Our New Home

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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Over The Top!"


Have any of you ever seen or maybe even heard of the old Disney movie “One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing?”  This flick was a family favorite when our kids were young.  It is a comedy film from the stable of popular Disney movies that were filmed in the ’50, ‘60’s and 70’s.  This particular classic came out in 1975.  It tells the humorous story of the theft of a dinosaur skeleton taken from the British Natural History Museum.  The storyline centers around a piece of microfilm that details the formula for the mysterious “Lotus X.”
The microfilm was secreted out of China by an agent of the Queen only to be hidden in the British museum when the “spy” is closely followed by Chinese secret agents.  One of the draws to the film was the comic performances of some well-known dramatic actors of the day highlighted by the “over the top” acting and humor of Peter Ustinov and Hellen Hayes. 
To me the funniest part of the movie is the Caucasian actors playing the part of Chinese nationals and Kung Fu experts!  Their characters are so obviously over-played and transparent in their parody of real life that one can hardly stop laughing throughout the movie.  The final scene with Peter Ustinov’s character dressed in the traditional Chinese gown and wooden sandals seals the deal and always leaves me shaking my head and chuckling on the couch!
As I continued reading from Acts chapter four this morning, I quickly realized that the Jewish religious leaders did not see “over the top” acting on the part of Peter and John when they had the Apostles brought to them in the court of the Sanhedrin. This interaction which is detailed in verses seven through twenty-two makes it clear that the leaders KNEW that something miraculous had happened and that Peter and John were the real deal!  We are told that “They made Peter and John stand in front of them and asked them; By what power or in whose name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7 God’s Word ©)
The word translated “power” is actually the Greek word “dunamis” meaning “miraculous power – by implication a miracle itself.” (Strong’s)  I’ve heard it told that this is where we get the English word “dynamite” from.  And it gets even more interesting when we understand the leaders use of the word “name.”  This word comes from the term “ginosko” which defines an intimate, experiential knowledge of the authority behind the name that was used.  (See Strong’s and Thayer’s)
The Jewish religious leaders could not deny that a miracle had happened and that these men had an intimate, experiential knowledge of the One whose power and authority was drawn on in order to cause the healing of the lame man.  Verse 13 says that these same leaders “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men (and) marveled; and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus!” (KJV)
I can picture the Jewish leaders swallowing hard and looking at each other with wide eyes as it was unmistakably evident that Peter and John didn’t just have a head knowledge of Jesus.  Their words and corresponding actions clearly demonstrated a heart knowledge that could not be swayed!  And they were right!  Peter and John and the other disciples NEVER backed down from that point on!  I also find it interesting that as you continue to read through the book of Acts you’ll find that the religious leaders pop up every-so-often with persecutions and accusations, but they never again prevail over the ever-growing Christian church!
As far as we were concerned, the verbal "over the top" accusations made toward us slowed tremendously and went underground as the visible evidence of my wife’s and my stand of faith and the steps we chose to follow began to manifest themselves.  Our words and corresponding actions have produced fruit that is hard to argue with!  How is your walk of faith going today?  Are you standing tall and strong like Peter and John did in the face of fault finding and accusation?  My encouragement to you is to stand firm like the early leaders of the church did and watch the troublemakers melt before the visible signs that manifest themselves in you and in the circumstances around you!
Have a great day today.  Continue to stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “In What power and in Whose name am I expecting to see results in today?”

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Making it FUN!


I was thinking last night as I was preparing dinner about how passionate my wife has been over some of the things that she has felt called to do.  In particular I recalled that joyful drive that caused her to pursue homeschooling for our four kids.  Our initial plan was to try it for a few years and see from there.  Well, a few years came and went and she never looked back, educating our kids through high school!
Just before we sat down for dinner I mentioned to her how her passion for homeschooling really set her apart from some other family and friends who also homeschooled their children.  And while I am sure that these individuals did it because they felt it was right for their kids and their family, some of them did not seem to possess the same passion for it as did Piper.  I am fairly certain that a few of them did it because of Piper.  Piper made homeschooling look like fun… which to her (and our kids) it was!  She lived it with our kids.  It was easy to find her with a big smile talking about their projects, potential new curriculums and resources, the many field trips that our wonderful homeschool group offered and new books she heard about that they could read.
Our homeschool was very much a hands on experience that Piper jumped right into the middle of!  I must admit that it was confusing to us how some folks we knew would simply seem to have their children doing bookwork at home, alone in their bedrooms and called that homeschool. 
To my wife and I, that nullified the whole purpose of the whole-life home experience that is directed by the personal influences and beliefs that we as their Mom and Dad desired to instill in our children’s lives, rather than the influences of the world which many times are contrary to Biblical truths.  We wanted to be the ones training up our kids in the way they should go during their formative years so that as they grew up they would not fade away from them but incorporate the truth of God’s Word into every decision they would face.
I finally came to the conclusion… as we have been told on many occasions, that we are pioneers!  I also mentioned to her a few of the many new paths that we forged over the years of our marriage that members of both our families eventually choose to follow us down!  But once again, in many instances, it was our passion and our pioneering spirit that separated us from the rest of the family.  Things that Piper made to look fun and excelled at didn’t always seem to go that way with them.  While Piper would happily share stories from our adventures in things like homeschool, we would find some of the others tending to complain and not be too thrilled about their experiences.  Many times it seemed that what they did was a burden rather than a joy!
I kind of got that same feeling from the comments of the Jewish leaders that questioned Peter and John following the miraculous healing of the lame man in Acts chapter three and four.  The first two verses in Acts chapter four grabbed my attention as I read, “Some priests, the officer in charge of the temple guards, and some Sadducees approached Peter and John while they were speaking to the people.  These religious authorities were greatly annoyed…” (God’s Word ©)
My initial reaction was to question why they were annoyed at the two Apostles.  As I read through the rest of the chapter I came to the conclusion that the leaders were not only upset about what and Who Peter and John were talking about, but maybe more importantly that they felt their own positions and way of life threatened!  The passion for what they were doing was quite evident in everything Peter and John said and did!  It seemed to me that the religious leaders lacked that same passion in their lives.  Therefore it annoyed them when they saw it in these two leaders of the followers of Christ!
I really believe that this is one of the reasons that some family members were instantly annoyed with us when we began to step out of what they considered the “norm” in the Spirit-led directions we choose to follow as we stepped into the combat mode for my wife’s health.  As I talked about it last night, I also began to see that this was a pattern that had been going on for years with these same folks who felt it to be their place to point out our faults and seek to correct us when we would step out and pioneer a new direction that differed from what they considered the right way. 
While sharing all this with my wife last night, I quickly sensed the importance of some of the foundational joy scriptures that we have held close to our hearts throughout our marriage, like those found in Nehemiah 8:10 and Proverbs 17:22.  I have come to firmly believe that the Lord established a heart of joy in us in order for us to confidently seek, discover and pursue the “new lands” that He has had (and still has) for us to explore over the 45 years of our relationship.  I can now see how that joy helped us to overcome the barriers we faced as we moved forward as well as those coming from behind us by those attempting to dispel our efforts… and to get us back from “La La Land!” (as I actually once had a relative tell me this!)
When you read down to the end of Acts chapter four you’ll find that this same spirit of joy was evident in the early church as Peter and John gathered with the rest of their congregation to rejoice and worship the Lord after receiving the persecution of the religious leaders!  So does that make Peter and John… as well as Piper and I… to be annoying people?  No, from what I’ve seen over the years, other folks tend to like to be around joyful people and not around complainers!
The people of Jerusalem and later those from around the world seemed to be drawn to the Apostles and members of the growing Christian church.  I believe that people in need like to see and be around people who are confident and even a bit passionate about what they believe in… especially when it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and those who follow His leadings into new lands and adventures! 
So… just how adventurous and passionate are you in your walk with the Lord?  How passionate are you in perusing the things that He calls you to do?  Do your efforts look to be easy and fun to others… like the way my wife usually makes things to be?  I think that’s the way Papa God wants it to be!  Wouldn’t you agree?  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I making to look like FUN today?”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fresh Encounters!

