Our New Home

Our New Home
I love all the summer greenery around our home!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Works Every Time!

Back in July of 2005 my wife and I had made arrangements to spend a week alone at our favorite campground in the Plumas National Forest in northeastern California.  This special vacation was to be in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary.  It would mark the first time that we had spent a whole week alone on vacation since we had kids beginning in 1980!  Sure we had been on week long conventions for the church over the years without the kids, but they were filled with classes and workshops throughout each day and night and left little alone time!

We had both been looking forward to this adventure for quite a while and when the day to leave finally came, we were quite excited.  As we pulled onto the highway in Piper’s big green Suburban pulling our 17 foot Nomad trailer all was well and content… until we traveled about five miles and came into the city limits of the town immediately south of our home town.  When suddenly, “Blink!” the Check Engine light came on!

To put it mildly, I was NOT a happy camper (or in this case… camper to be!) as I told Piper what was going on and saw her normal smile turn down into a frown!  So what did we do?  Yes, you got it… we prayed as we continued to drive along highway 101.  After a few moments of prayer we both felt like we were to go on!  So with a deep swallow and a confession of faith, we headed south to the town of Petaluma where we would turn east and be off to the mountains.

Well, to make a long story short… after we were about four hours into the six hour trip the Check Engine light finally went out!  Once we arrived at the campground and got the trailer maneuvered into position (which was a challenge I always enjoyed… contrary to my Dad who hated that part of camping with a trailer…), I popped the hood and immediately started laughing as I spotted the cap to the oil reservoir sitting upside down on top of the engine, where I had put it some eight hours before when I checked the oil level before our trip!  Needless to say, the rest of our trip was fantastic and we actually ended up making arrangements to stay a few extra days.

The memory of the beginning of our first weeklong… and so happened to be our last… vacation together without the kids, came to my mind over the weekend as I read from Matthew 14:31.  This verse is part of the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water in the midst of a big storm, to His disciples who were trying to cross a lake in a small boat.  You’ll recall that during the adventure, Peter asked Jesus to call him to come out onto the water with Him.  So Jesus said “Come” and Peter stepped out onto the water and began to walk to the Master, and that is where our verse comes into play.  Peter was doing well until he took his eyes off of Jesus and took notice of the adverse wind that was blowing and causing havoc all around them.

Once his eyes were diverted from Jesus, he began to sink and quickly called out to Jesus to save him and “Immediately, Jesus reached out, caught hold of him, and said, ‘You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?’ " (God’s Word ©)  What grabbed my attention was the fact that Peter must have been pretty close to Jesus when he stopped concentrating on reaching his goal of walking to Jesus.  Every translation I checked states the same thing.  Jesus didn’t have to run or dive in and swim to get to Peter.  He was close enough that all He needed to do was reach out His hand and grab hold of him.

So what’s my point?  Peter was almost at the finish line!  He gave up too soon!  He was just about to finish a fantastic experience of faith when he started to put more faith in his immediate surroundings than on Jesus’ command to “Come!”  I have the picture in my mind’s eye that the other disciples in the boat were just staring at Peter with their mouths wide open when he stepped out of that boat.  They were most likely amazed at his faith… until he gave in and began to sink!

Peter’s example is a little opposite to Piper’s and my example as we began our anniversary trip.  While we had opportunity to give up and turn around and go home at the beginning of our long planned vacation together, Peter was at the end of his adventure when he turned away from his “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

Over the last ten years of our faith stand for my wife’s health, we’ve faced lots of opportunities to give up and throw in the towel.  We have seemingly had every kind of distraction working to get us to take our eyes off of Jesus.  From strange, incorrect or simply un-Biblical suggestions from folks we trusted to the pretty horrendous physical changes happening to Piper right before our eyes.  But you know, Jesus answered our questions and told us, as well as Peter and the other disciples in that boat back then, exactly what to do when the storms of life come unexpectantly and shake your boat! 

