Customer service at it’s best!

It’s spring and I’m ready to ride! I’m a cyclist by desire (not so much by activity recently). However, it’s only because I’ve had a few flats that have kept me from riding lately. And now that I’m starting to find some time in my otherwise busy schedule, I’m ready to ride again.

So…, in the course of the last week, I have ordered a replacement tire for my recumbent bike, and have been trying to find replacement tires for my CycoCycle. If you don’t know what a CycoCycle is, click this link.

Anyway, I recently contacted Dynacraft to get replacement tires for that funky looking bike, and the customer service was excellent! Not only did they respond quickly, but the reply was personalized, and they promptly supplied me with new tires so I can keep riding!

I’ve dealt with a lot of companies over the years with complaints, suggestions, and so forth, but this reply was over the top and probably the best I’ve ever received.

Come to think of it, isn’t that how the Lord responds? We call up Customer Service (Prayer), leave a message for the CEO (God), and wait for a response. What’s He going to say this time?

We all know that prayers get answered in one of three ways: 1. Yes, 2. No, or 3. Not yet.

Now, if we compare this to the story above about the CycoCycle, it’s almost as if Dynacraft has a better customer response than Heaven.

Now, let’s consider the whole truth. God is omniscient – He knows ALL things. Just because the answer might be “no” or even “not yet” – that doesn’t mean that God hasn’t answered our prayer with the BEST response. Remember, He sees the big picture and not just our little story in the middle.

We need to never forget a couple things when we need something:

1) We need to pray (call “customer service”)
2) Expect a quick response (although some might take longer, not because of God, but sometimes because of our attitudes, behaviors, or situation)
3) Accept His response as the most appropriate response.

Even more than those, we need to remember one final thing in prayer:

4) Listen! Although God may have responded to our request, there are probably other things that God is asking for from us.

Are we being obedient to His customer requests?

When you wish upon a star:

As the wintery weather approaches, I find myself (and many others) making wishes for a huge downfall of snow, just to enjoy the family outing that ensues led first by a late departure to work (if at all going in), sledding down the closest hill (no matter how small), building a snowman, and the annual snowball fight that seems to get everyone a little rowdy.

However, we should note that despite the lyrics…

“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you” *

…dreams are rarely fulfilled. However, prayers are answered daily. Does that mean we should pray? I’m not saying we shouldn’t. God has many more important things to worry about. However, your prayer doesn’t have to be about snow today. It could be just a thankful prayer that God gave you your family to spend time with on this cold wintery day.

I thank God that I have such a wonderful family. And not just my wife and child, but my extended family, friends, and church. Amen!

*Lyrics by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington

Doesn’t that just “get you?”

Someone says something really spiritual or you hear about an event where great things happened – and you weren’t the one to say it, or you weren’t there. Why can’t that be me?

Today as I was randomly selecting a passage to read, 2 Samuel 2:1 took me here:

“In the course of time, David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?’ he asked. The LORD said, ‘Go up.’ David asked, ‘Where shall I go?’ ‘To Hebron,’ the LORD answered.

How many times have each of us prayed – … earnestly – waiting and seeking an answer – yet it seems that God just didn’t respond. I’ve been there hundreds of times, and just reading this passage made me jealous of David (and God’s response).

Then I wonder . . . if I did truly hear from God, how obedient would I truly be? If I asked God today what He wanted for my life, would I respond if I heard Him?

I think back to the day I received (or “accepted,” I should say) my calling into ministry. I know that had that day came earlier in my life, I’m not sure how I would have reacted.

As a lost child, [mind you not “bad,” but lost], would I have laughed at the Lord had He told me to preach the Gospel? Would I have blasphemed God right to His face had He told me what He wanted?

It makes me wonder and sit in awe of how well God truly knows us. It’s almost as if He’ll give us any answer we desire, IF we are prepared to accept the sacrifice, the outcome, or the challenge.

Maybe you’ve been praying for something for a long time that you need an answer to. Why then, isn’t God answering me . . .

27 letter alphabet?

