Our New Home

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What You Say!

I made the comment in yesterday’s blog post that we keep the Word concerning my wife’s healing in the forefront of our thoughts.  But that’s not the only place we keep it…  We also keep it on the forefront of our lips!  We make a point to continually say or confess the Word that we are standing on that confirms God’s will toward the healing of our bodies when sickness or disease should attack us.  Lamentation 3:24 declares that “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (NIV)

As we look once again at the original language from which our English translations comes from we see that the word “say” means “to answer, to boast, to certify, to challenge, charge or command.” (Strong’s)  Brown-Driver-Brigg’s Hebrew Definitions also defines it as “to avow.”  Webster’s definition of “avow” is “to declare openly, to justify, maintain or depend, and to take ownership.”
As I meditated on all this today, I realized that my saying or confessing of God’s Word answers any doubt that may pop into my head.  It also causes me to take ownership of what I am believing for!  Jesus physically demonstrated this spiritual principle in Mark 11: 12-14 when he spoke to the fig tree.  Verse fourteen tells us that “Jesus answered and said unto it…” (KJV)  What did He answer?  I believe it was a thought of doubt and unbelief that the enemy of our souls was trying to distract His faith with.  Commentators tend to agree that the fig tree and its lack of fruit symbolized the fruit of salvation that Jesus was attempting to gather from the Jewish people.  When He came up to the fig tree and discovered that it had no fruit, the devil must have immediately tried to put the thought of failure into Jesus’ mind.  So what did Jesus do?  He instantly cursed the thought!  He then later explained what had happened and taught the lesson of this spiritual principle to His disciples in Mark 11:22-24.
I find that in my current journey with my wife’s health, that I regularly have to stand against the lies of the enemy.  Isn’t it funny how it usually happens when I am tired and feeling a little weak?  Whenever I hear a thought of my wife’s healing not happening, I immediately replace (or curse) that thought by speaking out what God’s Word says about it, and I continue to do it until the negative thought has tucked its tail and run off!
I make that false thought that is based on physical evidence submit to the higher and more powerful spiritual truth by boasting about what and in Whom I am trusting in.  I certify that I believe God’s Word to be true.  I take ownership of our stand of faith and nothing or no one is going to move me off my inheritance!  In my study today, I also thought back about some of the comments that were made to my kids and a few others by some close relatives when my wife’s health concerns were first diagnosed.
They openly questioned whether or not I would even stay with her in her time of need.  I think these statements when they came to my attention were the hardest thing that I have ever faced in my life!  I was utterly shocked and deeply hurt when I heard this, as it was a thought that NEVER even came close to me.  As I have mentioned many times in this blog, my wife means EVERYTHING to me.  The thought of abandoning her was and continues to be totally bizarre!  For days I literally reeled over those accusations.  Then one day the Lord reminded me of something.  On July 12, 1975 at approximately 1:20 in the afternoon, I entered into a solemn covenant with my wife.  That covenant was sealed when I looked into her bright brown eyes, with tears misting in mine, and stated: “I Do!”
At that moment I declared my unfailing and irreproachable commitment of love, caring and fidelity to her in any situation, in any set of circumstances including “in sickness and in health.”  Those two words caused me to certify and take ownership of our marriage covenant.  Those words, that saying, was probably one of the most important things that I have ever said in my life, and is something that I am fully committed to until Jesus returns!
When the Lord reminded me of this, I knew what my stand was, and I simply began to laugh at the accusations of doubt and unbelief that the enemy of our souls spoke through the mouths of our relatives.  I immediately threw out those negative thoughts and replaced them with the confession of God’s Word.  I forgave them and moved forward to accomplish the task that I committed to many years before.
So, if you find yourself fighting thoughts of doubt and unbelief coming into your mind or from the mouths of other people, reject those lies and fill your mouth with the truth of what God’s Word says about the situation… just like Jesus and the prophet Jeremiah did!  I’d say that that is a pretty good example to follow, wouldn’t you?  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to God’s Word and keep asking yourself… “What Godly Words am I expecting To SAY today?”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The New Refrigerator

I had mentioned in another blog post how we had qualified for our local gas and electric company’s Energy Assistance Program.  Well, today is the day when they will be delivering our new refrigerator.  In fact, I am waiting for the delivery company to be knocking on my door at any time now.  The certainty of a new refrigerator meant that I had to clean out the old one.  I wasn’t too certain about what I was going to find in the dark, dank far back reaches of the old one.  I have tried to go through it on a somewhat regular basis, but I had a premonition that I might just find a surprise or two!

