Our New Home

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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Are You a GEEK?


When we came home from grocery shopping yesterday, my wife and I were greeted with standing water in the hallway and living room that seemed to be coming under the wall from the air conditioner closet!  So after I grabbed a couple of towels and moved one of our floor standing speakers which was absorbing the water, I went online and submitted a work order and then called the complex office.  Within ten minutes there was a knock on our door and one of our new maintenance men began to troubleshoot the problem.
I was impressed with some the equipment he used in the process.  He had different kinds of gauges and a little tool with a small tube and an attached CO2 cartridge to blow out any potential clogs in the drain lines.  It seems that modern technology has been introduced to just about everything in our world!   I enjoyed talking with Brian as we discovered a mutual interest in old rock and roll bands.  In observing our new book shelf door curtain, he mentioned a curtain he had with the picture of a well-known band leader who I had actually seen in person back in Junior High!  After that we were in bliss reminiscing about familiar musical artists.
And speaking of technology improvement… When we were out for a walk earlier in the day, I noticed an older large screen TV that someone left in the recycling area near the community trash compactor.  It was a tube television that still looked to be in pretty good shape.  I had to laugh as I mentioned to Piper that it was the product of a bygone technology since most folks have flat screen TV’s today.
I began my Bible study this morning reviewing where I had left off yesterday in Romans 1:16.  It was on my trail of research concerning the word “salvation” that had led me to this particular verse.  Here the Apostle Paul is telling his readers “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth: to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (KJV)  As is part of my usual study method, I wrote down the scripture after reading it, but instead of writing “Greek” I mistakenly penned the word “Geek!”
That also made me chuckle but then I began to see some significance to my error… or was it an error?  As I thought about it, I began to think about how the character of a “Techno Geek” is a well-known and accepted part of our culture.  Years ago he or she was represented as the “Murray ‘Boz’ Bosinsky” character in the old “Riptide” TV show back in the mid-eighties, with the taped glasses, pen holder stuffed with pens, white socks and black shoes.  Today the “Techno Geek” is more glamorously accepted as an important position in modern society. 
Both of my sons-in-law could be considered “Techno Geeks” as they are deeply in tune and committed to new technology and integrate it into just about every aspect of their lives.  By looking at them though, neither one of them would give you the older image of a “Geek.”  Anytime I have an electronics and/or computer problem that is beyond my technical scope I call on them… and it’s great for me!
The idea of a “Geek” in today’s world having the saving power of Christ available to them brought me back to the modern gospel.  In some respects I could see a religious “Geek” as being one who is so in tune and committed to the world’s way of seeing and doing things, that they are not real open to the truth of God’s Word. 
It bothers me to admit it, but I’ve also seen some aspects of these worldly “Geeks” in Christian circles.  When I read from Romans I recognized some of them through their tactics to us early on in our fight for my wife’s health.  They were the ones who almost immediately set out to shame us because of the decisions we were making in following what we believed was God’s unfolding, biblically based road for us to travel on.
In my wife's and my minds, every decision we took was in harmony with and directly connected to our BELIEVING in the power of God to save (Greek: soteria: to deliver, or protect [literally or physically], heal, preserve, do well, make whole) Piper.  To begin with, our decisions to them looked to be foolish and ill-timed as they seemed to not be able to go beyond the fear of the potential financial implications of my leaving my secular job that took me out of our home for 10 or more hours a day and re-start my own business so I could personally take care of my wife or see past the worldly guidelines established by medical science or Naturopathic medicine… and it just snow-balled from then on!
Paul boldly declared that he was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” for he KNEW it to be the very “power (Greek: dunamis: force, strength, ability, a miracle itself) of God” in him, for him and through him BECAUSE he BELIEVED it to be!  And you know… the more those folks attempted to make us ashamed for our faith-based actions, the more adamant we became in following and EXPECTING God’s miraculous power to work in and for my wife… and it has and we fully BELIEVE it will continue to do so through (as I like to say it…) His Word of LIFE in my Pipe(r)!
So… let me inquire of you as we come to the end of this week.  Are you a BELIEVER?  If so, I would encourage you to do and stand on what we as BELIEVER’s should do best… and BELIEVE in the power of Christ to save you in the midst of any situation that you may face at any time of the day or night.  Like Paul said, there is NOTHING to be ashamed about for the power of the gospel of Christ is working for you and me.  We just have to be in active faith to initiate it’s saving abilities in and through us!  Have a fun weekend.  Stay in tune to God’s powerful Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s saving power am I expecting to have work in me today?”

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What is God's Reputation?


