Monday, January 6, 2014

Another way.

Today is the 12th day of Christmas, also called Epiphany. Tradition holds it to be the day on which the Magi (akaWise Men) visited Jesus to worship Him. Afterward, they were supposed to report back to king Herod and tell him where Jesus could be found. Herod pretended to want to go worship Jesus but really just wanted to eliminate Jesus, who he heard was called a newborn king. But thankfully, the Wise Men didn't follow Herod's orders. Instead, Matthew 2:12 (NKJV) tells us:

"Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way."

Another way.

When you meet Jesus, the direction of your life changes. When you meet Jesus, your priorities change. When you meet Jesus, you don't stay the same. You can't help but go another way in life. 

And it's really not about being religious. It's not about being self-righteous and being a good person. It's not even about having the right beliefs. At its essence, Christianity is about a relationship with Christ which leaves you changed, better, and different. Any any beliefs you hold, rituals you practice, or traditions you keep stem out of your love for Him and His love for you. 

That doesn't mean you'll never sin or mess up again. It doesn't mean you won't hurt others and be hurt by others. 
You won't be perfect, you won't always get things right, but you will be going a new way in life simply because you met Jesus.

So as you go about your life as a follower of Christ, remember you are following Him another way. A new way. And it's the only way which leads to the good life on earth and eternal life in Heaven.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


I am VERY glad that 2013 is over, more so than any other year in recent memory. This year was undoubtedly the most traumatic year of my life so far, at least on par with 2001 when my grandpa died after a long bout with cancer.

The year started off well, just like any other year. Actually I started it off thinking "maybe this will be my year!" because my birthday is 2/13 and the year was 2013. Silly, I know. But that's what I kind of thought. By February things had been starting to turn strange but by summer, I was done with it. June 2 was the longest day of my life and that began the longest week, which is still just a blur. It culminated on June 8 with the most indescribably painful, agonizing day of my life when my dear friend left us for her Home in Heaven. I can't even begin to put into words how intense the grief held in that day for me and for so many others I care about.

The rest of the year held so many difficult days - not only from grief, additional responsibilities at work, the pressure of making sure I led well during a crisis in our church family, the concern I held for Pastor Walter and his kids - but also from excessive car trouble, a few more migraines that I'd like, and the seemingly intensified circumstances of life. To top it off, I thought the year was finally over but on New Year's Eve I threw out my back at the gym and spent the day in agony, missing a friend's party I really wanted to attend.

But as I think back on everything that 2013 held, I realize it wasn't all bad. I also see glimmers of hope and points of light. Scripture says every day is a day the Lord has made, including the painful and confusing ones, so I chose to take joy even in the hardest ones.

See, one thing I learned in a Bible study last year was the definition of "blessed." The word blessed means "more than happy". GREATER than happy. It means the ability to have joy and peace as a child of God whether times are good or bad, happy or sad. Life is not always happy. 2013 was rarely happy. But through it all, I was blessed, more than I can explain.

I gained a deeper understanding of the sustaining grace of God than I had ever experienced. I more fully appreciated the compassion of and for others. My sense of tactfulness & carefulness with others was sharpened. And the GOODNESS of God - I could talk to you about that for countless hours until my throat was raw, and then I would grab a pen and paper to write until my hands cramped up because my Lord has been indescribably good to me.

Greater than the grief, greater than the struggle, greater than the pain, greater than the sorrow, greater than the sadness, greater than the confusion, greater than the questions - greater than the worst days and greater than the best days has been the goodness of my Lord. I can confidently look back and say that 2013 was BLESSED.

I'm not thankful for the bad things that happened and my heart still hurts in many ways, but I am thankful for the good things that God brought out of it. Truly, He is a God who restores what the enemy has stolen.

Yesterday I was still feeling pretty lousy when a pastor named Jud Wilhite from Central Christian Church posted a Scripture which encouraged me in a profound way. Here's the verse:

"For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."  (Isaiah 43:19 NLT)

A pathway in the wilderness. Rivers in the wasteland.

Last year was wilderness. It was wasteland.

