Aug 28, 2013 - Hearing From God    5 Comments


Many years ago, I coined the phrase “Secret Agent Christians.” Who would of thought that years later I would be blogging about it! As I think about that, My Lord, blogging wasn’t even around then … look how far we have all come!

Well it all began on an elevator ride with a friend. We were taking the elevator up to the floor of the public parking garage where I had parked my car. Just as the doors were about to close, two other people hurried to board the elevator. I quickly reached out my hand and held the doors open so they could get on. Here’s where the Secret Agent first went into action and undercover. Prior to the two other people boarding the elevator, I was talking to my friend about the goodness of Christ. And any of you who know me, you know how passionate I get when talking about God’s blessings. Well as soon as the other two people got on the elevator my conversation turned from my zealous tone to a whisper. Wait, it gets better! The people that got on were talking with each other in a loud and boisterous way. I don’t remember what they were discussing but I do remember that it included a lot of curse words. They were brass and not the least bit concerned that we could hear them or that we might possibly be offended by their cursing. At that moment a thought popped into my head, “Why am I now whispering to my friend about Jesus?” Right away the answer came to me. You don’t want to offend these two people on the elevator … they might not be Christians. No sooner had I completed that thought, a small voice from within my mind said, Oh really! I ignored the voice and kept on whispering.
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Aug 21, 2013 - Hearing From God    2 Comments


As I have been meditating on what God’s word teaches us about appreciation, I have given much thought to the meaning of the phrase “thank you.” Especially, when these words are being used in connection with, “I appreciate you.” Perhaps like me, you have had times when someone has told you how much he or she really appreciates you. And for whatever reason, when you parted ways the words left you feeling empty afterwards. Their words came across to you as just being lip-service. Ouch…image

In Matthew 15:8, Jesus says, these people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. What this┬ásays to me is that we can SAY things to The Lord and to others that can sometimes be disingenuous. I have been asking myself this question, “Do I SAY thank you to Jesus for all that He does for me but that’s as far as it goes?” My actions speak louder than my words because my actions say, Jesus don’t expect me to trust and obey you. A pastor and a friend of mine put it this way, we treat our relationship with Jesus as a “just gimme that thing – gimme gimme that thing” relationship. It’s really just all about you. When it’s all about us and not about the genuine relationship a key ingredient is missing.

Here’s an example of what I am talking about. My grandmother was famous for her pound cake. It was one of my favorite desserts. One of the key ingredients to grandma’s pound cake recipe was a stick of butter. That stick of butter not only gave the cake its rich golden color, it made the cake moist and tasty. The taste of grandma’s famous pound cake would linger on the palate leaving you fully satisfied. What do you think grandma’s famous pound cake would taste like if she took out that key ingredient, a stick of butter? I can’t imagine that that golden color and delicious lingering taste would still be there. What’s worse is when you lack the proper ingredients, you could be left with a bitter taste in your mouth.

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Aug 13, 2013 - Hearing From God    6 Comments


As you know from last week’s post, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking around the idea of appreciation. I shared a story about a bicycle ride along the canal with my family and friends in which my faith was challenged and my understanding of appreciation grew. What I didn’t share in the story of the “deflated tires” was how elated my wife was when riding on the fixed tires. She laughed and told me how out of shape she felt until she realized that it is way harder to ride on deflated tires. This got me thinking …

Could our levels of appreciation be like the amount of air in a bicycle tire?
Could our appreciation for God and others be inflated, deflated or just plain flat?

What I mean by this is appreciation that is lacking or non-existent is like a flat tire. Appreciation that is an empty expression, or just lip- service, is deflated. And, appreciation that is filled with gratitude is like a perfectly inflated tire.

I would like to give you a definition for appreciation, but before I do I want to share what I found appreciation not to be. Appreciation is not just empty words coming out of a person’s mouth or empty deeds and gestures. For example, the quick “thank you” you casually say to the person who holds the door for you or gives you your food at the take out window. These are polite manners but appreciation goes beyond manners.

APPRECIATION is when we recognize the quality, value, significance, or magnitude of the people and things in our lives. We take time to assess their true worth and value that they hold. And even more importantly, we are compelled to respond with action. This is what is referred to in the Hebrew language as Hakaras Tovah. It is the Hebrew term for gratitude meaning appreciation that goes beyond words only. It may include words of kindness, but the words are followed by deeds that convey genuine gratitude toward God and others. The heart of the person is to give and not take. The person is compelled to reciprocate the kindness that was shown. As Proverbs 27:19 says, “Just as water reflects a face, a heart replies to another person.”

So what might prevent a person from doing this? I’m glad you asked! A spirit of entitlement, a lack of love, being selfish, pride, not wanting to feel indebted or obligated, all these things will prevent a person from showing genuine appreciation.


Let’s look at the story of the Ten Lepers. Leprosy is a heinous disease that leaves the imageperson disfigured with lumps, bumps and sores. It was so highly contagious that those with the disease were cast out from the public. Whenever they walked, even in the vicinity of others, they had to yell, “Unclean” to warn people to stay away. At the time of this Biblical story, the only cure for leprosy was death. Can you imagine how much someone with this disease would want to be healed?

Luke 17:11-19
As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

We clearly see that the Hebrew term for gratitude, Hakaras Tovah, is being brought forth in the life of this Samaritan. His appreciation went beyond just words. He could have just said, “Thanks so much. I really appreciate it,” and been on his way … not giving this miracle a second thought. How often do we do that? But, his appreciation went beyond words. He took action. First, after he realized he was cleansed, he came back. Then, he fell to ground to show his deepest appreciation. Finally, he used his words to give praise and to glorify God. The Samaritan’s actions were to give back not to take. He displayed genuine gratitude through his worship. He gave thanks to Jesus for what was done.

But, can we say the same things about the other nine lepers? This Samaritan, not even a Jew, returned to show his appreciation while the nine Jews went on their way as if they were entitled. History records that the Jewish people would have nothing to do with the Samaritan people. Is it a wonder why Jesus stated, “Didn’t I heal ten men. Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Jesus was right to expect God’s chosen people to give glory to God and yet this foreigner with leprosy showed more appreciation for The Lord.

In researching appreciation, I am left with the this thought: How many times have I given an empty thank you or no thanks at all to Jesus? To others? Fact is, appreciation is a lot like a bicycle tire. You can go a lot farther on tires that are properly inflated than you can on ones that are deflated or flat. Inflated, or genuine, appreciation will not only take you far but it makes the ride a lot smoother.

An empty thank you doesn’t carry you very far … More on that next time!


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