I realized something this morning as I was helping my wife through an especially shaky start to the day.  My life right now is probably a lot different than many of you that read this blog.  Every time I look at my wife, I face the impossibilities of the world and am forced to make a decision.  That is why I am so gung-ho when it comes to standing on the integrity of God’s Word in every situation in life.  My wife is fighting the good fight of faith against the ravages of Alzheimer’s and we have been told by some of the best specialists in medical science that there is nothing else they can do.
So, every day when I go in to the bedroom to help her up I have to decide (especially on the rough mornings like today) who I am going to believe.  Do I stand with the doctor’s bad report, or with the not very hopeful studies I regularly read as I research and try to keep up to date on the latest developments on the disease, or do I throw in my hopes or better said, my EXPECTATIONS with God’s Word where “Jesus said, ‘The things that are impossible for people to do ARE possible for God to do.’” (Luke 18:27 God’s Word ©)
Well, when the one person you love and is more important to you than the very breath you breathe has been given a death sentence, the answer is QUITE easy!  I choose life! (See: Deuteronomy 30:19, John 1:4)  Most of you are not staring at this type of situation on a daily bases.  But for those of you who are, I am sure that you know exactly what I mean!
So that is why I am so gung ho, and to some… maybe a little bit over the edge!  But you know?  Now that I am here, I think that this is exactly where Papa God wants us all to be whether we are facing death or not!  I believe that He desires us to be TOTALLY sold out to and focused on Him everyday – 24/7… would you agree or not?
I can honestly say that I think that my wife and I have always had a strong focus on the things of God throughout our married lives.  He has always held an important and pivotal position on our daily To-Do List…  But NOTHING like He does today!  In some ways I guess you could say that I’ve been forced into this position.  But it really wasn’t too big a step for us to take from partial to COMPLETE dependence on Him.
Today it is REAL easy for me to get excited – jump up and down excited – when I read scriptures exalting the Lord like in Isaiah 12:2 where the Prophet exclaims: “Look!  Behold!  Wow!  God is our Savior.  Therefore we are confident, expectant and UNAFRAID because the Lord is our strength and our song.  And best of all – He is our salvation!” (Personalized paraphrase from God’s Word © and The Message Bible)
After I read from Isaiah 12:4 out of the Message earlier today, where it encourages us to “Shout to the nations, tell them what he’s done.  Spread the news of his great reputation,” I had to stop and ask myself what my thoughts were concerning God’s reputation.  I began to inquire what kind of reputation God held to me.  Just how do I talk about God to others?  Do I have a good and positive attitude toward the things that God has done and promises for me or is it questionable, hesitant or a bit shaky?
Then I recalled a conversation I had yesterday with another Christian we knew a long time ago in another church who did not really jump on the band wagon with me when I extolled the goodness and truth of God and of His will for my wife to be healed.  I could tell that she wanted to believe, but then there was that long pause and hesitation…  I also recalled my surprise reaction to an individual’s testimony on a local Christian radio station who was actually thanking God for His responsibility for a paralyzing accident when this individual was young. 
That remark caused me to break into tears as I looked across the room to my wife and could in no way believe that our loving, caring God would go against everything that Jesus demonstrated as the will of God during His earth walk by healing every and all sicknesses (See: Mark 4:23, Matthew 9:35, Acts 10:38) and cause this person great pain and sorrow.  My Bible tells me that the devil is the perpetrator of sickness and disease and that Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10, Acts 10:38)  Papa God did not, would not and could not put sickness on my wife or anyone else.  Where would He get it from?   After all… there is no sickness in heaven, is there?
So back to my original statement… but then again… maybe my life isn’t that unusual as yours.  In reality, each of us has to face that same question each day.  Whether we face life and death forces first thing in the morning, or just have to decide how we are going to handle the negative remark that our spouse, or kids, or boss makes to us during the day.  No matter what dilemma we face, the question should be the same.  Who or what will we believe?  The fear, anger, frustration, hopelessness and hurt of the moment or God’s truthful, peaceful, loving and ultimately victorious Word on the situation?  (See: 2 Corinthians 2:14)
I like what Scofield said about the word “salvation” as used in Isaiah 12:2 as well as throughout the New Testament.  He wrote in “Scofield’s Reference Notes” that in the Hebrew and Greek meanings, salvation implies “safety, preservation, healing and soundness.”  And stated that “Salvation is the great inclusive word of the Gospel, gathering into itself all the redemptive acts and processes…”  It would seem that Papa God included every part of our spiritual and physical lives into the action that Jesus took upon Himself for us at Calvary!  Now if that doesn’t make you stand up and shout: “Look!  Behold! Wow!  God is our savior!” then I think you’d best pinch yourself and check to see if you’re still alive!
That is the attitude that I want to live and extol every day of my life!  How about you?  So go out today and SHOUT about the “great reputation” of your God.  Let the world know just what He means and does for, in and through you.  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to SHOUT about and TRUST in today?”

I found myself inquirtiIiiiii

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Different Story


I picked up a couple of three movie DVD sets the other day while my wife and I were grocery shopping at our local Walmart Supercenter.  One is a John Wayne adventure set and the other contains three Tom Selleck westerns.  As we watched some of the movies over the three day holiday weekend, I observed that both actors were very similar in the portrayal of the characters they played. 
Both were quietly confident in their abilities, always tended to take a positive perspective on whatever situation they found themselves in the middle of, be it a laughing matter or a life and death stand, and were level headed with an expected sense of humor.  In many of the movies they played opposite to a character that was always looking at the negative side of what life presented to them.  But in the end, our hero’s always won the fight, got the girl and rode or drove off into the beautiful sunset!
It was easy for me to contrast the attitude of the leading man in each of these movies to the situations and people we played opposite to in the movie of our life over the last few years.  We’ve experienced interactions with those who always tend to look at the negative side of just about every step we’ve taken, through the totally undecided and those who have agreed and fully supported us along the way.
A statement in The Message Bible’s paraphrase of Numbers 14:24 stopped my forward motion just like the ropes thrown around the necks of the long horned steers did when the cowboys in the westerns we watched lassoed them for branding.  It declared: “But my servant Caleb – this is a different story. The writer then goes on to quote the Lord who described that difference by explaining “He has a different spirit (or attitude); he follows me passionately.  I’ll bring him into the land that he scouted and his children will inherit it.”
Caleb’s response to the challenges ahead must have been like a breath of fresh air to God!  One thing that we have noticed is that those who have not agreed with and complained about our various actions of faith are NOT like a breath of fresh air!  Their comments and even their very presence is tainted with a sense of sorrow instead of EXPECTANCY and EXCITEMENT over the truth of God’s Word working in my wife’s body.  I could still pick up that sorrow in some recent correspondence.
I sometimes find it difficult to understand how Christians can be anything but EXPECTANT and EXCITED and have a positive attitude in knowing what God Word says about any situation they face.  Proverbs 15:30 informs us that “Good news refreshes the body.” (God’s Word ©)   Another translation says “A good report makes the bones fat.” (MKJV)  I can’t think of better news and a greater report than the truth of God’s Word… can you?
The Bible tells us that Caleb’s story was different than the other people who saw the same thing that he and Joshua did.  The difference lies in the attitude in which they observed their surroundings!  I think that the ten spies still had a slave mentality when they came up against a formable foe, while Caleb and Joshua had a victor’s mentality!  Caleb and Joshua looked through the eyes of faith that were confident and fully trusting in the strength and integrity of God’s words to them through their leader Moses.
Caleb and Joshua looked at the giant grapes hanging on the abundance of vines in the land.  The other ten couldn’t get passed the giants around them.  Caleb and Joshua saw the positive blessings and truth of God while the others only saw the potential problems.  Caleb and Joshua professed a different story… and they were the only ones that eventually won the fight, got the promised blessings and rode off into the beautiful sunset of their lives.
Think about it for a moment here… What kind of story do you tell?  Is it the based on what you physically see around you or is it based on the strength and integrity of God’s Word.  Is your story one of hopelessness and sorrow or one of EXPECTANCY and EXCITEMENT?  Which would you rather have?  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whose STORY am I expecting to tell today?”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Attitude!