When the disciples were terrified at the sight of Jesus walking on the water toward them in the middle of a storm, Jesus told them to do three things.  He immediately called out to them across the waves declaring, “…"Calm down! It's me. Don't be afraid!" (Matthew 14:27 God’s Word ©)

When the challenges of life suddenly pop up and it looks like all will be lost, Jesus tells you and me to:

1)    Calm down!

2)    Get your eyes back on Jesus and the Word

3)    And after that: Don’t be afraid!

You don’t know how many times I have employed those three actions when an emergency unexpectantly popped up with my wife over these last ten years.  And once I acted them out, I suddenly had the peace of heart and of mind to make the right decisions, to trust the Lord in the midst of what was happening at the moment and do exactly what I needed to do!

One of the biggest things we have seen over this time has been the effects of fear on a person’s mind and actions.  Fear makes one do and say all kinds of crazy, unthoughtful and potentially dangerous things to those in need!  Fear takes and keeps one’s mind, mouth and actions away from Jesus and His Word… which is the ONLY power that can and will help you!

So, we had a GREAT time celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary up in the breath-taking Sierra’s back in 2005… because we didn’t give in to the lie of engine problems, but instead went directly to prayer for the source of our help.  And as with that example, we have also made it through some rough storms as we continue to face and deal with my wonderful wife’s health needs.  But whether it is a car problem, health emergency, financial need or any other type of personal problem that one may face, the answer is always the same!  Calm down!  Look to Jesus and His Word and Don’t be afraid!  From what Piper and I have learned… It works every time!

Have a great new week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “To Whom am I expecting to look to when the emergencies of life come to me?”

Friday, September 15, 2017

47 Years Ago Today...

Today marks the 47th anniversary of when my wife and I began to date way back in September of 1970!  In many respects it seems like it was just yesterday as I have nothing but fond memories of our dating days.  We dated for five years before our marriage on July 12, 1975.  Then we waited for another five years before we started our family.  For some unexplainable reason the number five must have had some special significance in our relationship!  Piper originally wanted to have five children until the Lord told her after the birth of our youngest, that our “quiver” was full. (See: Psalm 127:3-5)

Lately we have been watching some of the episodes from the first three seasons of the hit 1970’s TV show “Chips.”  I was telling Piper that watching these shows is like taking a step back into our personal history.  The cars, the clothes, the music (disco), and the familiar character actors of the time, are all a part of who we are today!  But you know what hasn’t changed over all these years… is Jesus Christ!  He is still the same, in fact Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (God’s Word ©)

And you know… whether we drove to church in my 1966 black MGB or our new black 2015 Chevy Equinox, we are still worshipping the same God who loves us just the same as He did when we were practically still kids holding hands as we walked the halls of Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, California.

I can think back over the years since 1970 and recall many of the mistakes I’ve made since then, but I am relieved and blessed to know that Papa God says to me: “I alone am the one who is going to wipe away your rebellious actions for my own sake. I will not remember your sins anymore.” (Isaiah 43:25 KJV)  Over these same years I have found people who are happy to remind me of my mistakes, but … as far as I am concerned… the only One whose opinion really matters to me is God and what He says in His Word!  Well… that’s not being truly honest…

I was talking with our oldest daughter on the phone yesterday and I told her how much I miss hearing my lovely wife’s encouragement and opinions on the things that I do each day.  A good example is the last time I preached to an adult audience a few years back at church.  Many kind folks came up to give me a good report about what I spoke on… but it wasn’t the same as Piper couldn’t communicate her thoughts to me and hers just seem to have Soooo much more meaning to me than the nice things that others said!  Maybe it’s just a husband thing???

