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Fall is in the air!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Refreshment

I received a phone call yesterday from a friend I hadn’t heard from in quite a while.  And I have to tell you, that it was sooooo refreshing!  He really encouraged me and helped to put a new skip in my step throughout the day.  As I was reading the Word this morning, I began to reflect on why that conversation had blessed me so much and I quickly realized that it was because we focused our attention on “where the action is” and that we were seeing “things from His perspective.”  (Colossians 3:2 The Message Bible)

Acts 3:19 tells us that “times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” (KJV) Throughout this entire battle with my wife’s health, His daily refreshing has been the only thing that has kept me afloat.  I cannot imagine how anyone facing a supposedly terminal disease can make it without Him!  His Word is THE truth that dispels what medical science and many times what your own eyes scream to be the final word on the matter.
The entire rendition of Colossians 3:1-2 from The Message Bible reads: “So, if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.  Pursue the things over which Christ presides.  Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you.  Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is.  See things from his perspective.”
I am in a place now where I like – and I need – to be where the action is!  And that place is being firmly entrenched in the promises of God for me and my wife!  I need to hear and be in the place of faith.  I know what the circumstances are trying to dictate, I know what the “facts” say, but I am relying on what God’s Word declares! 
Late yesterday afternoon my wife, and the pooch and I went on a walk around our community lake.  That is also a very refreshing place for me to frequent.  It is surrounded by towering redwoods, tall pines, green lawns and has the overall feel to me, of a resort in the Sierras!  Because it was hot outside I had changed into a lighter T-Shirt before we left.  The shirt was an old one that I bought many years ago at the Grayeagle Store while on vacation in Plumas County, California.  It is now very thin, well-worn and tremendously comfortable!
While out on the walk we met another couple with a Golden Retriever and stopped to chat while the dogs checked each other out.  At one point in the conversation the gentleman observed my shirt and mentioned that he liked Grayeagle.  Well, my face must have lit up and when I asked if they had been there before he said that in the past, they had vacationed there for 26 years in a row.  After sharing about my love for the area, I pointed to my wife and mentioned to them that I keep telling her that we will hike there together again!  They both laughed nervously and we said our good-byes and continued our walks.
I could tell by their reaction that they couldn't figure out how I could be so positive and had no faith for what I said, but I shrugged it off and smiled throughout the rest of our walk, as I pictured us hiking amongst the gorgeous views in the mountains of the Plumas National Forest.  Our faith is in the truth of God’s Word… how about you?  If there’s any questions, or any doubts, then I suggest that you get some “times of refreshing” in “the presence of the Lord.”  You’ve got lots of company from those in the past who have been refreshed in it and stood to see His victory in their lives.  Don’t forget about Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Jonah and the church in the book of Acts.
It worked for them.  I believe it’s working for me and my wife, and it will work for you!  So go ahead… get refreshed and then rejoice!  Have a terrific day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Roots

My folks had a love for Redwood trees.  They planted a small shoot – most likely from a burl they purchased at the gift shop at Richardson Grove State Park in northern California – in the back yard of our new home, back in the early 1960’s.  Through the years it grew to become a towering majestic masterpiece that quickly became the central point of the yard.  Many a yard party, family gatherings, and just plain old fun times were spent in the shadow of that tree.  I recently came across some pictures in an old photo album that displayed images from my wife’s and my wedding rehearsal dinner that was celebrated in the shade of that tall Coast Redwood.

A few years after my wife and I had married, my folks began to get a little concerned about the possibility of the tree falling down during a winter storm.  They finally gave in to the nagging thought, and much to my sorrow, they had the tree cut down, although they did not have the stump removed.  Well, wouldn’t you know!  Within a short period of time they had two smaller renditions of the tree growing out from that stump!  Over the ensuing years up to the present time, those two shoots have grown until they both tower over the house and have resumed the place as the centerpiece of the yard.
Coast Redwoods are some of the oldest living and tallest trees in the world.  But they differ a little from other trees in that they have a shallow root system given the great height of their canopies.  They have no tap root and have other roots that may reach no deeper than 6-12 feet.  The major roots are about one inch in diameter and typically spread out horizontally for approximately 50 – 80 feet.  In the Redwood forests the trees grow close together, intermingling their root systems, which gives them the ability to stand and grow for hundreds of years!
So why all this info about Redwood Trees?  Well, I came across a couple of scriptures this morning that talked about the need for Christians to “Sink your roots in him…” (Colossians 2:7 God’s Word ©) and all my love for Redwoods with their unique qualities and beauty popped into my mind!  The idea of my roots intermingling with His, to the point that they become one and the same is vividly represented at the sight of a majestic grove of Redwoods.
There is a tree that fell many years ago at Richardson Grove State Park, where we went camping just about every summer when I was young, that is now a display piece on one of the many self-guided hikes in the park.  One of the park’s historians had tagged the naturally occurring yearly rings on a cross section of the tree’s stump with the descriptions of many of the important historical events that occurred when the tree was still standing.  The only one that I remember was a notation near the center of the tree that marked a time when King Charlemagne (742-814), the emperor of Europe, had won a major battle!   If I recall correctly, that tree had come down during a winter storm in the late 1950’s or early 60’s.  To say the least, it had stood for a long time!
That is the same kind of stability that we, as believers in the Lord Jesus, can have as we continuously sink our roots into His!  As we become one with Him, we are established on a foundation that cannot be “driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:16 KJV)  Take a moment and think about how many winter storms, hot summers, and various floods that frequent the northern California Redwood Grove areas that that tree withstood over the hundreds of years that it reached it majestic canopy toward the heavens!
Now, compare that to all the storms, dry seasons and floods in your own life that you have and will continue to successfully live through in Christ.  In Him, you have a well-founded, unshakeable root system that gives you the ability to keep on - keeping on - no matter what may come across your path in this life!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"The Standard of the World!"

