Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Symphony of Praise

There once was an old man who loved listening to the symphony. He would sit in his favorite chair at home and listen to some old records of Mozart,Beethoven and Bach. This made him very happy; it gave him great pleasure.

One day he found out he won a contest, and his prize? A front row seat at Carnegie Hall to see the New York Philharmonic Symphony. When he arrived for the big show the Hall was packed with an anxious audience. Feeling a bit overwhelmed of entering a facility like this for the first time, the old man asked an usher if he would escort him to his seat. The old man walked down the aisle, proud and still in unbelief that he would be sitting in the front row of Carnegie Hall.

While the orchestra fined tuned their instruments, the old man marveled at what he was about to partake in. As he moved around in his seat to get into a comfortable position, he noticed his pocket wasn't jingling as it usually does. In other words, his keys were not where they were supposed to be. As he checked both pockets and no keys to be found, he suddenly realized..he locked his keys in his car. A sudden bewilderment came over him. His mind was now preoccupied throughout the concert with the dilemma facing him.

A front row seat at Carnegie Hall,the dream of a lifetime, and the old man couldn't enjoy it because his keys were locked in his car. How many times has something like this happened to you? An opportunity of a lifetime happens and you can't enjoy it because of some unforeseen circumstance, and so your mind becomes distracted.

I heard this illustration a few years ago and the message it was referring to was similiar to this:

Sometimes things happen in life that will throw us for a loop. And one of the hardest things for Christians to do within our struggles is to worship and praise God.We have an all access pass to the feet of Jesus whenever we want. A front row seat at any given moment, yet something will come along and distract us from enjoying that front row visitation with God the Almighty. The only real answer to our struggles is easy: allow God's glory into your suffering.

Do you remember the story of how Paul and Silas had been beaten and thrown into prison? And then when they began to pray and sing hymns of praise to the Lord a violent earthquake shook and the prison doors were opened. That's what praise does within our struggles. It releases our mind from our struggles as we seek the Lord for His divine touch of grace and mercy. Our singing praises within our circumstances is telling God: we trust Him, know that He is greater than any problem we have, and that He will come through for us.

If we can learn to practice praising God daily in the good times, and really root and ground ourselves in that concept,then praise should automaticly render with us when a situation should arise.

Praise also has another purpose and affect which I will deal with next week.
But remember:

Allow God's glory into your suffering and you will be amazed at the results.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

From Bench Warmer to Amazing Grace

When the last man sitting on the bench comes in to play and has a week to remember like basketball player Jeremy Lin has had, and the whole world takes notice, then something greater must be taking place. And it has.

Jeremy Lin is even drawing comparisons to the whole Tim Tebow affect on the world: succeeding when he shouldn't be professionally, and in dramatic fashion, as he confesses his faith in God.

As an undrafted Asian American from Harvard, the New York Knicks Jeremy Lin's first 7 games off the bench took him to new heights. In those 7 games,which were all won, Lin averaged 24 points per game with 9 assists and set a new record.

Ironically back in December he was cut from 2 different NBA teams. But his hard work and faith in God never wavered. In fact, God opened the door for Lin on the biggest stage an NBA player could ever hope for: New York's Madison Square Garden.

In one week Jeremy Lin jerseys were the top-selling NBA jersey and being shipped to 22 different countries. Behind the U.S. it was Taiwan and Hong Kong which sought after his jersey the most.

The success of Jeremy Lin is already opening doors of opportunity for other Asian American players to come play professionally in our country.

Jeremy Lin is being described by many sports writers as having a humble heart, a great faith in God, and a hard worker.

With those 3 qualities you can't go wrong.

With Christian athletes succeeding when sports critics say they shouldn't be, like Tim Tebow in football and Jeremy Lin in basketball, one only wonders:

Who's next? Baseball? Hockey?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cat and Dog Theology (The Doggie Part)

A dog says,"You pet me,you feed me,you shelter me, and you love me, you must be God."

A cat says,"You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, and you love me, I must be God."

In the book Cat and Dog Theology, written by Bob Sjogren and Gerald Robison, and now property of Intervarsity Press(where I work at,woohoo!)the authors suggest:

"These God given traits of cats(you exist to serve me) and dogs(I exist to serve you) are often similar to the theological attitudes we have in our view of God and our relationship to Him."

I can whole-heartedly agree and relate to the theology that compares to the personality of dogs, so here's my take on dog theology:

Francis the Dog had a knack for following my every movement throughout the house. No matter what room I entered he was literally at my heals.If I went to the bathroom he would sit outside the door and wait. When I would come home with some bags of groceries, his nose was right there either sniffing through the bags knowing full-well I had dog treats for him or just wanting to be near me as he wagged his tail profusely.He knew that I fed him, took him for walks, pampered him with attention,loved him, and yes...even talked to him as if he were a "real person". It was a great relationship because he never talked back or got mad at me.(haha)

Francis was a dog who remained loyal to me,always wanting to be near me and willing to please me and trust me.
He was faithful. Hmmm, I must be God to him!

Now if you are a follower of Christ, ask yourself:

"Am I as loyal and faithful to my Master, the Creator of heaven and earth, as Francis the Dog was to his master?

