Our New Home

Our New Home
Fall is defintely in the air!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Today's Weather

As my wife and I began our second walk around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, I mentioned how the crispness that was in the air when we took our first walk that morning was no longer present.  It was a pleasant day with the temperature sitting at about 78 degrees with a gentle breeze.  Before we got too far I stopped and zipped up my wife’s hoodie so she would stay warm.  Then I asked her if she remembered the weather when we lived in Oklahoma a few years back.

The weather was the one thing that I really did not care for.  As I have mentioned before, I’m probably just spoiled after living in northern California for the majority of my life.  Oklahoma’s heat and humidity during the summer and the ice-cold temperatures with a strong cold wind that goes right through you in the winter left a lasting mark on my brain!  The worst part to me was the summer mornings.  I could never get used to going out first thing in the morning (we are talking 5:45 AM as I went to work on Saturday’s) and feel like your stepping into a hot and humid furnace!
I have always enjoyed the California summer mornings when the air is cool and crisp, invigorating the body as well as the soul!  And that is what we experienced yesterday when we walked around the lake, soaking in the fresh air that still had a hint of the morning fog cover that had recently burned off.  Our daily walks are just the thing that my wife and I need to freshen our outlook on the day and help to stimulate us to complete our regular tasks with vigor and a smile!
Philippians 2:14-15 in the Message Bible suggests that we can have the same effect on those with whom our lives touch each day.  It says: “Do everything readily and cheerfully – no bickering, no second guessing allowed!  Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society.  Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.  Carry the light-giving Message into the night…”
Paul seems to be saying that you and I can be like a cool and crisp northern California summer morning to those who are used to living an Oklahoma hot and humid type of daily existence!  Our words, our actions and our very existence can help to freshen the hopelessness and/or despair that many live with.  Does that describe you?  Are you a cool and crisp breeze in the lives of those you live, work or socialize with?  Do people smile when they see you coming or grimace in distaste? 
Now that’s definitely something to think about… and in case you need to make some personal adjustments and don’t know where to start, always default to LOVE as demonstrated through GRACE!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Seasonings

Last night was one of those few times that I wasn’t too motivated to cook dinner.  Normally I enjoy cooking as it acts as kind of a relaxant for me, but yesterday I was tired and walked into the kitchen a little blank as to what I would prepare with the chicken I had defrosted earlier in the day.  Finally I stopped in the middle of the room and asked God for some inspiration!  Then I quickly remembered the red potatoes I had recently purchased and had the idea of mixing them with a zucchini I had just picked.

So, with a burst of energy I got the ingredients from the refrigerator and chopped them up on the breadboard.  After placing them in a baking dish with a splash of oil, I opened up the cabinet and looked at all the containers of spices and seasonings lined up on the shelf.  Then I let the creative juices flow and began shaking bottles with various ingredients over the items in the dish.  As the “piece da resistance” I topped it all with some grated fresh Parmesan and Romano cheese.
This morning as I read from Philippians 1:9 in S. Way’s 1906 translation of Paul’s letters, I was immediately brought back in remembrance to the shaking of those seasonings over the vegetable and starch I prepared last evening.  In this portion of scripture Paul says: “And this is my prayer, that your (God kind of agape) love may rise higher and higher to its fullest development in recognition of the truth, and in a comprehensive grasp of its application, thus furnishing you with a sure test of what is true excellence, so that you may remain untainted by error, unstumbling amidst obstacles, til the day of Messiah’s appearing…”
As I read this verse I imagined God’s GRACE as being like one of those spices that I used last night.  Except that His GRACE should be liberally shaken or poured over everything we do and say in our daily lives!  My personal experience over the last few years with people’s reaction to my wife’s situation has demonstrated that this isn’t always the case… especially with some Christians!
Instead of GRACE I received toppings of criticism and/or judgment over the different events and subsequent decisions that were quickly unfolding in our lives.  And in talking to a close relative yesterday, I realized that I was not alone in this reaction among family and friends when hard times come.
Jesus tells us in His Word that the greatest gift that we can share with others is LOVE.  (I Corinthians 13:13)  He taught this as the most important of all commandments. (John 13:34) His LOVE is demonstrated through our GRACE toward others… even when we might not agree with them!  Jesus put all of Himself aside so that He could meet and minister to man at his level.  He humbled Himself even to death for us. (Philippians 2:8)   In other words, He did everything for the other person, and not for Himself.  He seasoned everything He did and said with heaping spoonfuls of GRACE!  And life always resulted in tasting good to those He ministered to!
So what will be the one seasoning that you carry with you everywhere you go?  That’s right… GRACE!  It’s kinda like that powder that they advertise on TV that you shake on everything you eat and it enhances the flavor and helps you to be satisfied as you eat less and lose weight in the process!  So… be liberal!  Freely and copiously shake GRACE over every conversation and over every action you have with others as well as with every thought that you may think about them!  You’ll be happy with the taste of the experience and satisfied with the lasting after-effects of your seasoning in people’s lives.  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What SEASONING am I expecting TO SHAKE on OTHERS today?”

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tainted Love

Over the weekend as I was finishing my current study in the book of Ephesians, I came down to the very last verse and instantaneously had the phrase “tainted love” pop into my head.  The scripture reads: “His favor (or grace) is with everyone who has an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Ephesians 6:24 God’s Word ©)  Vincent’s Word Studies says that this verse is more accurately translated: “who love Christ with an imperishable and incorruptible love.”