And now, it's time for something new. I'm ready, I'm optimistic, and I'm confident in my hope because God is the God of new things. With Him, the best is ALWAYS yet to come.

So 2014, I welcome you. I welcome the good, I welcome the bad - because I know whatever happens it will also be blessed. And I know God is good.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Gift of Attraction

Years ago I heard a message by the great Dawson Trotman, founder of "The Navigators", about a concept called "the gift of attraction" and it has always stuck with me. The basic premise of the gift of attraction is this: God created us with the ability to appreciate the beauty of people of both sexes, without having to be sexually attracted to them. This attraction is a gift from God in which we admire the beauty of God's creation, in the same way we admire a magnificent stallion, a beautiful flower, a majestic mountain range, or an adorable puppy. Or why we describe a little girl in a a dress with bows in her hair or a little boy in a suit and tie as "cute", "adorable", or "handsome".

The Bible teaches in Genesis 2:7 that humans are the pinnacle of God's creation, so to admire them as God's creation could actually be a form of worship.

In simple terms, you can find someone attractive without being attracted to them

Now I don't remember the Scriptures that Mr. Trotman used in his message, and please understand that I am not a professional psychologist nor have I done a thorough Biblical study on this subject. In other words, take this with a grain of salt understanding that though I am not an expert on this matter, my motives are pure. 

That having been said, I can tell you from experience that the gift of attraction is a real thing. I have good friends of both sexes who I find attractive but I am not attracted to them. Among celebrities I can admire the magnificent beauty of Emma Stone or the striking handsomeness of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the graceful elegance of Laura Bush, and the timeless elegance of Denzel Washington. I don't need to desire them sexually in order to find them attractive. They're simply good-looking people! And on a level beyond just physical attraction, we can also be attracted to men and women we esteem, with something in their character we find admirable. A person of either sex may be a talented singer, artist, musician, athlete, community organizer, CEO, barista, hairstylist, or whatever - and we find them attractive because of those characteristics. That's also part of the gift of attraction.

In my opinion, the misunderstanding of the gift of attraction is one of the reasons some people start living a homosexual lifestyle. A man finds himself seeing other men as handsome, perhaps even noticing their physique, and they think "Maybe I'm gay". Or a woman sees another woman with an admirable body, and wonders if she is a lesbian. Perhaps they feel guilty about that, but then they are flooded by the message of worldly culture which tells them "That means you're a homosexual. Embrace it and be proud of it." Meanwhile the truth about the gift of attraction - that a man can find another man attractive and a woman can find another woman attractive without being homosexual - is ignored.

It's also the reason heterosexual people stray from their marriages and commit adultery. A man works daily with a well dressed, good smelling, attractive woman and begins to allow himself to view her in a sensual way that he should only view his wife. Or a woman befriends a handsome, well-built man and in time begins to confuse finding him attractive with being attracted to him in a lustful way. The difference is a subtle but important aspect of maintaining a righteous, God-honoring, and self-beneficial sexuality. 

Interestingly enough, a couple of days ago I read of Huffington Post an article in which a relationship therapist said "Attractive and attraction is different. Find other people attractive, but stop short of allowing yourself to be attracted to them." ( That's exactly what the gift of attraction is talking about! You can find a person attractive without allowing yourself to be attracted to them. 

Understanding this gift will help us make major strides in controlling our feelings and desires to live in a way that honors God, benefits ourselves, and a respects the dignity of others. We would also do well to follow the wisdom of Scripture in Proverbs 4:23 which tell you and me "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." 

It's not wrong to find someone of the same sex or opposite sex attractive - it becomes wrong when you allow that innocent, God-given attraction to be twisted into sensual, lustful attraction. Whether it's same-sex lust or opposite-sex lust, is it sinful because it is not God's best for us. Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came to give us abundant life and when we abuse the gift of attraction and allow ourselves to be sexually attracted to someone we are not married to, that is settling for something second-rate.