ATTITUDE
[at-i-tood, -tyood]
“Manner, feeling, disposition, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing;             tendency or orientation, especially of the mind: a negative attitude, group attitudes.” (Dictionary.com)
I found myself praying on this last Friday afternoon that God would give me a new ATTITUDE.  Piper and I had been working through the effects of another new medicine and sleep had been an on and off again thing for the last week.  Needless to say, I was a bit on the tired side and was beginning to lose some patience with not yet seeing the desired results and increased weakness (at times) in her.  As Piper and I were coming into the kitchen on that day, I knew that I did not want to channel any frustration toward my lovely wife and neither did I care for myself when I am anything less than positive and encouraging around her.  That’s when I stopped mid-stride and asked the Lord for some help with a different ATTITUDE in the responsibility I took a solemn oath and signed on to do almost forty years ago!  When I said “I do,” I did then and still purpose to do today!
On Friday I realized that in order to continue doing well in the good times and the bad, I would require a refreshing in the ATTITUDE department.  So I began to pray about it and then on Saturday morning I hit the books to see what God’s infallible word had to say about ATTITUDES.  I knew that I would most likely need to study from a modern translation because I was pretty sure that the King James and many of the traditional translations did not use that word a lot.  And I was right as the KJV doesn’t have one single use of the word ATTITUDE.
So I defaulted to my favorite God’s Word © translation knowing that I had seen that word employed within its pages.  I did a quick search of the word ATTITUDE and the very first of the 23 hits was found in the Old Testament in Numbers 14:24.  Here we find the situation after 10 of the 12 spies that Moses sent to scout out the land that was promised to them by God gave a negative report sighting that “All the people that we saw there are very tall... We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that is how we must have looked to them.” (Numbers 13:33-34 God’s Word ©)
Well as you probably remember, God was not real happy with their fearful and doubting response and threatened to wipe out all the Children of Israel due no doubt, to His frustration after all He had miraculously done for them after being held captive in Egypt for some 300 years!.  But Moses interceded for the people and asked the Father to give them a second chance.  So God relented and declared that He wouldn’t kill them but stipulated that these folks were not going to enter the Promised Land when that opportunity came up again.
But for the two holdouts who professed a positive report with Caleb as the spokesman excitedly exclaiming “Let’s go now and take possession of the land.  We should be more than able to conquer it,” God had another plan!  In chapter fourteen He tells Moses: “But because my servant Caleb has a different ATTITUDE and has wholeheartedly followed me, I’ll bring him to the land he has already explored.  His descendants will possess it.” (Numbers 14:24 God’s Word ©)
Fear, doubt and unbelief in the integrity of God’s Word caused the vast majority of the people to lose what they had struggled for so long to attain.  The “Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge” explains that “Caleb had another spirit (or a different attitude from the rest of the people), not only a bold, generous, courageous, noble, and heroic spirit, but the Spirit and influence of God, which thus raised him above human inquietudes and earthly fears.  Therefore he followed God fully; literally…”
You know… that’s exactly the kind of ATTITUDE that I desire… no… that I NEED in order to be raised above the restlessness, uneasiness and disquieting thoughts that attack me when I am tired and sore and see my wife having a rough time of it.  When the symptoms are in opposition to the truth of God’s Word, I NEED Caleb’s ATTITUDE to say that in God’s power and strength, I am more than able to conquer this need. 
For like God would later tell Joshua as he led the Children of Israel to the very gates of the Promised Land at Jericho some forty years later, that “No one (or no-thing, or no symptom that is contrary to My Word) will be able to oppose you successfully as long as you live.  I will be with you as I was with Moses.  I will never neglect you or abandon you.” (Joshua 1:5 God’s Word ©)
What do you think?  Is that the kind of ATTITUDE that you possess or wish that you could possess?  Well, it is yours for the taking!  I heard the President of our Bible College say on Sunday that “The ATTITUDE you display is determined by what you’ve been feeding on.”  What have you been feeding on?  My Bible tells me that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 KJV) 
So… check yourself out today.  Do you have the ATTITUDE of Caleb, or are you being persuaded by what you see and feel around you that is contrary to the faith giving Word of God?  I’ve intermingled with folks on both sides of that question and believe me, I like the Caleb side the best!  Have a great week.  Stay in tune to God’s Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s ATTITUDE am I expecting to have today?”

Friday, May 22, 2015

How BIG is the REAL You?


