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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Other Participant


Wow!  Do you realize that it is the end of May already?  Where have the last five months gone?  It seems like we were just sitting back on the couch in the living room enjoying the Christmas tree!  I have heard it said that as you get older, time goes by faster.  So… if that’s the case, let’s slow things down a little bit today and go back and touch on another side of the equation that we brought up yesterday.

In studying Psalm 40:1-2, we saw the Lord utilizing the classic textbook steps for effective listening.  “I waited patiently for the Lord.  He turned to me and heard my cry for help.  He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay.  He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure.”  (God’s Word © - take a look at yesterday’s blog entry “A Listening Ear" – 5/30/12)  Let’s take a couple of moments now and look at the other participant in this conversation.

While there is only one sentence that describes the speaker’s input, the implications are significant enough to teach us a big lesson!  The footnote for this verse in the NIV Study Bible begins by describing this psalm as “A prayer for help when troubles abound.”  Therefore when David (or any of us) was knee deep in trouble, he wrote that “I waited patiently for the Lord.”  The interesting part of this statement is found in the words that are usually translated “waited patiently.”  In my study of the verse I discovered that those two words are actually the same word in the original Hebrew.  And wouldn’t you know it, but one of the meanings of the word is “to expect!”

So we can see that David wasn’t just sitting around patiently enduring until he received some assistance from the Lord.  No!  The commentaries state that the word used here was doubled so as to emphasize the action required to receive an answer by the requester.  I would translate or paraphrase this verse into modern vernacular by saying that “I was expectantly expectant for the Lord to move on my behalf.”  Thus denoting a strong and constant anticipation of what the Lord would do for me based on my trust in the truth of His word. 

Paul described this same type of anticipation when he talked about the Good News to the Colossians.  He said: “Some time ago you heard (same definition for this word as used in Psalm 40:1- one again, see yesterday’s blog entry) about this hope (or expectation) in the Good News which is the message of truth.  This Good News is present with you now.  It is producing results and spreading…”  (Colossians 1: 5-6)

David is showing us how to approach the Lord with our requests.  It is also the way we should approach people when we enter into a conversation with them.  This method demonstrates our desire to hear and receive from those to whom we talk with.  It shows the love of God through our commitment to the other person involved in the conversation.  It tells the other person that they are important to us and to God!  I think the bottom line is that this is just another example of how to let the light of Christ shine through us to those we come in contact with in our daily lives.

So, go out and be a blessing to someone today.  Take the time to make the time to be a part of another person’s life today!  Show them that you care, and be “expectantly expectant” of how the Lord will work through you for the other’s behalf.  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Listening Ear


Have you ever had one of those mornings where you are suddenly awakened from a deep and restful sleep?  I experienced a time like that today.  I am not sure if it was my wife’s movements, or some noises that emanated from the open window, or something else.  Whatever the cause, I groggily awoke, shook off the cobwebs, rolled over and looked at the clock and realized that it was about an hour earlier than I wanted to get up!  

After making some useless attempts to go back to sleep, I finally turned and laid on my back with my eyes closed and just listened.  I listened to see if the Lord had anything for me to hear.  There were no resounding words of revelation, no peels of thunder, no nothing… until the words of Psalm 40:1-2 began to run like an endless loop through my thoughts.  “I waited patiently for the Lord.  He turned to me and heard my cry for help.  He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay.  He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure.”  (God’s Word ©)

As these words repeated themselves in my mind, I began to meditate on a few thoughts concerning the actions that these verses described.  First there is the expectant call to the Lord.  Next we have the Lord turning, or inclining or reaching out to the one who is calling to Him.  Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, we understand that the Lord “listened to” or “heard” the reason for the call and then took the appropriate action to help the individual in need. 

Once I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and shuffled into my study with a hot cup of Java in hand, I turned to Psalm 40 in my Bible and reviewed the first two verses to assure that the words that triggered my earlier meditation had been correct.   I no sooner got to the end of the second line when I noticed the word “heard” seemingly flashing before my eyes.  According to Strong’s that word means “to hear intelligently, with the implication of attention.”  In other words, the Lord stopped what He was doing and gave the individual in need His full and undivided attention.  He then carefully listened so as to carefully consider and discern the full intent of the speaker’s concerns.

The Lord’s actions as recorded in this Psalm brought back to me the content of the countless communication classes that I had taken in the various management positions that I held over the years.  The Lord’s response illustrated the classic outline of effective listening skills.  The full meaning of the word “heard” implies that He gave the speaker His total attention, summarized what was being said back to the speaker in order to assure understanding of what was said, and then gave His input and followed up with the appropriate course of action needed to resolve the situation.

If you and I are to be the hand of the Lord to those around us, then we should follow the Lord’s example.  Weak communication skills tends to be one of the largest contributors to problems in the work place.  I believe the same could be said for problems in the family, the church and among friends and acquaintances.  As Christians we need to be able to listen to those who come to us.  Over the last three years I have received a lot of advice and/or suggestions from well meaning people.  Some of it has been accurate and some not so accurate.  Most of the useful information that I have heard has normally come from those who have taken the time to listen attentively to our situation and needs and then base their input on those unique facts.  These are individuals that I have come to trust and will continue to listen to.  On the other hand, there are those who have shared their thoughts with us that were based solely on their own conjecture of our situation and history.  Most of their suggestions did not make much sense to me.  These are individuals to whom I would not place a strong level of reliability or trust toward in future input.

As a living, breathing and active example of Jesus Christ on this earth, I want my words to be as truthful and helpful as they can be.  I do not want to say or do anything that would place a doubt about Christ in the mind of those who might come to me for assistance.  It is therefore imperative that I utilize the correct, attentive skills of listening when someone talks to me.  How about you?  It is very easy to be so caught up with our own busy lives that we miss what people are really trying to say to us.  Our verse in Psalm 40:1 says that the Lord “heard my cry for help.“  Has anybody been crying out for help to you?  It’s definitely something to consider…  Have a good day.  Keep in tune to God’s Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Hand of God


I awoke this morning having to deal with thoughts of anxiety and concern over the events of the day ahead.  This is the day for my folks to move from their home of some 52 years to their new residence at a very nice Assisted Living facility.  My wife and I spent a few hours with my parents yesterday, repaired a piece of furniture in preparation for the move and then had lunch with them.  My desire was to be able to reassure them that although change is difficult, that this was the right decision due to the decline in their physical health and the need to have regular assistance in their daily activities of life.

This has kind of been one of my main responsibilities during this entire process that has been going on over the last few months.  With my time and attention focused on my wife’s current situation and needs, I am thankful for my brother and sister who have taken the leading hand in investigating and pursing the next steps in the physical care needs of our folks.  It has been a tough time for all of us.

