Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone! In case you're wondering where all the current blog posts are... well... they are not here! I am taking a month off to pray over the directions for the blog for the new year! So, Piper and I pray that you all have the BEST Christmas ever and that 2018 brings you the abundant blessing of Papa God!
We look forward to seeing all of you again in the New Year! - Pastor Jim
Friday, December 1, 2017
We have a very nice Weber gas BBQ that my parents gave to us quite a few years ago. The only problem is that we haven’t used it in three years! Let me explain… Over the years that BBQ has been at the center of countless family dinners, holiday gatherings and a good source to cook on when the power went out! And since one of our all-time family favorites was barbequed chicken… that BBQ had not seen much down time… until we moved out here!
When we first moved here to North Carolina we rented an apartment until we got a little familiar with the area so as to be able to make a good choice as to where we would buy our house. One of the downsides of the apartment was that barbequing was not allowed on the apartment patios due to fire regulations. So for a year and a half we did not BBQ anything. By the time we moved into our new home it would seem that the years of use finally caught up with the flavor rods and grates inside the unit. They basically fell apart in my hands when I opened the lid and tried to move them.
It is not like it came as a surprise to me as I had been nursing those parts for a couple of years back in California and knew that I would have to get some replacements. But you know… for some reason it just hasn’t happened yet! I know they have the needed parts at Home Depot but I tend to forget about them whenever I go there… only remembering when I want to BBQ something!
I’m sure that I am the only one that this ever happens too… right? But it is not like we never BBQ as I also have a small Weber charcoal BBQ that I’ve been using since we moved in. To be perfectly honest, I like the way the charcoal BBQ cooks the meat much better than the gas unit! The only problem though, is that it takes longer and entails a bit more effort than just turning on the gas, igniting the jets and tossing something on the grill!
Charcoal cooking takes a little more planning, some experiential knowledge of cooking with your particular BBQ, and the understanding that the coals don’t always heat up evenly or completely as they should. There have been many times when I find myself with a folded newspaper fanning the white hot areas of the coals in order to stir up and then spread the fire. But again, just about every time I take that delicious looking – perfectly cooked - chicken or steak off the grill, the extra work and effort seems well worth it!
The process of stirring up the fire within the coals of the BBQ reminds me of the Psalmist’s words as he encourages us to “Erupt with thanks to the Eternal, for He is good…” (Psalm 107:1 The Voice) Whenever I read this verse I always tend to believe that our eruption of thanksgiving and praise unto the Lord should automatically come from the fire that we need to keep stirred up inside of us. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:13 and again in 2 Peter 3:1 that he believed it to be of utmost importance that we stir ourselves up by putting ourselves into continual remembrance of God’s Word. In 2 Peter 1:12 he says that we should stir up the truths that we already know and live by.
An even layer of white coals at the bottom of the BBQ cooks the meat a lot faster and more evenly with delicious results that make one’s mouth water much better than a bed of spotty white and black coals can ever attain! But like I say previously… to reach the peak of perfection with the coals takes some knowledge, patience, effort and maybe even a bit of sweat!
Keeping the fire white hot inside of us also takes that same kind of patience combined with regular effort and at times, some hard-pressed and diligent work. Once the coals of our spirit-man are white hot though… it doesn’t take much stimuli to “Erupt with thanks” unto the Lord.
The results of all that diligence and effort shines through like nothing I can explain when we enter into the presence of the Lord! It is an experience like none other… and according to the Word of God, it is something we can all experience more often than we would think! It just takes some priority setting, some diligent and consistent effort and maybe a tad bit of self-discipline.
Now… a perfectly cooked piece of juicy barbequed chicken with a crispy skin marinated throughout the cooking time with delicious home-made BBQ sauce that fills your mouth with a sensation of flavor and tender goodness can’t really be compared to a time in God’s presence as you “Erupt” with thanksgiving and praise to Him… but I think it gives you an idea of what I am talking about! (Might make you hungry too!)
Have a great weekend! Get to the store, buy some chicken and BBQ it for some tasty sensation and a wonderful meal… and then as you sit back in your favorite chair after dinner and pat your satisfied tummy… ask yourself… “Am I expecting to have that same kind of sensational experience in the presence of God today?”
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Have you ever seen the 2012 movie “Battleship?” I guess it didn’t do as well as expected at the box office and had some less than spectacular reviews! There are some parts of the movie though, that I really enjoy. The best being toward the end of the movie when the Navy survivors from an American and a Japanese destroyer that were both sank by some not too friendly alien forces, seek for a last ditch effort to stop the enemy when they spot the USS Missouri Battleship Museum sitting at permanent dock in its Hawaiian berth. There are a few scenes in this dramatic ending that really move me both physically and emotionally!