I spent some time on Monday going through everything in the fridge including the containerized food items.  Everything was going pretty smoothly until I got to the back of the second shelf that is partially hidden by the meat tray.  Then, I found a few… okay… more than a few… containers that I had totally forgotten!  As I pulled them out and stacked them next to the sink with the disposal, I built up my courage to open them up!  And… PHEW!  Courage and a strong stomach it took!  Without going into all the morbid details, what presented itself to my eyes and nose was a multicolored (mostly black) array of moldy food.  Most of it was fairly undefinable, except for the leftover pork chop that I had cooked in a sauce of chopped tomatoes and zucchini. It actually looked pretty good and I was sorry that I had forgotten about it.  (I even considered… for a very short moment to take an explorative bite… but quickly thought better!)  Yesterday I spent a few hours cleaning the shelves and walls of the refrigerator and “Walla!” it now sits looking almost good as new and is ready for recycling.
As I was reading from Lamentations 3:24-25 this morning, I was reminded of our old refrigerator and how it compared to God’s Word.  And before you say it… No!  I wasn’t over-taken by the fumes of the moldy food the other day!  In this section of Old Testament scripture, the prophet Jeremiah makes the definitive statement: “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him.” (NIV)
In modern terms one could say that “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and He is good to those whose eager, earnest expectations are in Him.”  Concerning this verse, the translation notes of the Geneva Bible say that “The godly put their whole confidence in God, and therefore look for no other inheritance.”  Now in order for an individual to know what their inheritance is, they have to look at the will of the individuals that they are in line to get an inheritance from.  The same is true with Christians.  We have to look at Jesus’ will or testament in order to discern what our inheritance is, and that information is held within the pages of our Bibles.
If we don’t look at His will or do so infrequently, then we’ll forget or in some cases, never know what He has for us.  It is like that old refrigerator of ours.  There were items in there that I had totally forgotten about… and the longer they sat on the shelf, the deeper they were pushed to the back and the thicker the mold grew!
The Word needs to stay fresh in our hearts just as Jeremiah alludes to in verse 25.  The word that is translated “hope” actually means “to expect, to look eagerly for.” (Strong’s and Thayer’s)  Something that you are eagerly expecting is fresh and in the forefront of your thoughts.  When that freshness begins to go, your expectation of that particular Word of God’s promise tends to grow old and is pushed to the back of your mind where it begins to mold.
When I opened up our old refrigerator this morning, it was bright and clean and the food that was left on its shelves was fresh and ready for healthy and enjoyable consumption.  That’s how the Word that we are standing in faith on for my wife’s total and complete healing is.  It is daily refreshed, crisp and clear and continually at the very forefront of our thoughts.
I remember the intern Pastor’s first sermon at the beginning of our new church that was still meeting in our living room years back, when he went around the room and asked each of us if we were standing in faith for something.  I was surprised when only about a third of the excited and hungry-for-more of God Christians in the room answered in the affirmative.  He stated that if you’re not actively in faith for something that your faith was probably a little stale!  When one has strong and current faith for something, then they will have that eager, earnest expectation of God’s Word working in their lives.  It’s like opening our new refrigerator (that just was delivered!) and always finding fresh, delicious food to devour!
How fresh is your faith today?  Do you have any hidden containers with mold lurking in the back of your life?  Today would be a great day to clean out the old and replace it with the fresh, new and healthy Word of promise from God.  Wouldn’t you agree?  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… What am I expecting TO FIND IN ME today?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Joy Comes in the Morning!

Have you ever had one of those nights where you couldn’t wait until the break of dawn?  I had one last night.  We had a great day and everything was going well until we were in bed for a while.  My wife fell asleep rather quickly and after reading a few chapters in a Clive Cussler book and in a devotional stashed by the side of my bed, I flipped off the lights, prayed for a few minutes and drifted off to slumber land.  Then about an hour and a half later I was awakened by my wife’s shaking of her arms.  This is normally a sign that she is getting cold so I turned up the temperature on her side of the electric blanket, snuggled under the covers and closed my eyes.

Well, the rise in the temperature didn’t help and the shaking continued, in fact, it increased.  So I prayed over her, flipped on the light and got up to tuck her in a little better and visually check on her.  She looked fine and even smiled some, so I knew that the shaking (caused by a condition that attaches itself to certain health issues such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other such problems) called Myoclonus was not actually bothering her.  But, it was bothering me as the whole bed would shake at times.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking… being from California I should be used to shaking beds (like in earthquakes… you don’t know how many comments I got like that when we lived in Oklahoma.  I think some people out of our state must believe that we have quakes on a daily basis!).  Anyway, this continued for an extended period of time.  She would calm down, I would get back in bed, turn off the lights and it would begin again!  Finally I laid on my back, more than slightly disgusted, and began to talk in earnest to God.  I had prayed over her and rebuked the symptoms and nothing seemed to be happening.  I whined to the Lord that I needed her to sleep comfortably so that I could get some rest.  (Probably a selfish prayer but I was getting to the end of my rope!) 
For a moment or two I finally laid there quietly and begin to think about the scripture in Psalm 30:5 where the Psalmist cries out to the Lord exclaiming “You’re anger lasts a little while, but your kindness (favor and goodness) lasts for a lifetime.  At night we may cry, but when morning comes we will celebrate.” (Contemporary English Version) When I finally got to thinking about His kindness, favor and goodness and that I would most likely be joyfully celebrating over Him in the morning, things began to change.  It wasn’t necessarily in her symptoms, but in my attitude.
I was able to stop thinking about “poor ole me” and began to dwell on Him!  I suddenly began to pray in the Spirit and after a while I found that I was uttering praises out of my lips into the darkness in the room.  After what seemed like a short time, I noticed that she and the bed were no longer shaking.  I was able to get out a few quiet words of thanks before I slipped off to sleep.  The next thing I knew, I rolled over and it was 7:30 and the light of the new morning was pushing through the slits in the closed blinds.  And even though I was still feeling pretty wiped out, I felt His joy as I pulled back my covers and got up.
Later on, after my study time in the Word, I went in to get my wife up and she was quite alert and even spoke to me as I helped her get ready for the day.  It was as if nothing had ever happened!  So, I can attest to the truth about joy and celebration coming in the morning – when you FINALLY turn your trust over to Him!
So I would encourage you, if you ever have a night like I had last night, that you get a lot smarter than I did, a lot faster than I did!  Know that what you’re experiencing at the moment will be short lived and that with the break of the new day will come a fresh serving of His kindness, favor and goodness.  And before you know it, you’ll find yourself celebrating with a joyful heart!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What JOY am I expecting TO CELEBRATE IN THE MORNING?”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fresh!

While I was continuing my study on the “new song” that God has placed in our mouths as stated in Psalms 40:3, I suddenly thought about the verses in Lamentations that declare that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23 English Standard Version)  When I looked up the original meaning of the word “new” I discovered that it is defined as something that is “new, especially in freshness!” The idea of something that is “fresh” immediately got me to thinking about “fresh” fruits and vegetables.

