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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Our Rallying Point

After I had put up our flag yesterday, I began to ponder about all the things that a flag means to it’s countrymen.  It is a symbol of freedom.  It is a patriotic icon that makes one recall all the good things that their country has to offer.  Many times it is a welcome and comforting sight for those traveling through a foreign land, and for thousands of our US soldiers over the last 200+ years, Old Glory has been a rallying point that has caused men and women to muster the courage to take unparallel risks in seemingly hopeless situations in order to win a battle, rescue a comrade in peril, or fight a war thousands of miles away from home in order to protect the freedom of people they will never meet.

For many Christians the Cross of Christ has been their rallying point to accomplish the impossible that they face in the situations of their lives.  But while the cross is an indelible icon that is recognizable to just about everyone, it may not be the best rallying symbol for us to gather around…  Now, before you click me off, please hear me out!  The cross is a place of surrender.  It is the point where we as worldly individuals, acknowledged our shortcomings and surrendered them to Christ.  It is the location of where we left our past behind us.  I am not too sure that I want to keep coming back to that spot when I need strength for the tasks ahead.

I prefer instead, to rally around the throne of God where the resurrected Christ now sits in all glory, power and majesty.  The throne is the place of victory where Jesus has taken His position to mediate over all the promises and blessings that He has provided for us after his death and  resurrection.  Hebrews 8:1 says that Jesus as our chief priest “has received the highest position, the throne of majesty in heaven.”  Hebrews 4:16 and 10:20 and  says that “Jesus has opened a new and living way for us to go through the curtain… to receive mercy and find kindness, which will help us at the right time.” (Gods Word ©) 

When I am on the verge of giving up, I don’t want to go back and remember who I was as a defeated failure, but I want to rally around the position of who I am today in Christ, at the throne of our mighty God!

Rally around that magnificent reality today, as you walk the paths of your life.  All the encouragement, all the supplies, and all the assistance you require to win any battle resides with Jesus, Who sits at the right hand of God.  His job today is to assist you, as you yield your every need, and every concern of any part of your life to Him.

The red, white and blue of our American flag  stands out like a beacon to our solders in battle (as does the flag of any nation to it's soldiers).  How much more does the throne of God glow for us, the children of God, from the very Holy of Holies!  Keep that image in your mind this day, as you muster up the courage to take the seemingly unparallel risks (that are assured through our faith in Him and His word that He confirms in our lives –Mark 16:20) to win the battles you face ahead.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What (good things) am I expecting today?” 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Today is the day that we, in the United States of America, commemorate those who have died in our nation’s service.  Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, who was the commander of a fraternal group comprised of men who had served in the Union Army, called the Grand Army of the Republic.  The day was first observed on May 30th of that same year, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  By 1890 Memorial Day was recognized as a holiday by all the northern states.  The south refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I.  At this time the holiday was changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.

Because it seemed that the original meaning and traditions of Memorial Day had diminished over the years, the “National Moment of Remembrance” was passed, as signed by then President Bill Clinton, in December of 2000.  This resolution asks that all Americans at 3:00 pm local time “Voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps." (for more information on Memorial Day go to: http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html)

Today as you see American Flags flying proudly around your city, I encourage you to take that moment of silent or prayerful recognition of those who have given their lives so that we can continue to live in a free society that is like no other country in the world.  It is a country that was established on Godly principles for a Godly purpose… and I am proud to call her my home!

As Christians, I would also encourage you to take some time to praise and thank The ONE who gave of His life that we might gain eternal freedom.  Colossians 2:13-15 sums up all that He did for us.  “You were once dead because of your failures and your uncircumcised corrupt nature.  But God made you alive with Christ when he forgave all our failures.  He did this by erasing the charges that were brought against us by the written laws God had established.  He took the charges away by nailing them to the cross.  He stripped the rulers and authorities of their power and made a public spectacle of them as he celebrated his victory in Christ.”  (Gods Word ©)

This is a victory worth celebrating everyday!  So today, as you remember the hero’s of our land, also commemorate THE hero of our faith Who “has given us EVERYTHING we need for life and for godliness.”  (2 Peter 1:3 Gods Word ©)  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What (good things) am I expecting today?”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Breaking News...

Well, it is official.  The call came in late last night.  Our youngest daughter, JoAnna is engaged to a wonderful, strong Christian young man.  Of course, I was alerted to the pending proposal when Jeremiah and I spoke earlier in the afternoon.  But I have to confess, it was very hard to contain my excitement throughout the night as I awaited the joyful announcement directly from our daughter.