While I reflected on that phrase in correlation to the verse, I found myself writing down this statement in my notes: “Don’t let your love for Him get corrupted or tainted or watered-down through affections toward worldly things that can become idols to you.”  Then I thought of all the potential “idols” that could taint my love for Christ.  The most prevalent at this time being my wife!  Huh… you say?  Well with my wife’s current battle for her health, it can become very easy for me to focus all my attention on her, getting her well, on our wonderful past, and on feeling sorry for myself due to the void I feel inside of me.
But God’s Word makes it very clear that it is of utmost importance for me to keep my eyes fully focus on Jesus, for His grace will not only be more than sufficient for me, but also provide the strength for me to carry on and see Him work His miraculous ways in my wife body!
For others there may be the temptation to put their focus on their bank account, in their diet, in their social lives, in their jobs, their families, or in the daily news.  No matter what it may be, if it pulls the eyes of your faith off of the solid foundation of God’s Word then you are running the risk of corrupting or tainting your love for our heavenly Father.  According to our verse, once that love becomes tainted His favor that precedes and surrounds you could begin to dissipate.
So what will it be?  The favor or grace of God working non-stop in your life, or living a sort of hit and miss, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t existence?  Well, that answer should be easy!  I choose to stay focused on Him and let everything else take a secondary role in my life.  What do you think?  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What FAVOR am I expecting today?”

Friday, July 26, 2013

A New View!

I awoke this morning in a sense of disarray!  Have you ever started a day like that?  It can be disheartening if not immediately addressed!  When I sat down at my desk in the study I noticed that my computer screen was not showing a particular message that usually comes up first thing and lets me know that it is connected to the internet.  My initial thought was to click on the Google Chrome shortcut key and see if it came up with my Google homepage.  But as I physically moved my hand toward the mouse, I suddenly stopped and reconsidered my actions.

In the unsettled mood I was in, I realized that going on the internet before I got into the Word would be a mistake!  It would be too easy to get distracted and drawn into some news item that would most likely work to reduce my faith rather than work to build me up!
So, I completed my hand movement to my mouse, but purposely slid the curser up to my bible study program and clicked the left button.  As the program was opening up, I glanced down at the open bible next to the keyboard and read from Ephesians 6:10 where is says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” (KJV)  Talk about instant re-focus!  It reminded me of the recent time when we were out for a walk and the dog went bananas over a cat (which she normally doesn’t do) and began to pull me and my wife in her chair down the incline of the sidewalk toward the black feline!
Even after the cat had run off around a house, the dog was still totally focused on giving chase.  I finally stopped our forward motion, commanded Mandie to sit and paused to untangle the leash I had wrapped around my wrist!  Then I gently took the dog’s face in my hands, turned her point of view to me, and looked into her eyes until I had her complete attention!  Once that was gained I informed her of who was in charge and where we were going!  After that she was obedient and even ignored another cat that slinked across our path near the creek that meandered along the particular pathway we were following.
When I read that verse this morning, it was as if the Lord gently took my face between His hands and redirected my attention to Him and His loving ways.  The disarray I was feeling left in a flash and I felt an instant connection with the Spirit of God.  As I began to study the scripture before me, I noticed how the various translations transposed the words “strong, power and might” around into different places within the verse.
From there I looked up the original Greek meanings for those words and began to see Paul’s command in a different light.  It came to me that the Apostle was trying to get us to think about the daily affairs of our lives from a VICTOR’S standpoint.  It was like he was telling us to “find your strength for all that you do in life through the dominion and authority that is legally yours as a child of the King of Kings!”
God wants us to approach every situation, be it positive or negative, with the knowledge that we already have the victory through Christ and all that He has provided for us!  This mindset will totally change your approach and or response to whatever you face each day!  Ephesians 6:16-17 tells us how to do this.  It says to “take the shield of faith with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked… and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.”  (Modern King James Version)
As I meditated on these verses I was taken back in my mind’s eye to a battle field during Rome’s great days of conquest.  I saw the advancing Roman army put up their large body shields to protect themselves from the array of arrows being shot through the air from the archers poised on the city wall that they were attempting to take.  Then I saw the city gates open and the defenders streaming out with weapons drawn to meet the enemy.  The Romans immediately returned their shields to protect their fronts, drew their swords and began to whittle down the approaching army.  As the defensive attack lessened, the Roman soldiers moved forward into the offensive with their swords drawn and swinging from side to side.
This too is how we are to approach the battles we face.  Just as the Romans knew that they had superiority in numbers and equipment, we can know that God’s angels are supporting us (Hebrews 1:14) and that His Word in our mouths and hearts is the strongest, most high tech devil destroying weapon that the world has ever seen.
So close your eyes for a moment and then reopen them with this truth in mind.  I guarantee that you’ll begin to see everything in a different, more expectant and joyful light!  This way of thinking will give you a brand new passion for life!  Then go out and share that passion with others.  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What VIEW am I expecting TO HAVE today?”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

LIGHT!

I am a light person.  I like a lot of light.  As far as I can remember, I have always been that way!  The first thing I do when I walk into the kitchen in the morning to get the coffee brewing is to open all the blinds in the kitchen and living room.  One of the things I enjoy about our little house is that it has lots of windows.  Besides the two sliding doors leading off to the patios in the eating area and living room, there is a big window near the front door and two tall-rounded top windows on either side of the living room near the peak of the high cathedral ceiling.

