Our New Home

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

Friday, March 29, 2013

Heart-Burn!

As I reviewed in the scriptures the events that occurred on Resurrection Sunday after Jesus arose from the dead, three significant points stuck out to me.  The first is when the women came to the tomb early in the morning so as to attend to Jesus’ body with spices and ointments.  As they neared the tomb they observed that the stone which was securing the grave site had been moved aside.  They entered the cave with great caution and discovered that the body was gone!  Things were getting very confusing when “two men stood by them in shining garments.”  As fear began to come upon them the men asked them a penetrating question saying: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:4-5 NKJV)

The second point goes hand in hand with the first.  It is found a little later in the story when the two disciples who had been on the road to Emmaus excitedly returned to Jerusalem to find the eleven apostles.  They burst into the room where the eleven had gathered shouting: “The Lord has really come back to life and has appeared to Simon.” (Luke 24:34 God’s Word ©)
Men and women through the ages and across the face of the earth have been searching for peace that can only be found through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Most though, do not know this and will seek a multitude of other sources in their search.  Everything from false religions, to drugs and alcohol, to intellectualism, sex, unbiblical relationships and countless other lies are tried but never satisfy the cry of the inner man.  The only One that fully satisfies is Jesus because He is the only One that is alive and brings the seeker the life that they are hungering for.  It is just like the question that the two heavenly beings asked of the women in the tomb on that first Easter Sunday over two thousand years ago: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  Or if you put it directly in line with the thought that I am making here you could say it as: “Why do you seek life from something that has no life in it in the first place?”
That is why sin is so unsatisfying to the Christian.  It may bring a fast high or temporary pleasure but then leaves you with a sense of regret, dissatisfaction and in doubt of your good standing with God.  Sin and wrong doing only works to begin the process of death.  A life focused on and obedient to God always brings life!
The last statement that really brought a zing to my heart was also found in the story of the two disciples who unknowingly met up with Jesus, after His resurrection, while on the road to Emmaus.  After His identity was made known to them and He disappeared, they looked at each other and proclaimed: “Did not our heart burn within us while he talked with us by the way?” (Luke 24:32 KJV)
The thought of their hearts burning after being with Jesus flashed back a couple of important memories of special times that I have had while in the presence of the Lord throughout the years of my Christian walk.  The first happened in the year following the time that we left the Baptist church that we had attended for the first eight years of our marriage.  When I first stepped into professional ministry as a Youth Minister in 1975, I must admit that I did not really know a lot about the Word!  I had majored in Recreation Administration in the first college I had attended and had always found it easy to communicate and work with teenagers, but only had come into a personal relationship with Jesus a few months before I accepted the position. (even though my wife and I had been in active leadership while attending the youth and singles groups before we got married)
I am thankful that I have always have had an appetite for learning and I quickly filled my office library with every devotional and planning and activity books I could lay my hands on!  When we left that church and began to attend a small fellowship pastored by a recent graduate of Rhema Bible Training College (where I later attended) that met in a hotel room in an older resort/convention hotel at the end of town, we came in with humble hearts and initially without any leadership responsibilities.  From day one I clearly remember feeling much like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus must have felt as the Word they heard burned in their hearts.  I must have looked like a little kid sitting in a highchair with his mouth wide open waiting for food to be deposited on his tongue!  I would sit in open awe with my heart aflame with the truths and new understanding of the Word that poured forth from the Pastor’s lips.  I always felt that those years were my initial Bible School training.
A little over twenty years later I experienced the same feelings of awe when I finally did attend Bible School.  Even though I had been in active ministry for over twenty years, I still felt like a little kid as I absorbed the Word being brought forth in each of my classes!  My heart simply burned with joy as the greater understanding of the powerful truths resident in God’s Word entered into me.
Is that the way that you feel when you are taught the Word of God?  Does your heart burn so brightly that no temptation can enter in to distract you into an experience that only leads to the beginning of the death process?  I think that this is one of the greater lessons of the resurrection.  Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection brought His life process into the world and thereby available to any individual who desires to enter into a new life in a personal relationship with God Himself.  That relationship should never be stale but should cause your hearts to burn with the revelation, truth and promises that He has made available to us today!
So have a wonderful and meaningful celebration of Resurrection Sunday this weekend.  Let the remembrance of what Jesus did for you reignite that flame inside of you.  Then stoke the fire and burn brightly for Him wherever you go!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What Burning Sensation am I expecting today?”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

DO!

“Blessed are they which DO hunger and thirst after righteousness:
                            for they shall be filled (or satisfied)”        

