Our New Home

Our New Home
Fall is defintely in the air!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

NOW Faith!

When I completed writing the blog post yesterday while seated at the kitchen table, my wife came over to me, leaned down and put her arms around me.  I sat back in the chair, embraced her and began to give thanks to God.  You must understand ,that as one who is dealing with the effects of dementia, she has not responded this way toward me for some time now.  As I held on to her and enjoyed her closeness, I began to reflect on what I had just written concerning our need to “hold on to our declaration of faith.” (Hebrews 4:14 God’s Word©)  I was instantly reminded that along the way we also need to celebrate God’s little miracles or those little victories that He sends to us in order to encourage us in our stand. 

My wife’s actions at that moment were definitely one of those moments and I began to shout through my tears exclaiming His faithfulness to us.  I think that we can sometimes get so caught up in seeing the end results of the answered prayer that we tend to miss what God is doing for us in the midst of our stand of faith.  It kind of goes back to what I wrote about last week concerning those who are seeking the miracle and miss the Miracle Worker!
Yes, Jesus did tell us in Mark 16:17 that “these signs shall follow them that believe…” (KJV) But I believe the point that He was trying to convey to us was that the attesting signs will follow those who believe in Him.  In other words, the miracles happen to those who keep their attention focused on Jesus and not on the results of their faith in Him.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that NOW faith is…”  It is talking about a faith that is happening right NOW in us who believe.  It is another one of those actions that is current, fresh and occurring in the very present tense.  As our eyes are attentive to Him, we won’t miss any of the little miracles or little victories that are ours each day.  A NOW faith is one that is exciting because something is always happening.  An individual who is so focused on a future answer to their prayers is not in faith but in hope, and hope is a frail foundation compared to a current NOW faith in what God is doing for you today!  A NOW faith is rewarded as was mine yesterday when my wife came over and gave me a hug… just like old times!
Was that hug the total answer to what we are standing in faith for?  No, but it was a sign of encouragement that re-ignites my passionate desire to stay focused on the ONE behind the expected miracle.  Have a wonderful day.  Stay focused on Him and His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to see today?”

 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Fruit of Your Labor

I went out onto our large patio off the kitchen this morning to pick a fresh lemon from our beleaguered lemon bush for the muffins I was preparing for breakfast.  I stood there for a few moments looking at the lush green leaves and abundance of fruit and was glad that I had not given up hope.  If you’ve been a reader of our blog for any amount of time you may recall the great “Battle of the Rats” that I fought about a year and a half ago.

Being as our little neighborhood community is in close proximity to a golf course, at the eastern border of our city limits with open country nearby and has a creek flowing through the midst of it, we tend to have a population of little four legged creatures that also enjoy our terrain!   While I had seen the little guys around the walkways and had talked to other residents who had problems with the rats, we had never seen any in our patios, until I began to see a few signs around the deck area.
What finally forced me into action is when I discovered that they were eating the leaves off our long standing lemon bush.  Before I knew it, they had stripped the bush of all its leaves and began gnawing on the branches.  To make a long story short, after using traps I finally observed a couple of places where they were making entrance into the patio and put out a couple of containers of rat bait where the dog could not be endangerd (the dog also did her part by catching one unsuspecting varmint!).  The bait did the trick but we were left with a pathetic looking skeleton of a lemon tree.
After considering the thought of digging up what was left of the bush and replacing it, I decided to give it another chance.  I trimmed it down to a small stub, fertilized it and then took great care of it over the ensuing winter months.  In the spring I was rewarded with the first few shoots of fresh green growth!  As spring turned into summer and beyond, the little bush continued to recover, grew all new growth and entered the next year full of bright green leaves and healthy growing branches!
This fall, over a year after looking quite hopeless, I began to notice the first blooms followed by an abundance of little green lemons!  Last week I was able to pick the first fruits, and as I mentioned, was able to pick one today in order to add its delicious juices as an ingredient to my muffins!
What a terrific example of the faithfulness of God and of our persistence in never giving up on Him and the truth of His Word!  Hebrews 4:14 encourages us “to hold on to our declaration of faith…” (God’s Word ©)  Even when things look hopeless, give them over to God and never yield to the thoughts of defeat and failure.  Spend regular time in His Word in order to keep your faith strong (Romans 10:17), and keep your eye on the prize of the higher calling of God’s promises in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
Then as my wife and I are enjoying the harvest of our lemon bush, you too will enjoy the fruits of your labor as a reward for your stand on the truth of God’s Word!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reaching Out

I have always enjoyed watching how other people do things.  I mentioned in a former blog post that I am one of those who tend to learn by observation.  But before you write me off as the typical male, let me say, I also am one who will read the instruction manual so that I have some basic knowledge of what I am observing!  As an Assistant Pastor, Youth Pastor, Children’s Pastor and Worship Leader, I have kept an eye out to see how other Christian professionals attend to their prospective areas of expertise.  I can’t even begin to count the various conventions, classes, webinars, camps, books, magazines and websites that I have gone to or read and gleamed precious information and practical experience from.

