Our New Home

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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Being Sensitive...

Luke 1:35-38 (ASV)

“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: Wherefore the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God.  And behold Elizabeth thy kinswomen, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that was called barren.  For no word of God shall be void of power.  And Mary said, Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.  And the angel departed from her.”

What an exciting but yet challenging time for the young girl Mary as she was hand chosen by God to bear His Son.  I can only imagine all the wild thoughts that must have been racing through her mind as the angel appeared and began to unfold his message to her.  The interesting thing though, is that none of this is recorded.  It would seem that the angel’s declaration that “no word of God shall be void of power” clinched the deal for her.  Another translation states that “no promise from God will be impossible of fulfillment.” (Luke 1:37 Weymouth Translation)  It is obvious that Mary had a very personal knowledge of her heavenly Father, and when He gave His promise, she knew that He meant it and would take good care of her, no matter what hardships it entailed for her.

The original Greek for “word” in Luke 1:37 is “rhema” in contrast to “logos.”  According to Vines logos can include the whole Bible, the written word, while rhema can refer to an individual scripture quickened to us by the Holy Spirit.  Robert’s Word Pictures says that in this usage “Rhema brings out the single item rather than the whole content (logos)”  Another explanation that distinguishes rhema from logos states that rhema is at times called ‘a word from the Word,’ referring to the revelation received by the reader from the Holy Spirit when the Word (logos) is read, or as an utterance from God to the heart of the reader via the Holy Spirit.

In our story of Mary at the beginning of the New Testament we find that Mary has received a rhema word from the Lord.  It was a questionable word that would not be found to be very plausible to many of her relatives, religious friends and her neighbors but never-the-less, it was a special word from God for her that she was certain would come to pass.  That is evident by her instant positive reply (totally opposite to her uncle Zacharias when told that his barren older wife would bear him a special child) saying “be it done to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38 NAS)

As I meditated on this thought this morning I heard that small still voice inside of me saying: “Never underestimate or ignore God’s rhema word given to another believer.”  In my personal experience over the last three years we have had some close friends and relatives smile and then ignore the relevancy of some rhema words that the Lord has given to us concerning my wife’s healing.  It would seem that their own thoughts on how it was to happen overrode where we are in our faith, and the direction that the Lord has been leading us. Once again, as I meditated further on this I could see how I have been guilty of the same infraction over the years in my heartfelt desire to help other believers.  

What I came away with from my study this morning was the knowledge that I needed to slow down in my attempts to assist others and be more inquisitive and sensitive to where they are in their understanding and faith and just what it was that they are actually believing for!  I think that this might be a good lesson for each of us to learn.  In Colossians 1:4 the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the city of Colossae that he was thankful to God because “we have heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.” (God’s Word ©)  He had heard about their faith that was working because of their acts of love to each other.  I am certain that these loving acts included taking the time to get to know each other, their needs and their level of faith in the Good News which was producing results in their lives.  (Colossians 1:6)

This is a good way for us to act throughout this holiday season.  I would encourage you to let His love flow through you as you sensitively participate in the lives of those in your family, on the job, in your church or at the mall.  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Plan B...

As I sit at the kitchen table this morning and look out our patio window, I gaze upon cloudy skies that grow darker by the minute as the next set of a series of winter storms is supposed to produce heavy rain early this afternoon.  I also observe the trees swaying under the effects of the adverse weather, along with the occasional flutter of leaves that seemingly fill the sky when the stronger gusts of wind sweep through the neighborhood.  This complete turnaround to the warm fall weather that we had been experiencing triggered some memories of some other unusual weather conditions that we have seen over the last few years. 

One of the strangest to me was the dust storm that occurred early in our stay in Oklahoma.  As the summer wind picked up, the blue sky and just about everything else on the ground rapidly turned brown.  It was almost as if someone had drawn the old fashion brown pull blinds in my Paternal Grandmother’s home in the middle of the day!  The only object you could discern in the sky was the dirty orange glow of the sun. 

Then there was the ice storm during our second winter there.  It was an indescribable scene as everything from the trees, the mailboxes and the roads were coated with a fairly thick layer of ice.  Our immediate neighborhood was very new with many homes still in various stages of construction, so there were no mature trees anywhere to be seen… until you drove out of the development.  Then you were greeted with another eerie sight as many of the branches on the stately old trees that lined the country road had simply cracked and broken off from the weight of the ice.  This process continued and even grew worse for the next few days as the cold weather persisted.  It actually looked to me as if the area had been the victim of an aerial bombing raid!  It literally took the city years to clean up all the debris.  Then there were the tornado warnings and the sounding of the sirens mounted on the light poles throughout the area.

All of these thoughts of adverse weather made me to consider the various weather induced conditions that Mary and Joseph must have faced as they traveled from their home town to the city of Bethlehem in order to comply with the governor’s census edict.  No one really knows what things they faced, but many stories and songs have been written telling of their possible hardships.  Never-the-less, it is not difficult for one to imagine how uncomfortable Mary must have been riding on the back of a donkey as they traversed the rough, uneven roadways.  Joseph also must have been quite miserable and anxious as he tried his best to make the trip as smooth as possible for his pregnant fiancĂ©e.

I can easily sympathize with Joseph as he hovered about Mary in a protective mode, desperately trying to keep one step ahead of the adversities they faced.  It is a similar mode that I live in right now with my wife and her physical condition, as I attempt to stay constantly vigilant in watching over her every move so that she does not run into harm’s way.

