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Fall is defintely in the air!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Whoosh!

Okay, so maybe I wasn’t as jumping up and down excited this morning as I re-read Hebrews four and then continued into chapter five as I was yesterday!  But my sedate reaction today has no bearing on the exciting reality of what the Apostle Paul was teaching the Romans.  You must remember that Paul had not actually met the church in Rome at that time.  The letters to the Romans and to the Colossians were written to churches that had not been started by Paul.  In his letter he shared with the church in Rome of his intense desire for “the way to be opened for me to come to you.”  He continued that “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong.”  (Romans 1:10-11 NIV)

I believe that the definitive truths that he was sharing in this letter were part of the “gift” that he wanted to share with them.  I also believe that the recipients of his teachings were jumping with joy over these power inducing and strengthening words.  This is evident by the way the people in Rome flocked to see him when he was under house arrest in Rome at the end of the book of Acts.

The revelation of Jesus Christ that Paul taught was simple in its truth!  Using the example of Abraham’s faith, he taught the young parishioners that in order to receive the promises of God, they had to take their eyes off of their natural circumstances (that in Abraham’s situation were totally hopeless) and keep their expectations strong by looking through the eyes of faith at what God’s word said about what they were believing for.  (Romans 4:18)  It’s simple… maybe not always easy, but simple.

Just before my wife and I got married, I had a close friend who had a 1972 Ford Pinto hatchback.  Now, don’t laugh, my wife’s first car was a 1973 Pinto – fire engine red with fake wood on the sides and chrome mags!  - It was a looker!  If you did laugh, it is because you know that that little car had absolutely no guts!  My wife’s car looked nice but had no power.  In fact, if you were on the highway and turned on the air conditioner, it was like hitting the brakes!  Anyway, my friend’s car may have looked like an ordinary green Pinto, but under the hood it was a little different.  He had made some modifications to the carburetor and added a turbo-booster.  My point is that even though it may have looked like a loser, what you couldn’t see under the hood made it a winner.  In other words, you can’t always go by what you see!  As Christians we have to go by what we don’t see under the hood of God’s word!  I can clearly remember the surprised look on people’s faces when that little engine hit about 3000 RPM’s and with a whoosh, the turbo boost would kick in, followed by a blur of green as it disappeared down the street!  My friend and I were pretty confident that his funky looking green Pinto could easily prove to be the victor against many other cars. 

Our heavenly Father has meant for the Christian walk to be simple to follow and has given us all the tools to make it work in our lives.  Romans 4:21-22 says that God approved of Abraham because he (Abraham) was “absolutely confident that God would do what He promised.”  (God’s Word ©)  Yes, Abraham had to wait many years and go through many trials, but his unyielding confidence in God’s word to him gave him the ultimate victory – The victory which made his stand of faith well worth the effort!

Well, I like it when things are kept simple and uncomplicated.  And that’s just the way God has outlined His plan of salvation (spiritually, physically, emotionally as well as financially) for His kids.  All we have to do is to start the engine of our faith, keep our foot steadily on the gas pedal and then patiently wait until your faith hits 3000 RPM’s.  And then enjoy the “whoosh” of His victory!  Have a great weekend.  Tune into His Word and keep asking yourself… “What WHOOSH am I expecting today?”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Its The Same!

I have to tell you… Reading in Romans chapter four this morning was like a walk down memory lane.  It was like a shot in the arm and the sound of the dinner bell all in one!  This particular portion of scripture talks about the faith of Abraham.  To me, the centerpiece is found in verse 17 where Paul describes God as the One “who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”  (NIV) 

Back in the late 1970’s I was on staff as the Youth Minister at First Baptist Church in Santa Rosa, CA.  I was still relatively young in my Christian walk and found myself hungering for more of God.  I was studying my new Bible (that my wife gave me when we went to college a few years previous) and devouring any Christian books I could get my hands on.  One day when my wife and I were visiting her parents, I mentioned this hunger and seemingly unquenchable  thirst that I had for the things of God.  After awhile my Mother-in Law retreated down the hall and returned a few moments later with a small stack of books.  She handed the books to me and suggested that I look through them.

When we returned to our little apartment (just down the street from their home), I immediately sat on the couch and started looking at the books.  Near the bottom of the stack was one entitled “The Believer’s Authority” written by Kenneth E. Hagin in 1967.  The title intrigued me as I had never heard anything like that before and I tore into it like a starving kid at a McDonalds restaurant!   That book forever altered my understanding of God’s word and fired up my wife and I with a flame that has never diminished.

Over the years since then, I have heard Brother Hagin described as “The Father of the modern Faith Movement.”  What I have come to see since those early days of explosive growth for me in the 70’s, is that there is nothing “modern” about it!  As a student of the many revivals that have swept across the USA and the world, I have realized that the message of “faith” that Brother Hagin taught was part of the same message that many of the pioneer preachers brought to this country from Europe after the arrival of the New England Puritans. Many of the Circuit Riding preachers from various denominations brought revivals to the expanding wilderness communities before, during and after the Revolutionary war, with new revivals stirred up at the turn of the century into the 1800’s. 

Last week I mentioned the Pentecostal Revival that occurred at the beginning of the 1900’s and the Healing Revival that spanned the mid 1940’s through the 1950’s in America.  As I have read various volumes on the leaders involved with these revivals, I have come to see that the wide spread (public newspaper) reports (that we now NEVER seem to hear about) of the thousands saved, healed, and delivered, were received through the teachings of men and women used mightily of God who taught the same message of “faith” that Brother Hagin once again began to bring out.

That message of “faith” is the same old message that the Apostle Paul taught his readers in the book of Romans (and Ephesians and Colossians and…).  It is the same message that Jesus taught his disciples and then demonstrated in Mark 11:22-24. It is the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ that revolutionized my life!  And it was the remembrances of that early “light” of understanding and joy of who we are in Christ that I began to learn in the late 1970’s, that came back in like a flood to me today.  I was so excited that I ran up the stairs, grabbed the Bible next to my bed and started preaching to my still sleeping wife and our dog who was laying next to her!

I’ll share a little more on this tomorrow, but just know as you go forth in your activities today, that you are not alone, and that you are not unarmed!  God has provided an atonement for you that provides a guaranteed place in heaven as well as tools for victory in your daily life here on this earth.  Remember, its all in His book!  Jesus defeated the enemy of our souls over 2000 years ago and we are now “more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  (Romans 8:37 KJV).  So… have a great day, tune into His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Go and Do The Same...

As I was reading through Paul’s artistic rendering of God’s basic plan of salvation for mankind in Romans chapter three, I was once again impressed its simplicity and love infused foundation.  This portion of scripture continues with the theme of God’s patience, gentleness and His goodness toward us that we discussed yesterday.  His salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus is total and complete and leaves us with “A reverential affection for God that is peculiar to the children of God, which springs from a sense of divine goodness and is attended with holiness of heart and life…”  (John Gill’s Commentary on Romans 3:18)

Ours is a relationship with God that is not driven by fear, but a respectful awe of His continual love, goodness and patience that He showers on us.  His relationship with us is what causes us to walk as Jesus did.  With an unyielding, open hearted and non-judgmental love (1 John 4:17).  I thought of this the other night when we were watching a movie on TV.  In one scene, a character in the story comes out of a room dressed in shorts and cowboy boots.  My immediate thought when I saw that was “Geez, you’ve got to be kidding… I wouldn’t be caught dead dressed like that!”  Then in a flash a reminder popped into my mind about not criticizing others, and I had to quickly repent.  Come on now, be honest with me… I bet you may have even done that once or twice!