And settling for anything less than God's best for us is sinful because it cheapens His glory and providence in our lives. Let's not do that; let's be disciplined, focused, and careful when it comes to the gift of attraction so that we can enjoy the "life that is truly life" (1 Timothy 6:19) instead of settling for a cheap imitation.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Notes from "The Last Lecture"

Early this year at a yard sale I bought a book for $2 titled "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. It's a small but fascinating book that Mr. Pausch authored after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He lived almost another year after writing the book before dying from the cancer. I figured a book on living written by a man who knew he was dying would be full of wisdom.

It was.

It was also the best $2 I've ever spent.

So during a short vacation in April I read the book and underlined the things he wrote that stood out to me. I encourage you to read the book but if you don't, you can still learn from the wisdom of the quotes below. The emphases in bold face are mine. I hope you find this helpful and encouraging.

"Just because you're in the driver's seat doesn't mean you have to run people over."  His father's advice about playing fair even when you are in a position of strength in a relationship. (pg. 23)

"When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody's bothering to tell you anymore, that's a bad place to be." (pg. 37)

On not coddling children: "Self-esteem is not something you can give; it's something they have to build." (pg. 37)

"You give them something they can't do, they work hard until they find they can do it." (pg. 37)

"A feedback loop for life" - being forced to work harder by someone else when you feel like quitting, forcing you to get better. (pg. 38)

"I don't believe in the no-win scenario." (pg. 46)  The signature that William Shatner wrote on a photograph he sent to Mr. Pausch. There's a lot of wisdom in that saying.

"Tenacity is a virtue, but it's not always crucial for everyone to observe how hard you work at something." (pg. 48) That is GOOD!

After being told by his doctor that he had three to six months of good health left, he realized how semantics can be used to frame things in a positive light. That's why employees at Disney are supposed to say "The park is OPEN until 8 pm" when asked what time the park closes. (pg. 62) That reminded me of a lesson I learned from my boss, Walter, on how negative things can usually be framed in a positive way.

On obstacles in life:  "Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something." (pg. 79)

"You don't repair things if they still do what they're supposed to do. Not everything needs to be fixed." (pg. 87)

When his wife's placenta ruptured while pregnant and she began going into shock from blood loss while having a C-section: "I don't think we ever said to each other: 'This isn't fair.' We just kept going. We recognized that there were things we could do that might help the outcome in positive ways ...and we did them." (pg. 93)

"It's not helpful if we spend every day dreading tomorrow." (pg. 99)  His wife's focus as the clock ticked down on his days left on earth.

"Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think." (pg. 111)

"The only way any of us can improve if we develop a real ability to assess ourselves." (pg. 112)

"Luck is indeed where preparation meets opportunity." (pg. 119)

"Enabling the dreams of others can be done on several different scales." (pg. 126)  Just because you can't do it for everyone doesn't mean you can't do it for someone.

"Everybody loves telling stories. It's one of the truly universal things about our species." (pg. 128)

"Hip is short-term. Earnestness is long-term. Earnestness is highly underestimated. It comes from the core, while hip is trying to impress you with the surface." (pg. 133)

"Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won't make us happier." (pg. 139)

"Talking louder or faster doesn't make your idea any better." (pg. 143)

"When you're frustrated with people, when they've made you angry, it just may be because you haven't given them enough time." "Almost everyone has a good side. Just keep waiting. It will come out." (pg. 145)

During the most painful times of his treatment he thought back to the movie Rocky and remembered: "It's not how hard you hit. It's how hard you get hit ...and keep moving forward." (pg. 147)

"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." (pg. 148)

"Failure is not just acceptable, it's often essential." (pg. 148)

"The person who failed often knows how to avoid future failures." (pg. 149)

"Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other." (pg. 151)

"Thank-you notes are best done the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper." (pg. 151)  YES! Don't be lame and send a text or email - hand write and address it.

"A lot of people want a shortcut. I find the best shortcut is the long way, which is basically two words: work hard." (pg. 156)

"Hard work is like compounded interest in the bank. The rewards build faster." (pg. 156)

When someone does a favor for him: "I've found Thin Mints are a great communication tool. They're also a sweet reward for a job well done." (pg. 158)

"One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don't worry about because I have a plan in place if they do." (pg. 160)

"If you've done something wrong in your dealings with another person, it's as if there's an infection in your relationship. A good apology is like an antibiotic; a bad apology is like rubbing salt in the wound." (pg. 161)

"Honesty is not only morally right, it's also efficient." (pg. 163)

"There is more than one way to measure profits and losses. On every level, institutions can and should have a heart." (pg. 168)

"No job should be beneath us." (pg. 169)  My grandpa always said "all work is honorable". If you ever thing you're too good to do something, you're literally delusional.