In the end, Mary and Joseph were successful in their journey and the story had a happy ending, one whose benefits that we all reap today!  But think for a moment, what would have happened if they gave up and turned back to the warmth and security of their homes in Nazareth?  What if Joseph got to the end of his rope when they were told that there was no room in the inn, blew his stack, turned up his nose to the governor and headed the donkey back in the direction from which they had just come?

If they had deviated from the plan in any way, shape or form, then the ancient prophecies would not have been fulfilled, Jesus’ job would not have been completed and God would have had to call for an emergency meeting of the counsel of the Trinity and the angelic hosts to come up with a “Plan B!”  No!  Thank God that Mary and Joseph stood strong under all the pressures and saw their task through to the glorious climax as the army of angelic hosts appeared in the field to the shepherds and sang “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14 KJV) 

The same could be said for the journeys that each of us are called to walk in our daily lives.  We face the same decisions that Mary and Joseph did.  The circumstances may be totally different, but the question to push on through the hard times or to turn tail and run are the same!  Will we choose to persevere and win the prize that God has for us, or fall short and quit before the victory?
 
Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us to “Never worry about anything.  But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks.  Then God’s peace, which goes (far) beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.”  (God’s Word ©)  While I investigated some of the original meanings and intents of the words used in this verse, I came across a couple of interesting statements.  Both came from Thayer’s Greek Definitions of the word “guard.”  One thought likened the peace that we can experience as we obey this verse as being “protected by a military guard to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight.”  There are many lessons that you can take from this added understanding, but the one that stood out to me was the thought of God’s peace helping you to stay strong and protected within the walls of His love and care until the attack is over.  The idea of one fleeing from a besieged city gave me the picture of the individual becoming an easy target to be picked off as soon as he or she left the protection of the city walls.

The other statement was where Thayer says that metaphorically speaking. God’s peace is on guard “to keep one under the control of the Word that, no matter what is going on, we stay within the reaches and authority of His power!"  That’s definitely where Mary and Joseph were, and it is also the best place for you and me!  So don’t allow the hustle and bustle of the busyness of the Holiday Season get you down this year.  Stay in His peace, under the protection of His Word and you’ll come through with flying colors!  Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ornaments

As I sat at my desk in the early hours of the day this morning, I allowed myself to get a little sidetracked and began to pray about today’s post.  Almost immediately the word “ornaments” popped into my head.  With my lightning fast mind I thought that this just might be a word from the Lord, so I began to let my imagination ponder the pictures and thoughts that it brought forth.  I immediately pictured our Christmas tree decked out in a colorful array of ornaments that we had collected over the years.  I remembered my favorite clear glass ornament that would send me scurrying through each box marked “Christmas” as my Dad would hand them down to us three kids from the attic in the garage.  It is kind of funny in that after my wife and I were married, I went through my folk’s ornaments and found two different clear glass ornaments and to this day, I cannot recall which one was the favored decoration of my childhood!

My wife worked at a Christian Preschool for a year before and then two or three years after we were married.  She was the youngest member of the staff and to be honest probably didn’t look much older than 16 when she started the job.  I would think that the kids probably looked at her as more of a big sister than a teacher!  One of the highlights of her stay there was the multitude of unique Christmas ornaments that the kids showered her with each Holiday season.  We still have the majority of those ornaments and they always have held a special place in our hearts. 

A few years ago we splurged and replaced all of the old hand me down ornaments that we had inherited from our parents and grandparents (as they updated their decorations!) with wonderful new and shiny ones to hang alongside the preschool and other favorite decorations that we had collected throughout the years with our children.  The new ornaments even included a beautiful golden star to adorn the very pinnacle of the tree!  After 30 some years, we felt like we had finally arrived with the decorations of our dreams!

History tends to establish the beginnings of the tradition of placing ornaments on the tree in 15th century Germany when ornaments made of roses, fruits and nuts were hung along with the plain white candles that were the only decorations on the tree for many previous years.  One of the most popular legends of the origins of the Christmas tree says that it was first introduced to the faithful in Germany in the 5th or 6th century by a Catholic Monk named Boniface, who later became the patron saint of Germany.  Saint Boniface used the tree as an object lesson for the simple and uneducated people explaining how the triangular shape of the tree represented the Holy Trinity.  In 1605 a tree in the city of Strasbourg in eastern France was brought indoors and decorated.  This was said to be a ground breaking moment as it began a new trend of adorned trees in an indoor setting.*

As with many of the traditions that we enjoy each year during the Christmas Holidays (including the very celebration of Christmas itself!), the Christmas tree and the ornaments that we decorate it with began as a way to bring the knowledge of God into a more personal understanding and intimate worship of Him.  These origins have gotten lost in translation and celebration in our country over the years, to the point where it is now deemed offensive if we call it Christmas instead of the Holiday Season!  I had a store manager in our Home Depot in Oklahoma who made a bold stand at an employee meeting declaring (in spite of corporate standards) that “in my store, it will always be called Christmas!”

That’s the declaration that I think all of us should make this year.  But it need not be in a manner that is abusive or offensive to those who don’t understand the true meaning of the Holiday, but as the simple way that we live our lives.  Like the love of God, it should be demonstrated more by our actions of self-giving and joy than by our empty words.  I John 3:18 in the God’s Word translation encourages us by saying: “Dear children, we must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words.”  The King James version terms these empty words as “vain jangling!”  (See: I Timothy 1:6)  I love that phrase… even has sort of a Holiday jingle to it doesn’t it?  (Just make sure that your words aren’t jangles in the ear of your listeners this year!) 
 