                                                                                                - Matthew 5:6 KJV
 
Jesus’ earthly existence was the epiphany of a life that hungers and thirsts after righteousness.  As I meditated on this verse yesterday and again this morning, the word “DO” continued to stand out as the driving force behind the meaning of the scripture.  It is another one of those action words.  Jesus was telling us here and then demonstrated with His life, that we have to actively work the process of seeking the things of God with all our hearts.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than in His final few days on this earth.
Following His “day off” on Wednesday of what we now call Holy Week that we discussed in yesterday’s post, Jesus set His attention to the completion of that which He was called to accomplish while living as a man on this earth.  Thursday started off with a rush of activity as He gave His disciples instructions as to the location and preparation of the Passover meal.  Then that evening He came with the twelve apostles and sat down at the table in order to present Himself to mankind as the Passover Lamb of God.  “His blood would open the door to freedom.  His followers would exchange slavery to sin and death for eternal life in God’s kingdom” *
Immediately following the meal, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray along with Peter, James and John.  After His final time alone with the Father, He was arrested and brought before the Jewish Council which was seeking to put Him to death.  While in prayer at the garden, Jesus gave us a powerful look at His human side.  Knowing what was ahead, the anguish of His humanity came forth as He cried out to His Father: “Abba!” Father!  You can do anything.  Take this cup of suffering away from me.”  But then His obedience to the desire of His Father overtook any momentary weakness and He firmly stated: BUT let your will be done rather than mine.” (Mark 14:36 God’s Word ©)  At that moment in time Jesus “set” Himself to “DO!”
I think that this is a very important and practical lesson for us to learn.  I believe that it is okay to experience times of weakness and maybe even a little bit of doubt – BUT – it is not okay to stay there!  In my life’s experiences as a Christian and a Pastor, I have seen both sides of the extremes.  I have counseled those who lived in doubt, only believing what they saw with their natural eyes.  And on the other end, I have seen those who attempted to only speak what they were hoping to receive from the Lord in what seemed to be a works based activity,driven by an undercurrent of the fear that if they didn’t make the “right” confession they would be punished with failure.
Jesus demonstrated to us that there are times in this life where trials and tribulations can momentarily get the better of us, but the key here is the word “momentarily!”  Once again, Jesus didn’t stay there!  He had enough of the Word hidden in His heart that His weak moment was quickly over-taken by the truth of God’s Word and He was able to receive the strength and courage to complete the task He was to “DO.”
I believe that Jesus wants us to know that His love is more powerful and sustaining than any moment of weakness that we may experience in our daily lives.  Nor does He want us to feel unworthy or condemned due to a temporary experience of doubt or emotional release.  At times like this remember Jesus’ example and move right passed the weak point into the loving, strong and compassionate arms of your Heavenly Father.  When you don’t feel it, see it or maybe even doubt it a little – put your trust in His Word for it will never fail you!  Be like Jesus and go beyond the weakness, put your trust in God and then go out and “DO!”  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to ‘DO’ today?”
 

* http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestory summaries/p/thelast supper.htm

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Vacation!

I did some research this morning on the events that occurred on Wednesday of Holy Week, and it would seem that most scholars agree that the Bible is pretty quiet about what Jesus did on this day.  Many term it as “Silent Wednesday” and make the conjecture that Jesus simply took the day off to spend some final time to rest and fellowship with family and friends before the harrowing events coming up. 

For many of us the perfect day off would mean relaxing by doing something that we really enjoy like taking a ride to the beach, puttering around the garden, a trip to the mall or just spending some time on the couch watching a favorite movie or two.  As I looked at the scriptures that tell of all Jesus did that week, I personally sense that Jesus had a little something different on His mind than just kicking back and relaxing!  When you factor in His normal pattern in the past, you would observe that when things got tough, Jesus went off alone to spend time with His Father.  I think that is what Jesus did on Wednesday of Holy Week.
As I studied and thought on this today, I was reminded of Hebrews 4:2-3 where the writer is talking about our need to add our faith to the Word of God in order to enter into His rest.  Jesus knew what was coming up and the task that He came to perform for all of mankind and felt the necessity to take some time off to build up His faith so He could enter into God’s rest.  I can picture Him stealing away by Himself to fellowship alone with His Father to receive any last minute directions, thoughts, comfort, reassurance and love.
That picture of Jesus reminded me of a time a few years before we moved to Oklahoma when our Senior Pastors were away on vacation or at a convention and I was left in charge in their absence.  In the weeks leading up to the one Sunday when I was going to preach (That a great thing about being an Assistant Pastor...  Since you don’t get to preach very much, you can take a lot of time to prepare for the few sermons a year that you get to deliver to the church!), I began to sense a special message that the Lord wanted me to share.  I had been taking copious notes up until about a week before when I knew it was time to formulate my thoughts into a clear and concise, enjoyable sermon.
Before I sat down at my computer I felt the leading of the Lord to go outside and spend some time alone, away from the hustle-bustle of the family and fellowship with the Father.  So I went into the backyard with a notebook and bible and began to walk around the yard as I prayed.  That special time provided the opportunity for me to clear my head of all my worldly responsibilities and openly communicate with my heavenly Father.  He helped me to define the points that He wanted brought forth on that day, the best examples to use to help the congregation understand the lesson, and even reminded me of a few funny life experiences from my past that I could share!  When I finally went in and sat down at the computer my mind and my hands just seemed to fly as I wrote out the outline for the message.
I think that is what happened on that Wednesday many years ago.  Jesus took the time to clear His mind of everything that had been going on over the last three years and the last three days in particular and set His heart to accomplish the plan that had been put in motion before the beginning of time.  When I looked at the events of the following days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, I noticed that Jesus did not teach anymore from that point on.  He was solely focused on what He was sent to do for you and me!
When is the last time that you took an extended period of time to fellowship alone with your heavenly Father?  Do you remember how good it felt to be all by yourself in His presence as you let go of the pressures of the past and basked in His wisdom, comfort, reassurance and love?  Maybe it is time to schedule a new kind of vacation, one that is spent with the Creator of the universe.  The One who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 NKJV)  What a radical thought!  Just the kind of idea that should be considered during the days preceding Resurrection Sunday!
Have a wonderful day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Early In The Morning...