A few years back when my wife and I were leading the Youth Group at our church, we held a special activity night and brought in a local Christian band known to the members of our group.  Along with the band we were joined by some of the band’s “roadies” and “groupies” that followed the band and enjoyed attending their concerts.  While my strong points have been in the organization and running of these special events, my wife would always jump right in with the crowd and begin ministering to the kids.  This night was no different.

As the evening progressed there was one young gal with a kaleidoscope of brightly colored hair that sat alone in the very back of the room.  My wife was drawn to her like a magnet.  Within a few minutes they were deeply involved in conversation.  When I had some free time I joined them.  By then my wife had developed the beginnings of a meaningful relationship with the girl.  This quiet young lady who no one else wanted to associate with was an intelligent, loving individual with lots of gifts to share.  My wife brought her around the room and introduced her to some of the other girls in the room.  This shall we say “different looking” teen ended up returning to our regular weekly meetings on many occasions and became a valuable asset to the group.  If my wife had not gone against the popular notion to judge the girl and ignore her, we all may have missed an opportunity to make a new friend and be blessed by the unique gifts that God had given her.

That is a good example of how judgments can hurt both the giver and receiver.  That is not God’s way.  God’s way is for us to follow the example of Jesus.  Why, He even stepped into the middle of a stoning to make a point about judging another individual - even though the women had been physically caught in sin.  (John 8:1-11)

Remember, patience, kindness and unyielding, non-judging acts of love.  It could be the beginning a whole new way of life!  We received “God’s approval freely by an act of his kindness through the price that Jesus paid to set us free from sin.”  (Romans 3:24 God's Word) We should go forth and do the same!  Ah… go ahead give it a try!  Have a day filled with His goodness, tune into His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Derailment

This morning as I was studying in the Word and formulating some ideas for the blog, I was suddenly derailed from the direction I was heading.  It was like I was driving down the street and then without thinking found myself making a right turn and heading only God knows where (literally in this case!).  It was the beginning verses of Romans chapter two that sent me on the new adventure!  In this portion of scripture Paul is telling his readers the woes of judging others.  In a nutshell, he is basically informing us not to do it… especially if we do the same things that we are judging them for.

This hit home real fast as I immediately flashed back to a scene of me criticizing and complaining about the few individuals who had criticized and complained about my care for my wife and family.  Then came the real zinger as I read Romans 2:4 where it says, “Do you have contempt for God, who is very kind to you, puts up with you, and deals patiently with you?  Don’t you realize that it is God’s kindness that is trying to lead you to him and change the way you think and act?” (God’s Word ©)  Other translations say that it is the “goodness of God” that leads us to repentance.  (KJV and others…)

So… let me get this straight then.  It is not by our being critical of people, nor by us telling them where we think they have gone wrong, or by us complaining about them behind their backs that will change the way they are proceeding in life?  Hummm…. Interesting thought huh?  Paul seems to be saying that it is not by fire and brimstone that people are changed, but by the demonstration of God’s “graciousness, forbearance and the leniency” (Romans 2:4 Apostolic Bible Polyglot Version – which is based on the Greek translation of the Old Testament)

What really spoke to me this morning was the part in the God’s Word translation where it states that God puts up with you and deals patiently with you.”  If God finds it in His heart to “put up with me” then I guess that I need to find a place in my heart and “put up with others,” and to be lovingly patient with them.  After all, it is the goodness or kindness of God that leads (in the present continual sense) or better yet “gently leads” (Weymouth Translation) people to change… if needed.

Well, I am sure glad that God is gentle, patient and lenient with me.  How about you?  It would then be best to assume that if it works for Him, it will work for us… and more importantly, it will work for those with whom we desire to minister to!  So… give it a try.  See if goodness and patience overcomes criticism and complaining!  See if your demonstration of His gentle love overcomes telling them what you think is best (especially since you probably don’t know the whole situation…)!  Hummm… interesting….  Have a great day, tune into His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Its All In The Book!

My wife and I have been reading a couple of different books on the subject of healing.  The Lord had instructed me quite awhile back to simply bombard my wife with the word of God, and in particular on what He has to say concerning His will on physical healing. So, along with the over 100 and growing list of scriptures that I read from morning, noon and night (and many times in between!) I have added the reading of a portion from these books after breakfast and before we go to sleep.  I guess you could say that we have our upstairs book and our downstairs book!

For awhile there, we were reading books written from men who lived in two different generations.  Both of the authors had been actively involved in healing revivals that swept our country.  One with the Pentecostal Revival that took place at the turn of the century from the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s.  The other with the Healing Revival in the 1940’s and 50’s.  Both of these individuals saw hundred’s (if not thousands) of sick and diseased people miraculously healed through faith in the promises of God.  Both of these evangelists had extensive teaching ministries on the subject of God’s will for healing.  Books written by these two men of God are still used as part of the curriculum in many Bible Schools in the world today.

As we read (and re-read!) these books, I am continually amazed at how clear the Bible states God’s will for healing, as well as for many other (often argued) subjects that can positively affect our daily lives.  It is obvious to me that God has made provision for us with the things that can make our lives better and more productive both personally and for those we find ourselves ministering to.  You know, it just makes sense that any father would want to provide the best tools available for his kid’s success.  But while we as parents may sometimes be limited in what we can do, our heavenly Father has the unlimited resources of the universe and beyond to give to His children.  Jesus confirmed this fact when He told the multitudes in Matthew 7:11 that “Even though you’re evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children.  So how much more will your father in heaven give good things to those who ask?”  (God’s Word ©)

The key to Jesus’ teaching here has to do with knowing what to ask.  And how do we know what to ask?  It’s simple my friend!  It is written in His book!  I have seen where some older translations of the Bible preference the New Testament as “The Will and Testament of Jesus Christ.”  That makes it clear that this book, that has sold more copies than any other book in the history of the world, is the written “WILL” of God.  If you want to know what He wills for you, you’ve got to take the time to investigate the book that has all the answers.  Then, just as the two authors that I wrote of above, you too will experience miraculous occurrences that will positively affect your life and get those around you asking questions as they witness a life that is blessed beyond measure.  Have a great week.  Tune in to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, March 23, 2012

We Are In!

As I was following a train of thought in my early morning Bible study today, I began to re-consider some of my closing comments from yesterday’s post.  It seemed like I was portraying the idea of it taking a bold and sort of brutish act of confidence in order to be ready to speak about your faith to others when asked.  This morning as I was led from Philippians chapter four to Nehemiah chapters eight and nine, I saw the error of my ways!  It is not about taking a courageous act of faith when asked, but having the courage to just live your life as it were “in Christ” 24/7!

