Tuesday, December 18, 2001

The Best Christmas Gift

It's an honor to step aside and post a message my wife, Dee, has written and will share at a Christmas service next week. Merry Christmas!

How many of us focus on Jesus at Christmas time? Many of us are caught up in material gift-giving, holiday depression, financial frustration, preparing for visiting relatives - all the extra "work" that comes with Christmas - it can be stressful and distracting.

This year, more so than any in recent history, people are in need of a gift that they will not find in shopping malls, they cannot order on the internet, and they will not be capable of making with their own hands:
  • We are seeking peace.
  • We are seeking security.
  • We are longing for lost loved ones.
  • We are in need of hope.

On Christmas Eve some 2000+ years ago, God gave us the first gift and the only gift any of us will ever need. Jesus was delivered to deliver us. Thanks to Jesus:

  • None of us will ever truly walk alone.
  • None of us need to live in fear.
  • We have a best friend at our beckoned call.
  • We are forgiven.
  • We will not perish, but have the gift of eternal life.

Thank you God and thank you Jesus for these precious gifts. For the gift that is Jesus, I would like to encourage you to give something back - after all it's His birthday. Please join me in silent prayer in making your own personal promise to Jesus - a gift He will love. Perhaps it's a commitment to take Him more seriously, or it's a vow to re-kindle a lost friendship, or it's a promise to be nice to your big sister or little brother for a whole week...make a promise to Him today for all he's given you.

God Bless you and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

My Achilles Heel

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalms 13:1-2)

Several months back I wrote the below with the intent of getting it published in Newsweek magazine. Unfortunately, the editor has decided not to include it, but thankfully I've got publishing rights on my web site. I include it here not to praise the drug Accutane, but to reach out to those who have been plagued by an "Achilles Heel" throughout their life. I hope this message helps each of you overcome that obstacle, whatever it might be.

A good portion of my early adult life was spent trapped in either the four walls of my bedroom or the four walls of the bathroom down the hall. While my peers were enjoying their rise to adulthood, I was entangled in a never-ending struggle with the dregs of puberty...acne.

My first blemish appeared innocently enough my first year in high school in 1986; it was even welcomed with a smile as I joined the ranks of my friends who were experiencing the same frustration. But seven years later, as I was beginning my junior year of college, the smiles were long gone. In its place was a frown that seemed permanently etched on my face. Instead of enjoying my college years, "The Best Years of My Life," I was watching them slip away, hour by hour, all thanks to one unshakeable foe.

I was losing the war despite all of my efforts. I was a very good student and athlete, and like other battles in the past I had fought the good fight. I tried every medication on the market, I restricted my diet, I drank countless glasses of water a day, and yet the war zone on my face was only getting worse. Unfortunately, my mental health was sinking even faster. Dating (even the desire to date) had become a thing of the past. My trips to the basketball court were waning, and for the first time in my life I started to skip my classes. I knew then that I was in the trouble; from sixth grade through my sophomore year in college it was understood that if class was in session, I was going to be there (even senior skip day).

I had become a recluse. Long gone was the man who had loved life, and the company of his family and friends. The only person or thing I could show my face to was my dog, and even that was a struggle. But all was not lost. During Spring Break of my junior year, I had a long conversation with a friend of mine. He gave me hope as he spoke about a drug I had never heard of before, Accutane. He spoke about the wonders it had performed for a friend of his, and questioned how, with all my trips to the dermatologist, I didn't know anything about it. The next day, I scheduled yet another appointment with my dermatologist. After reading a pamphlet that spoke of all of its dangers, I jumped at the opportunity to begin the four-month treatment.

Within a month, I was jumping for joy. My face, for the first time in seven long years, was "normal!" The man I once was not only returned, but better than ever. I finished college on an excellent note, I earned a Master's degree, I landed a good job, I was dating, and most importantly I was blemish free. Or so I thought. In February of 1996, my Achilles Heel returned with a vengeance. Within months, I lost my job, my girlfriend, and my desire to live. Completely desperate, I decided to give Accutane a second chance. Thankfully, once again it came to the rescue.

Five years later, the word Accutane has resurfaced in my life. The FDA is currently researching the effects of the drug and whether or not there is a link with Accutane, depression, and suicide. Although I think research on any potential link is important, I think it is equally important to determine the state of the person before taking the drug. I can only speak for myself, but there are three reasons I'm still standing here today: my faith in Christ, the support of my family and friends, and the drug Accutane.

Today, I am a happily married man in my 30s. I look back at those low points of my life not with resentment or regret, but rather with a sense of awe of just how much I have been delivered from. My hope is that all those who are fighting the same battle will one day be able to say the same...with or without acne.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Another Day in Infamy

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. (Nahum 1:3)

I've shed a lot of tears over the past 24 hours. The images I've seen may never leave me. The World Trade Center was a place I got engaged, worked, dined, awed, and toured as a child. By the grace of God, on this one fateful day, I wasn't there.

Unfortunately, far too many people were. I don't think it's quite hit home yet that a family member, former co-worker, friend, or friend of a friend could have died in the rubble of NYC yesterday. Quite honestly, it would be a major miracle if that weren't the case. There are a large number of people I know who either worked in the area or know someone who did.

It's hard to comprehend how much hatred filled the hearts of the men who committed these acts, but I'm trying my hardest not to judge them. I'll leave that in the hands of Lord. Instead I'm trying to channel my thoughts and prayers to the victims of this tragedy and to each of their family members and friends.