I have always been a car enthusiast.  From my childhood days with my extensive Matchbox collection (before the days of Hot Wheels!) when each miniature die cast model came in its own little red box*, to HO slot cars, to scale model 1960’s and 70’s Muscle cars, to the real things in our driveway, I’ve always been captivated by hot automobiles! 

Over the years I think the only vehicle we ever bought where the deciding feature was its utility purposes was the new Suburban we bought for my wife back in 1998.  The bottom line was that we had four kids, a trailer and that my wife enjoyed bringing half the neighborhood kids to church with us each week.  It was the only vehicle that looked good that would meet all those needs!
One of the sadist times for us car nuts was back in the 70’s and 80’s when gas shortages, environmental concerns and the beginnings of real competition from foreign imports in the U.S. put the American automotive manufactures in a tail spin and their creations showed it!  I still get annoyed when I read Ford’s advertising when they talk about how the Mustang is the longest running continuously manufactured Pony Car in the country.  I would beg to differ in that the mid-1970’s Mustang II was little more than a Pinto with some fancy markings and body cladding!
Okay, Okay… I’ll get off my rant there!  Over the last ten or so years I have watched with great interest the gradual reassurance of the Cadillac Motor Car Division of General Motors.  When I was a kid the name Cadillac was synonymous with the best money could buy!  To own one of those “boats” meant that you had made it!  Their slogan introduced in 1953 “Those who want the finest want – the Standard of the World!” said it all.  I can still remember riding in the back of my uncle’s huge 1960’s Caddie that just seemed to encapsulate you in a world all of its own, as you floated along, totally disconnected from the feel of the road and the noise of the world passing by the windows!  
From the 70’s through the early 90’s their slogan became a joke when they pitted their vehicles against the then far superior luxury brands from Europe.  But things have changed!  After years of management changes, engineering marvels and I am sure lots of financial investment, they now have a lineup that will play on an even ground with the European models.  In fact, some of the car magazines have even rated the 2013 ATS as being better in some respects, than the BMW 3 series which has been the car to beat in that model class for many years!  Lately the Cadillac brass has even been proud to resurrect the old slogan of “The Standard of the World!”
And speaking of “Standard of the World,”  Colossians 1:19 declares that “God was pleased to have all of himself live in Christ.” (God’s Word ©)  Robertson’s Word Pictures in quoting Lightfoot says that this is “a recognized technical term in theology, denoting the totality of the Divine powers and attributes.”  Jesus put it rather clearly when He told Phillip in John 14:9 “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Modern King James Version)
Jesus is God’s standard!  He is the One from which every other thing sets its foundation.  He and His nature is the standard for every one of us to strive for in our personal lives!  Everything that Jesus did on this earth demonstrated the Father’s will.  He is the mark we should be trying to reach.
When car manufactures create or redesign a model they normally have another vehicle that they use as the “standard” that they are attempting to copy or perfect.  Cadillac has returned to a place where some of their models may once again be the “standard” that other brands will reach for.  As we attempt to live godly lives, we have only one “standard” to reach for.  There is no one nor no-thing that can come close to it, and his name is Jesus.  The Apostle Paul tells us that “God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ.” (Colossians 2:3 God’s Word ©)
So what more can I say?  While I am sure that there are those of you out there that will disagree with me concerning my thoughts about the quality and performance of new Cadillac models, I don’t think that anyone can rightfully disagree with Jesus as the believer’s “Standard of the World!”  Have a good day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”


Did anyone else collect the old Matchbox cars in the little individual boxes?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lessons From “The Sound of Music” ♫

As you can imagine, I try to keep abreast of all the latest scientific developments in the fight against Dementia associated diseases.  It tends to be an almost daily occurrence to read of some new study on the subject in the headlines.  Many of these studies are based on hypothesizes of what might be the basic cause of the malady.  Over the last few years I have read of and have been given all kinds of advice on different potential remedies along with many articles that individuals have passed on to me.

After extensive research I have discovered that many of the remedies are based on some pretty flimsy documentation.  And as much as I am a believer in natural medicinal processes, I have to admit that most of the natural solutions I have investigated tend to be based more on individual experiences than proven, time-tested ,scientific research and results.
Don’t get me totally wrong in that I do believe that there is also some very promising research that is being worked on at this time and that there will be some major breakthroughs in understanding and controlling and even reducing the onslaught of dementia related diseases in the very near future.
All of the research has one thing in common, and that is finding the source of the dreaded disease.  Once that source it discovered then questions such as “Why does the brain react like it does?”, “Why does it affect more women than men?”, “Why is it on the increase in recent years?”, and most importantly, “How can we slow or even stop its processes?” can be answered.
Finding the source of the problem has always been the first course of attack when dealing with almost any question in life.  The bible in Colossians 1:18 states that Jesus “is the head of his body, the church, he is the source of life…” (Good News Bible)  To me this clearly delineates that while we may not always know the source of a problem, we always know the solution!  Acts 3:15 calls Jesus “the Prince of life” (zoe: the absolute fullness of life –Thayer).  He is THE source of everything that we need for the fulfillment of our lives.
The Message paraphrase says “that everything of God finds its proper place in him without overcrowding.  Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies all because of his death, his blood that poured down the cross.” (Colossians 1:18-20)  
He is the answer to all our needs.  He alone is the answer to all our problems.  He is the very source of life to us who are born-again believers and active followers of Him. It sounds pretty simplistic doesn’t it?  Well… I think that it is meant to be!  The Bible in Basic English declares that “He is… the starting point of all things.” (Colossians 1:18)
So why waste your time looking at other things when He is the first place we should always go to when questions, needs or any other difficulty should arise in our daily lives.  It reminds me of the song that Julie Andrews sang when she was teaching the children to sing in the classic movie “The Sound of Music.”  She started out by thinking for a moment and then sang: ♫“Let’s start at the very beginning a very good place to start…”♪
When questions arise – go to the beginning, the source, the very Prince of life – it is the very best place to start!  Jesus IS and HAS the answer for anything you might ask!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, June 24, 2013

Don't... Stay Cool!