One of the first things I’ve learned as I’ve gathered this information and incorporated parts of it into our ministry is the knowledge that what may work in one area of the country, in a particular city or within the viewpoint of an individual’s specific vision will not necessarily work for all.  Over the years I have heard many Christians talk about how hard or difficult it is to bring the Gospel message into the area of California where I live.  I have seen many churches (including a few that I have been a part of) fail in their attempts to establish a work here.  In the past I have tended to agree with those who have bemoaned the liberal attitude of our county.  But lately, as I have experienced some tremendous difficulties in my life with my wife’s situation and have been consuming myself in the Word of God’s grace and love, I have begun to formulate a new hypothesis!
I have come to the personal conclusion that I love the people and idiosyncrasies of those who live here!  Except for the three years in Oklahoma and a year in Chico, California where we attended Chico State University, I have lived my entire life here.  I have worked, played, ministered to and laughed and cried with the people of my county.  The reality that has opened my eyes is that most of those who made discouraging comments about our area, did little to get to know, appreciate and respect those who live here.
Romans 15:2 in S. Ways translation of Paul’s letter to the Romans clearly encourages the church to “Let each of us try to make his neighbor happy, keeping in view his true interests, aiming at building up the structure of his spiritual life.” (Romans 15:2 The Letters of St. Paul to Seven Churches and three friends with the Letter to the Hebrews.)  This scripture demands that we change the way we minister to others!  Instead of trying to force our ideas, our experiences, and what we believe to be the truth on people, I believe that we first need to get to know what makes them tick.  It is important to discover the life experiences that have formed who they are and therefore what they believe.
There are probably hundreds of books in publication that tell how particular churches succeeded in ministering to their communities.  Many have tried to follow their processes and have failed.  Why?  Because each community has a flavor, a history and a draw that is unique to their locale.  I have often heard it said that Tulsa is considered the “belt buckle” of the Bible Belt in the United States.  But you know what?  Tulsa has its serious and unique problems just like anywhere else in the country.  The churches and ministries that are successful there have done their homework and are meeting many of specific needs occurring in that environment.  There are a few churches in our northern California area that are thriving and growing because they too have put a hand on the pulse of this community.  Have they compromised the Gospel message?  No, I do not believe that they have.  They may emphasize certain parts of it more than others, but they are majoring in applying the truths that the people receiving their ministry need to hear the most.
This may sound radical to some, but I think it is all about putting the needs of the people first.  To me, this is the true Gospel of grace and love.   Think about it for a moment.  How much of Romans 15:2 is in operation in your life today?  Are you getting to know and understand the lives of your spouse, your kids, your neighbors and those you might work with?  Are you willing to change your approach in order to bless someone else?  I know that many of my set ideas of ministry have been dramatically upended and changed over the last few years.  But you know what?  I think it is a good thing!  I believe it has made me more pliable and therefore usable in the hands of the Master!  What do you think?
Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, January 28, 2013

Accept It, Enjoy It!

I was dumbfounded this morning as I glanced over at my calendar on the wall and realized that we are just about finished with the month of January already!  Where did the time go?  It seems like it was just yesterday that I sat at my desk in late August thinking that summer was almost over!  Things are sure changing quickly around us.   And speaking of change… I heard a dynamic sermon yesterday that was all about… you guessed it, CHANGE!

The one statement that really caught my attention was when the Pastor declared that “People struggle with change because they don’t really know the One who doesn’t change!”  Hebrews 1:12 and 13:8 tell us that God never changes.  The things of the world are constantly changing, but He is the Rock that is immutable. 
We live in a world where technologies are changing daily.  These new technologies are dictating the way we that we live our lives today.  Think about how much has changed over the last 100 years in the areas of transportation and communication alone!  Come to think about it, consider all that has changed in the past fifteen years!  Some of the mainstays of our lives like Facebook, Twitter, smartphones and tablets where but a distant dream in the minds of hardware and software engineers! 
Most of these changes are designed to help us function better in the ever-increasing complexities of our daily lives.  This may be a funny example, but it is the first that comes to mind…  I remember sitting by my wife’s bed in the emergency room of the hospital after one of her seizures late last year.  She was doing better and I finally had the occasion to relax a bit when I remembered that we were going to miss the World Series parade that I had been looking forward to seeing after following the Giants amazing year.  (I told you it was a funny example!)  As I sat back in my chair a little disappointed, I suddenly remembered the Directv app that I had on my iPhone.  With renewed hope I went through the offerings on the app and discovered that I could remotely program my DVR at home through my phone!  Now isn’t that cool!  Even with all the traumatic events of the day, my wife and I were able to relax on the couch later that evening and enjoy the parade at our leisure!
I know that I have mentioned before how blessed I am when I see Senior Citizens embracing modern technology!  In my days on the sales floor at The Home Depot, it was always a pleasure for me to talk with acknowledged understanding with some of our older customers about the many benefits and extra offerings available on the company’s website.  People who get stuck in the past seem to be afraid to venture out and enjoy the progress of our current times. 
Yesterday my wife and I took a drive out to the coast.  On the way back as we were winding our way along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I glanced with awe at a passing new deep red Corvette convertible and was taken back when I realized that the lone occupant was a women who looked to be in her mid-seventies!  When I commented about it to my wife I suddenly burst out laughing and said: “Why Not?”  Why can’t she enjoy a Corvette like anybody else?  Talk about stereotyping people!
My point for all this is to encourage you to enjoy change!  Embrace the many helpful technologies that are out there in order to help us enjoy life more.  We do not have to be intimidated by change as were my folks when my brother hooked up a computer in their den with internet access a few years ago.  It seemed like the perfect tool for them to easily communicate with their family and friends on the east coast.  But it just sat there collecting dust while my mother complained about the time it took to write and then receive replys from her letters.
The changes that are occurring around us may be a little unsettling to us, but take comfort in knowing that the ONE we place our trust in never changes.  His ways are the same, His love is unending and His power is still able to do “exceedingly, abundantly above all we can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV)  He is the constant that we can hang onto as we discover better changes ahead.  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fountains

“May the Lord who vouchsafes (grants) to you that same hope (expectation) fill you with all joy and peace through the exercise of your faith, so that this hope (expectation) of yours may be an overflowing fountain, by the power of His Holy Spirit.” *

