Good Riddance 2009!

No year is ever completely good or completely terrible, but I have to say that 2009 was particularly challenging for me, and from the response I’m seeing from others, for many of you as well. With that, I’m realistic and mature enough to know that the act of flipping the calendar to 2010 brings absolutely no assurance that it will be any different than the year before. 

For me, 2009 brought unprecedented challenges to my life. Financial, professional, and most of all, personal. 286 days ago, my mom passed away. Her life and her passing has impacted my life in ways which I’m still discovering. Not a single day has passed since March 20 where I have not thought of her and been challenged to live up to her legacy. 

2009, while challenging, has also been a spiritual boot camp for me. It has been an intense time of growth. Like lifting weights, we grow stronger by pushing against resistance. When I felt God was leading me to move from San Jose to the Sacramento area, I really had no idea of any specific reason(s) why I was to do so. In looking back, I’m so thankful that my first eight months here were also the last eight months of my mom’s life. I’m grateful to God that I got to see her as often as I did in her last months and days. 

The transition from 2009 to 2010 is seamless. With that, the challenges and triumphs of 2009, if they are simply left as memories from the past, will serve me no good as my life moves forward unless I take with me the lessons learned. In 2009, I experienced God’s love, presence and faithfulness like no other year before. His mercy, His compassion, His grace…all sustained me through this most difficult year. It is upon those qualities that I soar into 2010. I was not run over by 2009. I was carried through it in the arms of my Heavenly Father.  

As I turn the page from 2009 to 2010, the song which resonates in my heart is now added to the playlist on my blog homepage, Great Is Thy Faithfulness. God isn’t faithful based on my merit. There is absolutely nothing I can do to earn His love. Likewise, there is also nothing which can separate me from it. In my sorrow, I reached out to Him, and He reached out to me. In my times of trouble, I ran to Him, and He took me in and sheltered me. In the good times, I was able to stop and thank Him for the beautiful sunsets He painted on the canvas of the evening sky.


I have no idea what specifically lies ahead in 2010. I do know it will see joy and sadness. I know it will see triumph and tragedy. I know there will be laughter and tears of sorrow. It is incumbent upon me to stay close to the heart of God through it all, not just when I’m in the foxhole pinned down by enemy fire. 


While the details of life are unpredictable, I stand upon the unwavering love of God to see me through it all. I stand upon His promises which have never, and will never fail me. 


Goodbye 2009. My memories of you include a lot of sorrow, but without the things which happened during this period, I would not be prepared for what lies ahead in 2010. Therefore, rather than bitterness, I thank God for the challenges which came in 2009. I pray that I am a better man today, December 31, 2009, than I was one year ago. And I pray that the events of the coming year make me a better man for how ever many days God has laid out for me.


OK 2010, BRING IT ON!!

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Stability in the Stable

Here it is, Christmas week. No matter how many Christmases I have experienced, I still marvel at the most minute of details of the biblical account of the birth of Jesus. Yesterday in church, my pastor touched on the contrast between a stable and a palace. Wouldn’t it be fitting for a king of any kind to be born in a palace? But here, the Son of God, foretold by prophets to come to the world to be the Messiah, was born in a barn. A feeding trough for animals would have to settle for a crib.

In the social, political and economic environment we’re experiencing today, stability is a precious commodity. So many have learned that the very entities we thought were bullet proof, in fact, are little more than a house of cards. We’ve seen huge companies which had been in existence for generations simply vanish. Drive around your town and look at all the empty storefronts. Look at all the empty office suites in all those buildings and complexes. 

Forget the economic stuff. We have a drama playing out before us right now of someone who has more money than you can count, whose life is in complete ruin. Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of his generation, if not ever. But almost to the degree in which he mastered his craft, he cultivated an image and a brand which has made him even more money and fame than his talent as a golfer. His reputation for controlling his public persona is legendary. It is now known by all that he has lived a very reckless life. I’ve seen it before. People get so big, so rich, so powerful that they begin to believe their own press. Just throw some of your money around and people will do your bidding.

But what happens when all that stuff you worked so hard to control begins to fall apart? Once it starts, the momentum builds and builds like a roaring avalanche. Whether Tiger can save his marriage is pretty much a comically rhetorical question now. The real questions are can the man show his face in public knowing that the once adoring world now thinks he’s a dirtbag? How will he handle it? Will he ever be accepted again? Is he forever tarnished beyond redemption?