One of the many important aspects of the pastoral training that I received in Bible School was the importance of never neglecting your personal Bible study time.  It would seem that many ministers get so busy with their ministry duties and responsibilities that the only study time they get is when they are preparing for a service.  As a student of the many revivals that have swept the world, I always sit in awe as I read about some of the greatest Christian orators in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds that would literally spend untold hours and even days preparing for their Sunday sermons.


In many respects that sounds like heaven on the earth to me!  Over the years and countless programs and plays, VBS curriculums, puppet skits, retreats and even weekly kids and youth services, I have normally enjoyed the preparation time just as much as the actual presentation.  So to be able to take the time to spend hour upon hour preparing for one service seems fantastic!  Having been an associate at smaller churches where few if any additional staff was available, I have seen the senior pastors struggle to juggle all their weekly responsibilities from counseling, preaching, and the other spiritual and physical needs of the congregation to the upkeep of the building and yard care!  It doesn’t always leave much opportunity for personal study time!


I discovered early on in my various positions as a part-time staff Pastor, that I HAD to spend quality time alone in the Word or I was simply not going to be any good at ANY of the responsibilities I had in life as a husband, father, employee at a full time secular job, running a side business, and spending a lot more time than I was actually being reimbursed for at the church as I pursued my heart’s calling as a minister of the Gospel! 


As I am sure I have mentioned before, as a Youth or Children’s Pastor, I spent most of the Sunday’s and weekday services leading those groups.  In my last assignment I probably experienced less than a dozen times sitting in the adult service!  But that didn’t really matter as I was doing what I loved and was called to do!  The responsibility for my spiritual strength and growth was strictly on my shoulders though!


It is interesting that I am getting more word on a regular basis now that my wife and I are dealing with this attack on her health than I ever did before as an active minister in the field!  And believe you me, it is the one thing that has keep us going with a smile on our faces, an ever increasing faith in His Word of truth and peace in our hearts in the midst of persecutions, bad reports, facing the physical effects of the disease, and dealing with other individual’s negative words, feelings, reactions to our situation and choices and then helping to minister to their needs!


It would seem that Peter and John faced some of these same situations in their daily walk with the Lord.  In Acts chapter three we find them on their way to an afternoon service at the Synagogue when they came upon a man with a severe need.  I think it is interesting that they did not respond with their heads but with what was inside them.  They knew that what this lame man needed was to be found in Jesus and not some physical solution and made that pretty clear to him!  Peter spoke to the man and told him that he didn’t have the physical things that the man was requesting, but boldly stated: “I don’t have any money, but I’ll give you what I DO have.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6 God’s Word ©/MKJV)


There are many things that impressed me with Peter and John’s response to this situation.  First the Word tells us that they were on their way to a meeting.  I am sure that these two main leaders in the early church were VERY busy men, but they still knew the importance of keeping themselves filled and fresh with the Word of God!  And like I stated above, they didn’t think twice about the need that presented itself to them at the Temple gate, they immediately responded from their hearts and not with their heads!  I think that this action tells more about where a Christian is in their walk with the Lord than anything else!


I was also encouraged with the reaction that the people who witnessed the event and its aftermath.  Verses 9-11 tell us that “All the people saw him walking and praising God,” (God’s Word ©) and they were amazed, stunned and excited all at the same time and ran to hear Peter preach a message!  Peter and John’s actions brought thousands more people into a saving knowledge and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ!  (Read about it all in Acts chapters three and four)


I remember when visiting a friend in Oklahoma when we flew back there for our youngest daughter’s wedding a year after our return to California, and she questioned me about some of the “confusing and troubling” comments she had heard from a church friend in California who had talked to one of those who had accused me of some faults in caring for Piper.  The negative report she heard was definitely NOT one to arouse amazement and excitement about Piper’s perspectives!  Those who found fault approached our situation from their heads and not from their hearts and instead of rallying the troops into a strong faith for Piper’s eventual healing, it raised questions, fostered distrust and reeked of hopelessness.