I saw a similar theme working within the story of Jesus and Peter waking on the water in Matthew chapter 14 today.  In verse 29 Jesus replies to Peter’s request and tells him to “Come ahead” (MSG) to which Peter immediately steps out of the boast and starts walking on the water until… “he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet.” (verse 30 MSG)  But Peter was quick to amend for his mistrust and cried out to Jesus for the help he knew His Master would give to him.  And Peter was right for “Immediately, Jesus reached out, (and) caught hold of him…”  Then He did not lash out at Peter for his mistake but simply stated: "Faint-heart, what got into you?” (verse 31 MSG)

I’d like to think that I (and you readers as well) have been much like Peter over the years of my life.  For Peter started out by boldly asking the Lord to let him walk on the water and did so when Jesus said “Come ahead.”  But then he faltered after a few steps forward and looked down at the situation around him and began to sink.  But he quickly came back to his senses and did the only thing he knew to do and that was to call on the saving name of the Lord Jesus Christ... and I love the next line in The Message Bible that says “Jesus didn’t hesitate!”

If it had been me, I would have been tempted to let Peter sink and squirm a little bit in the churning waves, just to teach him a lesson before I gave him a hand up and out.  But not Jesus, He didn’t think twice about it!  I believe that Jesus knew the heart of Peter and because of THAT knowledge, He immediately helped him.

Yes, Peter made a mistake by taking his eyes off of Jesus, but he quickly saw where he went wrong and turned right back to Him… because in his heart he was committed to the Lord and His ways.  In many ways that has been the story of my life since that day back in 1970… and I am Soooo thankful for God’s loving grace throughout the many days, months and years since then!

What do you think about that?  I bet if you look back through your own life you could see many occasions where the same thing has happened to you!  Those kind of remembrances just want me to stop where I am and PRAISE THE LORD… How about you?

Have a great weekend, and if you get a chance, share your personal stories of God’s love for you with others… and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Whose love, grace, forgiveness and encouragement to go on, am I expecting to receive today?”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What Are YOU Looking At?

Well, the storm has passed and we awoke to a glorious day with bright blue skies and a crisp, almost-fall-like, morning!  We had a few strong gusts of wind on Monday night that definitely shook the house, and a very short period of heavy rain yesterday morning with the skies opening up late in the afternoon.  So again, I am thankful to God and His watchfulness over us during the storms of life.

I was impressed with what Matthew 14:25-33 teaches us about facing the storms of life when I studied it yesterday morning.  The key of the entire lesson seems to focus (pun intended!) in on how we look at what is coming against us.

This first came to light during the previous evening when we were watching a segment of “The Five” on Fox News.  They were discussing some of the parts of Hillary Clinton’s new book that were released prior to the book’s going on sale.  As I listened to a few of her statements concerning her view of the 2016 Presidential campaign, I was amazed at how totally differently she saw things than the way most conservatives including myself saw them.  I was a little stunned at how she could take the innocent words and statements of others and attribute them to some nefarious scheme that only a fiction adventure, conspiracy theory writer could dream up.

At one point I hit the mute button on the TV remote control (we have a ‘smart’ remote that controls every device and every function on every piece of equipment with our entertainment system… and it is fantastic!) and mentioned to Piper that I am still in awe at how people can think so utterly different from each other.  That it is almost like they are from two different worlds!  But as I read from the Word yesterday morning, I began to have an appreciation of how this can happen!

In Matthew 14:25-33 we find Jesus’ disciples traveling in a boat after a ministry event, when a storm arises.  Jesus had sent them ahead while He stayed behind to pray.  Well, when the veracity of the storm reached alarming proportions the disciples got a little alarmed and then totally freaked out when they saw Jesus coming toward them… walking on the water… in the middle of the storm.  And that is when things got especially interesting.  The Scriptures tell us:

“And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."   And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."  He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me."   Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." (Matthew 14:25-33 English Standard Version)

What immediately stood out to me in this verse is the different ways in which Peter saw things during the storm.  First he and his fellow disciples were terrified when they thought they saw an apparition floating across the waves toward their boat.  Once they realized it was Jesus and not a ghost, Peter gained confidence and asked the Lord to command him to come out on the water as well.  So Jesus did, and Peter did as well… until he took his physical eyes off of Jesus and began to spend more time looking at the waves beneath his feet than on Jesus and His command to come.  And… SPLASH!  Peter quickly began to sink like a rock (hummm… another pun!).