As I meditated on this scripture translation this morning, I recalled a time many years ago when a few hungry believers had banded together with the vision of a new and mighty work of God in our city.  As we gathered on that Thursday night in the living room of our house, we were expectant as to the Word that our interim Pastor was to bring us.  He spoke that particular night on the exercising of our faith.
After laying down his foundation scriptures and the tenets of his instruction, he paused and asked each of us sitting on couches, folding chairs and on the floor if we were currently in active faith for something.  I still can remember as clearly as if it was yesterday as most of those in the room answered in the negative to his question.  I was in the midst of a new business adventure that found my family and I believing God for many things and in particular regular financial income!
It did strike me odd though, that the majority of the adults in the room, most of whom I considered as strong Christian leaders, just kind of shrugged their shoulders in reply to his inquiry.  The ensuing encouragement that he shared with us that night about our need to stay in faith was all brought back to me this morning with the study of the above verse.
Paul is telling us here that our great expectations of the abundant life of Jesus for us and others is that which fills us with all joy and all peace, but that it only occurs through the exercise of our faith!  Other translations state it as the “joy and peace of believing.” (KJV)  It would seem then, that “believing” is an action word!  It is not just an understanding that we have, but an activity or exercise that we pursue in life.  The verse then concludes by declaring that our joy and peace turns our expectations of the abundant life of Jesus into an overflowing fountain that others can bask and be refreshed in!
It reminds me of the little park in the old downtown area of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma where we lived and attended Bible School, that had a small children’s play area with a fountain in the middle of it.  That small stream of water splashed onto a flat cement area and became a mecca to young kids throughout the hot, humid summer days that abounded in that area of the country.  I would always find myself laughing at the smiling faces of the kids and their Mom’s as they enjoyed the refreshing cool water of the fountain that I observed while I drove by.
Our active, trusting exercise of believing God for the various needs and/or prayers in our lives is like that refreshing fountain was to those hot and thirsty kids!  The example of our living faith will draw those hungering and thirsting for answers to the fountain of His love that flows from us.  Then all we have to do is to let them get wet and refreshed!  That’s what I desired to be, a fountain used of Him to quench the life thirst in those I come into daily contact with.  How about you?  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself, “What am I expecting today?”
 
·         Romans 15:13 (The Letters of St Paul to Seven Churches and three friends with the Letter to the Hebrews – Arthur S. Way) 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Spill!

Let me ask you a few questions today.  What is your take on the people that you interact with every day?  What do you feel is your place or responsibility toward them?  Is there a difference with the manner in which you present yourself to the members of your family, to those in your church or to those with whom you work with?  I have known of many who would answer a resounding yes to the above questions.  I’ve always hoped that I would see no difference in the way I acted in any of those environments.

Through the years though, I have had a few reality checks.  Like the time when my oldest son was hired as a temporary employee at Agilent Technologies in the same building, on the same floor and on the same shift that I worked as a supervisor in the Machine Shop.  Although we were in different divisions, we still saw a lot of each other, and I personally knew his supervisor and many of his co-workers.  It actually was a great experience, but it sure made me aware of the way I carried myself on the job. 
Another opportunity presented itself when a few members of our church were also hired at Agilent.  (Agilent was the largest private employer in the county at the time with well over 3000 employees in three different sites.)  At first I was tempted to be a little embarrassed when these individuals would address me as “Pastor” whenever we saw each other.  But I quickly got over that as I realized that I was always open as to my faith and my position within the body of Christ on the job, and that it probably wasn’t shocking news to those who may have over-heard them.  If anything, being addressed that way in front of my team or in the cafeteria or in the hallways opened additional doors for me to share Jesus and His ways with others at work.  Over the years at Hewlett Packard/Agilent I had numerous opportunities to minister to hurting individuals who actually approached me for assistance.
Romans 12:8-9 teaches us that “If you come with sympathy to (those who) sorrow, bring God’s sunlight in your face.  Let there be no pretense about your love.” (The Letters of St Paul to Seven Churches and three friends with the Letter to the Hebrews – Arthur S. Way)  While the context of this particular exhortation was to the church, it also holds a truth to the way we carry ourselves everywhere we go.  I personally believe that as Christians, we have a responsibility to bring God’s sunlight with us when we go out in public.  In fact, it shouldn’t necessarily even be something we think about when we walk out the door.  We should be so filled up with His love that it is just a natural part of who we are to the world.  If we are comfortable with who we are in Him and in what He has done for us, then His sunlight should simple be an overflow to those around us.
Think about that as you walk in your world today.  Get excited about “spilling” His sunlight on others!  Watch for their expressions of trouble and sorrow to visibly change in your presence.  Then as the doors open up, share just why you are the way you are!  Have a wonderful day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What (or) Who am I expecting to SPILL ON today?”  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Test

As I read through the eleventh and twelfth chapters of Romans this morning, I was star struck at tthought of the love that our heavenly Father has for us.  The explanations of how much God loves the Jews as well as the Gentiles made me stop and write down the heartfelt truth that was pulsating through my being at the time, simply that: I know that God’s love never fails!”  It really doesn’t matter how bad a mess we have made of our lives, His love for us is infallible.  His heart cries out for our fellowship and when we yield to Him for help, He is ready and waiting to pour His love out toward us.