As I continued my study based on Isaiah 12:2 this morning, I thought of my wife in conjunction to a line in an old Disney movie.  The old family favorite entitled “Condorman” is a 1981 spy spoof about an eccentric comic book writer who is asked by a friend in the CIA to deliver diplomatic papers to a civilian Russian in Istanbul and later to help that civilian, who turns out to be a beautiful Russian Secret Agent, to defect to the USA.  The movie is filled with many bumbling but yet successful and spectacular actions accomplished by the writer who takes upon himself the make believe identity of his comic book super hero Condorman.
At one point following their initial escape from Italian agents acting under the directions of a top Russian spy, Condorman looks over to the lovely Natalia Rambova of the KGB seated next to him in his super-hot race car disguised as an old gypsy camper and with bashful but yet hopeful anticipation asks if she is single.  To which she turns her eyes to the sky and with a dreamy look that sends Condorman swooning replies… “Yes, I am a free, single women!” And while it is true that my wife easily sends me to swooning with her smile and bright brown eyes, the reason that line reminded me of her was the “free” part of the statement.
Reading from Isaiah 12:2 throughout this week got me to thinking that the words “strength”, “song” and “joy” are often implied and/or used together throughout the Bible.  I began to see that it is difficult to really have any one of these Godly qualities without the other two.  I realized that in my Christian travels over the last forty some years in various churches, with Christians from diverse denominations and working closely with congregational members in the five or six churches where I was on the Pastoral staff, the individuals that always were an encouragement and a vivid reflection of the light of Christ were those who were joyful and strong in their faith and embodied a song in their lives that oozed with the goodness and love of Papa God.
I think that is what defines the “SONG” that Isaiah, Moses and David among others, expressed in their writings. It wasn’t just about singing a song of praise to the Lord in response to His goodness and love, but is all about BEING a song unto Him and therefore to the others in your individual worlds!  I know many talented singers and musicians both secular and in the ministry who would define their musical talents as “What” they are or do, but I wouldn’t say that it is “Who” they are. 
The “Who” is what is inside of you.  It is the passion that drives and motivates you.  It is that song of your life that empowers you with the ever present joy and strength to do whatever He calls you to do, whenever and wherever He calls you to do it!  It is like the type of person that takes the lemons that are given to them in their daily lives and turns them into a sweet tasting and satisfying lemonade!
That is the “free” statement from the movie that got me reminiscing about Piper.  I’ve told many times of her joy filled countenance that drew me to her back in that English class in high school.  She was unusual because her joy and complementing strength did not seem to me to be based on outside stimuli.  She tended to move on her own beat.  She was driven by an inner song that embodied everything about her.  When we got together I quickly learned that her song was written and orchestrated by her relationship to Jesus!
And speaking of making lemonade out of the lemons in life… I can tell of countless times when her strength and joy from the song of her life changed challenging situations in our family and ministry to ones of laughter, peace and healing.  Like the time she was supervising some youth as they were cooking pancakes for a church breakfast and one of the cooking teams dropped a large bowl of batter all over the floor.  When I came bounding into the room a few moments later the cooks were all laughing, the floor was quickly being mopped up and the production of pancakes never missed a beat.
Then there was that hot summer day when the truck dumped a large load of landscape rocks on our driveway for our front yard.  As the truck drove away it suddenly seemed like every kid in the neighborhood appeared on our driveway and began playing with and tossing the stones.  Well, I freaked out… but not Piper.  She simply smiled, grabbed a handful of beach sand buckets and passed them out to the kids and made a game out of helping me to transport the rocks from the pile to the area surrounding our new lawn!
I could go on and one like how she’s always has the knack to get me to laughing at myself when I get stubborn or needlessly upset over something at home or at work.  It is that inner song that has always tended to direct her to a peaceful and joyful solution to the situations in life.  I believe it is also the reason she has been able to tackle just about any task in life asked or required of her.  To be perfectly honest, I would be hard pressed to recall a time when she complained about something or someone.  I wish I could say the same thing about me!
I now find myself smiling just about every time I look at a picture of my wife that I have hanging around the house and recall that gleam in her eye or that funny saying or encouraging word that is just a part of who she is.  She may be currently dealing and fighting through the effects of dementia, but that song of her life still shines through and makes a difference in my life!
That’s the same effect that I want to make on the lives that I touch throughout my day.  I want His song to be the REAL me and be heard in a BIG way throughout the airwaves about me.  How about you.  If you’re dealing with weakness, a lack of joy, depression or just plain have a bad attitude about some things in your life, than maybe it is time to start singing or better yet BEING a better SONG!  Have a great weekend.  Get and/or stay in tune to God’s Word and keep asking yourself…  “What SONG am I expecting to be BIG in me today?”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How BIG is Your SONG?


