Feb 25, 2011

Who Are You Listening To?

Cathy and I received some great news this past week. Our oldest son Jonathan and his wife Bonita are expecting their first child this coming September. I’m very happy for the two of them. They are both educators and have a great rapport with kids. I am confident that they will make great parents. And, I can’t wait to welcome this new one into the world. Yeah; that means that I get to be a new grandpa (again)!
1/2 of the children with
Fallon AFTER the horn went off
This past week, Cathy and I got to spend several times babysitting Fallon, who is our first grandchild. We also got to take Fallon to her first hockey game. She joined the whole family as we all went (Cathy and I and all 6 of our children and spouses except for Jon and Bonita) to watch the Minnesota Wild take on the Vancouver Canucks. The Wild lost, but better to go to a game that they lose than to go to no game at all! It was “funny” to watch Fallon’s face as she reacted to the fog horn blaring after the Wild scored a goal. She cried a few tears; all part of Fallon’s entrance into this hockey family.

Fallon BEFORE the horn sounded
 As we spent time with Fallon this week, I noticed just how much she is still at the age where she wants to only hear mom’s (my daughter Elizabeth) voice. Hey, I’m pretty good with getting babies that are crying to calm down; that is except for Fallon. Fallon is so tuned in to listen to only Elizabeth’s voice that no other voice has any appeal. Fallon KNOWS Elizabeth’s voice and (at this point) will not follow a stranger, but will flee from them, because she does not know the voice of strangers; which is a little hard on this grandpa. 

Fallon and Elizabeth
I’m amazed how quickly Fallon can find Elizabeth in a crowd of people by simply listening for her mom’s voice. How did this come about? It is because Fallon has spent intimate time with her mom; listening to her, getting to know her. Through the times of great intimacy, Fallon has learned to follow her mom’s voice. 

Fallon only wants to listen to her mom‘s voice and no other. Fallon is listening to the voice of her mother. Fallon hears her mom’s voice; and her mom calls her by name and leads her out of whatever “crisis” is bothering her (hunger, wet diapers, or just needs a nap).

So who are you listening to: Is it a Politian, an entertainer, an athlete, a teacher, or a philosopher? Is it a book, television, or a guru? Who is it in your life that is able to get your attention; that can speak to you no matter what is going on in your day? Who can you honestly say that you single out as the ONLY One that you turn your ear to hear what they have to say?

Jesus said that His sheep (those who would call themselves “Christians” because they have surrendered their lives to Jesus and follow Him with their whole hearts) hear His voice, and that Jesus knows them, and that they follow Him (John 10:27). Jesus said that His followers will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. (John 10:5). 

How do we listen to the voice of Jesus? Simply by spending time with Him; kind of like how Fallon spends time with her mom. The more that we learn to hear His voice; the more we will learn to be directed by Him and the more that we will learn to discern whether it is His voice or that of a stranger. How to we hear? Often times God will speak to us through our reading of the Bible, or through messages at church or on TV or the radio. God also speaks to us through people who know Him who may live where we live or work where we work. 

Not all voices are from God; that is where discernment comes in. If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you (that’s God) and He is there to help you discern the different voices. The important thing is to learn to discern His voice so that you will not listen to a stranger.
Many people throughout the ages have started out following Jesus and ended up listening to some pretty strange voices. People like David Koresh (Waco Texas), Jim Jones (Guyana), Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science), and Joseph Smith (founder of Mormonism) to name a few. The dangerous part to this is that these people have led the multitude in their delusions and taken their followers further away from following the true leader; Jesus Christ.

Still confused as to how to discern the voice of God?

Call Toll-Free: 1-877-2GRAHAM (1-877-247-2426) Call between 7:00 a.m. and Midnight Eastern Time    or Call 1-888-NEED-HIM

John 10       1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.

7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. 

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. 

17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” 

19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” 

21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” 

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Feb 18, 2011

Have You Unstrung Your Bow?

The “Energizer Bunny” is held up as a model for us to emulate because he is able to keep going and going and going… But we are not Energizer Bunnies; we are NOT made to keep going and going and going. We are made to have periods of rest in our lives on a daily basis. A time to “unstring our bows”.

If we don’t take time to rest, a more serious affect takes place on our lives than not being able to keep going and going and going. The potential for damage to our whole system is as real as keeping an archery bow constantly strung.

In archery, long bows and recurve bows made from wood– especially those made long ago need to be occasionally unstrung. Leaving this kind of bow strung for long periods subjected the wood to too much stress and would often crack or twist the limbs. 

This would cause the bow to either shoot arrows inaccurately or eventually cause the limb to fail altogether. To an archer, this could literally be a matter of life and death because the failure would occur when the bow was being drawn back – the precise time the archer needed it.

Modern bows of today are made of machined aluminum and carbon fiber and are immune to any issues that come from leaving stress and tension on the limbs, thus don’t require unstringing.

People THINK that they are like the modern bows of today and thus don’t require being “unstrung”; but we are not; we are actually more like the old wooden bows. With all of our modern medicines and health practices, we seem to be less healthy than people were 100 years ago. The hustle and bustle of our modern lives has the potential of us living in a constant state of great stress; unable to handle all that life throws at us.

That is why we all need to take time to rest; time to unstring our bows. Jesus prescribed time off for His disciples after they had returned from a prolonged period of ministry (Mark 6:30-32).

