Our New Home

Our New Home
Fall is in the air!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hesitation and Vacillation


As I was re-reading from the first few verses of I Thessalonians again this morning, something jumped out at me that I hadn’t noticed before.  In the fifth verse Paul talks about the Gospel of Jesus Christ saying: “For we brought the Good News to you, not with words only, but also with power and the Holy Spirit, and with complete certainty of its truth.” (God’s Word ©)  The phrase “with complete certainty” seemed to be flashing in red and my interest was piqued!
Other translations define this as “deep conviction (ISV), full conviction (ESV),” or “much assurance (KJV).”  It definitely seemed like the Apostle was trying to make a point here, so I looked up the original Greek words as translated in the King James Version.  I think Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible put the most accurate spin on Paul’s point by stating that “The Holy Spirit which was given you left no doubt on your mind…”  Why else would Paul use multiple words to explain the intensity and depth of the Thessalonians conviction of the Word of God?
Paul was basically telling us that these people knew that they knew and were totally sold out and committed to the Word.  Something happened to these folks when they heard and assimilated the Word that was taught to them by Paul and his evangelistic team. The Apostolic Bible Polyglot which is an interlineal Septuagint and Greek New Testament translation from Greek to English defines this verse stating “that our good news did not take place in you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit and in much full assurance.”
After my study this morning, I believe that this is probably one of the more accurate renditions of Paul’s original meaning when he wrote this particular letter.  When meditating on this verse I heard the small still voice on the inside of me saying that the Thessalonian’s “faith was very solid, very consistent and was visibly active and successful!”  Then I sensed the Spirit stressing the point that “they had no hesitation or vacillation. 
Those two words caused me to sit up straight at the kitchen table so I looked them up in the dictionary.  I have a quick link to Dictionary.com on my computer home page which makes this process very simple!  What I found quickly became an “Oh I see…” when I thought about some of experiences over the last four years.  The word hesitation is described as “a delay due to uncertainty of mind or fear.  A state of doubt or uncertainty.”  Vacillation is “a state of indecision or irresolution; fluctuation.”
These words clearly defined the types of individuals that we had to work with during the first three years after the initial diagnosis of my wife’s health deficiencies.  Now I understand the constant and increasing frustration, hurt and confusion that I was dealing with!  Having returned to our home town under the specific direction of the Holy Spirit to “reconnect with our network of family and friends” I came to the place where I felt like I had been side-swiped by some folks we thought we could depend on.  What we experienced was some Christians with little faith, faith that vacillated from week to week, or faith that was paused because of fear!
Out of this mess there arose another set of extended family members and friends whose faith, love for us and consistency of their reaching out to us I had greatly underestimated in the past!  It seemed like the Lord had a lesson for us as well as a whole new network of family and friends that we could depend on.  The Lord’s words to Joshua concerning the fact that “I will never neglect you or abandon you” (Joshua 1:5 God’s Word ©) have become a living reality to us throughout this entire journey!
A major part of the lesson has been to take what we experienced from others and turn it inward to see just how I respond and reach out to others in need.  As one’s who were always on the other side of the coin, reaching out as part of the pastoral staff to those in our congregation, I wanted to make sure that my input had always been loving, free from judgment and as gentle and patient as Jesus’s was.  But what I saw surprised me!  My response was not always as truly “Christian” as I have recently come to understand Paul, James, John, Jesus and other Biblical writers talk about!
Over the last couple of years I have had to make some quick adjustments, or in some cases, a complete turnaround in the way I do certain things when it comes to unconditionally loving others.  I don’t want those that I reach out to have the same experiences that I went through!  How about you?  Have you ever taken the time for a little introspection?  If you did, what would you find?  If Paul wrote about his interactions with you would he make a similar comment as he did about the Thessalonians saying “that our good news did not take place in you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit and in much full assurance.”?
Gives you a bit of food for thought to consider over this weekend doesn’t it?  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Being With You...