I went out a few moments ago and measured the growth of our cherry tomato growing against the fence in our large patio.  It has grown over four inches since last week and is now less than six inches below the top of the seven foot fence.  I was actually a little disappointed as I was hoping that it would have grown more in accordance with the way that our garden has been expanding and producing so early in the season!  But then again, the weather in our area has taken a turn from the typical warm days that have been so prevalent as this summer season progresses.

Over the weekend the weather dropped by 10 degrees from the previous week as a weather front moved in off the coast.  In fact, as my wife and I were meandering toward the lake area in our housing community late yesterday afternoon, I suddenly realized that it was beginning to rain and that I had forgotten to bring both of our hats!  But since it was more of a light mist than all out rain, I decided to hustle out to the lake anyway.  And wouldn’t you know, as soon as we got there the mist increased so we made a beeline home, as the old Christmas carol goes, “laughing all the way!”  Of course, by the time we walked in the front door, the small disturbance had passed and blue sky was attempting to peek through the cloud cover!
I am sure that the cooler days and nights have slowed the growth and production of our vegetables.  As I read from Colossians 1:18 earlier today where the Apostle Paul is describing Jesus as the head of the church, the beginning and “the first to come back to life so that he would have first place in everything.” (God’s Word ©) I thought about how changes in the temperature of our daily lives can effectively “cool” our faith and devotion to Christ… effectively moving Him out of first place!
It’s easy to be excited about God and His Word when things are clicking along, when we have a vision and a gusto for life, and we’re just plain happy to be alive.  But then there are those seasons where we kind of lose our zeal, our focus and maybe get side tracked away from the vision of God and His plans for us.  During these times it can be easy to become slack in our daily pursuit of God, but contrary to how we may feel, this is the time when we should dig in even deeper!
This is one thing that I have to be constantly aware of as I care for my wife while believing for the manifestation of her total healing recovery as promised through the Word.  It is very tempting to stare at the negative symptoms of what she is going through, than to keep focused on what the truth of God’s Word says in contradiction to what my eyes may be observing.  If I hadn’t chosen to believe God’s Word at the very beginning of all this, I would have given up five years ago when we received the first initial (and incorrect!) diagnosis of what we were facing.
Well, my tomatoes may not be growing as fast as they were in the midst of this temporary cold front, but they are still loaded with fruit that is turning red and expanding in every direction from the relatively small pot they are planted in.  I am also assured that the weather will change as we will return to normal weather patterns in a matter of a day or two.  The plants will continue to grow, bloom and produce beyond measure… as will the health of my wife as we stand on the unshakable truth of God’s loving promises to His church who actively believe them to be true!
So… don’t let a little change in the temperature of your lives “cool” you off in your “standing on the promises of God!”  Keep focused – not on what you may see that is contrary to your stand – but on the faithful, loving Word of God for you!  Have a terrific week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Summer Solstice

Did you realize that today is the official first day of summer with the coming of the summer solstice?  Ah… warm weather, blue skies, wonderful gardens, long walks, vacations and many more activities that only this time of year allows you to enjoy in the vast outdoors!    If you have followed this blog for very long then you know that I am an outdoors person.  I can hardly wait to get the blinds open in the morning so that I can gaze out at the beautiful trees, our garden, the manicured lawns around our community outside our windows and the nearby mountains! 

My wife and I drove past a housing development that was strongly recommended for us to move into by some family members because of its relative low cost, and I could only shake my head as I looked around it’s neighborhood.  It was because of the surrounding homes and businesses that I had written off these apartments over a year before when looking for housing before we moved back from Oklahoma.  Not only is it in a “rough” area of town, it is a concrete jungle with very few trees or other signs of nature.  My wife and I would have gone stir crazy in a matter of days if we had lived there!
The end of Colossians 1:6 reminded me of all this today.  The God’s Word translation states it as: “…At that time (when they first heard the Gospel) you came to know what God’s kindness (or grace) truly means.”  James Murdock’s translation of the Bible into the English language from the Aramaic version says, “… and know the grace of God in reality.”  Even though he had not been to Colossae and did not know the people personally, Paul could tell of their sincerity and true understanding of the gospel by their actions of love that he had heard about.
The word “know” in this verse alludes to the church’s full recognition and acceptance of the love of God’s grace through Jesus Christ for them.  John Gill goes even further in explaining that “they knew (the grace of God) not merely in a notional and speculative manner, but experimentally; for the gospel was not only come to them, but into them; they had a spiritual knowledge of it, and affection for it; they felt the power of it in their hearts, and tasted and relished the sweetness of it, and owned and ‘acknowledged’ it…”
In simple terms, they had taken the time to really get to know the reality of the loving grace of God through what Jesus had done for them and lived their lives accordingly.  They ‘knew’ Jesus and successfully interacted with Him in their daily lives.  Problems began to arise when other teachers came in attempting to add certain do’s and don’ts to the simplicity of the gospel, hence Paul’s letter was written to correct these mistruths.
While I am positive that the advice given to us in the example above came out of love and concern for us, it was shared without really knowing our needs, our hearts desires, the kind of outdoors people we are and by making certain incorrect assumptions of our financial means at the time.  In other words, they really didn’t know us, and as they continued to push their thoughts toward us, their attempt to help turned out as a hurt to us.
This situation was totally opposite to the church in Colossae.  They “knew” God, lived their lives according to this knowledge, successfully interacted with each other and the reports of their love went out from their city to be a great blessing to others.  I thank the Lord daily that we “stuck to our guns” as we moved in and stayed where we are.  A few days ago as my wife and I walked away from the lake in our tree studded, flower laden oasis, I had to stop, breathe deeply and just enjoy all that my eyes were taking in!  God “knew” exactly what we needed and we keep receiving the blessing because we “know” Him and chose to obey His voice.
So… with that in mind, I would have to say that “knowing” Him and His loving grace is the key to living successfully for Him in the daily events of your life.  How well do you “know” Him?  Maybe this weekend would be a good time to renew your personal acquaintance and recognition of Him, and to taste and relish the sweetness of His loving grace in your daily life.  Have a wonderful weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