Stability isn’t found in palaces. It’s not found in the rich and famous. It’s not found in a huge bank account. Heck, can you even trust that your bank will still be there next week? God has made a career out of using the unconventional to do the miraculous. God could have beamed a full grown Messiah from Heaven to our world like He was Captain Kirk. God could have blown up a mountain from which a Savior would emerge from the ashes in a heavenly glow. A mighty celestial army could have pierced the clouds ushering the King of Kings to His domain.

Instead, God came to us as a baby boy, umbilically tied to a teenage Jewish girl. No, it wasn’t a palace fit and designed for a king. It was a stable designed to house animals who didn’t need a savior. In an out of the way venue, God made His entrance to our world. His arrival was announced only to those on a very exclusive guest list. And those who shared in this turning point of mankind had to endure some serious obstacles to be there. But when they did, when they came to the stable, they cast their eyes on a baby boy. This boy would one day pay a price for all those who have been and will be born since. 

No matter what foundation upon which you have built your life, if it’s not on Christ the Solid Rock, you’re building your life on sinking sand. You’ll never have enough money, but you can have enough Jesus because He’s more than enough. Living a life of humility, a life which reflects the love God has for you is where you will find true joy, peace and stability. 

You won’t find it in a palace. You’ll find Him in a stable.

Never Lose The Wonder

A few years back, the wife of a former pastor of mine uttered these words to a group of us at the church. I’ve never forgotten them, or the intent behind them. What an exhortation. Never lose the wonder.

I have recently found myself in a bit of a rant over those who are trying to incrementally remove Jesus from the meaning of Christmas, and ultimately, from our country. In doing so, and in firing up those like minded folks who have joined me in hoisting our virtual torches and pitchforks while storming the castle of the virtual mad scientists behind it all, I think it’s important for us to make sure we keep Christ as the center of our own hearts.

In my passion to keep Christ in Christmas, I have to be mindful that Jesus doesn’t need to be defended. Not by me, or anybody. I want to be sure that, in my own heart, I don’t begin to inch my way over the line between defending my freedom and some misguided defense of my God. One follower of Jesus learned this lesson shortly after de-earing a man sent to capture the Lord and bring Him to the high priest.

I will continue to stand up to defend the fact that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. But not to be lost in all this is the wonder of the miracle, the majesty of The Messiah’s physical entry into our world. In a fitting manner, the birth of Jesus wasn’t comfortable or convenient. Also fittingly, it came when most people were oblivious to the significance of what was happening just outside in the smelly, out-of-sight-out-of-mind stable. The town was packed. There was no room in the inn for Jesus, and no room in the hearts of those who were too busy going about their business.

From the very beginning, Jesus has been cast aside by the hustle and bustle of busy lives. Today is no different. But there are a great many of us who have welcomed Jesus into the manger of our own hearts. For many of us, our personal Christmas didn’t come on December 25th. My spiritual Christmas came on April 12, 1983. Unfortunately, there have been many days since in which I have relegated The Savior to my life’s garage. I’ve allowed myself to be so consumed with other things that I’ve not made a comfortable, suitable home for my King. 

As I consider my life and the things which fill it, I remember those words. Never lose the wonder. No good deed I could ever complete would justify keeping Emmanuel out in the cold. I get a thrill when I see snow-covered mountains on the horizon. I gasp in awe when I see a beautiful sunset. My heart leaps when I see someone I love. That’s the wonder. How much more does Jesus deserve? While I love all the festivities surrounding Christmas, and while I know and honor the meaning of it, I don’t want to spend more time focusing on all the distractions than on meditating on The Wonder of it all. 

I urge you to take time each day and reflect on The Wonder of Christmas. Meditate on The Wonder of God that He would leave His throne to walk among us, knowing full well that in doing so, He would pay a price He didn’t owe so that we might spend eternity in His presence. He loves you so much that He would do that so He could forever be with you. No one has ever, or will ever love you like He does. Think about that. I mean really dwell on that! If that doesn’t stir up The Wonder, you’re dead on the inside.


For the next two weeks leading to Christmas, take some time each day to concentrate on God’s majesty and love for you. Despite all the terrible things we’ve done in our lives, despite our rejection of Him, despite our failures…He loves us. Once Christmas has come and gone, keep doing it! Never forget His love. Never forget His mercy. Never forget His grace, His sacrifice or His majestic glory.



Never lose the wonder!