I was amazed as I perused through Jesus’ activities during the week before His resurrection, at all the concentrated teaching that He shared with the people and religious leaders in and around Jerusalem.   He covered a multitude of subjects including His definitive example and ensuing explanation of faith in action.  The one part that really caught my attention as I read this was in Mark 11:20 where the writer talks about the time of day that this event took place.  He began this story by stating: “And in the morning, as the passed by…” (KJV)  Other translations are a little more descriptive in their narratives by rendering it: “early in the morning” as the word “morning” in the original Hebrew actually means “dawn or the break of day” (Strong’s)

Can’t you just picture it?  The disciples and Jesus are sleepily walking toward Jerusalem as the sun is breaking over the horizon.  They probably stopped at the local Starbucks on the way out of Bethany for a hot wake-me-up cup of Java and were cradling the warmth of the precious brew as they traversed the countryside.  Suddenly Peter catches a glance of the fig tree that Jesus had cursed the previous morning and he notices that it is dried up from the roots.  Instantly his spiritual sensors go off and he quickly catches up to Jesus, points to the tree and shouts: “Look Rabbi!  The fig tree you cursed has dried up.” (God’s Word ©)  Then with rapt attention all the eyes of those in the group turn to Jesus and so He stopped and took the opportunity to teach them about the God kind of faith.
This beginning of that story reminds me of a time numerous years ago when my wife and I were suddenly asked to take over the leadership of the beleaguered Youth Group at our church.  As the assistant Pastor I wore many hats and at that time besides everything else, I was leading and directing the Children’s Ministry.  Over the years we had built up a strong and coordinated leadership team that helped to keep all the activities and classes running smoothly with much enthusiasm and growth in participants!  When the leadership over the Youth Ministry began to have some difficulties, the Senior Pastor asked my wife and I to leave the Children’s Ministry in the hands of two of our most capable lead teachers and for us to step in as the leaders of the teens. 
The first thing that we set out to do was to rebuild the teamwork, trust and camaraderie within the group.  As it turned out we were able to get a last minute invitation to attend a summer youth camp but needed to quickly come up with some fund raisers as there was very little time before the camp took place at the beginning of the summer.   This rush turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the various fundraisers helped to begin the process of bringing the group back together again.  I was also hoping that the camp would prove to be one of those mountain top experiences for the youth that would draw their focus totally on the Lord.
On the second day of the youth retreat, I arose early in the morning just as the sun was coming up and with Bible in hand walked over to the river that ran through the camp.  I was still a bit unsettled with our leadership of the group and was alert to hear directions from the Lord for the year ahead.  After the first night it became obvious that this camp was not going to be like all the other youth retreats that I had been a part of in past years.  From the onset of the praise and worship there was a heavy anointing of the Holy Spirit that filled the room.  Any hesitancy on the part of the youth and their leaders was quickly dissipated as the participants of the camp openly wept, laughed, danced and fell to the floor in the Lord’s presence.  Therefore in the early hours of that day I also found that my spiritual sensors were sharp and alert and hungry for any input from the Lord.
I think that this was the same thing that was happening to the disciples on that early morning as they stood in front of that dried up fig tree!  I’m sure that they were more than a little disturbed at the events that had been happening around them and the talk of Jesus’ soon departure, but yet their spiritual sensors were probably also ablaze due to the crowds, the teaching and activities that they had been experiencing with Jesus since they arrived in Jerusalem a couple of days before.  And since it was the first thing in the morning they were in a place that was still free from the coming distractions of the day ahead.
In Psalm 5:3 the Psalmist declares “You will hear my voice in the morning (ie; dawn or the break of day), O Jehovah, I will set myself for you in the morning, and I will look up.” (Literal Translation of the Bible)  To “set” means “to arrange, put in order, prepare or ordain.” (Strong’s and Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions)  So in modern terminology the writer is saying that he will establish, or arrange the order of his day with the Lord first thing each morning.  I don’t really think that it was just a coincidence that the Lord taught the disciples the most important lesson on faith first thing in the morning.  I believe He knew that they would be fresh and unencumbered with the events of the day yet to come and ready, willing and able to receive the message that they would use as a foundation for their teaching (and ours) for the years to come.
Now I know of many people who have various times throughout the day, especially at night before they retire for the evening, that they have set aside for their personal quiet study time with the Lord.  I’m just one of those firm believers that morning is the best time with the example set by the Lord Himself when He walked the earth.  But I guess that decision is up to everyone to make for themselves.  The important thing is that the time IS SET APART AND TAKEN with Him each and every day! 
So think about it!  Just how do you spend your waking hours?  When do you “set” yourself for the Lord each day?  And how’s that working for you?  Well, I guess I’ll see you at the fig tree!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chocolate Bunnies

I heard a sermon yesterday that really shook me into the reality of why we celebrate Easter.  It centered around Jesus’ last words on the cross when He anxiously “cried with a loud voice, saying Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?  that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 KJV)  The Pastor declared that at that moment in time “Jesus endured the greatest personal challenge ever to face mankind: Loneliness!”  This was the first time in all of eternity that Jesus, the Son of God, was separated from His Father.  When I thought on that powerful idea and dwelled on it for a moment, I was struck with the immense pain and despair that Jesus must have felt… And that agonizing pain and total despair was expereinced because of you and me!

