Take Me To Church

One of my favorite things about New Mexico is its rich and beautiful history.  The state boasts the oldest public building in the US and the oldest continually inhabited settlement in North America.  New Mexico contains several intact Indian ruins – dating all the way back to the 1100’s, a few Spanish mission ruins from the 1600’s, and building after building still standing and still in use dating back to the 1600s and 1700s.  This incredible history is a dream for this budding amateur photographer!

Yesterday, I took my camera along as we drove my in-laws through the Jemez Mountains to Santa Fe.  Along the way are a few beautiful churches – some old and some new – but each one unique.  Here’s what I captured…

Jemez Valley, NM


This church is located just north of the Jemez Pueblo and is barely visible from the main road.  There is no sign in front of the church and no name on the building itself.  It’s located on a dirt road and a cemetery with graves dating back to the 1800s sits across the road.



Jemez Mountain Baptist Church, La Cueva, NM

La Cueva, NM sits at almost 8,000 ft. elevation.  It’s a small settlement that serves as the last stop for food and supplies before heading off onto forests roads or onto Fenton Lake.  The Jemez Mountain Baptist Church was founded there in 1989.  It’s not an historical building by any means, but the setting in which it sits is beautiful, and the building fits perfectly among the surrounding ranches and mountains.


Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, NM

I saved the best for last.  Those who visit Santa Fe surely make this one of their priority destinations.  The cathedral was completed in 1886 on the site of an older church that was built in 1717.  An even older church was built on the same site in 1626 but was destroyed in 1680.  Talk about history!


The Christmas decorations were still up inside, making the sanctuary even more beautiful.





Sunday’s Advent Sermon in 18 Tweets


Sunday was the second Sunday of Advent, and I preached on 2 Peter 3:8-15. You can listen to the entire sermon here. I saw that a pastor friend of mine condense his Sunday sermon into tweets (140 characters or less), so I thought I’d try. It really boils the message down to the essentials!  Here goes…

Advent is a season of waiting, but waiting is hard. We’re tempted to give up, so Peter gives us perspective.

2 Pet 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact beloved that with the Lord one day is as 1000 years, and 1000 years as one day.

2 Pet 3:9a The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…

2 Pet 3:9b …not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God “delays” because every moment that passes is another moment that a non-believer can repent and believe.

But, the Lord will return. Judgment will come. His patience will end. It will be unexpected for the unprepared.

God’s judgment of sin, the wicked, and the unrepentant will be absolutely, categorically complete.

Therefore, Christians must live lives of holiness and godliness while waiting. And it looks like this:

1. Be diligent (make haste) to be found by Him without spot or blemish (1 Pet 3:14)

Make haste to continually forsake sin and diligently practice prayer, praise, Scripture intake, worship, communion, fellowship.

By the way, we do all of this on Sundays together!

2. Be diligent (make haste) to be found by Him at peace (1 Pet 3:14) But how?

Phil 4:6 Don’t be anxious about anything, but pray and make requests of God with thanksgiving.

Phil 4:7 And when you do, the unexplainable peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

3. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. (2 Pet 3:15)

2 Cor 5:20 We are ambassadors for Christ as God makes His appeal through us.

Every day the Lord “delays” His return is another day for us to be ambassadors for Him to unbelievers.

In conclusion, while you await His return, grow in holiness and godliness – and share your faith!

Are You Really Pro-Life?


I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent killings of criminals by the police. I’m sure you have too.  You may even have a well-crafted opinion about them like, “The kid in Ferguson was a thug and deserved what he got.  The man in New York City should not have resisted arrest and shouldn’t have been so unhealthy in the first place.”  These are common opinions I’ve heard from many – including some of my Christian brothers and sisters.

Now…I don’t want to get into a debate about whether or not the police were justified in using the kind of force they did.  I don’t want to argue about whether or not those they killed deserved it or not.  I want to speak to my Christian brothers and sisters who claim to be pro-life.

At the most basic of levels, to be pro-life is to oppose abortion and euthanasia.  A person who is pro-life fights to protect the lives of the unborn and the elderly.  It’s a position that claims the “sanctity of human life” as one of its main tenants.  Christians who hold this position quote Bible verses like Psalm 139:13-14 to support their pro-life stance. And rightfully so.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

However, to REALLY be pro-life means that we value not just life at the beginning and end, but life in-between too.  It means that we value all human lives – including those who have made a mess of theirs.  Being pro-life means that we do not celebrate the taking of one human life by another human.  Being pro-life means we fight for and seek to preserve life from conception forward.

Some may call my position “liberal” – and it is.  As a Christian, I believe that the One we follow calls us to be liberal with our views on and protection of those who live.  Actually, it’s not as much a liberal position as it is a “biblical” position.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-44:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’ but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Words like these from Jesus, coupled with the fact that God is the creator, giver, and sustainer of all life ought to heavily inform the way in which those of us who follow Him view the issue of life.

While on earth, Jesus claimed to be “the life,” called His followers to love everyone (including their enemies), to live lives of peace, and He even wept over the death of His friends.  And then ultimately, Jesus allowed Himself  to be murdered in order to once-and-for-all defeat death and give life to all mankind.

Therefore, no one who claims to be pro-life should ever celebrate the killing of one man by another – regardless of the scenario.

I do believe that God has established the ruling authorities as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 13.  I’m thankful for our laws that are some of the most just and fair laws in the world, and I’m thankful for our rulers – including the police, who we hire to enforce our laws.  I believe they have one of the most difficult jobs in our society.  When they kill someone in the line of duty – whether we think it’s justified or not – as pro-life Christians, we should mourn.

So, in order to be consistent with what I say I believe, I’m choosing to mourn the deaths of those who have recently been killed by the police.  If you are pro-life, will you join me?