As I was considering all this earlier today, I was suddenly reminded of one of my long time favorite scriptures found in Philippians 4:13 where the Apostle Paul was commenting on a very tough time that he had just gone through.  He wrote that “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.”  (God’s Word ©)  Another translation puts it rather bluntly by simply stating “Christ gives me the strength to face anything.”  (Contemporary English Version) That particular verse has been my rock of refuge through many of the storms that I have weathered in life, and it was no different today.  That quick refreshing brought back home the knowledge that we never go it alone, for when our feet are set on the Rock, our steps will always be secure. (See: Psalm 40:2)

As I looked up that verse in Philippians, my interest was peaked to see how Paul followed up his declaration of faith.  The next verse says “Nevertheless, it was kind of you to share in my troubles.”  (Philippians 4:14 God’s Word ©)  I found it very interesting to see that Paul understood both the spiritual and the physical sides of meeting an individual’s needs.  While he was standing in faith in trust of God and His word, he was also acknowledging how important and meaningful it was to him to have friends who would stand beside him and minister to his physical and emotional concerns.

After everything that my wife and I have been through over the last three years, I have come to realize the truth behind Paul’s words.  In our daily walk on this earth, there are times when the needs of the whole man - body, soul and spirit - must be attended to.  I think this was Christ’s original plan for the body of Believers.  You’ll notice that the members of the early church in the book of Acts had no needs.  Everyone reached out and helped each other.  It is also interesting to note that Paul commends the church in Colossae (even though he had not met them personally) because, as he said: “we have heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.”  (Colossians 1:4 God’s Word ©)

I am very thankful that my brother, sister and I have been able to uplift and encourage each other as the difficult decisions over our parent’s care have had to be made.  I am also appreciative of the comforting words that my cousins have shared with me over the last few weeks.  These physical outreaches of love, combined with the strength that Christ has given me, has been the rock of secure footing that I have needed to carry on during these trying times.

I would encourage you to look around today at family and friends and see if there is someone whom you might be able to be an uplifting force to.  That five minute phone call asking “what can I do to help?” or bringing a home cooked meal, or any other physical assistance that you can give may be the one thing that helps that individual through the pressures that they have been dealing with.  Sometimes our stepping up is the hand that God uses to give others “the strength to face anything!”

Have a good week.  Stay in tune to God’s Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, May 25, 2012

Passwords


I have a few more thoughts on PRAISE for you to ponder this weekend.  The Psalmist proclaimed in Psalm 100:4:

“I will enter His gates with thanksgiving,
 and into His courts with PRAISE.
 Be thankful to Him,
 And bless His name.”  (NKJV)

If we put it into modern terminology, this verse would be saying that thanksgiving is the “password,” as the Message Bible puts it, which gives us entrance into the front room of the Lord’s house while PRAISE is the ticket that allows us a private audience with Him in His private quarters.  Once there, the Message Bible also encourages us to “Make yourselves at home, talking PRAISE.”  It would seem that PRAISE is the language of the heavenlies!  We know from John’s vision of heaven in Revelation chapter four, that the inhabitants that surround the throne of God offer PRAISE to Him “Day and night” – 24-7! (Revelation 4:8 – NIV)  The psalmist makes it clear that if we want to personally confer with the Lord, then we should be doing the same!

I discovered another interesting concept about PRAISE as I continued to meditate on Psalm 40:3 this morning.  Here David makes the point that it is the Lord who puts the songs of PRAISE into our mouths.  What do you think about that?  The heartfelt, earnest PRAISE that we give unto the Lord is actually initiated by Him and for Him!  That’s what I call teamwork!  As we yield ourselves and in particular our mouths to Him, He gives us the anointed words to say that will permeate the natural hindrances or problems around us and bring us right into the presence of God!

Oh but wait a minute…  When you delve a little deeper into that term “PRAISE” in the Hebrew, we find that it comes from the word that means “to shine or to make a show, to boast or be clamorously foolish.”  (Strong’s H1984)  It looks like it our yielding should not be limited to just what we say, but also to how we act while we are saying it!  Remember King David’s actions in 2 Samuel 6:14, and the disciples in the upper room in Acts 2!  A further definition for the word “PRAISE” is to “celebrate!”  PRAISE is therefore not necessarily a quiet religious practice, but a celebration of thanksgiving, honor and blessings that we offer to our loving, caring and giving heavenly Father.

So with that in mind, I encourage you to ponder these thoughts this weekend, and then take the outlandish step to follow David’s example as he “danced in the Lord’s presence with all his might.”  (2 Samuel 6:14 God’s Word ©)  It was PRAISE that got David there, and PRAISE that kept him in the victory lane throughout his life!  Gee… if it worked for him, then it will work for me and IT WILL WORK FOR YOU!  Have a joyful weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?” 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A New Song


One of my all time favorite portions in the book of Psalms is found in Psalms 40:1-3.  Those particular verses have ministered to me a lot over the years.  They conclude by saying, “He placed a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see this and worship.  They will trust the Lord.”  (Psalm 40:3 God’s Word ©)  I wrote a song using those words as the majority of the lyrics.  In fact, I even wrote a play with that song as the theme.  It’s kind of funny now, as I think back about that first performance that we did for our church at the YMCA back in the late 1980’s.  After the cast had taken their bows, I motioned to my wife, who was at the piano, and we led the congregation in one of the songs that she had written that was in the play:

“Praise, praise, praise,
 Praise the Lord.
 Praise, praise, praise,
 Praise the Lord.
 Praise, praise, praise,
 I will praise the Lord.
 Praise – the – Lord!”

When we got to the last line, the Pastor was so excited that he just bellowed out the words “Praise – the – Lord” an octave or two louder than anyone else!  Although it was funny, and everyone had a hearty laugh, I really don’t think that he was just caught up in the excitement of the moment.  He was exclaiming his heartfelt thanksgiving and praise to God.  He had gone through some very difficult times in his life and after a long absence, the Lord had recently led him to us and back into the ministry as the Pastor of our church.  The large room that night was filled with people and the anointing was strong.  I believe that he was overcome with the goodness of God in his life and just had to proclaim the new song of praise that was in his heart.  And all of us present in the main activity room at the YMCA that night heard it!

That’s another effect or benefit of PRAISE.  It blesses others around us.  I’m convinced that as Christians, we never do anything just for ourselves.  There is always something or someone who is influenced by our actions.  In speaking of our new song of PRAISE to our God, the Message Bible puts it this way: “More and more people are seeing this: They enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.”  (Psalm 40:3)

Our joyful, heartfelt thanksgiving and PRAISE to God acts as a light in a dark world.  People are grasping for something to hold onto.  Something onto which they can place their expectations for good things to happen in their lives.  The Greek translation of the Hebrew word “trust” in our verse of scripture is the word for “expectation.”  So therefore David was telling us that our lifestyle of PRAISE will lead others to the One who will give them the solid foundation of great expectations that they are desperately searching for!

