Our New Home

Our New Home
Fall is defintely in the air!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Family Relations...

With our youngest son back in California for a two week vacation, I have been thinking a lot lately about family.  This morning as I read from Hebrews 2:11, that subject again came vividly to center stage!  Speaking of family relations it says, “Jesus who makes people holy, and all those who are made holy have the same Father.  That is why Jesus isn’t ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”  (God’s Word ©)  The Message Bible states that “Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them as family.”  Another modern version declares that “Jesus is not ashamed to call them his family.” (Good News Bible)

The reality of that statement really cut to the quick in me as I savored its meaning in the midst of my own situation.  I must admit that I have extended relatives that I have been ashamed of because of the way they are dealing with my wife’s health concerns.  I have been ashamed and embarrassed by actions they have taken (and maybe more importantly, NOT taken…) as well as by judgmental comments they have repeatedly made to family and friends. I have had to fight through strong feelings of anger, neglect, frustration, total astonishment, and disgust.  Then just as I feel I have handed it over to the Lord, something new pops up!  So what do I do?
The Word says that Jesus isn’t ashamed to call you and me, these particular members of my extended family and those Christians who may have said and done things that would anger and/or embarrass you - as members of His family! 
As I dwelt on that verse in my mind today, I wondered if He ever had to deal with those same thoughts, feelings and hurts as I have.  And I came up with a resounding YES!  Later on in that same chapter of Hebrews in verse 14 it states that “because Jesus experienced temptation when he suffered, he is able to help others when they are tempted.” (God’s Word ©)  Another scripture tells us that “He was tempted in every way that we are, but he didn’t sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 God’s Word ©)
Jesus was verbally and physically abused on the way to and while He hung on the cross at Calvary.  At the very end of all that excruciating pain and anguish, there was only one of his faithful apostles that stayed with Him.  How do you think that made Him feel?  I would imagine that the twelve disciples must have become like family to Jesus during the three intense and close years He spent with them.  Then when He probably relished and needed their companionship the most, they seemingly deserted Him!  I bet He was more than slightly tempted to be a little upset about their response!
But you know… after His resurrection I can’t find a place in my bible where He mentioned any of this to the apostles and others followers He appeared to.  He even made a point to reinstate Peter and give him a top position in the fledgling church!  I heard a sermon yesterday that proposed the idea that since Jesus already took all that verbal and physical abuse on our behalf that we don’t have to carry the weight of people’s abusive words toward us today.
So what do I do with those feelings that are swirling around in me? I give them to Him… and then I give them to Him again when new embarrassing and shameful words and situations reappear!  Easy… right?  NO its not!  But it is what needs to be done because they are family and “love makes you willing to forgive many sins” (I John 4:8 Easy To Read Version)  It is interesting to me that the one apostle who stuck with Jesus to the very end was John, who was known as the Apostle of Love!
For me it continues to be a life lesson about the practicality and power of the love of God working in, for and through me!  How about you?  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, September 27, 2013

Matlock!

A few years ago my wife and I splurged and purchased a new flat screen HD TV.  Once I had it set up, I immediately upgraded our satellite TV service to HD and added a DVR.  The additional cost of that devise was probably one of the best investments I have ever made!  Now, with the exception of live Sporting events, just about everything we watch is recorded which affords us the convenience of viewing the programs we want to watch at the choice of a time that is best for us, and without commercial interruption!

One of those programs that we have started to record is the old TV series Matlock starring Andy Griffith.  This weekly program which originally ran from 1986 – 1995 is now playing daily re-runs on the Hallmark Movie Channel.  The only problem is that it airs between 3:00 and 6:00 AM!  Therefore the DVR proves its worth again.
In the show, Griffith’s character is a folksy but brilliant defense lawyer.  His knowledge of the law, case investigations and shrewd courtroom techniques always work for the acquittal of his clients.  Many times during the questioning of witnesses by the Prosecution, Matlock will abruptly stop the proceedings and call out loudly to the presiding Judge: “Objection!  Relevance?” and most times the Judge will reply “Sustained” causing the Prosecuting attorney to stop or change the course of his or her line of questioning.
The pictures of these court room events instantly came to my mind this morning as I studied from the last portion of Hebrews 1:3.  Here the writer of Hebrews states, “… After he (Jesus) had cleansed the people (you and me!) from their sins, he received the highest position, the one next to the Father in heaven.” (God’s Word ©)
One of the many revelations I received in Bible School was the understanding of the legal ramifications of Jesus’ atonement for our sins.  Jesus’ actions in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension established a legally binding precedent in the courtrooms of the universe for every Christian!  A legal precedent is defined by the Online Free Dictionary as an “authoritative principle of law, a controlling law.”  It is the legal rule by which Christians are judged by.  Now, when the enemy of our souls attempts to accuse us and tries to submit an argument based on our past or current short-comings, our personal Defense Attorney, the Holy Spirit, stands and shouts out: “Objection!  Relevance?” and our loving heavenly Father, who just happens to reign as Judge, simple replies “Sustained!”  With that, our accuser knowing that he has to back down, submits to the Judge’s ruling and stands quietly with a defeated look on his face as the Judge bangs His gavel and declares: “Case Dismissed!”
Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Well that’s the way He designed it!  It is an open and shut case!  You and I are legally set free from the accusations and convictions of the accuser.  Romans 8:2 confirms this by stating: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Lexham English Bible)
Remember, we have the Holy Spirit as our attorney who is looking out for us 24/7!  In the original Greek He was called the "Paraclete" which is a legal term.  He is the “one who pleads another’s cause before a judge.” (Robert’s Word Pictures)  I guess you could call Him your personal Matlock!  And He’s not just the best Defense Attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, He’s the best in the universe!
So, go out and enjoy your weekend knowing that your Defense Attorney’s got your back in every situation.  Go forth in a new-found freedom, know your legal rights and live without fear of false accusations!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What OBJECTIONS am I expecting my attorney to make for my case today?”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Most Powerful Weapon Available...