Free To Believe? Another Reader Comment

One of the very cool aspects of writing here is getting comments from people like you. I really enjoy your feedback, even from those who disagree. Such comments cause me to really search within myself to the core of my beliefs. It’s not enough to just say “this is what I believe”, but to offer reasoning for my beliefs.

One such comment was to my post from last Wednesday from another individual identified as “Anonymous”:

“I agree that it is a widely celebrated holiday and nationally recognized, and as a catholic I agree that it’s a shame people now feel that they have to sidestep even those things our society is built on because one or two of the minority will act out like they’re being rubbed the wrong way. I do, however, disagree with your last statement. I think that everyone should be free to believe in whatever religious ideas or gods their religion encompasses. So while I agree we should keep the generous, loving, giving ideals of Christ and the celebration of his birth in Christmas I would ask that no one tries to push these on atheists, Jews, Buddhists, Islamics, and everyone else with varying views. We’re all entitled to what we believe in =)”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure to which “last statement” she is referring. The premise of the post was that if the meaning of Christmas offends you, don’t observe it and work it like any other day. In reviewing the post, I am unable to locate anything which suggests people of other faiths should not be “free to believe” whatever they believe. While I don’t subscribe to “pushing” my faith on anyone who disagrees, I also don’t respect others pushing me to hide it. 

Like it or not, believe it or not, Christmas is an observance of the birth of Jesus Christ. If you do not believe in Jesus, either don’t observe the day, or take the day off and enjoy it. But don’t “push” your views on me and those like me who consider this observance as sacred. Nobody has created a whimsical mascot to distract from the meaning of Hanukkah. No one has come up with an alternate name for it to whitewash it’s religious identity. No one has touched Kwanzaa. Nobody dares to touch Ramadan. But Christmas? 


Christians have become easy targets. If we don’t “turn the other cheek”, we’re hypocrites. If we stand up and protest to defend our beliefs, we’re bigoted extremists. If we practice biblical correctness over political correctness, we’re intolerant. Isn’t it ironic that we’re considered intolerant when anytime a public figure states they believe in the biblical definition of marriage, those who disagree stop at nothing to destroy their lives and reputations?


I agree that in America, we’re “free to believe” whatever we believe. You’re free to wear a tin foil hat so aliens and secret agents in black helicopters can’t read your thoughts. You’re free to worship a hand carved image of a smiling fat guy. You’re apparently free to contact terrorist groups and leaders while serving as an officer in the United States Armed Forces. I’m concerned that this same freedom is being taken away, piece by piece, from Christians. It’s just a matter of time when they discover that even the word “holiday” has religious origins. Hello? Holiday. Holy Day. Coincidence? Look it up yourself.


Despite this faux pas by those who wish to see Christmas obliterated from our consciousness, they won’t stop at Photoshopping Christ out of Christmas. Look for “In God We Trust” to be removed from our currency. It won’t be long before “One Nation Under God” is in the crosshairs. These elements have already received some attention by those who want to secularize our country, but nothing like what we will see in the near future. 


More and more, our country is becoming like our friend “Anonymous” who, while professing to be Catholic, lacks the conviction and passion of her faith. Instead of standing up against the methodical demolition of the Christian foundation upon which this country was founded, she has bought into the idea that other faiths, and those who practice them, have somehow been victimized by Christianity. And as an enlightened, tolerant person, secularizing one of two most Holy Days recognized by her church seems fair to those who don’t believe in the divinity of Christ. By doing so, she has opened the door wide open to those who want to strip God from everything in America.


Are we free to believe? Really?

Christmas; A Good Story?

Last week I wrote a piece about the rampant use of the term “Holiday” in place of Christmas. The piece was generously and surprisingly (to me) re-posted on internet venues which echo the sentiments I wrote. So of course, in preaching to the choir, responses were almost exclusively supportive.

Almost.

I am devoting this post to share with you one dissenting comment I received, and my thoughts on it. The following was posted by “Anonymous”:

Christmas is a lot of fun. The kids love it, presents, tree in the house. It’s a good story. But once you get to be an adult you should of [sic] had enough time to seperate [sic] fact from fiction. And people who choose to cast aside the facts and replace them with faith are in my opinion suffering from a sort of enviromentally [sic] induced mental illness. So relax, enjoy the hollidays [sic] and for the sake of the children snap out of it.” 


OK, like the mosquito said as he landed on the 400 pound man, “where do I begin?”