Wow!  What an exciting thought.  Your PRAISE may be just what someone else needs today!  So, let go of the “Grumps” and let out the PRAISE!  Let Him have His way with you today and ooze over everyone you come into contact with! 

♫   “Praise, praise, praise,
      Praise the Lord…”   ♫

Have a GREAT day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What (or whom) am I expecting to bless today?”



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Being Perfect Isn't Everything!


Have you ever considered why God referred to King David as “a man after my own heart?” (Acts 13:22 God’s Word ©) Was it because he was an individual who was perfect in character?  Someone who always did the right things, always said the right words, and always put other people’s needs and concerns before his?  Well, if you said “yes” to all the above, I think that you would probably be wrong!

When you read through the various stories of David’s life, you will see that he was a man with like passions as you and me.  There were times that he was headstrong and maybe a little impulsive, times when he disobeyed God and just did what he wanted to do, and times when he followed his sensual desires rather than the moral dictates of God’s law.  I guess that you could say that David was just human.

What set him apart though, and caused our heavenly Father to lay upon him the anointing of Prophet, King and Priest was that David knew his short comings and always repented and turned his life back to the ways of the Lord.  Even though he struggled with fleshly desires on the outside, on the inside, his heart was always in tune to and following after the love of God.

I think some of the best verses that describes David’s life are found in Psalm 34:1-3.

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
 His PRAISE shall continually be in my mouth.
 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
 The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
 Oh magnify the Lord with me,
 And let us exalt His name together.”  (NKJV)

The nation of Israel who was under his care, understood that he was but a man who made mistakes, but yet admired his honesty and his humble heart toward the Lord.  I believe that his consistent lifestyle of PRAISE was the key to his divine connection and favor with God and with the people under his divinely appointed leadership.

David wrote this particular Psalm while in the midst of personal peril.  It occurred when he was running from the assassination attempts of King Saul, and the subsequent death threats of Abimelech, whose country he had run to for safe asylum.  Throughout the toughest and the most victorious events in his life, David gave God all the PRAISE.

His example is the perfect example for us to follow after.  I am sure that David always wanted to do what was right, but he, just like you and me, was not always successful in it.  He made mistakes… some big mistakes, but he knew and lived within the realm of our heavenly Father’s forgiveness and everlasting love.  The end of the verse in Acts 13:22 records God as saying “He (meaning David) will do everything I want him to do.”  (God’s Word ©)

Did God think that David would do everything perfectly?  I doubt it.  And I doubt that He thinks that you and I will also do everything perfectly in our lives.  God, unlike man, looks on the inside of us, not on the outside.  He looks at our hearts and desires us to be men and women after His own heart.  Individuals, who even though will make mistakes, will find their boast in the Lord and make the consistent effort to have His PRAISE continually be in their mouths.  He is not looking at our short comings and/or mistakes; He is looking at the motives of our hearts! 

Have a good day.  Keep in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What GOOD THINGS am I expecting today?”


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Praise II


There is an old chorus that we used to teach the kids in our Children’s Church classes over the years.  The lyrics go something like:

“Praise is the order of the day.
 Praise is the order of the day.
 Powers and principalities,
 They have to stay away for,
 Praise is the order of the day!” *

The words are matched to a catchy tune that just kind of sticks in your head.  It is a tune that I have unconsciously found myself singing over the last week or so.  It is a simple little song that packs a big wallop of truth!

If I have learned anything from my wife over the years, it has been the power of PRAISE to intervene and reverse the negative influences that come our way.  I have mentioned in past blog entries about the confusion that prevailed following the initial battery of tests that my wife went through in Oklahoma.  The doctor’s couldn’t seem to put a solid handle on what was going on.  One of the doctors shook his head and summed it up by basically stating that “all the test results say that she should be under 24 hour care, yet she is still functioning independently by driving, cooking, and keeping up a household.”

This confusion stayed unexplained until we finally made it to the head of the Memory Care Center in San Francisco a year ago.  After reading through all the reams of patient history and asking us many questions, she stated that the original doctors on the case must have been basing their findings on the family history of depression.  The confusion came because my wife was not responding the way one under the influence of depression would react.  As I stated previously, my wife had learned the power of PRAISE!

When I related the Specialist’s explanation to our kids last summer, they ALL agreed.  Each of them reminisced of times when depression would try to rear its ugly head in our home and how their Mom would immediately sense its presence and lead the kids into a time of joyful PRAISE.  Those moments of PRAISE always changed the atmosphere and quickly re-established the boundaries and as that simple little tune said, made it clear that, “Powers and principalities, they have to stay away, for PRAISE is the order of the day!”

Look what it did in the beginning of the New Testament when there was much confusion and disagreement as to the name that should be given to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s miracle baby.  When Zechariah took a step of faith in obedience to God and indifference to family traditions and wrote on a tablet that “His name is John” his tongue was immediately loosed and after nine months of silence, his first words were of PRAISE to God!  His PRAISE immediately reversed the atmosphere that had been charged with conflict.  Luke wrote that Zechariah’s actions and PRAISE caused “all their neighbors (to be) filled with awe.”  The people felt the presence of the Lord and Zechariah “was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, ‘PRAISE the Lord God of Israel!’…”  (Luke 1:57-80 God’s Word ©)

Over the weekend my wife and I drove over to the assisted living community where my folks are moving to at the end of the month.  My Mom has been a little confused about its location and I wanted to take a few pictures that I thought might help to refresh her memory.  It had been a long day and by the time we arrived at the adult living complex, I was tired and my patience was waning.  I stopped in the middle of the road in front of the facility in order to take a quick shot before any traffic came up behind me.  When I grabbed my little digital camera and pushed the button down half way in order to focus the picture, the lens moved in and out a few times, stopped and a little error message came up on the viewing screen saying “replace batteries.”  That was it and I snapped!  I had just recharged the batteries, but obviously they were old and not holding a charge anymore.

Expressing great frustration, I loudly exclaimed “You’ve got to be kidding!” and unceremoniously and rather roughly tossed the camera into the back seat and drove away.  When I reached the corner I turned red faced toward my wife and shook my head.  Then it came… my wife sweetly smiled and said, PRAISE the Lord Jim!”  Even in her current condition, the power of PRAISE is so engrained in her that it was an automatic response in the midst of the heated situation.  And it worked like diving into a pool of ice water on a hot day!  Those four words instantly changed my attitude, the frustration left and we both began to laugh and utter PRAISES unto God!

I would encourage you to seriously take this into account today.  As my oldest daughter told me awhile back when faced with a similar situation, “You know Dad, this stuff really works!”  PRAISE is a tremendous power, ordained by God, that causes the negative influences in life to run and then STAY away.  If you haven’t already, I would suggest that you (just like my wife) make PRAISE the regular default reaction in your life.  Give it a try and see it work for you!  Have a wonderful day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”


*  I believe that this song was written by David Ingles in the late 1970's

Monday, May 21, 2012

Praise!