I think that is the real meaning and power behind the “Holiday Spirit” that is talked about during this time of the year.  Let your actions be the contagious spirit that those around you catch this year!  Let’s start an epidemic… an epidemic of His love, His joy and His peace!  Have another great day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting TO SPREAD today?”

 

* http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/christmas_ornaments.htm

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Old Red Coleman Lantern

My older son and his lovely wife came over last night to help me move out a few of the large items of mine that were still at my folk’s home, as the house is being prepared to go on the market in the first quarter of 2013.  We had borrowed my father in law’s small pickup and figured that between their mini-van, our Buick and the truck, that we could get everything out in one swift move!  While we were at the house, my son was looking through some old pictures stacked on the floor in the living room.  At one point he turned and asked me why I was taking only a few tangible items of sentimental value from my parent’s home.  The only large item I was taking was the grandfather clock in the dining room, and it wasn’t really for the memories that it invoked, but because I just like old clocks!  In reality, the clock isn’t even that old.  My sister and her first husband had it hand made for my folks when they were stationed in Okinawa back in the late 1970’s.  It just has that stately and old fashioned ambiance about it!

When I thought about my son’s questions I came to the conclusion that the most sentimental things that I hold close to my heart concerning my folks are more the memories of the good times, the poignant experiences and the commonalities that we shared through the years together, rather than pieces of furniture.  The items that meant the most to me were a few of my Mom’s old cookbooks, some of her prized plants, a tool or two of my Dad’s, the old red Coleman camping lantern and an inexpensive painting that used to hang over the piano when I was a kid.  Those tangible remembrances reminded me of our shared loved for cooking, gardening and camping.  The painting brought back memories of the times I spent daydreaming about camping and fishing along the banks of a flowing stream as I lost myself in creative thought while looking at the scene depicted on the canvas (probably while I was supposed to be practicing the piano!).  Those are the simple memories that are indelibly etched in my heart, that were a major contributor to who I am today.

I think that it is those same types of memories that the Christmas season evokes in each of us.  It is interesting that most of the popular Holiday movies that we have viewed over the last couple of years depict the attraction that people have for the more simple celebrations of generations past.  But in reality, those simple times are not how we go through the Holiday’s today.  We tend to get so lost in the shopping frenzies as well as in the rush to get everything done, that we forget the memories and the things that make the Holidays special.  It would almost seem that our hearts and our actual activities are in two different places.  Maybe this year is time that we let our hearts get back in the driver’s seat!

That first Christmas a couple of thousand years ago was quite a simple affair, celebrated in a barn with family, friends and worshippers of the new born king.  Am I saying to get rid of the lights and fanfare of the season?  Not really.  I am more implying that you might consider taking the time to think out this year’s celebration ahead of time, and possibly realign your priorities and subsequent activities to highlight the parts of Christmas and the memories that they kindle in your hearts for you and your loved ones.  Why not have the Christmas that you always wanted and/or remembered it to be, and therefore make it more meaningful and special to all involved?

Then just maybe, throughout the next year, you will be like Mary after the shepherds returned to their flocks and “treasured all these things in her heart and always thought about them.”  (Luke 2:19 God’s Word ©)  Have a wonderful day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What TREASURES am I expecting today?”

 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday

If your email inbox is anything like mine, then it has been filling up with Cyber Monday specials from just about every website that you have ever shopped on!  Ever since the beginning of last week I have had to keep a watchful eye on my email in order to assure that the list of unread messages does not get out of hand!  My phone which is also attached to my email, has been chiming with the announcement of new emails both day and night!

I noticed that many of the big department stores opened even earlier on Black Friday than last year, in order to grab a wider window of opportunity to increase their Holiday sales for the 2012 season.  Everyone from the storefront locations to the virtual cyber stores online are offering deals, discounts and super-savings!  I can remember the frenzy of both store management and the shoppers during the Black Friday’s that I worked a few years back at The Home Depot.  Luckily with my school schedule I worked afternoon and evenings so I did not have to confront the morning rush when the store opened at 5 or 6 AM.  By the time I came to work all I had to do was to tell the customers that we are out of whatever they were looking for! 
 
I have to admit though, that the store did do their best to assure that there was plenty of stock for the special one day items, but nevertheless, due to the onslaught of customers lined up across the parking lot and out to the curb before the store opened, the hot items still ran out within a few hours.  Trying to convince the customers who came in later in the day that we did have more than a just few items to cover the ad was another story!  That is where my sense of humor and charm (Ha!) came into play… that and the availability of sending the upset customer to the Manager on Duty!  The real interesting occasion was the one time when I was the Manager on Duty, covering for the Assistant Manager while he went to lunch!

This weekend I found myself studying in my Bible from Colossians 1:13 and I found out that even God had gotten into the act and was offering Black Friday (or maybe better for us we could say Good Friday…) and Cyber Monday deals for us, His children.  This scripture reads: “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of His Son, whom He loves.”  (God’s Word © personalized)  As I studied out the original Greek wording, I came to understand that the preposition “into” actually means “being of one mind with” (Strong’s)  So you could literally say that “God has rescued us from the power (of authority or influence) of darkness and has brought us into one mind with the Kingdom of His Son, whom He loves.”