The overwhelming excitement and joy in both their voices was a powerful testimony of the vision of their future that lies ahead.  What an exciting time for them!  All the dreams and plans of the good things in their life together were bursting forth throughout our conversations.  I can hardly remember a time when I have heard JoAnna giggle and gasp so much at the expectations of what was happening in her life!

Early this morning I awoke and found myself thinking about the excitement that JoAnna and Jeremiah are experiencing.  Then, from seemingly out of no where, the revelation that Jesus is referred to as the groom and the church as His bride popped into my mind.  I instantly began to associate our kid’s enthusiasm to that of us as Christians, as we anticipate the good things that Jesus has provided for us right NOW!  (Hebrews 9:11)  I got so excited about this thought that I had to get up and start doing some research in the Word concerning the state of joy that Christians are supposed to be living in!

Close your eyes and think about this with me for a few moments.  Remember the statement that Jesus made in John 10:10 where He said that He came so that we might have life more abundantly?  He was basically fulfilling the prophetic statement that the angel made to the shepherds on that lonely field in Jerusalem some thirty years before.  In announcing the birth of our Savior he sang out: “Don’t be afraid!  I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy.” (Gods Word ©)  What was that good news?  It was that Jesus had come to provide a way for us to connect directly with the kingdom of God and therefore be able to live a life of expectant joy, based on the promises that He would provide for us!

Colossians 1:12 -13 says that we are to “thank the Father who has made us able to share the light, which is what God’s people inherit. (For He) has rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of his Son, whom he loves.” (Gods Word ©)

Just as JoAnna and Jeremiah are expectantly committed to a new and exciting life together, with visions of all the good things ahead, we, as Christians, should also live our daily lives with a high expectancy of all the good things ahead that Jesus has already provided for us!  Romans 14:17 says that “the kingdom of God (which we are now apart of) is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and JOY in the Holy Ghost.”  (King James Version, parentheses mine).

Wow!  Now that is GOOD NEWS!  That’s what the gospel that we are to live our lives by is all about!  Why don’t all of us live our daily lives in this mode?  Well, maybe it is because we spend too much time reading the news about the power of darkness and not enough in filling ourselves up with the broadcasts that define where we live, and what the forecasts for our past, present and future are.  (see: Romans 12:2 and Hebrews 12:2)  Hummm… this may seem radical to some of you, but the Word is filled with this message!

Romans 15:13 sums this all up quite nicely.  “Now, the God of hope (ie; good expectations) fill you with ALL joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope (or expectancy) through the power (or ability) of the Holy Ghost.”  (King James Version, parentheses mine)  Like I said the other day… it kinda makes you want to shout for JOY doesn’t it!

I encourage you to take some time this weekend, and be like my kids as you live and dream about all the joyful events that God has prepared for your lives… each day!  This may sound pretty incredible, but the facts found within the pages of the Word back it up completely!  Have a fun weekend in your new found engagement with the King of Kings!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What (GOOD THINGS) am I expecting today?”

and by the way, Congratulations to JoAnna and Jeremiah! 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's All About Who You Know...

Yesterday I started studying the gospel of John in conjunction with my continued examination of Hebrews.  I found that I kept coming up with references to John as I’ve been in the letter to the Hebrews, so I decided to study them side by side.  John’s gospel is rather different from the others written by Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Many Bible scholars tend to believe that it was written many years later than the other three.  This would explain why there are some themes developed in John that are either absent from or lightly discussed in the others. 

If this later date is accurate, then John would have had knowledge of the Pauline revelation concerning the finished work of Christ that Paul developed, especially in the book to the Ephesians.  John is known to have lived his later years in Ephesus, and I have found some hints of Paul’s teachings in the book of John.  I’ll explain more of this in future posts.

John’s book also seems to be more personal to me than the other gospels.  John relationship with Jesus was closer than any of the other Apostles and it comes through in his writings.  One scripture in John 1:17 popped out in agreement with this thought.  Here John says: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by (or through) Jesus Christ.”  (King James Version)  This is such a personal statement.  Whereas the law, which was never meant to save, but to point men to their need of a savior was given from God to a man and then from that man to the Israelites, God’s grace to save, heal and prosperous us was given through the personage of Jesus.  It is a revelation that increases as our relationship with Him increases.  In other words, the more time we spend with Him, the more knowledge we gain of the fullness of His grace that He has blessed us all with.  (see John 1:16)

Consider that reality today.  You can have a personal and continually growing relationship with the very Son of God!  Talk about having an inside connection.  It really is all about Who you know!  You can actually go right to the top and get the wisdom and blessings you need from the very source!  Wow!  Isn’t our God good! 