One of the many times of the day that I enjoy when tent camping is when the first light of the early morning sun peeking through the trees lights up the blue fabric of our tent, bringing a unusual glow upon everyone snuggled in their sleeping bags.  Hummm… I was just thinking that the last three tents that we have had over the years were blue!  But while that is an interesting fact, it really has no value to today’s blog!
I remember the time way back, when I was working with our first youth group at the Baptist church.  We had volunteered to do overnight guard duty on the church grounds in order to keep an eye on the vast amount of items on display for the church’s first ever auction that was scheduled for a summer Saturday morning.  In order to get an early start, the church members had set everything up on the Friday before, and were the volunteer security team.
Well, it was a long night, but we had a blast!  The best part of the adventure came as the Sun’s rays began to shine through the reddish sky over a nearby mountain peak!  It was as if the Lord was rewarding us for staying awake all night!
Ephesians 5:8 tells us that “… you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” (Modern King James Version)  The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary makes the distinction saying “not merely ‘of the light’… (but) those whose distinguishing characteristic is light As I thought on that today, I realized that the point is that every one of us - individually - each with our own unique personalities - is a light of Christ.
When we become Christians I do not believe that God wants us to become cookie-cutter stamps of each other.  No, He has given each of us a unique and special personality, wit, and background with varying interests, opinions, likes and dislikes!  That’s what makes this world such an interesting place to live in!
God wants the light of His Son to brightly shine through who YOU are!  So don’t be afraid to be you!  Don’t try to be like someone else… Sure, there are always certain attributes in others that you might want to copy, but mold those positives things into and through who God made you to be!  God made you SPECIAL and greatly desires to see you mature as the one who He created YOU to be!
So let go and be the unique hue of His light that only you can be to a dark world.  You might just be that ray of light shining through the dark reddish skies in some people’s lives!  Your unique characteristics could be the only window light of Christ that another might allow to be opened into the rooms of their heart.  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… What LIGHT am I expecting TO BE today?”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Age of Miracles?

I was doing some research for the blog awhile back and came across something on the subject that I was investigating written by a gentleman who is a Pastor and president of a Christian College.  The name of the school caught my attention as it was one that was frequently spoken of by some of those in the large homeschool group that we were a part of when my wife schooled our kids.

The group was associated with a nondenominational Christian School in our town and was made up of families with a variety of Christian backgrounds.  My wife first became associated with the group when she was the treasurer of the local Woman’s Aglow Fellowship, as one of Aglow’s leaders was also in charge of the fledgling homeschool effort and her husband was the principal of the Christian school.  In fact, on the night our oldest daughter was born my wife was experiencing labor pains while sitting at the dining room table totally focused on finishing the yearly Aglow Fellowship books before we left for the hospital!  It drove me crazy as I could not get her to go to the car with me!  But when her last column added up correctly, she triumphantly closed the book and said with a big grin, “Let’s go!” and off we went to the hospital where our daughter was born a few hours later!
Anyway… back to my research.  Since this particular school was always spoken of with such high regard, I thought that I would look up its website and take a peek at their doctrine of faith.  Well, to say the least, even though I wasn’t totally surprised, I was a little taken back at the vigor and detail that they went into concerning their disagreement with many of the Pentecostal tenets that I hold dear to my heart.  But putting that aside, the one standout was their firm supposition that the age of miracles stopped with the death of the last of the original twelve apostles.
Now while I understand that this is a common belief with a few denominations, it is one that I am completely baffled by!  I have been around too long and have personally witnessed too many naturally unexplainable miracles to say that God doesn’t do this anymore.  Especially considering that we are living in the age of the Holy Spirit and He is the power source of God’s goodness!
As I read from Ephesians 3:20 this morning, I was even more solidified in my belief that God is still in the miracle business and will be until Jesus returns.  In this verse, Paul goes out of his way (as he does in a few other places) to explain and define God’s ability to do “exceedingly, abundantly above all than all we ask or imagine, according to his power…” (combination of NKJV and NIV of Ephesians 3:20)  Paul was known to use double adverbs to qualify the verbs he used to describe God’s immeasurable power toward us who believe.  He witnessed God’s miraculous powers on a regular basis… just as many do today and others have throughout church history during the last 2000 years!
You know… come to think of it… if the age of miracles was over, then NO ONE would get saved, for the born-again experience is the greatest miracle of all!  So… I encourage you to THINK BIG!  Think like God!  Ephesians 5:1 tells us to “Imitate God, since you are the children he loves.” (God’s Word ©)  Expect a miracle!  Expect God to be God in your lives.  Expect the supernatural to occur for you, be it a supernaturally quick move of the long line ahead of you in the line at the local Department of Motor Vehicles (like what happened to a good friend of mine yesterday) to the healing of yourself or a loved one.  God is still in the miracle business.  It is the one thing that sets Him apart from anyone or anything else.
Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What MIRACLE am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A New Attitude!

In Ephesians chapter four the Apostle Paul spends some time talking about the way his readers looked at things before they became Christians and then made a statement that caused me snap to attention!  He declared: “However, you were taught to have a new attitude.” (Ephesians 4:23 God’s Word ©)  A new attitude?  What new attitude?… about what? …when and where?

