Our New Home

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Clinical Approach...

I had an interesting experience on this last Sunday.  Some close relatives of my wife’s came by in the mid-afternoon for a visit – it was actually a belated gathering in honor of my birthday last month, and an early celebration of my wife’s birthday in August.  We had a nice quiet time.  (I came to the realization this morning as I was cooking a pancake that gatherings with my wife’s immediate family are similar to when a MLB pitcher will purposely slow down the pace of a game when the opposing team begins to hit off of him.  In this case the volume of the conversations quiet down and the flow becomes very slow and sometimes a little tedious!)

When they were preparing to leave one of them mentioned that she had included a newspaper article on some new memory care research.  She then bluntly described how the article related the normal life expectancy of an individual suffering with Alzheimer’s.  I could see where this conversation was going so I quickly interjected the more encouraging time period that our specialist has seen through her years of experience and then paused and laughed while I placed my hand on my wife’s leg.  When I had their attention I then declared that “Nah… she’ll probably outlive all of us.”
Then in an attempt to build some faith in them, I briefly related some things we had heard at church about recounting the faithfulness of God in our past in order to keep our faith strong in the present.  Following this I shared the verse from Psalm 118:17 that I believe the Lord had given my wife where it says that “I will not die, but I will live and tell what the Lord has done” (God’s Word ©) and I stated again how the Lord is not done with her yet!
Their reaction to my words was a little puzzling.  One immediately looked very thoughtful and said, “Hummm, that is interesting.  I hadn’t heard that before,” and the other immediately stood to his feet and said, “Come on my dear, it’s time to go!”  After they left and I closed the door, I paused in thought for a moment and then stated to my wife that “they have no faith for your healing at all and we can expect no encouragement for our stand to come from them.”
Earlier this morning as I was reading about revivals on college campuses in the US from the 1800’s into the early 1900’s, I began to think about and then write down some phrases concerning true revival.  One item I wrote down was that "revival starts at home."  Then out of seemingly nowhere I heard the words that “revival is not clinical, it’s of the heart.”  The term “clinical” really captured my attention so I looked it up on an online dictionary.  It was described as “involving or based on direct observation of the patient, very objective, devoid of emotion, scientifically detached, austere and anticeptic, cold and dispassionate.” (The Free Dictionary by Farley)
That described to a tee the way that my wife’s immediate family has reacted to the attack on her health.  And I realized this morning that this is precisely why it has been so confusing and frustrating to me.  My wife and I and our children have always lived a passionate life. That is why we’ve been free to step out and experience things in this life that others questioned us about.  It is the way I always moved in ministry.
I’ve probably shared this before, but it is worth repeating… I once had the mother of one of our students in Children’s Church and later in the youth ministry share with me that her daughter confided in her at one point that she did not understand me.  They were a somewhat reserved family and she did not know how to take my constant enthusiasm and gregarious behavior while I ministered to the class.  Then one night after their family watched the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” the daughter turned to her Mom and stated that “Now I understand Pastor Jim!”
I am not sure if it is due to my Italian ancestry or a gift from the Lord, but that’s just who I am and the way I do things.  I always wanted my students to experience the fun, the emotion and the passion in their relationship with God.  It is this passion that I am striving to engulf myself in right now in the midst of my wife’s battle and ensuing victory in her health situation.  And it is very disconcerting for me to see those whom I thought would also desire the passion of God, especially those close to my wife, in her time of deepest need, respond with a clinical approach to the situation.
Now, I understand that it is a wall of protection that they have raised, but it just seems so contrary to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ that they originally introduced me to over 40 years ago.  But I guess in the end, one of the important lessons I’ve learned through this experience is once again that “Christ gives meaning to your life…” (Colossians 3:4 CEV).
My dependence and my reliance need to be found in Christ and not in those around me, no matter how deep the family or friend connection.  He will never neglect or abandon us. (see Joshua 1:5).  So… I’ll leave you today with this one word of insight that Joshua spoke to the children of Israel at the end of his days saying: “choose this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 KJV)
Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”
 
PS:  Today is our youngest son’s 26th birthday!  Happy and blessed birthday Jeremy.  May the Lord continue to richly bless you as you seek to serve Him with all your might and passion!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Target

I’ve been dwelling lately on the thought of Jesus being the purpose and plan of my life.  Colossians 3:4 in the Contemporary English Bible put it in perspective as I read from it this morning.  It begins by stating that “Christ gives meaning to your life…”  This came vividly to the forefront of my attention last Friday when I had gone to do some grocery shopping at Target.

