Friday, April 30, 2010

Listening Is Just The Beginning

A couple of weeks ago a jogger running towards me missed out on a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of this deer in the thicket because he was wearing headphones. I only stumbled across this because I heard some rustling sounds in the brush alongside the trail. Now granted this other jogger may have been listening to scripture verses being read or maybe praise music so I really shouldn't find fault with him or others who do obstruct themselves from quietness. But when I am out smack dab in the middle of the woods I prefer to listen to the stillness of quiet and maybe even hear from God.

Listening is the most important beginning of any good relationship. And I think it also plays a significant role in our walk with the Lord; to reserve ourselves a quiet time to just listen to God speak. Sometimes it's our mouth that gets us into trouble anyway. Instead of praying and praising our Father we sometimes may find ourselves airing out our grievances and just plain old grumbling and complaining to God.

If your own children did this to you wouldn't you just tune them out and not pay any attention to them?

You will never recognize God's voice if you are constantly talking and not listening. When you give yourself a chance to not only listen but to grow in your relationship with God you will learn to: love Him more, trust Him more, praise Him more. Then you will see the many fruits and benefits of walking with a Father who cares so much for you that He sent His Son to die on the cross for you.

"Peace on the outside comes from knowing God on the inside" -author unknown

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Two are Better Than One

There's an old proverb, or maybe it's an old wives tale, that says: if two ducks cross your path it will bring you luck on that day. I never take too much stock in some of these old proverbs of fortune, but the number two does play a significant role in our journey with the Lord. First we have:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
for he has no one to help him up. (Eccl.4:9,10)

Having another spiritual shoulder to lean on, to call on, and to go to for comfort in the time of need is important. Everyone needs someone to pick them up when they fall.

Another important aspect of the number two is:

Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
"For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, I am there in the midst of them."

And that is what I experienced this past weekend at my church's first men retreat. We had 15 guys including our Pastor spend time together in fellowship, worship, and prayer. It was so much more than what I was expecting. I knew when first planning this event that God was up to something.
During our Saturday morning time together in worship and prayer for one another God was truly in our midst. It was so intense that upon leaving for lunch afterward I could barely walk out the door.
I love it when God not only shows up, but in such a powerful way that He greatly exceeds our expectations.

On the preceding night some of us stayed up late to watch the film Bruce Almighty:

Jim Carey, as Bruce, is not having things go his way and vents his frustration out at God. So God decides to give him all the powers to see if he could do a better job. And naturally Bruce selfishly uses those powers to fulfill his own desires before coming to the realization that there's more to life than having our own selfish needs met.

Sometimes we forget the power that we already have in Christ Jesus:

Behold, I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
(Luke 10:19)

And that power we have when we are in unity with two or more believers. Coming into agreement with others in prayer is a wonderful thing. It works, and prayers get answered.

All of our expectations as men of God were fulfilled at this retreat. We not only had much fun, but came away enriched.

Two may be better than one, but 15 is even greater!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Apologies Accepted

When I first saw the headline: Saints lineman is really sorry that he was a jerk in college, it naturally peaked my interest. Carl Nicks of the world champion New Orleans Saints returned to his alma mater Nebraska to apologize and make amends for his past behavior (skipped classes, arrested at a house party for disorderly conduct) while attending there. When approached with the question of why he was doing this, he simply replied:

"I'm not who I was then, it just kind of hurts to know I made a fool of myself."

And as soon as I read that quote my reaction was, "Oh my gosh, how I can relate to that!"

Thankfully we have a God who forgives us of the foolishness we may have done in the past. And we need not reflect any further on our past but forge ahead in life and the things that God has planned for our lives. If we dwell on past mistakes we draw further away from the One who has already forgiven us of our past. In the Old Testament the verb forgive shows up 50 times. And each time it is God who is doing the forgiving. God's ability to forgive is so great that David wrote:

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions(sins) from us.

Giving out apologies and making amends is a good quality trait for each of us to have.

In a Seinfeld episode called The Apology, George gets upset when he doesn't receive an apology from a past friend who is going through AA and is on step nine which is making amends. All of George's friends are receiving apologies except him.
George goes to great lengths to get his apology. He pursues the guy all over town and even meets with the AA sponsor and demands he receive his apology. The sponsor notices George's frustration and anger over not getting a simple "I'm sorry" that he winds up bringing George to a Rage aholics meeting.

If we don't receive an apology from someone who may have done us wrong, don't hold it against them, be the better person and just move on.

If we go to God with a contrite heart He will forgive us of past mistakes.

What Carl Nicks is doing is pretty honorable to say the least. I believe Carl's honesty will have a great impact on the students there on the campus of Nebraska.