That was one thing that we really missed when we lived in Oklahoma.  The fruits and vegetables in the grocery stores were just not as “fresh,” crisp and tasty as the one we get out here on the West Coast.  Another reason was probably because I grew up a little spoiled when it came to “fresh” fruits and vegetables, as my parents always had a summer and winter vegetable garden and almost all the trees in the yard were fruit trees!  At one point I remember counting up fourteen fruit trees between the front and back yards!  So from apples, to pears, to figs, to delicious Santa Rosa Plums, we enjoyed lots of “fresh” fruits throughout the summer and home grown canned fruits during the winter months.
One of the biggest shocks in my life came when I was invited over to my future wife’s family home for dinner when we were dating. That night I was introduced to canned spinach…  Have you ever eaten canned spinach?  I have to admit that I was quite taken back as I had never experienced it before.  The only store bought canned veggies that I can remember ever being in our house were canned green peas!  The canned spinach looked (and tasted to me) like green slime!  I had to giggle inside with understanding when I noticed Piper’s Dad pull out a bottle of mayonnaise from the refrigerator and spoon a big dab on his spinach!
Lamentations 3:22-23 describes God’s love and His mercies as being “fresh” to us on a daily basis.  They are not cooked and canned and left without any flavor or vitamins.  Each day we have the ability to go out and pick a “fresh” bundle of them from within the garden of His Word!  Once you have tasted fresh fruits and vegetables it is hard to settle for anything else again.  The same is true for the “freshness” of God’s Word, and the “fresher” the better!
It’s like the Red Delicious Apple tree that my folks once had.  I still can’t remember ever having tasted a sweeter apple than one of those picked “fresh” off the tree.  We’ve bought boxes of them hand-picked directly from some of the apple ranches in our county, but those were still a day or so old.  They were good, but not as good as the ones that went directly from the tree to my mouth!
That’s the way I like to partake of God’s Word.  It is hard for me to live on yesterday’s revelation or blessings.  They were great back then, but today is a “new” day and the Word tells us that His love, mercy and compassion is “new” and “fresh” every morning.  So why settle for left-overs when you can have a “fresh” meal each and every day?  What do you think?  Will it be slimy green, tasteless canned spinach or the “fresh” picked, crisp, tasty and nutritious variety strait from the garden?  Humm… kind of a no-brainer to me!  Have a great week.  Stay in tune (and taste) to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Friday, October 25, 2013

♪ There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in This Place ♫

I have told on many occasions of how music and singing have been a major part of my wife’s and my relationship since the very beginning in high school.  We both come from musical families… at least my Mom was musical starting with her time singing the songs from the Big Band era of the 1930’s with a trio in her high school days.  (My Dad has never been able to carry a tune which was always a humorous subject in our household!)  She was also an accomplished piano player and teacher and sang with the award winning choir at her church for over twenty years.  Piper’s Mom is an accomplished singer with a wonderful soprano voice who would sing at various occasions around town and even recorded a children’s album.  Their entire family sang with their church choir over the years as well.

I always loved to sing.  In fact I think that if I had paid more attention to the notes I was attempting to learn rather than singing the lyrics, I could probably have become somewhat of a decent piano player myself!  After some initial help from my brother when we were in a band together in junior high and high school, I basically taught myself to play the guitar.  My brother had the talent, like our oldest son now has (actually all four of our kids could do it!) to pick up just about any instrument and play it!
After the first few visits to my wife’s youth group, she and I began to sing together and it hasn’t stopped since then!  She hasn’t been able to play the piano now for a little over a year, but on one of my cousin’s recent suggestions, I pushed her up in front of our piano a few days ago, placed her hands on the keys, and without even realizing it, she actually plunked a few melodic notes!
So, it is pretty natural for me to see music as a part of her healing recovery.  Yesterday I was singing as I was combing her hair and suddenly changed songs and began to sing the hymn that the congregation had sung at our wedding back on that beautiful July day in 1975.  It was one of Piper’s favorite hymns at that time and declared:
“There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place
 And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord;
 There are sweet expressions on each face,
 And I know they feel the presence of the Lord.

 Sweet Holy Spirit, sweet heavenly dove,
 Stay right here with us, filling us with your love;
 And for these blessings, we lift our hearts in praise;
 Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived,
 When we shall leave this place.” *

As I sang it to her in the kitchen, she began to hum along with me and out of nowhere, the prophetic significance of that song dawned on me!  Over the years my wife had always prayed that our home would be a place of rest, renewal, refreshment and peace to whomever ventured through our front door.  Her prayer was confirmed through many testimonies of visitors we have entertained in our various houses!  Some would comment as soon as they walked through the doorway of how peaceful our house was.  At other times guests would state “what a sweet spirit there was in our home!”  Our youngest son even commented about the encouraging environment he felt in our home when he visited with us a few weeks ago.  At times (occasionally to my chagrin…) some of our guests did not want to leave!
 
Throughout the many years of our marriage we hosted 98% of all the holiday dinners with my wife’s family, had countless youth events at our home, dinners to honor and thank the teams of helpers who assisted us in the various ministries we led at the different churches we served in, and always seemed to have a friend or two or three of our kids in the house with us!  Through it all, there was always a sense of joy and peace in our home that was very evident to those who came under our roof!
 