First, let me state the obvious right off the bat. Christmas isn’t about “the sake of children”. Christmas is about The Child. It’s about Jesus Christ. Our culture has become so arrogant, so self-centered that we genuinely think everything is about us. Here’s a news flash. It’s not about us! Stop the arrogance that believes the hoax that we are able to change the climate of the world God created. Stop the arrogance that takes God out of the schools while violence, drugs and teenage pregnancies skyrocket. Stop the arrogance that takes God out of our nation’s foundation while the division and turmoil in our government implodes on itself. Stop the arrogance that says that Christmas and Easter are about us. 


Next, in typical fashion when someone has no substance upon which to base their opinions, the only method to obtain perceived superiority comes in the form of insulting one’s intelligence or mental stability. In this case, “Anonymous” has opted for the latter. Environmentally induced mental illness? Can anyone venture a guess as to what this means? I have no clue. But, sensibility was not a weapon in this person’s arsenal, so we move on.


I particularly enjoyed the comment about replacing facts with faith. Mr. or Ms. Anonymous didn’t care to back up their claim with any “facts” to debunk the meaning of Christmas, or even one element of Christianity for that matter. I, for one, am thankful for faith. I’m thankful that this life is not the end of it all, but merely the beginning. I can’t imagine the empty and pointless existence it must be for someone who doesn’t believe in something bigger than themselves. But when your world is all about yourself, the idea of living a life of faith and devotion in someone greater than yourself would be rather disconcerting. Faith in an unseen God doesn’t make sense to the “wise” of the world. That’s why it’s called faith. There are going to be a lot of really smart people who will one day bow their knees before God and realize the tragic reality to which their arrogance has destined them.



The “story” of Christmas is not merely a “good story”. The fulfillment of prophecy of the virgin birth of the Messiah is the root of the ultimate of love stories. God, in the form of a baby, left the comfort and perfection of Heaven to come to us as an innocent and vulnerable human baby. His arrival was foretold by prophets. His arrival announced by angels. His beginnings in a humble, smelly stable surrounded by farm animals. This baby was the King of Kings. This baby grew up to endure a horrible death as a sacrifice, an atonement for our sin, once and for all. 


What Christmas has become is fun. Absolutely. I love it. However, buried under the rubble of the secularism of what we now know as “Holiday”, is a truth, a “fact” that cannot be wished away by human arrogance. Christmas is wonderful. The music, the cool winter air. The spirit of joy in people. However, all this while ignoring the true meaning of Christmas is like your best friends and family gathering at your place to celebrate your birthday. They mingle only with each other and exchange gifts amongst themselves, while completely ignoring and forgetting about you!


I understand the confusion of Mr. or Ms. Anonymous and their opinion about Christmas being about children. There is something so special and wonderful about the innocence of a child who believes in the magic of Christmas, Santa, flying reindeer and such. Sadly, childlike faith devolves into adult cynicism and arrogance that can only believe what the eye can see. This is why Luke 18:17 says this, I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”


Christmas is about the Christ child. Heaven, is for the children of God. 


End of story.

Divine Spackle

It is a proven fact that this time of year, while joyous, it is also a time of intense loneliness for many. Speaking from personal experience, it can be very difficult to be alone in a world of families. It is simply assumed that everyone has their own family. I received an email just yesterday about a day long meeting I’m attending this Saturday. The individual coordinating the logistics took a moment to acknowledge the sacrifice of a Saturday by those in attendance. Taking things a step further, he encouraged us to thank our wives for allowing us to participate in this important gathering and for their understanding.

Yeah, if only I had one to thank! 


For many, this time of the year can be very bittersweet. I just received an email from a longtime friend whose relationship abruptly ended just this past weekend. My heart just aches when I hear of stories like this. There is such pain in crushed hope, only to have it compounded by the rotten timing. 

So many among us have hearts with gaping holes in them. Some hearts look like Swiss cheese. I know I have holes in mine. As compassionate people, we know all the right things to say. We know all the well worn cliches. Words are not what we need in times like this. We need the divine spackle of God’s love. Only God’s presence can fill the void in our hearts. A tragically high number of people who don’t open their wounded hearts to God try to find comfort or escape in alcohol, drugs, or fleeting, loveless trysts. 

Believe it or not, when we hurt, God hurts. The aching I feel for my friend who is going through this tough time is nothing compared to the love of The Creator who knows every fiber of her being. 