A good friend of Piper’s had come over to spend some time with her, so I was free to go out and run a few errands.  Since I only had a few necessary grocery items to pick up, I decided to do something different and shop at Target instead of our neighborhood Safeway.  As I was pushing my cart away from the register after purchasing everything on my list, I absent mindedly began to take notice of all the couples who were shopping and talking together in the store, walking through the parking lot hand in hand and driving in their cars while glancing at each other to laugh and smile as they lived life in unity.
The reality and pain that I do not have that oneness of plan and purpose in living the joys of this life with my wife right now hit me like a brick falling from the sky.  The effects of the Alzheimer’s in combination with the related medications that she is on has caused her to be pretty quiet and not real responsive to outside stimuli.  As uncontrolled emotions began to overrun my senses, I made a quick beeline to the car.  I tossed in the bags of groceries and sat heavily in the front seat.
Now while the crowed parking lot at Target may not seem to be the most reflective and healing atmosphere for one going through a rough moment, it was for a few moments, as if I was in another place as the peace of God flooded my soul.  As I reached out to Him, He met my cry with an immediate sense of His presence.  He lovingly reminded me that He is true to his Word and that He is not YET done with my wife or me.  As various scripture promises paraded through my mind, I rapidly came back to the understanding of how important it is for me (and every Christian!) to keep my focus and attention on Jesus and NOT on what I see that might be contrary to His Word.
After a few moments alone with Him, I started the car and took the long way home through the rural hills of Bennett Valley that separate the southern reaches of our city from the area that we live in.  As I meandered through the trees, country homes, vineyards and vast landscapes that opened up before me, I remembered ALL the times in the past where the Lord had proven Himself to be faithful to me and my family.  Through the pleasant times and the rough periods, He ALWAYS met our every need and faith-filled requests.
When I pulled into our park like neighborhood a little while later I could not help but smile as I confidently KNEW that Jesus who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 God’s Word ©) will do the SAME for us in this experience in our lives.  And while this is by far the greatest test and tribulation that we have ever faced, His love, His faithfulness and His Word is still true and more powerful than ANYTHING that we may find ourselves involved with!
Like the Word says: “Christ brings meaning to your life…”  He is the purpose and the plan of our existence.  I now know more than ever the importance of keeping my focus upon Him instead of the people, places and things that are a part of my life.  He is the one to keep the balance and the peace.  My unyielding trust and faith in Him allows Him to continue to work His perfect plan and purpose in me as well as in those I care for.
Have a GREAT day!  Keep your focus upon Him and in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, April 26, 2013

Personal Revival

For the last few days I have been reading from an account of the travels and revival that followed the Canadian Presbyterian missionary Jonathan Goforth in the early 1900’s.  He had felt a call to China and was influenced through the writings of Hudson Taylor and Charles Finney.  Jonathan and his young bride Rosalind set off for their first assignment in China in 1888.  For many years they struggled as the work was very difficult and the going slow.  During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, Jonathan was attacked and grievously injured with a sword.  He was able to escape and he and his family returned to Canada for a year.

Goforth returned to China in 1901 with his family joining him a year later.  Jonathan was becoming restless and was inspired by hearing of the Welsh Revival in 1904-05.  It was as if the spirit of revival fell on him.  For many years after this it seemed like everywhere that Jonathan went revival followed.  It was a revival in the churches that was characterized by deep prayer, conviction of sin, repentance, restitution and then evangelism.  Not only were the meager congregations fired up in their newfound hunger and enthusiasm for Christ, but they were filled with an unending desire to live holy lives and share their love for God with all the unsaved in the villages and towns around them.  Christianity grew by thousands of new converts within a few years. *
Goforth outlined what he felt was the indispensable factors in preparing God’s way in revival as: 1) prayer, 2) a “back-to-the-Bible” movement, and 3) exalting Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s.**
I think what inspired and impressed me the most concerning this man’s life was that all he ever did was point people to Jesus and revival followed.  He simply trusted in God to break through the hardness of people’s hearts and expected the Holy Spirit to fall as people responded to the cry of their souls.  This revival period in China (as well as in many other parts of the world at that time) was not focused on great and miraculous moves of God (although they did occur with regularity), it was focused on the individual’s reaching out and yielding their lives to Jesus as holy vessels for His use.
That excites me!  How about you?  I believe that if we wish to see revival in our local communities that we also need to begin with a personal revival of prayer, total reliance in the basic truths of God’s Word and a focus on Jesus as our Lord.  Once that fire is ignited in us, we will each become contagious carriers who knowingly and sometimes unknowingly spread His love, His joy, His peace, His wisdom and His comfort to everyone we come in contact with!  So let it begin with you.  I would encourage you to start praying for a personal revival in you and your family this very weekend!  Then who knows how quickly that fire will spread through your neighborhood!  Have a super weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What REVIVAL am I expecting today?”
 


** Revival Fire by Wesley Duewel – Zondervan Publishing House, page 276

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Natural Source of Energy

In Colossians 1:29 the Apostle Paul talks of the energy of God that “so powerfully works in me.” (NIV)  It is interesting to note that the thought behind this power (or “might” as other translations put it) is more toward the sense of peace or rest than from mighty signs and wonders and other showy demonstrations of the power of God.  Strong’s denotes that this energy that works in us instrumentally “is a relation of rest.”  It is the constancy of His love and strength that undergirds all that we do on a daily bases.

It’s that unexplainable energy in me that helps me to get up off couch at night at times when I feel totally spent physically, mentally and emotionally, to do the dishes and help my wife get ready for bed, or to get up in the morning after very few hours of sleep and start the daily process all over again.  It is that ability that comes from deep inside to laugh when things do not look very promising in the natural.  It is that strength that causes one to trust the truth of God’s Word over what the doctors or physical evidence seems to be screaming in your face.
For many it is the ability to get up on a Monday morning and go to work or school.  For others it is the knack to be able to share an encouraging word when everyone else around you is down.  It is the inside energy or force that helps parents to be parents and for people to succeed where others have failed.  It is the mystery of God “which is Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27 KJV)
God’s energy that works mightily in us is the supernatural force of God that helps us to joyfully be all that He desires us to be.  And you know what?  When you became a Christian it came as part of the salvation package!  It is there in you for you to depend on.  So… take advantage of that power or energy working in you this day!  EXPECT His best as you go forth today.  Don’t plan on being tired, dejected or sad.  You have the ability of God in you to go beyond the dictates of the situations that you encounter each day!
Then when people ask what’s going on with you… Tell ‘em!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's Invisible!