My son and I had a great time at the San Francisco Giants games yesterday.  And even though traffic on the highway getting to the city was terrible and we didn’t actually get to our seats until the fourth inning, we still enjoyed ourselves tremendously!  It was a winning situation for all – including the Giants who came from behind to beat the San Diego Padres 4-2.

As I continued to study from Colossians 1:6 this morning the thought that the Good News that had been shared with the people in this city began to take immediate effect “from the first day you heard it” (God’s Word ©) caught my attention.  It made me think about Mark’s multiple use of the word “suddenly” throughout his Gospel.  God’s Word fits right in with our modern society in its immediate gratification to those who hear and receive it!
I once shared a sermon where I likened today’s society to a stop at a Jack In The Box restaurant.  Jack In The Box (which happens to be one of my favorite fast food purveyors of lunch or dinner) along with all its companion operations like MacDonald’s and other well-known restaurants are popular today because you don’t have to wait very long for a tasty, satisfying meal (I won’t talk about nutrition here…).  We live in a world where we want instant gratification.  We want it, and we want it now!  Almost everything nowadays goes at a faster pace than it did twenty years ago.  And we’ve come to expect it and tend to get annoyed when it doesn’t!
My son and I were talking about some old movies that we had each recently viewed.  I mentioned that his Mom and I recorded an old “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” movie on TCM the other night and how bored I was with it when we watched it.  In the late sixties when we were in elementary school, that show was one of my wife’s and my favorite shows.  In fact, I had a “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” gun and my wife had an official “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” attaché case!  (See we had lots in common even back then!)
It was the hottest show on TV at the time and it totally captivated my attention for an hour each week.  But the other night I was amazed at how SLOW it was!  If it hadn’t been that it seemed to have caught my wife’s attention, I would have turned it off!  Modern action movies tend to have none stop action that keeps us at the edge of our seats!  Once again, we have become accustomed to things happening at a lot faster pace than in the past.
But God’s Word is one thing that has kept pace through the ages!  Even though Colossians was written thousands of years ago, we can readily see from what Paul said, that it works at a very fast pace!  He said, “This Good News is present with (or “in”) you now.  It is producing results and spreading all over the world as it did among you from the first day you heard it…” (God’s Word ©)
Now I’d call that instant gratification!  Most Christian testimonies will tell of the change that the individual immediately felt when they took the step to accept Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord.  The dead spirit inside us is immediately born-again at our receiving of the Lord!  And I am so thankful that it is an instantaneous action and not something that has to takes days or even hours!  God’s loving mercy is immediate!
So with that in mind, why not help spread the Good News and the immediate results of God’s nature to a hurting, needful world!  Today may be the day that someone’s life is changed in an instant!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's Spreading!

As you read this today, I should be sitting at AT&T stadium watching the San Francisco Giants whooping (hopefully!) the San Diego Padres!  My older son and I have been planning this for months, so needless to say I’ve been looking forward to this special time with him.  It’s also the first time that I’ve been away from my wife for more than three hours for probably two years!  But she is in good hands and will be spending time with a good friend.