Psalm 40:3 in The Message Bible declares that “He taught me the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God.  More and more people are SEEING this and they enter into the mystery…”  From the oldest of adults to the youngest of our children’s friends, whether saved or not, our frequent guests would find themselves entering into the mystery of the latest God-song that our home displayed!  And believe me, there has been many different kinds of God-songs of praise that were played, sung and demonstrated in our home!  From my wife playing old hymns on the piano, or our family practicing some contemporary Christian songs for an upcoming church service, to our oldest son’s Christian Ska band, or our youngest son’s (not sure what you called it) loud, screaming Christian CD’s (I once had to ask him to translate for me… and the words were actually quite meaningful!), we had it all played and lived in our home!
 
The words to that song that I am sure the Lord placed on my wife’s heart for our wedding service some 38 years ago has come true everywhere we have lived.  We once had a young neighbor who would wash his car on Sunday morning’s right by our living room window when we had our church meeting at our new home for a little while.  He was a musician himself and loved to hear our music.  He and my wife would talk about their mutual enjoyment of playing the piano, and he would ask her about the music she played on Sunday mornings.
 
Wow!  This post is turning into a short story!  So, what is my point?  I guess I would have to ask you again, if the music and songs in and of your life are also drawing those who hear and see them into the “mystery” of God’s kingdom message?  Is your song nothing but an annoying noise unto their ears, or a peaceful, refreshing introduction into the sweetness of the Holy Spirit who is filling your place?  Think about it.  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His sweet, sweet Spirit, and keep asking yourself… “What SONG am I expecting those around me to HEAR and SEE today?”

 

 

*There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in This Place, lyrics and music by Doris Akers,1965

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Different Kind of Song

Psalm 40:3 is one of my favorite psalms in the bible.  Over the years I have written songs that declare the attributes and results of this verse.  At one point, I even started a business with this scripture as the foundation and vision of everything we produced.  In this psalm written by David to the choir director, we are instructed to “put a new song” in our mouths, with the result being that “many shall see it and fear, and shall put their trust in the Lord.” (KJV)

There are many interesting truths in this small, but prophetic verse.  A better translation of the word that is stated as “fear” in many bible versions is probably best seen in the Contemporary English Version since the original use of that word here actually meant reverence, honor or respect.  This modern translation declares that after seeing this new song that unbelievers “will honor and trust you, the Lord God.”  
So what is this verse actually telling us?  The 4Oth psalm begins by testifying about where many of us have been and how God pulled us out of the pit of despair and placed on a ROCK where our feet won’t slip.  Then the third verse tells how that because of this, He has put a new song in our mouths which sings forth the praises of our mighty loving heavenly Father.  Then one of those interesting parts comes up.  The author doesn’t say that many will “hear” it, but instead that many shall “see” it and turn their lives over to God.
It is telling us that our Christianity is not just words, but that our actions must match what we say, or sing in this case.  It has become very evident to me that people in the world are watching us a lot more than we may think that they are.  That new song that we sing and demonstrate through our daily actions most likely seems very weird or strange to them.  Most time our reactions to the events in our lives, especially the negative things, is totally different than they would react.  The Message Bible calls what our new song is based on a “mystery” to those outside of the faith.  It declares that “more and more people are seeing this (and) they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.” (Psalm 40:3)
I believe that people who have nothing to hold on to except for what society says is right and/or the only way for us to follow, are just waiting for us to fail so that they can see something that will agree or bring comfort to the restlessness that they feel inside.  But when they see our new song repeatedly bring peace, love and joy into our lives, they develop a hope and hunger for what we have, and at some point that intense desire will cause them to “enter the mystery” and abandon the emptiness they feel while they discover God’s wholeness for their lives!
So what will you sing today?  Will it be the normal worldly song of fear, doubt, unbelief and hopelessness?  Or will it be the mysterious new song that declares the goodness, abilities and love of our heavenly Father?  Just what do you want those around you to “see” in and about you?  Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What SONG am I expecting people to SEE me SINGING today?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wearing the Mark

Last night as my wife and I were driving home from our oldest son’s home in Fairfield, California, about an hour’s drive from our residence, I looked out across the dark outlines of the Napa Sonoma Marsh that surrounds the highway along the northern edge of San Pablo Bay and in the stillness of the evening began to think about what it means to be “God’s people.” (Psalm 100:3 KJV)

Recently I was flipping through the channels and looked briefly at a talk show where they were discussing relationships and commitment and mentioned something about the idea of “marking” the one you are committed to.  Now, I admit that I did not stay on the channel long enough to really see what they were talking about, but I instantly thought about one of the reasons that I had proposed to my wife a few years before I knew that we could get married.  I am sure that I have told this story before, but a brief synopsis is that we were about to go off to college and I wanted any other potential suitors to see the ring on her finger and know that she was already spoken for.  I guess you could say that I was “marking” her with my love and commitment as well as declaring “hands off” to anyone else!
Psalm 100:3 declares that “we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (KJV)  I looked up how sheep are “marked” in order to identify who they belong to and read on the Sheep101 website that ear tags are the most common technique that is used.  Last night as I drove in the quiet night I thought about how we are “marked” or identified as one of God’s people.  Should we wear ear tags?  Is it by our Christian T-shirts, or Christian bumper stickers.  Many today wear tattoos that permanently declare their devotion to our Savior.  What do you think?
I recalled earlier in the day yesterday, when I was reading to my wife from the book “The Life of Christ” by Mrs. C. Nuzum.  The author, who was an evangelist and missionary to Mexico, talked about letting the well of joy inside of us to “flow out in constant rejoicing, so that sinners may know that the well is there.”  In support of this she stated that she had talked to many non-believers who had told her that “I can disbelieve your teaching, but your life of joy and contentment must come from God, because others have more material things than you have and yet have not the joy you have.”  (The Life of Faith by C. Nuzum © 1928, 1956 by Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, Missouri, page 42)
I believe that His joy, His Peace, and His Love are the “markings” that tell the world that we belong to Him and are the “marks” we should carry in our attitudes and personal actions every day!  Like that diamond ring on my future wife’s hand, these heavenly “marks” show everyone that we are already taken… and that the Taker is good!  I am sure that you can see the worry and anxiety that is written in the eyes of many of the people you pass by each day.  Your joy, peace and love will easily rub off on them and they will find themselves longing for what you’ve got!
I began to laugh about that thought last night and woke up my wife who was sleeping contently next to me in the front seat.  When she began to stir I shared what I had been dwelling on and recounted to her that it was her joyful countenance that first attracted me to her as a junior in high school!  That joy changed my life and eventually brought me into a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior.  I wanted what she had!
So go ahead and wear the “mark” of Christianity today.  Psalm 118:24 tells us to rejoice and be glad since this is the day that the Lord has made!  Because of your trust in Him, put a smile on your face and a hop in your step and allow the well of joy that is in you to splash over all you come in contact with today!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What SPLASH of JOY am I expecting to SPILL today?”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pasture