I was reading this morning about the most powerful weapon available to mankind.  The unique attribute of this weapon is that it is not a weapon of death or destruction, but one of life!  That weapon is the Word of God!  And in the mouth of a discerning Christian, it can bring forth the power to heal a broken or diseased body, it can positively affect the weather, bring the dead to life, restore peace, give understanding and renew and/or restore strained relationships, fellowship, or tormented emotions.

Hebrews 1:3 tells about it's special abilities by declaring that “He holds everything together through his powerful words.” (God’s Word ©)  Another translation I like refers to it as “the energy of his word.” (James Murdock New Testament)  Think about that for a few moments.  God’s Word is so powerful that it contains an energy force that can change whatever negative or seemingly impossible situation you may be faced with each day!
It would seem that God committed to the power inherent in the Word from the very beginning of the New Testament age!  In Luke 1:37 His angel assured the young teenage Mary that the prophesy of Jesus’ virgin birth would surely come to pass by declaring “For no word from God shall be void of power.” (ASV)  And you and I can walk in that same confidence and assurance today!
According to John chapter one, the Word of God has been here since the beginning of time, it is life, it is light and it is God Himself!  Later on in one of His final communications with the Father concerning those who then believed and all others who would believe in His name in the generations to come, Jesus asked that He would “Sanctify them through thy word; (for) thy word is truth.” (John 17:17 KJV)  In the first chapter of Genesis we also see that the universe and everything and everyone in it was created by His word!
As His representatives or ambassadors on this earth today, we have been given the right and ability to use the Word just as Jesus did when He walked the land!  So why not follow suit and do as Jesus did and speak the Word into people’s lives so that they “might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly?” (John 10:10 KJV)
His Word spoken through our lips in love should bring about the same results that Jesus’ did!  On the other hand, negative and judgmental words spoken from our mouths can have the same results as the enemy of our souls were meant to have and could end up causing theft, death and destruction in other people’s lives! (John 10:10)  Which will it be for you?  Will you take upon yourself the mantle of abundant life and speak God’s all-powerful, healing and loving Words or choose to be a purveyor of conflict and pain?  Kind of an easy decision don’t you think?  Have a great and powerful day today.  Stay in tune to God’s Word, and keep asking yourself… “What words of LIFE am I expecting to SPEAK today?”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Just For You!

When I continued my morning bible study today I found myself stuck on another small section of Hebrews 1:3.  This verse relates how Jesus “is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact likeness of God’s being…” (God’s Word ©)  I’m sure that you have figured out by now that I tend to enjoy looking back at the usage of the original languages when I read the Word.  Well, today was no different!

The term “exact likeness” or “express image” as the King James puts it, has two meanings to it.  The first is an “engraving” or a “precise reproduction in every respect.” The second relates to the first but implies that this individual is not only an exact replication of the original but also serves as “the instrument used for engraving or carving.” (Strong’s and Thayer’s)
So it logically follows that as we spend time with or “hang” (as the youth would say) with Jesus, we will be marked as being one of Abba Father’s kids!  And not only will we be marked, but as time goes on, He will chisel or “carve” us more and more into His exact likeness!
But hold on for a minute here!  That doesn’t mean that we will all become like cookie cutter renditions of each other.  NO… God gave each of us different personalities and different life walks along with different gifts and talents.  I believe that while He desires for us to all attain His attributes, He expects them to be expressed in ways that are uniquely attuned to who we are!  To me that is another example of His love and His grace in action!
He made you and me the way we are and TRUSTS us to allow Him to work through us for who we are.  Not as or like someone else!  Now, I understand that there are those out there who will do their best to see that you do things just like them, but once again, I don’t think that was God’s plan!  It is pretty clear to me that He enjoys the array of diversity in His creation.  Different folks relate to different individuals.
So enjoy being who He created you to be!  Find a new freedom and have FUN in expressing your unique character and gifting’s.  Why waste time trying to be like someone else, when you we designed to be YOU?  He has a plan that is custom designed JUST FOR YOU.  Find it and follow it!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… What FUN am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Knowing Your Equipment

In the late seventies and throughout the 1980’s I had a fairly thriving side business photographing weddings and taking outdoor portraits.  I was always captivated by the effects that lighting had on the pictures and carried a set of reflectors that I utilized as much as possible because I preferred natural lighting to artificial means.  During those shooting sessions my wife was like my right arm!  She was a very capable assistant who had an eye for just the right pose!  She would do everything from holding the reflectors steady at the right angles, help to pose the subjects and assist in keeping things orderly and the atmosphere relaxed, especially when photographing the formal pictures following a wedding service at the altar, while all the guests were impatiently waiting for the new bride and groom to appear!