The Apostle Paul so elegantly stated in Philippians 4:19, “But God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  (KJV)  Many of my commentaries inferred that the word “by” would best be translated as “in” Christ.  Jamieson, Fausset and Brown footnote the thought that God will supply all our needs “by virtue of your being ‘IN’ (not by) Christ Jesus.”  Like I have stated numerous times before, that is the quality that intrigued me about my wife when we first met.  I had believed myself to be a Christian, but she sure had a different relationship with Jesus than I had.  She just lived like He was with her all the time.  She didn’t have to look for opportunities to slip Jesus into a conversation, she just exhibited Him in everything she did and said.  And on top of that, she was always strong, happy and enthusiastic about life.

Nehemiah 8:10 explains this everyday reaction.  It is a scripture that she still lives today.  It says “Today is a holy day for the Lord.  Don’t be sad because the joy you have IN the Lord is your strength.”  (God’s Word ©)  In speaking of this verse in relationship to the Israelites to whom this part of scripture was originally written about, John Gill cites that “This joy… was (and is) a means both of increasing their bodily strength, and their inward strength and fitting them the more to perform their duty to God and men with cheerfulness, which sorrow and heaviness made them unfit for…”

The hunger inside of me quickly caused me to develop a similar relationship with Him.  Since then it was and still is a common occurrence to have people that we are talking with comment about the goodness of God in our lives!  It is simple a natural part of who we are.  We simply live in the reality of His unending goodness and riches as told of in Philippians 4:19. 

Let’s see if I can explain it with an example…  Have you ever heard of or seen the old Disney movie “Candleshoe?”  (It stars David Niven, Helen Hayes and a young Jodi Foster - great family movie!)  There is a part in it where the conniving confidence man has tricked an older lady of royal means into believing that his young accomplice is her long lost grand daughter.  With the girl inside the estate, the tricksters would have access to the full benefits of the family as well as the freedom to search the premises for a reported treasure that was hidden centuries before by a pirate relative.  Once the young girl is accepted by the wealthy family, the confidence man goes to his female cousins home where the two embrace in glee and proceed to dance around the room while the man keeps repeating with excited fervor: “We are in!  We are in! La, La, La, La La!”

That’s how you should be living too!  Constantly flowing in the joy of the Lord that you have IN Him!  It is a position that should just emanate from everything you do and say!  You simply live it out, and others will be drawn to you.  The courage comes at the beginning when you decide that this is the only way to live, and that nothing will ever turn you away from it.  So if you ever have second thoughts take a moment to picture that funny couple from the movie dancing around the room and then sing along with them… “I am in!  I am in! La! La! La! La! La!”  Have a joyful weekend and a good dance!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Embarrassing!

Have you ever been embarrassed by a loved one while in the presence of others whom you don’t know?  Have you ever had second thoughts about mentioning that you were related to someone who may not be liked by the one to whom you are conversing with?  Have you ever been embarrassed to mention that you are a Christian or to pray for someone in a public place?

I had to deal with the threat of embarrassment in public places as my wife’s health declined.  As I have mentioned before, my wife always possessed the type of looks and bubbly personality that made people turn and look when she came into a room. I was always proud to be holding her hand when we went somewhere.  When we were engaged and attending college away from home, most of our new acquaintances would come up to us and say things like “Oh Hi, you’re Piper and… (glancing toward me) I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name!”  Yes, she has an unusual name, but she also always had an unusually encouraging personality and smile that people just don’t forget!

With the advance of AD came some changes in her physical features along with the inability to easily communicate with others.  One day early on, I became painfully aware that I was actually embarrassed by her in certain situations.  That realization hit me like a ton of bricks.  The one who has always been the center of my life, the one whose photos I have had plastered all over my workplace at the various jobs I have held, the one I couldn’t wait for others to meet… It was incredible to me as I found myself acting so self-centered that I might be afraid of someone else’s reaction by something a little out of the ordinary that my wife might say or do.  

Those thoughts scared me and then brought me to tears!  Then the truth of what I tell others, who haven’t seen her for awhile, came to me as I saw that she is still the same wonderful, outgoing and encouraging person that she’s always been.  Right now she is fighting a battle, but those same attributes are still alive and well and trying to come out.  In fact they are still coming out.  I have mentioned in previous posts how people continually tell me what a sweet spirit my wife has.  As I thought more about it, I also realized that most strangers we encounter in the stores we shop in will go out of their way to respond to her when she makes eye contact with them and then flashes that wonderful little smile of hers!  I guess that’s when the stupidity of my actions were realized and forgiveness was asked and received.  Once again, I am proud to be holding her hand when we go anywhere. I am proud to introduce her as my wife and as the most precious possession of my life!  No matter what, she is still the same wonderful, loving, bubbly and beautiful women of God that she has always been.

Many of us have had to deal with similar inhibitions when it comes to acknowledging our relationship with our heavenly Father while in public places.  The Apostle Paul made the unabashed comment that he was “not ashamed of the Good News.  It is God’s power to save everyone that believes…”  (Romans 1:16 Gods Word ©)  Is that the same stand that you make?  Are you free to share all the good things that He has done for you when asked?  Are you courageous enough to share the “power” that can radically change (or save) the life of the one you are speaking to?  Remember that the word “save” is as the Scofield Reference Bible explains “the great inclusive word of the gospel, gathering into itself all the redemptive acts and processes.”  Are you proud and confident enough of your heavenly Father’s ability to positively affect another’s life so as to tell them about Him? Or… are you a little like I was?  Too self-centered and concerned about my own affect on others!

Think about it.  Where would we be if Peter, James, John and Paul felt that way?  Have a good day.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Well... Spring Is Here!

Well… in case you missed it, let me be the first to let you know that yesterday was the first official day of Spring!  Yea!  Time to dig out the lawn furniture that you stored for the winter months, clean up your yards in preparation for the eventual harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables, the gorgeous array of floral beauty, and lazy afternoons and evenings sipping ice tea on the patio!  Oophs, but wait a minute here…  In my neck of the woods it looks like it is going to rain any minute!  We went from warm spring-like weather a couple of weeks ago to the biggest and longest set of winter storms that we have seen all season!  Kinda puts a damper on the whole Spring thing doesn’t it?

Well… not really!  You see, we have centuries of weather history that give us the assurance that the spring season with its warmer days will eventually show up.  I think that anticipation was one of the few things that I DID enjoy about living in Oklahoma.  For me it was down right exciting to see those first few sprouts of green grass emerge from the dull dormant brown lawns that abounded throughout the neighborhoods.  It definitely conjured up good thoughts of the new warm spring and summer seasons ahead.  Is there anything that we can compare to this?

Well… there is!  As Christians we also have centuries of history that validate the assurance of our faith and trust in God and His word.  We have the assurance that “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and they shall be granted thee.”  (Mark 11:24 KJV)  I am sure that each of us has witnessed those little green sprouts that display the beginnings of answered pray in our lives.  Those little hints of victory work to build our faith as they conjure up within us the vision of the total manifestation of what we are believing for.