In other words, as He thinks and acts and lives, so should we!  How does He live in the heavenlies?  He lives with every need met, in health, and with the ability to make solid, wise and loving decisions.  Now doesn’t that sound like a super-sale to you?  Everything that He has, we have available to us!  How do we find out what these deals are?  Well, you have to go to His store or to His website, the Bible!  The unique thing about God’s sale is that Black Friday or Cyber Monday is EVERYDAY for His children, and you don’t necessarily have to stand in line in a parking lot, in the dark and cold, in the wee hours of the night to have a chance of getting the items on sale!  They are available 24/7 in any time zone in the world!  Now that’s what I call Customer Service!

So, why don’t you join me this year in making God’s Store our most shopped location during the Holiday season and beyond!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What DEALS am I expecting today?”

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Thanksgiving Day Parade

Well, I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration yesterday.  Our day ended up being slightly different than I had originally anticipated it to be.  After taking great pains on Wednesday to be all set for Thanksgiving at Piper’s folks, which included having a special holiday outfit set out for Piper to wear, I was up in the middle of the night with some physical distress, was not feeling too hot on Thanksgiving morning and ended up spending the majority of the day on the couch at home recuperating!

But alas, not all was a total loss as we got to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade which was always a favorite for my wife, followed by a modern version of the 1940’s movie “Miracle on 34th Street.”  At the end of the parade one of the trio of announcers mentioned in closing that this parade signaled the official beginning of the Holiday Season for the city of New York, as well as for many families across the country.  That statement got me to thinking about what events signaled the start of the Holiday Season for me and my readers.

While I can’t necessarily say that the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade was always the initiator of my Holiday spirit, I can say that the Thanksgiving weekend definitely guided my focus into the direction of Christmas and all the events associated with this special time of year.  How about you?  Are there any special events, traditions, or other activities that work as an official starter for your Holiday Season?  Drop me a note in the Comment section at the end of this post and let us all know.  It will be fun to share those key events with each other!

This morning as I looked at the traditional Bible record of the Christmas Story in the second chapter of the book of Luke, I thought about what it was that may have been the original initiator for this world wide event.  Most times when I hear the story of the first Christmas it begins not with the angel appearing to Zachariah or even to Mary, but with the announcement of the census by the governor Quirinius of Syria.  The very idea of that census and the problems and inconveniences that it must have caused the people of Israel captured my imagination.  It more than likely could not have come at a worse time as far as Mary and Joseph were concerned.  With the impending birth of the baby due at any time, the thought of the harshness and danger of travel for days on the back of a beast of burden would have been downright unconceivable!

But through it all, God had a plan… a perfect plan!  Many times we are faced with inconceivable situations that are placed upon us by forces beyond our control.  Those situations may not seem right or fair in our eyes and it is hard to observe any good coming from the event.  It is easy to complain and or feel sorry for ourselves at those times.  But you know?  I don’t read anywhere in the stories of the event recorded in the books of Matthew and Luke where either Mary or Joseph complained about what was set before them.  Although they could not see the finish line ahead, they knew that God had His hand in the situation.  They prepared as much as they could in the natural and then stepped out in faith to flow in line with God’s ultimate purpose for it all.

I was reading this morning from a commentary by John Darby on that first Christmas and he made some interesting statements about the unseen and all powerful hand of God in how things came about.  He said, “All the imperial glory (and power of the Roman Empire) is but an instrument in the hands of God for the fulfillment of his counsels…” (John Darby’s Synopsis of the Bible, Luke 2:1-52)  What we see in this story is the most powerful army in the world, who thinks that they hold total and complete control and dominion over the people of the land, being unknowing used like clay in the hands of God!

We may sometimes think that the government, or the company that we work for, or whatever forces are visibly behind the hard situations we find ourselves in, are just too big for us to fight.  Well, while it is true that they might be bigger than us, they are but clay in the hands of our Almighty God!  So, I guess the question is what or better yet who are you going to trust to fight the battles you face.  I think that I’ll choose the same as Mary and Joseph did in the midst of the extremely hard time that they faced.  I heard someone say that while we only see the beginning of the situation, God sees the end of it!  Since He knows what’s ahead, and has ALL the tools and ability to meet and beat the difficulties, then I think I’ll catch a ride with Him.  It reminds me of that old advertising tagline for Greyhound Bus lines that encouraged us to “Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us!”

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

 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Memories...

I think the fondest memory that I have of Thanksgiving as a child was the time spent at my maternal Grandparent’s house in the late 1950’s.  At that time my Grandparents lived in a quant two bedroom one bath home, three houses down from Santa Rosa’s first major shopping center that deviated away from the downtown area that the builder, Hugh Codding called Montgomery Village.  It was named in honor of Billy Montgomery who was the first solder from our city to be killed in WWII.  I have many wonderful memories of that house and that special Thanksgiving Day many years past seems to epitomize them all.

Like it was yesterday, I can picture standing on the porch with my family, knocking on the door and highly anticipating the fun time that awaited me.  As door was opened the over-powering fragrance of the large turkey that was roasting in the oven wafted through my senses creating euphoria that only an exited little kid can feel!  The big picture window in the small living room was fogged up from all the cooking, and the room radiated with the love that oozed from the hearts of my smiling Grandparents who openly embraced us with hugs and kisses!
 