During this time I also had a contract with the Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa to shoot pictures for their section of the paper that the Arch Diocese of San Francisco published.  One of the many events I covered was the ordination of the new priests coming into the Diocese.  Most of these ceremonies were held at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Santa Rosa.  It is a large church with a balcony in the very back of the sanctuary.  One of my favorite shots was taken from the balcony so that the congregation as well as the clergy on the altar would be visible.  The difficult part though, was the ability to properly light the distance from the balcony to the altar.  If I used the natural lighting I would have had to employ a timed exposure and some of the subjects would be blurred due to their actions during the long exposure.  The resulting picture would also not be bright enough for newspaper reproduction.
In my repertoire of tools I had a Rollei E36RE professional strobe.  This piece of equipment was a fairly large hand held flash.  Photographer’s jokingly referred to this type of flash as a “Potato Masher” due to its shape and size!  But this flash was one of my most important pieces of equipment.  I tended to use it to help balance out the lighting in almost any shot, both inside or outside!  This flash was just what I needed to cover the entire church with accurate and bright lighting to cover the entire church at St Eugene’s.  The only downside was that its bright flash would capture everyone’s attention, so I could not use it very often during a service!
I was reminded of my old flash (which I still have… in fact I have two!) this morning as I read from Hebrews 1:3 where the writer informs us that “His Son (Jesus) is the reflection of God’s glory…” (God’s Word ©)  In fact it was Strong’s definition of the term “reflection” or “brightness” as used in the King James Version that sent me down memory lane!  The word means “off flash, or effulgence (a flood of light, great luster)”
The brightness of the reflection of God that is emitted from Jesus is like the brightness of my powerful old flash.  The flash was computer controlled and automatically calculated the amount of light that the subject needed in order to perfectly illuminate it.  Jesus in His love, also has the ability to control the output of His radiance in order to best illuminate the understanding of the one He is reaching out to.  And the way that He reaches out to the world today is through people like you and me!
I think the computer function that controlled my flash is like the working of the Holy Spirit in us!  He is the one who will tell us just what the one that we are reaching out to in love needs to hear!  I also believe that following His directions takes a knowledge of God’s Word and experience just as it took knowledge of my photography equipment mixed with a practical, working understanding in order to get the best possible results in my photos.
For instance, my flash always had a little trouble calculating the right amount of light for facial close-ups or for a bride’s white wedding dress!  I discovered a simple solution to soften the amount of light by covering the lens of the flash with a thin cotton handkerchief! This little trick was all that was needed to enhance the subject’s skin tones or to bring out the detail in a wedding dress.
It is little things like that example of the handkerchief enhancing the final results of my photographic efforts that can make all the difference in the results of one’s efforts when we are ministering the love of God to those in need.  The light of God’s love and of His understanding is a powerful force in our world today!  It is the source of life for all of us!  And I want to make sure that I am very capable, knowledgeable and experienced enough to rightly use it for His glory.  How about you?  Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Who Will You Listen To?

I found myself up in the wee hours of the morning today praying for my wife and our lives.  When I paused for a moment, I sensed more than heard the Lord say to me that more than any other thing, this journey has been a lesson about His love for us.  And that lesson continued as I sat down at my desk and read from the book of Titus after the break of dawn.

Verses four and five in chapter four read: “However, when God our Savior made his kindness and love appear, he saved us…” (God’s Word ©)  This translation normally substitutes the word “kindness” for “grace”.  But that is not the case in this portion of scripture.  This time kindness is exactly what is meant in the original language!  The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary relates the Greek for this usage as “goodness which manifests His grace,” while Robertson’s Word Pictures implies that it shows a physical demonstration or act of kindness.  It was hands-on proof of how much He loves and cares for you and me.
It would seem that Jesus demonstrated the Father’s love by giving up everything He had in heaven to come down and be like us.  Then on top of that, He suffered and died for our sins, for our sicknesses, and for our faults and weaknesses!  This would constitute a great inconvenience for Him, but Abba Father’s love overshadowed any inconvenience. I imagine that Jesus never even considered any of the potential downsides of His actions.  His love for us was all that mattered!
And you know what?  We – You and Me – have that same love in us!  Romans 5:5 tells us that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (God’s Word ©)  That revelation this morning suddenly answered a nagging question that I have had for the last few years…
It has always surprised me when folks have told me that they are amazed at what I do for my wife.  My immediate response to these individuals has always been the same as I kind of dumbfoundedly have said, “Well, I’m just doing what I have to do.”  My thought was that anyone in my shoes would automatically do the same thing.  Sadly, I have come to find out that this is not always the case.  Up until today, I just assumed that it was my intense love for my wife that has caused me to do what I do.  But as I meditated on the above verses this morning, the Lord showed me that it is HIS love that gives me the dedication, focus and strength to do what needs to be done.  He showed me how my response to my wife’s needs is just like Jesus’ according to Titus 3:4-5!
Now, PLEASE don’t get me wrong here.  I am in NO way trying to slap myself on the back.  I am simply implying that as we spend time with Jesus and His Father, it is just natural for us to act like them!  And while I have received a lot of flak for many of the decisions I have made, and will continue to make, my only concern is for the health and safety of my wife.  I will take whatever accusations that come, but my ears and eyes will continue to stay focused on what my loving heavenly Father is directing me to do.  His is the only word that counts, because His love for me and my wife is greater than anything or anyone in this world!
How about you?  Why do you do what you do?  Whose directions do you listen to?  Have a good week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, September 20, 2013

Religion vs Relationship

As I walked into my study this morning my thoughts were immediately drawn to the question of religion versus relationship.  Webster’s original 1828 dictionary describes religion as coming from the Latin word “religo” meaning “to bind anew, or to bind”  The “word seems originally to have signified an oath or vow or the obligation of such an oath or vow”  The thought of it being an obligation made me think of a conversation I overheard between my Mom and priest who was a family friend at a backyard party my parents had when I was in elementary school.

It was a Saturday evening and my Mom made the observation that she had to fulfill her obligation to go to church the next day.  I remember the priest smiling and looking at my Mom with a slightly startled expression as he sincerely and gently replied, “Gee, I never thought of it as being an obligation!”  The look on his face that evening told me that he had a relationship with God and that going to church was a pleasure and not just something that his religion said he had to do.  His words had a profound effect on me.  I sure didn’t know what he seemed to be talking about, but deep inside I wanted whatever he had!  I know that his words also had a changing effect on my Mom as she made mention of his reply many times through the years.
Ephesians 3:19 encourages us to KNOW Christ’s love which goes far beyond any knowledge.” (God’s Word ©)  As I have mentioned before in this blog, the word “know” in this usage tells of an intimate knowledge.  In fact, Thayer’s Greek Definitions says that this word is used as the Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a husband and wife.  Paul is telling us here that our relationship with God should be as up-close and personal as the intimate relationship that a husband and his wife have.  And again, we are not just talking about the enjoyment of the act of intimacy, but the overall closeness,  oneness and unity that should be ever-increasing and maturing in the relationship of a married couple.
The prophet Jeremiah also spoke of this kind of intimate knowledge of God when the Lord spoke through him saying, “If any want to boast, they should boast that they KNOW and understand me.” (Jeremiah 9:24 Good News Bible)  The Hebrew word for “know” here is “yada” which is defined as an intimate connection to God.  The Greek translation of the Old Testament uses the word “ginosko” which is the same word used in Ephesians 3:19.
Over the last few years I have had first-hand experience of the practical application of someone’s religion verses another’s relationship with God.  The first talked a good story, gave lots of suggestions and then complained and accused when we did not respond as they thought we should.  The others reached out in the unconditional love of Christ and have physically been there to help us with whatever we have needed at any given time.  A few have continually responded with empty words and have kept their distance, while the others have shown by their actions that they are close to Jesus… because they have acted JUST LIKE HIM!
Where do you stand today with your Christianity?  Is it a religion of obligations to you?  Or are you in the midst of an ever-increasing, ever-growing, ever-maturing, intimate, very personal relationship with the God of love and grace?  Your actions will clearly point to the answer of these questions!  How will you respond to the activities of your lives this weekend?  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What  ACTIONS am I expecting to take today?”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Silly Songs with Jim!