I want to live my life in such a way that it leaves those I encounter with a sense of expectation in God and His promises to us.  But the only way I can hope to attain to this model in the face of the constant drain caused by the situations in our life, I MUST have daily fresh encounters with God in His Word!  What about you?  Have a wonderful day today.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What FRESH ENCOUNTERS am I expecting to have with God today?”

Monday, April 27, 2015

Decide to Decide!


Our oldest daughter and my wife and I had planned to go to a bookfaire on Saturday, but a proliferation of rain caused us to postpone our adventure until Sunday when the weather was forecasted to turn to partly cloudy skies.  The event was presented by the Friends of the Durham Library and was held at the main library in downtown Durham, North Carolina. Since the bookfaires from our local county library system back in California had been a mainstay event for our family even before Piper taught any of the kids to read, we were quite excited to attend a “big city” bookfaire!
I was happy to see that the library had its own parking lot and that we were not having to deal with metered parking.  I was also a little surprised as the large parking lot was rather full!  But as usual, God was good to us and we were able to park in the only available handicapped parking space that just happened to be right next to the entrance to the faire!  My pleasure was diminished though, as we viewed the layout of the event.
The books were arranged throughout the library warehouse which had large roll-up doors open on either side and led to a rather large tent that housed the children’s section along with music and movies.  The mystery and adventure books were in the conference room of the library which was accessible by a narrow and steep three step walkway.  There were a lot of books (& people) stuffed into the confined areas.  It began evident pretty quickly that the set up was not very conducive for Piper’s wheelchair!
So we went to plan “B” when our daughter suggested that she stay with Piper while I looked around and then switch places with her.  I was somewhat miffed by the set up and only came away with one book as I let the inconveniences of the situation get to me!  Our daughter on the other hand, had a great time and filled up a large bag with all kinds of “treasures.”
As I sat outside on the lawn with my wife toward the end of our stay, I began to reconsider my feelings.  I made a conscience effort to think about what I enjoyed with our adventure.  First of all, I enjoyed our getting to spend the day with our daughter Jamie and didn’t want my displeasure to ruin her excitement and joy (her full name is Jamie Joy… get it?).  I also enjoyed the short ride to one of the two big cities in our area (Durham is north of our town and has a population of about 250 thousand, while the capital city of Raleigh is south of us with a population of about 450 thousand – definitely smaller than many of the large cities in the Bay Area of Northern California, but still considered big cities in these parts!).  I enjoyed looking at all the books as I am a great lover of books, and enjoyed the little bit of exploring we did around the city on the way home.
I decided to decide that I had a good time and was happy and contented by the end of the day!  And despite taking a couple of wrong turns near the library, we never really got lost, experienced a bit more of the local culture, and had a great cup of coffee while enjoying our grand-dogs at Jamie’s afterwards!  Pretty good wouldn’t you say!
I re-lived yesterday’s events and decisions as I read from the second chapter of acts this morning.  (Every time I say that I want to break into a chorus of the song “Mansion Builder” as written and performed by the seventies and eighties Christian band The Second Chapter of Acts!)  I found myself comparing it to the inner turmoil that Peter and the other eleven Apostles must have had to deal with when they decided to stand up in front of the crowd to explain what was happening after the strange events that had just occurred in that upper room in downtown Jerusalem.
I think at that point they had to decide to decide to make good and to put aside their own concerns and fears.  After all, that crowd was most likely made up of the same group of people that had been stirred up into a frenzy and convinced that Jesus needed to be crucified some forty days previous to that day.  The thought of the crowd turning on them and shouting “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” had to be in the back of their minds.
But by that time Jesus was so big in them that everything else including their own peace of mind, any potential fear, and personal comfort zones didn’t matter at all!  These men were burning inside and just had to share the love of God with anyone who would listen… and as it turned out… the crowd was ready to hear and receive what they had to share!  Jesus was the center of the Apostle’s thoughts and not themselves!
I think that this is an important lesson for all of us to consider.  It is something that my wife and I live with on a daily basis as it is very easy to see what is foremost in people’s lives when they come into contact with someone in a wheelchair.  After six years of dealing with this we still have some relatives that choose to stay distant and disconnected from us.  We recently received some very infrequent correspondence that demonstrated how out of touch they are with Piper’s needs and the situation as a whole.
It has become easy for me to see that when we look at the world through eyes focused on me and my needs instead of Jesus and His desires for people, that you become lost and ineffective to the greater purposes that God has for us to accomplish on this earth.
I was also impressed this morning as I read Jesus’ first response to the Apostles when He appeared to them as the two men who were on the road to Emmaus told of their recent experience with Him.  Luke 24:36 tells that “While they were talking about what had happened, Jesus stood before them.  He said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”  (God’s Word ©)  Jesus could see their comfortableness with the report they were hearing and their fear as He appeared and immediately set out to comfort them and meet their needs.  His first reaction was not to criticize and point out their problems or shortcomings, but to do what was necessary to bring peace, understanding and healing to them.
That is the way I think that He wants us also to respond to those we encounter throughout the daily events of our lives.  I’ve experienced the finger pointing of others and I must admit… it does NOTHING to bring peace, understanding or healing to ANY situation.  The key as both Peter and Jesus demonstrated is to put aside yourself… to take the focus off of you and put it on Him!  Then trust in Him to make the necessary changes that the situation may require.
Give it a try this week and watch Him perform His Word with signs following! (See; Jeremiah 1:12 and Mark 16:20)  Remember… He is the one that is “able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all…” (Ephesians 3:19 NKJV) not us!  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to change things in my world today?”