Whenever I walked into that home I felt secure in the knowledge of the love that was there.  It was a place where I could just be me.  My younger cousin was recently reminding of the times we would play games with our very patient Grandfather who would feign being asleep while we messed up his hair or put cream on his face!  That home was a place where I knew that I was accepted for who I was and was heaped with unconditional love.  While I don’t recall too many more of the details of that Thanksgiving, those feelings that I felt as we walked into that happy place have permanently etched a lasting spot in my heart.  It is a feeling that my wife and I always strived to have in our home as our children grew up.

Philippians 4:6-7 says “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.  And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” (American Standard Version)  The Apostle is telling us that our prayers offered to our heavenly Father when combined with our grateful thanks will result in God’s peace guarding our thoughts and emotions.  I think that indescribable peace is like what I experienced in my Grandparent’s home every time I was there. Another unreferenced translation that I was reading in our study this morning describes it as “the peace of God that beggars description (that sense knowledge can’t understand) shall garrison as with a company of solders your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”

That thankfulness that flows from our hearts after we have turned all of our cares upon Him and rest totally secure in that care is what I want to celebrate with great joy this Thanksgiving!  I believe that is the true essence of the original Thanksgiving celebration.  Those who honored God back in 1621 were thankful for the peace and security that the plenteous and successful harvest would afford them as the harsh winter season was drawing near.  That winter would be a time of life and not death as the previous winter had been.  It gave them a hope that their dreams of abundant freedom and life in the new world would be fulfilled in the years ahead.

I would encourage you as you celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow with family and friends to let it also be a time where you can thank our Heavenly Father for the successful harvest in your own lives, and like those first settlers, give you a lasting hope and expectation of His provision for you in your years to come!  Like me as a child entering into the love, joy and peace of my Grandparent’s home, let that first whiff of the Thanksgiving turkey roasting in the oven fill you with the euphoria of His love and then spread that feeling throughout the Holiday Season ahead.  Have a great Thanksgiving!  We’ll see you back here again on Friday!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Different Take on Life

I awoke from a sound sleep this morning with a jolt, suddenly remembering that I had forgotten to get my wife some more milk for her cereal this morning!   After rummaging around in my brain for a while in order to discover a solution to the dilemma, an answer finally came and I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.  Well, that was a lost cause as I found my mind working overtime with my thoughts beginning to look toward the events of the day ahead.  I had actually gotten up about an hour before all this unfolded to take some Ibuprofen to ease a pounding head and aching neck and hoped to actually sleep later than normal after that in order to help make up for the pressure of the last few weeks, but an hour more was all I was destined to get! 

With that resignation, I flopped out of bed, stumbled into my study to turn on my desktop computer and headed to the coffee maker.  Having accomplished those prerequisites, I returned to the study and sat tiredly down into my chair with a prayer on my lips requesting the Lord for direction in my study, as well as for some family matters that were being forced upon me.  As I settled in, I noticed that my New King James Bible was opened up to the left of my keyboard.  My eyes settled upon it and I began to read from Philippians 1:9 where Paul’s prayer to his reader’s states: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.”

That particular verse hit an instant chord due to the family situation that was unfolding around me.  I knew that I needed to be responding in love, but kept coming up against a wall of frustration and anger when the other individuals involved seemed to display a total lack of understanding and care toward the things that are shaking my world with my wife’s health.  This Word in Philippians pointed me right back to knowing and acting within the realm of the love of God, rather than responding to the knee-jerk reaction that my senses were calling me to take!

From there I moved down a few verses and was stunned as I read Philippians 1:12 where Paul announces, “But I want you to know brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” (NKJV)  In a flash, the accusations, persecutions and lack of care that we have endured from a few close to us over the last three years flashed across the reaches of my mind.  I then remembered another verse found in 2 Samuel 22:29 where it says, “O Lord, you are my lamp.  The Lord turns my darkness into light” (God’s Word ©), and the light of understanding came on within me!

Yesterday afternoon I received a call from a relative of my wife’s and as I hung up the phone, I stood back and shouted “Yes!  It’s happening!”  I then ran into the bedroom where my wife was napping, woke her up, told her who had called and exuberantly declared: “Well, that hasn’t happened for at least three years!”  I won’t bore you with the details of the conversation, but it concerned upcoming holiday events.  It was a call that contained concern for my wife and was filled with enthusiasm and love.  This was a definite departure from the thought and feelings surrounding the planning and unfolding of family gatherings in the past where my wife and I were concerned, since our return from Oklahoma.

With that phone call I could see that the difficulties that we have been dealing with have “actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”  There are also other signs of positive change in our interactions with these relatives that we have noticed over the last few months.  I can see where the scripture we looked at in yesterday’s post from 2 Samuel 22:31 is working in our midst where it unequivocally states that “The promise of the Lord has proven to be true.”  (God’s Word ©)

We choose to take a course of action when we returned home over three years ago now, that was based on clear directions that I has received from the Lord before we left Oklahoma and continued to unfold as we progressed through the first year back in California as my wife’s condition declined.  As I have mentioned in the past, it was not exactly a popular decision with some of my wife’s relatives.  There was some very negative feedback and responses to it, but nevertheless we continued to pursue what we believed the Lord told us to do.  Now it is as though God’s Word has been proven true in many of the steps we took, and the relatives having witnessed it, are changing their responses to us and the walk we endeavored to follow.