I found myself smitten over the last few days as I read about the visible and invisible worlds that God has created.  Colossians 1:16 states that “He created all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.  Whether they are kings or lords, rulers or powers --- everything has been created through him and for him.” (God’s Word ©)  The more I have meditated on this verse, the more I have felt my faith soar and my determination increase in order to stand firm on the truth of His Word concerning my wife’s health.

It is just way too easy to get caught up in what you see with your natural eyes.  When you’re constantly faced with the visible deterioration of a loved one, (or any situation for that matter) it can be hard to see beyond the facts being presented to you.  But the scriptures make it very clear that there is a whole other world operating out there for us that we cannot see or touch with our physical senses.  Colossians 1:16 says that there are other seats of power available to us that are able to influence and change the visible realm that we exist in.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the doorway to contact and receive from God’s invisible world.  The next verse declares that the elders written of in our bibles received a good report or favor through their acts of faith, while Hebrews 11:3 states that our faith also gives us the understanding of how God created the world we now see from the invisible world we do not see.
All the promises and provisions of God’s world are ours and they are out there for the taking… through our actions and words of faith.  We may not be able to see those answers or provisions immediately, but nevertheless they are there for us!  Genesis 1 verses 3,6,9,11,14,20, 24 and 26 tell how God created the universe out of nothing that was visible at the time by what He said!  Jesus taught the disciples this same principle for them to follow in Mark 11:23.  Therefore it would make sense to follow the Father’s and the Son’s example and speak the Word in faith in order to receive the promises God has provided for us!
Yes, we all have to deal with the natural things around us, but we don’t have to let the natural course of things have the final answer in our lives.  Colossians 1:13 states that “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of his Son, whom he loves.” (God’s Word ©)  As Christians our base of power now lies in the unseen world of the kingdom of God – WOW!!!  And our faith filled actions and words (based on His Word) will eventually turn any negative situation that you may be facing around and put it in line with God’s promises for you.
Now that’s what I call Good News!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What Good News am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Error!

Yesterday morning while I was preparing breakfast, I suddenly realized that I was fighting a little depression and unbelief concerning my wife’s progress in her healing recovery as set forth in Mark 16:18.  This scripture declares that when believers lay hands on the sick that "they shall recover." (KJV)  That word translated “recover” means exactly what it says.  For some the healing provision is a process of time or you could say a process of recovery.  The scriptures clearly designate various ways in which people receive their healing.  Some are instantaneously, some take additional actions of obedience and faith while others occur over a period of time.

As I thought about how I was feeling it dawned on me that I did not speak a lot of faith concerning my wife’s situation when discussing it with relatives and friends at my aunt’s service on the previous day. I shared the current state of affairs with my wife’s reactions to the new medications, but I did not always give equal or greater emphasis to the ONE who has provided the healing.  I did not always give the interested individuals a place in which to hook up their faith with ours!  In some respects I let them as well as myself down.  I did not give them an opportunity to be used of the Lord and receive a blessing as they combined their faith with actions based on the solid foundation of God’s Word.
So why was I feeling down yesterday?  I was found lacking faith.  I had spent too much time dwelling in the natural realm and not enough in the arena of faith.  And the natural realm does not leave one with a lot of hope!  Colossians 1:23 talks about not “being moved from the solid foundation of the hope (or Great Expectations) that the Good News contains.” (God’s Word ©)   
I began the day yesterday with a shaky, slippery and weak foundation under me!  But contrary to the natural realm, the Word of God provides us with a “solid foundation” that will weather all the storms of doubt, unbelief and what you may be observing before your eyes.  Have you ever experienced a time like that?  Have you ever yielded to what you see instead of what you KNOW to be the truth from God’s Word?
Well, the solution is simple my friend.  It just takes more time in studying the Word, believing and acting upon that Word and then more time expressing your faith in that Word to those you come in contact with!  (See: Revelation 12:11)
Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson and just maybe will save you from making the same error that I did!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, April 22, 2013

Turn That Frown Around...

I had the honor and pleasure of bring forth the message at my aunt’s Memorial Service yesterday.  I would have to say that it would be better called a "Celebration of Life" Service.  The only tears shed were tears of joy as many shared during the open mike time about their precious memories of this amazing woman.  One reoccurring point that was made by several individuals and especially detailed through her two younger daughters was the reality of their Mom’s ability to turn any negative situation around so that peace and comfort always prevailed after a talk with her.