"If you can find your footing between two cultures, sometimes you can have the best of both worlds." (pg. 171)

"Brick walls are there for a reason. And once you get over them - even if someone has practically had to throw you over - it can be helpful to others to tell them how you did it." (pg. 174)

"It makes no sense to talk about rights without also talking about responsibilities." "Rights come with responsibilities." (pg. 175)

"Sometimes, all you have to do is ask, and it can lead to all your dreams coming true." (pg. 179)

"I'm living like I'm dying. But at the same time, I'm very much living like I'm still living." (pg. 182) Wow!

"Having seen so many students go through my classrooms, I've come to know that a lot of parents don't realize the power of their words. Depending on a child's age and sense of self, an offhand comment from Mom or Dad can feel like a shove from a bulldozer." (pg. 198)

"There's nothing weak or selfish about taking some fraction of your day to be alone, recharging your batteries." (pg. 201)

"If you lead your life the right way ...the dreams will come to you." (pg. 206)  That's Ephesians 3:20 and Galatians 6:9 right there.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Death Has No Sting

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
- The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55

I need to be honest - until recently I have had a very hard time understanding this Scripture. And while I'm being honest I must confess - it didn't make sense to me. Yes, death DOES hurt. Why does the Bible imply that it doesn't?

Does it mean nothing to leave those you love? Is there no pain when a wife, mother, aunt, and friend dies? Is there no pain when death comes suddenly and leaves a family in shock? Should we not weep or mourn or question what God has allowed to take place when we prayed and believed, yet there was no healing the way we asked for?

Of course death hurts! Don't tell the family and friends of someone who has died that death isn't painful. Death is painful, always.

So does that mean that Scripture is misleading us? Is God oblivious at best or deceitful at worst when it comes to the feelings that surface when a loved one dies?

Honestly, for awhile I wondered about that.

Until I thought about this verse in light of the whole message of the Bible. I considered how Jesus wept when His friend Lazarus died. I thought about many other instances in the Bible where death brought about feelings of fear and anxiety for those who walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

And I studied 1 Thessalonians 4, where we learn about Jesus-followers who have died. In verse 13-14 we read this instruction:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.

Ah, there it is. Two words that help us understand why death cannot sting us: HOPE and SLEEP.

For those who trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life, our hope is not wishful thinking. It is a confident assurance that we will, without a doubt nor any hesitation, be in the presence of Jesus Christ the very moment life on earth ends for us. For those we love who also believe in Jesus, we know we will be with them again - this time for eternity - in Heaven. Not only will we be reunited with our loved ones who trusted Christ and have gone before, but we will be with God Himself for endless ages.

Talk about a great and true hope! And once you have that hope it cannot be taken from you. Not pain, heartache, or even death can steal that hope from you if you trust in Jesus. He will keep your hope secure until the day you "fall asleep in Him" - until you die.

Jesus conquered death on that first Easter morning, and by doing so He changed death for those who trust in Him: He made death a transition into something better. He removed fear by dying and rising again, making death a doorway to Himself. He removed regret by giving us a reason to live. He removed the sting by dying for our sins and by doing so, ensured a forever home in Heaven. Jesus changed death from being a final assault to simply falling asleep. In sleep there is no pain, no suffering, no fear, no worry, and no shame. Sleep is not permanent but it is essential to enjoy a new day.

So for a Christian, death should not be seen as an unwanted enemy but as a necessary friend who lets us sleep in Christ and wake up in our Home in Heaven. For those who are left behind when a Christian dies, death hurts - but it doesn't sting. The sting has been removed by Jesus, and in place He has provided a peace that surpasses all understanding as we embrace an eternal truth beyond ourselves.