My Thoughts on Ferguson


I know very little about all of the details in Ferguson. However, I do know quite a bit about serving on a grand jury. I was the foreman for a grand jury for 3 months a few years back.  I served a total of 26 days and heard literally hundreds of cases.

Read about it here.

Very rarely did we ever return a “no bill.” Meaning, very rarely did we ever not decide that there was probable cause (which is the grand jury requirement as opposed to reasonable doubt) and “indict” the person being prosecuted.  The attorneys almost always came in with an air-tight case, and at times, I felt like we were just there as a puppet jury, churning out “true bills” left and right.

However, there were a few times when the facts in the case just didn’t add up.  A few times (maybe 5 out of the hundreds) when the facts were presented and the case was handed over to the 12 of us – and we just knew that the person being prosecuted probably wasn’t guilty of the charges.

In those rare cases, we would call the attorney back in and deliver a “no bill.”  It was very uncommon, and the prosecutors didn’t like it, but for the sake of justice, we just couldn’t indict the person.

The reason why so many indictments are handed down by grand juries is because cases that aren’t airtight don’t usually make it to them.  98-99% of the time, cases that come to grand juries are no brainers – the accused is probably guilty.

But when a “no bill” is handed down by a grand jury like the one in Ferguson, I tend to trust the grand jury.  They’ve decided that there is not probable cause for the accused.  My hunch is that the case against the officer was not airtight at all, but the pressure from the media and the community demanded that it go to the grand jury anyway.

Again, I don’t know much about the details in Ferguson, but I am confident – because of my experience – that the grand jury was correct when they handed down the rare “no bill” and did not indict the officer.  Not because I know the facts – but because “no bills” are so rare and are reserved for only those times when the facts just don’t add up.

I Escaped…and So Did He

Mike's accident-9 yr old

35 years ago, I was hit by a car.  I was in route on foot to the neighborhood gas station to buy 2 Cokes from the machine outside the station.  My brother and I were watching soccer-great Pele’ play on TV, and during a commercial break, he gave me two quarters and two dimes, and I took off running.

The car was going at least 35 miles an hour when it hit me as I crossed the road.  He was supposed to yield, but he didn’t.  Witnesses tell me that I tried to jump on top of the hood of the car, but I didn’t make it.  The impact of the car hitting my lower back launched me in the air about 10 feet high.  When I hit the ground, I rolled some 50 feet and came to rest in the entrance of the gas station.

I remember seeing the silver stripe on top of the blue car’s hood right before it hit me, and then I remember rolling.  I was nine years old, and I remember wondering as I rolled if I was going to die or not.  I felt no pain.

The next thing I remember is trying to get up and realizing that I had lost both my shoes and my socks.  The shoes I understand, but the socks?! I have no idea how they came off.

People gathered around me and told me to lie down.  My brother heard the screeching of the tires and came running.  I remember his face as he knelt over me.  It’s a look I’ve never forgotten.

My dad ‘s restaurant was about 3 blocks away from our home, and within minutes, he was there kneeling over me.  I found out later that he didn’t have the car that day (my mom was using it to grocery shop), so he ran from the restaurant to the accident scene.  He weighed over 300 pounds at the time.

Mike's accident -9 yr old #2

I was fortunate that day.  My reflex to try to jump on top of the car probably saved me from being run over.  No bones were broken, but – as you can see from the picture – along with my shoes and socks, I did lose a lot of skin.  By the way, I DIDN’T lose the money.  I held onto the change throughout the entire ordeal!

It was only years later when I was in high school that it was revealed that my back had been damaged by the impact, and I struggle with back pain to this day…but I’m thankful nothing worse happened that day.

The following news story made me think of my accident.  The man involved in this accident escaped serious injury like I did, and he says that he remembers rolling down the street – like I do.  Our bodies are incredibly fragile at times and amazingly durable at other times.

I escaped serious injury when I shouldn’t have…and so did he.

Random Thought Thursday: August 28, 2014


You better really enjoy being with your spouse once all of the kids have moved out. If not, you’ll be in quite a bind. Don’t neglect your marriage while the kids are living at home. Build into it and enjoy one another. Michelle and I did, and we’re really enjoying the empty nest.


I recently attended Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit.  It’s a yearly gathering of some 200,000 leaders from all over the world who desire to be better leaders.  One of the speakers this year was leadership guru Joseph Grenny who talked about the importance of having crucial conversations – which are conversations that need to happen but are very hard to have.  He said that if we don’t have these, we will end up acting out our frustration with the other person – which will only make the situation worse.  He claims that not having these kinds of conversations is what often stops the growth of relationships, organizations, etc.  His question is one I pose to you: What crucial conversations (in your marriage, at work, in your family, etc) do you need to have that you’re not having now?


A couple weeks ago, I took my son, Taylor, to Denver to see one of all-time favorite rock bands, Stryper.  He likes them too.  What a show! All 4  original members and all over the age of 50. 50 must be the new 30 because they are better live now than they were 20 years ago when I first saw them live.


If you’re looking for a good movie to watch, let me recommend a couple of recent releases – all about food – that Michelle and I have really enjoyed over the last few months…

The Lunchbox
Harvard University analyzed their delivery system and concluded that just one in a million lunchboxes is ever delivered to the wrong address. This is the story of that one.

Hundred Foot Journey
It is a story about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian restaurant and a traditional French one represents the gulf between different cultures and desires. It focuses on the rivalry and resolution of the two restaurants and is based in Lumière, France.

Chef Carl Casper suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner, he is left to figure out what’s next. Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife, his friend and his son to launch a food truck.

On life, learning, love, and laughter.