One of my cousins even joked about her consternation at times like this, when she really wanted to stay upset for a while over what was bothering her, but that her Mom’s words and compassion always diffused the situation.  
I experienced a similar situation this morning.  Today had started on a different note than usual.  I actually slept in about 45 minutes later than normal.  When I looked over at the clock I awoke with a jerk and got up to get dressed and into my study so as to redeem whatever time left that I could spend in the Word alone before my wife arose.  But alas, that was not the plan for today.  When I leaned over to glance at my her I noticed that she was wide awake and looking ready to arise for the day.
So I sort of begrudgingly accepted the situation and decided that it was best to go with the flow and get my study time after breakfast.  Once at the table my wife was not interested in eating her cereal with fresh blueberries that I had prepared for her.  After numerous attempts I finally sat back in my chair, a little frustrated and upset and stared out the window to our patio.  As I sat there for a moment wallowing in self-pity, the picture of my cousin at the service yesterday laughing at her consternation with her Mom’s words of “every cloud has a silver lining” played before my inner eyes.
I had to chuckle a little as I shook away my desire to be upset, grabbed for my bible and started reading aloud from the book of Colossians.  When I got to verse eleven of the first chapter where Paul is praying for his readers, the reality of the truth burst forth inside me as I read: “We ask him to strengthen you by his glorious might with all the power you need to patiently endure everything with joy.”
Paul is telling us the same thing that my aunt lived!  We are not to allow anger, frustration or self-pity to embroil us, but instead we should turn those natural reactions to the events of our lives over to God and allow His mighty power to give us the strength to patiently endure with His inner joy!  Well let me tell you… those words turned my frown upside down as I began to smile while my thoughts turned from the hopelessness I saw, to faith in His ability to continue to do a good work inside of my wife.
When I completed reading aloud to my wife and I from the Word this morning, I noticed that the whole atmosphere in our home as well as inside of me had changed.  In fact as I look over at my wife right now she is humming along with the Christian music that is playing on Pandora through the speakers in our living room.  She still hasn’t eaten much cereal but she did drink all of her protein drink, drank her juice and took her medications, so I guess I just need to rejoice, trust the Lord and be happy with what she has accomplished so far this morning!
I choose right now to be at peace and allow His joy to prevail and thereby give Him the open door He needs to do a good work in our lives today.  Have you come to that point in your life today?  It might just be the best decision and corresponding action that you take all week!  So, have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What Good News am I expecting today?”

Friday, April 19, 2013

Making Sense...


John Gill in his Exposition of the Entire Bible comments on Jesus’ statement in John 14:6 concerning being “the life” by saying, “Christ is the author and the giver of life, natural, spiritual and eternal; or he is the way of life, or the living way in opposition to the law which was so far from being the way of life, that it was the ministration of condemnation and death…”  I was impressed first off by the thought of Jesus as “the living way,” and secondly when I saw that everything else in the world is so far away from being the way of life.  Jesus is alive and well and is wanting to experience and guide us through every situation that occurs in our daily lives, no mater how unsettling or unusual they may be.

Last weekend our satellite service offered free access to one set of premium movie channels.  I decided to take advantage of the offer and went through the listings for the three day period and set the DVR to record about a half a dozen movies that looked interesting.  One of the movies was a 1980 remake of “Flash Gordon.”  The movie is about the action comic book series that was first published in 1934.  Last night we decided to check it out and watched (or better said… fast-forwarded through the majority of) the production.  The flick was intentionally made using a “camp style” similar to the 1960’s Batman TV series.  The definition of “camp style” is “an aesthetic sensibility that regards something as appealing or humorous because of it’s ridiculousness to the viewer.” *

And let me tell you that this movie totally met that definition!  The acting, sets and situations seemed to be styled after the mid to late 1930 serials that preceded the main attractions shown in the movie theaters at that time.  When you combined that with the 1980’s synthesized music scores, the effect was very funny and completely out of touch with any sense of reality!  Like I said, we had a good laugh, but fast forwarded through most of the movie as I really didn’t want to waste our time!

This morning as I studied Jesus as “the living way,” I was impressed with how He is in complete step with the reality of our daily lives.  He is alive and in tune to the ever changing needs of our society.  Then I considered how crazy or you might say ridiculous everything happening in the world around us is in comparison to astuteness of Jesus and His living Word.  Colossians 3:1 declares “Since you were brought back to life with Christ, focus on the things that are above – where Christ holds the highest position.” (God’s Word ©)  Here the Apostle Paul is encouraging us to keep our eyes on Jesus and His Word and not on the dictates and events that are occurring in the natural sphere of our lives.

I am sure that all of you, like me, have been appalled at the recent events occurring in Boston, and the multiple mass shootings that happened over the last year or so.  These things just seem so wrong, so confusing and so ridiculously opposite the way of God.  And the truth of the matter is that they are!  They are manifestations directed by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).  These events are situations that can rock the very core of our existence and faith if we let them.  But we are told to focus our attention on “the things that are above” where Jesus is in total control!

He is the ONLY one that brings life into the situations we face.  He is our foundation and safe haven in the rocky and confusing times we are seeing today.  He is the One to make sense in the midst of the things that we might question or be tempted to be shaken by.  He is “the living way!”  He’s been with us in the past, is there at our side today, and will be there for us in our tomorrows.  There have been many times in the past 3 or 4 years where this understanding has been the ONLY thing that has helped me through the day!

So don’t allow the confusing events happening around us to take your focus off the One who is ultimately in charge of us!  Pray for those in need.  Take time to reach out with a helping hand, a kind word or maybe just a hug of reassurance.  Then share the comfort of your firm foundation in shaky times and allow the love and the grace and the peace of Jesus to prevail all around you!

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



Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Encyclopedia

In John 14:6 Jesus describes Himself as “the way, the truth and the life.” (KJV)  According to Thayer’s Greek definitions, Jesus’ meaning of truth demonstrates “what is true in any matter under consideration.”  That kind of says it all doesn’t it!  It clearly marks the line in the sand that none of us should cross!  Jesus and His Word are true, and that’s it!  Any other fact or truth that is presented that is contrary to what He says therefore must not be totally accurate.