I had mentioned in yesterday’s post about giving my potted garden some attention and was thinking as we went for a walk later in the day, about the clover that has gotten into many of the pots.  I would assume that the seeds were either blown in or dropped by a passing bird, but however it was accomplished, they definitely invaded about a half a dozen of the various plants including one of the zucchini’s. 
Even though I have had my own lawn and garden care business on and off for many years, I still do not like to weed (unless I get to use the string trimmer!).  But I guess that I should be thankful that the plants are in pots which made the pulling of the weeds to be a simple task.  It is interesting to me to see how a destructive weed like this can spread so rapidly from plant to plant.  If left in the ground they would eventually take all the nutrients from the soil that was meant for the plants and they would die off.
Our scripture in Colossians 1:6 alludes to this same idea when it talks about how “This Good News is present with (or in) you now.  It is producing results and spreading all over the world as it did among you from the first day you heard it.” (God’s Word ©)  The difference in this context is that the Good News or Gospel is a good seed that brings life wherever it goes.
Paul told his listeners that the Gospel not only spread like wildfire through their church and their city, but was doing so throughout the known world at that time!  And it wasn’t being spread by the wind or by the birds of the air, but by people like you and me, living and sharing it through their lives and by their words.
During my second year at Bible School I had a class entitled “Personal Evangelism.”  I was a little nervous about the class as I remembered talking to a friend who had attended the original Seminary I was signed up to go to back in the 1970’s.  They also had to take a mandatory class with the same title.  They were given a step by step approach to helping someone to get saved and then dropped off in a city park on a Saturday and told not to return until someone accepted the Lord!
So, even though I had been in the ministry for many years, I was still a little anxious thinking that we might have to do the same thing.  Most times when I talked about the Lord with strangers it just sort of came up as part of the conversation.  I had never gone out with the planned intention of getting someone saved.  My fears were quickly put to rest when the Pastor who was the instructor for the class talked about how personal evangelism is just living God before people (hummm… kind of being like a Living Letter… where have I heard that before!) and being sensitive and watchful for open doors to go a little deeper within the conversation, and when the time is right to ask for a decision… similar to what I had already been doing!
That makes the spreading of the Good News of Jesus Christ to be an easy and joyful task!  Most people want to know why you smile as much as you do.  Why you don’t let negative things get you down, and why you’re so positive all the time!  It is like you are doing them a large favor – and you know, you are!
So go ahead today!  Be a part of the spreading of the Good News that is “spreading all over the world as it did amongst you from the first day you heard it.”  Have a wonderful day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fruitfulness

Just for the fun of it, I went out onto our large patio yesterday afternoon to measure the distance from the top of our cherry tomato bush to the top of the fence it is growing against.  The fence is a little over seven feet tall and the bush is less than 10 inches below the horizontal board that frames it.  This is amazing to me as I have grown tomatoes in our backyard gardens for years and have never had one get this tall!  It is also loaded with little tomatoes!  Its prolific growth and fruitfulness reminds me of Colossians 1:5-6 where it states that ‘the good news which is present to you (or better translated “in you” – as we saw in yesterday’s post…), as also in all the world, and is bearing fruit…” (Young’s literal translation)

The God’s Word translation says that the “Good News… is producing results” while the Contemporary English Version declares that “The good news is spreading all over the world with great success.”  Our cherry tomato is a very visible example of the fruitfulness of God’s Word!  It is not only growing upward, but is also spreading out a couple of feet or more in either direction from the confines of the cage that supports the vines.  It has gotten so large that I am going to have to move the Early Girl patio tomato bush that now sits in the shade of its ever increasing branches!
Both Robert’s Word Pictures and Vincent’s Word Studies talk about the importance of the sentence structure in this verse.  They explain how the more accurate/literal translation of this verse join the “is” with the participle “bearing fruit” which “emphasizes the continuous fruitfulness of the Gospel” while “the middle voice of the verb… marks the fruitfulness of the Gospel by its own inherent power.” (VWS)
That last thought makes me think about the principles of the Internal Combustion Engine that runs by itself once initially started.  All it basically needs is a continual source of fuel to keep it running, like my tomato needs regular watering and fertilization!
I’m not too sure that all of us realize the inherent power in the Word of God!  Our job is simply to share it with others, water it regularly (by loving encouragement, loving actions and gentle teaching) and then watch (or expect) the Word to work itself in the lives of the listeners! 
My little potted patio garden began to produce like crazy last month and then suddenly stopped.  I didn’t panic but understood that it just needed a little more loving attention from the gardener!  So I went out and worked the soil around the plants, pulled a few weeds, and fertilized the plants and now they are loaded with fruit once more!  In fact, I skipped the vegetable aisles when I went shopping at Safeway yesterday as I knew my fridge would soon be filled with fresh tomatoes and zucchini!
Once again, that’s just like the Gospel of God’s Word growing and continuously producing fruit in the lives of those with whom it is shared and followed.  Remember though, it has to be planted and tended to in order for it to become fruitful, but a little work on our behalf goes a LONG way when the Word works with its inherent power in the garden of the lives of those who hear it!  So… don’t be afraid to get your hands a little dirty – go out there and plant and watch the Word work its miracles!  Have a good day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, June 17, 2013

Living Letters

It has been said that the art of letter writing is a dying form of expression.  In recent years pen and ink have been replaced by email and more recently by texting.  My mother was a letter writer.  I can vividly recall her excellent penmanship that resulted in each letter becoming a literal work of art! 