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “for He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (NKJV)  Jesus became sin itself and carried every sin past, present and those to come on Himself.  In that position He suddenly discovered that He was in the absence of God’s presence until three days later when He conquered sin and death and took “the keys of hell and of death” away from the enemy of our souls.  (Revelation 1:18 KJV)  At that point in history He “rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of his Son, whom he loves.” (Colossians 1:13 God’s Word ©)
It was the stark reality of not only the tremendous physical suffering and pain that He went through for us, but also the heart-wrenching mental anguish and emotional trama that had to have come upon Jesus as He realized that He was absent from His Father’s presence for the very first time in His life.  I can hardly imagine the absolute emptiness that He felt.  I believe that this experience was probably worse than any other affliction that He had to endure in order to give us the legal right to be freed from our sins.
As I walked down one of the main isles of our local pharmacy on the way to the back counter the other day, in order to pick up a prescription for my wife, I noticed that the shelves where lined with a large variety of Easter candy selections.   I had to laugh and shake my head as I thought that here we are about to celebrate and honor the remembrance of the greatest event in the history of mankind and the world celebrates it with Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies… totally ignorant of the real reason for the life-changing event that happened over 2000 years ago when Jesus suffered excruciating pain in order to give mankind the legal path to be right with God again!
But you know what?  The same thing happened among those who should have been in the “know” when Jesus entered Jerusalem the week of His death.  The people of that city flocked to the streets, cheered and laid palm branches down in His path mistakenly thinking that He was going to set up a new earthly kingdom like the one their patriarchal father David did hundreds of years before.  A few days later they completely changed their tune and were shouting “Crucify him!” (Matthew 27:22 Good News Bible)
How are you going to celebrate the remembrance of Jesus’ action taken solely for our benefit this year?  I would strongly encourage you to take some time each day this week to refresh your memory of the events of Easter week through the reports found in the pages of the four Gospels.  As you read them, allow yourself to feel the passion, the emotion, the pain and then the ultimate triumph of these events that happened many years ago.  Then rejoice and celebrate on Easter Sunday with a renewed zeal for the exciting life that God has provided for us and wants us to share with those who don’t yet understand what Jesus did just for them!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Gardening

My wife and I spend the greater part of Wednesday in San Francisco as we combined a scheduled EEG test with an appointment with one of her specialists.  The time was well spent but it made for an extremely long day.  In the end, the seizure specialist was able to read the completed EEG by the time we arrived at his office in the building next to the CPMC Hospital and prescribe an additional medication that would take care of the alarming symptoms that my wife has been experiencing over the last month.  He stated that we should see some quick results and I am happy to say that we did!  It was amazing!  We actually both slept through the night for the first time in five weeks!

It seems that every time we go into the City for one of her appointments that we experience another example of God’s grace either toward us or through us.  We arrived at the underground parking lot at the physician’s office around 11:20 in the morning.  From there we took the elevator to the fifth floor and followed the signs as we wound through that building and across a catwalk to the adjacent hospital.  Then we continued upstairs to register and were subsequently directed back down three floors to the lab for the EEG test.  By then my head was spinning a bit and I was happy to be able to sit back, as they ran the test on Piper, so I could look at a map of the campus to try and ascertain where we were and how we were going to get back the doctor’s office!
About 2.5 hours later we found ourselves entering the specialist’s office back in the first building that we had originally come from.  There was an older lady talking to the office staff so I sat down next to my wife and waited for our turn at the sign in station.  The patient at the counter was talking rather loudly and my attention was peeked when she mentioned the name of Piper’s brain specialist who we had just visited last week.  When the women had completed her transaction she grabbed her cane and asked the gentleman behind the counter if someone could open the door for her.  Since I was closest to the door I immediately stood up and said that I would be happy to get the door for her.
As she neared the doorway I smiled to her and mentioned that my wife was also a patient of the other doctor she mentioned.  With that the lady’s smile vanished and she went into a short tirade about how much she disliked the doctor and why!  I was quite surprised by her comments as this doctor has been absolutely wonderful in her care and diagnosis of Piper.  So, I just smiled a little wider and happily told her about our experiences as she ambled out the door.  Once out the door she stopped and asked me a question about what was going on with Piper.  When I told her, she stood there quietly for a little while and then told me that she had been through the same thing with her mother and understood my personal pain as I helped “my mother!”
That comment has been made by others in the past and I just continued to smile and told her that Piper was my wife and not my mother.  Then the women asked her age and got so downtrodden that I knew I had to do something fast in order to change the direction and mood of the conversation.  So I took a breath, smiled again and gently told her that we were not giving up but had our faith in the God of miracles.
At first I thought that my comment went right passed her as she almost began to cry, repeating that “I know what you’re going through.” But then when she suddenly paused and added: “God bless you,” I knew my point was received.  After that she turned and walked soberly down the hallway.   I was thankful that another individual came to the doorway at that point and we joked about me being the doorman which helped to put a joyful slant back in the situation!  When I turned back around into the waiting room, I noticed that the other patient in the room along with the members office staff were all staring at me with smiles on their faces!
I think that this little incident is a good example of what the Apostle Paul was taking about when he directed the church in Philippi to “Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5 NKJV)  Other translations say to let your “moderation, reasonableness, forbearance, gracious attitude, humility or leniency” be known to those around you.  I believe that Paul is encouraging us to just be “real” when we are out and about in our daily lives.  To be “real” according to who we “really” are as members of God’s family!  To live as the new man or women that we were recreated into when we became born again Christians!
It was obvious that the older lady in the doctor’s office the other day had some physical needs and had been through a very difficult and emotional situation with the declining health of her mother.  But she was living her life through her natural senses and had no hope.  I on the other hand, possess a hope and a positive expectancy of the greater things of God for my wife and I in our lives, and I felt like it was my responsibility to share some of that with her at that time.  Did it do any good?  To be honest I am not really sure, but I know by the way she paused in her hopeless comments and said “God bless you” that something hit home with her!
I think that this is all that our loving heavenly Father is asking us to do.  Many times our job is just to plant a small seed that hopefully will be watered by others who come across their paths and help it to grow into a full-fledged tree of faith in their lives.  What do you think?  This weekend might just present a great opportunity for you to do a little gardening in the lives of those around you!  So keep your “seeds” handy, listen to the small still voice inside and plant accordingly.  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking… “What SEEDS am I expecting TO PLANT today?”