As I stared through the wall in front of me, my mind was awash with a myriad of thoughts and ideas about what I had just read and the questions that were bouncing around in my head!  But the answers came quickly.  Philippians 2:5 tells us that we are to “have the same attitude that Christ Jesus has.” (God’s Word ©)  His attitude is one of love, joy, peace and forgiveness, all heavily seasoned with grace.  It is how He observed the world he lived in when He walked on the earth some 2000 years ago, and it is still how He observes the world from His current position sitting at the right hand of God!
It is a positive attitude that is firmly entrenched in an unyielding trust in the truth and promises of God’s Word.  It is a new attitude that our heavenly Father expects us to radiate wherever we go.  At one point in his letter to the church in Galatia, Paul chides the people asking them, “What happened to your positive attitude?” (Galatians 4:15 God’s Word ©) The church there had false teachers come in and distort the message he had brought to them.  This had caused confusion and led to a noticeable decline in the positive attitude they had come to be known for.  I’m sure that their change in attitude was not only noticeable in the church but also extended into their community!
The Holy Spirit through Paul is telling us that we are to walk – 24/7- in the new attitude that the Good News teaches us.  The recognition of this attitude is very real to me on a daily basis.  I have painfully learned the importance of keeping up this positive attitude when it comes to our stand on God’s Word concerning my wife’s total and complete healing.  It is something that I deal with every day.
I have learned over the last four years that there are certain places to avoid and people (both Christian or not, certain family and friends) that my wife and I do not need to spend much time around because of their negative and fearful attitudes.  At this point in time I believe that we need to be around those who will be in faith, standing alongside us as we trust in God’s Word for her recovery.
I was very encouraged the other day as I was walking my wife in her transport chair around our neighborhood.  As we came around a bend I noticed an older gentleman standing on the sidewalk talking on his cell phone.  It is always a little humorous for me to observe the different people’s reaction as we walk by them.  Some completely ignore us by looking the other way, most will smile and say or nod “hello,” while a few will actually engage in a conversation.  But even those who I talk with will not usually look at or acknowledge Piper.  (Except for kids!  They openly stare at her and some will talk to her while their Mom’s attempt to pull them away!)
As we neared this gentleman, whose back was to us, he quickly stepped out of our way and onto the lawn.  When we came along side he put the phone down and began to talk with us as he bent over to pet our wiggling dog!  Then after a few moments he looked up at Piper and said something like: “And who is this lovely young lady?”  I immediately introduced her and as we talked he asked what was going on with her to which I briefly explained about the early onset of Alzheimer’s and quickly added that we are not giving up because we believe in the God of miracles.  Well, this guy didn’t blink an eye when I said that.  He smiled and agreed whole-heartedly with us!  Come to find out that he is a devout Catholic who attends daily Mass and firmly believes in the miraculous nature of God to heal His people.  I have to tell you that I don’t think my feet touched the ground for the rest of our walk that day!  His positive attitude, mixed with ours was like a cool drink of Gatorade on a hot and humid Oklahoma summer day!
Then yesterday I received a visit from two Christian friends who spent an hour or so with Piper and I, encouraging us with their positive attitudes and firm belief in God’s healing hand working in Piper’s body.  What a blessing!  Their positive attitudes made my day!  In fact just writing about it now continues to encourage me!  That is the kind of God based, loving, joyful, peaceful and encouraging attitude that He wants us to embrace and allow to ooze over all those that we come into contact with wherever we go in our daily lives!
How is your attitude today?  Is it positively set in and on the goodness of the Lord?  Are you leaving a path of love, joy, peace and encouragement behind you today?  You might just be like that older gentleman that we met along our walk who made my day last week.  And while I understand that it is hard to have a positive attitude all the time, sometimes we just have to “suck it up,” put on a smile and trust the Lord no matter how we might feel.
So have a great day and allow your positive attitude to have a positive effect on someone who desperately needs a pick-me-up today!  Stay in tune to God’s Word, and keep asking yourself… “What – or who - am I expecting to bless with my positive attitude today?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Exuberance!

As my wife and I were walking around our little community yesterday afternoon, I was simply smitten by the gorgeous views everywhere that my eyes seemed to settle upon!  I know that I have mentioned this before, but I feel so blessed to live where we reside at this time.  And as you may recollect, it was His doing that got us here in the first place!

