Tuesday, December 26, 2000

The Ultimate Potter

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearance of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14)

For years I kept a journal to document the events of the calendar year gone by: my accomplishments and failures, my highs and lows, my goals and plans. With this web site, those journals have become a thing of the past as I now have an on-line journal that is accessible for anyone (most notably myself) to see.

Unfortunately, this isn't always such a good thing. It can be a bit disconcerting as I flip over to the archive sections of the site and review the things I did and said in each verse application. At times, it has made me feel like a hypocrite. At others, it has saddened me to view a continuing struggle with some of my greatest weaknesses.

But such struggles are a tonic to my soul. Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, the reshaping of my heart is an on-going, delicate process that is being molded by the ultimate potter, Jesus Christ. That process can be difficult and humbling at times, but I welcome it. I want to be more humble, less competitive, more loving, and more trusting in the Lord. I never want to be so complacent with myself that I have removed Christ from the throne of my life, for the more I realize that I am a far cry from the man I want to be, the more I'll recognize my need for Christ.

I don't know how the Year 2001 will unfold. I'm sure I'll write an application or two that places some egg on my face six months later. But as I've learned over the past year, that egg might be exactly where the Lord wants it...and my heart needs it to be.

Monday, November 20, 2000

The Race to be King

Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours? God said to Solomon, "Since this is your heart's desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have."
(2 Chronicles 1:9-12)

The 2000 U.S. presidential election has been a wild and crazy one. On election night, the press kept us on an emotional roller coaster; first declaring Al Gore the winner of Florida (and essentially the next president), then declaring George Bush the winner, and then calling the election "too close to call." For the past two weeks, the nation has been divided with lawsuits, protests, recounts, and demonstrations, and still we have no president-elect.

Although there is no end in sight, I hope and pray that the eventual president will be the candidate with the greater desire to serve God. I know that if one of these two men is earnestly seeking wisdom and knowledge, not power and glory, then God will not only bless him but also this country.

Only God knows each of their hearts, and whether or not there is a candidate looking to serve him, but if there is, I hope he's the man that ends up in the White House; even if it takes another two weeks, two months, or two years to get him there.

Monday, October 23, 2000

The Competitive Fire Burns On

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

On 1/26/1999, I wrote the following in my "The Competitive Fire Within" verse application: "I still enjoy winning and I still love to compete. But I pray I never let those desires negatively impact another person's life again." After Game 1 of the World Series last Saturday night, I realize I still have a long way to go. Throughout the game between my most beloved team (N.Y Mets) and my most despised team (N.Y. Yankees) I was a nervous wreck. I couldn't sit still, I couldn't relax, and I could barely speak to my family who I had flown half way across the country to visit for the weekend.

At the time, I rationalized it as a once in a lifetime event transpiring before my very eyes. The Mets and Yankees had never played in the World Series before, and they probably never will again. But that's no excuse. I'm tired of having my life turned upside down by the result of a sports game. All Sunday morning on my flight home from New Jersey, I reflected on my behavior the night before and prayed for a change. The verse above is a comfort to me, for I know that if I earnestly seek this change, the Lord is able and willing to enact it.

I want to change. I don't want to be the man I was last Saturday night anymore. It's been a lifelong battle, but I'm looking forward to what the Lord can and will do about it.

Monday, October 2, 2000

A Committed Heart

Your hearts must be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands. (1 Kings 8:61)

What a challenge it is to have our hearts fully committed to the Lord. I don't know if there has ever been a time in my life when this has been true. There have been occasions when this has been 50% true or even 75%; but 100% true is another story.

Quite honestly, it's been too easy for me to get caught up in the cares and pleasures of this world. Who has time to read the bible when there is a good show on T.V.? Who has time to go to a nursing home or soup kitchen when there is a football game to be seen? Who has time to give when so much time is spent on the receiving end?

When I think about the time that I spend giving, caring, and praying for others and compare it to Christ, it sickens me. It's clear that we are two men that live for different motives: Christ's sole mission is to serve, my sole mission is to be served. I may try to sugar coat things and pat myself on the back for those occasions when I have been selfless, but who am I trying to kid - those occasions are few and between.