Wow!  If that is not enough to jump start your day, then I don’t know what else will work!  His love is more powerful and effective than any stimulant, any exercise and any form of recreation or meditation!  Can’t you just see the actor on the 5 Hour Energy Drink commercial holding up a Bible as the source of all his energy and accomplishments instead of the bottle of the product?
Arthur S. Way in his translation of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome defines Romans 12:2 by saying: “Do not conform to the externalities of this world; nay, let your characters be transformed by the birth of a new life purpose, so that you may put God’s design to the test of your own experience, and so prove how kind, how gladdening, how flawless it is.”  God wants us to put His love to the test in the experiences of our daily lives!
Have you done this lately?  As I paused at one point in my study time this morning, I looked up and noticed that my screen saver had kicked in and was alternately displaying the various photos I have saved in my pictures library on my desktop computer.  Since this tends to distract me from my study, I leaned over and tapped the enter key.  I had forgotten that I had minimized my eSword Bible program and the screen returned to my desktop background picture which I had recently changed to a photograph I had taken of my wife while on a hike a few years ago in the Sierra’s near the California/Nevada border.  In the pic she is standing under the towering Pines, in a pair of jean shorts and T-shirt with her left hand on her hips and a big smile on her face.
When I looked upon the picture I also broke into a big smile and began to laugh.  As I took in the enjoyment etched on her face and remembered that hike to a distant alpine lake, I instantly felt the peace of God’s working in me.  I immediately thought of the verse in Romans 12:2, grabbed a brightly colored highlighter pen and wrote down with a new resolve in the midst of the tough situation we have been dealing with over the last few years that: “God’s design is flawless, therefore His Word is flawless, and therefore His love is flawless!”
Will I see my wife looking like that again?  Probably not… because if I understand the Word, then I will see her looking even BETTER than that!  What do I base that bold and seemingly rash statement on?  I base it on the truth of God’s Word and the personal testing of God’s love in our lives!  I have to confess… He ALWAYS has passed the test!
Do you have an area in your life where you might just need to put God’s love to the test?  My experience agrees with His Word and tells me that He will not fail you or the test!  Abandon your inhibitions, step out boldly and test to see “how kind, how gladdening and how flawless” His life purpose for you is!   Then you’ll find yourself breaking out into a big smile and enjoy a hearty laugh just as I did this morning.  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Is Your Intent?

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog about my being a student of the Pentecostal revivals of the past.  I recently purchased another book on Healing Evangelists with a gift card that I had received from my son and his family for Christmas.  Even though I am only through a couple of chapters in the book, it is very apparent that the burning desire for each of these great men and women of God that drove them and their ministries in the United states and Europe was the love of Jesus and the saving of souls.  The healing ministry was a by-product of their focus on Jesus.

Please don’t misunderstand me as it was a very important by-product and one that they actively pursued and ministered to the thousands that attended their meetings.  But that being said, their first intent was that of the spreading of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The common denominator of all the various evangelists over the centuries was that of a very personal relationship with the Lord.  Many of them had encountered the Lord in extremely difficult personal times and desired to spread the love and grace that He had shown them with the world.
I have mentioned numerous times about my own testimony of coming to personally know the Lord Jesus.  As a Catholic lad in good standing, I had attended parochial school for seven years, served for numerous years as an altar boy assisting the priest during the celebration of the Eucharist, loved God, but understood little about His Son and His ministry to us.  During my senior year in High School, I began to date my wife and often times found us in discussions about our religious beliefs.
Now mind you, I considered myself a good Christian but yet I was very much enthralled at how she seemed to talk about Jesus as if He were her best friend.  It was like she really knew Him, and better yet, that He really knew and took care of her.  To me God was always there, but a little distant… and Jesus, well, we just didn’t talk much about Him!  All I knew was that the priests and the nuns in elementary school would always make the sign of the cross, bow their heads or genuflect when His name was mentioned.  He was always kind of a mystery to me!
But the more my wife to be and I talked, the more I knew that I wanted that relationship too!  It took me a few years, but I finally received Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord and have been in His service ever since!
Now why have I written all this?  It is because as Christians I believe that it is imperative that everything we do, say and think should center around Him and His Word.  Like I wrote yesterday, “We must focus on Jesus, the initiator and completer of our faith.”  (Hebrews 12:2 – compilation of various translations)  He is the One that gets us to the different places we need to be in life and then stays with us (if we allow Him), leading, directing and empowering us until it is time to move on to His next assignment.
Many of the well-known Revivalists of the past came and went, but the few that stayed in the forefront and still have ministries that exist today, are the ones that kept their eyes focused on Jesus and off of men’s suggestions, riches and fame.  That is the kind of legacy that I want to have.  How about you?  I want the visions and dreams, the plans and purposes that I have followed to stay the challenges of time and continue to be a blessing to others for many years to come.  Have a great day!  Stay focused on Him and His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, January 21, 2013

What Are You Looking At?

I spent a considerable amount of time this last weekend thinking about the reality of seeking first the Giver and not the gifts, the promises and all the other things that are ours through the redemptive work of Christ.  It seemed like everything I looked at brought home another point on this subject.  Through it all, I could see the error of my ways at different times in my life.

As a Pastor who actively believes in the anointing of God working through believer’s lives, I have personally felt the power of God flow through me as I have laid hands on believers when they came forward for prayer at the end of a service.  It is a feeling that can be compared to nothing else that I have experienced before.  It is a phenomenon that I have heard taught at church for many years and have witnessed at countless church services, conventions, camps and prayer meetings.  As a student of the great revivals of the past, I have also hungrily devoured book upon book describing the miraculous works that have followed the teaching of the Word throughout the world. (See Mark 16:15-20) But lately I came to the personal revelation that I might just have been spending more time seeking the gifts, the power and the miracles instead of the One behind them.
This stark reality check came to me after I had opened up my heart to a friend and shared many of the things that were behind the difficult emotional times that I have been experiencing of late.  By expressing my thoughts to a caring and attentive ear, I became aware of some of the triggers of the negative emotional state I was attempting to fight through.  I think the straw that broke the camel’s back of the weight I had been carrying was when I realized my reactions to my wife as I greeted her each morning.
After spending an hour or more first thing in the morning, building myself up in the wonderful truths of God’s Word, I would go in the bedroom proclaiming my wife’s healing only to be greeted by a smile backed up with distant eyes and a drawn face.  And instantly my high emotional state was popped like a balloon pierced by a sharp pin.  This weekend it finally dawned at me that I was looking for the results and not the results Giver in her!
In Matthew 5:6 Jesus instructed us saying: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (English Standard Version)  Matthew 6:33 says to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”  (KJV)  Both of these verses are telling us to keep our eyes on Him and not the things that you are believing for or else you won’t be satisfied!  As I meditated on this over the weekend I began to understand why believers become disappointed and confused when they don’t receive the healing, the provision, the answer or anything else that they have requested in faith from the Lord in a timely manner.
When our eyes are focused solidly on the Lord instead of the requested item, we stay in peace and joy until such time as we experience the manifestation of what He has promised us in agreement with His Word.  Wow, what a relief to understand this!  Hebrews 12:2 tells us that “We must focus on Jesus the source and goal of our faith.” (God’s Word ©)  By keeping our eyes on Him we keep our faith strong from the beginning of our stand until the completion of it.
I’m sure that I’ll have more on this subject as this week progresses, but as for today, I would encourage you to join me in singing the chorus to that powerful hymn written by Helen H. Lemmel in 1922 as an exhortation of Hebrews 12:2 proclaiming:
len“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
 Look full in His wonderful face,
 And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
 In the light of His glory and grace.”