“Why are you discouraged, my soul?
 Why are you so restless?
 Put your hope in God,
 Because I will still praise him.
 He is my savior and my God.”
          
                            Psalm 42:11 (God’s Word ©)


This portion of the Psalms seems to accurately define my feelings over the last few weeks.  The writer describes a battle that is being waged in a Christian between the natural part of man on the outside and the real man on the inside.  While the “soulish” part of the man is tiring and beginning to lose ground in a fight against a barrage of discouragement and restlessness, the born again man on the inside is sounding a trumpet call to reform the lines of the troops, encourage their fortitude and reestablish the battle plan.

It is almost like the inside man is shaking the shell shocked soul back into reality by looking him right in the face and declaring: “What are you doing?  What’s with the giving in to discouragement and restlessness?  Look here, it doesn’t matter what you are tempted with because ‘we’ are still going to trust the Lord and praise Him in the midst of the attack, because He is our deliverer and our God!”

With everything going on lately, I have found myself getting pretty tired and a little bit cranky!  And even though most would agree that my wife is doing better, there are still some physical needs that must be attended to with an increasing regularity.  At times, especially toward the end of the day, I simply have to smile, sing a song of PRAISE and dig down deep within to find the remnants of energy to do what must be accomplished.

The warm spring weather doesn’t help much either…  Lately my thoughts have been spending a lot of time in longing remembrance of alpine meadows, mountain trails and the scent of fresh coffee perking in the little yellow coffee pot sitting on the gas stove in the quiet campground early in the morning!  The hardest part is that all those thoughts include the company of my vibrant, exciting and adventurous partner in life!  Holding hands as we meander through the tall pines on the trail to the park museum, taking trips to the little country store in the nearby former lumber mill town, swimming (well, actually jumping quickly in and out) in the ice cold waters of the creek that runs through the camp, and enjoying the stunning nights as we sit under the star lit canopy of the towering trees.

The key phrase of the Psalmist in Psalms 42:11 and the greatest tool in my arsenal of weapons is “I will still PRAISE him.”  Those little moments of uttering and/or singing words of PRAISE unto Him have been like a shot of adrenaline to me in the midst of some of my most trying times.  It is better than any energy drink and has no negative after effects!  It is as if I have taken a minute to plug right into the source of heavenly strength, confidence, wisdom and peace.  This connection not only refreshes the situation, but brings healing to the spirit, soul and body.

So, give it a try this week!  When discouragement and restlessness knocks on your door, answer its bidding with a quiet (or loud – whichever the situation requires!) proclamation of PRAISE to God!  This action of faith on your behalf will quickly re-establish the lines of authority and put the attacking forces on the run before you!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, May 18, 2012

No Boundaries!


Along with all the heartfelt thoughts about family this week, I was also thinking about the relatively short span of time, in the overall picture of our lives, that we actually spend under the tutelage of our parents within the realm of the family home.  Yet it is during those initial years of our lives where the foundation of who we are today is laid down within us. As I reminisced about my folks during the last few days, I saw how they allowed me through their precept and example to develop into the one I have become.  Throughout my childhood and into those early adult years they gave me the freedom to follow my dreams.

I was talking to my wife yesterday about how confusing it must have been to them when I sat down in our family living room to talk to them about my desires to go to a Baptist Seminary way back in the mid 1970’s.  You have to understand that I was raised in a staunch Catholic family, attended Parochial School and was a faithful Altar Boy for many years.  In fact, I can vividly remember my Dad jokingly refer to protestants as “PROTEST-ants!” Yet, they put aside any prejudice or preconceived ideas because they had seen the changes in me since I had been together with my young wife and had become quite active in her church.  They listened intently during the conversation, asked many pertinent and probing questions and then threw their full support behind me.

Then there was the time a few years previous to this when I had decided to leave college during my junior year to start a photography business.  I am sure that they were not too happy with that decision, but they stood behind me and even helped me to upgrade my backyard darkroom at their house.  I could go on and on with many other examples, but the point is that their example, through the years, gave me a foundation that freed me from the clutches of the fear of adventuring out into something new and different and released an ability in me to pursue many of the God-given dreams inside me.  Each of those dreams has become a vital part of my life through the years. I finally did make it to Bible School, have continued to indulge my love for photography both professionally and as a serious hobby, and did eventually make it back to college and probably have accumulated more educational classes, certificates of completion and diplomas than any of the off-spring in either my wife’s family or mine!

My wife, on the other hand, seems to be so different than the rest of her immediate family that at first glance, one would think that she was switched in the delivery room!  As I have mentioned before, she has always been vivacious and outgoing, quite adventurous and almost always willing to step out and try something different.  She loves the great outdoors, enjoys camping and hiking in the mountains and taking daily walks around the neighborhood.  She possesses the uncanny ability to stay calm and focused in the midst of chaotic situations (in fact I think she kind of thrived in these situations). It has also been quite interesting to me to observe how she could accurately plan the food supplies for the mired of retreats, breakfasts and dinners that we put on over the years with a very minimum of leftovers!  She has never allowed the fear of the unknown or of some new challenge to stop her from going forward.

As I considered this earlier today, I came to the realization that as I look back through the years, I can remember times when I saw signs of that same excitement for life in Piper’s Dad’s eyes.  There were actually a few incidents early in our marriage years where he did step out and follow a dream or two.  Those were the years that we were probably the closet to her folks.  It would seem that the adventurous spirit that has laid latent in him was put into and allowed to be expressed through my wife.

And that is the way that we trained up our children to be.  While I would love to have our kids living closer to home, they are living their lives in precisely the manner in which they were taught by our precept and example.  Each of them is following their hearts and are pursuing what they believe to be the unique callings of the Lord for them and their families.  They have even pushed the envelope of our upbringing even further than my wife and I did.  It is actually comical to watch for the occasional raised eyebrow of one of the immediate relatives (on either side) when they hear of something that our kids might be up to that is foreign to their way of thinking.  I think that the people in the church that have witnessed our kids growing up are the ones who know our children better than some of our relatives.  They have seen the kids maturing in the Lord and being free to express their multitude of talents under the anointing of God.

This all came to light this morning as I read from Ephesians 3:20 in various translations of the Bible.  The God’s Word version reads: “Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us.  By this power he can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”  The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, which is the Bible based on the Greek translation of the Old Testament, renders the word “imagine” as “comprehend.”  That word tends to open up my understanding a little bit more, by implying that the power of God working in us has the ability to open up and expand the very limits of our comprehension beyond the boundaries of our natural capabilities.  Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says that it allows us to “go beyond the limits of all human descriptions; we can imagine more than even God has specified in his word; and can feel no bounds to our imagination of good.”