What is the 27th letter of the English alphabet?

I’m not a trivia buff. I could care less how many home runs Babe Ruth hit; I don’t know the height of the Eiffel tower, and I will never remember who played what part in any movie.

However certain obscure facts do catch my attention. This one passed my desk the other day. Did you know there is a 27th letter in our alphabet? Yeah, that’s right, 27!

So before I go on and tell you the answer, I want you to think about it. What could it be? <pause now…. and think!>

I’ll give you a hint since you didn’t pause. It’s been on the keyboard of every computer and typewriter for years. Most of you don’t use it in any writing at all. However, certain corporations use it in all correspondence. What could it be?

Hint number 2: This letter is one of just a few letters that can be used as a word, such as “A” or “I.”

Hint number 3: Falsely claimed by some to be attributed to and named after Andre-Marie Ampere, this letter was quite commonly used in his publications.

The answer is “&” – the Ampersand.

The question then is how and why did it come to be? First, let’s discuss the history of “&.” In Latin, the letters “e” and “t” were combined to form the word “et.” Et is Latin meaning “and.” Over the years, the style of the combined cursive letters evolved into the common day &.

Now let’s discuss how “et” and “&” became pronounced “ampersand.” Many years ago when reciting the alphabet, children would end the alphabet with …X, Y, Z, and per se “and.” The Latin phrase “per se” meaning “by itself.” Thus, the 26 letters, and by itself &. Per se could also be used with A and I (and previously O) because these letters are (were) also words. Over time, the slurred phrase “and per se and” became “ampersand.”

Now you know the rest of the story. But why?

I write this not to display my expertise on the matter – after all I get my current education from the same source as you – the internet. I do take the time, however, to verify my sources and information.

Many people trust that one source is enough. In fact many people never take time to read the Bible, they just accept what their Pastor or close friend says. However, I think we should all take the time to research our own Bible, pray for guidance, and seek God’s direction and truth in our lives. You never know where He’ll take you or what He’ll do in your life, until you follow Him. Thanks for reading www.followingod.com! I hope you enjoyed reading today’s “non-trivial” blog.

PS – Did you know that “et cetera” or “etc.” can also be written “&c.” – now you know!

e-mail problems!

Well, it’s a common occurrence – computer failures that end up taking our time away.

In today’s event, I lost access to e-mail, and have been “out of the loop” and disconnected now for about 4 hours or so.

It’s amazing that something as simple as no access to e-mail affects the body and brain. I felt almost lost and concerned. Normally, this would not be the case, but after receiving a text from the Mexico security department, e-mail going down, and the internet being spotty – my mind began to wander what was going on.

Is it simply a coincidence that all this is happening simultaneously?  or is there something going on that I really need to worry about?

The answer is very simply: no.

There is nothing to worry about. There is no security threat. And e-mail going down is just a normal occurrence. Sometimes I really hate how much we rely on technology.

Isn’t it nice that we don’t have to rely on technology to speak with our Heavenly Father?

Any time of day, regardless of the weather, the traffic on-line, or any other issue, God is always there waiting and listening. And when we stop long enough to talk to Him, the line is open, never a worry about technology!

Time to eat, or time to go?

It’s time! Got to go! We are a society of go, go, go. We don’t sit and wait for much. As a business traveler now, I am exposed to different cultures, and it always amazes me how other cultures stop to eat. I don’t mean they “stop what they’re doing,” but that they actually take time to eat.

Whether it’s with family, friends, or co-workers, eating is not something that has to be done because you are hungry, but it’s something that is enjoyed and used as a time of true fellowship and bonding.

For example, in France, the evening meal generally lasts 2-3 hours. Even the lunch meal in France can last up to 2 hours, through several courses of food, and then cheese, and drinks. In Mexico, the meals also seem to take time. I use the words “take time,” because that’s how we, as Americans, see it. It lasts soooo long. But to their culture(s), meals are a time to be experienced, not gulped down.

So what does this have to do with God, right?