Last night was another one of those evenings in which I was in kind of a crazy-silly mood!  I was getting everything ready to go to a friend’s church’s bible study, and was busily trying to get everything ready for my wife and the young nursing student who was to care for her in my absence.  I am not sure if it is a family tradition from my mom’s side of the family or not, but I wanted the house to be clean (or at least demonstrate some semblance of order…) when she came.  It was like my grandmother cleaning her house before the maid service came over to clean in her later years!

I was feeling pretty wiped out to begin with as we had spent the previous afternoon with my son and his wife and our two granddaughter’s at their house an hour or so away from where we live.  We had a blast at their place, but all the effort to get there, the travel and the extra activity played on number on us!  But I had already committed to go to the bible study and had made arrangements for my wife’s helper, and I felt compelled to see it through.  I knew that I would probably feel a lot better after the fellowship and the Word.
So after straitening the house, sweeping and washing the floor, vacuuming the downstairs bedroom and the study and cleaning the bathroom, I cooked Piper’s dinner, fed the dog and got everything else ready for her time at home.  Then I ironed a shirt and got myself presentable for my night out!  When that was all completed, I walked my wife around the house a few times and then sat her in a kitchen chair so I could catch my breath before the help arrived.  Needless to say, I was feeling a little rummy at that point and as I guided her to the chair I found myself loudly singing funny songs to her! Then I suddenly burst out laughing as I, once again, realized that all the windows in our house were wide open!
I’ve probably mentioned before that we live in a neighborhood of cluster homes.  Each of our little homes in the beautiful park-like setting are connected to four other houses by their backyard fences.  Our kitchen and deck is probably about 10 -12 feet away from one of our neighbor’s kitchen windows!  And I am sure that she and the other three families who live by us got an earful of silly songs by Jim!  Even my wife began to laugh as I told her my current revelation… and that made my senseless tune worth every note!
Music has always been an important part of our lives.  One of the things I miss about my wife is her sitting at the piano and playing, which she was able to do up to about a year ago.  When we were first married I used to write a lot of songs which we would sing at the Baptist church we attended for the first eight years of our marriage.  I also wrote songs and led worship for the youth group at that church, as well as at various youth camps.  Then through the ensuing years both my wife and I wrote songs for the children’s groups we led as well as leading the praise and worship for four different congregations and another youth group or two under our ministry care.
The height of it came as we helped to develop a youth band with the last group we ministered to.  The band was led by our older daughter and it was rewarding to see the torch being passed on to our kids as our younger son and daughter also played in the group.  Over the last few years I have hardly touched my guitar, so I guess the singing of silly songs to my wife is helping to meet that need!  It also helps to initiate a joyful and praiseful atmosphere in our home as I normally transition from the silly songs to praise and worship melodies.
Well, today was no different.  As I knelt down at my wife’s side this morning and watched her peacefully sleeping, I smiled and softly began to sing:
“Good morning, good morning, good morning!
    Good morning Piper Kaye.
    Good morning, good morning, good morning!
    How are you today?” 
Then after a few choruses of that tune, I was struck with revelation and sang out: “Well, I’ll tell you how you are!” and I grabbed our healing scripture confession sheet off the bed stand and read to her what God says about how she is!  It was really amazing in that up to that time she had kept her eyes closed, but as soon as I read from I Peter 2:24 saying “You are healed by Christ’s stripes” her eyes immediately popped open and she broke out into a wide smile!
Now you just try and tell me that God’s Word doesn’t have an effect on our lives!  I think the singing prepared the atmosphere in my wife as well as in our home to receive God’s truth!  So… why not be a little crazy today?  Why not throw open every window in your home and begin to sing silly, joyful ditty’s that will lead you into the praise and worship of our King?  You may find your whole neighborhood opening their eyes to the truth of God’s Word!  At the very least, it will make you laugh and bring joy and thankfulness into your life!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and sing to yourself…   “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

W-O-R-K

I worked under a Pastor many years ago who would always say that ministry is spelled W-O-R-K!  That thought has always stuck with me through the years in the various ministries I served with.  For me it was always a labor of love, but at times that love was stretched a little thin.  There were a few times with a few children, youth and adults where it was not much fun reaching out to them.  It was then that I understood the meaning of perseverance in ministry W-O-R-K.  It was in times like those where I also probably learned some of the biggest lessons of loving like Jesus loved.