Once again, it is the power of God that makes the difference, for He knows the talents and abilities that are inside of us.  After all, He put them there when we were born again into the family of God.  So just as who we are in the natural is indwelt in us early during our childhood years, the unlimited capabilities of our Kingdom heritage is also placed in us early in our Christian lives.  It is up to us to yield ourselves to that power working in us in order to allow the “REAL” us to bloom.  And God is just the One to put it all together for us!

In many ways my wife and I are just like two peas in a pod, but you’d never would have guessed it if you took a look at the difference between our two families.  My family with its 100% Italian background is quite gregarious, while my wife’s tends to be quiet and more reserved.  I once had the mother of one of our youth in the church confide in me that her daughter did not really understand me until she saw the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”  I wasn’t really quite sure how to take that comment until I saw the movie myself.  Then I understood how my outgoing and animated behavior during services was very different than the quiet family lifestyle that they enjoyed!

My point is that God knew who we really were on the inside and the tremendous team that we would become when He put the two of us together! – Wow!  This post is getting long so  I’d better wrap it up! -  The crux of all this is that the real you is the one on the inside that the Lord has designed you to be from the beginning of time.  Have you really sought out and discovered the full boundaries of who He made you to be?  According to our scripture in Ephesians 3:20 there are no boundaries to who you are and what you are capable of doing.  So I encourage you to think about that this weekend!  Take a little time to dream without reserve, and then when you think you’ve reached your limits, allow the power of God working on the inside of you to carry you beyond those limits where the paved roads end and where only He can lead you through!  Wow… what a trip… and it is one that never has to come to an end!  Have a great weekend, stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's Far More!


This morning as I began my study time by confessing the prayer in Ephesians 1:17-23, I was suddenly jolted to attention as I realized that Paul’s intercession for us held the key to our fearless foraging into the new and uncharted waters of change.  He immediately set the stage by praying “that the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Christ better.”  (Ephesians 1:17 God’s Word ©)  That’s it!  Everything else in that prayer is dependent on knowing Christ better.  And He qualifies that statement in the very next sentence by adding: “Then you will have…” and proceeds to list such things as “deeper insight,” “confidence,” “wealth” and intimate experiential “knowledge” of the “unlimited greatness of His power.” (Ephesians 18-19 God’s Word ©)

All of the things that he names are the tools that will give us not only the courage to walk dauntlessly through life, but also to experience victory wherever we are led to go.  The Message Bible says that as we keep our “eyes focused and clear” on Him we will be able to “see exactly what it is he is calling us to do.”  (Ephesians 1:17)  The trick then, is to keep our focus on Jesus and not on what we think the future may hold in store for us.

I also like the way that the author of the Message Bible wraps up Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:23.  He concludes by stating: “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church.”  In other words, the things that we see or imagine around us in this world are just an incidental and minor part of what is really happening in God’s grand scheme of life.  Kind of makes it pretty clear as to where we should put our trust doesn’t it?  Hebrews 12:2 says “we must focus on Jesus, the source and the goal of our faith.”  (God’s Word ©)

As I think a little more on the tidal wave of feelings that came upon me as I observed my Mom waving to my wife and I from her driveway, that I reminisced about in yesterday’s post (See: “A Bittersweet Day”  5/15/12), I can now see that my first inclination was to be afraid.  But was I afraid for her or for me?  In truth, if was probably more for me…

I received a note from one of my cousins who in response to yesterday’s posting wrote: “Our family has changed so much over the last few years.  They (meaning my folks) can relax now, look back on all that they have accomplished and be catered to all day long.  They deserve that!”  Her words were like a healing balm that was poured over my emotions.  She summed up my parent’s past, present and future in such a tender way that I could easily see the Master’s hand in His divine guidance upon their lives.  Laura’s words also encouraged me to rejoice in their blessings while continuing to confidently move along in the calling that God has designed for me.  Thanks, Cuz!

Today, I would also like encourage you to keep your eyes on the guiding hand of the Master as He paints on the canvas of your life.  His choice of colors and textures far exceeds anything that the world can present before your eyes. Under His attentive care, and direction the future holds no thought or concern of fear, but a bright promise that is “exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think… far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”  (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV - The Message)  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Bittersweet Day


Yesterday my wife and I visited my folks.  During that time I spent a few hours trimming their roses in the front yard and cleaning up the flower beds that line one side of their long driveway.  It had probably been a month since I had last done some work in their front yard.  I had been focusing my attention to the needs in the backyard and the roses in front, although loaded with a gorgeous array of blooms, were beginning to look out of control!

It was a bittersweet process as this will most likely be the last time that I attend to their roses before my folks move out of the house at the end of the month.  The decline in both of my parent’s health over the last six months, that eventually led to the need for a 24 hour care assistant for my Dad and the necessity of the move to an assisted living community, has been difficult for me to observe.  When added to my wife’s situation… well, let’s just say that these last months have been a little taxing on my physical and emotional well being.

My folks and especially my Mom have been my greatest advocates ever since my wife and I returned to California in 2009.  They have supported and encouraged me in all the tough decisions that I have had to make.  My Mom seems to be one of only a few family members and friends who understand the delicate balance between the faith walk we have undertaken and the physical realities that we deal with on a daily basis.  She is and has always been a strong and practicing Catholic, and while she may have only a minimal understanding of the Bible, she does know the Lord and retains a deep and intimate prayer life with Him. 

She is in complete agreement with us as to my wife’s total and complete healing, but is also sympathetic and proactive to both the physical needs and the emotional strain that I deal with.  To be perfectly honest, I believe that even though she is dealing with her own challenges, that she is the only local individual who regularly inquires as to my wife’s well being and asks “What can we do to help?”  I am assured that all of our Christian friends and acquaintances are also in agreement with our stand of faith and they regularly encourage us from the Word.  What I have come to see though, is that many will tend to shy away from the physical side of the situation.  I am not sure if it because they feel like any attention given to the natural problems might destroy our faith, or that they just aren’t comfortable dealing with the affects of the disease itself. 

One of the many hard lessons I have learned through our hands on experience in this journey has been the reality that a family dealing with a life threatening situation needs to have both sides of the coin ministered to.  Yes, first and foremost we must know our position in Christ and receive, build ourselves up in and stand on the promises of healing that the Lord Jesus Christ has provided for us (See: I Peter 2:24 for example).  But while standing, one still has to deal with the physical requirements of the afflicted individual, the long days and sleepless nights, the medical, household, personal and emotional requirements that must be met, along with all the outside pressures that unknowing people put on you.

Like I said, my Mom has been that giving and understanding individual to under gird and support my wife and I during this time in our lives.  I thought of all this as we backed out of their driveway and into the street yesterday.  While I shifted the transmission into drive I glanced at my Mom standing in the driveway waving good-by to us and sadly realized that things would never be the same again once they moved.  Life was changing we must change along with it.  Then as we waved back to her I saw the freshly trimmed roses and raked flowerbeds on our right, my Mom in the middle and the beautiful extent of their park-like front yard to her left.  It was like I was looking at the past, present and the future.  The trimmed and orderly beds lining the driveway symbolizing the completed past, my Mom in the present and the well planned landscape in the main part of their front yard that still needs some trimming as her future. 