Well, I got to thinking this week. What if we stopped to enjoy God? I mean, when we get to church, many people are watching the clock. In anticipation of when Sunday School is over, or when the last point of the sermon is heard, so we can get to lunch and “enjoy our family.” But did you ever stop to think that your family is in church, well, really, your family IS church.

We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and when gathered together in church, we are in our Father’s house. We should enjoy and cherish the time we have together. We shouldn’t always get so focused on the time aspect, but delight in the time we have gathered in one place to rest, recoup, and re-energize in the Lord.

So whether you are throwing down a meal, or hurrying through church, STOP, appreciate the time you have there, and experience the pleasures that God has provided.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13

Difficulty 2: Prayer (Part C)

Why pray if God already knows what we need?PRAY

We can approach this answer from a variety of directions.

Let’s first look back to the definition.  Prayer is a relationship dialogue with God. How many of you have a relationship with someone where only one party talks?

I think that’s the first thing to remember. Prayer is a communication where both sides are to be heard and influence the outcome.

Too many times in our lives we use prayer as a means of just asking for what we need (or want), but prayer is more than that!

One way to remember prayer is to “PRAY.”

  • P – Praise God: worship, adore and thank Him
  • R – Repent of your sins: confess your failures
  • A – Ask for your needs: make your requests for healing, help, etc.
  • Y – Yield to God: “Not my will, but Thy will be done”

If we look at Biblical examples,

  • Jesus frequently turned to God in prayer (as discussed in previous blogs)
  • The disciples, whom Jesus spent more time developing spiritually than anyone else, after Jesus ascended

They returned to Jerusalem…to an upper room” and “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” (Acts 1:12-14).

  • David,  “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), wrote almost half of the Psalms in which many he was speaking to God, asking for his desires and struggling when answers didn’t come his way.

Secondly, prayer is something we are instructed to do!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” – Philippians 4:6

And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; – Luke 18:1

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? – Matthew 7:11

 

It is wrong to think that prayer is simply asking God for something. Our prayers should include praise, and repentance. They should involve us asking God, but also yielding to Him.

Just because God knows what you need doesn’t mean He doesn’t want to have a prayer (relationship) with him.

 

Difficulty 2: Prayer (Part B)

Difficulty 2 – How long to Pray?  Short or long?

We’ve already covered what Jesus said about long prayers in the Sermon on the Mount:

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:7-8

Yet, Paul reminds us in this verse:

“Pray without ceasing” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Again in Colossians 4:2 we read “Continue steadfastly in prayer….”

So should we pray all the time or not? If we simply consider the previous blog about prayer, we know that Jesus was not condemning public prayer, but long and empty prayers for the sake of personal gain.

The issue of how long a prayer should be is very simple: long enough. So how long is enough? First, let’s review what prayer is, it is a communication with, not a one directional speech to God. [And this is where I am also convicted.]

We are probably all quite decent at saying a “blessing” at a meal, but how good are we at saying a prayer?

In public, we rarely, IF EVER, pause to hear God respond. This just seems abnormal; I mean only in large church settings when the Pastor asks us to pray silently do we have public prayer with a chance to listen.

You may be asking at this point: What do you mean “listen for God to respond?”

Prayer is not one-way. It is a conversation with God. Jesus gave us an example of going off alone to focus on God specifically. He didn’t leave the presence of others just to be alone. Jesus went off to spend time with God in dialogue and communication. [Isn’t it interesting that even Jesus (as Son of God) felt it was important to spend time with God the Father].

Praying has been defined in a variety of ways by the secular world, but in a Christian context Prayer is dialogue and relationship with God; it has the power to change outcomes and attitudes. Prayer is about an interchange with our Father, not a one-way plea for help or blessings. This requires a bond that is stronger than just faith, but a desire to listen. One can have faith in God, but it takes trust in God to allow Him to work out the finer details.

Only through spending time with Him can we listen and identify those fine details. Ever hear that little voice in the back of your head? Maybe it’s God. Maybe it’s Satan. But either way, you have been influenced. The question is, are you blocking the influences of sin long enough to hear from God?