When we moved back to California after three years in Oklahoma where I attended Bible School, we temporarily moved in with my folks while I got settled in my new job as a supervisor with a traveling merchandising team for The Home Depot in multiple stores in the Bay Area around San Francisco.  The plan was to stay with them for a few months and then find a home to rent.  Well, it’s kind of a long story but when the time table was unexpectedly moved up, we went to the Lord for assistance.
In one of our early jaunts near the location of my folk’s home, we drove through the small, planned community were we now live.  Both my wife and I liked the neighborhood and mentioned how we’d love to live there.  When the outside pressure arose to move quicker than we had originally planned, I mentioned to our oldest daughter who was living in Stockton, California at the time about the place we liked.  Later that night she went on Craig’s List found a place for rent in the aforementioned community, emailed the owners and called me back.  The next day (Friday) I got a call from the owner, met with him at the house later that afternoon and received the approval call two days later!  And on top of that, all the finances also came together so we could begin moving within a week!
With everything going on with my wife’s health and the constant pressures involved with her care, our daily walks amongst the tall pines, towering redwoods, green lawns, beautiful lake and even the crabby goose who likes to go after our dog! (until she turns on him!!!), bring an instant peace and serenity to my being!  As we sat at one of the benches around the lake yesterday, I found myself contentedly staring at the trees swaying in the gentle afternoon breeze and commented to my wife that I am so happy that we did not allow the pressure from a few miss informed folks to dissuade us from staying here.
Earlier today I read from Ephesians 4:13 where it was talking about the fivefold ministry gifts and their responsibilities to the body of Christ, saying: “…until we measure up to Christ, who is our standard.” (God’s Word ©)  After copying the verse into my notes, I began to consider the foundation that Christ used as His standard.  After mentally reviewing the context of chapters three and four that I had been reading, I realized that the foundation of Christ’s standard is love and grace!  Then I heard the little voice inside me say, “it is always best to err on the side of grace.”
Love and grace, love and grace!  Those are the unshakeable pillars of the standard that we are to attain to and on which we are measured.  Love will always put you on the same page with those you attempt to reach out to!  In my experience above, love would have trusted in the Lord for our decision to move where we did and get all the information before making a judgment against us.  Love will always prove out on the side of truth when you are patient and trusting in Him!
Love is an exuberant action that causes you to let go of your own preconceived ideas and will hook you up to God’s standard.  It is kind of like our dog’s exuberance toward my wife this morning.  Piper was very quiet and not real receptive to my boisterous singing this morning so I immediately toned it down and gently ministered the Word to her as I attempted to get her up.  In the midst of all this the dog came trotting into the room wagging her tail so hard that her whole body was contorting with its movements.  It was almost as if she had a huge smile on her face and couldn’t contain her exuberance at seeing us first thing in the morning!  She took one look at me kneeling at my wife’s side and wanted in on the action.  She proceeded to jump on the bed, clumsily straddled my wife’s prone body and vivaciously began licking her face!
At that moment she was a visual symbol of Christ’s exuberant love toward my wife!  As the dog has gotten older she usually doesn’t just jump into action first thing in the morning.  She usually will stay her distance for a few moments and then roll over on her back and bark before coming up to us.  Today’s actions were as if she put aside her own thoughts and/or routine and immediately jumped in to spread the love that was needed at the moment!
Mandie decided to err on the side of grace, to put aside self and do what she thought was best for Piper (and what she knew Piper enjoyed!)  Love always puts other’s needs first, no matter what you may think they really need!  Mandie’s exuberance was exactly what my wife needed to get her going today!  God’s love always gets one going!  Try to share some of His love with someone today.  And while I wouldn’t suggest jumping on top of them and licking their face, a simple smile or an encouraging word just might do the trick!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, July 19, 2013

Extreme Sports - searchlights

Our local Sonoma County Fair starts next week.  It is always a big deal to the county residents and this year should be no different.  Besides the normal array of carnival rides and booths, the fair boasts horse racing, displays of items made by local craftsmen, the main pavilion packed with all kinds of products from miracle cooking wares to hot tubs, endless selections of deliciously fattening foods, a large agricultural area complete with horses, pigs, sheep, chickens, goats and 4H’ers, a rodeo, destruction derby, monster trucks and motorcycle races.  Also on tap is a variety of free and by ticket entertainment including country singers, magicians, Extreme Air Dogs and this year they are even bringing in a Disney TV star for the kids and youth.

As a youngster I was enthralled by the large searchlights that were always lined up at the main entrance to the fair that would light up the evening sky pointing the way to the action at the fairgrounds during the fair’s two week run.  They seemed extremely huge and brighter than anything I had ever seen!
This morning as I reviewed the scripture we’ve been looking at for the last few days from 2 Corinthians 5:14 where Paul stated that “Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes…”  (The Message) I compared those extreme searchlights at our fair to Christ’s extreme love. Both of them capture the attention of those who see them.  In John 8:12 Jesus said that “I am the light of the world” (God’s World ©) and throughout His earth walk He demonstrated that light in the darkness of the lives in those with whom He interacted.  Then in Matthew 5:14-15 He declared that we too were lights for the world to see and encouraged us to be as a light set on a lampstand that is visible for others to observe.
So the obvious question then to me, is how did Jesus and are we, as His representatives in His absence, to display this light?  I firmly believe that Jesus’ extreme love was the searchlight that brightly lit up the horizons of people’s lives.  Think about what He did when He walked the earth.  He healed the sick, met people’s deepest needs, forgave those with faults, interacted with the undesirables in the cities He visited, and otherwise loved on everyone!  The only ones He really ever argued with were the religious leaders who refused to accept His new teaching and actions of love and grace.
His actions of extreme love is what set Him apart from anyone else.  Once again, He didn’t just talk a good story, He acted upon what He taught and followed through to the ultimate sacrifice of exchanging His life for the punishment we rightfully deserved!  In the book of Acts we see where the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel even talked about this.  When the Apostles were brought up before the Jewish Council he reminded the leadership about two other individuals who had gathered a following based on their teachings and had died and their movement along with them. 
Of Jesus and His Apostles he said: “If the plan they put into action is of human origin, it will fail.  However if it is from God, you won’t be able to stop them…” (Acts 5:33 – 40 God’s Word ©).  Well it is obvious that after over 2000 years, it is clearly of God!  In the New Testament we see where the people of the time were regularly amazed at what they saw in the lives of Jesus and His followers.  And I firmly believe that it was more their daily attitude and gentle actions of His extreme love in their deepest times of desperation, than in the miracles they performed through the power and faith in His Word.
Yes I believe in miracles, but I also believe that it is the extreme love of God as actively demonstrated through you and me that is the most powerful and lasting foundation that gives us and others the strength and joy to successfully live our daily lives in this world.  That extreme loves starts and is fueled by each of us having the experiential knowledge of His love for us individually and then is spread through us to our hurting and needy communities!
So go out this weekend and be a searchlight of His extreme love everywhere you go!  Be bright, be extreme, be crazily different to the way the world normally reacts to the stresses of the day and glow for Him!  Have a fantastic weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What EXTREME LOVE am I expecting to DEMONSTRATE today?”

