol, violence were the white noise of Danny’s existence. Then, desperation, a weapon, and an unsuspecting victim. At gun point Danny held up a man who confessed to having none of the cash that Danny hoped to retrieve. In a fit of anger and frustration, Danny took the pistol in his hand and struck the man in front of him.

Then… as though in cosmic slow motion, Danny watched as the man he had just pistol whipped, while falling backward, looked Danny in the eyes and said… “May God bless you.”

Like a branding iron on exposed flesh, these words seared into Danny’s soul. The blunt force of a handgun and unconstrained rage, counterpunched with the fist of grace and love.

Arrested. Convicted. Sentenced. Incarcerated… a 45-year term.

And while Danny was separated from friends and family, he was never disconnected from the words that were spoken over him. A blessing. From God. The victim as victor. The powerless as hero.

A seed sown. A message delivered.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Romans 12:14, ESV)

What God ignited in an instantaneous exchange, he fanned into flame in prison.

Grace, unconstrained by iron bars, found its way into a cell. Brokenness. Confession. Forgiveness… and freedom.

Incarcerated, but free. Confined, but unconstrained. Serving time, but liberated. Danny. By Jesus.

Gentleness replaced violence. Hope evicted despair.

Ten years and eight months served, and Danny was released. But his debt was paid long before he walked away from the prison. And through the miracle of grace, God planted a dream. A dream of restoration. A dream of reclaiming the very communities that he had worked to destroy. A dream. Not Danny’s dream, but God’s vision. His plan. His strategy.

The ransom paid. The script written.

A “masterpiece” now on a mission. (For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

Created anew, to do the good things God Himself had planned.

“May God bless you…” and although those words, spoken 21 years ago, were intended for a violent street kid, they have been true in my life as well. God has blessed me through Danny.

From the wound of sin, grace flowed. To the true follower of Jesus, grace emerges at the moment of impact. As conqueror.

Indelible words. Unshakeable truth.

The Good Shepherd takes a punch in the face to rescue His lost lamb.

And then…

A mercenary becomes a missionary. Our evangelist. God’s anointed. To bring good news. To bad news neighborhoods.

A calling. Our calling.

Indeed… “May God bless you…” and He has. He does. He will.

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Then Danny…

by DanWolgemuth on November 13, 2020

It started with an invitation to share a bit of your personal story. A dozen of us. My YFC USA Cabinet. Some with stories that mirror mine…

Then Danny…

In the early days of Youth For Christ, it was Billy.

Passionate. Powerful. Focused. Vigilant. Fierce. Humble. Gentle.

Billy.

Then Danny…

New York City, not Charlotte.

A street kid, not a farmer.

Billy moved from Bob Jones University to Wheaton College. Danny went from juvenile hall to Sing Sing.

At 27, Billy was preaching at Soldier Field. At 27 Danny was sentenced and serving.

At 31, Billy had a crisis of faith. An inflection point. A crossroad experience.

Danny… fell to his knees in a prison cell. “I’m sorry God” was his simple, profound, and effectual prayer.

But God…

being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

His love. Our mess. Alive.

A farm boy, and a felon.

Our first evangelist. Our current evangelist… one of many.

From the green rolling hills of North Carolina to the concrete jungle of Manhattan.

One battled through the confinement of doubt, the other through the suffocating reality of incarceration…

Then redemption. Adoption. Freedom. Liberty.

Rescued. Now called.

One wore a skinny black tie. The other a cap.

Fighters. Both of them.
 
Evangelists.
 
A shared mission.
 
One, our first. One, our now.
 
One held a Bible. The other holds a Bible.
 
One on a platform. The other on the street.
 
Once Billy. Then Danny.
 
Once Soldier Field. Now the hood.
 
Both with a rap sheet. One polite, and one a matter of public record.
 
Billy. Danny.
 
Because the love of Christ compels us…
 
In 1945. In 2020.
 
Past. Present. And by God’s grace… future.
 
Geared. Anchored.
 
Then. And now.
 
Always. Only. Jesus. 

  

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William Franklin Graham.

November 7, 2020

Billy. Just Billy. November 7, 1918 102 years ago. On the outer edges of Charlotte, a baby. A boy. A masterpiece. A promise. Time may erode the echo of his voice, but it will never silence the power of his message. Christ. And Christ alone. Billy, at 27. The first full-time Evangelist in Youth For […]

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I Googled It

October 30, 2020

Leadership? Yes, please. And so I Googled it. “Books on leadership”. And guess what didn’t appear? The Bible. Did God delegate the definition of great leadership to business or military minds? Did He run out of time to help guide us toward effective and wise and thoughtful leadership? Certainly, we see living examples in scripture. […]

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“It’s complicated.”

October 23, 2020

I’ve said that many times, especially recently. Politics. Platforms. Justice. Mercy. Medicine. Weather. Economics. Immigration. Law enforcement. Elections. Relationships. Opinions. Complicated. Right? And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your […]

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He Saw… and so should we

October 16, 2020

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. (John 9:1)   A recent trip to downtown Denver on the local RTD train provided transportation and a bit more.   Masks on. Space provided. Miles covered.   Once downtown, a walk to a beautifully renovated office building, and the assignment at hand. I […]

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Tattooed

October 9, 2020

It was in May of 2019 that my heart was moved beyond expectation. A heart tattooed. Marked indelibly by an experience in juvenile detention. An experience with Jesus. Now, roughly eighteen months later… I still wake in the middle of the night and think about KB. I wonder. I ache. I pray. The story of […]

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The Profile Page of God

October 2, 2020

A profile. A personal resume. Facebook calls it an About Intro… With icons. Short narratives. And a few locations. Me. Dan Wolgemuth. 65 years distilled. So, the question surfaces. If God had to fill out a profile… something He would put on LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook, what would it be?   Actually, He did. […]

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Pregnant. Expecting.

September 25, 2020

Those were the terms we used in the early summer of 1980 to inform our families that a baby was on the way. Our first. By August, 1980, my entire family was in Birmingham, England for the retirement celebration of my Dad from Youth For Christ. A once in a lifetime gathering to reflect, commend, […]

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A Plastic Recorder and a Borrowed Ukulele

September 18, 2020

There’s a pause, pregnant with anticipation. Then music. A note or two on a piano or a single voice, or a misaligned entry point for a little plastic recorder. And moments later, the vague resemblance of a familiar tune. Then words that confirm the identity of the cloaked hymn. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound… […]

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