Then the revelation hit me… It all depends on what your eyes are focused on in this life!  There are a lot of people out there who think a whole heck of a lot different than I do… because our eyes are on different things!  As I analyzed the above portion of scripture I understood that in the midst of a storm in this life, discerning the events happening around you with your physical eyes quickly initiates a fearful response to the situation… and that fear causes one to do many crazy things!  On the other hand though, by spiritually discerning the storm we initiate our faith and therefore respond to the situation within the standards set by the Word… and not those of the world.

Piper and I have personally experienced this as we have stood on our faith in the Word for His healing for her.  Not everyone has always seen things the same way we see them… and at times this has led to frustration and friction between us and them, especially as we have continued to follow what we believe are the Lord’s directions for us, no matter what the situation looks like on the outside.

The Message Bible paraphrases Peter’s response in verse 30 by stating: “But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, "Master, save me!"   I had to laugh at that description of the events of that day, for I have personally experienced how one can lose their nerve when standing in faith, despite some very contrary evidence that is screaming into your eyes and ears!  It takes nerve to stand up for what you believe you are doing that is agreement to God’s Word, but in disagreement with what people close to you may be telling you… and others about you!

So… whose point of view matters the most?  Well folks, Piper and I have come too far for too long to put our expectation and view on anything but Papa God and His Word!  How about you?

Just what are you looking at? 
Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Who or What am I expecting to focus my eyes on today… or tomorrow… or the day, month and year after that?”

Monday, September 11, 2017

My Part / God's Part

I was feeling a little overwhelmed and thankful last night as we watched the weather report about hurricane Irma just before we retired for the evening.  What brought on the emotions was my increased sense of the faithfulness of God, and the reality of the power of our prayers!  The reporter on the news show was standing in the downtown area of one of Florida’s major cities with water up to his knees.  And while things were bad, they weren’t as bad as they could have been… as everyone had been reporting that it would be.

Over the last week we and a lot of other Christians around the country, had been speaking to the storm and commanding it to dissipate quickly, and last night’s evening report was proof that prayer works.  The storm didn’t hit Florida as a category five but as a four, quickly reducing to a category three as it made landfall.  Then from there it kept going down.  So yea, the damage was bad in some places but not as devastating as it could have been!  As of this morning, it is continuing to follow a northwestern path across land and is lessening in wind strength and rain.

That path also means that it will miss our new home state of North Carolina.  We are getting a bit of the residual effects from the storm today and tomorrow with wind gusts up to 30 mph and some rain beginning tonight.  Whew… and Praise the Lord!

Now some may think that speaking to the storm instead of praying directly to God about it is a bit strange, but you know… it is exactly what Jesus taught us to do in Mark 11:22-24 and is exactly what Jesus did when faced with similar hurricane conditions in Matthew 8:23-27.  I have often marveled at how Jesus would teach on a certain subject in the Gospels and then demonstrate what he taught shortly thereafter.

I Corinthians 1:9 tells us that “God faithfully keeps his promises.  He called you to be partners with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (God’s Word ©)  This passage perfectly describes what I am talking about.  I have seen many miraculous and unexplainable things in ministry over the years, but I still continue to be amazed and astounded when I see God move in accordance to our obedience to His Word.  It NEVER gets old with me!  According to this verse, we are partners with Jesus Christ, so that when we obey His Word and do our part in obedience to that Word, He in return, does His part in answer to our actions of faith.  Pretty cool wouldn’t you say?