I was reminded of Hebrews 13:8 where the writer declares that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (NKJV)  The same God that has cared for and provided all the miraculous deeds for my family in the past, is right in the middle of what is happening today.  And while the future may be unknown, we can rest assured that the hand of the master gardener, who has skillfully planned the landscape of our lives, will continue to tend to our tomorrows in like manner as He has in the past.

Keep that in mind as you face the changes that occur in your life.  For what He is doing for us, He will also do for you!  Someone has said that “the only thing that is constant in life is change!”  It is inevitable, but we don’t have to be afraid when it comes.  Expect it, embrace it and trust the Lord in the midst of it!  It’s all part of the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding” that “will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:7 NKJV)  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thrive


I mentioned in the blog last Friday (5/11/12“It’s A Beautiful Morning!”) about the time that I spent working in the garden cleaning up the old plants and planting the new ones.  It is amazing how a little care and a few shovels of fresh, nutrient soil can change the life pattern of a plant.  Two of the older plants that I tended to were an artichoke that had produced quite prolifically last year but seemed to have gone through the winter looking worse for the wear and a rather decrepit looking rosemary bush.

I trimmed off all the dead and/or sickly looking growth on the artichoke, raked away any fallen leaves and other debris from around its stem, added a fresh layer of the new garden soil and then turned it under around the plant.  The rosemary bush wasn’t quite as simple!  It had outgrown the pot it was planted in and no amount of water and fertilizer could pull it out of the throws of death.  This plant needed more drastic measures.  Therefore I removed the plant from the pot and proceeded to chop away at the entanglement of roots.  From there I dug a hole in the garden area near the artichoke, filled it with the good soil and tenderly inserted the needy herb bush.

What was truly amazing was the transition that the two plants made overnight.  When I went out the very next morning I was almost shocked to see both plants standing upright and tall, looking healthy, well nourished and ready to produce a harvest!  While I expected the plants to make a turnaround (well… I wasn’t real sure about the rosemary!), I did not expect it to happen overnight!  Today, some five days later, the plants are thriving and even the tiny little artichoke fruit that was struggling previously on the withered plant has begun to enlarge and show signs that it will make its date at our dinner table in a week or so!

Yesterday I compared a good garden soil to the ground of God’s love (See; Ephesians 3:17 in the God’s Word translation).  His soil is rich with mercy, healing and goodness. (Ephesians 2:4) Like my results in the garden, God’s soil has the ability to transform a dry, unhealthy and decrepit looking life (physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally) into that of a  strong, well nourished and productive individual.  And while the results may not be completed overnight, the person who plants themselves deep into God’s love will definitely notice an instant difference that will compel and empower them to move on in the enrichment of His ways.

Yes it might take some work.  It might take some “pruning away” of the old growth and some necessary thinning of any roots that have become impacted in the old hard soil of your former way of life.  But again, the expected results and the gains that the new soil provides are well worth the toil and any discomfort that accompanies the process of change.  You know… you just can help but prosper in the garden of God’s love when you have the best gardener in the universe tending to your every need!

Have a super Tuesday.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today!?”

Monday, May 14, 2012

Garden Soil


Since planting some vegetables in pots on our large patio last week, I have happily fallen into my normal summer routine of peeking out the window first thing in the morning, with high expectations of observing new and continued growth.  We have been experiencing some overcast lasting into the early afternoon for the last couple of days which has helped to lessen the shock of transplanting for the small upstarts.  So even though it has only been a few days, the tiny plants are looking deep green and healthy and are giving me a great vision of delicious sliced tomatoes and many side dishes of sautéed or fried or stewed zucchini!

In my years of gardening I have come to discover that the soil makes all the difference.  One of the best gardens that we ever had was when we lived in my Grandmother’s old home when we had just began having our family.  My Grandmother had lived alone and never really did much with the backyard except to care for the few fruit trees that were left over from the neighborhood’s original beginnings as a prune orchard.  When we moved in I immediately began to work a sunny section of the yard for our garden.  It took a few years of toil, the addition of new soils, sand and fertilizers but resulted in rows of tall green stalks of corn, large zucchini bushes, frames of string beans, lettuce, various tomato bushes, and other selected vegetables that we experimented with over the six years we lived there.

Last year I planted a few tomato plants in large pots filled with expensive potting soil on the deck in our current home and had great success.  This year I replaced the old soil with a new batch, removed the bottom branches of the tomatoes and buried them about a third of the way up their stems.  The young man at the nursery assured me that this would cause the plants to develop a strong base that would enable them to get a good start and yield positive growth with lots of fruit.

Yesterday when I was outside “tending” to my garden I thought about how the planting of my tomatoes was like the scripture in Ephesians 3:17 where Paul prays “that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation.”  (God’s Word ©)  The “love” that he is talking about is “agape” love, or the God kind of love.  It is the very nature of God working in us, for us and through us.  He completes his thought on this subject by stating that this type of foundation will cause us to “be completely filled with God.”  (Ephesians 3:19 God’s Word ©)

Just as the expensive soil that I have been successfully using as the foundation for my healthy and productive vegetables, the foundation of God’s love will also cause us to live productive and successful lives.  It is a soft and rich soil that will allow our roots to sink deeply into the wisdom, knowledge and understanding of our heavenly Father, thereby guaranteeing us a bountiful harvest of the fruits of the Spirit.  (See: Galatians 5:22)

So I would encourage you today to put on your gardening gloves and begin to dig down deep into the good ground of His love “which goes far beyond any knowledge.”  (Ephesians 3:19 God’s Word ©)  Then get ready - for the harvest is coming!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, May 11, 2012

It's a Beautiful Morning!


“Oh what a beautiful morning,
 Oh what a beautiful day,
 I’ve got a wonderful feeling,
 Everything’s going my way.”  *

Is that the tune that you were singing when you arose this morning?  Do you find yourself rejoicing at the prospects of a bright and wonderful day?  Well, according to God’s word in Ephesians 1:22, that’s exactly what we should be doing!  It says that “God has put everything under the control of Christ.  He has made Christ the head of everything for the good of the church.”  (God’s Word ©)  John Gill in his Exposition of the Entire Bible further defines the phrase “for the good of the church” as for the “infinite benefit” or “advantage” of the church.

It was that word “advantage” that really caught my attention as soon as I sat down at my desk this morning.  It was like I didn’t have the time to even think about the direction of my morning study time, I was drawn immediately to that thought!  Webster’s dictionary defines “attention” as “any state, condition, or circumstance, favorable to success, prosperity, interest or reputation.”  That kind of says it all doesn’t it?  When you infuse that definition into Paul’s words written in Ephesians 1:22, you can’t help but see the outcome of your day in a beautiful way!