That is very exciting to me, because the path we have followed in the midst of working through the difficulties we have faced is working toward “the furtherance of the gospel” in others.  I believe it is working in demonstrating the love and provision of God, and is helping them to be set free in areas that were troubled in their own lives.  You know, I think that this is a different take on life!  It is a positive take on facing the rough times that the enemy of our souls sets before us.  Instead of thinking “poor me,” or on the more positive approach of learning life’s lessons through it for your own sake, consider these times as opportunities for the furtherance of the gospel as you follow His way where He is turning your moments of darkness into light for you and for those with whom your life makes contact with each day!

This different take on life recharged my batteries this morning and gave me the added boost I needed to make sure that I put aside my worldly, knee-jerk reactions to the other family situation that I am facing right now, and follow closely God’s well lit way which will ultimately work for the furtherance of the gospel in the other players involved.  This answered prayer for continued growth “more and more in knowledge and all discernment” gives me another reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving Holiday.  Not that I am thankful for the attack because my Bible clearly states that these hard times do not originate from the Father of lights, (John 10:10, James 1:17) but that I am thankful that my stand of faith in the truth and faithfulness of God’s Word will prove to be an eventual victory for us as well as for those who see our progress in it. (I Timothy 4:15)  Have a wonderful day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Celebrations

In 1621, as the story goes, the Pilgrims celebrated a time of thanksgiving for a successful harvest in the township of Plymouth located in the present-day state of Massachusetts.  Thanksgiving proclamations were continuously made throughout the years in our fledging country by church and civic leaders until after the Revolutionary War.  President George Washington declared the first nation-wide celebration in America marking November 26, 1789 “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.” * It was not until December 26, 1941 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into effect federal legislation that designated the fourth Thursday of November as the national Thanksgiving holiday.

Historically, Thanksgiving began as a tradition of celebration when thanks and honor was given to God for the harvest of the year. Over the years much of the sacred traditions of the holiday have given way to a secular version where family and friends gather around a big meal and enjoy each other’s company.  Once again here, please don’t get me wrong because these gatherings are a good thing.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the holidays celebrated each year where the far-flung members of families will travel great distances to be with their core units.  These are holidays that help to keep the family strong, thriving and intact.

I know for myself though, that this year I want to spend some time earnestly thanking my heavenly Father for all that He has done for my wife and I over the last 12 months since our last celebration of Thanksgiving.  God’s words such as those proclaimed by Samuel in 2 Samuel 22:31 saying, “God’s way is perfect!  The promise of the Lord has proven to be true.  He is a shield to all those who take refuge in Him,” (God’s Word ©) have been the mainstay of our lives and have proven true over and over again.  I bet that I could fill out numerous pages in my note book if I were to write down the number of times where we have experienced the big as well as the little blessings of God.

In fact, you know what; I’m going to do just that this week!  Why don’t you join me in this activity?  Grab a sheet of paper, a notebook or one of the blank pages in the back of your Bible and make a list of all the times and places that God has shown up for you this last year.  It doesn’t matter how big or small you think the intervention may have been, just commit it to ink on the page.  Keep it close to you and make it a running list that you can continue to fill out up until Thanksgiving Day this Thursday.  Then separate some time away by yourself to spend in personal thanksgiving unto our Almighty God for what He has done for you. 

Here’s another thought… Why not place a blank sheet of paper and a pencil at the table setting for each of your guests that attend your holiday celebration.  Then start off the meal by asking each of them to make out their own lists during the dinner, as they think of the times of God’s intervention in their lives.  Then you can sit around the table or the living room after the big meal and share everyone’s lists with each other!  Now that sounds like a real Thanksgiving celebration to me… filling up your stomachs and your spirits as well!  Have a great week as you prepare and look forward to your celebrations of Thanksgiving.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… What am I expecting TO BE THANKFUL FOR Today?”

 

*   Hodgson, Godfrey (2006).  A Great and Godly Adventure; The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving.  New York: Public Affairs.  P. 167. 978-1-58648-373-9.

 

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Neighbor's Song!

A few days ago I was upstairs helping out my wife with some things when I heard the sounds of singing emanating from outside the window that faces our back patio.  As I stopped to listen a little more intently, I became aware that it was my neighbor having a great time singing funny lyrics with a silly intonation.  I burst out laughing and said to my wife: “See, I’m not the only one in the neighborhood who sings silly songs so everyone can hear!”  With that, my wife and I stopped what we were doing and listened and laughed to the beat of our neighbor’s antics!

I was reminded of that funny experience this morning as I concluded my study time by reading from Isaiah 61:10.  Here in a clear reference to the finished work of Christ, the Prophet declares, “I will find joy in the Lord.  I will delight in my God.  (for) He has dressed me in the clothes of salvation.  He has wrapped me in the robe of righteousness.”  (God’s Word ©)  Then he goes on to picture this as a Bride and Groom dressed in their best, looking like a prince and a princess on their wedding day.

As Christians we should always be able to find something to be joyful for, no matter the time, the place or the situation, because of our salvation and righteousness in Christ!  Now, I may not know what provoked my neighbor to sing joyfully, but it was funny and a pleasure to listen to!  Obviously he was happy about something and was expressing his delight.  That’s how you and I should be all the time.  I found myself singing aloud to my wife as I did the dishes last night and then burst out loud thinking that another neighbor of ours that likes to sit outside in her patio next to our kitchen and smoke, and how she could be listening to my love song!