Now I have seen, read about and personally experienced some people saying that this kind of action is simply done as a “do to get” scheme… as a sort of selfish action that is only focused on personal gain.  But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.  Warren Wiersbe in his commentary of I Corinthians writes that “these promises are certainly not an excuse for sin (or selfish personal gain).  Rather, it is the basis for a growing relationship of love, trust and obedience.”*

I can’t help but appreciate and love God more than when I see His faithfulness to my obedience concerning the truths of His Word.  What about you?  On days like today, after once more experiencing the love of God and the power of His Word in combination with the winning effects of prayer, I can’t help but want to shout of His glory from my front porch! Wow… Isn’t God Good!

Have a terrific week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting my steps and/or actions of obedience to God’s Word to work miracles in my life today?”

*Be Wise, A Commentary on the Book of I Corinthians, Warren Wiersbe, page 21

Friday, September 8, 2017

Protection Mode

My wife and I were in the kitchen working on dinner a little after six in the evening yesterday, when there was a knock at the front door.  We have a double pane glass storm door in front of the metal door, so I normally keep the regular door open in order for the daylight to flood in through the storm door.  At that time of day I supposed that it must have been one of our neighbors coming by to chat with us.  Well… Fiver’s response to the individual at the door made it very apparent that it wasn’t someone that he was familiar with!

Our pooch normally has a deep resounding bark, but yesterday it was even deeper, very loud and very purposeful… When I came out of the kitchen the hair on the back of his neck was standing up straight and it was easy to see that he was definitely in protection mode!  As I approached the door I had to hold back a laugh as there was a tall young man with a very startled look on his face literally backing down our front steps.  Once I got near the dog and put my hand on his back he immediately calmed down.  It turns out that the man at the door was selling roof repairs and wanted to do a free inspection after the hail storm we had last week.

I didn’t accept the offer, but took his card and got him to smile and relax as I told him that Fiver would have probably licked him to death.  It was interesting though, that in the year that we have had him, I had never seen that side of him.  It was kind of comforting to see what a good watchdog he is!

That incident reminded me of another side of Piper that I had never seen that occurred during the second year of our marriage.  At that time we were managing the apartment buildings that we lived in and were responsible for collecting rent, building repairs, upkeep of the grounds, and the pool service.  On this particular weekend I was adjusting the chemical balance of the pool when one of the tenants who lived right across from the pool entrance gate stepped out to chat with me… in her bikini!  This gal was a few years older than me (I was 24 at the time) and was sort of a free-spirited, I guess you could say back in the mid-seventies in our liberal county in northern California, kind of a “hippie!”

I must admit that I was not attracted to her and was a bit uncomfortable standing alone with her in that skimpy outfit near the pool.  Throughout the conversation I kept trying to get back to what I was doing, but she sought to pursue the encounter.  Finally, from behind me a hand quietly, but very noticeably, slipped under my right arm… and my spunky little wife suddenly appeared at my side!  I was NEVER so thankful to see my bundle of joy.  Now, Piper was her normally charming self but she made it perfectly clear through her actions that I was HER property!  The gal quickly ended our conversation and returned into her apartment.  Piper helped me to finish my work and then walked with me back to our apartment.  Once in the privacy of our home she let me know that she was just protecting our marriage and what the Lord had joined together.  She was and has always been one to not allow anyone (or anything) to come between us.  And that was the end of the conversation and we never spoke about it again.  Although it has been the source of a good laugh on occasion through the many years since then!

I just began a new Bible Study on the book of 1st Corinthians and was reading some of the key verses about the book from chapter two verses 6-8 this morning.  These scriptures talk about the wisdom of God that Paul was sharing with the church in order to assist them with the secular type difficulties that they were experiencing at the time.  Paul declared that he was using “wisdom to speak to those who are mature. It is a wisdom that doesn't belong to this world or to the rulers of this world who are in power today and gone tomorrow.”  Then he went further to say: “We speak about the mystery of God's wisdom. It is a wisdom that has been hidden, which God had planned for our glory before the world began.  Not one of the rulers of this world has known it. If they had, they wouldn't have crucified the Lord of glory.”