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Exterme Sports - part two

I read an article about extreme sports where it stated that they “differ from traditional sports due to the higher number of inherently uncontrollable variables.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_sport)  This also describes why God’s extreme love can be compared to it.  I think most of us would like to be in control of the various situations of life, but there are times when the response of extreme love forces us to let go of the reigns of control.  A response of this level of love may mean that we have to humble ourselves, let go of what we think is best and let God be God!

Acts 18:5 tells of a time when Paul was “pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews (in Corinth) that Jesus was Christ.” (KJV)  John Gill in his “Exposition of the Entire Bible” defines this verse by describing how Paul was “moved and stirred up to preach the Gospel more frequently and more powerfully… and being filled with zeal for their welfare, he continued preaching Christ unto them.”  This, I sense, is the key to successfully operate in His extreme love.
If you’ll recall, our verse from 2 Corinthians 5:14 which I related to yesterday, mentioned Paul’s comment of how “Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. (for) His love has the first and last word in everything we do.”  The previous verse describes some of the extreme things he did among the people he preached to.  In it he confesses, “If I acted crazy I did it for God.  If I acted over serious, I did it for you.” (The Message)  In Acts 26:24 we find where King Festus went so far as to call Paul crazy for the things he did and preached when Paul stood in his court!
There is a line in the movie “Red” where a Russian KGB agent confides to the retired CIA operative Frank Moses saying: “One does crazy things for love!”  I guess that is true for acting in God’s extreme love as well.  But the difference here is that we do it for the other’s welfare, not just for ourselves!  Jesus did everything He did for us.  He put aside everything He had, became like us and went as far as to die for us!
Through the years I’ve come to see how that many times the advice that people give to others is based on what they think is best for the individual.  Their advice is based on their experience without any real knowledge or consideration of the other’s experience and background.  As I thought on this earlier this morning, I suddenly recalled back during the second year of our marriage when my wife and I had accepted the responsibility of managing the apartment complex we lived in.
We had rented one of the apartments to some friends who had three children.  The wife was actually a few years younger than my twenty three year old Piper and continuously badgered her about having children.  Well, needless to say, we were young, highly involved as the Youth Ministers in the growing Youth Department at our church and not ready to have kids.  In fact, now this may sound a little selfish… but after some discussion about starting a family early on in our marriage, I honestly told Piper that I wasn’t ready to share her with kids yet!  We both agreed that God would show us when the time was right, and He did about three years later.  At that time we both knew it and it was perfect timing for us as everything seemed to fall into place along with a well-paying new job for me with great medical benefits that covered just about everything!
Once again… God had a timeline that was right for us, but our young friend thought that she knew what was best for us and kept perusing her way of thinking with my wife.  After months of lovingly putting up with it, my wife (in her special caring but confident and stern manner) informed our friend that we were following God’s plan for us and that the conversation on that subject was over!
God’s extreme love begins by us realizing that it is not all about us, but that our zeal needs to be toward those we are called to minister to.  It means that we need to listen closely to the Spirit’s leadings, put aside what we think, and do whatever crazy things He tells us to do!  Many times it just requires us to shut up and listen to those we are reaching out to…  Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What CRAZY things am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Extreme Sports - part one

The biggest lesson that I have probably learned over the last four years through this journey with my wife around the issues of her health, has to be the extreme love of God!  It is a subject that I just can’t seem to get away from.  I have instantly been brought to tears when individuals have demonstrated this love to my wife and I and devastated when those from whom I expected it, did not.  Some of the most precious times of my life have been those late night/early morning rendezvous alone with God at the bottom of the stairs in our hallway.  At those times when I have found myself in the lowest reaches of hope, He meets me, places His loving arms around me and comforts and encourages me.

