Birthdays of heroes

Today is a special day. Not because the Giants won the World Series last night. Ok, it is a special day because of that. But far beyond that, today is my dad’s birthday. 5 days ago was the birthday of my mother. Normally, I have written about each of them, individually, on their birthdays. But this year, I feel compelled that the only fitting way to honor them is to do so collectively, the way they lived their lives.

I didn’t need a best friend in my dad as I was growing up. Many fathers and sons have that kind of relationship. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with that. What I needed was a hero. As far back as I can remember, my dad was always bigger than life. He was a cop in San Francisco dating back to the incredibly volatile days of the late 60s, when being an authority figure was like a buck wearing a bullseye on them during a never-ending hunting season. He never shied away from what most of us would avoid. Those things actually inspired him.

What an incredible leader and example he was, and is, for me.

Just the other day, he suffered a bit of an accident and was injured. He spent the night in the hospital. He’s home and doing fine now, so we’re thankful it wasn’t what it could have been. As odd as it may seem coming from a man of my age, this served as a painful IMG_1780reminder that the man is, in fact, not bulletproof. He isn’t indestructible. Even so, he endures it all as heroes do. With humility, faith and grace. What God has done in his life over the last 30+ years is amazing. He is an inspiration to me.

The partnership he and my mom had was beautiful. She sometimes had to be both mother and father to me because Dad often worked long hours, in addition to a demanding commute. I wanted for nothing as I was growing up. Mom was there for me. Sometimes a little too there, in my opinion at the time. In retrospect, I cherish my memories.

As a young adult, I began to grow a bit bitter about always being known as “Ed and Sarah’s son”. I wanted to carve my own name into the world. I didn’t want to live in anyone’s shadow. It finally hit me as I entered my late 20s, that it was truly an honor to be Ed and Sarah’s son. I was blessed beyond comprehension to be raised by these incredible people. They were not what I deserved, and I, certainly, wasn’t what they deserved. But God put us together in His divine providence. At this stage of our lives, and with my mom currently in God’s presence, our family has never been closer. I’m 3,000 miles away, yet, we have a level of intimacy we didn’t have when we all lived within minutes of each other.

I’m so thankful for my family. We couldn’t, and wouldn’t be what we are without the shining example of Ed and Sarah Matelli. They have touched so many lives. To have them as parents is a blessing I will never take for granted.

Happy Birthday to my heroes. Thank you, Lord, for blessing Matt, Larry, John and me with the love of such amazing people.


The REAL Law of Attraction

Last Monday, I wrote a post expressing my thoughts relating to the so-called “Law of Attraction”. Since then, I’ve still been thinking about this particular concept. I have a couple more thoughts I’d like to add. 

The first is in response to a reply to my original post by someone who said a particular “minister” taught that, “God wants us to have prosperity and abundance”. My immediate thought was that God is infinitely less interested in our material prosperity than He is our spiritual condition. My thoughts then deepened to consider the question, “prosperity and abundance as compared to whom?” In other words, compared to our peers in our community, or perhaps with those in third world countries who live in mud huts and have to hunt for their food?

We live in such material abundance, it’s embarrassing to complain. It’s embarrassing that people who profess to be Christian continue to teach that God wants us to have lots of money and possessions as if it’s some sort of sign of spiritual maturity. When I responded to the reply to which I referred earlier, I was immediately reminded of the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19. He considered himself a morally upright man. But Jesus challenged him when He went straight to what the man truly treasured. He told the man to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, then follow Jesus. The man ended up turning away because “he had great wealth.” As Jesus was sharing this story with His disciples, he said this in verses 23 and 24, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” This is not because rich people are evil. This is because most people with abundance are not willing to sacrifice all they’ve acquired if it was asked of them.

I know many affluent Christians. Here’s the thing. God isn’t against us having wealth. But not all of us can be trusted with it. Tomorrow I’ll go into this point further, so for now, I’ll just leave it at that.

In closing this post, I want to leave you with the REAL law of attraction. Nothing more needs to be said beyond what I’m about to share with you. It is the definitive answer to this concept of life.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. 
~James 4:8 

Breaking the Law of Attraction

This might be a bit of a controversial topic, but my passion is stirred, and this is one of the ways I express my passion. This post isn’t meant to exclude anyone, but it is especially pointed to those who consider themselves Christian. 

Since sin was introduced to man in Genesis 3, we humans have been preyed upon with deception. The hook isn’t baited with something that won’t attract us. The serpent lured Eve by appealing to her instinct to have more than she was given by God. 