My immediate thought when I read these verses was that Piper has always demonstrated an awareness and sensitivity to that “hidden wisdom.”  More so in fact, than just about anyone else that I know.  Then, for some reason, I had the revelation that she and I have always seemed to have had a more literal understanding of the scriptures than the rest of our families.  From the early days of our marriage we simply took the Word for what it said.  If God said that He would meet our needs, (Philippians 4:13) then we had no reason to ever doubt that He meant exactly what he said.  And when the Word says “by whose stripes you were healed” (I Peter 2:24 MKJV) then we have and continue to believe that healing is His will for his children.

But we have also learned throughout our life experiences with the Word that we have to actively protect the blessings and promises that He gives us through His Word.  Sort of like Fiver protecting us yesterday from a possible threat at our front door, or Piper protecting the covenant of marriage that we have between us.  I guess you could say that this is the same thing that I have been doing with our stand of faith for Piper’s healing.  I learned early on, that in her weakened condition, I as her husband, had the responsibility of protecting her from forces that were potentially harmful to her as well as to her faith.  Hummm… I guess in some respects I am paying her back for the ways she watched over me for all those years!

So what am I saying?  Well, if you are standing in faith for any promise of God’s as written in His Word… like for healing or finances, for example… then you have to diligently work to protect that stand of faith by continually building yourself up in the Word that talks about those particular promises or blessings, avoid or spend minimal time with people, places or things that may water down or even attempt to steal what you are believing for, and keep a very personal and open line of worship, praise and prayer with our heavenly Father.

Simple right?  Well, the actions themselves aren’t that hard to do, but it is the continuance of those actions that will get put to the test over and over again!  One of my favorite sayings over the last few years has been something that our Pastor continually declares saying: “I will not be defeated and I will not quit!”

So yea… It takes some commitment, it takes a lot of effort and you’ll most likely face some persecution over your stand of faith… but in the long run… pushing through and beyond all those potential negatives will ALWAYS prove to be well worth the effort!  (Take a look at 2 Corinthians 2:14 for an instant pick-me-up!)

Have a great weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to protect the things I am standing in faith for today… and tomorrow… and the day after that?”

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How Do You See Things?

When is the last time you just stopped, looked around and thanked God for all the blessings in your life?  I had an opportunity to do that very thing earlier this morning.  After I poured myself a steaming hot cup of Folgers “Simply Gourmet” Natural Caramel coffee, I stepped out onto the front porch.  Once outside I walked to the very end of our veranda and leaned against the railing the runs next to the driveway.  From there I quietly gazed due west across the vast lawn to the tall maple and pines that line our property.  Since I had mowed, swept and trimmed the lawn yesterday, everything looked well-manicured and orderly.

While one bird called out from the tree to my left and another seemed to answer from a neighbor’s yard, I stood amazed at what I saw before my eyes.  I am not sure how many times over the last almost two years that I have stood in that same spot and have been overwhelmed with the goodness of God to Piper and I.  In the solitude of the moment, all I could do is utter words of thanksgiving to our heavenly Father for this wonderful place that He saw fit to lead us to.  All I could see at that time was the blessings of God.

It didn’t matter that my wife and I have been going through the toughest, gut wrenching battle in our lives with the attack on her health, at that moment in history, all I could see was how good God is!  It was like I put on a special pair of glasses that filter every trial and tribulation out and I was seeing through the eyes of the Creator of the universe.  And WOW… what a view it was!