Over the last week you may have noticed that I have been talking about some old family photos that I have discovered as I’ve been unpacking since our move to North Carolina a few weeks ago.  My walk down memory lane has had a special purpose as I and our youngest son’s future mother-in-law have been working on a special project for the upcoming wedding next month. 
Like I said in an earlier blog, this adventure has had its ups and downs as I’ve come across countless pictorial records of the life of my wife and I over the last 44 years.  Wow!  Stop and think about that for a moment… I’ve had the privilege and honor of being with the most fantastic woman in the universe (I’m sure that I might just be a little prejudice here!) for almost half a century!  And like I have said from the beginning, there is absolutely no doubt in either of our minds that it was a match made in heaven!
Yesterday I spent the majority of the day copying the pile of pictures that I had collected into digital files so that I could email them to Oklahoma City where Aubrey’s (Jeremy’s fiancé) mom lives.  Toward the end of the task my attention seemed to be focused on many of the family group shots taken over the years.  When I finally sat down and thought about things, I had the warm and happy feeling that we had done a pretty good job in the raising of our kids.
The various pictures taken over the year’s document kids that were laughing, smiling and having fun!  I believe our children had the opportunity to be themselves as they grew up.  Our youngest daughter recently told me that she really was thankful to her mom for always encouraging her to do the things that she dreamed of, no matter how silly or unusual it was to others who tended to plan their future in terms of how much money their chosen career might bring in.  Today all of our kids are very creative and musically inclined.
When we moved back to California after our stay in Oklahoma and my wife’s health situation came to full fruition, we (that means me…) took a lot of heat from some that were close to us because of the way they thought we sorely fell short in the way we provided financially and extended love and security to our family.  As I looked back at all the pictures though, I just don’t see that!  What I saw were kids that were free to try on different roles as they grew up. Kids that had a lot of fun throughout their childhood and in 2014 are individuals that love the Lord, are close knit, give freely to others around them, and are responsible adults that are living a happy and productive-to-society life!
The Apostle Paul told the church in Thessalonica that he knew of their success in life because he could see that “the Good News we brought came to you not only with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with complete certainty.” (I Thessalonians 1:5 God’s Word ©)  Like I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, Paul looked for and saw constructive actions that followed their faith and used what he saw as the bases of his positive discussion.
As I read through I Thessalonians I get the definite impression that Paul enjoyed being around the people in Thessalonica.  From what I see, these people were happy and fun to be around!  They took the Good News that Paul preached in exactly the same way he preached it and lived it out with power, the Holy Ghost and with a complete certainty in their expectations of it working in, for and through them to those they bumped into throughout their daily lives.
Do you know people like that?  I sure do and they are very pleasant to be with.  After having been around someone like this I always feel encouraged, built up and pleasantly happy!  On the other hand, I have also had the displeasure of having to spend time with others who are not like this and I always feel physically and emotionally spent after being in their presence.  Like I have written of before, one of the hardest things that I had to do over the last five years was to physically draw away from some folks that we had at one time been rather close to.  I had come to the conclusion that I had to protect my wife who would become so emotionally and physically withdrawn after spending time with these folks that it was visibly destructive to her recovery.
Have you ever considered how your presence might affect those around you?  Do your mannerisms project sadness in life or do you allow the joy of the Godly life you have chosen to live ooze out from you?  I have found that whenever I enter into a room with my wife in a transport chair, that I have to be on constant alert in order to control the emotional environment of the situation.  One of my most used phrases over this time period has been the interjection of “but we’re not giving up, because we serve a mighty God who is still in the healing business!”
Most times that statement of faith acts like a splash of cold water on the face and causes others to grab at the hand up that is being offered them.  Believe it or not, I have had the most problems from other Christians rather than from non-believers!  Go figure it?  How do others see you?  Are you like the Thessalonians whom the Apostle Paul enjoyed being with, or like some whom you can’t wait to say good-bye to?  Have a good day.  Stay in tune and in faith to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's Your Story!


Yesterday brought back some memories of our three year stay in Oklahoma some five years ago.  In the late afternoon, clouds suddenly began to fill the skies, the wind picked up considerably and it was as if someone turned off the lights!  Then within a matter of moments the heavens opened up and it began to pour followed by the clap of thunder.  It was fascinating!  The dog and I immediately went out onto our covered patio to take in all the action that was happening around us.  Even my wife stared outside with a gleam of excitement in her eyes!
All this lasted about thirty minutes and I left the patio door open so that we could enjoy the sights and sounds of the event.  We all went out an hour or so later for a pre-dinner walk and deeply breathed in the freshly laundered air, the glitter of the water droplets on the grass and the sparkling tiny raindrops that rested on all the cars in the parking lot!
I decided after our walk yesterday that I needed to recommit myself to that sense of “Adventurous Expectancy” that Paul talked about in Romans 8:15 as stated in the Message Bible.  I’ve been getting very tired at the end of the day and was getting more than a little annoyed at the experience when my wise daughter reminded me that my body is probably still adjusting to the three hour time difference since our move from California.  Today I awoke with a fresh zeal for the adventures ahead and found myself praising the Lord before my feet even hit the floor!  (Then again… maybe it was boosted by the fact that the dog didn’t get me up to go outside at 6:30 like she’s been doing for the last few days!)
Paul again spoke of the adventures in our faith when he described what he saw in the believers in the church at Thessalonica.  In I Thessalonians 1:3 he said that “In the presence of our God and father, we never forget that your faith is active, your love is working hard, and your confidence in our Lord is enduring.” (God’s Word ©)  As I read this it dawned on me that Paul was judging these folks by what he saw them doing in their daily lives!  He was looking for and saw lots of action happening around them… and he liked what he saw!
All the action in those clouds followed by the pelting rain and thunder got me to thinking about the actions that people see in me.  Do they see someone who’s trying to put a wet blanket on everything and/or someone who simply puts on an air with lots of meaningless noise?  One thing that I have noticed since we reentered the world of apartment living is that people here in the complex tend to stick to themselves!  I even got slightly annoyed on our late walk yesterday when a father and his cute little girl on a scooter totally ignored us after I said hello and the dog was furiously wagging her tail in glee at their presence.
But, it didn’t last long.  I took it as a challenge to see God’s love break through the barriers.  I decided that my actions were going to mimic God’s!  That my faith for His peace to override their hesitations would be active, that God’s love working in and through me would go into overdrive around them and that my confidence or expectations in the Lord’s having His way at the Marquis on Cary Parkway would be packed with cheerful endurance!
That’s what I call the “Adventurously Expectant” resurrection life that was given to us by Christ!  Cool huh?  Hopefully you’ll think about that as you step out your front door today!  Who knows… maybe someday they’ll write a book about the adventurously expectant life that you lived!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Steel!