Well… That’s pretty cool isn’t it?  God has given us reminders of His faithfulness that are visible all around us!  So… as you enjoy the new life that is springing forth all around you, think also of the new life that He can bring into every situation in your life.  All you have to do is ask, believe and then receive.  But, is it really just that simple?

Well… I think it is!  All it takes is child-like faith combined with an expectation that won’t let go.  Enjoy the new spring day.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Living, Active, Knowing and Growing

When was can you last remember taking the time to really get all out of a verse of scripture that you could?  To meditate over it, to ponder, as a friend of mine quoted to me from a book by Father Ronald Rolheiser, as “to patiently hold the mystery inside of one’s soul, complete with all the unresolved tension it brings,” or to trace the original meanings of each of the words in order to gain a stronger appreciation of the writer’s original intent.  I had that opportunity today as a familiar verse from Romans 8:2 ran like a never ending loop in my head between 5:00 and 7:00 AM this morning!  My personal combination of translations of this verse reads: “For the standards of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the adverse convictions and sentences as defined by the standards of the law of sin and death.” 

After I arose from bed and fortified myself with a hot mug of Hazelnut Crème coffee, I went directly to my study and opened up my Bible to the verse that I had already been reviewing for the last few hours.  As a matter of course in the continued study of its meanings, I went to the previous verse to add more understandings to my research.  This scripture which comes as a result of the freedom that Christ has given us that is discussed in the former chapter, tells us why Romans 8:2 works.  It states “So those who are believers in Christ Jesus can no longer be condemned.”  (Romans 8:1 God’s Word ©)  A closer look at this comment reveals that the little word “in” is the key to understanding the Apostle Paul’s point to us.

In his commentary, John Gill basically says that this word denotes a living, active, knowing and growing relationship between Jesus and the believer that is similar to the rights and privileges innate within the marriage relationship between a husband and wife.  It is not a stagnate relationship.  It is one that is constantly fresh, moving toward a higher goal, interacting and just plain getting better!

Over the weekend my wife and I were invited to her folks for dinner to celebrate my birthday.  Soon after we arrived we went into their living room and my wife sat down in a chair near her father whom we hadn’t seen for awhile.  After speaking to her for a few moments, my father in law looked at her and jokingly (but yet serious in his understanding) said that “You don’t have any idea who I am do you?”  At that point it was my turn to laugh a little, for to me the recognition was very evident.  Let’s face it, after almost 42 years of being in an especially close relationship with my wife, I know her pretty well.  You could say that I have had a living, active, knowing and growing relationship with her. 

There may not have been the verbal recognition or even the knowing that one could see in her eyes, but all the other signs were flashing like a neon light!  The tiny crinkles at the corners of her eyes, that familiar little crooked smile, the tilt of her head and the way that she leaned in toward him all vividly demonstrated her familiarity with him.  I have to give him a lot of credit also, as he really put out a dedicated effort to connect with her throughout the night.  First by sitting with her and looking at old family photos, by joking with her at the dining table, and by listening to whatever comments, be they understandable or not, that she made.  His diligence paid off when my wife arose from the table after dinner and went over and sat in his lap.  And believe me… my wife would never do that with anyone except for me or her Dad!

That is exactly the living, active, knowing and growing type of relationship with Jesus that we should have that will assure us of never feeling condemned due to the accusations of the devil through others or as spoken into our own minds.  In John 8:44 Jesus called the devil the father of lies, and in that role he will try his best to deceive us into thinking thoughts that cause us to not fully partake of the rights and privileges that we have as active believers.  Remember, we have been set free from the adverse convictions and sentences that we used to be subject to under the old law of sin and death.  Jesus has set you and me free, and the more we participate in a living, active, knowing and growing relationship with Him, the more we can walk in the rights, privileges and freedoms that He has provided for us to enjoy.  … You know, with this understanding I realize that I don’t miss those extra hours of sleep that I gave up this morning by spending time with Him!  It makes it all worth the added effort!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Well Spoken Word

The older I get, and the more I minister to people, the more I understand the powerful impact of my words.  A well spoken word can bring comfort, joy or encouragement.  On the other hand, a word spoken without thought can discourage, destroy hope, or scar another’s heart. 

Jesus Himself understood this revelation.  It is said that “He holds everything together through his powerful words.”  (Hebrews 1:3 God’s Word ©)  The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown’s Commentary says that His word is the utterance of His power and the expression of it.  That’s a pretty sobering thought.  His words are the expression of His power.  Just think for a moment what His words spoken through your lips could do to change a situation.  I am sure that most of us have had the experience of reading just that right word from the scriptures that brought peace or comfort to us in a time of unrest.  Most of us have probably had the joy of comforting others by sharing a scripture with them when they were hurting.  According to the writer of Hebrews, that is the power of God holding together the situation that you spoke His word into!

For a moment now, think about the potential that His word spoken through your lips would have to hold everything together in your life, according to His perfect plan and principles.  Does that sound kind of outlandish to you?  It is not as crazy a possibility as you may think.  Proverbs 18:21 states that “The tongue has the power of life and death.”  (God’s Word ©)  Jesus told us to speak to the mountains that stand in our way. (See: Mark 11:22-24)

Just as your words can uplift or tear down another individual, your words can bring positive direction to your life.  Your words can bring harmony or they can bring discord.  Many years ago I found myself making a presentation to the entire division that I worked in at Hewlett Packard.  (At this time I don’t remember the particulars of what I was presenting…) One of the managers in charge of the meeting mentioned to me, as I approached the podium, that it was the Division Manager’s birthday that day, and he asked if I would announce it to the employees and then lead the group in the singing of “Happy Birthday.”

Since I have always been comfortable speaking in front of large groups (much more so than talking in small groups – weird huh???), I said “no problem” and proceeded to share whatever vital piece of information was contained in my presentation.  When I was done, I asked the Manager (whom I had never met personally – as I was new to that division) if he would stand up.  I then told everyone that it was his birthday and asked if they would wish him a happy birthday by singing along with me.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, but since I did not have the accompaniment of an instrument to guide me, I started the song off in a key that was way too low with the entire group of hundreds of individuals blindly following suit.  What ensued was a hilarious and completely unharmonious sound that barely resembled the familiar tune that we all sing at family gatherings!  Everybody had a good laugh and the manager was speechless!  Needless to say, I was never asked to perform that task again! (In fact I don’t think that I remained in that division for very long either!!!  - Actually, the group that I was a part of was combined into a new entity with all the manufacturing groups on the West Coast.  My presentation didn’t actually cause that… I think!!!)

That is a funny example but it does show how our words can positively or negatively affect you, another individual or even a group of people.  I would encourage you to take a moment and to really consider what you are about to say when the various situations of life present themselves to you.  Your words can have a powerful affect on that event.  Why not let the power of God’s word, as spoken through your lips bring healing, restoration, peace, joy, encouragement or comfort into the environment in which you are speaking?  Remember Proverbs 18:21… will it be Life or Death?  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Balancing Act

As I came to the conclusion of the book of I Peter the other day, I found myself meditating on a familiar couple of verses found in chapter five.  Here Peter states, “Turn all your anxiety (or care in KJV) over to God because he cares for you.  Keep your mind clear and be alert.  Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour.”  (I Peter 5:7-8 God’s Word ©)  It was the thought of staying clear and alert that really caught my attention.  The King James Version translates this as being “sober.”