Habakkuk 3:19 in the Greek translation tells of the Lord being our power and how “He will arrange my feet unto completion, and upon the higher places He shall set me, for me to overcome by His ode.”  (Apostolic Bible Polyglot)  He is talking about our singing a song of His victory for us.  He wants us singing of His power, of His love and of His faithfulness to us.  Why?  Because as Isaiah 61:10 stated, we are “dressed in the clothes of salvation” and wrapped “in the robe of righteousness.”  We are to be happy and rejoice by singing of our position in Christ Jesus.  Like Him, we are dressed and seen by Him as being part of the royal family of God.

Over the years my wife and I took the pictures at dozens of weddings.  In the role of the wedding photographer I always met with the bride and/or the bride and groom on numerous occasions before the wedding to discuss and plan the details of the shoot.  Most of the time they normally wore their everyday clothes consisting of something akin to jeans or shorts, t-shirts and sandals or running shoes.  On the day of the wedding I can say without any hesitation that I was almost always rendered speechless when I would walk in and see the bride for the first time in her wedding gown!  No matter who she was, she was a sight of beauty and wonder… you could say that she almost looked royal!  And the groom’s transformation from grungy jeans to a tux, well… what more can I say!

That’s how our heavenly Father sees us ALL THE TIME!  When He looks at us he sees us as dressed in the righteous robe of Jesus.  He looks at us and sees Jesus!  So then, why shouldn’t we rejoice and celebrate everyday just like they do at weddings?  The people in our neighborhoods should be hearing us singing from our house on a daily basis!   They should come to expect it and come to our doors and ask what’s going on when they don’t!”  Our joyful notes should resound in a peace that fills their houses and lives as well as ours, just like our neighbor’s singing brought laugher into ours earlier this week.  Then when they comment to you about how they enjoy your songs, you have an open to door to share just what (or WHO) it is that makes you sing!

I would encourage you this weekend to do as Psalm 97:12 suggests and “find your joy in the Lord, you righteous people.  Give thanks to him as you remember (or acknowledge in full agreement with) how holy he is.”  (God’s Word ©)  Let your voice be the one that brings peace, hope and joy into your neighborhood!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune (no pun intended!) to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What SONG am I expecting TO SING today?”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

First Responders

Last night my wife and I participated in a live stream service from our home church in Oklahoma.  It was a wonderful time and it felt like we were right in the midst of the auditorium with everyone else.  The Pastor was using Habakkuk 3:17-19 as his text and was sharing on the subject of no matter the severity of the situations in life, that God’s people will always be taken care of as we learn to rejoice in the Lord.  Toward the end of the service he began to declare many of the various scriptures that tell of the unchangeableness of the Lord and His Word. Within a few moments the anointing fell, the pace quickened and it was like the Pastor was proclaiming the scriptures with lightning speed!  The atmosphere in the large auditorium lit up and the people began to shout, clap and rejoice.  Then the band began to play and bedlam broke out!

Here at home both my wife and I immediately sprang from our chairs and began to laugh and rejoice.  What was even more interesting was that our dog also sensed the electricity in the air and she too began to bark and do her little doggie dance that she normally does before dinner or when she greets my wife!  It was an exciting moment as we savored the truth of the stability of God’s Word in our lives.

The Apostle Peter summarized this confidence when he declared: “But the word of the Lord stands forever.  And this is the word that was preached to you.”  (I Peter 1:25 NIV)  Take a moment here and bask in the strength of the understanding of that verse.  While everything else may seemingly be falling down around you, God’s Word stands true, strong and unmovable for you.

As I meditated on this verse today, I began to think about how you and I respond to the events in our lives each day.  Is our first response to take God’s Word on the matter at hand or to fall into the fear of the impending doom that may be shouting out to us within the present situation?  I have always been amazed at the actions of the first responders who have come to our assistance during the various times that I had to call 911 for my wife’s needs.  These men and women are trained professionals and they work together like clockwork with each one knowing and performing their assigned responsibilities.  They demonstrate no fear, but go about their tasks with the utmost of confidence while projecting a sense of comfort and peace into the situation.

Is that how we respond when “a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand…?”  (Psalm 91:7 NIV)  It has been interesting for me to see the different first responses of people when they see my wife.  Their initial reactions have ranged from downright shock from friends who hadn’t seen her in a while, to complete strangers in the store who immediately approach her with a smile and talk patiently with her, to family members who still are not comfortable in her presence including one who will begin to talk very loudly, acting like she is hard of hearing!

With the Word of God as our unshakeable foundation, our first response to the curves thrown at us in life should always be like those of the trained emergency professionals.  I think that Christians should be trained professionals when it comes to knowing and acting upon the Word of God, don’t you?  Life is always changing, and things can suddenly happen that work to disrupt our carefully planned schedules, but our peace and our confidence should not be shaken!  The words of truth like Malachi 3:6 in the Contemporary English Version stating that “I am the LORD All-Powerful and I never change!,” should immediately come to mind and fill us with the confidence and know how to overcome the change that has just been thrown at us!

At times like this it would behoove us to remember and declare the confession that the Pastor had us to make last night saying: “The promises of God are my future and I am counting on my God to prevail!”  Write that one down and memorize it, then when the curves of life are thrown, your first response will be to stand on His Word which never changes!  Have a super day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Definitions of Love

As I look out the window from my kitchen table today, I am enamored by the deep clear blue sky, the leaves of the tall Maples across the road displaying their full array of fall colors and the relative warmth of our 64 degree weather.  People that live in our area talk about how they love the weather, the multifaceted landscape of meadows, valleys and mountains, as well as our proximity to the cosmopolitan city of San Francisco.  If you have ever noticed, most people use the word “love” to describe their attraction to a wide variety of objects, people, places, and pets.  It is a word that we toss around quite freely.

