Tuesday, March 31, 2015

An Amazing Story That Never Gets Old

As we approach Good Friday and Easter where many of us will reflect on Christ, I shall also reflect on a different kind of resurrection, the restoration of someone's joy. A happiness that was suddenly taken away from them while singing a duet at a Good Friday service.

Although this true story, and no other story in history for that matter, will ever compare to Christ's suffering and resurrection, this story carries much value to all of us who are true believers. A different story that resurrects life and joy into one's soul. So, here ya' go:

           There was this woman who loved to sing about Jesus. I cannot recall her name, but she reminded me of Aunt Bea from the old Andy Griffith Show, so I guess we will just refer to her as Aunt Bea.

            Aunt Bea would come into my music store every couple of weeks to listen  and purchase new songs to sing in church. She would spend at least half an hour listening, carefully studying the words, and occasionally hum the tune. Sometimes she would even ask if I'd mind her singing out loud. In order to make the customer happy of course I was going to oblige. But this Aunt Bea, well, lets say she brought new meaning to the verse make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Even though her voice would crackle and be completely off key, she sang with great confidence and joy. I could tell that she enjoyed singing and nothing or no one was ever going to take that away from her.

            A week before Easter she came in to buy a background track to sing for the Good Friday service. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see her for quite some time. A whole month had passed and no sign of Aunt Bea. Then one day a young lady came in looking for some song books for her church choir. She was newly appointed as the music director at her church. As we chatted, I suddenly realized she was from the same church as Aunt Bea. I began to field my investigation of questions to her:

"Where is she? Is she okay? Haven't seen her in awhile, did she move?"

            With a hesitation in her voice, the woman answered,

            "She's okay. She just stopped singing."

            "She stopped singing?" I asked loudly. "What on earth would ever stop her from singing? That was her passion."

            The young music director then explained to me what had happened:

 At the Good Friday service she was singing a duet with the music director. The old hymn It Is Finished was their selection. Just as they finished the very first verse of the song, the music director grabbed his chest and fell to the ground. In front of a large group of parishioners the man died of a heart attack. Thus putting an end to the enjoyment of singing for this sweet old lady.

            After hearing this I remember my heart sinking like the Titanic. I then had an extremely heavy burden to keep her up in prayer, hoping someday I would see her again.
     And, believe it or not, there were times when I actually did miss her singing in the store.

            About 6 months later Aunt Bea came back into the store. We talked for a short while, she then proceeded over to one of the listening stations, put on some music, and began to sing. And she didn't even ask! This time she didn't need to ask. The woman who loved to sing about Jesus was back. And this time it was the sweetest voice I had ever heard.

 If there were two conclusions you could draw from this story it would be:

            One, the music director died doing what he loved best, singing unto the Lord.

            And two, even though the woman with the crackling voice had experienced a setback, she knew her love for God could not be contained or diminished. She returned to singing unashamed of how she may have sounded to others, knowing that it brought great pleasure to her soul, and that God only looks at the heart.

With the significance in the coming days of  remembering Christ dying on the cross for our sins, but resurrecting in 3 days to give us life, there is no better time for your own life to be resurrected, than now. Thankfully, we have a God who will take those broken shattered lives and restore them back to life, a life in Christ.

22 Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault. 

23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Moving From Introvert to Extrovert 2

"I think I'm afraid to be happy because whenever I get too happy something bad always happens."  - Charlie Brown

Ahh, Charlie Brown, probably the most popular introvert in history. Whether it's Valentines, Christmas or just any normal day, Charlie Brown will always find something to analyze, grumble or complain about in his, "Woah is me." fashion. I think Lucy has it right when she says to him,

"I'm not sure what happiness means but I look in your eyes and I know that it isn't there."

Charlie Brown always had his trusted dog Snoopy to listen to him. I think he spilled his guts out to Snoopy on purpose, knowing he wouldn't get any sarcasm out of him compared to Lucy.

"There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters...
   I could be their leader." 

In conclusion to my last post, I thought I would share some tips on how to get from being an introvert to an extrovert. If you are serious about moving from a self-conscious person to a self-confident person and move away from having a Charlie Brown complex, hopefully these tips help. These tips are specifically geared toward those who are believers in Christ Jesus.