I’ve have always enjoyed history.  I thoroughly relished the various history classes I had in school and still enjoy historical movies, books and online or newspaper reports on historical events and new discoveries.  Back in the mid-eighties when my wife began to homeschool our two youngest children, her parents gave us their old set of encyclopedias for “The Berruto Homeschool” as they used to call it, to be used for information, research and various school projects.  I was so enthralled with the set that I began to read each volume, one at a time in the evenings after dinner.  I don’t remember if I ever finished going through all the books A-Z, but I do recall devouring all the facts and figures and historical data that was contained in the volumes that I did read!
I think that this is the same hunger for the facts and figures of the truth contained in God’s Word that each of us should exemplify!  Our bibles are complete volumes of the encyclopedia of life contained in one book.  And contrary to that 1960's set of books we had (and still do in fact!), the bible encyclopedia never goes out of date!  You never need to get a revision or yearly update.  God’s Word is always fresh, always relevant to the current times, and always contains the latest, most up to date information available!
And… most importantly of all, it IS THE TRUTH!  There is no editorial bias, no human philosophy, and no natural explanations involved.  It is the simple, unpolluted, and faithfully accurate and POWERFUL Word of the living God! (See John 1:1)  1 Corinthians 1:20 declares that within Jesus, who is this living Word of God “All the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God by us.”
So… who or what are you going to believe?  Will you yield your understanding and your life to what the news media says, to what you feel or see, or to the infallible, faithfully true and supernaturally powerful Word of the living God?  Hummm… seems like an easy answer to me!  I choose to agree with what Jesus said when He proclaimed that He and He alone was (and is) “the way, the TRUTH, and the life.”  How about you?  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What TRUTH am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

MapQuest

I was awe struck the other day as I read John 14:6 where Jesus continues His discussion of mansions in heaven.  In this verse He declared who He was, proclaiming, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (NKJV)  The first thing that caught my attention was how Jesus identified Himself in union and authority with the Father by telling His disciples the same thing that God told Moses when he asked God what he should say to the Israelites as to who sent him.  Like His father before Him, Jesus described Himself as the great “I Am!”

The Jewish people at that time knew exactly what He was referring to.  Jesus had said the same thing to some of the Jewish leaders back in John 8:58 and they immediately picked up stones to throw at Him because of His brash (and to them) blasphemous statement.  When the Father told Moses in Exodus 3:14 that “I AM WHO I AM” (NIV) He was unveiling His name Jehovah to the Israelite nation.  It is the name that describes Him as self-existent without any dependence on any other, as eternal and unchangeable, and as the One who is faithful and true to His Word and all the promises contained therein.
Then Jesus talked about three different responsibilities, roles or parts of Himself in relation to mankind.  He said that “I am the way, the truth and the life.” In the original Greek the word “way” pictures “a road, a traveler’s way, progress in life, a course of conduct, and a way or manner of thinking, feeling or deciding.” (Strong’s and Thayer’s Greek Definitions)  In today’s vernacular one could say it describes the roads we individually travel in this life.
I am a big fan of MapQuest.  Before I go anywhere that I may be unfamiliar with I will usually check out the driving instructions on MapQuest.  I also have the app on my iPhone so I can check directions when I am away from my computer!  When my wife’s brain specialist moved to a new office in San Francisco a few months ago I MapQuested the route but was still a little confused at the directions it gave.  It is amazing the amount of detail you can get the deeper you go into your search with this program.  I finally got to the place where I had close up visuals of the office building/hospital and surrounding businesses and apartments.  When we actually drove into the new neighborhood in the Castro district of the City, I knew exactly where I was going and felt like I had been there before!
That is a similar example of what Jesus was talking about when He said that He was the way.  John 1:1 declares that Jesus and the Word of God as recorded in our Bibles are one.  Therefore the deeper we go into the study of His Word, the greater depth of detail we will receive concerning the directions we are to follow in our day to day life.  Then as the different events of our lives begin to unfold, we will know exactly what to do just as if we had done it all before!  Just as we parents want and train our kids to be prepared for the things that they will face in this life, our heavenly Father wants and has provided a way for us to be prepared to accurately handle the various situations as they come up.
Tomorrow we’ll have some thoughts on what Jesus was referring to when He discussed His role as “the truth,” but for now, think about how firmly you are established in His way for your life.  The good thing is that no matter where you think you might be, He always has more details available for you to discover in the pages of His Word!  Have a good trip!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What DIRECTIONS I am expecting today?”
 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New Houses

In the mid-1980’s our young family was growing and my wife and I began to pray about the potential of purchasing our first home.  We had been renting my Grandmother’s small two bedroom home from my parents after my Dad’s Mom had gone on to be with the Lord.  It was a wonderful home in a quant neighborhood with a large back yard.  The home had everything going for it except for the two bedrooms and a small one car garage.  At the time we had two children who shared one bedroom and were planning on having at least two or three more children in the near future.  My wife really wanted five kids, so we decided to just trust that the good Lord would let us know when our quiver was full! (See: Psalms 127:3-5)