John 15:9 talks about “love” saying, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in my love.” (NKJV)  The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible says “to continue in my love.”  Young’s Literal Translation encourages us to remain in my love.”  So we see here that Jesus is instructing us to continue in the same kind of “love” that both He and our heavenly Father exemplified.

Just what is this kind of “love?”  Is it loving where you live?  Loving your spouse, your house, your dog or what you had for dinner last night?  How would you express the “love” of the Father toward us?  In one word, Jesus!  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John3:16 NKJV)  Another way to describe this “love” as well as the “love” that Jesus demonstrated would be to say God explained His “love” to us by His actions.

In the last three plus years that we have been back in our home town and dealing with my wife’s situation we have seen many who have talked a good word toward us, even strong words of faith, but have neglected to follow through with actions.  Lots of suggestions but little personal involvement.  The God kind of “love” that I have come to intimately know over this same period of time tells me that He loved His creation so much that He became personally involved with them in the daily concerns and needs of their lives. 

When people were sick, Jesus went to their homes without question.  When people had other needs He assisted them.  He continually and selflessly gave of Himself to the point that His immediate family was concerned for His health!  Is that the same way that you and I “love” others in our lives?  I can honestly look back and say that this has not always been true for me.  Many times the daily activities of my life were just too important for me to take a small detour in order to go and help someone else.  Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I am seeing life and more importantly “love” -  Godly “love” from a different standpoint.

What is your personal definition of the kind of “love” that Jesus was talking about in John 15:9?  Are there any areas of it that may need to be adjusted?  I know that I am making daily adjustments!  Experience can sometimes be a hard taskmaster, but I would rather learn now with a few bumps, than live my life without ever really learning what it truly means to continue or remain in Christ’s “love.”  And you know… when all is said and done, the extra effort it takes to give of yourself to others is well worth the peace that you feel deep inside.  If you listen real closely you can hear Him saying to you: “Well done good and faithful servant (or in our case it would be ‘son’ or ‘daughter’!); thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter into the joy of thy lord.”  (Matthew 25:23 KJV)

Have a great day today!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today”

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Supercars!

My curiosity was peaked today when I read an article in the December 2012 issue of Car and Driver magazine.  It was entitled “Speed Sells” and was filled with various charts and percentages illustrating the global distribution of the 7673 Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren supercars sold in 2011.  The two leading areas were Western Europe with 3229 cars accounting for 42% of the global market followed by the United States with 1918 cars and a 25% market share.  What really caught my attention was that even some of the poorest countries in the world recorded sales of these highly expensive and somewhat impractical (but absolutely stunning, powerful, and cutting edge) cars.  (You have to understand that I am a car nut!  My dream is to have barn full of them… and a personal mechanic to maintain them!) The article begins by with the writer’s thanks to the worldwide super-rich for buying enough of these cars in order to support their continued manufacture!

I think that my study of Philippians 4:19 this morning was the catalyst for my interest in this article.  This familiar verse states: “And my God shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (NKJV)  Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not necessarily advocating that all us car enthusiasts prove our faith by asking for a Ferrari or a Bugatti (my personal favorite…).  What I am saying is that the breakdown of this verse in the original language in which it was written indicates that our heavenly Father will abundantly, fill to the full, make complete in every particular, every and all occasion, demand, requirement or state in which something is wanted, in a glorious way through our living in a fixed position of rest in Christ Jesus.

To be honest, this could be a supercar for someone who has the means and ability to maintain such a vehicle, and on the other hand, it could simply be a source of fresh, clean water for someone in a third world country, or food for one’s family, or a better job, or a spouse, or children or a whole multitude of needs.  It is between you and God.  Like a loving father, He is there for you.  I personally love to be in a place right now where I can assist my kids if needed. 

Our loving heavenly Father has always been in that place to help you with whatever you need.  The Good News Bible refers to His riches as “all of His abundant wealth.”  The word “riches” means wealth, fullness, abundance or riches.”  So whatever it is that you may need, be it spiritual, physical, financial, or emotional, He desires and has the means to provide it for you.  If you still don’t get it, let me be more specific… You are not alone or left entirely to your own resources and ability in this world.  He is always with you and wants to assist you! 

My father-in-law once made the comment to my wife early in our marriage saying “Don’t ever let me find out that you did without something knowing that I could have helped.”  This is a similar desire that I hope to carry on with my kids.  It reminds me of Matthew 7:11 where Jesus said: “You know how to give good things to your children.  How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  (Good News Bible)  The key to this verse is in having the confidence in His love and in His ability to answer your request.  My resources may have a limit to the extent that I may be able to assist my kids, but our heavenly Father’s are limitless and without end!  The other part of this equation probably includes our humbling ourselves before Him in order to ask for help when needed, but then that’s another subject for another blog post!

For most of us, the thought of owning a supercar as a daily driver is beyond comprehension, too expensive or not too practical, but there are countless other needs and personal desires that our heavenly Father longs to be able to bless you, his favorite child with.  Think about that today!  Don’t try to go it alone.  Let Him in and enjoy the fellowship, the love and the care that He desires to give to you.  Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”