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we have the hope of heaven and of being with Christ. And we know that one day we will sleep in Him, then we will wake to join our loved ones in a place where Jesus will "wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4 NLT). That promise is why death hurts, but has no lasting sting for those who trust in Christ.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I support Robert Cormell for Mayor and you should too!

It's been a long time since I have felt like I could fully & enthusiastically support a candidate for any elected office, but I'm glad to stand with Robert Cormell in his campaign to become the next mayor of this great city of El Paso, Texas.

I have known Robert for most of my life, having met him when I was about 10 years old. I was an employee of his for about 5 years as a teenager and for a short time after high school. I have seen first-hand how Robert runs organizations and manages financials, what his values are, how upright his character is, how he handles high stress situations, and how well he treats people even when they cannot do anything for him. In all of those things Robert excels with great integrity and unchanging conviction.

Robert is a compassionate man who cares very much about the people of this city. Long before he even thought about running for office he has been working hard to improve our city and influence for the better the future of its citizens. He has been a job creator for close to 20 years, often being the one to take a risk and give a teenager his or her first job. He and his wife started a teen center to reach out to teenagers nobody else seemed to care about, and several years ago he recruited influential men and women of the community to mentor at-risk youth in our city.

The quality of his character is of utmost importance since our local government has developed a notorious reputation in recent years for corruption. We need honest men and women of the highest caliber integrity - honest people who will not deceive the public, are not driven by favors owed to donors, and don't thirst for power at any cost. Robert is not "owned" by anyone and his conviction is to represent ALL El Pasoans, not just those of a certain political party or economic rank. He sees his role as mayor to truly represent the citizenry. Additionally, Robert is the only candidate I am aware of who has openly asked to be held accountable by the public for his performance as mayor.

All of the candidates for mayor have their good qualities and there are some excellent men who would make good mayors. Each of them undoubtedly loves this city and has a vision for progress. Out of all the candidates running for mayor, Robert is the BEST choice to lead our city forward in a way that creates jobs, restores trust in public officials, and unifies our city. He will bring progress not just for a select few but for the city as a whole. He will a mayor for every El Pasoan.

So if you believe in El Paso and want our great city to progress in a financially healthy and sustainable way, if you want our city to be in better condition for the next generation - then the best man for the job is Robert Cormell. I hope you will trust him with your vote for Mayor of El Paso.

To learn more about Robert Cormell, visit or like him on Facebook.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Passover has begun.

Right now it's what we in Christianity call "Holy Week". It started yesterday with a celebration of the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, later this week we will remember the Last Supper on Thursday, then commemorate the crucifixion on Good Friday, and finally we will celebrate again on Easter as we remember the resurrection of Jesus our Savior and Lord. It is the most holy time of the year for believers.

And now that sundown has occurred today, it is also Passover - the religious festival where our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egyptian slavery. After the Jews were in slavery under the harsh Egyptians for 400 years, God raised up Moses to be their deliverer. Moses told the Egyptian Pharaoh about a series of plagues that would descend upon the Egyptian people if he would not let God's people go. But Pharaoh stubbornly refused and the plagues hit Egypt with a fury. The last plague would be the death of the first born of each family who lived in Egypt, including the Jews since they also lived in Egypt.  But God who is rich in mercy provided a means of deliverance for the Jews. In Exodus 12:13 we read that if the Jews would trust God, spread the blood of a sacrificed lamb over the doorframe of their homes, then God's angel of death would "pass over" their homes and their firstborns would be spared. It's a majestic picture of God's grace in the Old Testament portion of the Bible.

For us who trust in Jesus as Messiah, we see how Passover is a foreshadow or preview of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, which we celebrate during Holy Week. You see, as the Jews spread the lamb's blood on the top and sides of the doorframe, the motion formed the shape of a cross. That reminds us of the deliverance and protection we enjoy because of the blood of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world once and for all on the cross. You can read how Christ is like Passover to believers here.

So the Jewish celebration of Passover and the Christian commemoration of Holy Week are beautifully connected to each other. And as Christians our faith will be enriched if we celebrate Passover alongside our Jewish brothers and sisters, while anticipating the wonder of Easter.