"Am I desiring to be closer to Jesus daily(through worship and praise), or only when I feel like it?"

"Am I willing to do anything and everything to please God?"

"Do I love Him and do I show my affection and love for Him?"

"And, do I trust in Him to take care of my every need?"

Most of us who do follow Christ try to stay consistent in our faithfulness toward Him. But it is always good to occasionally do a gut-check or in this case a
spirit-check on our faithfulness: to be near Him, to trust Him in difficult times,and to love Him unconditionally.

God loves it when we are faithful to Him; even in the hard times, for He does this:

Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!

For the Lord preserves the faithful,

and fully repays the proud person.

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart,

All you who hope in the Lord
. (Psalm 31:23,24)

There is so much to be learned from dogs and how they serve their masters.
I, for one, want be like Francis the Dog:loyal,faithful, wanting to be near Him,and loving my Master,the Creator of all things.

Thanks Francis the Dog for setting a great example for us humans. You were the best!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mans Best Friend

Lost Dog
Peed on the couch,
Chewed the kids toys up,
And dug up the backyard,

Along with all of the more important details this sign was posted in my neighborhood one day while walking Francis the Dog. I believe this pretty much sums up how any dog owner would feel like when they're dog has gone missing. And unfortunately this past week I found out how hard it is to also lose your best friend. Francis died an old pup, just turned 16 and yes, you could say he lived a full life.

I don't know who coined the phrase "mans best friend is his dog", but it has been around for many years. And one of the true stories it was derived from happened in 1923, the story of Hachiko, the faithful dog who waited 9 years for his master to return.(you can read my review of this in my blog archives:August 2011)

Francis the Dog was more than a best friend, he was a true faithful companion; it was a bond that could not be broken. He fulfilled his purpose in life by bringing joy to the many people who knew him or ever met him. Francis loved his daily walks and runs, he would literally howl when I came home from work and would grab his leash to place on him.. And at the end of our walks I would unleash him on the porch and another happy howl came out of him.

Our daily walks through the neighborhood each day brought smiles to new faces. On some days the kids playing in the park would come running to greet and pet Francis. Silly kids always thought Francis the Dog was a wolf(he had 2 different color eyes and did resemble a wolf). Sometimes when he was sniffing around a Stop sign, a car would come by and you
could literally see the driver and passenger smile at the sight of Francis. His unique features and personality is what attracted people to him. He was a great dog.

Everyone who ever came by the house for family events or football barbeques had the same view of Francis, he was always just one step behind me no matter what room I entered. I could get up from my computer and go to the bathroom and Francis would proceed to follow and wait outside the door for me. I couldn't even get up and go to the kitchen for a glass of water without him being right there beside me. There is a great message here on faithfulness which I will share tomorrow; and it coincides with the book Cat and Dog Theology.

One humorous story of Francis the Dog that a friend reminded me of the other day:

About 4 years ago we were having a family get-to-gether, we were all in the backyard tossing the Nerf football around with the kids while Francis frolicked through the yard(one of his favorite things to do). The football went over a 3 foot high fence into the neighbor's yard, and I hopped over to get it. As I tried to climb back over, football in hand, Francis began barking at me as if we were playing rough-house together. He literally did not want me to come back over the fence, but I knew he was playing. As I hopped over, Francis the Dog leaped about 5 feet into the air and took a bite of my arm. I knew he was just playing and I still have those teeth marks to prove it. Yep, that was Francis, he loved to run,frolic, and play.

Francis the Dog was one heckuva dog. Thanks buddy for bringing joy into so many people's lives. You will be missed and never forgotten. Ever.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Saving Valentina

Any pet owner can probably tell you at least one story of rescuing their pet from harms way. Especially those sneaky little kittens and puppies as they begin new discoveries whether its in the bathroom tub,a kitchen cabinet, or underneath the couch.
And I bet any owner who did rescue their pet from harms way received some expression of gratitude from them, too.

I remember risking a cold winter's day to take the dog for a walk, only for about half a block. He would unfortunately step upon a patch of ice and he suddenly began to limp on one of his paws. Thankfully my initial reaction was to grab his paw and thaw it by rubbing it to which his paw immediately became okay to walk on. The dog would then rub his nose on me as a show of gratitude. Sometimes we don't really think about it enough, but animals do carry emotions with them.

In the amazing story of Saving Valentina, which you can see on
You Tube, some fishermen encounter a humpback whale entangled in fishing line in the Sea of Cortez.

It is hard to even imagine how much fishing line it would take to entangle one of the largest creatures in the sea. But there was enough line to entrap this animal that it would take the fishermen over an hour to free him.

Upon their initial discovery of this great mammal, the animal appears to be dead; until they see some movement of the whale as it tries to free itself while they hear his disturbing distress calls for help.

They cut net from each of his fins individually and would then successfully free him completely. The whale would then swim off and put on quite a show of gratitude for his rescuers. For over one hour he would display over 100 breaches high in the air (like the ones in the photo) and some fin slaps.(you can also view this show on the video on You Tube)

His display of gratitude brought forth such grace, beauty, and majestic art that it is hard to deny that we live in the presence of One Great Creator.