I yearn for a day that I spend all of my day in prayer and submission to God. Only then will the man consumed by sports and material things be replaced with a man who lives to serve and to love.

Friday, September 1, 2000

A Lesson in Love

Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16)

The above verse is a powerful verse from a lesser known book of the bible; the book of Ruth. It expresses the loyalty and love of Ruth for her mother-in-law Naomi, who had just lost her two sons and husband. After her own husband died, Ruth had the option to return to her homeland but opted instead to remain with and share in the plight of Naomi. The Lord greatly rewarded Ruth for her faithfulness with a husband and son.

After recently getting married, moving to a different state, and leaving behind a number of family and friends, this verse really hits home. It shows the type of loyalty and love I want to express to my wife in our new life together. We have the exciting opportunity of discovering a new church, making new friends, and fulfilling new dreams.

This verse also reminds me of how I should be treating all of the family members and friends in my life. For too many years I took for granted just how blessed I was. Last week, I returned to New Jersey for the first time since the wedding. I decided to treat each moment with each person I saw as if it was my last and to be so thankful for the opportunity to be together. I only wish I had been so wise my whole life.

Friday, August 4, 2000

A Break for the Better

My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.
(Hebrews 12:5-6)

I remember the summer of 1993 like it was yesterday. I spent almost every day at the newly constructed gym at my college campus. I would lift weights religiously for over an hour then head over to the basketball courts to play a few pick-up games. I was a physical and cardio-vascular machine; unfortunately I knew it all too well. I took great pride in being strong in the weight room and excelling on the basketball court. I couldn't walk by a mirror without admiring the handiwork of all the long hours at the gym; a camera was ever present to capture my body's progression month by month.

But everything changed on August 4, 1993. The afternoon started the same way every other one did that summer; I went to work then headed over to the gym afterwards. I lifted weights for an hour, then got involved in yet another pick-up game on the basketball court. However, that's where the similarities end. Against my better judgment, I skipped putting on my high-top sneakers; I soon wished I hadn't been so lazy. After going up for a rebound, I came down on another guy's foot and shattered my ankle. It was the worst physical pain I ever experienced, and I knew I was in trouble. When I got to the hospital, my worst fears were realized when the doctor put on a cast that extended all the way up my left leg.

I was devastated. My daily trips to the gym had been replaced with regular trips to the doctor. My body went from its all-time strongest to its all-time weakest in a matter of 2 months, while my waistline (a life-long achilles heel) went from best (34") to worst (39") just as quickly.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I was the unwilling recipient of discipline from the Lord. Within 60 days, He completely stripped me of everything I viewed so proudly. At the time, I couldn't have been angrier with Him. "How could he do this to me? Why me of all people?"

Seven years later, I see things a whole lot differently. I'm so thankful for that period of humbling. It was during those months that I came to appreciate the struggles of the handicapped in a way that I never would have otherwise. I came to realize that it wasn't so bad if I wasn't the strongest in the gym or the best athlete on the court. Hopefully, I never become so full of myself again that I require such a stern form of discipline from the Lord, but to be safe, I'm getting rid of my basketball and camera. :)

Tuesday, July 18, 2000

A Powerful Encounter

I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (2 John 5-6)

Dee and I enjoyed 6 days in Northern California on our honeymoon. We enjoyed the breathtaking views of Monterey, Sausalito, and San Francisco. We were awed by the beauty of Napa Valley, shopped until we dropped in Carmel, and wined and dined each day like we never had before.

But amazingly the most powerful moment of our journey did not take place on the Pacific Coast Highway, "17 Mile Drive," or Golden Gate Bridge. It occurred near the end of our trip as we made our way back to the San Francisco airport. As we drove through the streets of San Francisco, we encountered a beggar at four consecutive lights. With each passing encounter, my heart was moved more and more. One beggar held a sign that read "Even a Smile Helps." Another held a sign that read "God Bless You."

However, it was our encounter with the fourth beggar that pierced my soul. As we sat at the red light, he held his face down, and appeared to be deep in thought or prayer. I began to pray for him, and asked the Lord to touch him and comfort him. I asked the Lord to do the same for each of the 3 beggars we had just whisked by. Seconds later the man lifted his head and with his eyes fixed on mine, I could read his lips as he said "Thank You. God Bless." I can't explain it, but it was as if he knew that I had just prayed for him and each person on that street. He conveyed that loud and clear as he stared straight through my eyes, into my heart, and into my soul.