 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Hometown


“For our citizenship is in heaven…” 
 
When we moved to Oklahoma back in 2006 so that I could finally attend Bible School, I had my mind set that I was going to pour my heart into my studies, learn everything I could through the experience at the college and then pack up the family and move into the next phase of God’s call for my life.  What I didn’t expect was all the other life’s lessons that I received while living for three years over 1800 miles away from my hometown.  One of those lessons was interacting with the other people who came to Tulsa from all over the world.
The Tulsa Oklahoma area is home to many internationally known Christian schools including Oral Roberts University, Victory Bible Institute as well as the Rhema Bible Training College USA campus where I attended.   It is also home to many major secular universities and a large aeronautics school.  As I mentioned, these schools are a draw to individuals from locations across the globe.  During my stay there I met folks from almost all the states in the union and from countries such as Canada, South Africa, England, Germany and various countries in South America.
I didn’t realize it until I had been there for awhile, but after 53 years of living on the west coast, I had totally developed a northern California viewpoint on life.  It would always amaze me when people who had never been there would bash California!  Often times I found myself being offended and in a defensive position whenever the conversation turned to “where are you from?”  These folks were ignorantly trashing my home state, which to me was the best place in the whole world to live in!  Many of these same individuals had never been to California and were basing their opinions on things they heard, read about or saw on TV.  Some even viewed the Golden State as portrayed through Hollywood movies!
After a while though, I began to see that I was sort of doing the same thing concerning the city, state or country that they were from.  They, like me, were talking from a heart that loved their home locales.  I personally am not a snow person and would stand awe struck as some new friends from Minnesota would light up from ear to ear as they talked about the freezing weather, snow, and the accompanying winter activities.  Others from desert areas like Arizona would tell of joyful memories about the heat and dry conditions that they lived in back home.  I remember attentively listening to a fellow student born and raised in South Africa happily telling stories about his normal lifestyle that was so different to mine.  It would seem that each of us tend to be a product of where we are from. 
The above scripture from Philippians 3:20 makes a bold statement concerning the Christian’s hometown in heaven.  When we are born again, we become citizens of a new kingdom.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore if any man (or woman) be in Christ, he (or she) is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (KJV) That includes every part of our past including our allegiance to our former earthly home.  As citizens of heaven, we are now under its jurisdiction, its history and its future!  The King James Version uses the word “conversation” in place of “citizenship” in Philippians 3:20.  Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible states that “The word conversation we now apply almost entirely to oral discussion.  It formally however, meant conduct in general.”
With that in mind, we should be living our lives here on this earth like ambassadors stationed in a foreign land.  We may be living here, but our allegiance, our protection, our conduct and our backing is to our home country.  Ambassadors living in other lands are more dependent on the US Marines assigned to protect our embassies than they are on the local police departments.  Likewise we are to be more dependent on the ministering spirits from the heavenly realm (Hebrews 1:14) and the dictates of God’s kingdom than we are from the assistance of our local or federal government.  Think of it this way… Heaven’s resources, power and rule are far superior and without limitation.  Can we say the same thing about those of the physical country in which we now reside?
That puts a whole new slant on the way we should face and live each day doesn’t it?  Keep that thought in mind today.  Keep studying and learning about the rights and privileges that are yours in your new constitution as found within the pages of your Bible, and live as citizens of heaven!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… What am I expecting (as a citizen of heaven) today?

 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ALL!

In the second of three points that the Pastor was making in his sermon on Sunday, he talked about the compassion of Jesus.  At one stage he made a comment that stunned me.  In describing Matthew 9:35 where it states that “Jesus went to all the towns and villages.  He taught in the synagogues and spread the Good News of the kingdom.  He also cured every disease and sickness,” (God’s Word ©) the Pastor paused and asked the congregation to think about that scene for a moment.  He described the narrow city streets in those days and painted the picture that as Jesus walked through the towns and villages, everything before Him was sickness, but everything behind Him was perfect health!

Think about that for a moment!  The Bible says that He cured every disease and sickness.  In my way of thinking, that would mean anything from the common cold to the most devastating of diseases.  He healed them ALL!  Wow!  That statement inked a very vivid photograph of what it must have looked like as He walked through a city and left behind a trail of health and hope!  Now, if you put that picture together with Hebrews 13:8 where it declares that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (God’s Word ©) we should be seeing the same results today. 
Earlier in the morning in my quiet time before I had gotten my wife up for the day, I had been studying from Philippians 3:9-10.  Those two verses talk about us having a “faith that knows Christ.  Faith (that) knows the power that His coming back to life (ie; His resurrection) gives.” (God’s Word ©)  Those scriptures came back into the forefront of my thoughts as I listened to the Pastor and pictured Jesus as He walked through the towns and villages of His day.
The word translated “know” in Philippians 3:9-10 is describing us as having an intimate relationship with Jesus, knowing each other as closely as a husband and wife should know each other.  When I consider that I can know Jesus as intimately as I have come to know my wife over the last 43 years, I stand amazed at the unlimited possibilities of our relationship.  When I am with her I feel like I can do anything.  The same should be said of when I am in the presence of the Lord.  The difference being though, that in His presence we are overcome with His power and His ability and not that of our own.
In His presence we should be seeing the sick made well, needs being met, broken individuals and families being restored and the goodness and love of God being sent forth to those around us.  When Jesus physically walked this earth, those results followed Him.  Can we say the same thing today?  If not, maybe it is because we don’t really “know” Him and the power of His resurrection that should be flowing through the actions of faith in our lives.
I admit that I have days where I don’t feel like the presence of Jesus is flowing from my relationship with Him into the lives of those I meet on the street, or in the supermarket or sometimes even at church.  Who’s fault is that?  It’s probably mine.  Do I aggressively seek that same level of intimate relationship with Him as I have pursued with my lovely wife over the years – probably not!  But now I know the possibilities and potential of that relationship.  Jesus in His great commission to the church as found at the end of the books of Matthew and Mark has given us the authority to use His name, lay hands on the sick and preach the Good News of the kingdom of God.
The more we “know” of Him, the more capable and confident we will become in fulfilling His command to us.  I guess the bottom line is that it all becomes a matter of priority in our lives.  We can make all the excuses we want concerning our seemingly lack of time to spend with Him or we can rearrange our lives and make the time to get to “know” Him and thereby be the force He has called us to be in our world.  Think about that!
Have a good day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Winner's Attitude!

