Archive | December, 2013

A Christmas on Fifth Avenue

25 Dec

This is the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. I have written about how many people are willing to accept the birth of a baby, but many people are unwilling to accept that the very reason that He came to earth was to die. That is certainly, in my mind at least, the reality of the American culture today. The reality of the manger is that the cross is its intended completion.

While those theological thoughts are always present in my celebration, the practical celebration of the day took me to a set of movies that I happened upon a few years ago. The one that grasped my interest this year was It Happened on Fifth Avenue. This movie presented me with a wonderful thought about the reason why Christmas is such a fine celebration.

SPOILER ALERT

The story is about a wealthy man’s house that lies vacant for months each year. A group of otherwise unrelated squatters move into the house and take ownership of it. These vagrants are able to live in all the splendor of this house, with all the benefits of the house, and with most of the rights of the ownership thereof. At one point, the owner of the house moves in with them and lives among them, though he is relegated to the servant’s quarters.

The greatest part about this is that the owner lives among them, a fact unknown to most of them, and allows them to continue their arrangement for various reasons. That’s really where the similarities end, but I could not help but think that God takes those of us who are spiritual interlopers and allows us to participate in all the benefits, rights, and splendor of the life which Christ lived. Just as the people in this movie get the benefits of a multi-million dollar mansion, so do we get the benefits of a perfect life lived for us.

It is wonderful to remember that the baby Who was born two thousand years ago, and Whose birth we celebrate today, began what become the imputed life we have. And that is a magnificent thing. For us it doesn’t necessarily happen on a mansion on Fifth Avenue, but it is still a tremendous gift we have been bestowed.

There are many wise lines from this movie, including when the head of the house of misfits says, “Any house is only what the residents make it.” If you find yourself feeling a little ashamed of your financial position in this world, it is great to know that even a servant’s quarters can be the place that turns your life around. If you are a little down about your spiritual position in this world, it is great to know that even a miserable life of merely “filthy rags” is enough through the imputation of the One who came to earth for the express purpose of giving us new life!

A Dynasty Like No Other

20 Dec

Apparently there are these things you can use when hunting ducks to call them to where you are. Apparently the people that make these particular whistles are entertaining to watch on television. Apparently there are television stations that eventually notice that their value set is different than the stars of such a show, and when they do, they stand true to their values.

I have a very love-hate relationship with political debates. For much of my formative years, I thought I would eventually run for political office, so I studied a lot about government trends, went to law school, and put together hundreds of stump speeches on a variety of topics, including my bedrock speech about protecting your right to be stupid. This tends to make me think I know everything, which of course, I don’t.

The very unfortunate thing about this is that I tend to slip into these diatribes when political issues come forward. I believe the biggest problem with that is our call to be politically savvy and well educated is not the foremost call in our Christian walk. While those of us who reap the benefits of living in a republic should play a part in upholding said republic, the Bible does not promise us a politically easy life. My inclusion in this chosen race mandates that I live in such a way as to bring honor to my Lord, and He says that I do that by submitting to every human institution.

So, I will (for now) avoid all the political permutations and repercussions of this debate, and just say that I believe homosexuality is a sin. I’m guessing that noone on either side of the issue is surprised that this is the belief of these Duck Dynasty stars.

To paraphrase Joe Wright, Scripture says, “Woe to those who call evil good” but that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium, inverted our values, and ridiculed the absolute truth of God’s Word. We speak to others without love or their best interest at heart. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have embraced harsh speaking without kindness and called it standing up for what we believe.

I think we need to ask God to search and try us. It’s certainly possible to dialog properly. Many will use examples of Jesus being harsh, like when He warned against hypocrisy, cleared the Temple courts, or identified false disciples. In each of these cases, Jesus was dealing with someone who proclaimed God.

I don’t think this is a distinction we take lightly. Christ was much tougher on those people, than He was on those who made no proclamation of salvation, like the woman at the well or when He was healing.

I think this is a hard line to walk. We need to overflow with compassion when we are speaking to and about sinners. This is more than just political rhetoric, in fact it is different than much of my political rhetoric. I think we need to be kinder than (we feel is) necessary, because the only reason we are not struggling with that particular sin is the grace of God. And if we begin to trust in our own ability to stay out of sin, we fall into the same trap as those who have no hope.