I thought I was losing my mind for a moment, but Dee confirmed exactly what I just saw. It made me realize that if "Even a Smile Helps" a prayer can help a whole lot more.

Saturday, July 1, 2000

The Wedding Day

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalms 37:3-4)

Over the past few months, I've been flipping through the pages of the chapters of my life. I recalled all the good years and all the ones that were thrown away by pain, sorrow, and depression. I cried as I recalled the darkest moment of my life when my desire to live had all but faded away.

However, it was at that darkest moment that I made the most important decision of my life, and that was to trust in the only person I knew who could restore me - Jesus Christ. At that lowest point, I said to Him, "this is now your life to live, for I no longer have the strength to live it."

I felt Christ's presence like never before that night and I could feel Him carry me through. He reminded me of all those that loved me; none more so than He. He asked me to trust in Him and turned my attention to a better day; a day that in all honesty I thought would never come. Thankfully I was wrong. Today that day has come to fruition.

I know a lot of things will be going through my mind as I wait for Dee to meet me at the altar, but I know that night with the Lord will be at the forefront. When I see her face for the first time, I'll be so thankful that I made that decision to trust in Him. When she takes each step down the aisle, each one of those bad chapters of my life will close for all eternity. And when we become husband and wife, I'll know in my heart like never before that I serve a Lord more loving and more powerful than I had ever imagined.

Monday, June 5, 2000

Anxious for Nothing

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)

This is another powerful verse I've been leaning on during the hectic pre-wedding months. What a joy it is to know that the Lord is ever ready to take all my burdens upon Himself. I've just got to be willing to turn them over to Him.

Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that I've got everything under control. It is exactly at those times that I fear myself the most. Truth is, by myself I would be a ship without a rudder - without the Lord, I would be drifting endlessly against a powerful current.

As Paul writes, I want to live my life in constant prayer and petition. I want my heart and my mind to be guarded by the one who has no limits or weaknesses - Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, there are times I trick myself into believing that I share the same power. Thankfully, it doesn't take me too long to find out otherwise.

Sunday, May 21, 2000

Rest in the Lord

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

I've learned the hard way over the past couple weeks just how hectic life can become two months before a wedding. There's invitations to mail, flights to book, hotels to reserve, and honeymoons to plan. Things get so hectic so fast, it is easy to lose perspective on what the wedding day is all about. However, I don't want to get so caught up in the pressure of the moment, that I lose sight of what is truly important - my relationship with Dee, my relationship with my family and friends, and most importantly my relationship with God.

I want my wedding day to be a day of smiles not frowns. I want to be able to relax enough where I can enjoy being in the company of all my family and friends. Quite frankly, I don't see that happening unless I take time out to release my burdens to the Lord. If I do, I'll come to see that all these decisions that seem so momentous right now, truly aren't. The most important decision has already been made - and that was to trust in the one who designed marriage in the first place.

I'm sure things will only get tougher as the countdown to the wedding date intensifies. But I hope by July 1st, my heart will be in the right place. I don't want to reflect back on that day as one of burdens, but rather as one of countless blessings.

Monday, May 8, 2000

What Does it Mean to be Born Again?

"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3-3)

"Born again." "Saved." They're words most people shy away from or apply a negative connotation to. Personally, I do not like describing myself as "born again" or "saved" because I think it gives off an "I'm a part of the exclusive club" air.

The truth is, the club isn't so exclusive. God extends an open invitation to ALL to reconcile themselves to Him through His son, Jesus Christ. Just as through one man's disobedience (Adam) we were all separated from God, through one man's obedience (Christ) we can all be reconciled to Him.

Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). The choice is ours to make. If we feel we can stand before a perfect God on our own righteousness - God will respect that decision; He has given us all free will. However, be warned. The book of Isaiah describes our righteousness before God as "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) and the book of Romans declares that "there is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10).

It's a decision that must come from within. It requires no magic words or spells. All that's required is a true repentance and a true desire for the Lord Jesus to come into your life. Jesus said "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:7).