My Mom and Dad had met at a USO dance toward the end of WWII when my Dad was stationed in New York where my Mom’s family lived.  When the war ended my parents were married and my Dad went to work at my Grandfather’s successful garment factory.  But the California in my Dad kept beckoning to him and in the late forties my Dad, Mom and older sister who had recently come on the scene moved back to my Dad’s home town of Richmond, California.
Needless to say that although she was in full agreement and fully committed to the move, it was still quite a shock to her as she moved almost 3000 miles away from her close knit family and friends so that my Dad could finish his college education at San Francisco State College and fulfill his career aspirations to become a teacher.  Back then the phone system was nothing like it is today and long distance calling was very expensive.  So in some respects, she was forced to become a letter writer!
Her communications by mail continued through the years to her distant cousins and friends even after my Grandparents and my Mom’s sister and family followed them to sunny California, not too many years after they pioneered the family transition!  To me a letter is much more personal than an email or a text.  And while I make use of the new technologies, I tend to email or text a lot more information than I usually get in reply!  A letter seems to become a part of the writer’s personality.  When one reads old letters that have been written between good friends or lovers, it is as if you instantly become a part of the story and almost feel the romance that oozes between the lines!  A letter written from the heart expresses the writer’s deepest being and emotions.
As I studied from Colossians 1:6 this morning where Paul states that “this Good News is present with you now” (God’s Word ©) I could not help but think about letter writing… The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, which is translated from the original Greek translation of the Bible with a Greek interlineal gloss and is keyed to a concordance, states this portion of scripture as “the good news, the one being at hand in you…”  The King James version says “is come unto you…”  A look at Strong’s confirms the ABP’s use of the word “in” as this relates the more accurate usage of the original Greek.
Therefore you could conceivably take this thought one step further and say that since the Good News is in us and becomes a part of us, it is us!  2 Corinthians 3:3 would agree with this supposition and bring my discussion of letters into clear focus as it declares that, “It’s clear that you are Christ’s letter, written as a result of our ministry.  You are a letter written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, a letter written not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (God’s Word ©)
Once we accept and begin to live our lives in line with the Word of God, we become living letters expressing the love of God to all who see or READ us!  So when you think about it… the art of letter writing is not dead!  You and I are living and breathing examples of God’s letter writing skills as He declares His love to the world.  And I think that that God uses indelible ink that can’t be erased!
Kind of gets you thinking doesn’t it?  It is a big responsibility to be that visible letter written for all to see!  But thank the Lord that He is the One writing it and His words are always loving and kind… even if we don’t necessarily feel like it at certain times in our lives!  So, I would encourage you to take yourself out of the envelope and let those around you read what God has written to them.  Then share His love as He did to you!  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, June 14, 2013

Acting Like Mark...

Joshua 1:9 is one of my all-time favorite scriptures.  It has singlehandedly helped me navigate through many a hard time throughout my Christian life.  This verse which states: “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” (New American Standard Version) came to mind once more this morning as I continued to ponder the life of Mark.

As I reviewed the Apostle Paul’s comments about him, beginning with his rejection of him in Acts 15:37-39, to his change of mind and acknowledgement of Mark’s profit to his ministry (Col 4:10, 2 Timothy 4:11), I could see how both Paul and Mark had taken Joshua’s words to heart.  Both of these men had to face their preconceived ideas, put their trust in the Lord Jesus to the test and be "strong and courageous!”
Paul on one hand had to be strong and courageous in giving Mark a second chance, while Mark had to be bold enough to put aside what he thought Paul thought about him and be strong and courageous in his trust in the Lord to let go of the previous “marking” as a failure and move on in life as the new, humble and confident servant he had become.
From this story we can see that it takes courage and strength to not only be strong and bold in tough situations, but just as much courage and strength to humble yourself before another person!  In fact, the humbling may take even more courage than the building up of one’s strength to face a harrowing experience…  Now that’s something to ponder!
Proverbs 15:1 says that “A gentle answer turns away rage, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (God’s Word ©)  Have you ever had to be strong and courageous enough to swallow hard before you replied with vengeance when someone has said or done something against you or one that you love, and answer their anger with a soothing, gentle comment?  I have, many times, and most times it immediately put out the fire that was looking for an opportunity to ignite the situation! 
Throughout the years I have been called “a lawyer,” and a “peacemaker” by some and seen as a weakling and disconnected by others!  The latter thinking that my not responding in anger was a sign of a lack of concern or a lack of confidence.  So while the “gentle answer” or “humbling yourself before God and man” response is not always accepted by everyone, I have usually found it to be the quickest way to defuse the situation and open the door for reconciliation, and forgiveness which allows those involved to get back on track.
It seemed to have worked for Paul and Mark, and would seem to work for us as well!  So give it a try this weekend.  “Be strong and courageous” to humble yourself and allow God to work a miracle in the midst of your life!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Just “MARK”…

I have been intrigued with the life and message of the Biblical character John Mark ever since I taught a lesson about him to the Singles group in our church back in 2006.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post (“Marked” for Success – 6/12/13), his story is one of failure, forgiveness and restoration.  But as I continued to study this man, I also began to see another lesson of his life that is important for us to consider.

He is first introduced to us in the book of Acts as John Mark the son of Mary who was an influential member of the early church.  (Acts 12:12)  As time goes on though, we do not hear any more about John (his Jewish name) or even of the combination of his Jewish and Gentile surname name – John Mark.  As he grew and focused in on his ministry calling he was known only as Mark.
The noted British preacher and expositor Alexander MacLaren (1826-1910) stated in his work entitled “Expositions of Holy Scripture” that “that change of appellation coincides with the fact that so many of the allusions that we have of him represent him as sending messages of Christian greeting across the sea to his Gentile brethren.”  It also goes along with the fact that the Gospel of Mark was clearly written to the Gentile Christians and, as many believe, to the Roman believers in particular.
It would seem that Mark was so in love with Christ and to those to whom he ministered to that he was willing to “rise above the limitations of his interests, his sympathy, and his efforts, and the more surely will he let himself out, as far as he can, in affection towards and toils for all men.” (MacLaren)  In other words, Mark was willing to lay aside the connection to his background and the things of life that he was used to, that he knew would separate him from the individuals he was called to minister to, in order to go by the name that would more likely bind him to them.
I have probably mentioned this before, but I have repeatedly heard it said that the area of the country that I live in is a very hard and difficult location to minister the Gospel in.  But I would stand to disagree, especially after having learned this lesson from Mark.  Many of the churches in this area (including some of the one’s that I have been a part of) have come in with a great message and have expected the population to come flocking in to hear it.  And I think that this is where the problem has come.  Instead of going to them and seeing what is important to them, to find out their particular needs, their understanding and their ways of life and to accept them for who they are as well as being accepted by them – we have tended to keep the “John” part of our name and thereby created a chasm between them and us!
When Jesus came to minister to us on this earth, he left behind His Godly nature and took on the nature of man in order to best minister to us.  That is one reason the Jewish leaders disliked Him so much.  He was not afraid to eat and drink and walk shoulder to shoulder with the common man in the cities and towns he went through.  Hummm… just like Mark!  Then when they had the acceptance and attention of those in need, they had an open door to minister the Gospel to the people of the town.  Ya know… I think there might be something in their actions for us to follow…  What do you think?  Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Marked" for Success!