If not for the “exceedingly abundantly above all” of His Word, (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV) I would have given up long ago!  The repeated personal experiences of His extreme love that are demonstrated through the unlimited possibilities of God over the impossibilities of man (Mark 10:27) have fortified me with the strength of faith to continue on in the face of what medical science calls a lost cause.  This extreme love has given me the ability to keep a smile on my face, an encouraging word in my mouth, and joy in my heart when some around me have lost hope.  It is kind of funny – or maybe sad… that I have gotten more support with my stand of faith from some non-believers than I have from some Christians!  Our faith in what He says about my wife’s health has caused me to make certain decisions and/or act in certain ways that have been questioned by a few close to us.
The Apostle Paul also did many things that seemed outlandish to some of those he ministered to.  The explanation for his actions are stated in 2 Corinthians 5:14.  I like the way the Message Bible puts it.  Paul said, “Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes.  His love has the first and the last word in everything we do.”  Other translations say that Christ’s love controls, rules, overmasters, moves or compels us.  In the original Greek the word for all these terms means to “hold together, to press on every side, to hold fast.” (Strong’s and Thayer’s)
In other words, the love of God was so extreme in the life of Paul that it pressed in on him from every side and forced him to do what he did!  Webster’s definition of “compel” is “to drive with force or irresistibility.”  Paul is saying that the extreme love of God was so compelling in him that he could not resist it!
As I meditated on this today, I thought about the current popularity of Extreme Sports.  In some respects I am always amazed at what would drive people to risk their lives to do some of the extreme activities that they participate in.  It is almost like they are driven to go beyond the natural laws of nature or in other cases, against the accepted laws of self-preservation!  But now… maybe I have a greater understanding of that irresistible tugging inside of them.
It is the same thing that the Apostle Paul felt and that YOU and I should be feeling and acting upon when it comes to demonstrating the extreme love and grace of God to those around us.  I have vividly come to see and experience the fact that God’s love is very much an action word!  And I’ve also come to understand that unless an individual actively knows through personal experience the extreme love that God has for them, that they will talk a good story but lack in corresponding physical actions toward others.
We’ll discuss all this a little further in the next couple of posts, but for now, I would encourage you to think about your views, understanding and personal experiences of the extreme love of God.  Is this extreme love a driving force in your life?  Has this love moved you to act in extreme ways toward others?  I have to tell you, that the events of the last four years have totally rearranged my way of thinking and acting.  In fact, I am finding myself to be more of a “driven” man than ever before!  His extreme love as demonstrated in the truth and faithfulness of the possibilities of His Word drives me to believe and act in accordance to what He says about my wife’s and my future, not the worlds viewpoint.  How about you?  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What EXTREMES am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Delicious Jams and Jellies

I went into our bedroom this morning around 8:45 with the intent of getting my wife up and ready for the day, only to find her eyes shut and a peaceful look resting upon her countenance. I stood there for a short time gazing upon her and thinking about all the fun times that we have had together over the years and expectantly wondering what good things the Lord has in store for her in the years ahead.  In times when despair would try and creep over me I am reminded of the “rhema” word that the Lord gave to us concerning my wife as found in Psalm 118:17 stating that she shall not die but live “and tell what the Lord has done.” (God’s Word ©)   

After a few moments I thought I heard something and realized that Piper was humming a song!  This brought an instant smile to my face and I proceeded to open the blinds a little and gently sing the “Good Morning” song from the old musical “Singing in The Rain” where Debbie Reynolds is singing to Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner saying:
♫ Good mornin’, good mornin’!
It’s great to stay up late,
Good mornin’, good mornin’ to you! ♪
This is something that I do just about every morning when I get her up.  Since I understand how sensitive she is to the emotions of those around her, I always strive to set a joyous and humorous tone first thing each day!  I’ll change the lyrics to fit the mood and/or to get her to laugh and smile.  Then I’ll also sing some of the children’s songs we wrote over the years for our own kids and for those to whom we ministered to at church.  They are pretty simple songs and she wrote many of them.  They have easy uncomplicated lyrics like:
♫ “Praise, praise, praise,
  Praise the Lord.
  Praise, praise, praise,
  Praise the Lord,
  Praise, praise, praise,
  I will praise the Lord.
  Praise – the – Lord!” ♪
It is always rewarding to see the recognition come into her eyes when the songs are being sung!  Following the song fest I’ll continue to establish the direction of the day by reading a dozen or so personalized scriptures from our ever growing list of healing verses that we read from multiple times daily.  I like to remind her that this is God’s viewpoint on what is going on with her!
The second verse I read to her today was based on Psalm 41:2 from the KJV, and I proclaimed it to her as from the Lord speaking to her saying: “I am preserving you and keeping you alive.”
Piper was smiling as I went through my morning antics and I was in a great mood and instantly started laughing when I finished that verse as I thought of and recited the lines from the first National Treasure movie (I guess I was movie-minded this morning!) where Riley is trying to prove to Ben at the Library of Congress building in Washington D.C., that it is impossible to steal the Declaration of Independence.  After listening to Riley for a while, Ben calmly hands a book over to Riley and says with an “I know it all smile”: “The preservation room.  Enjoy!  Go ahead.  Do you know what the preservation room is for”?  To which Riley, looking a little befuddled replies: “Delicious jams and jellies?”
I had to laugh as I was on a roll with my one-liners and frolic of the moment and leaned over close to Piper and said to her with my own mischievous grin: “You are my delicious jam and jelly!”  But then I got serious and stated without another thought: “Actually, Jesus is our delicious jam and jelly!”
Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him.” (God’s Word ©)  He is good and should be as pleasing and delectable to us as delicious jams and jellies spread on warm toast are to us!  The taste of His love and His peace and His joy and His nearness to us in times of trouble as well as when things are moving along without a glitch is definitely a sweet delight to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Have you taken the time to taste and see that the Lord is good in your life today?  When you open up your refrigerator door and glance upon the jar of sweet strawberry preserves sitting in the rack do you think about Jesus?  Maybe it is time to take out your bible which is His container of sweet words that brings nothing but taste tantalizing delights into your life, and spoon out a large heaping helping for yourself to enjoy.  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What Delicious Jams and Jellies am I expecting today?”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Strength!