I pray that one day you too will ask. I pray that one day you too will seek. I pray that one day you too will knock. I haven't the words to express the joy, the peace, and the love you will find if you do.

Friday, April 28, 2000

One Year and Counting

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. (Philemon 1:6)

One year ago today "Frank's World" was born. It started with a Verse of the Day and Sports page, and has grown considerably ever since. I'd like to thank all of you for your support and encouragement for there have been times when I wished I never made this daily commitment. I've had files corrupted and spent days completely rebuilding the pages from scratch. I've anguished over the design of the site and struggled to find ways to make it more interactive. I've encountered hotels with no dataports and lines that refused to keep a connection.

But all these battles are something I've come to embrace. I take too much joy in sharing the gifts the Lord has provided me with to allow these things to affect me. I also take great pleasure in watching the Lord work within me: I remember struggling with "The Road to Salvation" application all day that Saturday. I would write a paragraph, and then delete it. Write two paragraphs, and then delete it. I got so frustrated I was going to scrap it altogether. I was all set to shut down my computer for the night when I said a quick prayer: "Lord, I know what I want to say but I just can't seem to find the right words. Please guide me through this." Thirty minutes later the application was written and posted onto my site. His power never ceases to amaze me.

The greatest personal joy to come from this site is that I now have an answer to the question I posed in the "God is Faithful" application: "Lord, why all the years of pain and suffering?" I truly didn't expect an answer, but the Lord provided one anyway: "If you didn't experience all those years of trials and tribulation, you would still be the selfish, arrogant man you were. There would have been no desire to serve; only the desire to be served. Furthermore, what on earth would you have been able to write about in all your verse applications?"

I hope this site has been a positive ministry to you all. I don't know how long "Frank's World" will survive but I sure hope the spirit of Christ will never die from within me.

Saturday, April 15, 2000

A Call to Serve

I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)

Twenty nine years ago today I breathed my first breath on this earth. Little did I know then what my life would be like or what type of man I would become. Fortunately, from an early age my parents rooted a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ within me. I developed a quick sense of right and wrong, and I tried to live my life as Christ would want me to live it. However, too many times I came up woefully short. I was judgmental, envious, proud, and selfish - a far cry from the man I knew Christ wanted me to be.

In college, I got involved with a service organization that helped instill a desire within me to serve someone other than myself. I visited nursing homes, served at soup kitchens, and worked at shelters. One of the most fulfilling days of my life came when I was serving at a Christian shelter in New York City. During the day, I developed a close relationship with one of the guys at the shelter; we ate, worked, and went to an evening service together. After the service, one of the leaders of the shelter came up to him, and provided him with a polished pair of used shoes. I thought nothing of it, but my friend was overcome. I'll never forget the tears of joy welling up in his eyes as those shoes were placed in his hands. In his mind, the shoes weren't old and used, they were a gift; a treasured gift from God.

My life would never be the same. I went home that night and cried a good cry. I thanked the Lord for all the many blessings in my life that I had always taken for granted. I thanked Him for the opportunity to meet my friend at the shelter, and recognized the irony of being served by a man I started the day looking to serve. I offered a life of service to the Lord that night; I wanted to serve Him by serving others. I wanted others to know Him through me, whatever sacrifices that might mean.

I don't know what became of my friend at the shelter. I can only pray that all the struggles that brought him to that shelter are far behind him, and that his joy and love for God are as strong now as they were that day.

Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Broken Promises

When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)

This verse pierces me deep down to the soul. It forces me to think about all those times I brought empty promises before the Lord: "Dear Lord, if you could please help me through X, I'll do Y in return." Time and time again, the Lord helps me through X, but I never even attempt to fulfill Y. Why on earth do I do that?? Do I not take my promises to the Lord seriously? Do I consider Him so loving and forgiving that I find it acceptable to break my vows to Him?

The truth is, I would do almost anything to avoid breaking a vow to a family member or friend, but when it comes to the Lord I am considerably lax. This is something I must make every effort to change - not for the Lord's sake but for my own. The Lord doesn't need anything from me, but I need all He has to give: His fellowship, His wisdom, His strength, His mercy, His forgiveness...

Perhaps someday I'll make a vow to never make an empty promise to the Lord again. Hopefully I'm never that foolish, unless I mean it with every fabric of my being.

