Thursday, November 25, 1999

A Time of Thanksgiving

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

This Thanksgiving will be a bit more sentimental for me than past years. As Dee and I prepare for our wedding, and I prepare to leave New Jersey, I've been reflecting quite a bit upon all the things I have to be thankful for. I'm thankful for all the people that helped me through some of the toughest moments in my life:

1) Broken ankle / full leg cast (August 1993): I remember vividly my mom rushing to the hospital to be by my side, taking time off of work to make me lunch and to take me to the doctor. I remember my dad driving me to Newark for graduate school, walking around the mean streets of Newark during my two hours of classes, and stating "You're my son, where else would I rather be?" I remember my friends stopping by on Friday nights to play chess so that I wouldn't be alone.

2) Missing the 5 year BA/MBA cutoff (1992): I spent one entire winter break at Rutgers studying for the GMATs in order to start grad work my senior year. I needed to score in the top 15%, but I came up woefully short on my first try. I was fully resigned to giving up, but my sister refused to let me do so, and encouraged me to give it one more try. Without that encouragement I never would have succeeded (let alone attempted) that 2nd time.

3) Depression (1992/1996): I remember a friend stopping by one Memorial Day with a platter of food from a picnic I could not bring myself to attend. I remember another friend taking my assignments to a class I could not find the strength to attend. I remember all the words of support from my family and friends who refused to let me give up, fueling me with the encouragement I needed to survive.

I'm thankful as well for all the people who helped make some of the happiest moments of my life:

1) 1st homerun (Little League): I remember hitting my first over-the-fence homerun in what could have been my last Little League at bat had I failed. It was my biggest moment to date, but what made it most special was a friend's dad running out behind the center field fence to get it and presenting it to me with a hug and a kiss.

2) Surprise birthday party (College): I remember my friends throwing me a surprise birthday party, some of whom even came in from far out of state to be there.

3) Meeting Dee (1998): I remember Dee coming into my life just at a time when I needed her most, and being everything and more of what I had always envisioned my wife to be.

I thank you all, but most of all I thank the good Lord who has brought each of you into my life. I wish you all a blessed holiday; may each day of your life be a time of thanksgiving.

Monday, November 15, 1999

How Far Would You Go For Christ

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.
(Acts 7:59-60, 8:1)

The bible describes Stephen as a "man full of God's grace and power who did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people." (Acts 6:8). He was also a man faced with a life or death decision: he could either publicly reject Christ and live, or publicly accept Christ and die. He chose the latter. But even more remarkably, Stephen had so much love inside him, he prayed for mercy and forgiveness upon the very people who were stoning him to death.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Christ was faced with a similar decision, with a few extra negative incentives: He would have to humble himself to become a man and leave behind the glory of his father's kingdom, knowing full well the people he was doing this for would openly reject, beat, persecute, mock, and crucify him. But despite all the negatives, Christ did humble and sacrifice himself, and upon his death expressed the same love that Stephen would later share: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

This lends the question, how far would I go in my walk with the Lord? Is my love for Christ conditional upon the safety of my environment? Would I cower in fear and reject the very man that humbled and sacrificed himself for me? Hopefully, my faith is never put to that ultimate test, but if it was, I hope I make the same decision that Stephen did.

Friday, November 5, 1999

All I Have to Give is Christ

Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." (Acts 3:6)

The apostle Peter has an interesting resume:

1) Disciple of Christ: Gave up livelihood as a fisherman to follow some stranger who said he will make him a "fisher of men." (Matthew 4:18-20)

2) Doubter of Christ: Nearly drowned after losing faith in the same man he sacrificed everything to follow. (Matthew 14:28-31)

3) Believer in Christ: Boldly professed his belief in the man he sacrificed everything to follow but occasionally doubted in times of trouble; "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16)

4) Rock of Christ: Man he boldly professed his faith in tells him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18)

5) Obstacle of Christ: Man he sacrificed everything to follow tells him: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:23)

6) Disappointer of Christ: Failed to keep awake during the hour the man he sacrificed everything to follow needed him most; "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (Matthew 26:40-41)

7) Rejecter of Christ: Rejected man he had previously boldly professed his faith in: "You also were with Jesus of Galilee, she said. But he denied it before them all. I don't know what you're talking about." (Matthew 26:69-70)

8) Defender of Christ: Vigorously defends man he previously rejected: "It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone." (Acts 4:10-11)

9) Persecuted for Christ: Jailed for defending man he previously rejected, disappointed, and obstructed: "It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also." (Acts 12:1-3)

10) Healer in Christ: Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." (Acts 3:6)

From obstacle to rock, rejecter to defender, and doubter to believer, Peter came a long way in his relationship with Christ. His walk with the Lord is an encouragement to me, for there have been times in my life when I have strongly believed, defended, and been persecuted for Christ and others when I have doubted, rejected, and been an obstacle of Christ. But like Peter, I hope that as my faith and walk with the Lord strengthens, I'll learn the same lesson that Peter learned: "All I have to give is Christ." There's no greater gift I could ever give.