For as long as I can remember I have had a somewhat keen sense of the power in music.  Having been raised with a musical Mom, music and song were a big part of my family life from the beginning!  My Mom loved to sing and play the piano and did both quite regularly.  It took very little coaxing to have her sit down and lead those gathered during the many family and friend dinners they hosted in song from her beloved piano.  Our floor model Silvertone HiFi Console Radio/Record Player was almost in constant use during my childhood years.
My Mom taught all of us kids the piano… Well, at least two of the three of us!  I was always more interested in singing the words to the song than learning the keys and notes and never really mastered the talent.  Thank God that I have a wife that was classically trained and can play just about anything on those ivory keys!  It is no surprise that I married a talented musician who also taught all four of our kids to play the piano. 
In Junior High I did somewhat master the guitar and have played it ever since.  At one point I shared a few chords with our oldest son and then he took off with musical talent and can literally play circles around me.  He is one of those individuals who can pick up just about any instrument and master it with little effort.  When we cleaned out my folks house I gave Josh my great-uncle’s banjo that my Mom had restrung.  He proceeded to learn and play it and added it to his repertoire of piano, bass guitar, guitar, trumpet, and drums to just mention a few!  It is also no surprise that Piper’s and my love for music was continued by our other three kids as well.
With all that in mind, it was a natural progression for Piper and I to start singing and playing together when we started dating.  We performed our first public duet at her church during the Rock Opera that I wrote in the early 1970’s.  I guess you can say that we’ve been making music together ever since!
I’ve learned a lot about the nuances of music over the years.  My previous experience in leading singing was with Youth groups when we were asked to lead the Praise and Worship at the second church we attended in that old Convention Center/Hotel down on Santa Rosa Avenue in our hometown.  I knew the techniques to get the young people working as a team and involved in the singing, jumping up and down, laughing and singing out.  But leading a congregation in Praise and Worship was a whole new game!
So in the early 80’s we started attending various Worship seminars, conventions and classes and watched a whole lot of different church services on TV in order to observe and learn from the different music leaders.  That’s when we began to learn about the importance of the flow of the anointing of the Holy Spirit during praise and worship.  It became quite obvious to observe the leaders that understood it and worked with it and those who didn’t!  Through our ensuing years of ministry, it also became a little frustrating to see a few Pastors who seemed to not be aware of the power in their church’s praise and worship services.  For these the worship service was simply a pathway to prepare the congregation to receive the teaching during the sermon.  It is a pleasure to say that the Pastor that we served the longest under had a very sensitive understanding to the flow of the anointing of the praise and worship service.  We were also blessed with a humble, sensitive and talented praise and worship leader and team.
I remember one service when I was substituting for our Pastor during a Sunday morning when the anointing of the Holy Spirit simply fell from the heavens upon our congregation during the music service.  While I don’t recall all the specifics, I do remember being moved to stand up and begin encouraging those present to flow along with it.  After what seemed like only a matter of seconds, the front of the room was filled with worshippers receiving all kinds of blessings from the Lord.  At the time it felt like heaven on earth!  Let’s just say that my prepared sermon was definitely shortened that day as we gave the Lord His way and His voice to us all!
I kind of got that same feeling today as I experienced Isaiah 12:2 this morning when I exclaimed aloud: “Look!  Behold! Wow!  God is our Savior.  Therefore we are confident and unafraid, because the Lord is our strength and our SONG and best of all, our salvation!”  (Personalized from God’s Word © and The Message Bible)  When I referenced the 78 uses of the word “SONG” in the King James Version I realized that the Old Testament men and women of God really knew and understood the importance, power and anointing of music sung and played unto the Lord. 
In David’s and Solomon’s time there were leaders among the Levites whose only job was to offer praise and worship unto the Lord.  When the temple was built, these leaders actually lived in the temple as there was singing and music going unto the Lord 24/7!  We also understand that music was an important part of Jesus’ ministry.  It is recorded that the last thing the disciples and Jesus did before the events leading up to His crucifixion was to sing a hymn of praise in the Upper Room.
Isaiah 12:6 encourages us to “Shout loudly and SING for joy, people of Zion (for) the Holy one of Israel is great (and) is among us.” (God’s Word ©)  Most of the commentaries tell us that this is not only talking about the Jews back then, but also points to the church today.  They also agree that the last line of the verse is foretelling of the ministry of Jesus Christ when He walked the earth and present in us now as we walk among our families, in our neighborhoods, schools, work and everywhere else we go.
These scriptures as well as many others tell us that Jesus is to be our SONG.  And that SONG is to be played and sung through the words, actions, attitudes, and style of our lives.  So… if that is true… Let me ask you:  What kind of SONG does your life SING to those around you?  Do your words and actions, attitudes and overall projection of life SING of the Savior and His love for mankind?  Is the music and SONG of your life pleasant and uplifting for others to hear?
I was so moved by the ending of a piece of classical music yesterday afternoon that I found myself stopping what I was doing and stepping into the middle of the living room pretending that I had the conductor’s baton in hand and was directing the orchestra!  It must have looked a little funny as Piper looked up with a quizzical look on her face and broke into laughter!  A similar incident happened with her the other night as well.  We were watching a funny part in an old John Wayne western when the music turned into a loud crescendo that I noticed Piper was enjoying as she once again broke out into a huge grin!  It times like that when I am once again assured of the power of anointed music and song as a part of her healing manifestation!
Is the music and SONG of your life a part of someone else’s healing?  Does the SONG you carry with you move others closer to Christ?  I think that this is part of Papa God’s plan for our lives… don’t you?  Have a great day.  Stay in TUNE (pun intended!) to God’s Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s SONG am I expecting my life to be SINGING today?”

 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How BIG is your Strength?