After the Captain of the American destroyer enlists the additional help of the docents and guides aboard the floating museum, who just happen to be veterans of WWII who you suppose actually served on the Missouri during the war, he sets things in motion to get the ship under power one more time. Every time I see this event it stirs me up… the interior of the huge ship as the lights come on in the various corridors, the engine room, the bridge and the close up of the ship's armaments. Then my heart skips a beat when they fire up the boiler and the command is given: “All ahead full power!” (I was a little disappointed when I later read that since the ship has not actually sailed under its own power since the 1990’s, that three tugboats were used to move the ship in the open water scenes!)
But the one scene that really moves me is when they fire her sixteen inch guns for the first time! And while our home entertainment system does not have true surround sound, we do have large stereo speaker boxes in front of the room with quality speakers in the ceiling behind the couch and the effect, at times, is incredible! So when those big guns go off, the sight of the flames bursting from the turrets grabs your visual attention and the resounding “boom!” usually causes me to rise up off the couch as the living room floor shakes under my feet and the walls vibrate!
Now I have an even better idea of what Francis Scott Key must have been thinking and experiencing when aboard the British armada that was bombarding Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore during the war of 1812. It gives me an even greater appreciation and respect for our armed services every time I stand for the American National Anthem that he wrote that fateful morning!
One similar thing that I’ve been learning as I read through the Old Testament book of Psalms is that our verbal celebration of Thanksgiving and Praise should leave, in many cases, the same lingering effects that the firing of the USS Missouri’s 16” guns in that movie have on me, with those around us when we worship the Lord! In studying various Psalms and in particular Psalms 98 and 107, I discovered that the Psalmist is clearly implying the kind of expression of Thanksgiving and Praise that results in audio, physical, spiritual and emotional stimulation.
The Vision translation of the Bible tells us in Psalm 107:1 to “Erupt with thanks to the Eternal, for He is good…” The exclamation to “Erupt” is defined as to “break out or burst forth suddenly and dramatically.” (Oxford online dictionary) Now one might counter this thought saying that this is a modern translation that does not truly capture the original idea. But the old standby, the King James Version, tell its readers “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good…” to which Charles Spurgeon in his classic “The Treasury of David” explains that “The Psalmist is in earnest in the exhortation, hence the use of the interjection ‘O’ to intensify his words. Let us be at times thoroughly fervent in the praises of the Lord, both with our lips and with our lives.”
Likewise The Voice translation says in Psalm 98:4 to “Raise your voices; make a beautiful noise to the Eternal all the earth. Let your joy EXPLODE into song and praise.” To “Explode” means “to undergo a violent expansion in which much energy is released as a shock wave.” (Oxford online dictionary) That definition reminds me of my physical and emotional reaction to the sights, sounds and vibrations of the scene I described at the firing of the USS Missouri’s 16” guns.
I came across an actual picture of the Missouri firing her guns in warfare and noticed that the sea under the guns looks like it is being blown by hurricane force winds! Think about your praises having the same effects on your circumstances and in the lives of those around you when you begin to utter heart felt Thanksgiving and Praise unto God! Talk about a positive shock wave! The enemy of our souls won’t know what hit him!
So… does any of this make you want to change the way you worship the Lord with Thanksgiving and Praise? Remember, that there is the right time and place for everything including proper expressions of worship, we just have to be sensitive to that small still voice inside of us. But I would bet that there are many more times when he is telling us to let loose and praise as the Psalmist proclaims in Psalms like 98 and 107 than we actually respond to!
With everything going on in my life… I’ve learned to listen to, obey and respond exactly as He TELLS me to… exactly WHEN He tell me to do so! How about you?
Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “When am I expecting to speak, sing and/or shout out a Shock Wave of Thanksgiving and Praise today?”
Monday, November 27, 2017
I stepped out back late Friday afternoon to toss the trash bag from the kitchen into the garbage can. As I turned around and took a step toward the back garage door, I turned and took a peek toward the towering trees that line the eastern edge of our property and even though I was fighting feeling a little down, I had to smile at the sight before me and utter thanksgivings to God for this beautiful land that He has blessed us with.
That moment looking at the trees got me to thinking of how I really am a simple guy at heart. I would MUCH rather find myself in the midst of a campground in the mountains than at one of those fancy island resorts they advertise on TV. As a kid I can remember a vacation at Disneyland and a number of adventures when we went down to Southern California to visit my Mom’s relatives where we actually stayed in a nice motel with miniature gold and other amenities, but again, the vacations I REALLY cherish are the many times we went camping in the Redwoods at Richardson Grove State Park.