I hope that all of you had a great Memorial Day weekend!  We intermixed some sight-seeing, numerous walks and the emptying and moving of boxes throughout the three day holiday.  At times it was sweet sorrow and at others it was recommitment and victory.  Let me explain…
Many of the boxes that I went through were filled with old family photos.  They covered many of the kid’s events as they were growing up like school graduations and special events, birthdays, soccer, ballet performances, and a multitude of church plays and other presentations.  There were also many long forgotten photos that I had taken of my wonderful wife during some of our various three day holidays at the coast away from the kids over the years.
One of these pictures that especially captured my imagination and my heart was a pose of Piper on the patio of our room at The Inn at the Tides resort in Bodega Bay, California.  The purpose of that stay was in celebration of our 25 wedding anniversary back in July of 2000.  Besides other things, it is another memory of how she has retained her youthful looks over the many years of our marriage (like I had mentioned in Friday’s blog post!).  While she was in her late forties at this particular time, to me she still looked like she was in her late twenties!
There is another picture that I had taken a few years previous to the Inn at the Tides photo, which is of Piper and our four kids during a camping trip in the Sierras as they cooked hot dogs around the fire.  As I looked at it over the weekend, it almost seemed like there were five kids in the picture!
My first response to the anniversary print was to become all choked up with emotions.  In the picture Piper looked like her normal perky, spunky self with that glint of mischief in her eyes.  You can almost see her mind working to come up with some unexpected action that would surprise me!  To climb up on the rail of the deck and pose for a picture was simply natural for her!  She was always at home in front of the lens of my camera.  And since I almost always had a camera in my hand… I guess that is a good thing!
After I fought off the tears and sadness at the current stage of my wife’s health in comparison to that picture taken fourteen years past, I suddenly found a righteous indignation rising up within me!  Before I fully realized what was going on I discovered that my mind was being filled with the Word of God concerning His thoughts on the current stage of my wife’s health.  It rapidly became clear that His thoughts were not matching the emotional thoughts that I had briefly considered!  At that moment I had a definite choice to make and to be honest… it was an easy one to make!  In an instant I chose life!  His Zoë, absolute fullness of life!  And just as suddenly as the emotions had come, they dissolved into a steely resolution and increased faith in the love and truth and infallibility of His Word concerning Piper’s total, complete recovery and as it states in Matthew 14:15, that at His touch, she has been “made perfectly whole.” (KJV)
I Thessalonians 1:5 in The Message Bible perfectly explains what happened to me over the weekend.  Here Paul writes: “When the Message (of God’s Word) we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words.  Something happened in you.  The Holy Spirit put steel in your conviction.” (parenthesis mine)  In the face of sorrow, mixed with a little self-pity, the steel in my conviction of God’s Word overcame the weakness of the moment.
That experience has given me a renewed resolve!  I sense that my faith has been revived and I am even more certain that we WILL see what the Lord has not only promised, but has already provided for Piper and any other Christian who is dealing with sickness and/or disease.  I Peter 2:24 gives us one of the clearest remembrances of this provision stating: “By whose stripes you were healed.” (KJV)  Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (God’s Word ©) and since He spent a great majority of His physical time on the earth healing the sick, why would He stop now?
So what do you think about it?  Isn’t it time for you to steel up your resolve in the truth of God’s Word that is backed by His tremendous love for you?  I think so!  Have a great week.  Stay in tune (and in faith) to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting (to believe) today?”

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Days of Your Youth


I came across a picture of my wife a few weeks ago as I was packing for our move.  I don’t remember taking the photo that seems to have been shot in the parking lot of the old El Rancho Tropicana Motel when we attended church in a rented room there in the early eighties.  It could also be when we did a weekly service in Napa California during that same time period.  There is very little of the background that is shown in the picture.  But it is easy to date from my wife’s haircut and the outfit she is wearing as well as from the unique print paper that came from a lab I used back then.
Even though she was in her early thirties in the photograph, she still retained her teenage young looks and displayed that special vibrancy, health and strength shining through her lovely brown eyes.  It reminded me of one of our healing scriptures that I confess over her on a daily basis.  The confession is from a personalized combination of Job 33:24-25 where I declare the Lord’s statement to her saying: “I have provided Jesus as a ransom for you, therefore your flesh is becoming fresher than a child’s and you are returning as unto the healthy days of your youth.”
The cool part of this particular scripture truth is that I had the privilege of knowing Piper as a youth as we started dating when we were in our teens.  Therefore I can easily relate to the spunkiness she possessed as a young High School student and envision that same zeal for life returning to her as promised by the Lord!
This morning as I studied out 2 Thessalonians 3:3, I discovered another fact in God’s Word that cemented my belief in my wife’s total recovery.  The 1899 Douay-Rheims Bible translates this verse as: “But God is faithful, who will strengthen and keep you from evil.”  What caught my attention was the original Greek intent of the word “evil.”  Strong’s defines the word as anything “hurtful, evil in effect or influence, malice or the devil himself” and “also ill, that is diseased.”  Thayer’s agrees saying that “in a physical sense: diseased or blind.”
So this verse is another of many within the Bible that define anything evil which includes sickness and disease, as coming from the devil.  It also directly backs up our confession from Job 33 where we have taken the stand that the Lord is not only strengthening my wife but is keeping her safe from the effects of this disease… and as part of that process, she will fully recover and return as unto the healthy days of her youth.
So that picture that I came across is not just a remembrance of times past, but is an ever present reminder of the Lord’s promise of healing and restoration to us His children.  I related some similar thoughts as these to my wife when we were out on a walk around our new community yesterday.  When I asked if she remembered a particularly funny incident that occurred on a family camping trip a few years back where she demonstrated her uncanny ability to surprise us with her spontaneity and spunk, she suddenly started laughing!  And while she was not able to express her thoughts in words, she definitely showed comprehension and remembrance to the experience.
Then when I shared Job 33:24-25 with her, she again laughed a giggle of solid agreement to the truth and faithfulness of God and His Word.  How is your commitment to the truth that is to be found in God’s Word?  Can you laugh along with my wife in agreement with Him and then solidly stand until you see the physical manifestation of that which you are in faith for?  I bet you can!  If not, the solution is simple, as “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 KJV)  Just spend more time in the Word and allow yourself to be built up in Him and develop your faith at the same time!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Wizard of Oz