Well, have a great day, enjoy the blessings of the Lord, and pass some on to those around you.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What (GOOD THINGS) am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Irreproachable Truth

How is everyone progressing on your adventurous journey in Psalm 23 according to The 90 Day Challenge that I presented to you last week?  (If you don’t know what I am referring to, or haven’t started yet, go back and read my posting from 5/18/11 entitled "The 90 Day Challenge".)  

You have to understand that Psalm 23 was a revolutionary prose when it was written.  In Old Testament times, the concept of God as our father, or His coming Son, who was prophesized throughout the Old Testament writings, as being our Good Shepherd was unknown to the Children of Israel.  They could not understand the concept because they were not born again.  They did not have a means of entering into the family of God at that time.  Jesus introduced God as our Father to His followers during His earthly ministry.

As born again believers, we now look with a clear understanding, at the meaning of the 23rd Psalm.  So David had a relationship with God that went way beyond the common Hebrew of his day.  (This was exemplified, once again, by his confident stance against Goliath, and then with the enemy armies that fought the Israelites during his reign as their King.)

As David looked ahead at the future life of the believer, he could boldly proclaim the goodness of God with his statement made at the end of this prophetic psalm.  Verse six says “Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life.”  (CEV)  This is one place where the CEV translation tends to miss a portion of the emphasis of this verse as translated by other versions.  The King James translation says “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me…”  David was pointedly declaring that God’s goodness and love was an irreproachable truth that the believer could depend on!  The great British pastor and author Charles Spurgeon wrote of this verse in his “magnum opus” writing “The Treasury of David” that “This is a fact as indisputable as it is encouraging, and therefore a heavenly verily, or “surely” is set as a seal upon it.” (see: http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/treasury.htm)

In other words, this is a truth that you can bank on in your daily walk.  Don’t allow worry and fear to drive your day today.  Put your total trust in the One Who loved you so much, that He gave His life for you.  He is definitely someone that you can depend on!  Put that confidence to work for you and go out and have a great day filled with the good things that only the Master can provide for you!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What (GOOD THINGS) am I expecting today?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Good Things!

I have always been a voracious note taker.  I tend to take my daily planner with me wherever I go, and am a ready writer with pen (or in my case, mechanical pencil) in hand!  The section that I have set apart for my daily Bible study thoughts is always brimming over with copious notations.  Quite a few months back I began the habit of writing “What am I expecting today” (sound familiar?) at the very top of the page on each day’s Bible notes.  Then I jot down the three or four top items that I am standing in faith for.  This helps to remind and encourage me throughout the day.  The exciting part comes when I can check off the items as they are manifested in my life.

A week ago Monday, as I was studying from Hebrews chapter nine, I re-read where the writer stated that Jesus “came as a chief priest of the good things that are now here.” (Gods Word ©)  At that moment the gears began to turn in my spirit and I realized that everything that I was and would be expecting was based on the Word of God and therefore had to be one of those “Good Things”.

Today as I began my study with Psalm 23:1 where, as we discussed yesterday, it talks about the Lord as my shepherd, I immediately thought of the various verses in John chapter ten where Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd.  Then I did a quick search in my Bible study program on the words “good things” and it came up with 75 scriptures in the Gods Word version that speak of these things.  A few of them were spoken of as warnings, but the vast majority talk of the “Good Things” that God has planned and/or given to us, His children.

In speaking about Jehovah, Psalm 119:68 says that “You are good, and you do good things.  In Acts 10:38 the apostle Peter described the ministry of our Master to the first Gentiles to receive salvation with the explanation of how “Jesus went everywhere and did good things.”  (both verses from Gods Word ©).  Think about that… When you base your expectations on the Good Shepherd, you can only be expecting Good Things!  If there is any negative connotations, fear or doubt involved, then you are not expecting something that our heavenly Father has in store for you. 

The Good Shepherd of our lives is just what He says He is… He is Good and only has Good Things for us!  Now that is Good News!  Kinda makes you want to stop what you’re doing and stand up and shout “Glory to God” doesn’t it? 

He is your Good Shepherd!  You never need to be in want of any good thing again!  So… put a big smile on your face and go share your Good News with someone else today!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What (GOOD THINGS) am I expecting today?”


Monday, May 23, 2011

Dancing Wildflowers...