Lately I have been studying a verse that is probably very familiar to most Christians from 2 Corinthians 5:7.  My favorite God’s Word © translation puts it this way, saying: “Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.”  I was actually led to that verse after hearing a song on the Sirius Southern Gospel channel “enLighten.”  And while I do not remember the artists, I do recall one line that kept repeating: “I’m just an old sinner saved by grace.” ♫

Please don’t take this wrong, but every time I hear that saying it tends to turn my stomach, because it is utterly untrue!  I think some folks believe that it is a very humble statement for a Christian to make, but according to 2 Corinthians 5:7 that is NOT the way God sees us once we become born again!  That scripture makes it VERY CLEAR that an “Old Sinner” is what we USED to be!  NOW, WE ARE A NEW CREATION and all the “Old Sinner” stuff has disappeared!

The Message Bible declares that “The old life if gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!”  From my understanding of the Word, when it says to “Look at it!” we should now look at our new lives from God’s point of view!  It would be similar to the way I looked around our property this morning… through the eyes of the goodness of God!  Adam Clarke in his “Commentary on the Bible” explains that “The man is not only mended, but he is new made; he is a new creature… He formerly had his portion in this life, and lived for this world alone; he now hath God for his portion, and he looks not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are eternal. Therefore, old things are passed away.”

That description of our New Creation Life in Christ makes it pretty clear that in this New Life, we are to be looking at things that are eternal - like God and His Word - as the new standard by which we not only live our daily existence, but as the ultimate truth in each and every situation we face!  So, with that in mind, I have to ask again:

How do you see things in this New Life?  By the way it used to be, or through the new eyes of faith?  Which do you think is more exciting… the old tried and has been?  Or, the New, freshness of Papa God and the creative, dynamic, life-changing, power of His Word?

You know, this is something that I have to face every day whenever my wife and I go out.  I see it in the faces of just about everyone we pass.  Many take one look at her and it is immediately obvious how they see things – through the eyes of worldly despair and hopelessness.  But occasionally, we see something different.  A smile and a certain brightness in the eyes of one who sees things according to the truth and expectation of God’s Word.  Believe me when I say that those are the people that we want to be around!

So which are you?  As His New Creation, I believe God is calling us to see things differently.  To be a light, a hope and an encouragement in other people’s lives!  Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… How am I expecting to look at my world today?”

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day with God's Protection...

Did you know that the Labor Day holiday that we here in America celebrate today has it beginnings back in 1885 and 1886 when municipal ordinances were first passed to honor the contributions of labor in our country.  Specifically, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”*

In other words… this holiday is all about you and me, and all the hard work we have accomplished throughout our lives!  So, not only do we get a paycheck for the work we do but we also get a day off in honor of that labor!  Are any of you doing anything special today?  I was going to mow the front lawn (which is actually larger than our backyard) but I decided that since it was a holiday, that I would just take the day off and mow the lawn tomorrow instead… But not before I sent out a little word of encouragement to all of you who faithfully follow our blog!

I am usually a pretty “up” person, but I found myself beginning to fight some despair after reading all the negative articles in the news on last Friday morning.  You know… I didn’t find one single article where the media said anything positive about the President’s handling of the tragic events in Texas, or of his recent visit to the state.  But the clincher was the article that supposedly was explaining the truth behind some of the Christian beliefs that my wife and I hold dear to our hearts and live out on a daily basis.

The further along I got in the article the more my eyes widened and my mouth opened!  To put it bluntly, I have no idea where the reporter got the information.  It was totally bogus!  I would imagine that the writer simply pulled some other incorrect information off the internet and did not think it reasonable to proof check the facts.  It was obvious that they didn’t talk to anyone who had some personal knowledge of the tenets of faith that they were addressing.  Having studied under many of the men of God that were mentioned in the article and personally witnessed the excellence of their lives over the years, I could only shake my head in disbelief at the supposed “facts” I was reading and wonder what other malarkey would appear next in the news!

But later that day some events occurred that made me feel some sympathy for the writer of the articles and the readers who lap up such lies toward the truth they do not and cannot understand.