The more that we put our feet to our faith, the clearer God’s direction came to us concerning the big step of home ownership.  During that time we spent the majority of our weekends piling the two kids in the back seat of my wife’s hot red Pontiac wagon and driving through the areas of town where new houses were being built.  It seemed that our hometown was expanding to the west and to the north, so that is where we focused our search.
After many months of looking at countless model homes and talking to a barrage of Real Estate agents, we put a deposit on a new home being constructed on the western border of Santa Rosa.  But neither my wife nor I had a complete peace about the home, even though we had a great Christian agent representing the housing tract, a floor plan that would work well for our growing family and a location near our church and the school that our home school program was associated with.  The final straw came as I trudged on a rainy day through the muddy lot we had selected, only to discover that our neighbors behind us had three large continuously barking Doberman Pinschers who loved to throw themselves against the fence when anyone came near! So after discussing it with my wife, we withdrew our deposit and continued our search.
Well, to make a long story short, a few months later we ended up finding a wonderful new housing tract that they were developing in a nice area north of town with a larger house and a larger backyard… and it was less expensive than the other houses we had considered!   It was the right house, in the right location, that we discovered and purchased at the right time!
I thought of all this as I was reading from John 14:1-2 this morning where Jesus stated: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.” (NKJV)  Our new home was located at the far border of the new subdivision near some small foothills.  When our home was completed and we finally moved in, there was still a lot of building going on all around us.  The sounds of hammers, electric saws, lumber trucks, and the construction crews yelling back and forth filled the air for months.
That must be similar to what goes on in heaven when the church is revived and fired up enough to go out and share the Good News of Jesus Christ to those around them. Jesus promised us that He would prepare a mansion for us, therefore with every new Christian there must necessarily come the building of a new house which continually expands the borders of heaven!  There is one big difference though, between the new housing tracts here on the earth and those in heaven.
Most new subdivisions, like the one we choose, only give the potential buyers a few choices of house styles and floor plans.  Our particular tract offered four different plans.  I believe that each house built in heaven will have a unique design that perfectly fits the desires of the new occupants when their time to move in comes.  And due to the lack of space considerations and unlimited lot size or acreage available, no home will look out of place or interfere with the view from any home!
Once again, Jesus’ words go to show how much our heavenly Father loves and cares for us, and how intimately He knows our every need, thought and desire!  He not only wants to help us through our daily lives during our stay here on earth, but also has plans for our eternal happiness and comfort once we move in with Him in His hometown!  I have to admit that thoughts like this tend to overwhelm my heart as I think about God’s concern for me.  It makes me want to share His Good News even more with others so that they too, can partake of His goodness!
How about you?  Have you ever considered what your “mansion” in heaven will look like?  I’m kind of leaning toward a modern two story log house with a stream running through the backyard (minus the Doberman Pinschers!) and a lake surrounded by towering Redwoods and Pines out front!  Hummmm… I can’t wait to ask others I meet if they’ve ever thought about their mansions in heaven!  Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Revival!

I have considered myself to be a student of the great revivals that have occurred throughout the world over the last few hundred years.  What I discovered over this weekend is that this statement is only partially correct.  What was brought to my attention, as I read yet another great volume on revivals, was that I have been an avid student of the Pentecostal revivals that have swept through the lands at various times throughout history.

Back in the late 1990’s while attending a conference at the Rhema USA campus in Broken Arrow Oklahoma with my Pastor, I purchased a book at the church bookstore entitled “Revival Fire” by Wesley Duewel.  I was very excited about the book and could hardly wait to begin reading it.   On the first night of our return home a week later, I expectantly pulled my purchase out from my suitcase and began to read it as I lay down in my own bed!  I had spent the week sleeping on the floor in the living room of some close friends of our pastor… and oh, did I mentioned that I also shared the sleeping bag with their pug?
Anyway, as I read through the first chapter of the book I quickly realized that this particular volume was focused on just about every revival that had occurred at the turn of the century from the 1800’s into the beginning of the 1900’s- except the Pentecostal revivals!  At that time I was quite disappointed, closed the barely started book and slipped it onto one of my book shelves.
Well, that book sat there for many years until last week when I felt a particular leading to dust it off and finish it!  As I have now been reading the book, I’ve found myself entranced by the hunger that the people involved in the various outbreaks of the presence of God across the globe had for “praying (for) themselves or others from the bondage of sin to the liberty of the Gospel” (Revival Fire pg 193)  These revival activities were occurring with the Methodists (who were the largest Christian denomination in the USA at that time), the Baptists and many other non-Pentecostal churches and affiliations.  Their churches in the USA and countries like Wales, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, South Africa, India, Korea, China and countless other locations were expanding beyond measure.  The unsaved were flocking to the daily prayer meetings and crying out to God in repentance and receiving forgiveness and salvation.
As one steeped in the Pentecostal tradition, I have always seen the powerful moves of the Holy Ghost complete with speaking in tongues and miraculous healings such as those that occurred at the Azusa Street meetings that began in Los Angeles in 1906, where the Pentecostal experience was re-introduced into the church, as being the center of the Great Awakening and other periods of great revival.  As I am reading through this account, I now see that it was just a part of what God was doing through many denominations and forms of worship throughout the world.
Once again, the Holy Spirit has been showing me that He meets all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways!  He knows exactly who we are, what we are comfortable with, and maybe most importantly, just the best way to reach each of us and draw us closer to Him.  After all, revival can simply be defined as “the reviving of the church.”  As we members of the church are revived, and re-fired up with a hunger for God and the saving of the lost, the names listed in the Book Of Life will vastly and rapidly be increased!
How exciting!  I long greater than ever to see the inhabitants of my city clamoring for God and a life of holiness and joy!  How about you?  It doesn’t matter if you live in a liberal or conservative area.  God is still God and a people fired up for Him can prayerfully break through the powers of darkness and bring the light of the Gospel to the forefront of any city, in any country, under any form of government in the world!  It is called “REVIVAL” and it starts with you and me.  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Flying Saucers...