I think it is extremely important for you to know that although you may consider yourself an introvert that does not necessarily mean you lack confidence in God. But, to increase self confidence in yourself  you need a greater confidence in God. And that is where wisdom in God's Word plays an importance.

If you are to trust in God and in your ability to do all things, you need to renew your mind with what God says about you.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

 In most of the experiences we see with Charlie Brown, even though he is a fictional character, his thoughts and words toward himself were a lack of self confidence. This is where confessions of the righteous comes into play. Find yourself some scriptures within the Bible to confess and to remind yourself daily of who you are in Christ.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)

If you have trouble letting of the past and mistakes from the past are holding you back, remind yourself,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.(2 Cor. 5:17)

Some other ways to renew your mind with God's Word:

Bible Gateway has some great daily devotionals along with the Bible in various formats for easy reading.
(the link for the website is on my home page)

Find yourself some motivational speakers like John Maxwell to read and listen to, or Graham Cooke and Rick Renner to name a few. I have also found on You Tube many of T.D. Jakes messages that specifically are for building up one's confidence in the Lord. Thanks to the internet there are various avenues to search from to get more of God's Word built into you.

And then there is the obvious choice of listening to worship music each day, the variety of genre is endless.

In one of the classes I teach I have a little quiet lady, kind of shy and timid, but who has been transformed and has come out of her shell in the most amazing fashion. Within this class I always leave an opening for others to share and speak. This little quiet lady always reminds me not to call upon her, she just wants to listen, and so I have obliged. And in doing so, she has transformed from being an introvert to being a little more open with others within our church body. That is what the importance of having or being a part of a small group does. As an introvert, find yourself a small group study to be apart of, but also let the leader know you only want to participate by listening.

If you are looking for anything further to enhance the renewing of your mind to strengthen you, and you are serious about moving from an introvert to an extrovert, you can always message me privately through my Face Book Page (Dave Montei) or via email: monteidave@yahoo.com

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Moving From Introvert to Extrovert

"There is something to be said for when a homeless person fist bumps you with gratitude."

I have been involved in ministry in one form or another for 17 years now, but I'm just now noticing  the transformation from being an introvert to an extrovert. And, reaping the benefits I might add!

 I never really gave this much thought, until after our most recent evening of feeding the homeless in the city of Chicago with the Night Ministry. The appreciation the cold and hungry have toward us as they begin to recognize us more individually has increased as they get to know us more. One young lady was ecstatic that I was taking a picture that included her, hence her smile for the camera.

Now, back to this whole introvert/extrovert hypothesis. In case your unfamiliar with these terms, here they are with their definition:

Introvert: not necessarily a shy person, but one who sometimes avoids large groups of people, feeling more energized by time alone.

Extrovert: an outgoing, expressive person who is sociable, unafraid of large groups

The first thing you are probably thinking now is,

"Is it possible to move from being an introvert to an extrovert?"

The answer is "Yes", but it takes time and a lot of work, especially on God's end of things.

As a kid growing up I never really considered myself a complete introvert, I was more of a mediocre introvert. I was actively involved in sports and church youth group activities all throughout middle school and high school, and did not shy away from being class clown and was honored to be labeled that. But, one thing I did lack in was self-confidence when placed in certain situations. And I believe that is one area that all introverts struggle with. 

What I have learned over the years was that with self confidence comes wisdom, the wisdom of God's Word. I believe that is the key to being transformed from an introvert to an extrovert, becoming confident in who you are through God's Word and what He says and thinks about you individually.

As for my transformation, it was a gradual change over the years while getting involved in ministry and the mistakes and failures along the way. But, that's where God's grace comes in. He doesn't find fault in our failures and mistakes, He just uses them so that we may improve. And not just for His liking, but so that we may be able to use those talents and skills we have been given to help others.

There is so much more I would like to add, so I will conclude this on my next post.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Welcome Back Spring!

"It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds." - Aesop
With spring finally beginning to blossom, here are a couple of true stories on birds and one
 mind- boggling incident involving a squirrel.
A friend of mine relayed this story to me through social media, a story of a girl named Gabi who began feeding the crows in her backyard when she was 4 years-old. Today, 4 years later she still feeds them but they have begun to reciprocate her generosity by leaving her shiny objects of jewelry and such. She now has a few boxes to hold the collectibles in. Yes, crows are smart!