Yesterday my wife and I went to the little local nursery near our home and purchased the makings of our summer vegetable garden.  I then spent the next couple of hours planting the various tomato and zucchini plants into fresh new garden soil, trimmed and cleaned all the winter yuk and dead growth from of our outdoor potted plants and then attacked the outrageous growth that had overtaken the 2 original roses that were in the patio when we moved in.  Later on, after cleaning up the debris and brushing all the dirt (what is it with dogs and new garden soil…), leaves, flower pedals, and spider webs off the dog’s thick coat, we contentedly retired into the house and I began to fix dinner.

It had been a good day, and working in the garden enriched the experience like a luscious layer of chocolate icing does to a batch of warm brownies just out of the oven.  I was not too sure that my wife shared my same level of enthusiasm, though!  It had been a pretty active day for her as we had also taken the dog on a long walk previous to our trip to the nursery and our adventures in the back patio.  When we came back into the house she immediately plopped herself on the couch and sat there with a sort of dazed look on her face.  Well, I wasn’t about to let the devil steal her joy so I immediately began to make up and sing silly songs to her as I scurried around the kitchen with pots and pans flying, the dog under my feet hoping for a morsel to drop to the floor, and the microwave buzzing as I defrosted some lasagna. 

What I didn't remember was that all the windows in the house were wide open and the whole neighborhood was probably listening to my outlandish singing!  When the realization finally did hit me I broke into laughter, whispered to my wife what was happening and then exclaimed aloud “Well, who cares… they probably need to hear it too,” and went back to my song and dance!  I was full of the joy of the Lord and just figured that all my neighbors (remember we live in a set of cluster homes that are in very close proximity to each other…) needed to know and share it with me!

As Christians, you and I have an advantage!  We have the advantage of Christ’s total and complete victory over sin, sickness, lack, fear, depression and anxiety.  That’s the truth that should give us the incentive to rise up from our beds and sing of the advantage over the events of each day – whether they look promising or not!  So have a beautiful morning, and have a beautiful day.  Bask in that wonderful feeling that everything is going your way, for:

“All the sounds of the earth are like music,
 All the sounds of the earth are like music,
 The breeze is so busy it don’t miss a tree,
 And an ol’ Weepin’ Willer is laughin’ at me.”

Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?” 


*     “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’”
  Music by Richard Rodgers, lyric by Oscar Hammerstein II
 Copyright 1943 by Williamson Music

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Signed By The Author


Last summer when our younger son came home from Oklahoma to visit us, he presented me with a very special gift.  It was the latest volume in a series of books on church history and revival that I have immensely enjoyed reading and studying from over the years.  What made this edition even more unique was the personal greeting and signature of the author on the title page.  It turns out that my son has a friend in Tulsa who is a relative of the author.  When Jeremy mentioned that I was a great fan of the author’s work, his friend said that his uncle was coming to town and arranged for a meeting between the two of them.  This personal connection with the author (even though it is indirect) has given me cause to hold that particular book in an honored place within my private library.

All this came to mind today as I was trudging down the stairs on the way to the coffee maker.  When I reached the bottom of the staircase I broke into a big grin as I realized that I know another author, one who is the greatest author of them all!  And on top of that, I not only know Him, but I live with Him!  Hebrews 12:2 tells us who this great writer is saying that “We must focus on Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith.”  (personal combination of the God’s Word and KJV).  Then one of the scriptures that we have been discussing all week in Ephesians 2:6 documents our home address as sitting “together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  (NKJV)

I would love to sit down with the author of the book that my son gave to me and discuss his countless hours of research and investigation into the lives and ministries of all the great men and women of God that he has documented in his books.  The thought of being able to look through and read his personal collection of documents, original writings, interviews and photographs of those who went before us in the faith and helped to shape the church as we know it today is almost mind boggling to me!  But while I do have somewhat of a connection with the author through his salutation in my book, I do not have a personal relationship with him.  The closest I could probably get to his personal archives is by viewing them through the glass enclosed cases at the Reformers and Revivalists Historical Museum that he established in southern California.

On the other hand though, you and I live with the author of all authors!  We have direct and unlimited access to the very source of life, deeper insight, the fountain of wisdom and revelation and to the “unlimited greatness of his power.”  (See: Ephesians 1:17-19)  Now that’s REALLY mind boggling!  Ephesians 1:13-14 in the Message Bible says that “It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free – signed, sealed and delivered by the Holy Spirit.  This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.”

You know what?  I want everything that God has planned for me, and I am sure that you do too!  So… why not take advantage of the privileges of your living arrangement.  This is one time where stuffing yourself with the good things from the table that is set before you will be advantageous to your health!  Talk about a satisfying meal and an even more satisfying life!  Whoa… what a way to go!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What GOOD MEAL am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Taking The Lead


This morning as I continued to study Paul’s dissertation concerning the authority that God has given to the Believer as stated in the first three chapters of the book of Ephesians, I was taken captive by the flowing and colorful prose of the Message Bible.  Now while I understand that this is not an actual translation but a modern paraphrase of the Word, I must admit that the author seems to have definitely captured the grandeur and scope of the way of life that the Good News of the gospel enables the Believer to live.  He sums up Paul’s prayer and expectations for the church in Ephesians 1:15-19 by stating “Oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him – endless energy, boundless strength!”

The Apostle Paul had a clear understanding of the type of life that Christ has provided for us and that our Heavenly Father expects us to pursue.  It is that same overcoming lifestyle that God promised the children of Israel way back in Deuteronomy 28:13 when He said that “the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not beneath…”  (NKJV) All that they, as well as us today, needed to do was to put their trust in Him and follow through on His directions. 

As I leaned back in my chair this morning and meditated on these truths, I began to think about all the different and sometimes difficult tasks that I have had to accomplish in dealing with the care of my wife.  My mind was filled with the images of all the people, places and activities that I have been involved with over the last few years.  I thought of the myriad of times that I have had to explain the story of this attack on her health from beginning to the current phase, the multitude of situations where I have had to intervene when people made incorrect assumptions about us and of her needs, the enduring of the look on people’s faces when they see my wife for the first time in awhile, all the doctors offices we have been to in Oklahoma and in California, all the research, all the phone calls, all the “advice” we have received (whether good, bad or ridiculous!) and the course(s) of action we have taken.

When I finally closed my eyes and sought the Lord’s help in knowing what this was all about this morning, I heard Him quietly but firmly say to me: “You’ve got to take the lead!”  Then in an instant I understood.  For the past five years I have had to tread a totally new and unexpected path.  And even though we have sought and followed the advice from professionals in the medical, natural health and spiritual arenas, it is a walk that I have had to mainly walk alone – under the daily guidance of the Holy Spirit.  It is a walk in which I have had to take the lead, to follow through and pursue what I believe is the best course of action for my wife’s needs. 