Isaiah 12:2 got me to thinking quite a bit about my STRENGTH.  I have never had a lot of muscular STRENGTH in my upper arms and chest.  At least compared to many of the boys in my weight lifting classes in Junior and Senior High.  Bench pressing was kind of a joke and I was never able to do much more than about 2 consecutive pull ups!  The one area that I excelled in was in my leg and thigh STRENGTH.  I still remember the time I squatted 300 pounds in my last gym class at Slater Junior High.  I am not really sure if that was even a big deal to the real athletes in my class, but it was a big deal to me!  The coach even smirked a little at me, but I didn’t care as I finally had at least one area in weight lifting that I did okay in!
Personal STRENGTH come in all sizes and shapes.  There is our physical STRENGTH, our emotional STRENGTH our moral STRENGTH and our SPIRITUAL strength.  Piper grew up in a family where physical STRENGTH or maybe better stated as physical energy was focused on quite a bit.  I am not trying to be funny here, but sleep and naps were important to them.  Sleeping in on the weekends was a normal routine.  In fact when we started dating I could not call Piper until after 11:00 AM on Saturdays so as to not wake the rest of the family.  Mid-day naps were not unusual.  Piper even did some of those after we started dating.  It’s funny though, that after our marriage and especially after having the kids, we would almost have to wrestle Piper down in order for her to stop and rest during the day, when needed!
In my family, I was taught by precept and example that if you were feeling tired or lazy during the day that you went out and got some physical energy.  That is still a course of action that I take today when I may get a little groggy during the afternoon in the 24 hour care of my wife’s needs.  A good brisk walk… well, not always real brisk… does wonders to my physical STRENGTH and to the uplifting of my mental well-being and spiritual psyche!
Family vacations with Piper’s family always included sleeping in and lots of naps for them.  At times it would be a little frustrating for us for we were always up early with the kids and were normally ready for lunch when the rest of the group was beginning to figure out the breakfast menu!  I do have to commemorate my wife though, as she regularly stood up for us during those family times.
It always seemed to me that Piper’s family was not ever real interested in my secular work.  And I guess when you think about it, that is not too unusual as Piper’s Dad was in education and her sister and her husband are in the ministry.  My positions in management within the scientific electronics industry were most likely fairly foreign to them. For many years Piper’s folks and us also attended the same churches in which Piper and I were members of the staff.  Therefore the majority of our conversations had a ministry bent to them, or referenced her Dad’s work at the local JC.
I do remember one vacation on the coast in late August one year.  During an extreme boost in production needs at Agilent Technologies, I had been working a weird 10 hour a day, four days a week (with many five day work weeks and generous portions of weekend overtime …) on an unusual shift that ended around 2:00 in the morning for the last year.  We had also recently completed our summer programs at the church including an original VBS that I wrote and directed.  Needless to say, I was quite wiped out by the time that vacation came.
During the first weekend we were at the house on the coast, I plopped down on the couch alone in the living room, as everyone else seemed to congregate in the kitchen/family room, and flipped on the TV to vegetate for a while and watch a preseason 49ers football game.  After a few moments I heard a slight commotion going on in the kitchen.  I heard a few somewhat heated exchanges and then my wife came romping into the living room with her patented mischievous/victorious grin on her face.
She snuggled up next to me on the couch and proceeded to tell me that her Dad wasn’t too happy with my breaking the mood of the vacation by watching a football game.  (they were not real sports fans at the time…).  But she assured me with her glistening eyes and a pinch of my arm that she had taken care of it for me.  She related how she had set him straight by informing him about the year I had just been through and that she wanted me to be able to relax and watch the game.  And you know… we never heard another word about it for the rest of our time there… everybody was all smiles!
I am not sure how much watching that game that day really renewed my physical STRENGTH, but it did help to clear out some of the tired cobwebs in my head and get my thoughts off of both of my jobs!  The Prophet in Isaiah 12:2 informs us to “Look! (Behold! – Wow!)  (for) God is my savior.  (therefore) I am confident (and expectant) and unafraid because the Lord is my STRENGTH and my song.  He is my Savior.” (God’s Word ©)
In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul likewise told us that “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (KJV)  Meaning that in Christ he found his real STRENGTH.  For in his weak times he allowed the STRENGTH of Jesus’ grace to take over and thereby empower him in every way necessary for him to do whatever he needed to accomplish for the Lord.  I believe Paul is reminding us that our personal STRENGTH is not BIG enough to do all that Papa God expects and/or asks of us.  He wants us to believe in, ask for and then depend on the type of STRENGTH that only He can give us!
The word for STRENGTH in Isaiah 12:2 is an all-encompassing word that includes all areas of our life including “material, or physical, personal, or social or political.” (Thayer’s)  In my way of thinking… that just about covers it all… doesn’t it?  With that promise we should never again have an excuse for being weak in any way, shape or form.  When our personal, emotional, mental or spiritual strength is ebbing, it is time to turn it over to Him and let the BIG STRENGTH inherent in His grace give us the oomph to pull off whatever task is set before us.
Hummm… does that mean we’ll never really be able to complain again to others about how tired or stressed out we are because of our jobs, family responsibilities, the situations in our lives and the myriad of other things that we have to do each day?  Interesting thought isn’t it!  Have a great day today.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whose STRENGTH am I expecting to empower me today?”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How BIG is Your God?


For some reason I started thinking this morning as I walked down our short hallway to our bedroom to help Piper up for the day, about how long I have enjoyed writing.  I went back to one of my early writing assignments during my days in elementary school at St. Eugene’s Parochial School.  If I remember correctly, it was more of a penmanship exercise than the writing of an essay.  As a homework assignment, we were all given a card that described a location in Europe and were instructed to copy it using a ball point pen on a sheet of white college rule paper.
At some early period in school I gained an appreciation for really nice pens.  In fact, a group of us used to trade each other for pens when I was at St. Eugene’s!  Well, for that assignment I had a nice new writing utensil and was actually quite excited about getting to use it on the assignment.  I don’t recall too much more about the assignment except that I was happy with the finished product and pleased with my penmanship, even though my fancy pen leaked and a couple of fingers on my right hand were bright blue!
Okay… now I remember how I got off on that rabbit trail this morning… It was because of a picture in one of the little Christian quotes books that my lovely wife had given me during the first years of our marriage.  This particular one had a drawing of a little boy with his hands out spread with the caption over him asking: “How Big is God?”   And then answered under him declaring; “Sooooo Big!” 
I ended up cutting out that page in the book and copied the picture as an illustration for many of the handouts, lesson plans and retreat notes that I used in my first ministry position as the Youth Minister at First Baptist Church in the late 1970’s.  You see, I have put my love for writing into use in every position I have held over the years.  This would include both my Christian ministry positions as well as my secular jobs.  Among other documents, I re-wrote the official safety manual for the Fabrication Division at Agilent Technologies back in 2001… Hummm… I wonder if they are still using it?
The question and demonstrations of “How BIG is Your God” is one that my wife and I have constantly attempted to impart to our students whether they be children, youth, young adults or the general congregation of the church attending our classes or the occasional service sermons.  That one black and white drawing of that little boy has gone with me through all my assignments and I still have it today… not real sure where… but for sure, in one of the stacks of boxes in our second bedroom!
The question of “How BIG is your God” has also been the foundational beginning point of just about every step of faith Piper and I have attempted to take over the last 45 years.  As my eyes fell open my open Bible on the table first thing this morning, I was almost immediately energized with the answer to this question as I read, amplified and personalized Isaiah 12:2 from the God’s Word © translation.  I unabashedly declared: “Look!  Behold!  Wow!  God is my Savior!  And I am confident, expectant and unafraid, because the Lord IS my strength and my song.  He IS my Savior!”  The next verse continues as a response to that triumphal statement exclaiming: “So with JOY I draw from the springs of Salvation!”  The Message paraphrase expresses: “Joyfully I will pull up buckets from the wells of salvation.”
The truth of that statement and response sure gets my blood to pumping!  How about you?  Albert Barnes in his “Notes on the Bible” matter-of-factly puts it that “God is the author or source of my salvation.  It has not been brought about by any human hands, but it is to be traced directly to him!”
Is that the same God that you serve?  Is He the one that you give ALL the credit to in your daily life?  Is He the one that you seek FIRST when troubling situations come up?  I hate to say it, but I’ve come to learn the hard way, that not every Christian will respond this way!  Not everyone will jump on the band wagon with you when you decide to follow and obey His Word.  It kind of reminds me of our beginning days leading praise and worship.
Most times it was just my wife and I with my guitar.  Our voices would carry the tune (my wife, most times, getting and keeping me on tune!) and the rhythm and strum of the guitar keeping the timing and beat!  But in the early eighties with the Charismatic movement, most Sunday services would also include a few individuals in the congregation that would bring their tambourines!  The problems ensued when they either chose to do their own thing or couldn’t keep a steady beat!  (I learned in my beginning days with our rock band many years previous to this time - before I learned to play the guitar - that it takes a bit of training and natural rhythm to properly play a tambourine!  And to be honest… most of these folks – usually visitors at our church - possessed neither of those two talents!)
After Piper and I had attended a Second Chapter of Acts concert and the husband of Annie Herring (who was also the band manager and producer) got up and commented to the audience: “This isn’t a hootenanny, so please don’t play your tambourines!”  I asked our head usher to gently ask our tambourine playing visitors to please put away their instruments because it would always throw me off beat!
In Piper’s and my experience over the last six years, we realized that we couldn’t listen to those who had a small God!  We’ve also learned that we have to daily be in His Word in order to sustain and increase the size of our God for us and the needs that we are facing!  I have come to be very alert to and aware of all the scriptures that talk about a gift or promise of God that is expounded upon by an “and” mid-scripture as the writer goes on to include the extra blessings that God wants to tack on for His faithful children.  Take John 10:10 for an example where Jesus tells us that: “I have come that they (you and me) might have life, AND that they might have it more abundantly.” (KJV)
That’s the God that we serve… He is a very BIG God… and can be as BIG to each of us as we allow Him to become through the growth and development of our faith through His Word!  So… just like that black and white drawing of that little boy that I’ve kept throughout the years asks… I’ll ask you to look deeply and honestly inside and ask yourself… “How BIG is MY God?”
Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or How BIG am I expecting my GOD to be today?”

