The Death and Life of X Gamer Caleb Moore



Caleb Moore, the Winter X Games snowmobiler, went to be with the Lord yesterday. He was 25 years old.

The young man crash landed a week ago – much to the entertainment of millions watching on ESPN – attempting a back flip during the snowmobile freestyle finals. Initially knocked unconscious, the X game athlete awakened, woozily, was diagnosed with a concussion and, eventually, whisked to the hospital.

While hospitalized, Caleb’s condition worsened. Doctors found blood near his heart. This past Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the young man’s family issued a statement that his cardiac injury had led to a secondary injury to his brain. Then, the next day, Caleb’s grandpa told a Denver newspaper his grandson almost certainly was not going to make it.

And, yesterday, the young man drew his last breath.

My heart breaks for Caleb’s family. They knew that the young man’s extreme sport was inherently dangerous; that crashes were almost inevitable. Indeed, Caleb had previously broken his collar bone, pelvis, wrist and tailbone on snowmobiles and all terrain vehicles, not to mention sustaining at least 10 concussions.

“You know it can happen at any time,” said Wade Moore, Caleb’s Dad.

Yet, I have no doubt that the Moore family is grief stricken today. For even if you know that a loved one has a dangerous job or avocation, you still don’t expect them to be taken from you suddenly.

Especially when that loved one is only 25 years old.

Caleb’s tragic death is a cautionary tale to all the young people reading these words: Tomorrow is not promised to you. Every day you spend above ground is a manifestation of God’s amazing grace.

Indeed, when Caleb awakened a week ago yesterday, he had no idea it would be the very last week of his young life. My prayer is that he was a Christ follower; that he spent yesterday in paradise with his Savior.

By the same coin, I hope that the young people who either watched Caleb’s fateful crash on ESPN or saw it on the news do not make the mistake of the thinking they have all the time in the world to get right with God.

Most of those young people can indeed look forward to a long life. But some, sadly, are destined for a premature death, like young Caleb Moore.

Only God knows how many years each of us have on this side of the grave. But we all, old and young alike, can guarantee that we will spend eternity with – rather than without – God by giving our lives to Christ.

Should There Be Mercy For the Murderous?


It’s been 20 years since I sat across a conference table from the attorney representing Robert Alton Harris, a double-murderer who had spent 13 years on California’s Death Row.

The attorney hoped to make the case that, despite his crimes, Harris should be spared his scheduled date with the executioner. He related that the convicted murderer was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. That he was neglected as a child. That he was abused as an adolescent.

I’m sorry, I told the attorney. Your client killed two boys. He deserves to pay the forfeit for taking innocent lives.

And not long after that, Harris died in California’s gas chamber. His was the Golden State’s first execution since 1967.

I thought about Harris, the killer, after watching “Benji,” a documentary on the life and death of Chicago high school basketballer Ben Wilson, which debuted last month and re-aired yesterday on ESPN.

Wilson was rated the nation’s best in class in 1984. And just days before he was to begin his senior season, he got into a beef with two 16-year-old gang members, Billy Moore and Omar Dixon.

Moore pulled a .22-caliber pistol out of his waistband and shot 17-year-old Wilson twice. The high school basketball star died in the hospital.

Wilson’s murder made national news. And nearly three decades later, the circumstances of his premature death has made for a most poignant documentary.

Yet, what I found most poignant was not Wilson’s tragic story. Not his funeral, which drew more than 10,000 mourners. Not the grace with which the young man’s mother, a devout Christian, comported herself after her son was violently taken from her.

But the redemptive story of Billy Moore, young Ben Wilson’s killer.

Moore was sentenced to 40 years in prison for Wilson’s murder. He spent 19 years behind bars before being granted parole in 2004.

Agreeing to appear in the documentary, Moore remembered praying that Wilson would survive the shooting that would claim his life. Perhaps, he said,  praying as hard as the victim’s mother.

At his sentencing, Moore said, he spoke to Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, Ben’s grieving parents.  “I gave them my deepest apology,” Moore said. “I didn’t want to be the one who stole (their son’s) dream.”

Today, Moore is a youth counselor. In 2009, he actually was recognized as a successful example of rehabilitation in a White House ceremony.

Twenty years ago, I would have argued that Moore should have been tried as an adult in Ben Wilson’s death and, if convicted, sentenced to life in prison, if not sentenced to death. I also would have strenuously objected to his parole, after serving little less than half sentence he actually received.

But my thinking has evolved over the past two decades.

I now believe there is no one beyond God’s redemption. Indeed, His Word promises: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”

Billy Moore, the reformed killer, is living proof.

Do Sports Fanatics Go to Heaven?


ESPN makes great commercials. It has been that way since it first launched its “This is SportsCenter” ad campaign back in 1995.

Nearly 400 commercials later, the campaign rocks on with its wry send-ups of famous athletes (usually hanging out at the ESPN offices in Bristol, Connecticut), its comical use of team mascots, and its amusing storylines involving rapid sports fans.

But a recent ESPN commercial is anything but wry or comical or amusing. It shows the actual graves of truly die hard sports fans whose headstones pay homage not to their Creator, but to their favorite sports teams.

Such end-of-life idolatry may very well condemn those that died not in Christ, but in the jersey of their favorite ballplayer, to eternal separation from God.

Indeed, if fans are so worshipful of their beloved sports team that they would go so far as to memorialize their devotion above their final resting place, they clearly have not loved the Lord their God with all their hearts, all their souls, all their strength and all their minds.

They have violated the very first of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”

That’s not meant to suggest that anyone who loves sports, who roots for a favorite athlete, who follows a favorite sports team is sinful. No. Only those who take their sports obsession to extremes.

Like the couple that so loved their Alabama Crimson Tide football that they actually skipped their daughter’s wedding to attend one of the Tide’s gridiron clashes.

Like at least three different sets of parents – including one set living, ironically, in Corpus Christi, Texas – that have named their newborn babies ESPN.

Like those who are buried in caskets bearing the logos of their favorite sports teams.

Those and other sports worshippers may not think their fanaticism sinful. They may not think it threatens their very salvation (that is, if they happen to consider themselves Christians).

But one cannot go to one’s grave in open defiance of God’s commandment to have no other Gods before Him, abiding in the sin of idolatry for which one refuses to repent, and expect to escape God’s punishment.

For the Scripture warns that idol worshippers – like the sports fanatics who went to their very graves paying tribute to their favorite teams – “shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

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