This morning I felt led to pray for one particular friend of mine who I worked with at the World Trade Center over a year ago. An hour later I received an e-mail from him with the following words: "FZ, I'm alive!" They were the only two words I needed to hear.

Tuesday, August 7, 2001

The Challenge to Serve

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:25-26)

At times it seems like such a challenge to be a servant of the Lord. As I look back over the years of my life I can see a roller coaster of passionate and dispassionate service to Him. My days of visiting nursing homes, recovery centers and food shelters have for some reason come to an end. My days of leading and participating in bible studies/home groups have ceased. My desire to verbally share my faith in Christ has increasingly waned as well.

My fire and passion for my web site is decreasing as well: I open the 1999 Archive page and count 26 verse apps. I open the 2000 Archive page and count 23 verse apps. I open the 2001 Archive page and count only 5 verse apps year to date. It's a trend that concerns me.

It's all too easy to become complacent and a closet Christian, and quite frankly that's the man I am right now. I've allowed myself to be increasingly consumed with my own daily struggles, and have distanced myself from the struggles and concerns of others.

However, I know I can recapture the passion of Christ if I reach out to Him. His power is ever flowing for those who are willing to reach out and grasp it. My arms have been folded for quite some time now, but I pray that someday soon they're extended to Him once again.

Sunday, June 3, 2001

Pay it Forward

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Dee and I watched the movie "Pay it Forward" earlier today and it really touched my heart. It told the story of a 7th grade Social Studies teacher who assigned an extra credit project to his class to do something to change the world. One student took it to heart, and devised a plan to "Pay it Forward." His plan was to touch the lives of 3 people, who would touch the lives of 3 people, and so on. Some students laughed at the idea, but nothing stopped the boy from seeing his plan come to life.

It made me think about those times when others made a huge difference and impact upon me. I thought about the darkest day of my life a few years back. I remember backing out of a few Memorial Day family and friend parties, and spending the day home alone with every painful thought imaginable running through my head. One of my friends, sensing my despair, decided to pay me a visit that evening. He filled up a platter of food from one of the parties I had missed out on, and offered it to me. I don't remember eating one bite from that platter and I don't think he stayed for more than a few minutes, but his concern for me that day will be etched on my heart forever.

I thank the Lord for my friend and others family members and friends like him who decided at various points in my life that I was worth their time to "Pay it Forward." I hope and pray I have touched the lives of others in the same way.

Saturday, April 14, 2001

The Joy of Easter

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

The Easter weekend always brings mixed emotions to me. I can remember growing up as a kid and watching "Jesus of Nazareth" on television every year. I witnessed the love of Christ unfold before my eyes in a very real and powerful way: I marveled as I watched all the miracles He performed. I winced as I watched Him being tortured and beaten. I cried as I watched Him being crucified. I rejoiced as He arose from the dead, reunited with His disciples, and ascended into heaven.

On Good Friday, I always think about the death of Christ - His suffering, His pain, and His sacrifice. What makes Him so special to me is that I know His death was no accident. He willingly laid down His life at the appointed time for the people He loved. On Easter Sunday, I always think about the resurrection of Christ - His triumph over death and His glorious return to heaven. Just as Christ was "destined" to die, He was also "destined" to provide salvation.

Unfortunately, "Jesus of Nazareth" isn't shown on television anymore, but that doesn't make this weekend any less special. Thankfully, the love, passion, and power of Christ isn't trapped in a film that has gone away, but rather it is ever present to all "who are waiting for him."

Sunday, March 4, 2001

Around the Bible

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

It took nearly two years, but the "Verse of the Day" has made its way through every book of the bible. Proverbs began the journey on 4/28/1999 and 2 Corinthians concluded it on 3/4/2001. Over 400 verses were selected, with an average of seven verses per book and one book every ten days. Of those verses, 51 were highlighted in the "Verse Application."

It's been a tremendous blessing to me, as I've found my way into books I didn't know existed. I even ventured into books from the Old Testament that I avoided for most of my life. I've come to appreciate that there is nothing more powerful than God's Word. Each word has stood the test of time, and each word will continue to do so. My prayer is that those words never fall on deaf ears (especially my own). I don't want to be a man that listens to them and forgets what he hears. Rather, I want to be a man that not only listens, but also hears and obeys.

The journey has just begun. There's so much more to learn and so much more wisdom to be gained. I look forward to examining more verses and revisiting others. I hope you all will enjoy the ride as well.

Saturday, February 3, 2001

Another Temptation

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
(2 Timothy 3:1-5)

I don't know whether we're living in the "last days" or not, but shows like Fox's "Temptation Island" certainly lead me to believe we're not that far away.

Fox first raised my ire about a year ago with "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" They brought together a man and woman in "holy" matrimony, after the groom whittled out the rest of the competition through the course of a two-hour episode. Now they're back, and worse than ever with "Temptation Island." The concept this time is to shamelessly try to ruin the relationship of four couples, all for the love of high ratings and the almighty $. Unfortunately, Fox is getting just that. The show continues to rake in high ratings every week, and will probably continue to as the "grand" finale approaches.

As shows like "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" and "Temptation Island" become the norm on our television screens, the moral fabric of our society will continue to erode, and people will increasingly become: lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power.

The apostle Paul warned: "Have nothing to do them." Be on guard, or you and I could easily become one of those people.