Monday, May 18, 2015

How Big Is Your World


I think that one of the greatest things that our time in Oklahoma and now in North Carolina has done is to open up the boundaries of our world.  For some fifty years my wife and I unknowingly cultivated a (narrow) northern California viewpoint of the world.  I will openly admit that I really thought that I would see a lot more folks wearing denim overalls than I did when I worked at the Home Depot in Tulsa!  Thinking back… I only recall noticing one heavy set customer during our three year stint that fit my mistaken mental rendition.
The Bible College I attended and the metropolis of Tulsa is unique in that it draws people from all over the world.  Tulsa has many major Christian and secular universities, trade schools and churches that are universally known and respected.  During our time there I literally met and made friends with students and co-workers from just about every state in the Union as well as from many countries in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.  I quickly learned that not everyone sees and/or understands things the same as I do!  Their viewpoint, experiences in life and diversity of home environments helped me to greatly expand my perspective on life and open wide the door to a greater understanding of why people do the things they do!  My experience away from where I had been born and raised expanded the limitations of my world!
When we returned to our home town we also quickly learned that the spiritual size of a Christian’s world can vary greatly amongst different individuals.   Isaiah 12:2 was the catalyst for my thinking about this over the weekend.  Here the major prophet of God declares of Papa God, “Look!  God is our Savior.  I am confident and unafraid, because the Lord is my strength and my song.  He is my Savior.” (God’s Word ©)  As I studied from this verse through the rest of the chapter, I recalled the trauma, confusion and questions that led my wife and I to earnestly seek the Lord for direction during our first year home from our stay in Oklahoma.
We were very aware that we were facing something of such intensity that we had never faced before.  We rapidly came to the conclusion that we could not continue doing things in life as we had for the previous 30 some years of our lives.  Change was definitely on the horizon and we desperately needed to expand the borders of our world if we were going to succeed.  I can remember pretty clearly the day I took Piper’s hand, swallowed hard and already knowing some of the answers, prayed, “Lord whatever you tell us to do… we will do… no matter what!”
One of the answers I already knew and had been brushing aside was the direction to start re-building my yard and garden care business clientele and then turn in my two week’s notice at The Home Depot.  Contrary to some other’s beliefs, that was a very difficult request to obey even though I was physically and mentally stressed out after only a few months on the new job assignment that put me on the road for up to three or four hours a day and away from the house and the needs of my wife.
But yet, when we finished that prayer that day and I looked into Piper’s twinkling eyes projecting a peaceful, trusting and loving agreement, I was filled with an instant peace as well as a sudden jolt of excitement and expectation!  I can fully appreciate Isaiah’s use of the term “Look!” or “Behold” as translated in the King James Version.  John Gill calls it “A note of asseveration” which according to Dictionary.com means “to assert or declare emphatically.”  I recently heard a well-known expert in the Biblical Greek language express that the use of the term “Behold” could simply be stated in modern vernacular as an emphatic and emotional exclamation of “Wow!”  That sudden jolt of excitement and expectation that I felt could easily be translated to an emphatic and emotional exclamation of “Wow!”
But you know… our “Wow!” became a fearful “Whoa!” to a few other Christians near to us.  The financial questions of our obedience of Papa God’s directives to us was something that would not allow them to expand their world into a total trust of God’s making a way (or ways in our case) for us as we sought to work through the physical and spiritual ordeal that was beginning to take a toll on my wife’s health.  Well, as you most likely know if you follow this blog, things got pretty wild and wooly for a while back then, but we had made our decision and had opened the door to our world to include the unlimited possibilities of God’s and we haven’t looked back since.
The Targum or Aramaic version of the Bible puts the two clauses of this verse concerning the Lord being our salvation and that we will trust and not be afraid together declaring; “Behold!  In the Word of the God my salvation I trust, and shall not be moved.”  To me, this understanding and stand on God’s unfailing and faithful love toward us is the foundation from which we can expand our worlds into the “WOW!” of His unlimited, exceeding and abundant possibilities and bring us places we could never go nor imagine without Him and His world!
So… Let me ask you again… How big is your world?  Is it flexible enough to expand beyond the confines of your own understanding and reasoning?  I am SOOOOOO glad that my wife and I learned early on to throw our caution and fear to the winds and allow Him to do His exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we could ever dream or imagine! 
Think about it… and have a great week!  Stay in tune to His Word and the door open to His unlimited possibilities and keep asking yourself… “What are my expectations when it comes to the size of my world!”