 

Friday, April 24, 2015

At the End of the Day... or At Nine O'clock in the Morning!


My boss in one of my secular jobs asked me one day during an informal meeting of our management team what strengths I thought I brought to our group.  Without much hesitation I stated “team building.”  From an early age, I have always seemed to understand the importance of a motivated and united team be it in either the secular or sacred world.  And even though the purposes, pursuits and motivation tools and approach may differ between the two, it is just as important to have a smooth flow within those you work with to attain your goals.
In my first position as a Youth Minister, I learned from a seasoned pastor the importance of building a strong support team within the church and especially with the parents of our students.  Through the years I carried on this principle with our children’s ministry leadership teams as well.  I diligently held quarterly training meetings with our ministry helpers, had them over to our home a few times for a steak BBQ, and also promoted the excitement for the ministries we were involved with through Family Fun Nights, Youth and Parents Nights, Vacation Bible Schools, and church meal fundraisers, car washes and so on.
To be honest, we never really made much money with the fundraisers, but the enthusiasm, team bonding, support and vision catching from the congregation for the children and youth ministry was fantastic!  My wife and I have always been encouragers and through the years have worked hard to build up and encourage the individuals we work with at the church, with our homeschool group and with family members.  It is interesting to realize how far a smile and a positive word and the example of a joy filled life can go in turning a frown around in the life of another individual!
One tool we have depended on to help those around us is to turn their attention to the Word of God.  I have found this to be a mood changer that can quickly turn an atmosphere filled with hopelessness into an environment where the expectation of God’s best can emerge and bring light and life onto the scene.  Like I have mentioned on numerous occasions, this is something I now find myself doing on almost a daily basis as I push my wife in her transport chair around our community be it in the neighborhood or in the local Walmart!
In the first few verses in his epistle, the Apostle John establishes some basic truths for us to know and follow.  He begins by declaring that Jesus and His Word are the same.  Then he goes on to say that in Jesus (and thus His Word) is life and that this life is the light of men that shines through any darkness in their lives. (See: John 1:1-5)  With that understanding it makes sense that the Word will excite, encourage and motivate anybody’s life.
We see this very example in the second chapter of Acts when the Holy Spirit comes on the scene for the first time and infills the lives of the 120 disciples of Christ meeting in the upper room.  They got so excited, encouraged and motivated that they acted like happy drunks!  Peter saw the effect that their joy was having on those that were quickly gathering around them and immediately stood up to explain and share the Good News!
I can just imagine Peter swaying under the power of the Holy Ghost as he faced the crowds, burst out into laughter and declare “These men are not drunk as you suppose (for) It’s only nine in the morning!” (Acts 2:15 God’s Word ©)  His Word infused speech that day excited, encouraged and motivated over 3000 men, women and children to get saved!  At the end of that same chapter we see where these folks and their ever growing group regularly met to build themselves up and flow in unity of purpose in their pursuit of the things of Papa God. 
It would seem that the early church understood the importance and need to encourage each other daily.  They knew the importance of the Word as the foundation of who they were and how they lived their lives as well as It’s place in changing their world.  A word to the wise though… understand that not everyone will always respond to the Word and allow it to work in them.  In every group I have led in the church and in my secular management positions, there has always been one of two individuals who did not buy into what I was preaching!  So I have tended to reach out to them with a little more personal effort… and sometimes it helped, but sometimes it didn’t!  But, I never let it stop me from doing what I am doing.  I have always been persistent to keep moving on!
Be it at nine o clock in the morning, or at the end of the day, each individual is personally responsible for the decisions they make during that 24 hour period.  My job… and I would think yours as well, is simply to smile, be encouraging and stay excited as we share the Word and allow Jesus to work HIS life and light into their lives.  Have a great weekend.  Be an encourager to someone this week as you stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to excite, encourage and motivate today?”