Thayer’s Greek Definitions says that the writer was relaying the idea of being “temperate, dispassionate and circumspect.”  Webster defined an individual who is circumspect as one who is “watchful on all sides, who examines carefully all the circumstances that may affect a determination.”  This explanation immediately confirmed my role as the overseer of my wife’s care.  I could see how I have had to receive and discern all the reams of information that has been set before me, to shift through all the various inputs that have been presented from the medical profession, social workers, care organizations, family and friends, the church and finally and foundationally from the Word of God.

I now understand that it has been one great balancing act, and I am the one standing in the middle with the multitudes of weights stacked in the hands of my outstretched arms!  What I realized was that even though this may seem like an overwhelming endeavor, I actually found myself gaining a large sense of relief as I thought of my responsibilities in this way.  It made me to see that each person’s input was just one point of information that needed to be examined.  

Even though some ideas or opinions may have been presented with more force or pressure than others, it still boils down to the fact that it is just another potential piece of the puzzle to be used or disregarded when compared to the bottom line of what is best for my wife.  And as far as I am concerned, I believe that only our heavenly Father knows that answer.  My ultimate job therefore, is to listen to what is being shared, to discern if it is truthful or even plausible or not and then to present it to the Lord where I patiently and expectantly await my orders.

I think that this is also what the Apostle Peter was trying to convey to his readers.  As Christians we find ourselves under a daily bombardment of thoughts, suggestions, advice, rules and regulations that need to be discerned before we can take appropriate actions.  Our ultimate job is to seek the Lord and to do what is right.  His word (as written in the Bible and confirmed through His Spirit) is the final direction that we should follow. 

Now some of you may think this to be an impossible task, but wait… He has given you the ability to perform your responsibilities with excellence.  Remember that I Corinthians 2:16 says that we “have the mind of Christ.” (KJV) and that Peter concludes his letter to us by saying that God will “strengthen you, make you strong and support you,” as you make your way in this life.  (I Peter 5:10 God’s Word ©)

So… just think of yourself as a well trained gymnast calmly and expertly walking across the great balance beam of life!  At the end of beam you’ll easily summersault to the floor completing your dismount with your arms raised in victory, while the “great cloud of witnesses” that are compassed about applaud your winning effort.  (See Hebrews 12:1!)

Have a great weekend.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to DISCERN today!”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Morning After the Night Before...

Have you ever experienced the feeling of letdown the morning after your participation in a big event during the previous day or night?  This morning had all the makings for that experience for me.  It reminded me of my normal response to the multitude of special events that we put on for the church over the years.  Be it the week long Vacation Bible Schools we did for about five years running, the all-church Hallelujah Night carnivals we held as an alternative to Halloween for more years than I remember, the big production puppet show, song singing, interactive Chapel times we did for a couple of the Christian schools in our town, the all-church multi-talent Christmas productions I wrote, or the numerous youth breakfasts or dinners, and the weekend youth retreats. 

There was always that one moment at the very climax of the event, after everything was put away and everyone had gone home, when I would find myself standing alone in the quiet, vacant youth or children’s room, taking one last look around and basking for a moment in the memories of the terrific time we all had.  To me there is not too much that can beat that sense of joy and accomplishment.  Then… all too soon the reality of Monday morning would be thrust upon me.  The letdown would hit me like a ton of bricks, and off I would slump to my secular job.

After all the words of encourage and the emotional feelings of yesterday that came through the phone calls, cards, emails and Facebook messages that I received, the expected letdown today was almost a forgone conclusion.  But you know what?  It never came!  Instead I awoke with a couple of scriptures revolving through my mind and a new sense of strength for the days ahead.  One of the scriptures kept up the theme of GOOD that was very prevalent in the Word that I studied yesterday.  It is found in Matthew 5:16 and reads: “In the same way let your light shine in front of people.  Then they will see the GOOD that you do and praise your Father in heaven.”  The other was my old favorite in Proverbs 3:5 that encourages us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.”  (Both scriptures taken from the God’s Word © Translation)

I awoke encouraged by the understanding that my life has had meaning in this world.  That His light has shown through me – for His glory -  to those that I have come to know (whether I realized it or not!).  I also met the new day with the realization that our job is just to trust in Him.  To not try and figure it all out for ourselves, and to not rely on our own understanding of the events in our lives.  For when we place our past, the events of today and that of our future which is yet to be written in His hands, the morning after the night before will come upon us as the morning sun breaking over a clear and beautiful horizon.

Now… did I write all this just to blow a little wind in my sails?  No!  I wrote this as an encouragement to all of you who may have to fight negative thoughts and/or personal feelings that put down your self worth.  I once read where someone said that “God don’t make no junk!”  And I want you to remember that statement of fact.  You were put here for a reason and as long as you let your light shine and put your trust in Him, whether you realize it or not… you are making a difference in many people’s lives.  So…Keep up the good work!  Have a great day.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What GOOD Things am I expecting to DO today!”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It Is Good!

“This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let’s rejoice and be glad today!”  (Psalms 118:24 God’s Word ©)  It is also my birthday today.  Will I rejoice and be glad?  Hummm, let’s talk about that…  Earlier in the week as I contemplated my upcoming birthday, I pondered the thought that my last couple of “special day celebrations” have not been anything to write home about!  Due to the symptoms of the AD, my wife has not been able to comprehend the idea of my birthday and the kids are all living out of town, with three of the four being out of state.

Awhile back someone had made the statement to me that I had changed since our return home after attending Bible School in Oklahoma.  As I have thought about that over the ensuing months, I’ve come to realize that it’s not so much that I have personally changed, as has my response to all that has changed around me.  Life is totally different now than it had been, and is totally different from where we had expected it to be at this place in our lives.  First and foremost is the attack on my wife’s health.  My closet friend for over forty years, the mother of our children, and my partner in both life and ministry is facing the toughest battle in (and for) her life.  On top of that, for the first time in over 30 years we are living alone without the constant buzz of activity that was always present in our home when our children were here.  Our church which is a large foundational part of our lives is also understandably different now due to the new direction, flavor and vision that the new Pastors have brought with them.  My position in the church has changed, and many of our friends who we knew and fellowshipped with for years in the church left during the time that we were gone.  And then there was the vibrant dream of returning to California to initiate the church ministry that we had envisioned for countless years that had to be shelved as we have now focused our total attention on my wife’s healing recovery.

Yes, things have changed, and with those thoughts running amuck in my head I was not too sure or expectant of what to think about as March 14th drew near.  On Monday I finally yielded everything over to the Lord and simply asked that His will be done on my birthday.  Then as my wife would always encourage us to do, I began to confess that this would be the best birthday I’ve ever had.