God set a pattern for us when He rested from all His work. "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." (Gen.2:3).

God is trying to tell us something that is counterintuitive to our modern thinking: To be stronger we need to rest. In Isaiah 30:15 “For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength. But you would not”. 

In Hebrews 4, the writer talks in the whole chapter about the value in rest and the value of entering to this gift of rest provided by God to us. "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience." (Hebrews 4:9-11)

Shouldn’t we take God seriously concerning rest? Start by setting aside a special time to relax physically and renew yourself emotionally and spiritually. You will be at your best for the Lord if you have taken time to unstring your bow.

Jesus is calling out to you today: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Feb 11, 2011


Life can be filled with great moments of unbelievable joy, happiness, and pleasure. Life can also be cruel, hard, and painful. And it seems as though we don’t get to always choose what comes our way; just how we respond to it.

One of the misconceptions that we have in life is that those who are _______ must have all of the answers. We apply this to whoever is in a particular occupation, business, profession, or calling in which we are looking for answers. This list would also include ministers, doctors, parents, grandparents. 

From one who has been in the position of having others ask the tough questions, I realize that oftentimes I have more questions than real answers to give in return. This is particularly true when trying to listen to a person who is seeking to make sense of their world that has been shattered by some event, illness, or circumstance. 

I can end up pondering within myself; believing that I really should have or need to have all the answers. Truth be told, I really don’t have all of the answers to all of your questions. In fact, most of my answers are either repeating a pearl of wisdom learned over the years or else (if it really is wisdom) simply sharing what I believe God is saying; His words, not mine. Again, I really don’t have all of the answers to all of your questions.

One of the reasons that Jesus walked the earth; 100% man (as well as 100% God) was so we would know that He DOES understand what it is like to be hurt and go through pain of death, loss of loved ones, watching people suffering from hunger, pain, sickness, disease, rejection.

That’s why He alone is the One we should turn to. His suffering on the cross as well as His experience with the pains of this life makes Him the ultimate, compassionate One to call out to. He saw what sins does to us and went to the cross and called out; “It is finished!” The Bible was written not so that we understand what Jesus went through, but so that we understand that HE UNDERSTANDS WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH!

I do know that if you are going to be used by God, He will take you through experiences that are meant to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what others go through. 

Eugene Peterson in “The Message” translation of the Bible writes it this way; “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Some of the most compassionate, caring, empathetic people are those who have gone through what you are now experiencing. Some of the greatest organizations and ministries were started by people who wanted to reach out and provide a service to those who were going through something that they themselves had gone through. People who wanted to be there for others; using their own experience to be a source of hope. People who have been shaped and forged by life to become vessels from which cool refreshing drinks can be poured to hurting people who are thirsting for answers and relief.

God wants you to turn to Him with all of your tough questions; even your frustrations and anger. He really can handle it; He is not going to push you away. And in time, if you let Him, He can transform you into a person through whom He will pour His life to those who come across your path through this world. You may not have all of your questions answered or know exactly what He is doing, but you can still experience His peace (shalom) knowing that He will make sense of all of what you have and will go through.

And in time, you too can be a "chalice" for others.

Chalice by Phil Keaggy
(influence from the writings of Oswald Chambers and C.S. Lewis)

The way to find ourselves is in the fires of our sorrow
Do we look around, expect to see the wind?
Could we prevent the trials that we face with each tomorrow?
Can't we see this is the world were living in?

When suffering restores us, burns away the empty shallowness
And softening the heart,
To be broken bread and poured out wine.
When it rains it pours, turns a life into a chalice;
There to nourish every soul one at a time.

We do wrong should we refuse to listen to the Master
Who went on before that we walk in His steps?
Before too long we run away...and running even faster,
We fail to see the promise that He kept.

And suffering restores us; burns away the empty shallowness
And softening the heart
To be broken bread and poured out wine...
When it rains it pours; turns a life into a chalice;
There to nourish every soul one at a time.

To love is to be broken, but to love nothing and no one,
We must close our own selves up, shut all the doors
And let no one in.
Locked within ourselves where it's safe and dark and motionless
Where love will cease to be
And all the while the air is wearing thin…

When suffering restores us, burns away the empty shallowness,
And softening the heart, to be broken bread and poured out wine...
When it rains it pours; turns a life into a chalice…
There to nourish every soul...
One at a time.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance." (Romans 8:18 NKJV)

Feb 4, 2011

Sheep and the Goats

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

The Bible is filled with powerful words that can actually move my heart to want to change. One of the more powerful passages (for me) is from Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus tells the story of what will happen in the Day of Judgment. The story is commonly referred to as “The Story of the Sheep and the Goats”. In the story, Jesus tells us that the only difference between the sheep and the goats, according to this scripture, is what they did and didn’t do.

We are saved by grace, not works; but how we live and care for one another make a huge difference as to whether or not we are really followers of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied: “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. ‘This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ‘There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

One of my favorite versions of Matthew 25:31-46 comes from Keith Green; a Christian song writer and singer who died way too young in a plane crash. Keith, in his own unique way, re-tells the passage in modern conversation between Jesus and the sheep and the goats. The video only takes 7 or 8 minutes; but what is that in light of eternity?

Here is Keith Green’s version of Matthew 25:31-46