Maybe you’re reading this and nodding your head in understanding. Maybe you’re reading this through your tears. Understand that God is willing to stop the world to capture your attention so He can overwhelm you with His love. The easiest thing to do is give in to our human nature and retreat into our own personal cave of despair. But it is times like this when God wants us to take our eyes off ourselves, and look squarely into His eyes. How do you do this? 

Three ways.

First, praise and worship. Take time and sing your praise and worship to God. I don’t care if you think you have a voice that would peel paint off of your car. God isn’t impressed or scared off by a singing voice. He hears your heart’s cry. By putting God in His rightful place in your heart, you also put your troubles in their rightful place. In His capable hands.

Next, pray. Tell God how you feel. Let it all out. Let it go. Get it out there. No one can possibly understand you better than God. He knows the number of hairs on your head. Even you bald guys…He knows the number of hairs on your back. Anyway, cast all your cares on Him because He truly does care for you. Then remember that prayer is a dialogue. Take time to listen. When you’ve taken these first two steps, your heart will be calibrated with God’s, and you will be in the perfect place to receive what God would want to communicate to you.

Next, get busy. Don’t wallow in self pity. This time of year, especially, there are a million opportunities to serve people who are going through their own difficulties. Maybe there is someone you know who is sick and needs someone to help them with their kids. Maybe they just need a friend. Maybe you can volunteer somewhere to help feed and clothe homeless people. Visit people in the hospital. If you live near a VA hospital, take time to visit those who have put their lives and bodies in harm’s way in service to our country.

If you’re reading this and don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, and the thought of worship, prayer and all that just doesn’t make sense, please drop me a note. I’ll do anything I can to help you take that important step, then find you a church in your area where someone will walk with you through the next important steps in your life.

When God heals a broken heart, He doesn’t simply fill the holes. He makes the heart stronger. Today is your day.

Politically Correct? Baaahhh!

In a follow up to my post about Christmas, I find it important to go on the offensive against the wave of appeasement which has taken over this generation. 

The Politically Correct movement has completely corrupted our values as a country. We have become so careful to not offend people, that we overlook behaviors which serve as an obvious warning to us that the person is a threat to us. You have to look no further than Nidal Malik Hasan, the gunman at the Fort Hood massacre in Texas. It was well known that he was influenced by Muslim radicals, but did anyone do anything about it? Heck no. That would be profiling. 

I just read about a Dutch gay organization in Amsterdam which is setting up a nativity scene with two Josephs and two Marys. Yes, the Josephs would be an entity to themselves, as would be the Marys. The op-ed article I read included the following statement, 


Lesbians and gays are entitled to their own take on the Christmas story.”


What? So that’s where we’ve come? Groups now are entitled to alter sacred history to suit their own agendas while mocking those who would obviously be troubled at such a display?

The Politically Correct movement has empowered and emboldened those who benefit from it. Our culture is excusing anything they do against those they define as enemies. This would be like excusing the two boys who shot up all those kids and teachers at Columbine because those poor boys felt ostracized by their fellow students.  

I am not interested in being politically correct. I’m also uninterested in being politically incorrect. Forget that stuff.



Instead, I strive to be Biblically Correct. In doing so, I don’t condone anyone’s sin. Not even my own. It’s not about celebrating victimhood. It’s not about being ashamed of my values because others might feel I’m picking on them. It’s about loving people. Agree with them or not, like them or not, they are every bit the creation of God as you and I. If they choose to hate me for my beliefs, I count it a privilege to be hated for the cause of Christ. But I will not bury my values because I’m afraid they’ll hate me. 

I have friends who, were it about our labels, we would not be friends. If we had only judged each other by our labels, we would not have taken the time to develop relationships. In showing them love, I demonstrate the love of Christ. Jesus was much more confrontational with “religious” people who looked down their noses at those who didn’t live according to their high standards. 

Nothing I am saying contradicts my care for those who don’t share my beliefs. I have love in my heart even for those who despise what I stand for. But I will not return evil for evil. Likewise, I will not sit idly by as what I hold sacred is mocked openly, with that behavior being accepted under the guise of tolerance. 


I pray for the strength to stand firm to defend my faith and that which I hold sacred. I pray for strength to stand up and remind those who wish we’d forget that this country was founded by those who understood that we must hold strong to God and His ways, or we would self destruct. A house divided against itself cannot stand.


Yes, I choose to be Biblically Correct.