Let me ask you a question.  What was the first thing that you thought of when you considered your day today?  Were you excited, depressed, confident, apprehensive or just sort of non-committal about the schedule of events listed on your calendar?  I had another tenuous night as I awoke every few hours to tend to my wife’s needs and was looking forward to catching a few more last minute winks as she finally relaxed and dozed soundly around 7:00 AM.  Well, that lasted about a half hour and as she began to stir I decided to throw in the towel and get up in order to catch a little study time with the Lord before I got her ready for the day.

But before I tossed aside the covers and placed my feet on the ground, I made a conscious decision to willingly rejoice and put my trust in the Lord for the lack of sleep and the busy day ahead.  So with that, I put a smile on my face, took a deep breath and sprung out of bed!  After getting dressed I wandered into the kitchen and put on a pot of java from a fresh new bag of “delicate, fragrant and mildly acidic” Kona Blend ground coffee.  From there I grabbed my favorite Bible off the kitchen table and headed into the study.
I had marked in the margin of Philippians where I left off the previous day, so I expectantly set my attention to the Word and began to read from chapter three where Paul was talking about running the race of life.  I stopped after reading about four verses and realized that Paul faced life in a similar fashion to the way I had started my day.  In Philippians 3:12 he states that “I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me.”  (God’s Word ©)  In the next few verses he continues on this same theme by talking about how he does not look back in life but instead lengthens his stride and runs “straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 God’s Word ©)
Paul lived his life with every intention of winning in everything he did and faced on a daily basis.  He knew that Jesus had already won the prize for him and was offering it to Paul as well as to every one of us who will pursue and eagerly seize the available gift!  The word translated “win or won” in the God’s Word © Bible is termed “apprehend” in other translations and according to the original Greek literally means to “take eagerly, to seize, to possess or to lay hold of as to make one’s own” (Strong’s and Thayer’s)  Paul is encouraging his readers that success in this life is ours for the taking!  All it takes is commitment, fortitude and a firmly set plan to never give up or give in to the pressures of life that will come against us.  I believe that this is called having a “winner’s attitude!”
I was a member of the track team throughout my 3 years in Junior High.  I spent the first two years tossing the shot-put because my Dad and a few of my coaches (who were friends with my Dad as he taught at that school) thought that I would be good at it.  Well the truth was that I really wasn’t that good!  As I entered ninth grade, I decided to go with a personal desire that I had to run the 220 sprint and the 440 rely.  So I set my mind to it and remember spending many lonely hours running and walking around the track every day at practice.  I can’t say that I had anything close to blazing speed but after a few meets I began to place and toward the end of the season finally beat the one guy on our team that was always faster than me.  My big moment came at the last meet of the season when we were lining up for the 220 sprint and the coach in charge of the race from the other school looked at me and my teammate and said “choose your fastest runner to take this lane.”  With that my teammate and I Iooked at each other and he pointed to me and said ‘that’s you!”
You have to understand that this was a huge accomplishment for me at that time in my life.  I spent most of the time in Junior High trying to feel good about myself and finally felt like I had achieved a step in the right direction!  If I remember correctly, I came in third behind two other schools in that race, but it didn’t really matter because I felt that I had won my personal race.  Then a week or so after that our coach called me into his office to let me know that I was going to receive a letter for my season.  I was a little confused as I had not accumulated enough points to receive the coveted award.  When I asked him about it he said that I was getting it because he felt like I was the most improved member of the team that year!
I remember feeling like all the buttons on my shirt were going to pop off as they called my name and I walked up in front of the whole school to stand with the other receiving members of my team at the end of the year school assembly.  I had set my mind to win at the beginning of the track season, never gave up and ultimately won the prize!  I think this is exactly what Paul is trying to convey to all of us in this part of his letter to the church at Philippi.  He is telling us to start each day with a “winner’s attitude.”  To think as a winner, to act as a winner and to pursue your goals until you receive the prize.  After all, Jesus has already made a way for us to get the trophy.  All we have to do is go and get it!
Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What PRIZE am I expecting today?”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Secretariat

My wife and I watched the movie Secretariat over the weekend and I was amazed at many of the similarities of the events of the movie and of those in my own life as of late.  Most of you reading this blog today could probably say the same thing!  If you are familiar with the movie or have read the book on which it is largely based, “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion,” by William Nack, then you recall that it is a stirring tale of a women who defies all odds in the horse racing industry and against her family’s wishes and support, brings a unproven horse through to win, in spectacular fashion, the coveted Triple Crown of thoroughbred Racing in 1973.  This was a feat that had not been accomplished in 25 years to that point.