Most of these situations turned out for the best, a couple did not have a story book ending though.  But I knew that I did my best and there came the point where I had to let go and let God do the rest.  I John 3:18 tells us that “we must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words.” (God’s Word ©)  Another translation says to “love not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (MKJV)
It is interesting to me that when you look into the original language, this verse is literally telling us that real Christian love is not just telling someone in need your suggestions on what you think is best for them, or even speaking the Word of God to them, but also includes getting personally involved with them in meeting their physical needs at the time.  I think that is where the W-O-R-K of the ministry comes into play!  The word “deed” actually emphasizes the idea that it takes W-O-R-K to love others!  In other words it takes constant effort to reach out in Christian love.  Sometimes it is not fun or convenient and you may even have to toss out the excuse of “being too busy” and/or rearrange your schedule for the sake of others. 
Most of us would do whatever it takes to complete a task at our place of employment in order to please our bosses requests, so why would we not think to do the same for our heavenly boss – whose not really our boss but our loving, giving, full of grace heavenly Father!   His request for us to love others is pretty clear in the Word, and the above verse tells us exactly how to accomplish the request according to His definition.
So I would encourage you to reach out and physically touch someone today with the love of the Savior!  Don’t be one of the few who never ask what they can do to help!  Knowledgeable suggestions at the right time, in the right place can be helpful, but nothing demonstrates the love of Christ like getting personally involved in meeting the physical needs of someone who is hurting.  And sometimes that effort just takes plain old W-O-R-K!
I think one of the main reason I always enjoy doing yard and garden work is because at the end of the job, I could look back at the pruned bushes, the tidy lawn and the clean flower beds and see the fruit of my labors.  The same can be said for the W-O-R-K of loving others.  Sometimes that gleam in the eye of the one you touched with love, that smile upon their face, or the maybe the hug that is given you as thanks, can be the most rewarding moment in your life!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What W-O-R-K of love am I expecting to accomplish today?”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reverberations...

I was reminded this morning as I leaned back in my chair in the quiet solitude of the early morning in my study alone with God, about a time many years ago when the quiet solitude of the afternoon was broken by a blaring, off-key noise!  My wife had begun to encourage our kids to explore the pleasures of music at an early age.  As I am sure that I have mentioned before, the sound of music playing has always been a constant in our home.  Whether it was a record, a cassette, CD or Piper at the piano, melodies were an important part of the atmosphere of our children’s childhood.

It was only natural then for our kids to be a part of the band at the Christian school that our Independent Study Program was a part of.  When our oldest son finally reached the age to join the beginning band my wife and I, our son and his younger sister jumped into my wife’s hot burgundy Pontiac wagon (complete with mags and wide tires of course!) and headed for a local music store in downtown Santa Rosa.  After signing the rental agreement we handed Josh his shiny trumpet and with a big smile he practically ran to the car!
I’m not sure who was happier that day, Josh or my wife!  When we returned home my wife and I grabbed a cool drink and sat down at the kitchen table and simply smiled at each other.  After a few moments we heard the garage door opening up and our eyes bulged from our heads as the sound of a loud, totally out of tune, obnoxious noise began to reverberate through the neighborhood!  You guessed it… Josh was proudly announcing his new instrument to the world!  Well, I am not sure who got out the door to the garage first, but together we flew to the front of the garage where he stood!  I don’t recall our exact words but I do remember that we both encouraged him that he might want to get a little more proficient on the horn before he played for an audience! (which he later did along with just about any other instrument he ever touched!)
It was a verse from I John chapter two that led me along that particular path down memory lane this morning.  John, who was also known as the apostle of love, was telling his readers that “whoso keepth his (God’s) word, in him verily is the love of God perfected…” (I John 2:5 KJV)  For some reason that statement got me to thinking about the opposite effects of love and I recalled Paul’s vivid description in I Corinthians 13:1.  Here the apostle who had actively experienced the opposite of Godly love declares that if I “have no love, I have become a reverberating gong or a clashing symbol.” (I Corinthians 13:1 International Standard Version)
I have to tell you that I also have first-hand experience of the reverberating gong of those who “thought” that somehow their unloving actions and words were helping the situation!  And they are professing Christians!  Their words to my ears were like the sound that was emanating from Josh’s new trumpet on that warm Fall afternoon many years ago!  It did not make me want to stay and hear more.  It made me want to plug my ears and run as far away as I could!
Have you ever experienced that sound before?  Worse yet, have you ever made that sound for others to hear?  I know that I have a few times before and after being on the receiving end of that noise it has taught me a lesson that will cause me to think twice before ever uttering a word that might evoke a reverberating gong in another’s ear!
A few years later as I sat in the auditorium of Santa Rosa Christian School and listened to my son play a harmonious solo during the year end band concert, I was proud of his efforts, of his growth musically and as an individual and thought of how much more enjoyable were his melodious tunes of that night compared to the reverberations of his first public solo!
I think that it is important to for us to constantly keep our own ears attune to the notes that are coming from our mouths!  There is a right time to practice in the privacy of the practice room and a time to play what you’ve learned to a public audience.  It is also important to remember that the public audience includes your own family as well as those outside your home.  Think about it!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What TUNES am I expecting to MAKE today?”  

Monday, September 16, 2013

The End of the Season...

As I walked on our deck yesterday, I came to the sad conclusion that summer is just about over and with it the prolific production of our vegetable garden!  The once lush green growth has dwindled down to vines intermixed with brown leaves and shriveled flowers.  One of the plants is definitely at its end while the other three still hold a slight chance of a final harvest!  So, while the garden is far from its peak of a month ago, it still holds a little life, and I for one will not give up on it.

That reminds me of the garden of our lives.  We all tend to go through seasons of great fruitfulness and also times where the fruit tends to be far and few between and slightly on the scrawny side!  But just as l am not about to give up on the green tomatoes and tiny zucchini clinging to their vines, God will not give up on you and me either.  I John 1:9 encourages us to keep the faith even during the changing seasons of time by stating that “God is faithful and reliable…” God’s Word ©)
I have come to rely on His faithfulness to get me through some pretty tough times over the last few years.  People may have let us down or even have abandoned us when I needed a simple word of assurance or a loving hand to help me with a few physical tasks, but God has always been there.  You don’t know how many times I have been comforted by His promise to us in Joshua 1:5 where He told Joshua that “I will never neglect you or abandon you.” (God’s Word ©)
You and I are never alone.  We are never without His presence, His loving encouragement and His powerful promises!  If you’re feeling alone and/or a little stretched today, I would whole-heartedly encourage you to call out to Him and let His loving arms surround and comfort you in your time of need.  Let Him be God in your life today!  Have a great week.  Stay close to Him by staying in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's Just Noise!