This story reminded me of when I was 16 years-old and my dad took us to a cabin resort up in Wisconsin. When we first got there one of the hired-hands asked me if I wanted to see her trained bird. I obliged but was expecting a parrot or something in a cage. She began to call out the name "Junior" and sure enough, a black crow came swooping down and landed on my shoulder; this in turn would scare the crap out of me.
The hired-hand also reminded us not to leave out any shiny valuables because Junior has a tendency to take them. So, with spring fast approaching, look out for the crows!

A couple of days ago I noticed a net sack full of a variety of seeds sitting on my third-floor deck. I have no neighbors on either side of me so I was a little intrigued with how it got there. The next morning a squirrel found his way upon my deck via the roof, and began to munch furiously on the seeds. A long winter was had by all, and for this little guy he got his fill in. He even stopped eating after a few minutes but would come back later for more. How that net sack got there I will never know. Just another miracle of nature.

Spring is finally here, and most of us here in America have toiled through a rough winter, so welcome spring with open arms.  And may you all be rejuvenated!

Monday, March 2, 2015

And the Apple Does it Again!

In Greek mythology to throw an apple at someone was to symbolically declare one's love. Umm, I don't think that happened here in the story I am about to share with you. But first, what is it with the apple?

From the very beginning of time when Adam and Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit, the apple became a symbol of everything evil with some good mixed in sort of like a fruit cocktail.  It became the object of good in the folklore of Johnny Appleseed. Then the apple became a fruit of evil in the story of Snow White.
 Martin Luther would use the apple in context with one of his greatest quotes,
 "Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."

In most recent years, the apple has become the symbol of advanced technology. Thanks to Steve Jobs we now have Apple computers, ipads, ipods, and iphones to fulfill our every need so that we may function properly in today's society.

 Oh, and lest we forget, what would we do without AppleVacations during those harsh Midwestern winters?

Unfortunately, last week the apple would become the symbol of evil (hatred) again.

 Wheaton College is a top- ranked Christian liberal arts school in the western suburbs of Chicago. Last week the school found itself in the midst of controversy when, during a Town Hall chapel, a student flung an apple at another student who had asked about the school's theological stance on Wheaton's LGBT students.
 In the days to follow, the school found a couple of other unrelated disturbing acts on the school grounds which in turn affected the hearts and minds of the students. This, along with a discriminatory letter posted on the school's community board about the LGBT incident.

Thanks to Apple, excuse the pun, social media was a Titanic wave of all sorts of emotions from the student body all week. Everything from:

And, what do all of these emotions have in common? They are all emotions of the heart.

First off, you should not be surprised at the events that took place at this school. It is happening all across our nation's college campuses; and yes, even the Christian colleges. And secondly, I am staying away from the whole gay debate here, because what is more important here is fixing or what I would like to call restructuring  the hearts of these students.

How do you fix one's heart? It's pretty simple, just draw into the deep well of living water of the Living God.
One moment in God's presence can change a heart for a lifetime. When we come before God and ask Him,

"Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10)

,He hears you!

My hope and prayer for these students is someone takes the initiative to construct a place of worship, a time for seeking God's presence. None of us should be satisfied or content with where we are in Him. We all need to have a relentless pursuit of God, if anything, to keep our hearts and minds focused on Him. When we draw upon Him our hearts begin to change:

 In Your presence Lord there is peace, there is rest
In Your presence Lord there is life that never ends
In Your presence Lord there is joy, there is joy
In Your presence Lord there is life that never ends

- Jesus Culture, Walk With Me

I find it ironic that on the Wheaton Campus is the Billy Graham Center, and if you are familiar with the evangelist, you're then familiar with his famous tag-line quote at the end of each of his sermons and outreaches, "Come as you are."

In a similar fashion, whenever I teach about the heart, I often use the illustration of Jesus feeding the five thousand: Jesus did not ask each individual what race, nor religion, or what kind of sinner you are,
He simply fed them.

As for all college students who love and follow the One True Savior, education is important, but don't forget to feed your soul with what is really important.

 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field.   (1 Cor. 3:6-9)