Penny Chenery was a women possessed with a focused vision that she refused to let go of.  I was brought to tears in the different scenes in the movie when her brother and husband questioned her motives, her ability and her faithfulness to her family.  All three of those subjects were also questioned by some of our family and friends as I was forced to make the tough decisions at the beginning stages of the journey with my wife’s health.  I was focused and single minded on pursuing what I believed was God’s best for my wife.
In the movie we see the family’s attitudes changing as Penny’s dream and faithfulness to her vision begin to prove true and the horse transitions into a proven winner.  At the end everyone is in agreement with her, forgiveness is asked and received and everyone lives happily ever after.  In my real life story, I also am now seeing a change of heart by most of those who did not support us a year or so ago.  As I have mentioned in past posts, just about everything that I stood for (without support) in the beginning has now come to past.  The difference between my experience and movieland is that most of my accusers act like nothing ever happened and I have not nor am expecting to receive an apology.
Yes, I was upset and genuinely hurt by the totally unexpected responses I received early on.  This was something that I had never before experienced in my life!  But you know what?  As a Christian, I was not depending on their support back then.  My trust has always been in the Lord.  Yes, I would have loved to have had their agreement and assistance, but it forced me to look solely to the Greater One, with the Greater Power to support, guide, comfort and love us through those difficult times.
Looking back now, I can see how easy it would have been for me to put my trust in people rather than establishing ourselves in the unshakable foundation of the Lord during those critical first stages.  Hebrews chapter twelve talks about things that can and cannot be shaken in this world.  Verse 28 says “Therefore, we must be thankful that we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”  The writer is talking about the placement of the kingdom of God in our lives.  People, places and things around us may be shaken, but God’s Word and His love will stand rock-steady in even the strongest of any natural or super-natural force that attempts to come against us.
I think that is why the Apostle Paul encourages us to “Always be joyful in the Lord!”  (Philippians 4:4 God’s Word ©)  With our trust solidly attached to Him, we can’t help but rejoice even when circumstances may look otherwise!  Keep that in mind as you begin this week.  Decide ahead of time in WHOM you have placed your unshakable trust and then simply rejoice in the Lord! – Then when people ask, let them know just why you’re so happy!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Extensions

We had a tradition in our family as the kids were growing up that on their birthday they could choose whatever they wanted for dinner and watch whatever movie they wanted to watch with the family that night.  I thought of that yesterday as I considered the evening’s events for my wife and I for my 60th birthday.  You may recall that we had the family celebration last week with our California kids and a friend, so last night was to be a quiet time with my wife and the pooch!

I finally decided on some pre-packaged ribs in a BBQ sauce (hey… they were on sale - & now I know why!!!) and a movie from the DIRECTV’s Pay for View line up.  Once we got all settled on the couch with my wife snuggled comfortably between myself and the dog (our 50lb lap dog!), I flipped on the TV, set it to the desired channel and was all ready to punch the “purchase” button when a note came up at the bottom of the screen that said “for information on this selection call Customer Service” and gave an extension number.
Well, needless to say, that was a bit frustrating as I was all comfy on the couch and would have to get up and find the DIRECTV Customer Service number.  The thing that caught my attention was that they gave the extension number but not the main interchange.  So, even though it really wasn’t a big deal, I chose to not hassle with the inconvenience and found another movie that I knew that my wife would enjoy that we had at home and slid it into the DVD player.  In the end it worked out to the best as I ended up talking to some people on the phone throughout the night and would have missed half the movie anyway!
The thought of that extension number stuck in my mind throughout the night though, and popped back into my conciseness early this morning while I was still in bed.  My wife was experiencing some strong jolts around 6:30 AM and as I rolled over and was gently rubbing her back while speaking the Word over her, I began to consider how we as Christians are extensions of Christ.  Just like whoever answered that extension at DIRECTV was an extended part of their Customer Service team, we are extended members of Christ Himself on this earth.
I began to speak this out to my wife during those early morning hours.  I confessed how she was an extension of the PEACE of God.  That she was an extension of the STRENGTH and of the JOY of Christ.  Then it dawned on me that she is a physical extension of His body and that His body has NO SICKNESS in it!  Jesus told us in John 15:5 that “I am the vine.  You are the branches.” (God’s Word ©)  As His branches we are one with Him just as Jesus said that “The father and I are one” later on in John 10:30. (God’s Word ©)  As branches we are connected to His vine and are direct extensions of whom and what He is.
That revelation brought an exciting peace into our room in those pre-dawn hours.  And as I continued to speak those truths over my wife she slowly relaxed, the strong jolts stopped and she slid back into a peaceful sleep until she woke up around 9:00 AM.  Then when I proceeded to help her get ready for the day she was smiling, talkative and totally cognizant of the morning’s activities.  She even had a much easier time swallowing her new medicine which she does not really care for!
What a thought to consider as we enter into a new weekend today.  I am continually amazed at how our Heavenly Father wants us to know about and act in our positions as His sons and daughters.  His is one of those close-knit families where He wants everyone to know where our position of power, peace, strength, joy and good health comes from.  He desires that our daily actions clearly and vividly demonstrate that we are branches that emanate from His vine!  That way, when we step out in obedience and faith, it is His reputation that is on the line and not ours!  You see… He has every angle worked out!  We just happen to be in a win-win situation.  Isn’t that cool!
So go forth this weekend as a physical extension of Him in all that you do and say.  Let His peace and His joy and His EVERYTHING radiate from you in every interaction.  And most of all… ENJOY it!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

In Retrospect...

As I sat down in front of my computer in the study early this morning, I stared in a daze right through the monitor and into my innermost thoughts.  Today I turned the big 6-0.  All kinds of thoughts were drifting through my mind.  Am I old now?  What do I have to show for this milestone in my life.  What does my future hold?