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

Friday, January 18, 2013

Making Provision

Isn’t interesting how the Lord can take two seemingly unrelated portions of scriptures written at different times, by different authors and to different audiences, but yet bring a deeper meaning to an important point that He is trying to convey to you?  That is exactly what happened to me this morning.  After taking a side trip away from my current study in the book of Romans yesterday where I took a look at Matthew eleven, I returned to where I had left off in Paul’s letter to the Christians in the city of Rome.

As I began to read the concluding verses in chapter thirteen, I was immediately drawn back into the reality of our need to spend each day with Jesus, living our lives in the power of His Word.  Romans 13:12-14 in the NKJV encourages us by stating:
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand.  Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not in strife and envy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
I recently picked up an interesting and pointed translation of Paul’s epistles entitled “The Letters of St Paul to Seven Churches and Three Friends with the Letter to the Hebrews” written originally in 1901 and revised in 1906 by Arthur S. Way.  He likens our hooking up with Jesus to the clothes that we wear saying, “Nay, but clothe you with the nature of our Lord, of Jesus the Messiah.  Ah, let not the body, and the pampering of its cravings, be your life’s aim.” (verse 14)  That’s how close we should be to Him in the events of our everyday lives.  Most of us spend time figuring out what we are going to wear each day.  Then we’ll normally take a peek in a mirror throughout the day to assure that we still look appropriate.  That is the way it should be when we clothe ourselves with Jesus, making provision for Him at the beginning of the day with regular checkups (or “check-ins” with Him) throughout the day!
The Message Bible’s take on these verses got me to laughing this morning.  It brings the thought home by saying, “Get out of bed and get dressed!  Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the last minute.  Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!” (Romans 13:13-14)  That analogy brought back memories of when I was first dating my wife in High School.  It quickly became apparent that I could not call her on Saturday mornings before 11:00 AM as her family slept in on that day.  Then if I should happen to go over to visit her later in the day (which was a common event…), her mother and many times the rest of her family were still clothed in their pajamas or bathrobes.
That was very unusual for me because my family was always up early on Saturdays, had breakfast together and had completed the majority of our weekend chores by then!  I do not remember if we really discussed it very much, but it always blessed me that my wife did not continue that tradition, but always dressed and was ready for the day first thing in the morning after we got married.  I guess we just like to be ready to face the day as soon as we can!
So, are you ready for the day today?  Are you dressed with Christ and up and about with Him?   The NKJV tells us to “make no provision for the flesh.”  The word “provision” made me think of Joshua 1:11 were Joshua told his officers to “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’”  The difference between the two verses though, is that Paul is telling his readers to not make provision for failure while Joshua is telling his people to make provision for success!
Paul said to walk properly and not in ways that are detrimental to you.  Joshua reminded the Israelites of God’s Word that He had given Moses for them.  He was telling them to clothe themselves in God’ promises.  It was the provision that they needed for the new day that was ahead of them.  And it is the same provision that we need to make for the new days ahead of us!
This weekend might just be the perfect time to make some provisions for the new week ahead.  Take the time to go through your wardrobe to make sure that you will be clothed in Christ for the days and weeks ahead in 2013 and beyond!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Load Limits

I heard a refreshing sermon last night where the Pastor was talking about “Load Limits.”  He went on to say that if we are not careful, most of us end up carrying loads that we are not meant to carry.  Then he quoted the audacious statement that Jesus made when He was teaching on the same subject and said: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28 NKJV)  Strong’s says that the word “rest” means “intermission, or by implication recreation.”  Thayer’s Greek Definitions defines it as a “cessation of motion.”   In other words, it would mean making a complete stop of the action you were taking.  To let go of the burden you might be carrying and find rest in Him.

The Message Bible makes it even clearer saying, “Are you tired?  Worn out? Burnt out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)
I always remember what the founder of the Bible School I attended once said concerning going to that particular School.  He commented that half of what you would learn would be what was taught, the other half by what was caught!  That statement held very true for me as I am one of those that learns by observation.  Not only did I take copious notes and hang on every word that was taught in the many varied classes, but I keenly watched the staff as they performed their duties at the school, the Pastors on Sundays and during midweek and special services and also the support teams as the assisted with their various responsibilities around the school and at services.
That is how Jesus wants us to be with Him.  He strongly desires for us to spend time with Him in the daily course of our lives.  To “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me…” (Matthew 11:29 NKJV) To learn meaning “to learn by use and practice.” (Thayer’s)  He is asking us to couple up with Him, to watch and then to do just as He does.  And then He completes His statement by assuring us that “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:30 NKJV)
You see, He doesn’t want us carrying any heavy burdens, and He doesn’t want us going through and handling life’s situations without Him.  He’s got the answers, the know-how and can show us those little short cuts to make the things we are to do in this life a lot easier. That’s what it means when He encourages us to “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”  There is a pattern or rhythm of His grace that is available for us 24/7!
That’s where I want to be!  Why do things the hard way, when He has got the perfect way already established for us to follow?  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fresh Air

As I stepped onto the patio this morning in order to remove the sheets covering our frost sensitive plants, I was taken back at fragrance and feeling of the fresh the air.  The morning dawned clear and bright and the air was crisp with the anticipation of the coming warmth of the sun as it climbed higher in the sky.  As I looked around at the sights that captured my attention and with the peace that filled my heart, I became introspective and begin to think about how this was the same way I feel immediately following a dynamic Sunday Service at church, or toward the end of my daily Bible Study time each morning.