The same is true for each of us if we are to successfully walk within the authority that we possess due to our position “in Christ.”  If we are to experience “the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him – endless energy, boundless strength” then each of us has to take the lead in our own lives to make it happen!  We can’t depend on anyone else to do it for us.  As individuals, we have to learn, understand and then step out in faith and expect God’s Word to work for us as we put His Biblical directions into action.  Remember that “that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow…” (Philippians 2:10 NKJV).  But it won’t bow UNTIL we speak it and do it!

There are a multitude of physical, spiritual and financial resources that we have taken advantage of for the care of my wife.  But none of them would have come to past if I hadn’t taken the lead, done my homework and then followed through.  It is the same with our Christian walk.  Today might just be the day when you swallow hard and take the lead and begin to live within “the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians…”  (Ephesians 1:19 The Message Bible).  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What GOOD THINGS am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What's In A Name?


“He is far above all rulers, authorities, powers, lords,
 and all other NAMES that can be named,
 not only in this present world but also in the world to come.”  *

Have you ever really considered the power that is inherent in a name?  Most parents will make great effort to assure that they choose the right names for their children.  That name becomes the goal for who they hope that their child will become.  In later years the utterance of that name will immediately evoke a picture in the mind of the speaker as to the personality, make up and reliability of the individual being spoken of.  That name becomes a one word definition of who that person is.

As our oldest child approaches his 32nd birthday this week, I can look back at who he has become and see the similarities in his life to that of his biblical namesakes Joshua the son of Nun and James the leader of the church in Jerusalem.  I have always seen Joshua in the Old Testament as a quiet but wise leader who seamlessly took over the reigns of leadership from Moses and led the children of Israel successfully through the conquest of the Promised Land.  Our Josh is also a quiet but wise leader who can make anyone feel comfortable in almost any situation.  He is an accomplished musician, but more than that, a gifted worship leader with a heart for God who can skillfully bring a congregation right into the very presence of God.  And like James, he has a pastor’s heart that always extrudes a concern for others while he ministers to them with just the right word at the right time.

There is a negative side to names as well.  There are certain names that will immediately evoke dread and fear, anxiety or a sense of hopelessness.  Names such as cancer, foreclosure, debt or downsizing can quickly conjure up thoughts of despair in the mind of the hearer.  Usually it doesn’t even matter if that name is being associated with you or someone you know and/or love in order to bring its negative connotations to your mind.  It is the worldly response of fear that has been associated with that name over the years.  It is the exact reaction that the enemy of our souls wants you to have.

But, our scripture in Ephesians 1:21 gives us a whole new freedom from the expected reaction to whatever name is cast your way.  It says that Jesus is “far above… all names that can be named!”  (God’s Word ©)  In speaking of this verse, Thayer’s Greek Definitions states that “The name is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is aroused in the mind by mentioning, hearing or remembering the name…”  So Jesus has power and authority above every name! 

But wait a minute… for it gets even better!  Ephesians 2:6 goes on to say that “God has brought us back to life together with Christ and has given us a position in heaven with him.”  (God’s Word ©)  The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary explains that “Believer’s are bodily in heaven in point of right.”  In other words our position in heaven includes all the rights and privileges that Jesus possesses since we are seated with Him.

Philippians 2:10 says that God gave Jesus “a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow…”  (NIV)  So what’s my point?  At the name of Jesus spoken through the lips of a Believer, EVERY NAME must bow the knee of its power and submit itself to the authority we have in HIS name!  The Message Bible calls this grasping “the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians.”  (Ephesians 1:19)

Wow!  Now that’s what I call living a glorious and victorious way of life in this convoluted world!  So I encourage you to keep meditating on Ephesians chapters 1-3 as you learn to take your God given authority and change your world… one person, one situation and one day at a time!  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”


*  Ephesians 1:21 - God's Word ©

Monday, May 7, 2012

Who's In Charge?


Have you ever considered where you would begin and what direction you would take if you were charged with the discipleship of a brand new Christian?  That is the question that I have been using as the basis for the new quarter of Children’s Church curriculum that I have been writing for our kids at church.  I must admit that it has been a challenging and yet invigorating process.  Not only does it take the deciphering of what one considers to be the important doctrines of our faith, but it has also forced me to make sure that I fully understand each subject so that I can teach it in an organized and totally uncluttered and simplistic manner.  That old adage of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly!) continually directs my every step for I want these kids to be able to grasp these powerful truths at their levels of comprehension.  Working in a Children’s Church format with kids from 1st through 6th grade (and since we are a small church it sometimes including students younger and older than this spectrum of ages!), it can be an interesting process!

Over the last three weeks we have be teaching about salvation, baptism, being new creations and then yesterday we began to delve into the authority that our loving heavenly Father has given us in Christ Jesus. Sunday’s lesson title was “Under My Feet!” and we used Ephesians 1:19-22 and 2:4-6 as our scripture foundation of this truth. 

The high points of the class came first of all when we had one of our teen helpers pose as Jesus seated at the right hand of God and then proceeded to have all the students sit on his lap (at the same time…) as a picture of our position in Christ. (See: Ephesians 2:6)  And secondly after giving an explanation of the “things” that have been placed under our feet.  With all the students standing in the back of the class, I began to call out the “names” of some of these various “things” (See: Ephesians 1:21-22) while I tossed handfuls of mini shredded wheats at them for them to get under their feet and stomp to smithereens!  (Don’t attempt this without parental supervision and a good vacuum!)  We had a blast and I sensed that the students left the class with the beginnings of a rudimental understanding of their authority as Christians. 

This morning as I continued studying in Ephesians chapters one and two, I read verse 1:22 in the God’s Word translation where it says that “God has put everything under control of Christ.”  Having completed that sentence, I sat back in my chair and pondered the question that I have heard asked countless times over the years by those questioning God’s desires and/or abilities by stating “Well, if Christ is in control, then why is everything so messed up?”  The answer came to my mind immediately as I considered yesterday’s class.  It’s actually rather simple!  Yes, Jesus has been given control over all things, but since He is physically in heaven seated at the right hand of God, He must now work through His body that is present on this earth… namely you and me!

It would seem then, that the reason why things are a mess on this earth is because the church has not taken its rightful authority to put all the “things” that the devil tosses out under our feet!  We’ll talk a little bit more about this subject this week, but I wanted to jump start your thoughts on this bright sunny Monday (at least it is here in northern California!) and put the bug in your ear concerning the authority that God has given us to use for His kingdom purposes in our lives.  Grab your Bibles and begin meditating on Ephesians 1-3 and allow the glow of His revelation of your power and authority over “every name that is named” (Ephesians 1:21 NKJV) light up your path today.  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”