Dictionary.com defines the word “standard” as “a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment.”  The phrase that the God’s Word translation states as “the standards of the Spirit” in Romans 8:2 is simply put as “the law” in the King James Version.  “Law” in the original Greek means “a rule producing a state approved of God” or “the rule of action prescribed by reason.” (Thayer’s)
As I considered these definitions in my morning quiet time, I meditated on what God’s standards just might be.  My first thought focused in on John 10:10 where Jesus tells us how He came to give us abundant life.  From there I remembered John 14:27 when Jesus promised His peace to those of us who actively believe in Him.  Then there is Ephesians 3:19 where the intimate knowledge of Christ’s love is discussed and Romans 15:13 where the great Apostle prays that God would fill us “with all joy… in believing.”
So let’s see… according to this line of thought, God’s standards would include abundant life, peace, love and joy.  Of course no list would be complete without the addition of the fruit of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23.  These then would be some of the standards that are approved of by God and are the characteristics of our lives by which we should live and consider in others as well as be individually judged by.  As usual, I personally think that all of these standards are dependent on our intimate knowledge of God’s love for us.  In talking about doing the things that are right and or approved in God’s sight, Paul prays for his readers in 2 Thessalonians 3:5: “May the Lord lead you into a greater understanding of God’s love and the endurance that is given by Christ.” (Good News Bible)  I really like the way the Apostolic Bible Polyglot defines this verse by saying “and may the Lord straighten out your hearts in the love of God…”
This verse is one of many in the New Testament that emphasizes the overall importance of our foundational and ever increasing personal and intimate knowledge of Christ’s love for us as the basis for every word, thought and action that we endeavor to take toward another individual.  According to the ABP the Lord is constantly working to straighten out our hearts so that our first response is always one of love.
I hold that idea close to my heart in knowing that I am not making the various decisions that I face each day alone, or that they are backed solely by my own education, background or experience.  The Lord is working with me in everything I do!  He’s in me switching the gears, and pulling the strings to assist in straightening my heart out to conform to His standards!  It kind of reminds me of that scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where the Professor is standing behind the curtain pulling the various levers and knobs that control what is happening on the stage.
Well folks, just like Toto pulled back the curtain to expose the Professor, the curtain of your heart has been pulled back and you can now walk in the full knowledge, with agreement and in total cooperation with the One who is in you as He works to straighten out your every action.  This way you will always be inclined to lean in such a way that meets His standards and works to bless your life and those to whom you minister to.  I like that!  How about you?
Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom are you expecting today?”

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What Is Your Attitude?


I walked into the kitchen this morning with every intention of beginning a fresh study in a new chapter in the Bible… but God had a different idea!  I was immediately drawn back to Romans 8:2 where the Message Bible declares “A new power is in operation.  The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has cleared the air…”  Suddenly something clicked in me and I felt the refreshing wind of the Spirit blowing away any anxiety I felt about the day before me.
Romans 8:6 in the God’s Word translation says that “The corrupt nature’s attitude leads to death.  But the spiritual nature’s attitude leads to life and peace.”  At that moment the Lord reminded me that it is all about my attitude and if I choose to agree with the contrary things that I may see around me or with the unfailing word of God and how it defines my life.
Just before the Lord took him home, Moses challenged the Israelites saying: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life…”  (Deuteronomy 30:19 KJV)  He also understood the importance of our daily choices.  He knew that how we choose would directly affect our attitudes and thereby guide the events of our lives.  Jesus told us that His words are “spirit and they are life”. (John 6:63 KJV)  It would make logical sense then to have an attitude that is closely aligned with the truth and life of His words wouldn’t it?
An attitude that is directed by the life-infused words of Christ brings hope to any and every situation no matter how bleak, hopeless, stressful or confusing it may look to be.  An attitude of His life will lead you to eventual success in everything you set your hand or your mind to!
Right now for me, it is looking past the piles of boxes in every room and see the finished vision that He has given me.  And while it is not going to happen tomorrow or probably even in the next week… it will come to pass!  My job is to see what He sees for me to accomplish each day!  When I look through His line of sight, everything looks possible for “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 MKJV)
Kind of puts a whole new spin on your day doesn’t it?  Remember when you get up each day that “a new power is in operation” in your life!  It will help you to face the day with a smile, a hope and a determination that can’t be derailed!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What's Normal To You?