Being in the presence of God’s Word just makes me feel good!  How about you?  In John 6:35 Jesus said: “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty.”  (God’s Word ©)  According to that verse, the Word of God is satisfying to the born again believer.  That’s why it makes us feel good both inside and out.  God’s Word is God’s love for us.  It is the comfort and power of God to lead us, protect us, empower us, and help us to make the right decisions in this life.  Romans 12:2 says that it renews our minds so that “our thoughts should lead you (us) to use good judgment.” (Romans 12:3 God’s Word ©)
No wonder it makes us feel good!  When we are in the presence of God’s Word we are in the presence of Jesus Himself. (John 1:1)  Not a bad place to be wouldn’t you say!  When I worked a secular job, I always kept His Word near me, be it my morning study notes that I kept in my daily planner at my desk, or scriptures that had spoken to my heart that day that I had hand written on a slip of paper that I carried with me in my pocket.  I can’t tell you the number of times that those quick glimpses at His Word helped me to make it through a stressful situation on the job.
Does that sound a little too radical for you?  All I can say is that it works for me and helps me to stay near to Him everywhere I go.  Today’s modern technology makes it even easier to be near Him through His Word.  iPhone applications such as YouVersion® enable you to download many versions of the Bible directly to your phone.  Can’t beat that for simplicity!  It is kind of like we have no excuses now!
Well, I like the feeling of freshness like I felt this morning outside on my patio, and I like the freshness and strength that I feel when I am in God’s presence through His Word.  If it means that people think that I am a radical… then I guess I that I am guilty as charged!  Come to think about it… Jesus was considered a radical in His time.  I would consider Him to be a great example to follow!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What RADICAL Thing am I expecting To Do today?”

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Blahs!

Have you ever had one of those days where you had the Blahs?  Well, that’s how I woke up this morning!  I just felt… Blah!  Not necessarily bad, sick or depressed, just kinda out of sorts with life!  Over the last few days I felt like I’d been riding a roller-coaster with my emotions, but a long and encouraging conversation with my older son had seemed to do the trick and get me on level ground again.  Therefore I thought today would be a great day having stood the test and made it through.  But then, the Blahs arrived on the scene!

I was actually in a deep sleep when I suddenly awoke around seven and found that no matter how hard I tried, I could not return to slumber land.  So I ambled out of bed, threw on a sweater, turned on the heater and shuffled off to the kitchen and the coffee maker.  After fumbling through the closet retrieving the coffee filters and coffee, I measured out the grounds and poured the cold water into the machine.  Once that process was completed I stood at the kitchen sliding door and gazed into our large patio and beyond and noticed that everything had a uniform shade of gray about it.  It was almost as though I was looking at a low contrast black and white photograph!
Then I saw it.  Peeking out from above mountain that rises from the golf course across the street from our house was a small but vibrant splash of hot pink, quietly but yet stunningly announcing the coming of the sun.  In the three years that we have lived here, I had never seen the sunrise over that mountain.  It was like God’s personal word to me that things were going to get better.  That the Son was coming to burn off the gray that surrounded me!
And you know what?  Things have gotten brighter today!  Romans 12:2 encourages us to not “become like the people of this world.  Instead, change the way you think.  Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants - what is good, pleasing and perfect.” (God’s Word ©)  Today I made the determined choice to change the way I was thinking.  To not focus on the seemingly overwhelming gray that surrounded me, but to focus on that little but distinct burst of color that was making its way over the large mountain above it.  Within about thirty minutes the gray of the cold winter morning had given way to clear deep blue skies, white puffy clouds and a full bright sun that was rapidly raising the temperatures of the day.  The frost on the surrounding house tops began to disappear, the frozen layer of water in the pail outside my window melted and so did the cold and gray that I had originally felt within my heart!
So, I guess that the lesson learned today is to make the right choice and focus on that little light and color of God’s Word that you have placed in your heart.  Then you can expect to see the gray, the frost and the cold that we experience in life to melt away in the presence and warmth of God’s truth.  Romans 10:17 tells us that our faith is built up as we hear the word of Christ (ie; the GOOD NEWS!).  All it takes is a small seed of faith to move the mountains of gloom that attempt to prevail in our lives!  Have a super-fantastic day.  Choose to stay focused on His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What GOOD NEWS am I expecting today?”

Friday, January 11, 2013

Foundations

As I was reviewing some of my recent notes in my study of the book of Romans, I came across a verse that really got me thinking this morning.  It is found in Romans 8:5 and declares that “Those who live by the corrupt nature have the corrupt nature’s attitude.  But those who live by the spiritual nature have the spiritual nature’s attitude.” (God’s Word ©)  Those words lead me down to a verse that we considered yesterday, but today I read it in a different translation.  Romans 8:15 in the God’s Word translation states that “You haven’t received the spirit of slaves that leads you into fear again.  Instead, you have received the spirit of God’s adopted children by which we call out, “Abba Father!  When I put those two verses together, I was suddenly impelled to stop and consider my attitude.