My wife and I watched an old Sci-fi movie last night that I had recorded a few days earlier on one of the classic movie channels.  The movie entitled “Earth vs The Flying Saucers” was filmed in black and white and premiered in 1956.  It starred Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor.  I guess we have been on sort of a sci-fi binge for a few weeks as we have recently watched a number of these movies including the new Star Trek, Cowboys and Aliens, Battleship and the 2009 Disney remake Race to Witch Mountain.

So after all the modern pics, I thought that it might be fun to watch an old classic within the same genre when I came across it in the TV listings.  The movie was actually quite entertaining when you watch it with an understanding of the film technology that was available at that time.  It was a masterful blend of live filming and animation when known monuments or buildings in Washington DC were shown being destroyed by the alien flying saucers.  An interesting tidbit of trivia is that the well-known special effects expert Ray Harryhausen who created the flying saucer and alien special effects was said to have interviewed the noted 1950’s “contactee”  George Adamski*  for the depiction of the flying saucers in the movie.
After we watched the movie I became a little philosophical and noted to my wife how I find it interesting that just about every sci-fi movie and book that I have ever read always seems to depict the alien creatures as being far superior in their mental and physical development when compared to us poor souls who inhabit the earth!  These same aliens are most times pictured as being quite ugly or grossly misshaped compared to the form of the human species.  I had to stop and laugh after I said it because of the absurdity of this thought when you look at how the bible depicts the sons and daughters of God.
When the three members of the divine Godhead gathered to create man they declared in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion…”  (LITV)  According to this verse, we are the dominant species created by God.  We were designed to operate within the image and likeness of God, and thereby exhibit superior capabilities beyond any other beings!  Romans 8:37 says that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (KJV)
It would seem that things have gotten turned around over the centuries as man has moved further away from the original plan of God for their lives.  From my point of view it looks like most people tend to look at the unknown from a position of fear and/or unbelief and doubt – from a position of weakness and defeat rather than from the position of victory that God originally planned for us.
Philippians 4:13 proclaims that "I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me.” (God’s Word ©)  This describes a life that is experienced through the eyes of victory!  It is the demonstration of one who lives not in their own strength, not by what they see (when it conflicts with the Word of God), but in the strength and power that the Lord Jesus Christ provides for them!
How do you view your life?  Are the “aliens” you face far superior to you, or do you see them as being “under your feet?” (See: Joshua 1:3 / Malachi 4:3)  Do you approach the various activities and responsibilities in your daily lives as a conqueror or in weakness with a brooding sense of defeat?
Who do you see when you look in the mirror in the morning?  It should be a strong, confident and courageous individual who was created to function within the capabilities of the image of God!  WOW!  Pretty cool thought wouldn’t you say?  So go out this weekend and rebuke those flying saucers of fear that try to hover over your head and march in the triumphal procession you were destined to participate in.  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What FLYING SAUCERS am I expecting to KNOCK DOWN today?”
 
* George Adamski (April 17, 1891 – April 23, 1965) was a Polish-born American citizen who became widely known in ufology circles, and to some degree in popular culture, after he claimed to have photographed ships from other planets, met with friendly Nordic alien Space Brothers, and to have taken flights with them. The first of the so-called contactees of the 1950s, he was called a "philosopher, teacher, student and saucer researcher", though his claims were met with skepticism.[2]
 Adamski had written a best selling book titled Flying Saucers Have Landed detailing his experiences, co-written with Desmond Leslie.[3]  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Adamski)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Are You Listening?

“O my soul, why are you cast down? 
 And why do you moan within me?
 Hope (or put your expectations) in God
 For I yet thank Him for the salvation
 Of my face and my God.”    *