The most wonderful thing about my particular theology is that I am able to easily recognize that I bring nothing of worth to my own salvation. It makes it easier for me to understand why others continue to live in sin. Regardless of what political agenda that may come from it, I find we need to lovingly give truth. Another wonderful thing about knowing theology is it allows you to understand what the truth is and why it is the truth. It allows you to understand what is really important and which dynasty we should have ruling in our lives.

The real challenge in my life is that I tend to get caught up in a political debate about

  • whether the Robinsons have the right to speak their mind or
  • if A&E has the right to fire them or
  • if we have the right to boycott A&E or
  • if we have the right to support A&E more or
  • if we really want the Blaze to pick up a reality show (or whatever we’re calling this type of show) or
  • if we should support either side if we don’t care about the station or the show.

The problem is that in my life and yours, the politics are a secondary concern to living the way we ought. Living the way we ought involves knowing what is sinful and knowing the proper way to deliver that message. That is such a challenge that I will, for now, leave the political debates to others who think that is more important!

Peace to Those with Whom He’s Pleased

14 Dec

This was originally written for my church’s blog.

As I’ve been reading along in Desiring God’s Advent Book, I came to the December 6 devotional. While I find the entire thing to be an excellent resource to go through as a family that consistently points us back to Christ and the true reason that is worth slowing down our lives and celebrating each December, this particular day stuck with me as I was explaining our hope and blessing to my children.

I had heard for years that suicides around Christmas time spiked. It made sense and in light of reading this devotional, it made even more sense. As Snopes will tell you, that is not quite true. However, the biggest 15-day span of suicides in the year are the two weeks immediately following Christmas. There are so many facts about suicide that can make any generalizations about it difficult to either state or affirm, but this much is certain, “Suicide is a decision made by people who have no hope.”

In God’s perfect timing, I read this wonderful piece by John Piper just days before I heard about a few people who actually made this decision of suicide, including someone I knew personally and so did many others who might decide to read this. I feel like this act often exacerbates a problem that we have as humans. We tend to characterize people into one general truth, much like Disney movies. If you think of a villain in Disney movie, you are normally hard-pressed to find one positive characteristic.

This is not how it tends to work in the “real world”! People are nuanced. In just the last ten days, two people have died that have caused a great divide amongst people writing on my Facebook wall. The problem with remembering anyone is that despite the fact that they are created in the image of God, they are born with a sinful nature. It can both be true that he did terrible things and that he helped accomplish great ones. Upon his passing, the part you choose to remember is up to you. I just dubbed this Nuanced Lives.

We all have nuanced lives, and this is why making a quick, snap, black and white judgment call on anyone is difficult. Fortunately, when God judges me, it won’t be the terrible things for which I am judged. It won’t even be on the basis of my accomplishing great things on my own. My only hope for getting a positive judgment in the afterlife is the same as my only hope for having peace while on this earth. hat is something to celebrate and one that most we all hope those we were close to are celebrating right now.

One of the great things that accepting the nuanced life in myself and others is that it will naturally lead to peacemaking. When we realize that we are flawed and others can participate in that same grace that allows us to live redemptive lives, despite our flaws, then we are able to truly grasp what it means to make peace with people. It allows us to build a culture of peace and realize what it means to have peace on this earth, as is suggested in the Luke 2 passage.

I am thankful that I am able to know Peace at this time of year, and really, throughout the entire year. As the devotional says, “The people who enjoy the peace of God that surpasses all understanding are those who in everything by prayer and supplication let their requests be made known to God….When we do trust the promises of God and have joy and peace and love, then God is glorified. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men with whom he is pleased—men who would believe.

Is it the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

10 Dec

This was original written for my business website.

Clearly, the mindset of Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But how does it effect us in a business sense? This is an important question, as there are clearly some industries where December is a huge part of the business (e.g. anything retail) and some industries where the Christmas season is almost a throw away (e.g. anything education). Where in that spectrum does purchasing real estate fall?