Today is actually the first day since leaving California that we woke up to a somewhat normal schedule.  Up to this point our days have been filled with appointments and activities that required us to get up early and scurry through our morning routine.  It was nice to be able to slow down a little and get my wife up in a relaxed mood!
On Sunday afternoon I sat back in a chair on our patio and sort of stared at the trees as I contemplated the  completion of the final chapter of the “getting-everything-here” mode of the move.  I had just received our car off the carrier and parked it in the parking space right in front of our building.  The vehicle had about an inch of dirt on it as a result of all the varied weather it had been through as it sat on the open back trailer while it came across the country, but it was here and I was very happy to get it back. 
We had rented a Toyota Camry that was very nice, but nothing as quiet and comfortable as our Buick Regal!  Most importantly was that it was difficult to assist my wife into the car.  I had to physically lift her up and over into the front seat.  On our car she can sit on the seat by herself and all I have to do is to swing her legs around!  I tell ya… my back is a happy camper!
As I relaxed on the patio, I reviewed all the steps that it took to get us and all our personal possessions to the East Coast.  A cousin of mine had written me a note saying something like how I made the difficult look easy as I dealt with all the logistics of our move.  That thought bounced around in my head with the arrival of our car on Sunday.  I must admit that I never considered the difficulty of it.  As far as I was concerned, we had been given a directive from the Lord and my job was to listen close and follow through on His guidance!
Yesterday as the attendant drove us back home after we returned the rental car, we got to talking about Piper.  After a while the gal mentioned what a hard task it must be to take care of her.  Once again, that statement kind of took me by surprise.  I replied to the driver that when you’ve been together as long as we have that it is simply an act of love, devotion and commitment to the love of my life!  You don’t think about it… you just do it!  But, as I realized this morning… you don’t do any of it alone!
Just like all the things that needed to be accomplished for the move, I did it all as I followed Christ!  I can look back at every step of the move and clearly see His hand along the way.  He orchestrated each measure of the move as a conductor guides an orchestra through a complex symphony.  Take for instance our flights from Sacramento California to the Raleigh-Durham Airport.  On each flight we were escorted to the front of the line and were the first to load onto the planes.  In Sacramento we choose the first seat and then had the blessing to sit next to a wonderful Christian Lady and shared of the things of the Lord throughout the flight.  As we neared Denver we became aware that our plane was behind schedule and that we would have less than ten minutes to get to our connecting flight.  Our new friend Debi checked the Southwest Airlines App on her phone and joyfully announced that our next flight had been delayed!
It turns out that the First Officer of the second flight was still in the air as inclement weather had also slowed his flight to Denver.  I personally think that the Lord did that on purpose… just for us!  That sort of thing has been happening over and over again in just about every phase of our move!  And you know what… I’ve been expecting it, and my expectations have (and still are) been fulfilled!
Romans 8:1 talks about the good things that happen without any condemnation “for those which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (KJV)   Well, that’s exactly where we have been this entire time.. following after, closely behind the Spirit of God as He has been directing our every step. 
So as I sat there staring at the towering pines off our new patio, I did not feel a sense of relief or even a letdown, for I am coming to realize that to a life that is intimately intertwined with His “adventurously expectant” (Romans 8:15 The Message) resurrection life, this is just another normal day!  And I like His normalcy!  How about you?  Have a great day!  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… What or Whom are you expecting today?”

Monday, May 19, 2014

New!


Greetings from the beautiful town of Morrisville, North Carolina!  My wife and I are sitting out on our back patio enjoying the beautiful morning.  My outdoor thermometer reads about sixty four degrees, there is a slight breeze and the birds are singing their praises of the new day from their perches high in the pines that line the common area behind our new apartment home.  We have been here six days now and are still getting used to the nuances’ of the area.  Believe it or not, I have not been able to find a retailer who stocks local maps!  So far I’ve checked out three gas stations, the local CVS and a regional AAA office and came up empty handed!
We spent the day on last Thursday with our lovely daughter whom we haven’t seen for a couple of years, and had a great time.  She gave us a short tour of the town, and extended to us the royal welcome!  On Friday night our dog finally arrived to a joyous homecoming.  Then yesterday I felt complete as we took delivery of our Buick.  Now I’m feeling like most of the loose ends have been tied up!
It definitely is an exciting time around here!  And while I am not too sure as to the what’s and why’s, I know that the good Lord has some special plans for us.  I keep coming back to Romans 8:2 in the Message Bible where it proclaims that “A new power is in operation!”  Everything around us here on the other end of the United States is new!  Everywhere we look there are new sights to see and new things to experience!  Even the bugs are new to us!  I got up on the first night to get a drink of water only to find the prettiest bright red beetle crawling across the counter!  I was entranced as I had never seen one so bright and unique as this little critter!
Without all the normal activities and “things” around me that I am used to, it seems like my trust has fully been placed into the capable hands of the Holy Spirit.  His new power is in operation around me and the adventurous expectancy of the resurrection life in Christ is shining forth! (see: Romans 8:15 MSG)  How about you?  Is that new power adventurously expectant and shining forth through you?  If not, it might just be time to hit the personal reset button and step out in the resurrection life that He has planned for you to experience.  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Day of Contrasts!