When I was following a rabbit trail in one of my morning studies over the weekend, I found myself captivated by the thought of being in God’s pasture as stated in Psalm 100:3.  The last part of that verse tells us that “we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.” (KJV)  As I meditated on this, I pictured a rather large fenced in pasture that ran up the hillside along a road that we traveled on almost daily when we lived north of town about fifteen years ago.  The pasture was always occupied with a flock of white sheep.

Over the years we would watch with interest the activities of the critters and those who cared for them.  It was especially fun to watch them during the lambing season when the ewes gave birth to their young.  At this time there was activity in the pasture day and night!  There was one older gentleman in particular that we assumed was the owner and/or shepherd of the flock.  We would see him out in the field more than anyone else.  He demonstrated a great love, care and tenderness toward his flock.  It also seemed that the sheep were very comfortable in his presence and actually drawn to him when he entered into the pasture.  It was evident that the lambs felt safe and protected in his presence!
Psalm 100:3 insinuates that we are just like those sheep while we are in God’s pasture.  As long as we stay within the boundaries of His pasture we are safe, protected and well cared for.  Psalm 23:2 informs us that “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” (God’s Word ©)  The Greek translation of this verse declares, “In the place of tender shoots, there he encamped me.” (Apostolic Bible Polyglot)  The phrase “tender shoots” describes a “green” place. (Thayer’s)  And Webster defines this as a “properly growing and flourishing” place.  Wikipedia states that “green is the color most commonly associated with spring and hope.”
Well, that’s the place I certainly want to set up my tent!  How about you?  For many the old adage (and most times false statement) that “the grass is always greener on the other side” will draw them to step out of God’s pasture and thereby out of his protective care and support.  But for me, I choose to stay within the realm of His jurisdiction!  Within His borders I find joy, strength and that peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst of troubled times! (see Philippians 4:7)
I want to be seen as one who is on the winning team!  I want to be like those contented, plump sheep that lived on that hillside pasture near our home many years ago.  How about you?  Have another great day.  Stay in tune to His Word (the GPS that keeps us within the borders of His pasture), and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Background Checks...

I guess you could say that I have an inquisitive mind.  Whenever I read a book, I like to do a little background research on the author.  This information helps me to better see things from the writer’s background and perspective. I was slightly stymied last night as I sought to find some pertinent information on the author of a “gem” that I picked up at our local “Friends of the Sonoma County Library” Book Faire a couple of weeks ago.  It is a book originally written in 1914 about one of the most well-known and popular evangelist of his time, Billy Sunday.  So far I’ve discovered that the author was a personal friend of the subject and a doctor.  But that is where the trail dead ends.  But, I don’t give up easy, so I’ll keep the research going until I am satisfied.

At that same Book Faire I picked up an old copy of “The New Testament in Modern English” by J.B. Philips.  This paraphrase was one of the favorite bibles of the first pastor I served under from 1975 through 1980.  It was the “Message Bible” of its day!  This particular copy got my attention not only because you don’t see this paraphrase around too much anymore and that the only copy I have is in a worn out, large newspaper style six translation bible I picked up years ago, but because it’s pages were filled with hand written notes, held many 3X5 outline filled notecards and had an old photo stuffed in it as well!
It seemed evident to me that the previous owner was either a mature student of God’s Word, or maybe even a pastor.  As you probably figured out, I also enjoy reading other’s notes from their bibles to see where they are at in their understanding of the Word of Life.  Well, my research mode kicked into gear and after a while I finally came across a genealogy site that listed information on the previous owner.  It turns out that he was originally from Colorado, but spent his last years in my home town.  He was a leader within his church denomination and the snapshot hidden in the middle of the book was of his beloved first wife who had passed early in their marriage.
Now as I read through the pages of this paraphrase and glance at his notes, I feel like I have a strong sense of what was going on in his mind as he received revelation from the Word.  Psalm 100:3 encourages us to do the same thing with the original author and subject of our bibles!  Here the Word tells us to, “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who made us and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (NKJV)  Once again, that word “know” infers an on-going and very intimate knowledge with God.  So, it is not just a casual acquaintance, but as a strong marriage relationship entails an on-going investment of time and selfless effort between both partners, our knowledge and relationship with our God should also continue to develop and grow.
In what is commonly considered the greatest comprehensive pastoral and inspirational study of the Psalms ever written, Charles Spurgeon in his “Treasury of David,” states, concerning this verse, that “Our worship must be intelligent.  We ought to know whom we worship.”  How well do you know our heavenly Father?  Do you hunger and thirst to know more about Him and His eternal goodness and faithfulness that abounds forever?  (Psalms 103:5)  Well, if you want to know Him more (which is probably where we should all be!), today can be the start of a new, enriching and continually life changing and perfecting experience as you take His hand and walk with Him.  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting TO LEARN ABOUT GOD today?”