How long do you need to pray? I would have to agree with Paul: Pray without ceasing! It’s the best way to hear from God.

I have come to learn that prayer does not require seclusion (although it does help tremendously). Prayer doesn’t require closing of the eyes and bowing of the head. But it does require a subdued heart that is willing to listen and acknowledge God as creator, sustainer, and planner of our future. Are you willing to pray long enough to get guidance as you travel this road we call life?

Difficulty 2: Prayer (part A)

In the Sermon on the Mount (the longest recorded sermon by Jesus in the Bible), Jesus tells us not to pray in public, but to pray in private:

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. – Matthew 6:6

And then Jesus mentions not to pray for a long time:

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.Matthew 6:7-8

And if we jump to 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we find Paul tells us “pray continually.”

So the difficulty is three-fold (or more):

  1. Should we or shouldn’t we pray in public
  2. Should we pray short prayers or long prayers, and
  3. Why pray if God knows what we need before we ask?

Prayer “difficulties” are numerous throughout the Bible, so I’ll cover them during several blogs:

I’ll cover public prayer only today. Should we pray publicly or privately?

First, we find example after example of Jesus praying privately:

After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.Mark 6:46

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. – John 6:15

41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:41-42

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. – Luke 5:16

However, we also find Jesus thanking God through prayer at the following events:

  • At the last supper, praying for the disciples and all believers – John 17
  • At Lazarus’ grave: “41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’” –John 11:41-43
  • Feeding of 5000: “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.” –  Mark 6:41

And then in the following events, we find evidence of public prayers:

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.  – Matthew 19:13

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers. – Matthew 21:12-13

Throughout other passages of the Bible, we find public prayer:

 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. – Acts 12:12

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.James 5:16a

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.Acts 4:23-24

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven 23 and said: Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.1 Kings 8:22-23

Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:8 for men to “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands.”

My conclusion then is that when Jesus said to go off privately to pray, He was right. Our prayers should be private so that we can focus on having a “communication” with God; an opportunity to hear, not just talk to God.

At the same time, it is also right to pray publicly, as long as it’s done with the right heart – see upcoming blog on “Praying the Will of God.” Jesus did rebuke the Pharisees for public prayer, but it was because they didn’t pray publicly for the right reasons. (“For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.” – Matthew 6:5)

The former passages above show that it is right to publicly thank God for His blessings, as well as to pray publicly for large groups and events.

It’s Father’s Day – call Dad!

During my second year in Seminary, I was taking a course designed to teach students how to “preach the Word.” The course was quite interesting; we were taught basic principles about how to formulate sermons, but then each of us had the opportunity to preach openly during class sessions. Many topics were covered; and it was a blessing to hear a variety of students declare the Lord’s messages that He laid on their hearts.

Many students were already good preachers, but I remember one in particular that caught my attention because of his opening prayer. He didn’t begin “Dear Heavenly Father….”  Instead, he prayed “Dear Daddy….”  What came after that was a prayer as sincere as any other I had ever heard.

Unfortunately though, I was caught off guard, even offended that he would refer to my Lord as “Daddy.” He even had the nerve to refer to the Bible during his prayer as his “Daddy’s Love Letters.”

What came next was a deep introspection into my heart about why I felt that way. Had he offended God? Did he really do anything wrong? Was God really “Daddy?”

I must admit that I struggled to listen closely to his sermon because of all that was going on in my heart and mind. But then I realized that it was all ok. God is our Daddy. He is our Heavenly Father, but a Father so close to us, we shouldn’t be ashamed to call Him Dad, Daddy, or other term of endearment.

Sometimes as Christians, we can get caught up in the specific words a pastor or another member uses when preaching, praying, or during a business meeting. We may even get offended to the point we are ready to “jump ship,” moving over a block or two to the next Baptist church along the road. But why? Is it because of false teaching, or just differences of opinion?

When I get home from work, I can’t wait to hear Wesley joyfully say “Daddy’s home!”  I think God would probably say something similar about how He can’t wait for us to call him (that is, say a prayer), even if it starts with “Dear Daddy….”