 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

At the End of the Day... You Can Feel It in The Air


I have written many times about the countless lessons I have learned over the last six years in the battle we are winning with the attack on my wife’s health.  Another lesson I have learned may have nothing to do with Piper’s health… although it has helped me to unwind and cope with the stress that comes with the fight.  That lesson is that I really enjoy the game of baseball!  Upon our return from Oklahoma I was impressed with my older son’s excitement and zeal for what is often called “America’s Favorite Pastime!”
I was raised by a father that loved the game and fondly remember many weekends helping my Dad work in the backyard listening to the transistor radio sitting on the fence that was broadcasting the San Francisco Giants games.  You think that with all that exposure to the game that I would have continued the tradition when I moved out.  But alas, I got caught by the football craze and found myself enjoying the University of California at Berkeley football games on the radio and NFL games on TV as I puttered around the house with our young family each weekend.
Josh’s enthusiasm must have roused those old childhood memories in me though!  In 2010 I got caught up with the Giants World Series run and I’ve been an ardent fan ever since!  After moving to North Carolina I added the MLB package to our satellite programming and have been able to watch any game going on in the league… and it had been great! 
One thing I have noticed is that the Giants ownership and management team seemed to have nailed it when it comes to knowing what it takes to please the fans.  As I watch their games played on the road as well as games played by other teams around the league, I almost always comment to my wife about how empty the other stadiums are when compared to Giants games at AT&T Park on the bay in San Francisco.  Yesterday the Dodger’s announcer commented on the same phenomenon and mentioned that last night’s game marked well over 300 consecutive sold out home games!  The Giant’s fans have been filling that stadium even in their losing seasons.
When my son and I attended a game at the AT&T Stadium back in 2013, you could feel the electricity in the air.  And even though it seemed like we were miles away from the action sitting in the top section along the third base line, we still felt like we were an intimate part of the festivities!  It also seems to come through the TV when you watch their games. 
Last night’s game was one of the few times when the MLB TV package did not offer the Giants broadcast of the game, so we had to watch the Dodgers broadcast team’s presentation of the program.  Maybe I am a bit prejudice, but even though their well-known and popular announcer Vin Scully was good and very informative, he did not draw the listener (at least not me…) into a feeling of oneness with the events happening on the field and in the stadium.  When I watch the Giants longtime broadcast team of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, I can’t help but be drawn into the action, feel like a member of the Giants team and laugh at their banter and the fun they have during the games!
That’s kind of the same feeling I get when I keep reading and re-reading from Luke 24:32 where the two disciples of Jesus talk about their experience with Him on the road to Emmaus.  They were so excited about their recent time with Jesus that they can hardly contain themselves as they comment: “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (MKJV)  The Greek word translated “opened” says it all… It is defined by Thayer’s as “to open one’s soul, ie; to rouse in one the faculty of understanding or the desire of learning.” Dictionary.com describes “rouse” as “to bring out of a state of sleep, inactivity, fancied security or depression.  A signal for reveille – which is a signal to arise (like from a drum or bugle)”
When Jesus spoke and opened up the Word, He aroused in those around Him a passion or burning desire to go out and do His will!  He forever changed the lives of those two men who were ready to throw in the towel as they walked away from all the action in Jerusalem.  Over the past six years my wife and I have first-hand experience with both sides of those two men’s experience.  We have been thoroughly blessed, built up and excited over the potential of our God by individuals burning with a passion for Papa God, and on the other hand, have felt the depression and abundance of hopelessness in the voices and faces of those who just don’t seem to get it!
I clearly remember trying my best to look sympathetic and understanding as one couple came over to our house back in 2009 and proceeded to tell us of their and other family member’s fears caused by things they couldn’t do to help us.  I recall thinking “Gee, this is really encouraging…”  At a time when I was feeling very vulnerable, emotionally beat up and straining to reach out to Papa God and gain the needed strength required for the long road we faced, their words did little to help!
Then there are those like a neighbor we met as we drove into the garage the other day who came up to us expressing his appreciation for a hot car.  Following introductions he bent down next to Piper, talked gently with her and then began to pray for her in his native Nairobi language.  Now let me say, I am REALLY particular who I let lay hands on my wife, but this young man’s sincerity and personal intimacy with our Savior was VERY evident.  Piper immediately opened her eyes and watched and smiled the whole time.  Let me tell you folksThat was encouraging!  That was the kind of positive faith that we needed!  Yesterday we met again and will be arranging a time for him to come over and pray with us at our home.
I think as Born-Again members of Christ’s family, we carry that same gene of encouragement as Jesus does, don’t you?  Therefore it should only be natural for us to reach out to those in needy situations with word and actions of faith and not spreading fear and bad vibes!  I would like to think that whenever a Christian leaves our presence that we should feel the electricity in the air, like that at a San Francisco Giants game.  Just like we felt for the rest of the day after experiencing a few moments with a man who knows His God!  I can tell you without any hesitation… at the end of that day, we were both charged with the expectation of God’s best!
So have a great day today!  Reach out and charge someone’s day with the glorious power and presence of Him and His Word… and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to pass on to someone else today?”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

At the End of the Day... Covenants


I thought a lot about covenants over the weekend.  At one point I had a conversation with someone about the new neighborhood that we discovered near the High School in the little town of Apex that looked very appealing to us.  I explained to this individual that we had just renewed our contract at the apartments for another year but had the option to buy out of it if necessary.  I had made sure to note that this particular contract had a clause in it that allowed us to break the agreement if a special opportunity came up!
I also realized that there are a couple of other contracts - or covenants - that I entered into that definitely do not have a “buy out” clause in them.  That thought is what brought up the whole idea of my current blog theme of “At the End of the Day.”  With a face set like flint, one of the greatest lessons I have learned since our return from Oklahoma in 2009, is that at the end of the day I am responsible to two people, my wife Piper and Papa God!
I entered into a covenant with both of these individuals a long time ago, and I am not about to allow a rough patch in our lives to cause me to break those agreements… which in reality… are covenants sealed with blood!  This may not always be popular or an enjoyable subject matter, but to me and many others, it is a bond that should not… and in my book… will not be broken!  Jesus spilled His blood for you and me on Calvary and brought it into the very Holy of Holies in heaven sealing our redemption and our position in Christ.  My wife and I sealed our marriage with the shedding of blood on the evening of July 12, 1975. 
That aspect of the marriage covenant isn’t spoken of too much anymore but that doesn’t lessen the importance that we and I believe Papa God places on it.  I remember some wonderful black and white photographs in a book that we sold in the photography store I worked at from 2002 – 2004 that captured the tradition in some European countries where the mother of the bride would triumphantly hang the honeymoon sheets from the window of the highest building in the village to visually prove the consummation of the marriage covenant.   I am very thankful that my mother in law didn’t think about that and surprise us at the Sea Ranch Lodge on the northern coast of Sonoma County, California!
Since 2009 and the diagnosis of my wife’s situation, my kids and I have been bombarded with many opinions, suggestions and some vehement accusations concerning my care for my wife.  But like I previously mentioned, after the initial reactions of shock, frustration, confusion and hurt, I quickly learned that the only ones that I needed to please was God and His directives to us and my beloved wife!  It became quite evident that most of the “input” from those whom I have to believe had good intentions, was based on shaky, or in many cases, false information!  It became clear to me that these folks did not really know us and were basing their attempts to help (?) on their own experiences and not on ours!
Years ago I remember hearing a popular Christian pastor who speaks a lot on financial matters, talking about the miracle surrounding his wife’s healing from disease.  He mentioned that one of the lessons he learned early on was that he could do without the denomination that he belonged to because they did not believe it was God’s will to heal anymore, but that he couldn’t do without his wife!  I think at that moment he realized the same thing that I finally did!
At the end of the day, I am only responsible to following the Lord’s loving directions for me in the care and healing of my wife… and not to people’s suggestions that would send me in a different direction than what He has instructed us, in agreement with His Word and His Spirit, to do!
And you know… I think the same thing is true for every Christian.  At the end of the day… we are responsible to Him.  As I read from the end of the four Gospels and the beginning of the book of Acts this morning, I realized that the Apostle Peter is a very good example of this.  After totally failing in his commitment to the Lord during the events leading up to Calvary, the Lord met with him privately, shed His grace on Peter and reinstated him to a leadership role in the early church. (see Luke 24:34)
Following Jesus’ assentation into heaven, Peter put aside any personal fears he might have had as well as any accusations, criticism and/or suggestions he may have received from the other disciples and became their undisputed leader and the public face of the fledgling new movement.  He clearly understood that at the end of the day, he was responsible to God.
Now I definitely do not have the bold outspoken personality of Peter (I would align myself closer to the Apostle John who was quieter, softer and more emotional!) but I have learned to stand firm and confident as I fulfill my covenant responsibilities toward my wife and Papa God!  Like I said… these are covenants that I will not break!  How about you?  What covenants have you entered into?  How serious are you about not breaking them?  Is it time to get it right and set your face to meet the responsibilities you signed up for… or sealed in blood?  Think about it…
Have a great day.  Stay in tune and responsible to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What covenants am I expecting to keep today?”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