Temptation is never ugly when we look at it initially. I remember when I stepped into mainland China for the first time. As I walked out of the train station and down the street, I saw these beautiful, brightly colored signs which inspired a happy feeling. But in the gaps between the signs, you could look to see that behind them were dilapidated buildings. The signs were there to hide and distract from the ugly truth which stood behind them. Just like these signs, temptation inspires good feelings, but behind them is a world of ugliness. 

Sometimes deception comes disguised as some form of godliness. That’s what it looks like from the outside, anyway. There have been various forms of the current philosophy of the “Laws of Attraction”. This crept into the church long ago in the so-called “Positive Confession” movement. It’s also been known as the “Word of Faith”, “Prosperity Doctrine”, “Name It and Claim It”, and the ever popular, “Blab It and Grab It”. In any form, it is about the idea that if we really want something, and we believe that it is ours, it is! Even if it hasn’t yet come to pass, it’s a done deal. Now we have self-help gurus making fortunes off the “Eves” of this age with the so-called Law of Attraction.

Let me just say that any theology or “secret” that puts man at the center isn’t of God. Christianity and all its benefits aren’t about us, it’s about God. Sure, we benefit in ways that can’t be measured, but even so, it’s not about us. As humans, we have a very selfish instinct. We seek out formulas which will make our lives more comfortable. Just as bubblewrap is cushy and fun, we want our lives to be insulated by a nice, comfortable concept for living. We convince ourselves that we should be able to will ourselves to more good events in life, while shrouding ourselves from things ranging from the inconvenient to the tragic.

The Gospel of Jesus is anything but comfortable. There is nothing simple and easy about the Christian life. If it were as simple as some Jedi mind trick to the cosmos that if we simply send out positive energy, good things will be drawn to us like static cling, that would completely nullify what Jesus did with His life, death and His resurrection. God did not send His son so that life would be easy for us. He is not a genie in a lamp. The Christian life is not for the faint of heart.

The fact that the world has devised a “secret” that shadows a miracle of God as promised to His people is nothing new. In Exodus 7, Moses and his brother Aaron were standing before Pharaoh trying to convince him to do as the Lord commanded in letting the Israelites free from slavery. In order to get Pharaoh’s attention, the Lord instructed Moses and Aaron to do something. 

Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12 Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.”  

Mimicking God’s miracles is nothing new. However, as this example clearly demonstrates, the real thing, the truth will swallow up the imitation every time.

For those who call themselves Christians, it is about denying ourselves and living for the purpose of glorifying God. It is about submitting ourselves to His will. Jesus Himself uttered the words, “not my will, but Yours be done”. Pretty bad things happened to Jesus following those words. Were they the result of negative vibrations?

They were the result of our sin, and God loved us so much that He endured horrific atrocities. 

If you’re a parent, you don’t give your children everything they want, even when they’re being sweet and obedient. You probably reward them for their good behavior, but that’s what they’re supposed to do in the first place. If you gave them whatever they wanted, they’d have ice cream for dinner. You’d be broke buying them everything they want. They’d never be home because they’d abuse the independence given to them in being able to do what they want, when they want. Sometimes God says no to us. When you say no to your kids, you don’t want them to pitch a fit like spoiled brats. You want them to respect your authority and accept your decision because you see the big picture of what is best for them and their development.

We must submit our will to God’s. When the bible says in Psalm 37:4 that we should delight in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our heart, it doesn’t mean that if we are happy Christians with a positive attitude that we’re going to get nothing but green lights and great parking spots. It means that when we are in proper fellowship with God, His desires for us will become ours. He will birth His desires in our hearts which will please Him, and it will also bring us great fulfillment. God loves to lavish us with great gifts, but He knows what is truly in our best interest. He knows what we can handle and be trusted with.

Many Christians like to quote Psalm 37:4 and use it as an argument for material prosperity. However, they tend to overlook verses 5-7 which says:

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
       trust in him and he will do this:

 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
       the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
 7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
       do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
       when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Commit, trust and wait. Not in your “vibrations”, but in God. When you do, it doesn’t say you’ll have good things and good times. It says your righteousness will shine. Lots of bad things happened to Job, but He trusted in God. He never turned his back on God, even when his wife and friends suggested he should. In remaining faithful and devoted to God, his righteousness shined, and he was validated by God.
Verse 7 tells us to submit ourselves to God’s timing and not to covet what others have as they go about their schemes and formulas. Their rewards are temporal. 
Ours are eternal.