Friday, October 18, 2013

Get Out of the Traffic!

Yesterday was kind of a different day for us.  One of the things that I have learned over the last few years as a 24/7 caregiver for my wife, is the importance of staying somewhat close to a daily schedule as well as picking up after myself!  Not only is a regular schedule important for my wife in her current condition, but it also helps to keep me on track and focused.  The picking up after myself keeps me on top of all the daily chores I have to accomplish without adding additional clean up from the previous day’s messes.

Because of one of the healthcare programs that my wife is on, we became eligible for PG&E’s Energy Savings Assistance Program.  There are many parts to the program, one being a house weatherization inspection.  We had scheduled ours for yesterday afternoon and for some unknown reason, I had figured that they would be in the house for about one hour.  Well, guess what?  I was wrong!  It ended up taking about two and a half hours as they installed seals in all the electrical outlets, replaced four outdated light fixtures and the two showerheads, placed new weather stripping around the front door, tested our appliances, and put in some additional vents in the closets where the water and house heaters are located.  Along with all of this, we are also getting a brand new refrigerator!  So the extra time was well worth the effort!
The down side was that it completely shot a hole in my afternoon schedule and our planned grocery shopping trip!  When the two workers left, I looked at my wife with sort of a glazed look and said, “Let’s go for a walk!”  I needed to get my focus back and couldn’t think of a better way for me than to get outside and walk in the fresh air!  As we were walking around our neighborhood lake my head felt like I had a zillion conflicting thoughts going through it.  As we began our second loop around the southern end of the lake next to the family swimming pool at the recreation center, I heard the Lord reminding me: “Be still in the Lord…”  Then it hit me!  I needed to “still” the boomeranging thoughts in my head and replace them with the picture of what God’s Word says!
Just before I turned out the lights last night, I read in the daily devotional “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, something that clarified my revelation at the lake.  It stated, “Anxiety is a result of envisioning the future without Me… include Me in any imagery that comes to mind.”  After my experience at the lake, I would also include the envisioning of our present circumstances as well as our future to that statement!
This morning I felt led to look at Psalm 46:10 in my Message Bible and had to laugh at the accuracy of their paraphrase in the light of my experience yesterday.  It encourages us to “Step out of the traffic!  Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”  That picture really hit home as it reminded me of the first time I drove on a Los Angeles, California freeway at rush hour!  It was back in the early eighties when my young family and I were on the final leg of a trip to Disneyland.
I had never experienced anything like it before.  There was literally bumper-to-bumper traffic, but everyone was driving over the posted speed limit!  I recall keeping a close eye on the car that I was following and on my speedometer at the same time.  I was attempting to keep to the speed limit, but the guy behind me kept honking his horn when I fell behind the flow of the traffic!  During all of this, it seemed like the cars around me were changing lanes without any thought of distances between vehicles and without bothering to look as they switched lanes!  It was a crazy and unsettling scene for a country driver like me!
It was the perfect picture of the scene that was happening in my mind while walking around the lake.  I was so focused on what was happening around my life at that moment, that I forgot to consider what God’s truth says about the situation!  When I switched the channel in my thoughts to God, I felt an immediate peace as His expectations tossed my negative anxieties aside.  I suddenly had a hope for His best and the confusion disappeared.
So, in summing up some of my thoughts from Psalm 46:10 this week, I would say that while it is important for us to steal away from our busy schedules to be alone with God, to still ourselves and listen quietly to His voice, it is just as important to still the raging thoughts that pop up in our heads throughout the day and replace them with our personal experiential “knowing” of His love and His ways for our lives at that moment in time.  It is those personal experiences that can make the difference when all else is spinning out of control around us.
I would encourage you to spend a little time this weekend in remembrance of those personal moments of experience that you have had with Him in the past and then make for new times to experience additional personal and intimate touches of His love toward you.  Have a great and prosperous weekend!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What personal experiences with God am I expecting today?”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

No Governor Attached!

William Gurnall who is best known for his work “Christian In Complete Armour” written in three volumes between 1655 – 1662, once commented that “Faith gives the soul a view of a great God.”  That statement seems to be a perfect summary of Psalm 46:10 where we are instructed to “Be still and know that I am God…” (KJV) 