Yesterday was really an enjoyable day for my wife and I.  We where able to be present in the main service at church, as we are normally leading the Children’s Church program.  The Word that was taught was wonderful and encouraging, and our Worship leader, Sheri, seemed to have a special anointing as she led us into the presence of God.  In fact, at one point during the music service, my wife suddenly burst out in laughter as she joyfully encountered the One to whom we were adoring.  For a moment there, she was like her old, vivacious self!

After service, we changed, ate a quick bite and then headed off for a day cruising up the northern California coastline.  The weather was great, the company superb, the scenery spectacular, and the atmosphere was one of sweet peace.  The waves swirled about in white capped peaks and the abundant company of wildflowers seemed to dance before us as the wind filtered through their stems. 

Throughout the day I was continually reminded of Psalm 23:5 where the Psalmist exclaimed “You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch.  (CEV)  As I mentioned last week, my wife and I have been through some intense times, but yesterday the reminders of trial and tribulation were far from our thoughts.  It was like we were seated at the Lord’s table, feasting on a scenic multi-course dinner!  Why is that?  It is because we have turned the responsibility of the outcome of our troubles unto our Good Shepherd.  With that pressure taken off our shoulders, we can sit in the presence of our enemies and enjoy the peace that only He can provide.  Psalm 23:5 goes on to say that not only can we sit in peace, but that He will also overflow our cups with blessings!

Are you seated at His table today?  Is that peace and overflowing blessing active in your life?  If not, I invite you to cast the responsibility of your troubles upon Him, and then sit back and enjoy the scenery!  You do need to fight a battle that has already been won by Jesus at the cross of Calvary.  Remember when Jesus shouted out “It is finished” (John 19:30 Gods Word ©), the battle was over and the victory is yours to partake of.  Enjoy the spoils of the conquest.  Delight in what He has already provided for you and walk in a place of visual, emotional, and physical feasting.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Peace Of His Presence

Yesterday I had planned to blog some revelations that I had concerning verse one of Psalm twenty three.  Instead I had an experience thrust upon me that caused me to live the very lesson that I had intended to write to you about.  Shortly after getting up, my wife had a seizure.  Suddenly and without warning all the plans and purposes of the day went out the window as this priority took precedence.  I have always tended to be very calm in emergency situations and yesterday proved to be no different.  Looking back at it today, it was almost a surreal situation.  It was as if I shifted into another gear, or entered into a totally different place.  I just reacted as I quickly found myself on the floor taking care of the immediate need, and then entering into prayer.  The incident when Jesus prayed for the little boy who had fallen down before him in a similar situation came vividly to mind.  What do I do?  I do as the Master did.  It wasn’t a prayer of panic but a bold and confident prayer rebuking the attack of the devourer and claiming the promise of God for healing and a quick recovery.

When my wife relaxed, I grabbed the phone made the 911 call, clearly explained the details of the situation and then calmly answered the battery of questions that the operator asked.  When the Firefighters and ambulance Paramedics arrived I repeated the process. 

It was as I was standing back watching the five men huddled around my wife, tending to her needs, that the reality of David’s proclamation that “You, Lord, are my shepherd.” (Psalm 23:1 CEV) came to my attention.  At that moment in time I felt the peace of His presence standing next to me.  I understood that I wasn’t alone!  He was there to comfort, guide and support me through the entire ordeal.  Just as a shepherd is responsible for the protection of his sheep, Jesus was there for us leading us “down where the waters are gentle and quiet… and back then where the alfalfa is rich.”*

The rest of the long day followed just like that.  The Master was there to accompany me through every event.  The relatively short stay at the emergency room (only 3 hours…), coming back home, my son and his wife’s timely arrival to our home, getting my wife up to bed for a long, needed rest, the doctor’s appointment with our personal physician later that evening, and finally getting to go to bed!  He was there uplifting and encouraging me the whole time!

And the best news?  “God doesn’t play favorites” (Acts 10:34 Gods Word ©) What He did yesterday for me, He’ll do for you.  He is YOUR Shepherd.  He is always present, willing, and ready to care for whatever the need you may have.  I encourage you, once again, to take the 90 Day Challenge that I wrote about in the 5/18/11 post.  Take the opportunity to get to know the Master in a deeper, more intimate relationship.  It will bring a confidence and peace into your life that you never thought could possibly exist.  Take a moment right now.  Close your eyes, imagine Him standing right next to you and say to Him, “You, Lord are my shepherd.  I will never be in need.” (Psalm 23:1 CEV)

The clincher to yesterday’s experience occurred a few minutes after I read some scripture aloud to my wife, turned out the light, laid my head on my pillow and closed my eyes.  In my sort of dreamy state I became instantly awake as I thought I heard the sound of someone choking.  I listened for a moment, slowly turned my head and asked my wife if she was okay.  After her reassuring voice glided through the night saying “yes I am fine,” I suddenly burst into laughter as I realized that the noise was the sound of our dog snoring under the bed!  As I quieted back down, I clearly heard the small still voice inside saying to me, “Jim, I am your good shepherd and I am watching carefully over you.”  At that moment, the peace of His presence was overwhelming.