It always took great inner strength and resolve for me to put on my secular job game face and head off to work on Mondays.  Let me explain… As I have mentioned before, I have been blessed to serve as a Youth Minister and Assistant Pastor in five different churches over the last 35 plus years.  Due to the small size of all the churches except for the very first one, my position was always part-time.  This meant that I had to work a secular job as well.  Once we started our family we felt the leading for my wife to stay at home so that she could fulfill her God given desire to Home School our four kids.  Therefore there were many times over the years where I held down three jobs at once.

Since my heart and soul and greatest energy output was always in the ministry, our weekends were almost always jam-packed with activities.  Often these activities culminated in special children’s or youth services, large drama or musical productions or all church events that occurred on Sunday’s. 
So not only would I find myself physically spent come Monday mornings, it would also be an emotional and mental shock to switch gears from dwelling on the spiritual aspects of people’s lives and the interactions of the church family to the seemingly less important world of production schedules and financial goals.
I thought about all this as I read about the strength that it takes for us to walk in the love of Christ on a daily basis, 24/7.  In Ephesians 3:16-18 Paul prays that God would grant us “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit” so that we “may be able to comprehend” (KJV) what the Message Bible refers to as “the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.” 
It is interesting to me that the word translated “comprehend” might make the reader think that Paul was praying for our understanding of God’s love for us.  But a deeper look at the original Greek goes beyond that idea.  That word actually means “to take eagerly, to take possession of” or “to lay hold of as make one’s own.” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions)  Paul is telling us that it is not easy to take possession of the love God has for each of us personally and to live within its structure of grace all the time.
He is declaring that it takes a level of strength that only the Holy Spirit can give for us to not yield to what people, experiences and life in general may say about us, even when our own thoughts are in agreement with them!  God simply loves us with a love that goes “far beyond any (natural) knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19 God’s Word ©)  Christ’s love is “supereminant over” (Strong’s) what anyone or anything outside of God and His Word say about us!
Wow!  Think on that before you head off to work each day this week!  Not only will that truth put a skip in your step, but it will put a confidence in every decision and action that you are involved with!  Just remember to move in His strength and not your own, for His is without end.  Have a terrific week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, July 12, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Just a few months shy of 43 years ago on a Friday evening in mid-September of 1970, I was standing on the crowded floor of our high school cafeteria.  The occasion was the first dance of the new school year and I had arranged to meet a young lady there named Piper Canevari, whom I had just begun to spend time with in-between classes at school.  She was actually a little late and I made up the time by dancing with a mutual friend of ours.  After the song had played we stood together and were talking when another friend came up and mentioned that Piper had just arrived.  So I excused myself and told my partner that I’d best go find her and turned to walk away.

When I looked up it was suddenly like everything went into slow motion!  The crowd seemed to miraculously separate and through the middle of them she slowly approached me dressed in her cute plaid shorts/skirt outfit with a long sleeve white sweater, long brown hair, a splash of freckles and a mischievous smile that could melt my heart in an instant!  At that moment everyone else in the room faded away… and it has been that way ever since!
Five years later on July 12, 1975 we were married and today we celebrate our 38th anniversary!  It would be hard for me to even know where to start in sharing all the wonderful things that have occurred over the years of our relationship together.  Four great kids, 2 grandkids, 35 years of active Christian ministry, the starting of two churches in our home town, and an entire life of adventure together!
I remember sharing with my brother in law at a dinner honoring our 25th anniversary, when he asked for the secret of our long relationship.  Without too much thought, I stated that we always put God first and that we have always been a team.  Ephesians 3:17 talks about sinking our roots into the good ground of God’s agape love as the strong foundation for life.  This probably best describes how we decided to live our life together from the very beginning.  Not only has it been the foundation for our marriage but it is the message we lived before and taught to our kids as well as to those we ministered to in the various churches we served in through the years.
I think the greatest gift that my wife gave me was showing me what it meant to have Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, Lord and best friend.  I can remember us spending literal hours on the phone talking about the things of God, but even more importantly, it was the way she lived her daily life that gave me an overwhelming hunger to have what she had!
From the early days as seniors in high school we seemed to be a natural fit together!  It was like we were a team just waiting to be organized as a force to live life in the years ahead.  You know… in all the years I can only remember one time where I made a derogatory comment about my wife to someone at work.  But it bothered me so much that I couldn’t wait until I got home so that I could apologize to her!
Through the years we have always sought to seek and follow God’s counsel and direction first before the natural wisdom and direction of man.  And while it hasn’t always been popular with other family members or according to conventional wisdom, it has almost always ended in a favorable manner.  Over and over again during the last 43 years, God has shown Himself faithful as we have followed and trusted Him.
There have been some bumps in the road along the way, even now as we face my wife’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.  But we haven’t come this far to change our minds and move away from the solid foundation of God’s loving Word.  Psalm 119:160 declares that “All you say can be trusted.” (CEV)  Further on in that same Psalm, David wrote that “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” (KJV)  We also settled on that truth at the very beginning of our relationship and will continue to stand firm on His truth!
I am fully expecting to make at least 60 years with Piper as my loving, caring, exuberant and healthy bride.  And as they keep saying at my daughter and her husband’s church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, “The best is yet to come!”  Remember too, that God is no respecter of persons, and what He is doing for us, He will do the same for you!  Don’t give up.  Become settled with His Word that has been settled in heaven since before the beginning of time!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What GOOD THINGS am I expecting today?”