When I was getting my wife up this morning, my attention was drawn upward as I heard our big black Australian Shepherd going through her morning antics in the master bed room above us.  Since my wife is not currently able to traverse up and down the stairs to the master suite, we now sleep in one of the smaller rooms downstairs.  But the dog still likes to find her way up there in the middle of the night to sleep under the bed!

Just about every morning the dog follows the same wake-up routine.  She jostles herself around as she squeezes out from under the bed, walks across the room to the top of the staircase and then flips herself over on her back, rolls about and barks happily!  I had to laugh as I heard Mandie in the midst of her routine today.  When she was done she went down to the first landing on the staircase and sat there expectantly.  I guess that was my queue, so I tip-toed over to the bottom of the steps and looked up at where she was perched.  With that she bounded down the stairs wiggling with glee and bumped past me into our downstairs bedroom so she could greet my wife!
It was liked she was boldly and loudly proclaiming what a beautiful day it was, and even though it was overcast outside, inside the house as well as in us, it was a glorious day to rejoice and be glad!  Then when my wife finally opened her eyes, they glistened brightly with frolic and mirth along with her heart-warming smile that just seemed to confirm the joy of the Lord about us this day!
But wait… it gets better yet!  When I helped my wife to the kitchen table and began to assist her with her breakfast, I clicked my laptop sitting on the table to Pandora and on to our personal mix of contemporary, traditional Southern Gospel, and oldie but goodies like the 2nd Chapter of Acts and Keith Green.  Within a moment the sound of a large audience applauding as an orchestra played a fast beat dramatic introduction came vibrating through the external speakers and filled the room with joyous expectation!  Then the announcer began to shout and vivaciously encourage the audience to welcome the up-coming singer and backup choir who began to shout and sing: The blessings of Abraham are upon you ♫!”
At that point I could contain myself no longer and loudly exclaimed to my wife: “Wow…  what a way to start out the day!” then we both burst out into joyful and almost uncontrollable laughter!  If someone peeked through the window as they walked along the walkway in front of our little cluster house today, they would NEVER had surmised that we were dealing with the life threatening attack of Alzheimer’s upon my wife.  We looked like we were having too much fun to be concerned about the potential anxiety or cares that the enemy of our souls would like us to be distracted with!  …And you know?  We were!  Halleluiah!
Earlier in the morning I had been reading from I Peter chapter five where Peter was talking about how our “opponent the devil is prowling about like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8 God’s Word ©)  While I read that, I immediately thought of one of my wife’s favorite object lessons that she would teach the kids in our children’s church classes through the years about how the devil has been dis-armed and de-feeted by Christ’s actions at and after Calvary.  (See Colossians 2:15 - As she talked, she would pull out a paper cut-out that she had drawn of the devil and tear off his arms and feet!)
You see the only weapon that the devil now has left at his disposal is his big mouth!  He prowls about as a roaring lion making a lot of noise, but has no bite to back up his claims!  So, even though my wife may not look or be acting quite the same as she has in the past, I know that this is just a lot of blaring noise being produced to try and knock our expectation off from the truth of God’s Word.  The bottom line is what the Word tells us… and it assures me that “by whose (Christ’s) stripes you (You, me, your loved ones, MY WIFE and any other born-again Christian) were healed.” (I Peter 2:24 MKJV)
So why not look that silly roaring lion in the face and laugh like we did at the kitchen table this morning?  Are you going to believe that old worn out, toothless spectacle in the cage trying to scare you with his pitiful growls, or believe the mighty, active and sharper than a two edged sword Word of the living God?  Duh!  What do you think?  Okay… case settled!
So why not start right now, right where you are!  Think about that defenseless old lion and start laughing at the victory you have been afforded today by the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s!  Go ahead… LAUGH and rejoice at what His love and His grace has given you!  Have a great, carefree weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Relationships

Have you ever thought about the different kinds of relationships that you have with people?  You have relationships with co-workers on the job, you may have a service orientated relationship with a sales associate at a store, a close friendship with a few individuals and hopefully a loving, giving and intimate relationship with your spouse.  Then there are the various relationships with your neighbors, church friends, and with those who may exercise some authority over you such as your boss, your pastor, or the mayor of your city.  You may know and respect these individuals but yet you are not really close to them.

That’s about the type of relationship that I had with God up into my high school years.  Because of my church attendance, schooling and the example set forth by the nuns and priests, I knew about God and had a deep respect and honor for Him.  But I really didn’t know Him for who He really is.  It wasn’t until I met my wife that I finally began to learn about His love and the reality of His being our loving heavenly Father who cares deeply for me.  She knew this most important foundational aspect of God and the more time I spent with her the more I learned about Him and His love.  It was her consistent, daily, living, breathing example of His love that brought me into a personal relationship with Him.
One of the most important lessons I have learned over the years since then, and especially magnified over the last four years in particular, is that the more an individual relates to Jesus, the more they will be able to relate to people.  I’ve mentioned before of how I have come to see that LOVE is an action taken.  It is not just a bunch of nice sounding words, but it is putting the love of God into motion by your physical acts of kindness and care toward others.
I Peter 4:1 tells us to “take the same attitude the he (Christ) had.” (God’s Word ©)  What was His attitude toward those who needed salvation?  Toward those who were hurting?  He reached out in love.  He went into their homes, their places of business and got to know them while He physically assisted them.  He cried with those who were sad and rejoiced with those who were happy.  Jesus met people where they were at.  He looked passed the physical attributes of the people, beyond their potential wrong doings and simply loved and respected them for who they were.
I Peter 4:8 explains His responses to the messiness of people’s lives by saying that “Love (the God kind on agape love) covers many sins.” (God’s Word ©)  The word “covers” means just that.  Strong’s defines it as “to hide or cover up.”  Thayer likens it to putting a veil over a person’s indiscretions.  When Jesus looked at people, He looked past their sins and/or faults. He put aside any personal prejudice and ministered to their needs. 
As we follow Jesus’ example, we will discover that while these actions do not necessarily change the people or their sin, it will change the way that we look at them and enable us the freedom to love them as Jesus would!  It gives us the same attitude as Jesus.  And the more we relate to Him, the more that we get to personally know and experience His love, the more we will be able to relate to others and be conduits of His love toward them.
So how would you qualify your relationship with Jesus today?  How would you qualify your relationship to the hurting and needy around you, in your family, in your church, at your job, or in the house next door to you?  Your answer to either of these questions will most likely give you the answer to the other!  Think about it!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Better to Laugh Than Cry!