Saturday, March 25, 2000

Fear of the Lord

Should you not fear me? declares the Lord. Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say to themselves, 'Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.'
(Jeremiah 5:22-24)

Do I fear the Lord? Do I tremble in His presence? I love, praise, and respect Him, but do I fear Him? There are times in my life when I take the Lord's goodness for granted: "Oh He'll forgive me!" There are other times when I defiantly disobey Him.

Fortunately for me, the Lord and I have come to an understanding. When I take Him for granted or I defiantly disobey Him, He punishes me - swiftly. For example, back in college I was at a club and I made a joke in very poor taste about a person's appearance. I knew I shouldn't have said it (let alone thought it) and I knew I was going to pay. After a couple hours of dancing and partying, I rushed home to change for our senior night cruise. I took a quick shower, threw on a t-shirt, placed a University of Miami hat on my head, and headed for the college to catch the bus. As I approached it, I couldn't believe my eyes. People were dressed as if they were going to the prom (tuxedos, suits, dresses, gowns, etc) and there I was looking like I was heading to the gym.

It was without a doubt one of the longest nights of my life, but also a very important night, as I earned a healthy amount of respect for the Lord. As the years have gone by, I've come to welcome the Lord's punishments - not because I enjoy them, but because I want to fear Him.

The University of Miami hat still sits in my closet. It hasn't been worn since that night 7 years ago, and probably will never be worn again. But it never fails to remind me of the man I was then and the man I long to be.

Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Communicating with God

What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this.
(Ezra 9:13)

This verse provides a wonderful example of how I should be communicating with God. Countless times in my life I've come before Him with a shopping list of needs and desires I fully expect Him to fulfill, whether it be for good grades, a good performance on the baseball field, a good job, a wife, etc. Other times I've come before God questioning His goodness: "How could you do this to me? How could you abandon me? Will you ever answer my prayer?"

On the contrary, I can count on my fingers and toes the number of times I've come before God acknowledging a well-deserved punishment. I can't remember the last time I got down on my knees and said "Lord, thanks for the whipping you gave me! I was clearly disobedient and yet you were just in your punishment."

I don't know if I'll ever be thankful enough, humble enough, or obedient enough. Fortunately, I serve a God that punishes me less and blesses me more than my sins deserve.

Sunday, March 5, 2000

Salvation by Grace or Works?

If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (Romans 10:9-11)

Is salvation by grace or is salvation by works? Most religions profess salvation by works: How did you treat others? What did you do in your walk on earth? Did you follow all the commands of the faith? Were you a good person?

Christianity offers a unique view of salvation - salvation by the grace of God: Did you confess Jesus as Lord? Did you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead? Did you accept the one means of salvation that God graciously provided?

There was a time in my life when I believed in salvation by works. It encouraged me to serve others and to live an honest life, but I lived in constant doubt as to whether or not I had done enough to enter heaven: I served at soup kitchens and nursing homes, but I didn't contribute to the poor. I cared about others, but I certainly wasn't devoting my life to serving them.

I began to question my belief that I was going to heaven because I was a genuinely good person. Whose measure of goodness was I using - mine or God's? By my scale, I was an exceptionally good person, but how did I rate in God's eyes?

As I began to humble myself before God, I came to acknowledge my sinfulness and came to realize that I would never be accepted by a perfect God based on my own individual merit. I needed someone who was perfect before God. I needed someone who was willing to sacrifice himself to atone for my sins. I needed a Savior. Fortunately for me, Jesus Christ was willing to be just that.

Friday, February 25, 2000

You Reap What You Sow

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

"Who wants to marry a multi-millionaire?" They should have called it "Who wants to make a mockery of God" or "Who wants to watch two people completely remove God from their union?" Twenty five million people tuned in to watch two complete strangers give themselves to each other in "holy" matrimony. What a joke. Unfortunately, it was a perfect description of the sad state of affairs our society is in.

Prayer was removed from schools years ago, and now we all reap the results on a regular basis with shooting after school shooting. Now God is slowly but surely being removed from marriage as well. Divorce rates are skyrocketing, states are starting to recognize homosexual marriages, and people are getting married not because of love but for money or a tax break.