At The End of the Day... You Get What You Expect!


As Piper and I and our pooch stepped out for our first walk of the day yesterday with a watchful eye on the heavens as it was getting darker by the moment, I found myself discussing my personal experience with the Word that I mentioned in the day’s blog post.  I was telling her how that after a while in the Word, that I suddenly noticed that my entire mood had changed.  Without really noticing the moment it actually occurred, the Monday “blaws” had been replaced by an excitement and anticipation of good things ahead.  While relating this to her I paused in mid step because I became aware that the whole experience had been preceded by one other important step that I failed to see yesterday.  When I had sat down to begin my Bible Study, I fully expected the Word to dissolve the “blaws” that I was fighting at the time!  And you know what… It did!
I was reading in a classic book entitled “Healing the Sick” by T.L. Osborn, who along with his wife Daisy travelled the world holding huge Healing Meetings where literally hundreds of thousands received their healings from just about every imaginable sickness and disease, commented that in their experience they quickly learned that the people that came to their meetings received exactly what they expected!  Those who were built up in the Word of God and expected God to do what He said He would do received their healings.  Those who didn’t expect, went away with what they expected… absolutely nothing!
I realized this morning as I pondered all this, that I’ve come to the point that I get excited and expectant just looking at my Bible!  When I see it I am reminded of the manifestations of His presence, His Power and His goodness that I have experienced over the years!  That revelation reminded me of the time years back when I had sort of an embarrassing experience when I got to work at Agilent Technologies and noticed something lying under my briefcase on the passenger seat.
The house we were renting at the time had the washer and dryer in the garage.  We always kept both of our cars in the garage with mine on the right near the washer and dryer.  Since I was gone most days, that made it easier for my wife and the kids to do the laundry during the day.  At night or on weekends the car was there and since I didn’t want anyone to potentially scratch the car, I had requested that no one pile laundry on the Camaro.  As a compromise, I yielded to Piper’s request that I keep the passenger window open so that they could put laundry on the seat of the car if necessary, instead of on top of it!
On this particular day I had an early morning meeting and left just before daylight.  When I entered the car I tossed my briefcase on the passenger seat, rolled up the window and thought nothing about it until I parked in the parking lot that was now lit up with the first rays of sunlight.  I had reached over to get my briefcase at the same time I noticed a co-worker walking toward the car.  I nodded to him, picked up the case and then noticed a pair of Piper’s undergarments on the seat that must have been left behind from the previous evening’s laundry!
Well, I am sure that I probably turned beet red as I quickly grabbed them and stuffed them under the seat just as my fellow supervisor bent down to greet me at the window!  He never asked why I was so red and a bit flustered and I never said anything about it.  That one piece of clothing sure did make me think about my wife throughout the rest of the day though!  I think I mentally re-lived every fun time that we had from our dating days in High School up to and including the current time!  By the time I got home I couldn’t wait to give her a hug and relate the funny experience of the morning… and those throughout the day that reminded me of her! 
I think that this is the same way that Papa God wants us to think about and be expectant of Him and His Word whenever we come into contact with it.  I believe that is called faith!  As you know, I especially like the way that the God’s Word translation states the classic definition of faith as found in Hebrews 11:1 declaring that: “Faith assures us of things we EXPECT and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot (yet) see.”  That statement by the writer of Hebrews tends to agree with T.L. Osborn’s statement that we get what we expect!  (Or I guess, it is actually the other way around!)
So for you and me, it comes down to the thought, that at the end of the day, what are you EXPECTING from your relationship with Papa God, His Son, the Holy Ghost living in you and the truth of His Word?  Are you expecting to be changed when you come into contact with Him?  Do thoughts of Him and His word excite you?  Well, I think they should!  Have a great and exciting day.  Stay in tune and lit up by His Word and keep asking yourself… “What am I EXPECTING today?”

