Thursday, November 28, 2002

The Golden Rule

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

"Do onto others as you would have others do onto you." The Golden Rule. The first time I ever heard it was in the 5th grade when my elementary school teacher put those words up on the chalkboard with big block letters. He never mentioned the author of the 'Rule', but it clearly was the motto he lived by, and wanted all of us 5th graders to live by.

Little does he know it, but my teacher made a huge impact on me. As the years went by, every time I heard the Golden Rule mentioned, I thought of him and the motto he wanted us all to live by. I did my best to live up to it in my relations with others - when I was selfish and hurtful - these words were always the ones I fell back on to apologize and ask for forgiveness.

It wasn't until college that I found out who the author of the Golden Rule was. I was working my way through the gospel of Matthew, and was pleasantly surprised to come across the above verse. It was an awesome discovery to learn that the words that had been at the foundation of my life for so many years had been authored by my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I can't explain the power of the moment, but it strongly reinforced my faith and love for Him.

Over two decades have gone by since I first heard the Golden Rule, but it still remains as special to me today as it did in 5th grade. It always comes to the forefront of my mind on days like today, Thanksgiving, when I fondly recall all the many people and things I have to be thankful for, first and foremost, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

A Taste of Evil

"For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24:21-22)

Throughout my life, I've always looked forward to Christmas and the feeling of love that fills the air like no other day in the calendar year. In contrast, I've never looked forward to Halloween. It's the one time of year that I've always associated with evil. However, after last year, I've come to associate another day with evil...9/11.

Like most people, I remember the events of that day like no other. I remember seeing tears strolling down a co-worker's face as I walked into work. I remember surfing the internet for hours, hoping against hope that it was only a nightmare. I remember worrying about family and friends on the east coast, and fearing for their safety. But what stands out most in my mind was the taste of the evil that surrounded that day. Even in a suburb of Minneapolis, a thousand miles away from the tragic events, I could taste evil in a way I never had before.

Unfortunately, the evil taste of that day is just a prelude of things to come. As the above verse illustrates so vividly, the end of the age will bring a terror like never before seen. But with that said, there still is hope. Christ didn't share this vision to frighten us to helplessness, but to spur us to diligence. As water extinguishes fire, so too does love conquer evil. Although evildoers may win a battle along the way, the war has already been won via the blood of Christ shed on the cross. Our challenge is to accept that sacrifice before it is too late.

Friday, August 16, 2002

Never Alone

"I am with you," declares the Lord. (Haggai 1:13)

I had an awesome experience this week in Houston. I was preparing to head to the airport with a colleague, and faced the daunting task of carrying a heavy laptop bag and suitcase 10 blocks from the account to the hotel, waiting for the hotel valet to get our rental car, and then finally navigating our way to the airport. To make matters worse, my colleague had to spend another two days in Houston, so it was a major inconvenience for him.

I said a quick prayer to the Lord asking for a better way to the airport, to make life easier for the both of us. Five minutes later as we exited the building, a taxi stopped two feet in front of us and let out a passenger. The cabbie noticed my suitcase, and was desperately hoping I needed a ride. Without much hesitation, I bid my colleague adieu and hopped in the cab. The cabbie was ecstatic. He talked for 5 minutes about how slow things had been since 9/11 (it was the first cab I had seen in my 10 block trip in my 3-day visit). He talked about how the passenger he had just dropped off was a friend who desperately needed a ride downtown (which he had given him for free). He talked about how he was hoping against hope that he would find someone who needed a ride to the airport (or he could get into trouble for the courtesy he just extended his friend). He talked about how unbelievable it was when he spotted my suitcase, and better yet needed a ride to the airport.

As he was talking, I could feel the presence of the Lord and I could sense He wanted me to drill deeper - so I asked the cabbie how his life was going. He paused for a second and then proceeded to talk for 15 minutes about how his wife had just left him and had taken their 3 kids. He assured me that he had always been faithful to her, but she had grown frustrated with their financial situation, and his inability to provide for her to the degree she wanted.

It took everything I had to hold back the tears. I could feel the Lord's compassion for him, and that compassion had been fully transferred to my heart. I shared with him my deep faith in Christ, and how I would be praying for his situation. I told him that prayer had the power to move mountains, as has been displayed in my life many times over. His eyes widened and he pulled out a bible from the dashboard. He said, "I too believe in the power of prayer." We shook hands and exchanged first names, and I departed with a new friend.

Lord, I ask that your hand forever be upon Daniel. I pray that you touch him and his family. As you promised in your word, I pray that he never loses sight that you are with him - through the good times and the bad.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

The Ultimate Consultant

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Nearly four years ago, I made one of the most difficult decisions I've ever made. I made the decision to completely change my career path and become a computer software implementation consultant. To make things more challenging, I was going to be leaving the friendly confines of New Jersey and traveling on a regular basis.