If you recall, the context of this chapter as well as those which proceed it, revolve around Paul’s comparisons between the Old Testament Law and “The Gospel of the grace of Christ, which is not only a law or rule of life, but affords that sovereign energy by which guilt is removed from the conscience, the power of sin broken and its polluting influence removed from the heart.”  (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible – Romans 8:2)  As I thought about my attitude in conjunction with Romans 8:5 and 15, I began to see that an attitude driven by fear originates from my old nature, while an attitude driven by the grace of God through His love originates from my spiritual side.
Once again that old nemesis of ours… namely fear, is exposed!  If my trust and dependency is in the Lord, then there should be no fear involved in my attitude.  As I sat at my desk this morning, I began to take a personal inventory of what was the driving force behind my thoughts at that moment.  I was not feeling quite on top of things yesterday, partially due to the big day we had on Wednesday and was still feeling some of the aftereffects of that.  On the positive side though, my wife had a little better night so I was able to get more sleep than I’d been getting lately, but I still found myself fighting to stay awake and being a little anxious about the day ahead.
As I reflected about my attitude, I began to see that I was unconsciously dealing with some fear concerning the number tasks that I felt that I needed to complete within the next 14 hours.  Things that didn’t get accomplished yesterday had rolled over into today’s agenda and I was unknowingly yielding myself to the thought of the impossible task of trying to complete the over booked “to do list!” 
Over the last couple of years I have found that when I keep to a specific schedule each day, that I am better able to complete all the responsibilities of my wife’s daily care, as well as all the other home, personal, social and ministry tasks that are on the daily list and not feel totally beat up by the end of the day!  When other tasks get added to the list, it can become an easy target of concern and bring with it the availability to fall into undo anxiety and unrest.  While I sat there considering this, I became aware that the success or failure of it all had to do with my attitude!
Was I going to let the fear driven attitude of impossibility and anxiety rule, or was I going to allow the love driven grace of God to intervene and direct my steps so as to walk in peace, joy and trust?  That was kind of a no-brainer and I quickly made the correct adjustments to the foundation of my current attitude.  And I have to tell you… it was like day and night.  I instantly felt a sense of peace come over me as I confidently looked to the progression of the day’s events.  At that point the fear was gone and with my trust placed in the Lord’s hands, I needn’t worry about what I did or did not complete by the end of the night!
What is your attitude right now?  Are you anxious about anything or toward anyone?  What is the driving force behind that attitude?  Is there fear involved or is there grace through the love of God?  Kind of gets you to thinking doesn’t it?  Are you going to allow yourself to be led by your old nature or by your spiritual nature which will lead you into a life that is filled with the “absolute fullness of life and harmony with others, security, safety, prosperity and great happiness?”  (Romans 8:6 defining the Greek words “Life” and “Peace” through Thayer’s Greek Definitions)  Seems like the answer to that should also be a no-brainer!
So with all those thoughts, I would encourage you to take some time this weekend to take a personal inventory concerning your attitude within the context of the various areas of your life.  You might just find some revealing situations that could use a little rearranging!  Have a enjoyable weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Right Attitude!

Yesterday was another one of those big days where my wife and I headed south to San Francisco for an appointment with a new specialist.  This gentleman was the director of Sutter’s Neurophysiology Lab and an expert Epileptologist.  Our quest was to get a better understanding and a handle on the seizures that had been plaguing my wife over the last few years.  Being as the doctor works with and had already conferred with Piper’s primary Neurologist at the Brain Health Center, the process was not as grueling to me as it usually has been when we have gone to a new doctor.  

Following a quick review of the seizures that she had experienced and a few other medical questions, he quickly determined that she was most likely receiving too low a dose of the medication she has been taking for three years now.  Being as there are a few complications with her current prescription, we will be adding another medication while we slowly wean her off the other.  As it turns out, the new medication has very few side effects and may even help to reduce some of the other difficulties that she has been experiencing. So all in all, yesterday’s adventure to the City was well worth the time, effort and expense of gas, bridge, parking and lunch.  We even missed the majority of the traffic backups that are a common occurrence on highway 101 north from San Francisco!
What was interesting about yesterday though, was the way it started out.  It had already been a very busy week and once again, we hadn’t been sleeping very well.  And don’t you know… that is when the enemy loves to attack!  After tiredly arising from the bed, my mind was immediately filled with concerns about the car, the trip, the new doctor, my wife’s ability to walk from the parking garage all the way to his office, and many other silly such things!  Have you ever had a day start like that?  It almost seemed as though there were two people standing on either side of me shouting in my ears!
But it is at times like this that you have to completely put aside what you’re hearing and place your unrelenting trust in the hand of the Lord and the truth of His word.  My experience must have been similar to a pilot who flies blindly through the cloud cover solely depending on his instruments to get the plane safely to its destination.  As I focused on the instrumentation of God’s Word I found the strength, determination and peace to get us ready and then off to Piper’s appointment.
Once we were in the car and on the highway, I felt a noticeable change in my attitude as I found myself excited about the trip to what I think is one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world.  My wife and I sat back, popped a teaching CD in the player and had a very enjoyable trip.  I think a portion of Romans chapter eight in the Message Bible best describes our experience.  In this section of Paul’s letter to the saints in the city of Rome, he is talking about the benefits of living life according to the leading of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus as compared to following the dictates of the flesh.  Verse 15 declares that it is a life that is “adventurously expectant, (where we find ourselves) greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next Papa?’”
In the heat of the battle of the mind, it all comes down to attitude!  I could have easily given in the fear that was attacking my mind and body yesterday, but I knew that I knew that God’s Word would prevail, so I copped an expectant attitude!  In response to the lies that were shouted into my ears I proclaimed and hung onto the Word that I had hidden in my heart concerning God’s protection, favor and faithfulness to His children.  And you know what?  The enemy of our souls cannot stand up against the Word that we believe and stand on.  He knows that Jesus defeated him at Calvery and all we have to do is to firmly remind him of it!
So if you should ever have a day start out like mine did yesterday, I would highly encourage you to do the same as I did.  Put your trust in the Lord and cop an expectant attitude!  Your personal study times in the Word, the sermons you hear at church, the Christian music you listen to and the testimonies of others that you hear aren’t just to make you feel good, they are for times just like this!  Hide the Word in your heart and then put it to use when the attacks come.  It is simply amazing to experience the retreat of the enemy when he is faced with the explosions of God’s Word that proceed from your mouth!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Good Stewardship

I was cleaning out the closet under our staircase the other day and came across an old photo that was taken in the early 1990’s.  In the picture my wife and I along with three of our kids and one of Piper’s Aunts are standing by our car under a statue of Roy Rodgers’ famous stead Trigger.  If I remember correctly, we had driven down to Anaheim California to attend a Believer’s Convention and then went east toward the desert to visit Piper’s Aunt and Uncle who lived in a little town in the midst of the orange groves near San Bernardino.