As the afternoon began to wind down, the sky began to fill with clouds that kept turning darker and darker and suddenly it was as if night had come.  I don’t think I could ever recall an incoming storm that turned the daylight to darkness so rapidly!  Then it was as if the heavens opened up and it began to pour.  After a few moments of the rain beating down on the deck out back, the noise seemed to move from the deck to the roof when it sounded like we were under attack!

I was in the kitchen at the time and moved quickly into the dining room where my wife and the dog were sitting… Well, the dog wasn’t sitting anymore but had stood straight up with the look in his eyes saying it all!  My eyes went from the dog to the sliding glass window and the back yard where I witnessed golf ball size hail deflecting wildly off the deck, grass and occasionally bouncing sideways off the glass door.  To be honest it was kind of cool!  We had experienced this type of weather events while living in Oklahoma, so it wasn’t a real surprise for us.  Not to say that it doesn’t give one some concern, especially when hail that size slams into the windows.  I was quite thankful that the car was in the garage.

The thunderstorm cell lasted for a fair amount of time as it blew by, giving me opportunity to turn on the local ABC news radio station out of Raleigh that always broadcasts moment by moment updates of any extreme weather events.  Let me tell you that those folks were very busy with all the changing reports that were coming in.  Then through all the noise of the storm my phone began to sound the screech of the alarm of a tornado warning in our area!  So I grabbed Piper’s medicines and a few other supplies that I keep handy for cases like that and prepared to move us all into the inner bathroom in the house…

Well, to make a not too long story shorter, with a happy ending… everything passed us by with no damage to us or our property, nor did I see any noticeable incidents with any of our neighbors.  There was a sighting of a tornado touching down in the little town of Angiers a few miles east of us with the only damage being to trees, although some residents there as well as in Fuquay-Varina immediately north of us, reported dented cars and a few broken windows in both cars and some houses due to the hail.

I can’t say that there weren’t a few times when concern slipped in during the midst of the storm, but throughout the event I was continually reminded of God’s protection scriptures for us.  I mentioned to our daughter Jamie who lives near us and with whom I was texting the whole time, that it was at times like this that I am so grateful that Piper had us all memorize Psalm 91 years ago!  I kept finding that now familiar Psalm and in particular verse ten where it declares “There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” coming out of my mouth in the midst of the hail banging on the roof and against the windows, the roar and shaking of thunder and the flashes of bright light from the lightning that lit up the darkness surrounding us. 

After the storm cell had passed by and the light of the early evening sun began to reemerge a few hours later, I thought about what had just happened in reference to the frustration that I had been feeling earlier in the day due to the news articles I had read.  And you know, those articles and false information just didn’t seem as important anymore.  Through the storm, the Lord once again proved that He is taking good care of us!  It really doesn’t matter what those in the world may try to say about the truths we hold near and dear, and what we know to be the truth of God’s Word. 

On Saturday morning I read from 2 Corinthians 5:17 where the Apostle tells us that “Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.” (God’s Word ©)  And with that information, I had to laugh as it became clear once again that those without Christ do not have the ability to explain, much less understand what Christians believe and live for.  The term “new creation” is defined in Thayer’s Greek Definitions as being “in substance: a new kind, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, and unheard of.”

You and I as Christians are a totally new being.  Our ways are very uncommon to the way those without Christ think and act.  Our responses to the events of life to most of society, is simply unheard of!  No wonder the writer of that article I read completely missed it.  It is kind of difficult to explain something that is brand new, within the parameters of the old.

But when push comes to shove, when the storms of life come upon us, we have something to guide and protect us that the world knows NOTHING about.  So can I put up with the false narrative that is being published in the news?  SURE… because I know and have the privilege of living by and under the wisdom, protection and love of the Father and the truth and power of His Word.  Kinda cool, wouldn’t you say?

Have a great Labor Day today, and as you celebrate and enjoy the fruit of your labors, keep asking yourself… “When the storms of life hit, WHO am I expecting to watch over me?”