One of the best ways to make amends of your past is living out today exemplifying the One who has forgiven all of your mistakes.

I am not who I used to be. And I am glad for what I've become. What about you?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bridging the Gap

This bridge that you see is unique in the fact that: all along both sides of this bridge there are crosses carved within the layers of brick. Each time I pass by it while on one of my run's I can't help but marvel at the beauty within such a simple structure.

When I think of the cross I not only think about Christ's love for us as He died on that cross for our sins, but the cross also serving as a bridge between:
love and hate
black and white
war and peace
weak and strong
rich and poor
young and old

The cross can also serve as: a light to the lost, an anchor to those who may be sinking, and as a life preserve to those who feel their in a hopeless situation.

"You've done Your part, Lord. It is finished. It is eternal.
Now let me do my part and respond to Your unconditional love
with reverence and obedience." - Charles Stanley

Sometimes our greatest witness as Christians is not pounding someone over the head with scripture verses, nor scolding them over whatever sins they may have committed, but simply showing love. Your greatest witness is the life you lead. And when you carry with it a spirit of gentleness the cross becomes your bridge.

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Galations 6:1)

Don't wait to cross that bridge when you get to it. Carry it with you. Carry the cross.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Old Dog, Renewed Habits

They say "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" and I tend to agree with that. But, is it possible to remind or teach an old dog to be who he once was as a pup?

Last week Peter Cottontail paid a visit in the yard and Francis the old dog didn't do a thing. He let the rabbit go about his business of hopping around nibbling on grass. Frankly this seemed odd to me as I began to wonder, "What the heck happened to you, dog?"

In his prime Francis would've chased that rabbit around playfully. Has he just wussed out on who he used to be, content with who he is now, an old dog?

A couple of hours later I let him out the backdoor and this time Francis chased that rabbit throughout the yard. (note:rabbit was unharmed)Yes, the old Francis was back and still as fast as ever!

Sometimes when we get older we tend to be content with who we've become and forget how we used to be. Could you imagine if you could bottle up, savor, and pull out, when need be, the excitement you had when first receiving Christ into your heart and that desire to be strong in the Lord and in His Word? To have that vigorous energy of wanting to not just know all about God but having that desire to be in His presence?

Mark Twain once commented that:

"The Christian's Bible is a drugstore. It's contents remain the same, but the medical practice changes."

This similar thought is what I had pondered after hearing the following passage of scripture the other night at church:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

What was driving through my mind was,"Why is it that we drive ourselves crazy in the time of need and forget this promise? And why do we forget how powerful God is?"

We are even reminded even further in the next verse how mighty God is:

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

The Word of God doesn't change but we do at times. We sometimes grow into this old dog content with being who we are and forget who God says we are:

Yet in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us
. (Rom.8:37)

Sometimes it's good to remind ourselves who we are in Christ Jesus and to remind ourselves to: Have God's Word written on our hearts.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Art of Flipping Flapjacks

Within my enjoyment of grilling and cooking in general, the one thing I have yet to master is the art of flipping flapjacks (without the spatula!). Lately I've been embracing my Swedish heritage with the ever tasty Swedish pancakes with lingon berries (mmm..). Swedish pancakes are much thinner than regular pancakes so it presents an even bigger challenge when flipping them over in mid air. They break easier. Nevertheless, I was willing to give it a try.
tip: if you try this particular type of pancakes or just want to try flipping cakes. use a very small skillet,
your chance of succeeding is greater

One thing to remember beforehand is to have a clean, surrounding floor in case you miss the great catch.(five second rule,right?) But then again, if you have a four-legged creature watching your every move and hoping you do miss, then your good to go. I gradually built up my confidence on the first two pancakes as I cheated a little and had a spatula in one hand to help maneuver the cake in the frying pan to get a better flip.

I then mustered up enough courage to give it a try without any utensils. Yes, it was a medium size mid air flip, but I did it! Not quite ready to reach close to the ceiling with a large flip, but I'll get there.

So how does one build up confidence in himself to dare to try either the impossible or something new? Dorothea Brande, an author of books on the formula for success,yeah I know we have too many success guru's, but I like her quote on success:

"To guarantee success, act as if it were impossible
to fail."

In life our greatest accomplishments come from our failures:

Thomas Edison went through 1,000 light bulbs before succeeding

R.H. Macy failed 7 times before his department store succeeded in New York City

Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts characters, had every cartoon he submitted to his high school yearbook rejected. And Walt Disney wouldn't even hire him.

It is impossible to walk by faith without taking a step of faith.

Whether it's your faith in God or faith in your ability, you won't succeed unless you take that initial first step. But I believe that the greater your faith in God, the greater the confidence you'll have to attempt and succeed in everything you do.