Yesterday our day started with an early morning appointment with a friend of my in-laws who has a hauling service.  He picked up our old TV’s and some other large items for recycle.  Greg is a very gregarious individual and we had quite a few laughs together during his time with us.  He had already told me that he wasn’t going to charge us for his labor and when I tried to convince him to let me pay him something again yesterday, he told me that his religion is helping people when they are going through rough times. 
We had already had this conversation on the phone a few nights ago (see yesterday’s blog “Exasperation” for more details), so I didn’t push our 180 degree expectations of God’s goodness working in our midst.  Greg’s only input on the situation has been from my wife’s relatives and his reasoning stuck pretty close to their party line of the hardships of life and the sad and utterly hopeless situation we are facing.
Once again, I was tempted to shake my head, but instead I choose to praise the Lord and rejoice in His party line as found in His Word that promises earnest expectations of health to those of us who believe.
With that task marked off our “To Do List” we finished breakfast, read from T.L. Osborn’s classic book “Healing The Sick” (I wholeheartedly recommend this read to anyone who is facing a health need in their bodies!), and attacked the pile of trash bags I had lined up in our otherwise vacant living room.  When I began to get overwhelmed with what I saw before me (and behind me with the other pile of junk in our back patio), I suddenly heard a voice inside telling me to take it one bag at a time!
After I had cleared out the living room and got going on the patio, I received a call from my daughter in North Carolina and ended up speaking to her while I worked outside.  And before you know it, I was done cleaning up all the outside, had swept the patio clean and got back in the house just as it started to rain in earnest!  At the end of the day I was very excited about all that had been accomplished and took some time to worship the Lord for His very evident hand in everything we have faced in this move.
Today He continued to have an active role.  Our dog’s ride arrived earlier than expected around 8:30 AM.  This bump up in the schedule has given me the time to make all the various stop service calls before we head off to some afternoon appointments.  You know, I just can’t help but smile as I think about the various times over the last couple of weeks that I have started to worry, only to have that fear shattered by the obvious intervention of the Lord.
Romans 8:28 in the Message Bible summed it all up for me this morning by declaring: “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”  And speaking of something good, my sister came by late yesterday afternoon to say her goodbye’s and totally blessed us (like my brother did a few days ago) with her exuberance and encouragement for all the good things ahead and assured us that we are definitely making the right move to be near our kids.  Talk about a contrast between our early morning visitor and our end of the day guest!
Romans 8:15 once more in the Message Bible, perfectly defined my feelings about the whole thing saying, “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave tending life (ie; my early morning input).  It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next Papa? (the evening input)”  It kind of reminds me of Joshua’s declaration of faith to the Israelites when he stated that “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 KJV)  Well, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord by choosing to live the adventurously expectant childlike life of a believer who steadfastly believes and therefore acts on the truth of His Word no matter what our natural senses may be saying in contrast to His truth!
How about you?  Have a terrific weekend!  This will be the last blog for a week or so as we make the move across the country.  Next time I’ll be writing with a different view, in a new state, on the other side, next to another ocean!  Thanks for your prayers and support and remember to keep asking yourself… “What our Whom am I ADVENTUROUSLY expecting today?”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Exasperation!


Yesterday was sort of a rough day as it seemed like the physical and emotional tiredness of the move finally caught up with me.  Then I received a bit of disturbing news about how some folks were thinking of our move as a bad turn in life.  That one caught me by surprise as I can only see good things ahead for us.  But now that I think about it, these same individuals still feel that way about our move to Oklahoma a few years back!  My attempts to talk about all the miracles that came out of that period of time have always fallen on deaf ears!  
I was still fighting off being frustrated and was a little hot around the collar over the whole thing when I went to bed, but then I read from Barclay’s commentary on I Corinthians where he stated that “Faith without love is cold, and hope without love is grim” and “that Christian love never becomes exasperated with people.  Exasperation is always a sign of defeat.” (William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians pgs 143 & 148)
Those words immediately turned my thoughts off of myself and onto the need in the lives of those who see things differently than we do.  With that I was able to lay my head back on my pillow and pray for them and turn all my feelings of exasperation back to the Lord… again!  Have you noticed how certain things that bug you sometimes seem to pop up when you are physically worn out?
This morning I personalized Ephesians 5:9 and read it as: “For My light in you, for you, through you as well as on you, produces everything that is good, that has God’s approval and all that is true.”  I realized that the news I heard last night was simply an attempt to get my eyes off the light of God’s love in the midst of His anointed plan for our lives! 
So today I move forward with new light, with greater expectations and with more faith and strength to see us through our physical move.  I also am able to envision the Lord working His love in the lives of those that may, at times, exasperate me!  Who knows… maybe my experiences last night and this morning just might minister to someone who reads this today!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Separation