The highlight of that part of the summer adventure was a day trip northeast through the Mohave Desert to Victorville California and a much anticipated visit to the Roy Rodger’s Museum.  (It eventually was moved to Branson Missouri and then sadly, was closed just a few years ago.  Memorabilia can still be purchased on their website www.royrogers.com 
As long time Roy Rogers fans, my wife and I were enthralled with the endless rooms and display cases that were stuffed with mementoes of anything and everything Roy had ever worn, driven, rode (Yes… even Trigger and Dale’s horse Butter Cup were stuffed and on display!) or merchandised in his career.  It was a little overwhelming for our younger kids, so we could not spend as long as we would have preferred!  It was simply amazing to see the dream that Roy and Dale had lived.  They were both still alive at the time and we were disappointed to hear from one of the workers that we had just missed Roy as he usually came and spent time tinkering around the museum each day.
The dream that they led had all the attributes of a storybook life.  But it was not without its personal torments, family crises, and professional challenges.  Roy and Dale had a strong faith in God and strove to live beyond the typical Hollywood “Star” status and give back to the countless kids and families around the world that they influenced through their movies, radio show and TV programs.  In the height of their popularity, they toured the country, riding in parades and visited children in hospitals bearing good cheer and gifts.  They were advocates for adoption and were founders of a variety of children’s charities.
Whether it was simply good fortune or wise planning that propelled them into a successful public life, Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans grabbed hold of the responsibility that they felt that they had been given and pursued it with a gusto for life and a heartfelt desire to do the best with the opportunities that God had given them.  Their good stewardship affected a whole generation and is still felt today.  It is a great encouragement to those of us who long to follow our dreams in the midst the naysayers that may surround us.
Romans 7:6 talks about how we have been “set free from the Law, having died to that which we were held, so as for us to serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter.” (Literal Translation of the Bible)  In other words, as born again believers, we have been set free from the confines that held us back within the framework of the do’s and don’ts of the Old Covenant and are now free to go out and live in the “newness” of the freedom that comes by the Holy Spirit’s influence on us.  You and I are now free to live out the plan and purpose – or the dream – that God has put into our hearts!  Will it be a life free of troubles and difficulties?  NO!  But it will be a life that is consistently filled with the companionship, care and deliverance of our loving heavenly Father.  Will things just fall into your lap along the way?  Sometimes, but to be honest, most of the time you have to pray it through, work diligently and never give up on yourself, your dream and on God!
Your dream may not reach the influence of millions like Roy and Dale’s, but it will definitely make a difference to those with whom you touch in your world.  I would encourage you to be bold today and take a step toward the fulfillment of your dream and while doing so, keep in mind Roy’s famous closing statement “Good bye, good luck and may the good Lord take a liking to you!”  The only note that I would add is that when you step out in faith, luck has nothing to do with it!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Spark!

A final thought on taking action with the dreams that God has put in your hearts.  Romans chapter six talks about how the Believer has died with Christ and risen as a new creation freed from their attachment of sin’s domination in their lives.  Verse eleven declares “So consider yourself dead to sin’s power but living for God in the power Christ Jesus gives you.” (God’s Word ©)  The power of Christ working in and through us is the key to the freedom and confidence we need to pursue our God inspired dreams.

You could say that His power is the “SPARK” to ignite the fire in us.  Then the fire is continually fed by our trust in God’s Word and our corresponding actions of faith.  The light and heat of the fire is the fuel that not only keeps our dreams alive and growing, but it also has another effect that may not be immediately visible to the vision carrier.  The confidence, enthusiasm and bold expectation that you carry acts many times as a SPARK to others around you.
The seemingly outlandish actions that we may take to step out of the norm and follow a dream are usually the things that most people aspire to but are afraid to do for themselves.  I have seen that distant SPARK in the eyes of many people with whom I have shared some of our experiences with.  Even the few that did not turn out as planned have brought encouraging comments because we were not afraid to step out in faith.
I have also noticed that those who follow the God inspired dreams in their heart tend to be happier and more at peace in their lives.  I have mentioned before how my wife is quite different from the rest of her immediate family.  She has always been one who does not shy away from a new adventure.  She always has a smile on her face and an encouraging word emitting from her lips.  I did not realize until this last Christmas the amount of SPARK that she brought into her family’s holiday gatherings.  She was the one who carried the atmosphere.  Her smiling face, quick funny comebacks and uncanny ability to get people to laugh at themselves brought an uplifting joy into the room.  The attack on her health these last few years has caused her to be mostly quiet during the recent family gatherings and the effect has been very noticeable to the atmosphere and attitudes of those present.
You know… I like to SPARK others to feel more alive and free by following their dreams!  It is exciting for me to anticipate the moves of God on our behalf when we step out with him.  It is exciting to me to see God moving in the lives of others who are walking in step with Him.  It is encouraging to sense their anticipation, joy and peace.  What do you think?  Would you rather be around those who are afraid to make a move, or with those who are set free with great expectations of great joy as they fulfill the plans that God has given them to follow.  I love to see the SPARK in their eyes! It is contagious and seems to be able to jump from them right into the hearts of those with whom they are around.
So if you haven’t yet, set out to SPARK that fire in your own life.  All of us have dreams, but only a few reach inside and allow the SPARK of faith to ignite the fire within.  Have a wonderful day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What SPARK am I expecting today?”