 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Atmospheric Conditions...


As I continued my scriptural study on the importance of the JOY of the Lord in our lives and looked for different ways in which I could personalize this promise, I found myself thinking about how contemporary Christian music has evolved since I first tuned into it in the early 1970’s.  I have repeatedly mentioned in this blog about how alike my wife and I have always been.  But in thinking about Christian music today, I realized that this was one area where, in the budding stages of our relationship, we were quite different!
To begin with, I knew ZIP about contemporary Christian music as a teenager growing up in a pretty traditional Catholic family.  I was into Rock and Roll!  I was hip… you know what I mean… I was in the groove when it came to the top 40 hit parade!  From the moment I got up in the morning the radio in my room was blasting tunes from the popular San Francisco teen station.  I even had a cube radio in the bathroom so I could jive while taking care of business in there!  When I first began to hang out with Piper I had been in a rock band since Junior High.  Needless to say, music was a big part of my life.
The same could be said for Piper, except her interaction with music was strictly church music.  To be honest, she was pretty naive when it came to the secular hits racing up the music charts.  I would mentioned different songs or bands playing on the radio and she would smile and nod with a sort of blank look on her face!  When she would play some of her Christian folk records for me I would cough a little and turn away in disgust as I didn’t want to offend her.  I clearly thought that Christian music was kind of hokey!
Piper gradually became more in tune to the good old rock that I listened to and even sang with me in our band on a few occasions.  But to be honest, she ended up having a lot more effect on the type of music I would listen to in later years than I ever had on her!
One of my fondest memories of our stay at Chico State College in north central California was one Saturday afternoon as Piper and I were sitting on the large grassy area between the guys and gals dorms.  The area was full of students somewhat quietly studying, tossing footballs or walking around when suddenly the atmosphere just seemed to come alive as someone in the dorms placed their stereo speakers in a window and began to blast out a song by the then popular band Steely Dan.   Then someone yelled out "Oh Yeah!" and it was like a shot of adrenaline was pumped into everyone’s veins.  The noise level instantly increased, books were tossed to the ground, kids started smiling and laughing and many broke out into dance!
But the music of Chico State also had another distinction for Piper and I…  A year after that afternoon on the lawn, we were introduced to The Second Chapter of Acts Christian band when Piper attended an outdoor concert at the football stadium where they were backing up Barrie McGuire.  I was not actually attending school at that time, but when Piper brought home an album and played it for me, my music tastes were almost instantly changed!  It was actually great music, with fantastic harmonies and had a message of life, compared to the other junk I used to sing in our band!
Through the years since then, it seems to me that contemporary Christian music has gone through many changes.  I’ve heard and played the original folk style of the early seventies through the highly orchestrated musical ballads popularized through the Hosanna Music series of albums of the nineties, to the underground styles that our kids enjoyed in their youth and into current times where there tends to be more of direction into worship and a greater focus on the words than the instrumentation. 
I must confess, that I recently came across some old fashioned Blue Grass Christian music that I really enjoy by Ralph Stanley, who first popularized the style in the 1940’s!  It is very basic music but extremely JOYFUL and uplifting in tempo and basic Christian lyrics.  My recent study on JOY is highlighted by the simplicity of this style of music, for JOY is a very simple thing that I have found many folks tend to dismiss as being naïve!
Over the last six years we have had some folks dismiss and/or criticize our JOY due to our simple trust in what God’s Word says as being very naïve to what they consider the seriousness and complexity of the situation that we are facing with Piper’s health.  And the funny thing is that while they constantly suggest the world’s limited ways of dealing with this attack on my wife’s mind and body, their very presence around us emanates a sense of darkness, fear and depression.  They are simply not very encouraging or uplifting people to be around and as such, I learned to limit Piper’s exposure to them as she is easily affected by the atmosphere around her.
On the other hand, we have a couple of good friends who are very simple people with a very strong trust in the Lord.  When they would come over to our home in California or talk to us by long distance on the phone now, the entire atmosphere in us and our home brightens up.  They happily talk about the love, faithfulness, JOY and power of the Lord.  We can’t help but be encouraged by them after only a few moments in their presence!  One of John’s favorite things is to call and share a positive testimony with me.
Isaiah 12:5-6 encourages us to “Make music to praise the Lord!  He has done wonderful things.  Let this be known throughout the earth.  Shout loudly, and sing with JOY, people of Zion!  The Holy One of Israel is great.  (&) He is among you.” (God’s Word ©)  Do you ever find yourself singing in simple praise to the Lord as you extol His goodness to those around you?  What percentage of your time do you spend looking at the problems in your life compared to the time spent focusing in on what God’s Word says about your situations?  I would bet that your life, your words and even your health is or would be more JOYFUL as you give the greater percentage of your attention to what He has done for you!
Think about that this weekend.  Are you a JOYFUL influence on those around you or a dark cloud?  Which would you rather be?  Have a great weekend!  Stay in tune to God’s Word and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s GOODNESS and JOY am I expecting to emanate today?”