 

Monday, April 20, 2015

At the End of the Day - Intro


I hope that all of you had a great weekend.  We had a fair amount of rain which means that we weren’t able to get out as much as we would have liked!  The plan for today is to sneak out and back before the forecasted afternoon showers begin in earnest.  Yesterday afternoon I went online and subscribed to the Raleigh News and Observer daily paper.  It is the second largest newspaper in the state and traces its roots back to 1865 when "The Sentinel" was first published.  This paper was eventually absorbed by “The Observer, which in turned merged with The News in 1880 to become The News and Observer.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_News_%26_Observer)
My thought is that this will help me to become more in tune to the ambiances of our new home!  I found out a little too late that this weekend was when our little city celebrated their name in fame in Civil War history with a living reenactment of the “Battle of Morrisville” which was fought in the final days of the war between the states from April 13-15, 1865.  It was the last official battle of the Civil War between the armies of Union Major General William T. Sherman and one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States army, General Joseph E. Johnston. 
The Confederates were hastily retreating and frantically attempting to transport their remaining supplies and wounded west toward the final Confederate encampment in Greenboro, NC when the Union troops began firing their artillery from the heights overlooking the Morrisville train station.  Calvary charges and various skirmishes ensued, but the trains caring the wounded soldiers from previous battles were able to withdraw.  General Johnston finally sent a courier to General Sherman asking for a conference to discuss an armistice.  The leaders met on April 17th to discuss what would become the largest surrender of the war.
It would have been fun to participate in the event, but like I stated, the inclement weather and lateness in finding out about the activity sort of squashed the idea!  I figured that since we are living here, that I want to learn as much as I can about the area, it’s history, it ways and then meld into the atmosphere where applicable!
That is the same thing that I like to do whenever I read the Word of God!  Take this morning for example.  I awoke fairly rested, but just had the “Monday morning blaws!”  Do you know what I am talking about?  There was nothing really exciting on the schedule for the day and I just felt a little out of it as I shuffled toward the coffee maker.
Once my computer loaded up my Bible Study program I felt the urge to go back to what I had been studying last week in Luke chapter twenty-four concerning the events of the two men who were traveling on the way to the city of Emmaus and then their return to Jerusalem.  What caught my attention was the immediate reaction of the two men and then that of the others after Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” (Luke 24:45 God’s Word ©)
The two men exclaimed after their initial visit with Jesus that “wasn’t it like fire burning in us when he (Jesus) talked to us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32 GNB)  Then after forty days of concentrated teaching from the Word, the disciples were said to be “overjoyed as they went back to Jerusalem (after Jesus’ assentation into heaven).
In both instances, the Word totally changed their attitudes, charged them with excitement and filled them with an expectancy of better things to come!  In other words, it filled them with the ambiances of heaven itself!  And that is exactly what happened to me this morning.  After about a half an hour in the Word, I suddenly noticed that the “blaws” were gone and I was actually excited and expectant of what Papa God had in store for us today… even if it was a Monday!
You know… a trip to CVS to pick up a prescription was sounding a little exciting!  Getting to go out into the freshly rinsed environment with the water droplets gleaming off the green blades of grass and from the trees that are just regaining their leaves for the summer… how beautiful it all is!  The Word tends to turn the mundane into an exciting and adventurous event!  Think about it… The Word that Jesus shared with those 120 or so disciples turned them from uneducated fisherman, commoners, and housewives into a world-changing force of power-packed, victorious and confident men and women of God! 
And that is the same thing He will do for you and me!  At the end of the day you’ll look back and the only thing that you’ll be able to utter is “Wow!”  Nuff said?  So…Get some Word and then go out and thoroughly enjoy and change your world!  Have a super day by staying in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or who’s world am I expecting to change today?”

Friday, April 17, 2015

An American V8!


I recently mentioned that I have been a car nut since I was a kid.  I am not sure when this began to percolate in me, but I do remember starting my long running subscription to Motor Trend Magazine when I was in Junior High.  Hummm, so there we go back to the sixties again!  While in seventh through ninth grade I developed a hobby building model cars.  Now these weren’t just any cars, mind you!  They were ‘60’s mid-size muscle cars like the GTO, Mercury Comet, Chevy Chevelle SS 396, Oldsmobile 442 and the various Dodge/Plymouth Mopar series automobiles.  Most of the models I put together were around 1/24 scale replicas.
Since those days I have relished the sound of a finely tuned V8 engine and the sweet purr that rumbles from their tailpipes!  When we were living in Oklahoma my wife and I were dreaming of getting a new car and for some unexplained reason (better gas mileage than our Suburban I think…) had narrowed our sights down to a Mazda 3, 5 door sports wagon.  We even rented a Mazda 3 over a weekend when the truck was at the dealer getting some work done.  Later on another student and co-worker gave us an old Mazda four door compact.  The car had 196 thousand miles on it and ran for another couple of years after we left it with our youngest son in Oklahoma.
At one point just before our last Christmas in Oklahoma, both of our cars went down so I called our friends at the local Enterprise rental company to see what they had.  I asked for the least expensive model.  Well, when we arrived the only available car they had left was a Mustang!  (It had been snowing and they had were inundated with the need for cars while customers had their own cars repaired from various accidents!)  We were able to rent that car at the small car price and ended up driving it for a month until the Suburban was back on the road.  The moment Piper and I got into that car we looked at each other, smiled and said: “Oh… this is it!”  That long hood, sharp looks and American punch instantly won us over… And as you know… a few years later we now find a Vapor Silver Mustang GT convertible in our garage!
The first thing I did when our older son came to visit a few weeks back was to bring him down to our garage so he could sit in the car and start it up to soak in the beautiful tunes of the small block V8!  To me nothing can come close to the rumble of a V8 engine.  Many times I’ll see what might be a sharp looking “Rice Rocket” driving by, but then have to shake my head in disappointment as it sounds like a souped up vacuum cleaner!  If you want the real thing, then to me (and most likely most guys from my generation), it has to be a V8!
That same thought floated by me today as I read from Luke 24:32.  When the two men on the road to Emmaus declared: “… Weren’t we excited, like a fire burning in us, when he (Jesus) talked with us on the road and opened up the meaning of the Scriptures for us?” (God’s Word ©/Easy to Read Version), I immediately thought about the temple guards who proclaimed to the Jewish leaders concerning Jesus, “… No one ever spoke like this man!” (God’s Word ©)  I also recalled Matthew 7:28-29 where it states that “when Jesus finished speaking, the people were amazed at his teaching.  (For) He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (ERV/ESV)
Just like the way the rumble of an American V8 impresses me far more than the exhaust sounds of the hot little four and six cylinder cars that are popular on the market today, the folks mentioned in the above scriptures were far more impressed over Jesus’ words than those of their own religious teachers!  The verse in Matthew paints the vivid picture of the listeners being amazed or astounded (KJV) over what Jesus had to say!  For they described His speaking as one having authority!
When you look at the way Jesus taught throughout the four Gospels, you will see that authority to Him was not speaking with judgement, with a superior look (with a ‘know it all attitude’ and always having to have the final word) or as one simply intellectually teaching on a particular subject.  Jesus taught from His heart NOT His head.  When He spoke, you knew it was coming from a very intimate experiential knowledge of His Papa God!
That’s the kind of effect that I desire my words and my life to have on those I come into contact with on a daily basis.  I may not always have the opportunity to bring Jesus and His Word into the conversation, but at least I can mirror through my actions and whatever I say, an image of my personal, intimate relationship with the Master!  How about you?  What or Who do your actions and/or words mirror?  Do you sound like a souped up vacuum cleaner or like the real thing?  I want the world I touch to leave my presence with that same satisfied look that my son had when turned off the ignition on our Mustang and flashed me a huge smile!
So, I encourage you to go out this weekend and give your world something to smile about!  Have a wonderful weekend.  Stay in tune (no pun intended!) to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to sound like today?”