I must admit that it feels a little weird sitting here in a totally empty house!  Except for an old card table, a couple of chairs and our inflatable bed, our home is now completely void of any furniture, wall decorations and area carpets.  The movers left about six last night and proceeded to their next pick up in Sacramento California.  After that they have two more households to load up in California and then they hope to start off across the country to North Carolina by Saturday.  From our drop off they will then go south to Florida to unload the rest of the households.
This morning as I sat alone at the card table while studying my bible, I came across Romans 8:35 where the Apostle Paul is steadfastly imploring to his readers that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ.  He put forth the soul stirring question asking: “What will separate us from the love that Christ has for us?  Can trouble, distress, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, or violent death separate us from his love?”  He went on to state that “The one who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these things.” (Romans 8:35 & 37 God’s Word ©)
The idea of separation got me to thinking about our current move.  As I glanced at the emptiness of our home, I began to realize that even though we are separated from the natural things that makes our home a comfortable and safe abode, that we are NEVER separated from the love that Christ has for us.  The next couple of weeks will definitely be a season of change, a time when the routine of most everything in our lives will be unsettled, and also a time of new beginnings.  But as I meditated on Paul’s assurances this morning, I felt a deep peace in knowing that the foundation which we have established in the good soil of God’s love will still be there as the firm foundation to keep us steady through it all. (See Ephesians 3:17-19)
So even when I walk into the bedroom to get something off my dresser that isn’t there as I did without thinking this morning, I have the peace and joy in knowing that His love and victory for every activity of our lives is still very much present in and around us!  On Sunday the Worship Pastor made the comment that as Christians we always fight from the perspective of the victory that Jesus has already provided for us through His love in us, through us and for us and not from the enemy's lie of defeat.  The People’s New Testament makes the comment concerning these verses in Romans chapter eight that “The love of God is the very foundation of the Christian life.”
In this life we may find ourselves separated at times from some of the things that we depend on to bring order into our daily lives, but the one thing that we can depend on that we will NEVER be separated from is the love of Christ.  Think about that for a moment… day or night, in peaceful times or during rough seasons, that love is the firm foundation that will always keep you in safe harbor.  So I would encourage you to take His outstretched hand and let Him lovingly guide you through this day.  Have a great day, stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Monday, May 5, 2014

Strength!


Well… we are definitely in the home stretch as we prepare for our move to the east coast.  I had the thought yesterday morning while packing up the final kitchen items that are we ludicrous to be making this move, lock, stock and barrel, across the country, to a place we’ve never seen?  But then in an instant I had to laugh as I looked at how incredibly everything seems to be coming together and I knew that it has to be a God thing!  So any hesitation flew out the window and I hunkered down to complete the tasks before me.
Needless to say, I have found myself getting pretty wiped out by the end of the day and this morning when I got up it seemed like most of the energy, excitement and expectation had been just about drained out of me!  An older and seasoned friend once told me that I was a “plodder,” that is according to Dictionary.com “one who works with a constant and monotonous perseverance.”  She said that once I set a goal that I would “plod” on through, no matter what came across my path and complete the plan.  Over the last few days it has been that dogged perseverance that has kept me going.
With that thought in mind, I was not about to let those feelings slow me down, especially since I can now see the finish line up ahead.  So, I hopped out of bed, straightened up my tired body and began to speak out the Word concerning where my strength comes from. 
Later on during my morning bible study I came across something that led me to 2 Corinthians 12:9 and that proved to be the final energy boost that I needed to propel me into the finishing touches of our move that I need to complete today.  Here Paul is telling his readers about a conversation he had with the Lord.  In reply to his repeated requests concerning the pressures and resulting weakness he was experiencing through the continual persecutions he was bombarded with, the Lord simply stated that “My grace is all you need.  Only when you are weak can everything be done completely by my power.”  Paul got the message, learned his lesson and then taught it to the Corinthians saying: “So I will gladly boast about my weaknesses.  Then Christ’s power can stay in me.” (Easy To Read Version)
Well, I decided that I would learn that lesson today as well!  What about you?  A little while later after I had helped my wife get ready for the day and was preparing breakfast, I suddenly discovered that all the weariness I was experiencing was gone!  In fact, I seemed to have more strength and joy that I’ve had in a while!  Isn’t God good!
These next few days will be action packed for us as we send the dog off on her week long trip across the country, the moving van comes and then I focus on cleaning the house.  But throughout it all, I know that I have the confidence and the strength of the Lord working in me to accomplish what He has set before us.  You can also have that same confidence and physical and emotional strength as you determine to put your trust into His capable hands.  Think you can do it?  I know you can!  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whose STRENGTH am I expecting today?”