Take some time this weekend to dwell on that thought and allow the peace of His presence to overwhelm every moment of your day.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 PS:  My wife is doing well today!

*  A quote from E.W. Kenyon in his study entitled “The Confessions of Jesus” from his book “Advanced Bible Study Course.  A study in the deeper life.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The 90 Day Challenge

As I was studying the 23rd Psalm this morning, I was enraptured by the intimacy of the prose as translated in the Contemporary English Version of the Bible.   As I read this psalm of David it was as though I was sitting at the Master’s feet, speaking directly to Him.  I could picture His face smiling back at me, gently nodding in agreement with the statements I was making about the relationship that we share.  As I completed the final verse, I sat back in my chair and the refreshing, the peace and the love that emanates throughout this portion of scripture came flowing upon me like a warm shower on wintry morning.

I knew instantly that I had to share this personal experience with you… in the form of a challenge!  I challenge you to read Psalm 23, aloud in this translation, for the next 90 days and see if your relationship with the Master does not escalate into greater depths of intimacy than you ever imagined before.  Each day, along the way, ask Him to show you something new and different.  Keep a written log of your discoveries and feel free to report back to me and our readers through the “Comments” section in this blog during the challenge period.  As you read, stay alert and stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

The 23rd Psalm
A Daily Devotion

1)     You, LORD, are my shepherd. I will never be
           in need.

2)    You let me rest in fields of green grass. You lead me to
           streams of peaceful water,

3)    and you refresh my life. You are true to your name, and 
           you lead me along the right paths.

4)    I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won't 
           be afraid.  You are with me, and your shepherd's rod 
           makes me feel safe.

5)    You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch. You 
           honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it 

6)    Your kindness and love will always be with me each day 
           of my life, and I will live forever in your house, LORD.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Enjoying The Banquet

While studying about the peace of God this morning, I had another thought based on Psalm 23.  Verse five says that “You prepare a banquet for me while my enemies watch…”  (God’s Word Version)  This scripture produces a vivid picture in my mind’s eye of a soldier sitting down at a large dining table in the middle of a great battle field, while the large enemy force that is surrounding him watches with weapons drawn.  The interesting part of this scene is that the soldier at the table seems to not have a care in the world, as he partakes of the scrumptious feast.

How can this individual act with this seemingly bizarre and nonchalant attitude that contradicts all the known battle strategies?  It is simply because he has turned the care of his needs unto the Lord.  In I Samuel 17:47 a young shepherd boy by the name of David fearlessly went out to face a Philistine giant named Goliath.  As he approached the warrior he loudly proclaimed before both the assembled armies that “this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.”  (King James Version)  His confidence in the Lord’s abilities gave him the courage required for the situation and the resulting victory over the overwhelming odds.

The soldier I mention sitting down to a feast in the presence of his enemies is like the confidence, trust and peace that we can have in our daily lives as we learn about, and then walk in the abilities of the Lord on our behalf.  It is a peace that the Contemporary English Version says that “no one can completely understand.”  (Philippians 4:7)  It defies a normal reaction to the circumstances that we are presented with everyday.  It is a supernatural override of a natural response.  It is the way our heavenly Father desires us to live!  It is the response that will always put us ahead and not behind!  (see Deuteronomy 28:13)

What an exciting way to live!  What an example we can be to those around us!  Think about it…  Take a chance… Step out in faith and trust Him to be true to His Word today.  Then step up to the table and enjoy the indescribable meal that is set before you.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What are you expecting today?”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Personal Attention

Happy Monday everyone!  I hope that all of you had a blessed and enjoyable weekend.  Yesterday during our ministry at the convalescent hospital that I had mentioned to you a few weeks back, I felt led to share on Jesus’ ministry as the Good Shepherd.  In my opening statements I briefly discussed the comments that Jesus had made in John chapter 10, where He calls Himself the Good Shepherd.  Then I flowed into a verse by verse teaching on the 23rd Psalm.  The picturesque symbolism contained in this psalm is simply beautiful!  My main desire of yesterday’s instruction was to drive home to the folks who were present, the undeniable truth of how Jesus is there for them 24/7.  How He personally cares for each of them as a Shepherd cares for the many members of his flock.