In many respects, my life has been circling in a holding pattern since we decided to return to our hometown after the completion of Bible School almost five years ago.  My lifelong goal of starting a church and diving head first into full-time ministry was wisely set aside as the needs of my wonderful wife’s health took top priority. 
That fateful step turned our lives inside out.  It is like everything changed.  Many whom I thought would rally alongside us in the tough decisions that followed didn’t.  In fact, some very close to us actually came against us when we needed them the most.  Talk about having your world go into a tailspin!  Ideologies and theology that I held onto for most of my adult life came into question.  I even began to see falsities and discrepancies in the way that I ministered to those in the various congregations that I served in over the past 25 years.  Suddenly I rudely discovered what it meant to be on the other side of the desk when assistance and personal ministry was required.
So I found myself sitting in the stillness of the new day this morning having almost reached the point of receiving social security, having gone through the exercise of examining just about everything that I took for granted in my life and in some respects wondering why!  Then I broke away from my thoughts and began to read Paul’s words to his friends in the church at Philippi.
Here we find a man who had lived at the pinnacle of Christian ministry.  He had traveled much of the known world and ministered to probably thousands of individuals.  He had faced the leaders of the religious groups, city governments and representatives of Caesar himself.  Then he suddenly found himself in Rome under house arrest and chained to a guard 24/7.  In the natural it looked like everything was over.  His glorious past but a puff of smoke and his future looking a little bleak.   But the interesting point is that Paul’s attitude was not one of “poor me” but of “celebration!”
In Philippians 1:18-19 he declares that “I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out.” (The Message Bible)  In the next verse he talks of his “earnest expectation” (NKJV) that in nothing will he be ashamed, but will continue in all boldness or confidence that everything was going to turn out for the glory of God.  He was not going to allow the circumstances that surrounded him to dictate contrary to what he know was God’s positive conclusion to the event his was currently experiencing.  Paul was a man that chose to live his daily life to the fullest extent possible.  He took advantage of every opportunity and was assured that everything would work out!
When I finished reading and contemplating that small section of scripture, I discovered that any personal hesitation about the next 60 years of my life had totally disappeared!  I read in another blog where the 60 year old writer stated that they were just reaching a stride in their lives!  And you know what?  That’s exactly how I feel.  I can look back and see with great satisfaction all the wonderful things that have been accomplished individually, as a member of a strong husband and wife team, and as a family unit and rest comfortably.  But it is far from over!  There are just way too many good things ahead to look forward to.
Yes, we’ve been through a lot, but we’ve learned and grown even more through it all!  In some respects you could say that I am now a seasoned veteran.   Maybe I don’t have all the vim and vigor that I did ten or twenty years ago, but I now have the wisdom, experience and battle tested love of God that gives me a bold and bright view of the years ahead.  I am excited about life.  How about you?  Age really doesn’t have much to do with your personal outlook.  What matters is how or through WHO’s eyes do you look at your future.
Paul kept his eyes squarely pegged on his heavenly Father and he lived a full and prosperous life that touched the heart of thousands in his time and continues to influence millions today!  I want to continue to live my life to the fullest just as Paul did his.  So when you come right down to it… I guess that I am proud to say that I have come to the sixtieth year of my young life.  The last few years have definitely made their mark, but it is but a drop in the bucket compared to the great times ahead.  Isn’t God good!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What GOOD THINGS am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Smile of Grace

I always know when my wife is doing well as she begins to hum or sing when I talk to her.  Normally her tune is accompanied by a big sassy smile, as if she thinks she is pulling off something devious on me!  Just the other day we were getting ready to go for a walk.  She had been extremely quiet all morning and as I helped her into her transport chair, she suddenly jerked, looked at me a little wild eyed and exclaimed “Now wait a minute there!”  Then she cocked her head and broke into one of her infectious smiles and burst out laughing.  I was actually in shock for a moment, but then rolled back onto the floor and joined her in a bout of glee.  I am not sure if she planned all that or not, but it certainly removed any caution off the day’s events and we went out into the sunshine and had a great walk!

I think that my wife is a living, breathing example of God’s gift of grace to us.  Just when it looks like things may be heading in a negative direction, she begins to sing or smile!  That is textbook grace to me!  God’s gift of grace is what causes us to live beyond the confines of our own understanding concerning the events in our lives.  Paul showed his consternation to the actions of the church at Galatia when they began to turn away from God’s grace and a life of faith and began to follow a confusing system of do’s and don’ts based on the Law and man’s own understanding.   He said, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness comes from the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21 KJV)
He was amazed that the people would knowingly set aside or neutralize the grace of God in their lives by following another gospel that seemed to make more sense to their own way of thinking.  It was almost as if the Gospel of grace was too simple for them!  In the next verse he rather bluntly calls them “stupid!”  (God’s Word ©)  I had a good friend years ago who was rather offended when the Living Bible came out and used the word “stupid” in some of its paraphrasing of the scripture.  He felt that God and/or the writers of the Word would never use such a derogatory description.  But when you look at Paul’s reaction to the church at Galatia, and get a feel for the passion behind his statement, the word “stupid” fits quite accurately here!  In the original Greek, this modern translation of “stupid” used here meant: “unintelligent, sensual or unthinking.” (Strong’s)
You can tell that Paul thought it was simply incredible that the people would put aside God’s grace for a system that made life a lot more difficult and peace and joy inaccessible.  They were trying to figure it out on their own and in doing do so, nullified the effects of grace for them.
Well, that’s not for me!  If I tried to go by what I see and understand on my own in my life right now, I don’t think that I could make it for another day.  God’s gift of grace and the truth of His Word energizes me and gives me the power, strength, hope and joy to go on until I see the manifestation of God’s promises to me.  Therefore I choose to live like my wife with a song on my lips and a smile on my face.  Why complicate God’s plan by trying to outwit the Creator of all things?  Besides, I don’t want to catch a glimpse of God shaking His head in dismay of me, but smiling in agreement with my unmovable trust in the simplicity of His grace.  How about you? 
Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and thereby with His grace, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting (of HIM) today?”