God was the author of marriage way back to the Garden of Eden: "Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." (Genesis 2:22-24). One can be sure last week's two hour special was scripted by a different author.

In four short months, Dee and I will be making the same vows to each other in front of about 25 million fewer viewers. But as long as the original author is tuned in (not just on July 1st but every day of our marriage), we will reap His blessing. My heart goes out to those who choose to make a mockery of Him, for they will reap something entirely different.

Monday, February 14, 2000

My Greatest Love

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)

Another Valentine's Day has arrived; a day of flowers, candy, romantic dinners, etc. Before I met Dee, Valentine's Day was a day I dreaded; it was the one day out of the year that reminded me like no other just how single and alone I was.

But five months from marriage, I am as equally thankful to have a special person to share the day with as I am remorseful at having felt single and alone all of those years. Truth be told, I never was. The greatest love I've ever known and ever will - Jesus Christ - was ever willing to spend each Valentine's Day with me; I just chose to be bitter and ignore Him instead. How could He sit idly by as another calendar year passed me by? Wouldn't He ever provide the woman of my dreams??

If I could turn back the hands of time to each February 14th for the past several years I would. I would replace those feelings of emptiness with feelings of love and appreciation for all that Christ had done for me. I would spend each of those days not feeling like a failure, but reflecting upon Him instead:

I would think about Christ's last days on earth and what it must have felt like to be:

  • Betrayed with a kiss by one of His own
  • Denied by His closest friend not once, not twice, but three times (all in the same night)
  • Arrested and convicted for doing no wrong

I would imagine what it must have sounded like to hear:

  • The cries for Barabbas & the shouts of Crucify Him! Crucify Him!
  • The crown of thorns being shoved deep within His skull
  • The sound of His own flesh being ripped from His back

I would imagine the pain He must have felt as:

  • He carried His own cross
  • Lots were being cast for His clothes
  • Each nail was driven into His hands and feet

Sometimes I wonder just who Christ was thinking of as He was nailed to the cross. I like to think he thought of each of us by name; even a guy from New Jersey who would bitterly turn his back on Him year after year on February 14th.

Sunday, February 6, 2000

A Hardened Heart

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

February marks the fifth month in the past ten that I've worked in New York. Most of my life I vowed that I would never work in New York; the fast pace, the traffic, and the multitudes of people were simply too much for me to bear. But amazingly, I'm growing to like it. On one side of the building, there's the Statue of Liberty. On another, there's the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers. The view is simply breathtaking.

When I first started my consulting trips last May, I was in awe of all the droves of people that filled the NYC subways. I remember taking a step back and laughing as I watched thousands of people run up the escalators and scoot their way across the hallways. I vowed I would never get caught up in the "I will do anything to catch my train" philosophy. But I was wrong. As the weeks and months went by, there I was running through the halls (with my heavy laptop bag in hand) weaving my way through the enemies blocking my path. Didn't they know I had a 6:27 pm train to catch??

But this past week I promised myself to take that same step back I took last May; not to laugh at all the thousands of people cluttering the halls, but to see if there was someone in need. I started the day with a "Good Morning" to the man who sits in a wheelchair outside the New Brunswick train station every morning. I thought regretfully about all those mornings I whistled by him without even thinking twice about it.

I rode the train to Newark, and stood in line for the PATH to pay my $1. I saw a man struggling with the machine and the crumpled dollar bill he was never going to succeed with. I thought about all the past failed attempts I had witnessed and all the frustration that had arisen inside me each time - I decided this time to insert a non-crumpled dollar bill on his behalf instead.

I rode the PATH to the World Trade Center, and started the long walk to the account. I saw a lady with two arm braces struggling to walk through the crowded halls. The next day, there she was again. I began to wonder if she had been there all these months. Was I too busy to notice? Was I so eager to get to the account or to get home that I simply didn't care?

I've got 3 more weeks left in NYC. My hope is that a man in a wheelchair will get 15 "Good Mornings", a person in desperate need will get a crisp $1 bill, and a lady in 2 arm braces will get 15 prayers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2000

The Competitive Fire Within

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:24-26)

Most people who know me consider me to be one of the most competitive people they know (if not THE most). Most of my life I took great pride in that. If you stepped onto the basketball court, the baseball diamond, the bowling alley, the ping pong table, or whatever with me, you knew full well you were not only going to get a challenge, but everything I had to give.