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Shut Up!


It would seem that this is my personal retro week as I keep finding myself thinking about special events that happened to me in the 1960’s!  Today I remembered an experience that happened when my mother suddenly decided to go on a unexpected trip downtown.  I can still see that mischievous gleam in her eye when she grabbed her purse and asked if I wanted to go for a special ride with her.  She didn’t say too much in the car until we pulled up in front of a pet shop in the downtown area.  Then she turned to me and announced that we were going to get a dog!
I was so excited at her statement that I thought I would burst!  We bounded out of the car and stuck our noses on the store window where we observed a handful of little white puppies frolicking around inside.  There was one white and brown pooch that was off in the corner by itself and my Mom and I both decided that she was the one!  So we went into the store and talked to the clerk.  When he looked over at me and asked me to step into the window display and go get the dog, I thought that I must be in heaven!  I can’t tell you how excited I was as the little dog cuddled up in a blanket on my lap and contentedly snoozed on the way home.
Once we got home I could no longer contain my joy as my Mom took the dog and told me to go tell my brother and sister about our purchase.  I swung open the door and ran, hopped and skipped across the walkway, madly threw open the front door and ran through the house screaming at the top of my lungs that “We got a dog!  We got a dog!” 
Well, my brother and sister must have figured that I had finally lost my mind when they came out of their rooms and looked at me like I was crazy!  Their confusion at my wild behavior and personal doubts that it could be true (as my Dad had stated on many occasions that he did not want a dog!) was silenced when my Mom calmly walked through the front door with Daisy in her arms.
I don’t recall too much more about that day except for when my Dad came home from work.  To say the least, he was not a happy camper.  If I remember the oft told story, his words were “Okay… you can keep her, but I won’t even look at her!”  But as the story goes, when Daisy began to whimper in her new and yet unknown surroundings in the middle of that first night, it was my Dad that got up and comforted her.  From that moment on he was hooked!  For the next twenty years she and my Dad were bosom buddies, and I also recall his tears when the three of us had to bring Daisy to the vet for her last visit.
I would imagine that the two men who had been with Jesus while traveling on the road to Emmaus in Luke chapter twenty four, reacted close to the same way as me in my childhood experience, as they burst into the room where they “found the eleven apostles and them that were with them gathered together.” (Luke 24:33 God’s Word ©)  The folks in the room must also have thought that the two men had lost their minds and looked at them like they were crazy!  And it wasn’t until Jesus came in and began to talk with them that their confusion, fear and doubt evaporated.
As I was reading this today, I suddenly became aware that the excitement of the two men’s personal experience with Jesus gave them a testimony that they couldn’t hold inside.  They just HAD to go tell someone about Him!  Then I realized that their testimony brought Jesus onto the scene where He removed the listener’s fears and doubts!
Over the past six years my wife and I have personally experienced this chronological order of events when we meet individuals as we walk around the neighborhood, in the store or at a medical visit.  We have consistently seen the doubt, fear and hopelessness in people’s faces and in their words change after we tell them our testimony of our expectations of Jesus as the healer of my wife!  Once we shared a little of His Word on the subject, Jesus came upon the scene and people’s hopes were changed!  I can’t tell you of all the frowns that were turned around into smiles as Jesus’ and His truth were shared.  Luke 24:52 tells us that the former scoffers “worshipped him and were overjoyed” as they returned to Jerusalem to begin their new life assignments after Jesus came on the scene, gave them their marching orders and then “was taken to heaven.” (verse 51)
Another interesting point that I picked up was that once Jesus came on the scene, the two men returning from their abbreviated road trip shut up!  They no longer felt the need to press their point and gave Jesus the complete freedom He needed to change the hearts of the others in that room.  That is also an invaluable lesson that I have learned in our journey with my wife’s health concerns.  I’ve become very aware that there comes a time when those who are so free to force “their advice” or “their thoughts” on us and the plan we are endeavoring to follow under the direction of the Holy Ghost, are totally oblivious to anything I would try to share with them, so I have learned to bow out gracefully and let God be God unto them.
I think that in many ways, you and I are to be like the John the Baptist’s of our world as we encounter needy individuals throughout our day.  Our job is “to prepare the way of the Lord…” (Matthew 3:3 God’s Word ©)  We share our testimony, present His Word and then shut up and allow Jesus to take it from there!  It is not our job to have the last say in any discussion, but to yield the final Word to Him!
What do you say?  Give it a try today.  Speak the part that is yours, then just shut up and let Jesus close the deal!  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who and I expecting to give the final Word to today?”