On Tuesday afternoon the "little miracles" (as a friend would say) began to happen.  First I received a text from my youngest daughter in Oklahoma that simply said: “Someone’s birthday is tomorrow (:”  Included with the text was a photo of their new dog with a towel wrapped around her as they had just given her a bath!  While I am not too hip as to what the symbols meant at the close of the text, I have enough insight to know that it means good things!  Then awhile later as I was looking through some boxes in the walk in closet under our staircase, I came across a baggie that had a stack of photographs enclosed in it.  As I sat down and thumbed through the pictures I was touched to observe that they were a mix of pictures that chronicled our summer vacation adventures back in 1994.  It brought back to me a clear remembrance of the many good times that our family had together while camping, going to the fair, celebrating birthdays and just goofing off around the house!

Then after I copied a few of the pics and text them off to the kids (isn’t modern technology great!) I began to receive text replies back and also received a call from our oldest daughter in North Carolina.  That night as we were finishing dinner we got a knock at the door.  As I opened the door, I burst out laughing as a couple and their son from the church stood in the pouring rain holding a cake and a balloon singing happy birthday to me!  I have to tell you… that just made my day!

Then this morning as I continued my study in I Peter chapter 3, I received the greatest gift I could ever receive.  I read in verses 13-14 and 17: “Who will harm you if you are devoted to doing what is good?  But even if you suffer for doing what God approves, you are blessed.  After all, if it is God’s will (that you are doing), it’s better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong.”  (God’s Word ©)  It was as if the Lord was reminding me of all the good things that we have accomplished for Him over the years, and that our struggles over the last 2 years in particular have been well worth the pain, stress and effort.

After I had wrapped up my study time, I checked my email and then my Facebook account.  I was warmed and brought to tears as I read all the various birthday greetings written by friends, cousins and past students from the many children’s and youth groups we have lead over the years.  I recalled Jesus' words in Matthew 25:21 where He said “Well done thy good and faithful servant:  thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”  (KJV)

You know there have been times when some have questioned the decisions I have made over the years.  I have even asked myself the same questions and at times pondered thoughts that leaned toward the stupidity of my actions.  But today as I read what I considered to be personal words from the Lord to me, I humbly realized that although others may have not always understood my motives, that the Lord did.  He has known my heart and even though we have faced some difficult times, we have always come through with blessings and honor due to our obedience to Him.  Isn’t God good!  Gee… I think my wife’s encouragement to us in the past that this is going to be the best birthday ever has come to past!  It truly is the best!  Thank you Lord, thank you friends and family for your warm birthday greetings, your blessings to us, and most of all for your friendship.

Now before I sign off and go and dig into that big luscious and sweet chocolate cake that was brought to us last night, I want you to know that God is not a respecter of persons. (See: Acts 10:34)  You too are loved by Him.  As He told me this morning, He is saying also to you.  So therefore receive His words and walk in joyous celebration of your life that you are living for Him.  “Well done thy good and faithful servant!”  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What GOOD things am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Marvelous Light

 
“Certainly you have tasted that the Lord is good! 
 You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God,
 who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

-        I Peter 2:3, 9  (God’s Word ©)

When was the last time that you experienced the marvelous light of God?  When was the last time that you were called out from the darkness of despair and wonderfully drawn into the marvelous light of answered prayer that came about through your diligent and consistent stand of faith?  When was the last time that you just met alone with Him and received the glorious revelation of His countless acts of goodness toward you and those you care for?

I had one of those experiences this morning as I sat looking out the window at the dark, stormy weather that was beating against the window in my study.  Even though it was wet, windy and cold outside, His marvelous light shined brightly in my heart.  It happened as I read through the scriptures in I Peter 2 and then stopped as I came upon verse 12 which reads: “Live decent lives among unbelievers.  Then, although they ridicule you as if you were doing wrong while they are watching you do good things, they will praise God on the day he comes to help you.”  (God’s Word ©)

It was almost as though I could not believe my eyes, so I reread the verse again.  And as I did I began to laugh and rejoice in the glow of His marvelous light.  With this verse I could plainly see why those whom I have mentioned in the past who had been detractors to us in the beginning of our fight for my wife’s health, were now beginning to act as though nothing had ever happened and were showing shows of agreement with us as to the track we are on today.  These folks are having the eyes of their understanding opened to the help that the Lord is giving to us through our stand of faith, and are beginning to praise Him for the visible results! 

That was His bright light shining on what has been a very dark shadow in our lives.  I have to admit that it took me quite awhile to stop thanking and praising Him for that taste of His goodness that He allowed me to enjoy in the midst of the situation that is still unfolding before us.

Have you tasted of His goodness today?  Have you taken the opportunity to walk out of any darkness that may be currently surrounding you and take a stroll into His marvelous light as I did this morning?  I encourage you to go for it!  Take a few moments and bring to mind all of the good things that He has and is accomplishing for you.  It doesn’t matter how big or how insignificant the victory may be.  Take the time right now to celebrate the taste of His goodness toward you.  Savor its flavor, breath in its richness and marvel at the tender texture of His touch in your life.  Then let the praises and giving of thanks flow uninhibitedly to Him.  Enjoy yourself, as you enjoy the taste of His goodness to you.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What good things am I expecting to TASTE today?”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lights! Camera! ACTION!

Today was one of those days that I did not want to get out of bed.  With the recent time change it was darker than normal as I peered through the room to focus on the clock that read 7:00 AM.  Then as I glanced up and out the large window in our stairwell, I observed that we were also completely enveloped in a rather thick cloud of fog!  That combination made the decision to get up and to the study rather difficult!  But in the end, my desire to spend time in the Word won out and I slung on my shirt and headed down the stairs to get the coffee brewing!

When I finally settled into my chair with my hot blend of medium roast Hawaiian Hazelnut coffee, I realized that for the first time in a while, I did not have a morning headache! I actually felt fairly sharp and alert.  So, with a quick praise and thanksgiving, I hunkered down and opened up my favorite Bible translation to the book of I Peter and began to study.  After reading the first few paragraphs that introduced the subject of the new birth, I sat in awe as I read verse 13 that said: “Therefore, your minds must be clear and ready for action.  Place your confidence (or better translated your EXPECTATIONS) completely in what God’s kindness (or grace) will bring you…”  (Gods Word ©)

It was as if the Lord was trying to make a point through His word and the way I felt this morning!  He was showing me not only how good it feels, but also the importance of keeping your mind clear of distractions and ready for any actions that arise.  As I meditated on this truth, I quickly recalled an example of staying sharp, keeping your mind alert, and being ready for action. 

For many years our church had hosted a weekend men’s retreat at a Christian camp in the hills not too far from our town.  Various groups of men from fellowships within our church’s affiliation came from around the Bay Area, and the Central Valley.  It was always a wonderful time of spiritual growth, fellowship, great praise and worship and a time to renew old acquaintances.  During the night on one of the retreats, I was asleep in my cabin where I was bunked with my older son and about eight or so other men and their sons. Suddenly I awoke and looked across the room to observe one of the junior high boys stand up in his top bunk, take a step into the air and fall right on to the floor with quite a thud!  Everyone jumped awake at once and ran to his side.  I quickly began to check him out to make sure he was okay when I noticed that he was still sound asleep!  He slowly aroused himself with all the clamor around him and couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about.  Everyone seemed to be talking at once when another Pastor in the room shouted out that we needed to get a doctor right away.  I’m not totally sure what caused it, but something immediately rose up inside me and before I knew it I heard myself purposely declaring to the group, “No we don’t!  We need to pray.”