Losing for me was not an option; I simply had to win. This challenge I placed upon myself drove me to improve and drove me to succeed. For years, I considered this a good thing. What was wrong with striving to improve or striving to be the best? It took a great deal of humbling to finally get the answer. For years, I missed what impact my competitiveness was having on others:

One year, I had about 10-15 people over my house to watch the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. Everybody (and I mean everybody) was pulling for the Steelers with passion and fire, even the most passive of football fans. Why on earth was everybody so adamant my beloved team lost?

Another year, I went on a cruise with four of my friends. Things were going great until a chess board was pulled out. My competitive juices started to flow to the point of getting into a severe shouting match with one of my friends. He grew so angry with me he slept out on the deck that night.

For the past five summers I've been playing softball in a league through my church. For the first couple seasons, winning was my chief concern; my batting average was a close second. But two years back, Dee came to one of the games and had a chance to speak with the wife of one of my teammates. Dee told me after the game that my teammate was so concerned about not hitting well, he spent hours at the batting cages before the game. I took it exceptionally hard, and began to wonder if I had done or said anything to fuel his fears of failure. That season, for the first time in my life, winning wasn't my #1 goal. Rooting for another teammate to succeed became my primary focus.

I still enjoy winning and I still love to compete. But I pray I never let those desires negatively impact another person's life again.

Sunday, January 16, 2000

The Power of Pride

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

When I reflect upon this verse and think about those sins that prevent me from fixing my eyes on Jesus, one of the first things that come to mind is my pride. A couple weeks ago I was reviewing some of the verse applications I had written last year. I came across the following words that I had shared in the app entitled "Nothing is Hidden From God" written on 8/8/1999:
"The main reason I created this site was twofold: 1) To share my love for Christ with others and 2) To overcome my resistance to read the bible. For most of my life, reading the bible has been as painful as pulling teeth. With this site, I'm now forced to open the bible at least once a week (outside of church) and type out all the verses for the week. Even if no hits were registered on "Frank's World", I'd still take joy, because for the first time in my life, I'm actively reading the bible."

I began to think about the first thing I did when I returned home from work each night for the previous couple months:

1) Turn on my computer
2) Dial onto the internet
3) Go to my home page
4) Check out the number of hits on my site

What a hypocrite I am! My desire to share my love for Christ with others and my desire to overcome resistance to read the bible had been replaced with my desire to generate as many hits as possible. It's amazing how things in my life that start with the greatest of intentions can so quickly be turned into something entirely different.

The hit counters are gone; hopefully, never to return. Yes, I can still track the number of hits my site generates (behind the scenes) and I will continue to look for ways to improve the presentation and content of the site. But it's high time I start practicing what I preach and fix my eyes on Jesus; not a meaningless hit counter.

Wednesday, January 5, 2000

The Second Coming

I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, "My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?" He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
(Daniel 12:8-10)

Thankfully, Y2K has come and gone. Fears over a nasty computer glitch swept the world. Many people took extra precautions to avoid a potential disaster. Holiday travel was at a low, baked beans and bottles of water were snatched from the shelves, extra money was taken out from the bank, generators were stockpiled, etc. But nothing happened. As each country successfully rang in the new millennium without any major problems, a collective sigh of relief was exhaled.

For my part, I took a number of precautions. I withdrew most of my money from the stock market in November. On the 30th, Dee and I withdrew some extra cash and loaded up on water and canned goods. Although I was concerned, deep down inside I was confident. For one, I had the peace of Christ to carry me through, and secondly the bible makes no mention of a Y2K disaster.

Was Y2K a hoax or was it a matter of diligent planning that averted disaster? We may never know. But one thing is certain: the second coming of the Lord is no hoax. The bible makes it clear the end of times will come; no one knows the day or hour, but it will come. Christ instructed us to prepare for it as you would prepare yourself if you knew a thief were about to enter your home. Unfortunately, many will ignore His warnings as the "wicked will continue to be wicked." My prayer is that no one I know and love would fall into this group, but rather be part of the wise who will be "purified, made spotless, and refined."