As I was reading through the last chapter of 2 Timothy this morning, I was arrested at verse eleven where Paul requested that Timothy “Get Mark and bring him with you.  He is useful to me in my work.” (2 Timothy 4:11 God’s Word ©)  I suddenly could go no further as all the contradictions of Mark’s life paraded before my thoughts.  Here is a man, a full-blooded Jew who was surnamed Mark, following the tradition adopted by many at the time of having “a double name- one Jewish, ‘John’ and one Gentile, ‘Marcus’ (or Mark).” (Expositions of Holy Scripture – Alexander MacLaren)

Mark started out his career in the high profile position as an associate minister accompanying Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s first missionary trip, only to desert them when they left the relative safety of places that Mark was familiar with and return to the comfort of his mother’s home in Jerusalem.  Following this incident, Paul refused Barnabas’ request to take his nephew Mark along on their proposed second missionary excursion.  John-Mark then went into a period of relative obscurity for about twelve years.
After this he turns up once again in the company of Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome.  We also find him as a close associate of the Apostle Peter, who refered to him as his son in his concluding statements in 1 Peter 5:13.  Following his initial failure in the ministry, John-Mark became a vital part of the leadership of the early church as a later companion of both Peter and Paul, wrote the Gospel of Mark (thought to be taken from his time hearing Peter’s teachings), most likely ministered to the Asiatic churches (Colossians 4:10), and had since secured a special place in the heart of Paul in that he was specifically requested along with Timothy, to be at Paul’s side during the final days of his life in the dungeons of Rome, after everyone else had deserted him except for Luke.   
The story of the life of John-Mark is a great example of the restorative love of Jesus in the life of someone originally labeled as a “failure.”  How many of us have faced failure in our lifetimes?  Maybe you too have been “marked” as a failure by others.  Well, there is a lesson to be learned here.  Mark was such an individual who was rejected by those in authority, but yet bounced back, never gave up and in his later years became a prominent figure in Christianity who went on to influence millions of Believers through the centuries by his writings and personal experience!
And while I am sure that John-Mark had help along the way from his uncle Barnabas and the Apostle Peter, he still had to make some personal decisions on his own to repent and then move forward by facing his fears and growing into the man of God that he was destined to become.  His example is a good one for us to follow when failure comes in our lives.  I think that sometimes the hardest part of getting through the failures is forgiving ourselves and moving on despite what others may think. 
At times like this it is probably best to take your eyes off of man and turn them fully onto Jesus and the truth of His Word.  Saturate yourself in His promises and allow His restorative love to heal you, to teach you and to lead you on to the next steps in your life.  2 Corinthians 5:14 says “For the love of God constraineth us” (KJV) meaning that His love is the power that guides and compels us as well as forcing us into the correct position so that God can do His best in, for and through us!
If you’re feeling like a failure today, then take in the Good News and know that God’s love is the answer you need to turn it around.  Bask in His love and you’ll soon find yourself as one “Marked” for success!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Inspiration

I have had a couple of friends tell me recently about what an inspiration I am to them in the way that I have been handling all that is going on in my life right now.  They seemed to be amazed at my attitude and continuous personal efforts to be there for my wife.  But I can’t help at being amazed at why they would think that way!  From my point of view, I am just doing what needs to be done based on my love for my wife and trust in God’s love for us.

After a recent conversation with the team at the office of my wife’s brain specialist, I have though, come to realize that not everyone handles the situation with the compassion and positive attitude I have demonstrated to them.  But then, I am just acting on my belief in the strength and truth of what God encourages me by every day in His precious Word.  I can be faithful to my wife because of His faithfulness to us.
I cannot come close to imagining how those individuals without a personal knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ and His unconditional love for us handle similar life challenging situations as the one we are in the midst of.  The one part of all this that is exciting to me is that I have been an encouragement to others.  And now it’s getting even better…
One of those friends I just spoke of asked me if I could meet with a new acquaintance of his who is going through the same situation that I am with his wife.  They are in the beginning stages of the battle and have the added dimension of his just having lost a leg due to complications with diabetes.  If anyone needs to be covered by the love and strength that only God can give, it is this couple!  We’re going to get together this coming Friday.  Please add your prayers to ours that we can be the encouragement they need us to be.
I am reminded of a scripture in 2 Timothy 3:14 where Paul tells Timothy to “continue in what you have learned and found to be true.”  Roberts Word Pictures says that this verse is stated in the “present active imperative” implying that the action or attitude is to be “one’s continual way of life” (Greek Verbs Reference http://www.preceptaustin.org/new_page_40.htm).  My faith in the love and truth of Jesus and His Word is the continual way of life that is the foundation that helps me to get up each morning.  While the things around me may look the same or in some cases even worse than the day before, Jesus and His Word ALWAYS stays the same!  (Hebrews 13:8 – Malachi 3:6)
So I would encourage you this morning to never give up!  Put your trust in the love and truth of Jesus and His Word today!  Get into the Word and find out what He says about your particular situation and then hold fast to His faithful promise to turn things around.  Your actions of trust and faith may just be the inspiration that someone you bump into today may need!  Have a good day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, June 10, 2013

Thunder and Lightning!