At one point I used the example of the parable that Jesus had taught to the scribes and Pharisees concerning the shepherd who lost one of his sheep.  (you can read about this in Luke 15:1-7)  As you know, it is a compelling story of the shepherd’s overwhelming love for his flock.  It was exciting to me as I observed one of the more attentive members of the small congregation, suddenly have a wave of understanding come across her face.  Her entire countenance changed as she realized the depth of love that our Savior has for each of us.  That one moment made the whole experience yesterday a huge success in my eyes!

Early this morning as I lay in bed, I was suddenly reminded of the parable of the lost sheep.  The whole story began to unfold in my mind as if I were watching it at the movie theater.  The only difference was that the wayward sheep was me, and the shepherd was Jesus Himself.  The personal attention and concern that Jesus gave to me was a moving experience.  What I saw was that any problem, care or concern that we may have will draw Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, to seek us out and then offer to lend us a helping (or saving) hand.  NO problem is too small to catch His attention!  He cares for us that much!

The only catch is that we have to stop what we are doing and accept His assistance.  The ending verse of Psalm 23 points us to this conclusion.  Verse six in the New Living Bible says that “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”  The key word here is “pursue.”  God’s goodness and unfailing love continually follows after us, but we have to personally receive it.  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, and He will NEVER force His way on anyone. 

Psalm 23:2 says that “he leads me beside the still waters.” (King James Version).  Other translations say “quiet” waters.  The waters represent the influences of the Holy Spirit.  As I have mentioned before, He talks to us in a small quiet voice.  It is very hard to hear that voice if we are busy doing our own thing.  We have the responsibility to stop, to quiet ourselves and then open our hearts to receive the loving care He longs to give us.

Jesus is saying to you today, that your current trials are important enough to Him, that He would leave the 99 in order to go to your side and personally minister to you!  How comforting it is to know that.  David said that “The Lord is MY Shepherd.”  (Psalm 23:1 King James Version)  He knew the personal attention of the Lord, and we can experience that same degree of intimacy as we yield our daily lives to Him.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rose Gardens

I spent a few hours this morning over at my folk’s house, puttering around their garden.  They have always had green thumbs and have spent much of their free time in and around their front and back yards.  Now in their golden years, they are not able to do as much as they could before, and I have taken over the task of tending to their precious plants and outdoor living areas.  They get to enjoy the scenery without having to perform the labor.

I must be a chip off the old block, because I also love to work in the garden.  This morning’s activities centered mainly around their rose garden.  Roses are beautiful plants, but they require a fair amount of maintenance if you want them to stay green, pest free, and in consistent bloom.  Working my folk’s roses is almost like painting a picture for me.  Each week during the summer months I go through and trim off the wilted blooms, shape the new growth, remove any yellow or spotted leaves and then spray or fertilize as needed.  I always look forward to the following week, so that I can regale at the results of my handiwork.  I like to take the time to enjoy each bush’s individual beauty as well as the overall rainbow of colors, shapes and sizes that the entire garden displays.

I have a feeling that this is the same way that God looks at us.  We are kind of like my folks roses and He is the Master Gardener tending to each of His tender plants.  Isaiah 64:8 says that we are the clay and God is the former (or farmer), and that we are His handiwork.  And just like a well producing rose garden requires a lot of work, so do we, if we are to function as the finely tuned creations that He designed us to be.

So, the next time you feel like your life is in the middle of a construction zone, relax and know that it’s just your Heavenly Master Gardener perfecting, beautifying and shaping the precious plants in His garden.  Picture Him sitting back, in the cool of the day, enjoying the individual as well as the overall view of the rainbow of colors, shapes and sizes that His entire creation displays.  Who knows… Your bloom just might be the one that stands out to Him today!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

PS:  Sorry that I was not able to post yesterday.  Blogger seemed to be down all afternoon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Up Front and Personal!

With all the walking down memory lane yesterday, I thought quite a bit about close personal relationships.  It takes a lot of work to develop and keep that type of friendship.  I think that we, in Christian circles, would call it “Love!”  Close friends normally do the kind of things that will please each other.  It is like the verses that we’ve recently discussed in Hebrews chapter eleven.  In verse five we see where God was so pleased to be around Enoch, that He finally took him home with Him to heaven. The next verse takes the example a step further by stating that the only way to please God is through our active faith.