Friday, May 2, 2014

Biscuits and Gravy


Okay… let’s see if you can follow my convoluted thinking on this one.  Remember that you’re reading the thoughts of a lifelong children’s and youth leader here!  My wife and I are those older folks that still enjoy watching a fun Disney and similar teen movies because of the interaction between the characters along with the songs and hip hop dancing.  One of my newest favorites is the movie “Pitch Perfect” that came out in the last year or so.  My wife seems to come alive when she watches the music and dance in these flicks.  She still enjoys an old western as well and was captivated as we watched an old John Wayne movie that I had recorded on the Turner Classic Movie Channel last night.
But back to my line of thought this morning… As I read from I Corinthians 14:1 which instructs us to, “Pursue love…” (God’s Word ©), I suddenly recalled Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane’s famous line from the old Dukes of Hazard show whenever he got to flip on the red lights and chase the Duke boys exclaiming “Oooh, Oooh, Hot Pursuit!  I love it!”  The memory of those wild and crazy chase scenes which usually ended up with the Sheriff’s car smashed against a tree, in the Hazard Pond or wedged in the branches of an old Oak tree, got me thinking about the southern states in our country and their love for biscuits and gravy for breakfast!  Makes perfect sense, right?
The breakfast staple of buttermilk biscuits covered with a thick white sausage gravy always surprised me when we lived in Oklahoma.  Any time you go to a restaurant it is on the menu… and not just for breakfast!  I am not sure if it is just my California semi-health consciousness outlook on eating or what, but the thought of all that fat and cholesterol laden gravy normally caused me to smirk and shake my head!  Don’t get me wrong… I am sure that it is delicious… but still… it was just very different for me.  I don’t think I ever gave in to the temptation to try it, so it is probably best that I don’t say anymore!
The picture of Sheriff Coltrane chasing the Dukes through the country side, over twisting narrow mountain roads and jumping across anything that got in their way led me to see the significance of Paul’s idea of pursuing Godly love no matter what tries to distract you from acting according to God’s way of life.  Thayer’s tells us that to “pursue” something literally means “to seek after eagerly, earnestly in one’s endeavor to acquire it.”  Webster’s dictionary defines it as “to follow with a view to overtake, to follow with haste or to chase.”  And in John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible we see a similar correlation to Sheriff Roscoe to “follow hard after it, with an eagerness used in hunting, and with such violence as persecutors express in pursuing and laying hold on those they seek after.”
In other words, the pursuit of Godly love is a calculated and planned process that takes great concentration and continuous effort and dedication.  The Easy to Read translation of the Bible states I Corinthians 14:1 as “Love should be the goal of your life.”  Many commentators tell of Paul’s efforts to get his readers to understand the importance of Godly love as the central and most important effort of their lives.  The Message Bible goes even further saying: “Go after a life of love as if your life depends on it – because it does.”  That makes it kind of clear and distinct doesn’t it?  Not much left to say after that comment!
In talking about love and the use of the gifts, Paul went on to say in I Corinthians 14:3 that our words and actions should build up, encourage and comfort those to whom we interact with.  Everything we do should be led and fed by Godly love.  I think Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane would say that we should “Love ‘em and not Stuff ‘Em and Cuff ‘Em” with our words and actions!”
What do you think?  That might just be a good question to ask yourself every time you begin to react to a situation… Before you act ask yourself if your words and actions are going to Build up, Encourage and Comfort or are they going to “Cuff ‘Em and Stuff ‘Em?  That saying might seem a little funny, but I guarantee that it will get you thinking!  Have a great weekend.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Breakfast Muffins


Ah!  The breakfast theme continues… and today my mind drifted off into the thoughts of fresh, warm muffins right out of the oven!  A couple of years ago, I rediscovered the joy of baking delicious homemade muffins as a special treat in the morning.  At the time our little lemon bush was producing an abundance of fruit and as I considered what to do with the bountiful harvest, I came up with the idea of throwing together some lemon muffins.
So with that plan, I went on the internet, found a simple recipe and began in my new role as the happy little baker!  The first batch wasn’t as flavorful as I had hoped for so, as my Mom would say, I doctored it up with a lot more fresh squeezed lemon juice and grated lemon peel zest, along with the corresponding additions of extra sugar and a sweet glazed topping.  And then Walla… they were magnificent! 
Those lemon muffins soon became a staple at our kitchen table.  One morning though, as I rummaged through the fridge looking for the milk and eggs in order to bake a fresh batch, I realized that I was out of eggs.  So I made a quick decision to add some mayonnaise, thinking that since eggs are a major part of its mixture that it should be a good substitution… right?  Well, as you can imagine, the muffins were just not the same that day!  The consistency of the muffins was all wrong, they were on the heavy side and tended to fall apart in your hand.
The memory of that substitution popped into my mind this morning as I reviewed I Corinthians 13:13.  The Phillips New Testament in Modern English tells us that, “These three things remain, faith, hope and love.  But the best one of these is love.”  The first thought that came to me was that love is the key ingredient that makes the other two ingredients work to their fullest extent.  Galatians 5:6 tells us that faith works by love and I Thessalonians 5:24 implies that our love for God gives us the ability to have hope in His faithfulness to bring about the things He has promised us in His Word.
Love is like the egg in my lemon muffins!  Without the eggs the muffin recipe was not right and left an unsatisfying taste in your mouth.  The qualities of God’s love also reminded me of a time many years ago when I was in early elementary school and asked my Mom if I could bake a cake.  Everything went well until we took the cake out of the oven and noticed that it was about one inch tall!  Well, you guessed it!  In my excitement I forgot to add the three eggs called for in the recipe.  My Mom in her grace still encouraged me to go ahead and frost the cake.  Later that afternoon we even served the cake to my grandparents who had come over for a visit.  Oh, the things that grandparents will do for their grandkids!
Each slice of cake was not only very thin, but also had a quarter of an inch layer at the very bottom that was compressed and like rubber!  But that didn’t stop my grandfather from smiling as he choked down the snack.  Later as they were leaving, he leaned over to me and complemented me on my baking skills and then chuckled and with a wink whispered, “Next time just remember the eggs!”
I think that my grandpa’s encouragement would be a good thing for all of us to remember as we step out the door each day.  But instead of eggs, think on God’s love.  With everything we say or do throughout the day, just remember the main ingredient that makes everything else work better… the love of God!
I know that I have quoted this before, but it is so good that I feel compelled to say it again.  In his commentary on the love chapter in I Corinthians thirteen, William Barclay stated that “Faith without is love is cold and hope without love is grim.”  I have experienced this truth every day for the last four years whenever my wife and I are out and about and look into the eyes of the relatives, neighbors, and strangers that we encounter.  Without the intimate and ever increasing experiential knowledge of His love for us, it is hard to have a hope that is expectant and faith that can move mountains.
Have a good day today.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting today?”