All the men and boys in the room agreed and we gathered around the young man on the floor and prayed for his recovery.  With all that said and done, we slowly retired back to our bunks for the rest of the night.  In the morning the boy was fine and enjoyed himself going around the camp telling everyone about what he considered to be a hilarious adventure!

When the test came I found myself responding without really thinking about it in a clear and alert manner to God’s purpose for the situation.  I think that is exactly what Peter was referring to when he wrote that we need to keep our minds “clear and ready for action.” We can allow our lives to be filled with constant distractions and diversions, or we can stay focused on His word and have clear direction for the situations that we are involved with.  How and why do we do this?  Well, Peter answered those questions a few verses later when he said that our “confidence (or EXPECTATIONS) are in God.” (I Peter 1:21 Gods Word ©)

As I look out the window in my study right now, I see that the thick layer of fog has cleared and that I can look in depth at the beauty of nature that surrounds our home.  And that’s the same kind of clear vision that the Lord wants each of you to have.  Think about it…  Make your decision, enjoy the view and be confident to take the right actions at the right time!  Have a great day.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… What am I expecting today?”




Friday, March 9, 2012

Driving Through The Maze

I was alone in the car yesterday nimbly manipulating my way through the highway 101 exit that blends into a maze of numerous on and off ramps that converge near the downtown exit off the highway that literally splits our town in half.  It was one of those rare times that I had by myself, as my wife was at home with a friend and I was attempting to complete my list of long awaited “To Do’s” within a specified period of time!  As I came over a rise on the ramp and turned to seek an opening into the left lane where traffic was merging off from the highway, my ear caught the words from the song that was playing on the Christian radio station that I had on.  Although I was concentrating on the action that seemed to be coming at me from all directions, I found myself shaking my head in disagreement with some of the lyrics to the song.  In my understanding and study of the word, the statement being sung was a common misunderstanding to the truth that is clearly taught in the New Testament by both word and deed.

As I began to picture the various wonderful Christian individuals that we have known over the years who have agreed to this misconception, my thoughts were suddenly interrupted by words streaming from my heart saying “God is love!”  It was like the illustration that I recently shared about a torch being lit in a dark cave.  Instantly the light dispersed the darkness and I had the answer to my question of how Christians can still unconditionally love God even though they may incorrectly associate Him with the on slot of sickness, sudden death or other painful catastrophes. 

It is because He is love, and as His spirit now lives in us, we also have that capacity to love, even through the most painful of situations, no matter what our understanding of who or what the cause is.  It is that same love on the inside that enables us to love others when they do ugly things to us or to our loved ones.  It is that love that gives us the strength to go on even though everything or everyone around us has seemingly deserted us.  It is that unexplainable power that resides in Christians that is totally foreign to the non-believing world we live in.  It is that indescribable ability to turn the other cheek when everything about you screams to lash out in self preservation, anger or revenge.

It is sort of like the time shortly after we had moved to Oklahoma, when my wife and two kids came to pick me up for dinner one night when I was at work.  When I got out to the truck my wife commented that she wanted to go to the pet store across the boulevard to get some food for the pooch.  I climbed in the back seat behind my wife who was sitting shotgun to our son who was driving.  When we arrived at the end of the parking lot in order to cross the multilane though fare, the traffic was backed up due to a distant red light.  The drivers in the first two lanes were beckoning my son to cross through the small opening they had made.  He nodded and proceeded across only to find another car barreling right at us from the unseen third lane.  It was suddenly like everything went into slow motion as I watched that small SUV coming right at me.  Within an instant he hit us and bounced off to the side of the road.  Since both of our cars were still able to move, we drove into the next parking lot and got out to access the damage.  Although we were shook up, we were all okay.  The other car had only managed to put a dent in the side of our Suburban while completely ripping off the front end of his car.

I immediately went up to the other driver to see how he was.  He met me shouting many loud explanatives while raising his arms up and down.  Since I tend to be calm in those types of situations, I let him have his say and then I quietly asked him if he was okay.  This interaction repeated itself a few times and finally the young man relaxed and said that he was fine.  At that point we were able to rationally talk about the accident and exchange insurance information.  I believe that it was the love of God inside me that caused me to put aside my personal frustrations and seek the welfare of the other’s involved.

My point today is simply to remember that you are never alone nor unarmed!  God’s love has been shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit that lives in you. (Romans 5:5 and John 17) It gives you the ability to be a light to others as well as the strength to make any personal changes that you endeavor to make in yourself.  It is the very nature of God working in you to give you a relationship with our heavenly Father that you might never had thought possible.  It is the power to set and keep you apart from the directions that the world demands you to take in this life!  It is the power of His LOVE.  And that LOVE is a part of your new makeup in Him!  Have a great weekend.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Young Love

For some unexplained reason, as I sat upstairs enjoying a mid-day rest yesterday, I began to think about many of the fun and zany things that my wife and I did together when we were first dating in High School.  The walks in the park, the rolls and rolls of film that I took of her (I think that every project I did in my photography class included some portraits of her!), the softball games and trips to the beach with our friends, the countless hours that we must have spent holding hands and laughing (we once got in trouble with the school principal for holding hands in front of the school during the lunch hour!), all the Round Table beef and onion pizzas we devoured, or just sitting quietly looking into each others eyes.

There were days where it seemed like time stood still when I was in her presence.  When we would say goodbye after school, I couldn’t wait to call her when I got off work.  Then after the nightly call I could hardly sleep as I anticipated seeing her at school the next day!  I guess all that varied array of feelings going on inside and the sense that I was walking on air when with her is what they call "young love!"

Today as I glanced at Psalm 91:14-16, I understood that this is the type of wonderment that we should also share in our love with God.  Verse 14 opens up with the Lord saying about us: “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore I will deliver him: I will set him on high because he hath known my name.”  (KJV)  To “set” your love implies a strong and sincere affection with “the settlement and fixedness of it, so as nothing could separate from it.”  (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)  That’s the way it was and continues to be between my wife and I. Back in High School there was no other activity, job, person, place or thing that could draw away my affection and attention from her.  And there was nothing that I wouldn’t do for her.  (Hey… I was working part-time at a Printing Shop earning the big bucks - $1.75 an hour!)

Is that the same type of relationship that you and I enjoy with our heavenly Father?  For me, there are times that I would answer a resounding YES!  But to be honest, there are other times where the demands of the job, the family, or even recreational activities have overridden my focus of Him.  The word in this Psalm makes it clear that as we determine to “set” our love on Him, that He will respond in the like by rescuing us and protecting us at all times, in every situation.

Now that’s the type of relationship that I want to have with Him.  How about you?  When you walk out the doors of your church are you already beginning to highly anticipate the very next time that you will get to spend time with Him?  Do you experience a wonderful and unexplainable sense of joy when you think about Him?  It is possible, you know!  That’s the goal I’m going to set, and I can use those feelings that my wife and I enjoyed back in the beginning of our relationship as the initial target for my level of love that I “set” upon Him!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Enjoy The Trip!