“Pow!”, “Bam!”, “Zonk!”  What a wild night!  I think our whole community was taken by surprise last night when out of nowhere we were hit with repeated thunder and lightning that rolled through the area from about 1:00 AM on.  There were still some rumblings this morning when I finally got up around 7:30!

I don’t think that anyone was more shook up by it than our normally – nothing bothers me- dog!  She was originally lying on the floor on my wife’s side of the bed and then began to pace around the house going upstairs for awhile and then finally settling restlessly right to me so that I could lean over and pet her every time the thunder clapped!  And my wife slept through it all!
Then about half way through the night I remembered that my son and his family were camping on the coast with last night being their first night!  When I text him this morning he replied saying that it was nonstop thunder and lightning and they finally abandoned the tent after three hours of it and spent the rest of the night at the house of some close family friends who live a few miles away!  As of breakfast this morning they were heading back to camp to resume their mini-vacation.
It would seem that this life is filled with all kinds of unexpected surprises!  I guess you could almost counsel young people starting out in life “to expect the unexpected and you’ll make it through fine!”  Fine… if your trust is founded in the love of our heavenly Father!  Some individuals handle the unexpected well, while others tend to get nervous and stressed out.
I was commenting to my wife as we walked around our little community lake yesterday of how she seemed to thrive the more chaotic things got!  I am not too sure where she gained this trait as I have not seen it exemplified in the rest of her immediate family through the years.  Maybe it was just a part of God’s special equipping as He knew we would be working with the youth and children’s ministries throughout our lives, to say nothing about raising four of our own kids!
I can still picture her holding a new born in one hand while changing the diaper of another child on the changing table.  Then with one quick move she would fold the soiled diaper and toss it over her head into the pail on the other side of the room!  It was all one big fun challenge to her.  I would stand there with my mouth wide open and she would just smile and laugh as she took both kids into the kitchen for a bottle or two!
I believe that this is the way that God wants us to live our daily lives, with a patient joy and peace that is driven by our desire to see the love of God at work in our lives.  Then when the surprises hit, like the unexpected thunder and lightning last night, we’ll just calmly rise to the occasion, trust in the Lord, listen to His voice and make it through with flying colors!
That is what the Apostle Paul was sayng when he talked about how “the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 KJV)  We were designed to live according to His Word and therefore with His peace.  Any other approach will lead us into worry, stress and instability in this life!  Have a great week… mine started out with a “Boom!” so I am sure it is going to be a terrific one!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, June 7, 2013

Italian Meatballs

2 Timothy 2:22 encourages us to “Pursue what has God’s approval.  Pursue faith, love and peace…” (God’s Word ©)  This verse goes right along with what I shared yesterday about how faith and love go together.  The apostle Paul not only reaffirms his convictions concerning the importance of blending these two Godly characteristics into our lives but goes a step further here by letting us know the result of this concerted action.  He gives us a simple equation that states: “FAITH + LOVE = PEACE!”

I believe that is what they call simple mathematics!  It’s kind of like “2 + 2 = 4.”  It is an equation that always comes out the same way – there is no getting around it!  Every time you add two items to another two items you’ll get a sum total of four items.  The same is true in God’s mathematics of life.  Every time you add FAITH which is your active reliance upon Christ to LOVE defined as God’s unconditional love for you and then through you to others you’ll get oneness, quietness and rest which is called PEACE!
As I considered this in my study time earlier this morning, I thought about my home made meatballs.  I also thought about my cousin’s meatballs which she has so graciously shared with my wife and I a couple times over the last few months along with a fresh marinara sauce and Penne spaghetti!  Yummmm!  But back to my meatballs…
I’ve been making my meatballs the same way for years and yet I am always amazed at the transformation that a few added ingredients make in turning the plain hamburger into delicious, soft and extremely tasty balls of Italian delight!  When I use the identical recipe of meat, an egg or two, basil, garlic (lots!), breadcrumbs (or to be precise, I use ground saltine crackers- believe it or not!), salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, a pinch of chili powder and then mix it all up by hand (I have to remember to take off my college ring before this process as it takes a lot of washing to get all the residue out of all its nooks and crannies!), form them into balls and then brown them in a pan with a little oil before placing them in the simmering pasta sauce for about an hour, they always come out fantastic!
The only other tradition I have kept up from my Mom, of which I am sure is a vital part of the process in the completion of the delicious product, is to take the last meatball that I have rolled and instead of placing it in the frying pan to brown, I toss it to the dog!  I have to admit though, that while our dog is a great pooch and companion, she is a rotten catcher!  So it is fun to keep track and see how long she can keep a record of catching the flying meatball going.  We were going for three times in a row when I last made spaghetti and meatballs a few weeks back but the carefully tossed meatball went through the air, bounced off her nose and hit the floor!  So we start a new count the next time I make the meal!
You can be just as assured that God’s equation of FAITH + LOVE = PEACE will come about every time just as when I follow my recipe without any substitutions.  The oneness, quietness and rest with God, yourself and then with others is simply a  divine experience like that first bite into one of my homemade meatballs that is drowned in a thick red pasta sauce!  It is a satisfaction that is unlike any other activity!  And like I said, it is a process that you’ll want to repeat over and over again with the identical results!  Remember… God’s Word always works when you follow the directions.
Therefore I would encourage you to put God’s recipe or equation to work this weekend and then let me know of the results that you attain.  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting when I add FAITH + LOVE together today?”