One of the ways that Vincent’s Word Studies explains this verse is with the statement that “faith creates close personal relation.”  Think about that thought for a moment.  You can read the Bible all day long and have a cursory knowledge about God, but you won’t really develop a close and personal relationship with Him until you include Him in the various parts of your life, as evidenced through your active trust in the promises of His Word.  The relationship grows as the two of you experience His Word working for you.

Wouldn’t you like to have that same close relationship with your Heavenly Father that Enoch had with Him.  One again, think about this.  Enoch wasn’t even a born again man!  We a have better promise than he ever had!  We have the Spirit living in us 24/7!  All it takes is for us to take Him at His Word, and to step out in faith believing that “what things soever that you desire, when you pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”  (Mark 11:24 King James Version)

Hebrews 11:1 talks about “Now faith…”  This is defined as active faith.  If it is not currently active, it isn’t faith.  Faith is always in the present tense, just as God is always in the present tense for us each day!  Read through the roll call of faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews.  The Gods Word translation repeatedly tells how faith “leads, causes or enables” those who act upon what the Word says.  What an exciting lifestyle!  Take a step of faith and see your name written right there along with Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Rahab, all the prophets, Apostles and New Testament believers.  Get personal and upfront with your Father today!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What are you expecting today?”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unconditional Love

I can hardly believe it… Today is our oldest son’s 31st birthday.  It just seems kind of impossible.  I can still remember taking pictures of his birth, his crying in the middle of the night (along with our brand new puppy.  It was actually pretty funny!) when we brought him home, his playing cops and robbers with the little boy across the street, singing a solo in the church play at the YMCA, Boy Scouts, bass guitar, trumpet, acoustic and electric guitar playing and then there was the two week period where he had to practice the drums daily as he was filling in for a group that needed a drummer, traveling around as the lead singer for the Christian Ska band "Gone Fishing", getting married to Trinity and then becoming a dad with the births of our 2 granddaughters.  Ah… time sure does go by quickly.

Are there things that I would have liked to have done differently in the raising of my kids?  You bet there are.  But I can’t go back, I can only go forward and take the wisdom and understanding that I have learned and apply it in the here and now.  The one thing that I am most proud of is that all of our children love the Lord and are serving Him in various ways.

They, like me, may not always be perfect in the way they live their lives, but they, like you and me, serve a God that abundantly loves us.  His love for us is not based on our merit, but on what Jesus has done for us.  He loves us unconditionally, the same way that He loves His son. 

What a difference to the world system.  Most businesses, organizations, and governments base their pay programs, guidelines, or laws on a merit system.  It is actually a system that is built on fear, the fear of failure, the fear of getting in trouble, or the fear of being ostracized.   Those of us who live within the Kingdom of God, live in a system that is based on love.  God’s ways are driven by love.  His nature is love, and that nature becomes our nature when we become born again.  That foundation of love makes it difficult for one of His family to sin against Him, but if they do, He is there waiting with open arms to receive them back into the fold.  I don’t know of too many organizations in the world who adhere to that same philosophy when mistakes are made.

Take heart today!  You serve a God that is behind you 100% - 100% of the time!  He is always there for you.  He is always ready to forgive, and He is always available to share His day (or night) with you.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What are you expecting today?”

PS:  Happy Birthday Josh!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Look Up!

Good morning everyone!  I hope that all of you had a great weekend and an enjoyable celebration of Mothers Day.  We got to talk to the kids and spend time with the grandchildren, so life is good!   …And speaking of good, I began my study time earlier today with a review of Hebrews 9:11 where it talks about Jesus’ coming as a chief priest “of the good things that are now here.”  The verse ends with the statement that He “went through a more perfect tent that was not made with human hands, and that is not part of this created world.”  (Gods Word ©)  As I was writing that verse down in my notebook, I drifted off with the thought that God’s answers are not a part of the world’s answers or from the world system.  His answers are supernatural in their makeup and originate from His kingdom.

Matthew 6:33 says that as we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”, all of the natural things that we need “will be added unto you.” (King James Version)  Hebrews 11:3 says that God created everything by His word so that “what can be seen was made by something that could not be seen.”  (Gods Word ©)  In other words, we need to focus our attention more on His unseen kingdom when looking for answers, than on the things that are visible all around us.

Think about it for a moment.  Are you more informed as to what the world says about your need or problem than what God’s Word says about it?  The scriptures we just looked at say that the answer will come from a heavenly source.  Now, they will manifest themselves in a very physical way, through an idea, an inspiration, or through other people, or changed circumstances, but He is the One who caused it to happen the way it did!