I assert that real estate buyers should NEVER be more active than in December. Because people don’t generally prefer moving around Christmas time, there is a hesitancy for most people to buy in that time. Because of that, every December becomes more of a buyer’s market. Many people are under the impression, whether correct or incorrect, that selling in the given calendar year will have tax benefits. This also helps buyers.

In today’s marketplace there are a large number of short sales and REO/Bank Owned properties, which further cements this principle, as the banks are always benefited by taking non-liquid assets off their books, but even more so when heading into a new calendar year. There are several things that make a quick sale beneficial, but few things that incentivize sellers to hold on to the property into the new year. Even those sellers not handcuffed by bank reaction feel most benevolent during the Christmas season.

With this in mind, every buyer should go crazy. Knowing that competition (i.e. other buyers) will increase as soon as Christmas passes. Knowing that people will be less inclined to sell when the new year hits. Knowing that the general feeling of benevolence and the outside pinch for money (gift buying) will only work in your favor for a limited time. Every potential buying dollar should be put forth to buy as many properties as possible during the month of December.

Because everyone’s tax situation is different, it can not be stated that it is always a good tax move to purchase a home, but if you are going to purchase an investment of any sort, it is almost universally better to purchase a year in advance. The only situations where it would behoove the investor to wait to make a purchase until the next calendar year would be where something else has happened in the forthcoming year, which can’t be known before the year begins. Therefore, it is almost always better for you to purchase something in the preceding calendar year.

All these things dictate that now is the time to be buying. If you ever want to purchase real estate, now is the time. So, anyone need help?

A Troubling Conversation

4 Dec

Postal Worker: How would you like to pay for that?
Me: With this credit card.
Postal Worker: I don’t see your signature on it. You can’t use it.
Me: That’s my signature right there (as I point)
Postal Worker: I can’t see a signature, you’ll have to sign it
Me: Fine, I’ll sign it again.
Then, I actually sign it again.
Postal Worker: The signature doesn’t match your license.
Thinking “Could it be because it was signed twice?”
Me: Well, you just watched me sign it, you have my ID and know it’s me. Can’t you just take it?
Postal Worker: No. I can’t see your signature.
Me: Wait, before you said it didn’t match and now you say you can’t even see it?
Postal Worker: Must be the pen.
Me: I used your pen.
Postal Worker: Well, try this one.
She hands me a different pen
Me: Fine.
Then, I actually sign it again.
Postal Worker: The signature doesn’t match.
Me: I’ve now signed it three times. Probably gonna look a little weird there.
Postal Worker: There’s no reason to get upset.
Me: If you can’t take my card, I’ll be a little frustrated.
Postal Worker: I can’t
Me: Can I see your supervisor?
Postal Worker: Yes
Supervisor: Sir, your signature is not on this card.
Incidentally, I like it when the supervisor actually asks for my side, even if they ignore me afterward.
Me: Well, I’ve signed it in front of her twice, what would you like me to do?
Supervisor: I need a signed card
Me: That’s my signature, right there.
Supervisor: It doesn’t match. The first part does, but the second part looks a little different.
Me: What can I do?
Supervisor: Sometimes it’s the card.
She applies tape to “remove” my old signature and allow me to sign anew
I actually sign the card, yet again.

Postal Worker: I still don’t think it looks the same
Supervisor: I think we should just take it, there’s a line of like ten people now.
Me: Thank you. How come noone else gives me a problem for my signature?
Supervisor: We have a different agreement with the credit card company.
Me: I don’t believe that.
Supervisor: Oh yeah, if the credit card company comes here and finds out that a card doesn’t actually have a signature on it, they won’t pay us. Other companies don’t have the same restriction. They get paid no matter what.
As I think, “How would the credit card company know if the card has a signature or not if you don’t keep the credit card?”
Me: Can I please have my receipt?
Postal Worker: I can’t give you one, until you sign this pad?
Me: Well, I certainly have had practice signing things today.
As I sign their little electronic tablet thing.
Postal Worker: Really, what do you do that requires you to sign things?
Me: I try to buy real estate.
Postal Worker: Can I get you anything?
Me: How about the receipt with the tracking number?
Postal Worker: Oh, I didn’t think you wanted it, so I don’t have one.
Me: What’s that on your printer?
Postal Worker: A receipt……………Oh, here you go.
Me: Have a nice day.