As I continued to meditate on this verse this morning and looked at Gurnall’s comment ,I found myself considering just what makes God so great.  Exactly what are we supposed to KNOW about our great God?  Then as I continued to follow this line of thought I came across a statement in “The Biblical Illustrator” edited by Joseph S. Exell, that helped to answer my questions.  The commentary gave a four part list as to what Psalm 46:10 wants us to KNOW about God.
First of all we should have it settled in our hearts that “God’s supremacy is absolute.”  His is the highest authority and/or power in the universe.  He always should have the FINAL word on everything!  Next we KNOW that His “justice is impeachable”  As I considered this, I realized that since Jesus already satisfied the demands of justice for our sins, for our faults and for our shortcomings at Calvary, that His justice for us is ALWAYS LOVE as demonstrated through His grace!
Thirdly we should understand that “His wisdom is unerring.”  This wisdom is found in His written word and He will not go against His Word.  What He says is the ultimate truth and we can KNOW without any doubt that it will come to pass as we stand on its promises with an uncompromising faith!
Lastly and maybe most importantly, we are to always stand on the knowledge of the unmovable foundational truth that “His goodness is unbounded!”  His goodness toward us has NO LIMITS.  His goodness has NO RESTRAINTS, NO CHECK and NO BOUNDRIES!  Whew… that thought alone makes me want to shout!  How about you?  Just think about it for a moment… He loves you and me so much that it is almost like He can’t help Himself when it comes to pouring out His goodness and His grace to us!
Years ago my wife and I were looking for a new vehicle and since we both love to camp we thought it might be cool to check out the camper version of the Volkswagen Vanagon.  When we got to the dealership we were impressed with the vehicle and asked to take it on a test drive.  We already knew that the bus didn’t have a lot of power, but figured that the camping amendments might make up for it.  Well, everything was going great until we were accelerating down the road and the governor (a device to regulate the speed and rpms) kicked in and it felt like the brakes were put on!
Since I did not know that the vehicle was equipped with a governor, I was taken completely by surprise!  I instantly pictured the steep mountain grades that were present in the various camping areas that we like to go to and realized that this vehicle was not going to meet our needs.  At the same time I looked over my shoulder at my wife who was seated in the back seat and smiled as she just sat there shaking her head!  Needless to say, the deal was off and we turned around and headed back to the dealership as the salesman quickly attempted to counteract our concerns.
Isn’t it nice to KNOW that God’s goodness and His grace do not have a governor attached to them?  His goodness and grace can be more associated with the 280Z or Camaro T-Top that we had that seemed to have no restraints as you pressed down on the accelerator!  That’s the kind of KNOWLEDGE of God that He wants us to have!  Many times though, our knowledge of Him and His strengths get muddled in the day to day events of our lives.  That is why He calls us to make the time on a regular basis to STOP and BE STILL so that we can re-focus our attention of the knowledge of His supremacy, His justice, His wisdom and His goodness!
With this understanding and knowledge of our great God foremost in our thoughts, it is hard to face a situation without knowing and realizing the satisfaction that we will come out on top!   Whew… now I want to shout again!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “With the knowledge of His greatness - What am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In a Relationship

This morning I was pondering the reality that I have been in a relationship with my wife since she was barely seventeen years old.  Over the many years since then, I have seen her grow and mature into the wonderful woman of faith that marks her personality and presence.  From our teens we have helped to shape each other into the personage of who we have become today.  It has been a daily experience of communication, love, patience (more on her behalf than mine, I’m sure!) selfless giving and understanding.  Without a doubt, I know the inner workings of my wife at an in-depth level of understanding, and she could say the same thing about her knowledge of me.

From those very first days together in September of our senior year in High School, she has been the easiest and most comfortable person for me to be with, and by far the most understanding and deep individual I had ever met.  Even today, as she is being healed from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and does not regularly verbally communicate, I can tell what she is thinking by simply looking into her eyes and by reading the familiar expressions on her face!
To me, this type of relationship is exactly what God is talking about in Psalm 46:10 where He directs us to “Be still and KNOW that I am God.” (KJV)  The Hebrew word for “know” in this passage is the verb “yada” meaning “to learn to know, to know by experience, to become acquainted with.” (Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions)  It is a word that conveys or expresses action.  It is a daily activity that we must take in order to get to KNOW God in an even greater depth of understanding than I personally KNOW my wife!  And how does our heavenly Father tell us to do this?  By BEING STILL in His presence!
Like I mentioned in an earlier blog this week, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than be alone with my wife!  I find that I get annoyed when good meaning individuals tell me that with the extent of the care that I give to my wife because of her current condition, that I need to take some time alone, away from her.  And you know?  I don’t WANT to be away from her!  I love to be in her presence and to share life with her in any way possible, even if I have to do all the talking or take all the action.
That is the same relationship that I am still cultivating with our heavenly Father.  I want to KNOW Him even more closely and more intimately than I KNOW my wife!  I have become more aware of the truth of this kind of relationship since my wife was diagnosed a few years back.  He is the ONE who is keeping me strong when I am weak.  He is the ONE who lifts me up when I am down.  And He is the ONE who’s unfailing, 24/7 LOVE gives me the ability to go on and live in expectation of good things each and every day.
How well do you KNOW our God?  How well do you KNOW His inner-most thoughts and desires for you?  How well does He KNOW you?  As I have mentioned before, I was totally taken by surprise when a few members of my wife’s family made accusations against my character at the beginning our journey through this attack on my wife’s health.  But it wasn’t so much the false things that were said, but the hard hit reality that after being a part of her family for over 40 years, that they really didn’t KNOW me! 
I never want that to be said about my relationship with my heavenly Father.  How about you?  I want to make sure that I take and/or make the time to “BE STILL” and get to KNOW Him so that there is NEVER any doubt about His love, dedication and limitless grace and goodness to me as well as His knowing my devotion in Him.  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

ENOUGH!

As I continued to study Psalm 46:10 this morning, I read a footnote in my New International Version Study Bible which stated that the phrase “Be still” in the Hebrew usage here “probably means ‘ENOUGH!’”  And with that I immediately heard the Lord say to me, “ENOUGH of your whining, ENOUGH of your looking to everything but to me, ENOUGH of your seeking and wanting your own way, and ENOUGH of all the NOISE in your life, just STOP long enough to enjoy the SILENCE of My presence!”

