Thursday, December 24, 2009


December 24, 2009

There are times when I get so upset at him I feel like twisting his elongated body into a pretzel, and last night was one of those times. I had just returned from a thoroughly exhausting day of Christmas shopping, a task which rates near the very top of my list of most loathsome activities (somewhere between paying taxes and being boiled in hot oil). I had stashed my packages in a closet out of site from inquiring eyes and settled down for a relaxing dinner. A few minutes later when I returned to the closet to begin wrapping the presents, I discovered a sickening mess. Jaba, our pet miniature Dachshund, had managed to find the stash and tear into a box of chocolates. I honestly wanted to murder the gluttonous beast. It was the perfect exclamation point on an absolutely horrendous day. Fortunately for his sake, my wife Babs came to the rescue of the thieving mutt and carried him away from my fury.
Today, he is once again sitting at my feet whining for attention as if nothing had happened the previous evening. He is without doubt the most loving animal I have ever known. He insists on being next to Babs or me constantly. Not content to merely be in the same room or even on the same couch, he will press into us making sure his fur is rubbing against us. I am convinced he would crawl under our skin if he could. Though his pandering for attention is sometimes a little unnerving, his loving nature makes it pretty difficult to stay upset at him for any length of time.
His continual thirst for intimacy with Babs and me is a marvelous image of how our relationship should be with Christ. Even though I’m quite certain there are many times during each day when our less than holy actions are exasperating to our Lord, He will never refuse our thirst for intimacy with Him. After all, He is the one who continually pursues intimacy with us. “We love because he first loved us.” – 1John 4:19. He has gone to the greatest length possible, even death on a cross, to open up a pathway to our hearts. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” – John 3:16. Christmastime is the season when we celebrate how our heavenly Father pressed in so close to us that He actually did crawl into our skin.
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’” – Matthew 1:22-23.
For many people this is the most stressful time of the year. This year it doesn’t help that we are in a period of extreme economical distress and our society seems to be more divided than it has been in decades. Around the world Christians as a whole are experiencing more persecution right now than we have seen since the first century. Many will celebrate Christmas while hiding in darkened rooms for fear of reprisal from an oppressive government or zealous religious fanatics. Yet even in the midst of such trauma, the peace of Christmas is still available to those who are determined to press into Jesus, those who persist in demanding an intimate relationship with Christ.
I recommend you take a hint from our wayward little pooch and insist on pressing into your Master. Don’t let anything get in your way, not even your many indiscretions. I am confident that He will accept your offer of love and allow you to experience the peace and warmth that comes from intimacy with Him. This season is not about the perfect gifts, the best decorations, the tastiest food, or the warmest gatherings. It’s all about Jesus!
May you experience the full measure of His peace and joy this season even as you press into Him!

Bill and Babs, children of God learning to press into Him

Saturday, December 19, 2009


December 13, 2009

It was one of those life-lessons you’d certainly rather see deleted from the curriculum, at least postponed until after the holidays. But this one surprised us on the first day of December, a sucker punch from the Christmas Grinch that stole our holiday spirit and threatened to destroy our hopes for the coming year. In a terse email notice from our mortgage company we learned that the application for refinancing our home had been denied. Last June our five-year, adjustable-rate mortgage adjusted and our house payments suddenly increased dramatically. One month prior to the scheduled adjustment we began negotiating with our bank to refinance our loan never dreaming it would take so long. After seven months of wrangling with bankers and underwriters we were unceremoniously discarded in four short sentences.
The news came particularly hard since only a week prior to the notice we had been assured that everything looked great and our loan would be closing by the end of November. There would be no need to make a December mortgage payment and future payments would be five hundred dollars less than they had been. The bank even sent us a sample closing statement with a generous cash-back offer asking if we thought the amount was too much.
“Let’s leave it the way it is,” I replied relieved to have the long ordeal finally coming to a close. Anticipating the extra income Babs and I began to plan an anniversary get-away to make up for a couple of years without a vacation together. It’s about time we had some fun together after living like paupers the last few months and barely getting by, I thought to myself. “How would you like to spend a week at Disneyland?” I asked my wife.
It was shaping up to be one of the greatest Christmas seasons ever. But then we received the heart-wrenching email that burst our holiday balloon and I was instantly cast into a pit of despair, self-pity, and anger.
“How dare these arrogant, greedy bankers pass judgment on my finances,” I cried. “For the past six years we haven’t missed a single payment, nor have we even been late on a payment. If they think we’re a poor risk for a new loan how do they think we’ll be able to continue to pay them the hundreds of dollars more each month we currently owe? I don’t think they ever intended to approve this loan. They’ve just been stringing us along month after month content to be squeezing more money out of us. I can’t believe people could be so cruel as to dangle the prize in front of our eyes within our grasp, and then yank it away at the last minute.”
The more I thought about the injustice of it all the more angry I became. My fretting over the situation increased to the point where it became difficult for me to pray. I knew the Lord wanted me to give it up and allow Him to work things out in His perfect timing and in His perfect way, but I was too full of rage and depression to surrender to His will. I had a good mad on and I wasn’t about to lay it down. It took the better part of a week before the Lord succeeded in breaking through my inconsolable attitude. My daily Old Testament reading brought me to Psalm 37 and my sickened heart was pierced by His powerful, two-edged sword.
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” – Psalm 37:7-9.
As I broke down and repented before the Lord, His Spirit began downloading into my heart heaven’s perspective on the painful life-lesson I was experiencing. I was suffering from a bad case of misplaced hope. I had foolishly placed all of my hope for a joyful Christmas and a prosperous New Year in a group of human financiers and their approval of our new mortgage. How utterly senseless! How could I have so easily fallen into the enemy’s trap? I was granting people and circumstances power over my joy rather than looking to Jesus for all of my hope.
The more I dwell on this issue the more I am convinced the problem of misplaced hope has become an epidemic among Christians. Instead of trusting in the Lord we place our hope in doctors, or investment schemes, or employers, or bank accounts, or real estate, or friends, or spouses, or technology, or politicians, or scientists, or our own strength and skill, or pastors, or even the church. It’s not that these things are necessarily bad. Indeed there is a potential for much good in them all. They’re just not Jesus, and only Jesus can make our hope secure. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” – Hebrews 6:19.
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When Darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; in ev’ry high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood; when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand—all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.
– Edward Mote
I have decided to place my hope in Jesus rather than in banks. Since He holds the true deed to our home and since all our income ultimately comes from Him, He possesses every right to determine where we live and how much we pay for the privilege. Besides, He has promised that “…those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” Why should I be so concerned about one small house?
I am determined not to let people and circumstances rob me of the joy of this season. I sincerely invite you to join me in this resolution.

Bill, a child of God placing my hope squarely on Him