Have you ever done something embarrassing and were glad that no one saw it?  I had one of the experiences late yesterday afternoon.  My wife and I had just returned from our afternoon walk and since I had some time before I needed to start preparing our evening meal, I decided to do something fun… like pay some bills!  My wife seemed to be content in her transport chair so I gathered all my paperwork on the kitchen table and pulled her up next to me so that she could be part of the fun.

I should mentioned that when we were getting ready to move back to California from Oklahoma, we made the (now as I look back!) rash decision to sell as much furniture as possible in order lessen the return load and save on moving expenses.  And since I was being promoted into a better paying position with The Home Depot, we figured that we could purchase the new items we needed after we settled into our new home.
While we sold the nice dining set we had, we did keep a small Scandinavian Designs expandable teak table and are now using it as our kitchen table.  It actually works well as our dining area is not that big.  We have been meaning to get a set of arm chairs to go with the table, but with everything going on since we returned, it has not been a big priority to me, until yesterday afternoon.  In the meantime, we have been using a set of plastic patio chairs complete with armrests.  They have actually worked well for my wife as they support her well and are light enough to easily move her in them if necessary.
Well, I guess that my wife didn’t think that paying the bills was very interesting yesterday, and ended up pushing her chair back until it came to rest against the couch behind where I was sitting.  After a while something caught my attention out of the side of my vision and I turned in time to see my wife standing up and falling to the floor next to me!  Without much time to react, I leaned out and in an attempt to catch her, one leg of my chair snapped and I plummeted to the floor along with Piper!  Some hero!  At least I was able to get my hand under her head before it contacted the floor, so I guess I did help a little!
After the shock of what had just happened and the pain in my hip subsided, I rolled over and checked to make sure that Piper was okay, and all was fine.  Then I looked up at the dog who was standing over my wife licking her face and suddenly began to laugh at the whole adventure.  Once I let my wife rest for a few moments, I helped her back up and then she also began to laugh! 
In the Old Testament there is the story of what Nehemiah the governor of the Israelites and Ezra the priest and scribe told the returning pilgrims to Jerusalem as they looked at the decimated city walls during one of their captivities.  In Nehemiah 8:10 they encouraged the people to not be sad, angry or feel sorry for themselves, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (KJV)  As I replaced the broken chair with a new one and returned to my paperwork at the kitchen table yesterday, I reflected on that same verse while I pondered all that has been going on with us over the last four years.  I also was tempted to entertain the thoughts of feeling sad, angry and sorry for myself, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go there. 
Throughout all this time, our heavenly Father has continually demonstrated His unfailing love and His unquestioning grace toward us and there is no way that I was going allow myself to give up on His faithfulness!  So, I looked over at my wife and we began to laugh again!  And you know what?  I felt better.  I felt stronger and was very thankful for His protection and care for my wife and I.
In I Peter 3:15 the Apostle Peter tells us to “dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord.” (God’s Word ©)  I think that if He truly is the Lord of your life, then it’s easier to laugh when you get handed a lemon, or in my case a chair with a broken leg!  What do you think?  Sometimes you only have a few seconds to react or respond to a situation that quickly comes upon you.  And the choice you make can show where your heart really is.  When that happens… will you laugh or complain?  Will you rejoice or feel sorry for yourself?  I gotta tell you, laughing is a lot better!  Have a good day today.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to LAUGH at today?”

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Opinion That Counts

Can you imagine walking up to the revelation that someone very special loves you and cares for you like you are the most important person in the world?  I can remember thinking this many times when my wife and I would go on a two day vacation alone throughout the years.  To know that you have someone that truly believes in you, come whatever may, can make you feel like you are on top of the world.  Like you can conquer any obstacle!

I’ve probably shared this before, but when I walked into the fancy restaurant at The Sea Ranch Lodge in Sea Ranch, California on the first night of our honeymoon, with my beautiful bride on my arm, I just KNEW that every eye in the crowded dining area was upon us and that every thought in the room was centered around how lucky I was!  That’s the way I was definitely feeling at the time, and you know, that feeling has never wavered over the past 38 years since that night!
This morning I had the revelation that no matter how special the love of an individual may be to you, it is a mere shadow of the more important and meaningful love that our heavenly Father has toward you!  People may let you down, but our Father God will never release His special caring grip on your life!
What would it be like if you could wake up EVERY morning knowing that He loves you dearly?  That nothing you could do would ever cause Him to turn His back on you?  Well, that knowledge is something that WE CAN experience every day in our Christian lives!  God said about Jesus that: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 5:17 KJV)  And that is EXACTLY the same way that he feels about you and me!
I Peter 2:24 tells us that “Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins, we could live a life that has God’s approval.”  (God’s Word ©)  According to that precious truth, we NOW have God’s approval!  Merriam-Webster defines “approval” as “To have or express a FAVORABLE opinion of.”  Our loving heavenly Father has a favorable opinion about YOU!
People may disapprove of your life or many of the decisions you make in this life, and may even try to continually drag you through your past mistakes, but God ALWAYS approves of you!  He doesn’t see your past mistakes and continually dangle them before you.  NO!  He sees you through Christ’s blood sacrificed for YOU on the cross of Calvary!
Now that’s something special to wake up to each day, wouldn’t you agree!  I’ve come to realize that God’s opinion of me is the MOST important opinion that I need to concern myself with!  It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life.  It doesn’t matter what people may say or do against you.  What matters is that God’s FAVORABLE opinion of YOU never changes!  It doesn’t fluctuate with the weather, the way you feel or with another’s opinion of you.  You ARE His beloved son or daughter!
Keep that thought ever before you this week!  Then go out and slay a dragon or two!  Have a wonderful day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What FAVOR am I expecting today?”