I worked for many years as a process supervisor in the machining area of Agilent Technologies (a spin-off of Hewlett Packard).  The large building that encompassed this area was filled with state of the art NC Milling and Turning equipment.  The majority of the operations on the floor were in a wide open space and my desk sat right in the midst of the Milling shop.  Needless to say, it was quite noisy and sadly, I refused to wear ear protection for the majority of my time there.  I have never like to have anything stuck in my ears, but finally submitted to protecting my hearing for the last year I was there after finding a pair of electronic ear muffs that didn’t make me feel like I was in a tunnel!
But by then the damage was done.  There were many days were I would go home with my head ringing and my shoulders tight as a drum!  Over the years since leaving that position, the ringing has left, but I am still sensitive to background noises.  So when the Lord mentioned the “NOISE” in my life, I understood exactly what He meant!  There are certain places and times when the background noise is so bothersome to me that I have to say “ENOUGH” and go find a QUIET PLACE!
That’s probably why I’ve always loved to get up before everyone in the family and enjoy the QUIET solitude of the early morning hours before the hustle and bustle of the day begins.  As I’ve stated before, the early morning is one of my favorite times when we would go camping.  There is just something special and medicinal to the crisp, QUIET, early morning air when you slip out of the tent, start the coffee, and sit down and soak in the sanctity of the early morning mountain atmosphere!
I personally see God’s exclamation to “BE STILL!” as a rather sharp command rather than a gentle nudging to us.  I believe that He is really wanting to get our attention in the midst of our busy, NOISY lives.  It is like the time many years ago when I was a kid and our family went over to my grandparents to see their new car.  After oohing and ahhing over the floor-room shiny Buick, my grandpa flipped the keys to my dad and told him to give it a spin!  So my dad, mom, grandpa and I hopped in the car and headed out Bennett Valley Road into the country near their home.  After driving for a while, my dad pulled over to stop when he suddenly hit the brakes so hard that we all plummeted forward with an exaggerated jerk.  Let’s just say that he had definitely gained our attention!  When the shock wore off my dad laughed and sheepishly pointed to the brake where he had both feet firmly planted.  He was so used to driving a manual transmission that he automatically went to depress the clutch while braking with the other foot… and since the new Buick was an automatic… well, you catch my drift!
I think that this is the same way that God is trying to get our attention as we merrily plow through all the NOISE in our lives.  He is saying “STOP!”  It is time to get yourself QUIET and BE STILL long enough to hear and obey what I have to say for you.  Let me ask you a question today.  Have you been hearing the Lord yelling “ENOUGH!” in your life lately?  Have you hit the brakes to your life with both feet, or have you ignored His pleas and accelerated forward with what you think you have to do?
Well, it’s time to STOP and BE STILL!  It is the ONLY way that you’ll survive in today’s world!  And let me tell you, the PEACE of His QUIETNESS is the most soothing and restorative treatment that you’ll EVER experience.  So… find an off-ramp and pull off the eight lane highway onto the meandering path that He has designed for you to travel on!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s QUIET are you expecting today?”

Monday, October 14, 2013

Be Still!

Ah!  It is good to be back after a week’s time off!  Our youngest son was in California visiting for a couple of weeks and spent five days with his mom and I.  We had a great time catching up with each other, sharing what the Lord has been doing in our lives, contemplating the future and just having fun!  It was hard to drive away after we had dropped him off at our oldest son’s in Fairfield, CA where he was going to spend his last few days.  But we left with a peace in knowing that he is exactly where he needs to be in Oklahoma at this point in time.  My theory is that since God started this whole thing by directing us to move to Oklahoma in 2006, that it is up to Him as to when our kids who are still there, will move on to His next step for them!  It is clear to see that they are currently in the perfect will of God, and I for one, am not going to mess that up by whining about when they are moving back home!

I had taken all kinds of notes for the blog as I spent my usual time alone with the Lord each morning last week and have been excited to share with you, but as I quieted myself before Him today, I felt compelled to go another way.  My mind was going in many directions as I pulled up to my desk, and began to go through those notes.  The more I looked the less clarity I received!  I finally pushed back from my desk, closed my eyes and asked the Lord for His directions.  After a few moments in prayer I sensed the Lord quietly tugging at my heart telling me to just be quiet before Him.
As I sat there trying to empty my thoughts and be still, the first few words from Psalm 46:10 softly spoke to me saying, “Be still and know that I am God…” (KJV)  And that’s all it took to find myself in total solace and peace.  The hum of the computer fan, the forced air home heater and the sounds of the birds singing their morning calls from outside all faded away.  Suddenly I was alone in His presence, and even though it was only for a moment of time, it was wonderful!
The Greek translation of this verse encourages us to Relax and know that I am God…” (Apostolic Bible Polyglot), literally meaning to “take a holiday (and/or) be at leisure” (Strong’s)  It reminded me of the many “holidays” my wife and I would take during the winter months at some of the different lodges along the spectacular northern California coast.  Those were times of rest and recreation.  They were also times where my total attention was focused on my lovely wife!  During those two nights of private respite we spend time holding hands as we walked along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and sitting in patio chairs on the deck watching the distant waves, graceful birds, the occasional fishing boat or the pretty flowers that sprouted from the hardy groundcover.
But I think the best times were spent just sitting quietly with her as we enjoyed the undistracted time in each other’s company!  Sometimes we barely left the room and just spent hours sitting at the table together listening to the sounds of the distant waves and the occasional words we would share!  I still can’t think of anything that I enjoy more than being alone with her, and I know that she would say the same thing about being with me.
As I thought about those special times, the Lord whispered in my ear that this is the same experience that He wants us to have with him!  He wants us to enjoy spending undistracted time alone with Him.  Just being in His presence, being thrilled by His touch, hearing the peace and encouragement of His voice, absorbing the fragrance of His being and experiencing the overwhelming intimacy of His love.
The Sermon Bible Commentary tells us in reference to being still and knowing God, that “We cannot know this deep and eternal truth unless we are still.  But on the other hand, this knowledge will make us still.”  When was the last time that you were REALLY still in His presence?  Being totally quiet, undistracted and without any other thoughts rummaging through your conscious mind?  For me it had been quite a while!  And while I spend regular time with Him studying His Word each morning, I have to admit that it has been difficult for me to just STOP and be still!  How about you?
I might suggest that you get away from the busyness of your life as soon as possible and be still before him!  I am sure that you will be pleasantly surprised at how much peace and restoration you will receive and the oneness you feel with Him.  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”