I'm sure to those who knew me, I was losing my mind. My friends had long since nicknamed me "Mr. Conservative." If I found something I was comfortable with, I was going to go back to that well time and time again. I can't tell you how many times I ordered a Jim Dandy with 5 scoops of Cookies N' Cream ice cream at Friendly's or a fajita at Bennigan's.

Although I was conservative with my food selections, I was tremendously more-so when it came to my career or travel choices. However, after meeting Dee, I decided the time had come to make a change. If we were going to date, I had no choice but to step foot outside of New Jersey. If that was possible, why not take things a step further and join the ranks of the computer techies?

I soon found out that becoming a computer guru wasn't going to be as pleasant as hopping on a plane to visit Dee in Minnesota. I'll never forget the look in Dee's eyes as I fruitlessly toiled with trying to figure out how to turn on my laptop (the new tool of my trade). Unfortunately, things would only get worse during my initial consulting engagements.

Thankfully, I had at my side the ultimate consultant, Jesus Christ. I can't tell you how many prayers I said at those accounts. There were days I would throw my hands in the air (out of view from the clients of course) and in complete desperation beg "Lord, please help me!!" Each and every time He did just that. Out of thin air, some impossible question would be answered, some hurdle would be cleared, or some obstacle removed.

Four years later, I'm not only surviving but thriving and I have the Lord to thank for all of it. At home, I have an award that says "Consultant of the Year - Frank Z." Each time I look at it, I can't help but think back to that fruitless struggle with the laptop and all the impossible hurdles that were 'magically' cleared along the way. In my heart, there's no question whose name should be on the bottom of that plaque: "Jesus Christ."

Monday, April 15, 2002

Pressing Ahead

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:13-14)

Today I celebrate yet another birthday. When I was a kid, I couldn't wait for my birthday to arrive. My mom would start the day off by burning my birthday candle, then cap the day off by making my favorite meal followed by her incomparable yum-yum cake. I was king for the day, and I loved every minute of it.

As a 31-year-old man, I still look forward to my birthday. Although the feelings of royalty are gone, I still enjoy all the e-mails and phone calls with greetings and birthday songs mixed in. Perhaps it reminds me of the innocence of my youth when the trials and tribulations of this world had yet to find me.

So much has happened since my birthday candle worked its way down to the wick - far too many years ago. I've experienced a lot of goodness and a lot of evil - perhaps never more so than last September. After watching the events of 9/11 unfold, my heart grieved at how evil, evil can be. I questioned how goodness could ever prevail, and on a personal level, what amount of goodness could I provide to help overcome it.

As the days and months have gone by, I've gained encouragement from this verse to forget the struggles of the past and to press forward. Whether we believe it or not, goodness will ultimately conquer evil through the power of Christ Jesus. In the meantime, we are called to fulfill the goal that God has had outlined for each of our lives from day one. Through a kind word, through a loving prayer, we can make a lasting difference.

I look forward to the time when every day will feel like those birthdays of my youth, but for now, please keep the e-mails and phone calls coming!

Thursday, February 14, 2002

God's Time is the Right Time

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.
(2 Corinthians 1:6)

Throughout my life I have been greatly blessed. I've been surrounded by more earthly possessions than one man deserves to have. With that said, my greatest possessions haven't come on a silver platter. They've arrived only after great sacrifice, severe trial, and years of waiting...and waiting...and waiting.

Take the depressing tale of my wait for a wife. At an early age, I had formed a strong idea of the type of woman I wanted to marry. Year after year I waited for someone with those qualities to come my way. But none did. Even if they had, I was locked in a decade long struggle with acne (detailed in the "My Achilles Heel" application) that kept me locked away in my bedroom.

My patience was running short, and my frustration with the Lord was nearing its apex. A friend of mine, sensing my frustration, advised me to write a list to Him detailing to the finest detail what I was looking for in a wife. After composing that list, he challenged me to believe in my heart that the Lord would provide her in His time. So I did. The list was easy - I had that list engrained in my head for too many years: Christian, attractive, intelligent, good sense of humor, etc. I even included all the finest details: "I want a brunette with brown eyes to boot!" The challenge, however, was believing that He would provide her and that He would lead me out of the padlocks of the four walls of my bedroom. I can't really describe how it happened, but it did. One night, I turned over all of the pain, all of the frustration, and all of the fruitless waiting to Him. I finally became at peace with it all.

Nearly two years later, on February 4th, 1998, Dee walked into my life and immediately I knew that I was looking at an answered prayer. He had to fly her in from halfway across the country to answer that prayer, but He did. I remember joking with the Lord and saying, "Good job, you covered all the bases except the brown eyes part!" A month or so later, the Lord got the last laugh. I shared the above story with Dee and she quickly corrected me with, "What are you talking about my eyes are brown!" I had to do a triple-take, but sure enough the brown hues far outweighed the green. He had covered all the bases, just like He always had in my life and always will. I just had to wait until the perfect time to meet her...His.