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mirrow, Mirror on the Wall...

I had a funny experience this morning.  While I was kneeling on the floor near our bed at my wife’s side, reading our morning dosage of healing scriptures to her, I suddenly became aware of some motion in the mirror on my wife’s dresser across the room.  As I focused on it, I noticed that it was a reflection from one of the windows in the room, or so I thought…  It took me a few moments to realize that it was actually a reflection of a reflection coming from a large framed photo on the opposite wall that was reflecting what was happening outside on our side patio, down the hall on the other side of the house!  (Does that make sense?)

It turns out that what had originally caught my attention was a branch falling from the large oak tree that arches its branches over that patio and part of our house.  Then as I stared at the image in the mirror, I was surprised to see an arm and then the face of a man looking over the fence from the front of the house!  As the dog began to bark, I finally realized that it was the tree trimming crew working on the oak tree!  About that time the doorbell rang and as I opened it, the crew member asked if I could move the plants I had on the patio and unlock the gate so he could remove the debris from the yard.
What a way to start the day!  When I first saw the face materializing over the fence, I was a little tempted to get afraid with the fleeting thought of a home invasion.  But that imaginative idea quickly disappeared as my curiosity and confidence in the Lord’s protection took over.  I also figured that no individual in his right mind would jump the fence and try and enter a home with a fifty pound dog barking and throwing herself at the sliding door!  It actually never came to that as I think the dog recognized the familiar uniform of the landscape crew and didn’t really get very excited about the whole thing!  But nevertheless, that situation could prove to be very scary for someone living alone in their house.  It’s just the kind of fear that the enemy of our souls would like to wake us up to everyday.  And in some respects he does!
As I studied from the end of I Peter this morning, before the above incident occurred, I began to see that one of the greatest fears that the devil will try to put on us is the fear of not being good enough.  The fear of not being confident in who you are.  The fear of not doing things right.  I Peter 2:20 talks about enduring “suffering for doing something good,” (God’s Word ©) and how that activity is pleasing to God.  Then the rest of the chapter tells how to respond to any negative reactions from others toward you in this situation.  Verse fifteen assures us that “God wants you to silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing what is right.” (God’s Word ©)  Then it unveils what Jesus did when He was caught in a similar circumstance by informing us how He “left everything to the one who judges fairly.” (I Peter 2:23 God’s Word ©)
I painfully discovered that those few who had come against me in the decisions I have been making in the care of my wife, were actually telling me how wrong that they felt my actions were.  I was accused of being uncaring, unresponsive, of not taking responsibility and of not being very smart (the term “stupid” actually came up in one of the conversations they had with one of our kids!)  At a time when my life seemed to be crashing before my eyes as the love of my life was diagnosed with a life threatening disease, I suddenly – on top of everything else – was faced with a major attack on my confidence, my faith and my character.
As I was reminded of those terrible feelings again this morning, it suddenly came to my attention that there are many people that face those same potential fears every day!  Just as I was faced with the potential fear of someone breaking into our home this morning, there are many who face a lack of self-confidence and condemnation every morning!  The hard part for me to swallow is that many times, those lies are put on these people through the words and actions of insensitive individuals.
But, if you know that you are doing the right things, as I really felt I was in my heart, you can laugh at the Lord’s council in I Peter 2:15.  He comes right out and calls your accusers “ignorant,” and “foolish!”  Now who says that the Lord doesn’t have a sense of humor!
I’ll share some more thoughts on this subject throughout the week, but for now it is important to realize that God sees YOU through the BLOOD of Jesus and the atonement He made for you on His cross!  God sees you as who you are in Christ, not through the eyes of those who may wrongfully accuse you.  The most important truth to remember when you might be tempted to feel down or question if you are doing the right thing is that GOD LIKES YOU!  He is for you, and as you put your trust in Him, He will see you through every tough situation and decision!
He’ll even send someone along your path to encourage you, as He did for me over this last weekend.  On Saturday morning my wife and I went shopping at our local Safeway.  After I had put the groceries into the car and helped my wife out of her chair and into the front seat of our Buick, I turnaround as the lady who was loading her purchases into her Mercedes parked next to us looked at me, smiled and simply commented: “You’re a good man!”  I thanked her for her words and then fought off the tears as I sat in the car, stared out the window and let the meaning of her encouragement sink in.  Her kindness touched my heart, gave me a spurt of energy to go on and made my day!
I want you to know today, that our heavenly Father is saying the same thing to you today!  He sees you as a good man or women, boy or girl!  He only thinks the best about you and wants you to understand as Joshua 1:5 says, “No one will be able to successfully oppose you as long as you live.  I will be with you as I was with Moses.  I will never neglect you or abandon you.” (God’s Word ©)
We have some relatives who, through their actions, have seemed to have abandoned us in our time of need.  I understand now, that this is most likely their way of dealing with the situation.  But I take heart and am greatly reassured in KNOWING that the ONE who matters the most will NEVER abandon you or me... NO NEVER!  So if times get a little tough this week, think on that!  Know how SPECIAL you are to Him.  When you look into the mirror, look for His reflection smiling back at you!  Have a GREAT day.  Stay in tune to Him and His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”