My suggestion then?  In your research and analysis of the situations that present themselves to you, remember to give God and His Word the major time and effort.  While it is always good to know what (or who) you’re facing, it is even better to know Who’s backing you up and what His plan for your victory is!  In Jesus’ own words: “look up… for your redemption draweth near.”  (Luke 21:28 King James Version)

You know… it kind of takes the pressure off.  No longer do you have to try and figure out how everything is going to come together for you.  That process can get very nerve racking.  Look up to Him and let Him figure it out for you.  The answer might just possibly come from a direction you never would have imagined!  Have a super day and stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Weekend

This has been an incredibly busy week for me.  How about you?  Are you looking forward to the weekend?  I know that I am.  Even though I’ll spend most of tomorrow working on our Children’s Church lesson and then teach on Sunday, I still look forward to the weekends.  There is just something different about them.  They seem to offer a change of pace from the regular work day activities.  There is a noticeable quietness throughout the weekend mornings in our community of cluster homes.  Absent is the 6:00 am to 9:00 am buzz of cars starting up, people walking down the lanes between the houses, or the drone of the various pieces of equipment used by the lawn care company that services our park like setting.  And best of all, things just tend to slow down the deeper we get into the weekend.

My wife always said that she like to think of these two days as a time of “strong beginning” instead of a “weak-end.”  I guess it all depends how you look at it!  I’d like to think that most of us would rather complete the various goals and faith projects that we are working on with a “strong finish” rather than barely making it with a “weak ending.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews seemed to concur with this thought when he (or she) wrote “We want each of you to prove that you’re working hard so that you will remain confident until the end.”  (Hebrews 6:11 Gods Word ©)  Vincent’s Word Studies defines the word “end” as “the end of the present season of trial with its happy consummation.”  In other words, be assured that whatever you are working toward will finish strongly, with the expected good report.

So, enjoy this weekend!  Relax, rejuvenate and remember to include Jesus in all your plans.  For He is the One who initiates and completes your faith projects (Hebrews 12:2), and the One to give you the strength (Ephesians 6:10) for the final sprint, in order to assure you a strong and successful finish. Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

PS:  A Special "THANKS" to all the Supermom's this Sunday!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Flying Turkeys!

Today has been a warm (spell that H.O.T) sunny day here in northern California.  I spent the majority of it on a hillside mowing tall weeds, and now, after a long cold shower and two bottles of Gatorade, I am beginning to feel normal again!  I’ve always considered myself an outside person.  I can’t stand being couped up inside for long periods of time, so even though I happened to be on that hill in the hottest part of the day, I still enjoyed being a part of the great outdoors!

This particular hill that I was mowing is part of an old stand of large Oak Trees.  So old, in fact, that my client lost numerous beautiful trees this year due to the overabundant rain this winter.  On any given day you can expect to see wild turkeys, deer, foxes, hawks and lizards by every tree and rock!  Today was no different.  As I was mowing between two oaks, I suddenly hit a well hidden log, and stalled the engine just as a large mama turkey went flying in a mad escape from the claws of my bush mower.  After I got over the initial shock, I immediately began to search through the tall weeds to see if I had hit a nest.  I quickly found the culprit and was very relieved that I did not smash any of the eleven eggs.  Once I extricated the log from the blade, I gave the nest a wide berth in an attempt to keep it hidden and protected from other wild life that might try and disturb it.  An hour or so later, I scared off a doe from her afternoon resting grounds while I was mowing behind the house that is located about halfway up the hill.

These two events got me to thinking about the fragility of nature.  How quickly things can change and upset the lives of the various birds and animals that make their habitations around us.  As I was lost in my thoughts, I found myself mouthing the words to Psalm 23 verse 2: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”  (King James Version)  This verse describes one of the basic differences between the animal kingdom, people without Christ and the Christian.

As part of the family of God, we can rest assured in the knowledge of our place under His care.  Even though we may also encounter times where our lives are quickly upset, as Christians, we can still be at peace because of His provision for us.  Under His watch, we have the ability to cast our care on Him and live without worry, as if we were lying down in a beautiful mountain meadow or beside a quiet, crystal clear alpine lake.  …And believe me, I’ve been there (both spiritually and physically) and there is nothing in this world that can top it!

Ah… all this talk about meadows and lakes makes me want to go to the Sierras! Where is your favorite relaxing place to be?  God’s peace can give you that same R&R anytime you put your trust in Him, no matter what is happening around you.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”