Yesterday afternoon my wife and I pointed the car toward the southeast and embarked upon a trip to our oldest son’s home about an hour away.  We had an excellent time with our son Josh, his lovely wife Trinity and their two wonderful daughters Rhian and Lily.  It was the best treatment that we ever could have taken for my wife’s health.  She was pretty quiet during the trip, but lit up like a roman candle at the sight of our granddaughters and their folks!  In fact, after greeting the grandkids she went right up to Trinity said “Hi!” and gave her a big hug!  For a moment there, she was like her old self!

Eating away from home is always a bit of a question with my wife’s current needs.  Her weight had fluctuated quite dramatically over the last few years and has been a major concern for me.  I have determined to keep her on a regular eating schedule, with minimal distractions and with meals that I know that she will eat.  My son and daughter-in-law are aware of this and hit the bulls eye with a fabulous dinner that Trinity prepared consisting of Italian gnocchi with a white gorgonzola sauce.  My wife enjoyed herself!  (I must admit that I had a few servings myself!!!)  So to put it mildly, the evening was a great success, the company was stupendous, and the healing effect went beyond measure!   It was a vivid picture of God’s love toward us!

This morning when I turned on my e-Sword Bible study program, it opened up to where I had left off yesterday in the 23rd Psalm.  As I read through this poetic piece from David, I was reminded about how part of the countryside that we drove through on the way to Josh’s is similar to the picture that is painted in this psalm.  There is one portion of travel on California Highway 116 East that traverses through gently rolling hills and fields of flowing green grass.  Along the way the pastures are dotted with sheep, horses, cows and a couple herds of miniature horses!  (That’s a fun sight that never grows old!)

As I read this morning I could clearly picture myself standing in one of those fields along side of the lazy sheep as they chewed contentedly on the lush green growth.  David’s descriptions of rest in the fields, streams of peaceful water (as the Petaluma river also flows along this stretch of the countryside on its way to San Pablo bay) and the refreshment He brings to my life were vivid in my minds eye and warming to my heart.  What came to my understanding as I experienced this event was the idea that David was describing a process that was constantly changing. 

As a former Shepherd he knew the importance of moving his flock from pasture to pasture.  I have heard that sheep are not necessarily the smartest animals in the world and if kept in one field for too long will chew the grass all the way down to the root.  That is why the cattlemen in the past were not too happy when sheep herders would graze their sheep on their open range. They were concerned that the source of food for their cattle would be destroyed.

In Psalm 23:3 David compares the Shepherd’s leading of the sheep to God’s leading of His children along the right paths, even those that may go through valleys as dark as death.  As Adam Clarke’s Commentary says “I should fear no evil under the guidance and protection of such a Shepherd.  He knows all the passes, dangerous defiles, hidden pits and abrupt precipices in the way; and he will guide me around, about and through them.”  It’s all about His loving plan and direction for each of our lives.  He knows that we need to keep moving on in life in order to grow and not become as a pool of stagnate water.  He also understands that most of us like to get comfortable in our places in life and are not always open to change!

But as the Good Shepherd, He gently nudges us into movement for He knows what is best for us.  The more we can become like the gentle sheep and place all of our trust in Him, the easier and more enjoyable will be the daily adventures that we travel through in this life.  You know, it’s just like the many hikes that we have taken in the Plumas National Forest near California’s border with the state of Nevada.  The view along the way is just as gorgeous as the end destination!  So… throw caution to the wind, put your trust in our loving Good Shepherd and enjoy the scenery!  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What (part of the trip) am I expecting (to enjoy) today?”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's Unexplainable!

Let’s go a little further today in our discussion of our reliance on God’s love by examining our personal levels of confidence that we have in Him and His love toward us.  I John 5:14 - 15 states that “We are confident that God listens to us if we ask for anything that has His approval (or is according to His will in the KJV).  We know that He listens to our requests.  So we know that we already have what we ask for.”  (Gods Word ©)  According to Thayer’s Greek Definitions this means that we can walk in “free and fearless confidence and cheerful courage” because of our reliance on Him and His love as promised to us in His word.

When we made the big move to Oklahoma numerous years ago, we had a well prayed through and organized financial plan.  After we had been there for awhile, our plan came under attack.  Our solid as a rock Suburban began to have some major mechanical problems, our kids were having difficulties adjusting to the move, my wife’s as yet determined or diagnosed memory issues were becoming more prevalent and put a damper on her ability to find employment and then came the arrival of a few completely unexpected bills.

I was already working full time and attending school full time so there wasn’t a lot more opportunities for me to add to the family bank account.  I remember standing at the big kitchen window holding hands with my wife and praying for the Lord’s directions.  When we finished our prayer it was like a warm mist enveloped me.  I was so overcome with the tangible presence of God’s love that I could hardly move.  All I knew at that instant was that God loved us so much that He would not let us flounder in our new residence, 1800 miles away from home, as we were obedient to answer His call and attend Bible School.

I rested in that uncanny calm for the next few weeks even though nothing positive seemed to be happening.  Then the little miracles began to surface.  One afternoon at work I got a call from one of the Assistant Store Mangers asking me to come to his office.  When I arrived he handed me a bonus check from my old store back in California.  Unbeknownst to me that store had exceeded its targets when I was there and all the employees were given bonuses.  Since I was still with the company, they sent my check across the country to my new store!  It was kind of funny in that my new store had not met their targets for many years and most people didn’t even know about the bonus program.  My boss had me stand up at a store meeting and share the events of the check with everyone!

A little while after that we received a check in the mail for the proceeds from the sale of my beloved Camaro that my Father in law had sold for us back in California(Believe me… it was a bitter sweet day!!!)  And it didn’t end there.  One night a fellow student whom I also worked with came up to me in the break room and handed me a pair of keys saying “You remember what you and I had agreed on a few months ago?”  As I looked at him with what must have been a blank stare he went on by saying “Your second car. We agreed that you were going to get another car.  So here it is.  Come out with me to the parking lot!”  Well, it may not have been a sight of beauty to someone else, but that 1996 faded blue Mazda with 196 thousand miles on it looked like a Corvette to me!  (We gave that car to my son when we moved back home and he drove it up until just about a month ago when it finally died!)  It was like the dam had broken and before you know it we made it through!  But, if it had not been for my confidence in His love for me and my family, I seriously don’t know what we would have done.

That’s confidence that has no grounds in the visible circumstances that may surround you.  It is a confidence that is totally based on your ever growing comprehension of His love “that is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it.”  (Ephesians 3:19 The Living Bible)  It is confidence in the one and only God who is the very definition of love itself.  Wow!  It reminds me of that old Kurt Kaiser song that we sang in the Rock Opera that I wrote back in the 70’s.  The chorus goes:

“Oh, how He loves you and me,
 Oh, how He loves you and me.
 He gave His life, what more could He give;
 Oh, how He loves you, Oh, how He loves me,
 Oh, how He loves you and me.” 

We have that unexplainable confidence simply because of how much He loves you and me.  Stay tuned and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”