Last night our Pastor taught on the end times and focused on the events that Jesus spoke of in Matthew chapter 24.  At one point in his discussion he turned to verse twenty four and read: “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.”  (NIV)  He then went on to say that this is happening right now and related a few recent incidents.  My attention was peaked when he mentioned a particular set of well published meetings that occurred a few years ago that stopped when some discrepancies about the leader came into the public eye.
The reason this caught my attention was that I personally knew some Christian leaders who fully supported and attended some of the meetings.  Whenever the conversation turned to this event I always noticed that I had an instant check in my spirit.  At the time I couldn’t explain it and since it seemed like no harm was coming from my friends association with the meetings, I kept my questions a secret. 
I had not really thought much about the situation since that time until last night.  When the Pastor mentioned it the lights suddenly went on inside of me.  It wasn’t so much that I might have been right and that someone else may have been wrong, it was the confirmation that I can and do hear accurately from God!  It was as if our heavenly Father took me aside, put His arm around me and said, “See I love you and I am taking good care of you!”  As Psalm 42:11 says, it was as if the Lord was telling me that He was saving (my) face in my own eyes!  He was reaffirming my personal value in my ability to hear Him.
I was reminded, once again, of some of the actions I took when my wife’s health problems were finally diagnosed a few months after we returned to California in 2009.  At the time, some of my steps were not received very positively from some in our families.  In fact, I took quite a bit of heat!  But we stayed true to the way we believed the Lord wanted us to go and through the course of time have seen the wisdom behind His directions as finances, healthcare, housing, transportation and other details fell into place.
Our loving heavenly Father wants each of us to know of His irreversible, infallible, and unending love that He has for us.  He desires to fellowship with each of us on a regular basis in order for us to hear His directions and have the confidence and ability and fortitude to obey them no matter what anyone else thinks!  In Ephesians 6:10 the Apostle Paul tells us, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (NIV)  Then in the following verses he tells us how to do it!
Once you step out along the path that He is wanting for you to follow, you have to depend on His strength and His mighty power to take care of you.  Others may think that they really have your best in mind when they give you advice that is contrary to the path you’re on, but the truth be known, they do not have the same information that you have been given from the throne of God.  Face it… Our heavenly Father can see a lot further down the road of life than anyone on this earth!  So for my money… I’ll go with His counsel on the best way to live my life.
You may not always know all the reasoning behind the directions He gives you at the time, but when you faithfully follow His plan, the answers will soon come to light.  Remember how much He loves you and wants you to succeed.  Nothing else in this world can come close to it!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… What am I expecting TO HEAR today?”
 

* Psalm 42:11 Literal Translation of the Bible

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Walking Through The Nursery

I stopped by our local nursery yesterday afternoon in order to purchase the beginnings of our patio vegetable garden.  There is something special about a well groomed nursery to me!  When you walk through the rows of fresh, young greens plants the whole atmosphere seems to ooze with the joy of life!  I quickly ambled over to the as yet small selection of vegetables and reveled in the dreams of picking fresh tomatoes and zucchini from my mature vines in our main patio this summer.

One of my favorite things that I enjoyed when I worked in the garden department at the Home Depot in Oklahoma while attending Bible School, was to walk through the outdoor nursery area as soon as I clocked in for the day.  This was especially fulfilling on the relatively few days that I worked the opening shift.  On those days I would be the first one out amongst the plants in the early hours before the store opened, and depending on the time of year, before the sun even arose in the sky!  Maybe it sounds strange to some of you, but there was a unique sense of peace and yet an awe of God that would overtake me as I walked through the rows of greenery and just absorbed their beauty, their life and the quietness that surrounded me.  Maybe that’s the same feeling and sense that Adam and Eve felt as they walked through the Garden of Eden before the fall!
 
I picked up that same sense of serenity this morning as I read from Psalm 42 during my study time in the quiet of the early morning.  You can quickly ascertain that the writer, thought to be David, was going through a tough time in his life.  He begins by crying out to God, describing his longing for His renewed presence in his life.  He tells of his tears, his feelings of being alone, and of the taunts of the people around him as they question his devotion to the Lord.  But through it all David speaks to his inner man saying, “Why are you discouraged, my soul?  Why are you so restless?  Put your hope (or expectations) in God, because I will still praise him.  He is my savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11 God’s Word ©)
 
Even though his personal world was in chaos at the moment, David still reached out and trusted in the promises of his heavenly Father.  It was as if in the midst of the problems and persecutions, he took a detour to walk through the garden of God so as to receive His serenity and “zoe” life that abounds in His presence!
 
You and I can walk in that same peace, joy and serenity that David spoke of.  We can have that same feelings of the early morning walk through the nursery that I experienced in Oklahoma.  It can be a daily experience that we can only find in our relationship with God.  Isn’t that special!  So I would encourage you to find your special place, your garden and walk with Him in a deeper way today. Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His word and keep asking yourself… “What am I experiencing today?”

 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Every MEANS Every!

As I was reading from Psalm 128 this morning I was refreshed to see that God cares for every part of our being.  When one is in the midst of personal trials and tribulations it is very easy to begin to yield to the feelings that certain parts of your life will never be “good” again.  I think that this happens because we will tend to focus too heavily on what we see and not on what God’s Word has to say about the situation.  But God promises through scriptures like Psalm 128:1-2 that things will be “good” again, and maybe… even better than they were before!

The writer of this Psalm declares,
“Blessed is everyone who fears Jehovah,
 Who walks in His ways. 
 For you shall surely eat the labor of your hands;
 You shall be happy, and all is good to you.”  *

The word that this particular version translates as “good” is voiced as “well” in the King James Version and it means: “good, good things, agreeable, and glad, happy and prosperous concerning man’s sensuous nature, as well as good understanding concerning man’s intellectual nature.” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions)
So from that definition, one can deduce that God cares for and has an established plan to take care of the whole man.  It just makes sense that since God created man (and women) the way He did with all the intricacies of their makeup, that He would also know how to bring peace to every part of them.  He does not want us to feel left alone or stranded in an area of our lives and personal wellbeing.  He has an answer for every feeling, every need, and every emotion.
He has established through His Word that if we trust Him, He will fulfill our every need and that everything will be “good” again!  Remember He said, “You shall be happy and all is good to you.”
Well, that TRUTH sure brought peace to my heart and soul today!  I hope that it does the same thing for you!  So have no fear, for the KING is here… and He has everything under control!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”
 

 * Psalm 128:1-2 Literal Translation of the Holy Bible