I’m a guy who enjoys big family dinners at our home during the holidays. Our younger son from Oklahoma told me over the weekend, about the first dinner he and his wife hosted on Thanksgiving and how special it was to them. I whole heartedly agreed telling him that I always enjoyed looking around our house in Santa Rosa during one of those gatherings and feeling such a sense of joy at all the activity in the home, at all the small group conversations that were going on and just the overall sound of happiness in the atmosphere.
When our kids came to spend time with Piper and I last February, I was so looking forward to having the house full of family again. Someone outside of our immediate family had suggested that we take everyone “out” to dinner and to be perfectly honest, that thought was very distasteful to me (pun intended)! When everyone came, we all had such a great time preparing meals together, playing catch in the back, tossing balls to the dog, cleaning up after the various meals and doing A LOT of talking and catching up! I think what I enjoyed most was sitting back in my chair and just watching all our adult children interacting and having a good time together.
In many respects, I believe that my strong Italian family background has caused me to see many things, especially concerning family matters, the way that I do today. I think that one could say that about most people. In our country today, we seemed to be at a place where people’s differences and the ways that they may perceive the world around them are being so highly emphasized so that arguments easily break out around the discussion of whose ways are right and whose are wrong!
Greg Gutfeld, one of the panelist of Fox News program “The Five” made an astute comment on the show last Friday. Greg is an interesting individual who can be quite sarcastic at times, but at other times will say some astounding truths about society today. On Friday’s program they showed a couple of clips of Thanksgiving messages from Senator Bernie Sanders and President Trump. While the Senator’s message was pretty negative and dark, the President whose comments were being made to our soldiers overseas via satellite, seemed to be talking about a different country! He was positive and uplifting while he highlighted our improving economy, the growing job market, the increasing victories that our military is experiencing in the various war zones, and his plans for improvements in health care and with tax cuts.
Greg made the comment after the clips were shown, that we in our country can be compared to two people who go to see a movie and while they view the same content, they actually see two different movies… due to the way they personally interpret the events unfolding on the big screen. I was preparing dinner while the show was on and had to nod my head in total agreement to Greg’s astute comment.
I notice just about every day as I read the daily news reports online, that in the mainline media I will always find articles that criticize just about anything the President says or does, negative reactions to the reporting done on the conservative Fox News channel, and at least one article that makes fun of Christianity. And just like the movie scenario that Greg talked about, I will shake my head in wonder at how they could say the things they do in the mainstream media because in most cases, it is totally different than the way I see the incidents, people or beliefs they discuss.
As a strong evangelical Christian I find that I am regularly amazed at how wrong and/or mis-leading the press is when they try to explain how Christians feel about current events. Most times I’ll think “Where did they get that idea from?” They regularly mis-quote scripture, reference so called “Christian leaders” who tend to intellectualize the Bible and dismiss the “exceeding, abundantly above” of our God (See: Ephesians 3:20). They tend to talk about Believers, like we are the largest group of “rubes” (ie; country bumkins) in the nation’s populace!
Talk about living in a different country or seeing two different movies! When I look at the Words of our God within the pages of my Bible, I see and KNOW of a totally different God than what the press tries to project to its readers. Psalm 107:1-2 encourages us to: “Erupt with thanks to the Eternal, for He is good and His loyal love (mercy, kindness, beauty, goodness, faithfulness and compassion) lasts forever. Repeat these words in praise to the Lord, all you whom he has saved. (for) He has rescued you from your enemies.” (The Voice)
Now the world may see that encouragement as empty words that fail to change anything in the lives (according to their way of thinking) of the naive Christian who need the crutch of religious beliefs in order to falsely deal with the happenings in society today. But you know? To you and me, that command is more than just empty words but expresses the way that releases the very POWER of God into the situations and events unfolding around us!
Let’s take a look at these verses here. They tell us to “Erupt” in praises to God for he has saved and rescued us, right? Well then… just HOW does he rescue us? Through our PRAISES! Remember Jehoshaphat and the children of Israel? How about Paul and Silas sitting in that dungeon having been publically whipped and humiliated and then chained together in that dark and dank place? Simply put… it was THEIR PRAISES that set them free! HOW… Well… it’s due to the fact that according to Psalm 22:3 God is “enthroned on the PRASES of Israel.” (God’s Word ©) And since Israel in the Old Testament is a type and shadow of the Christian Church today, we can re-translate this verse to say that God is enthroned upon OUR praises!
Other translations say that God sits as King or sits down as judge upon our praises. The Greek version declares that He is permanently housed in our praises and has the divine power and influence over the situations in our lives in that place! The 1899 Douay-Rheims Bible calls our praises “the holy place!” Whew! Think on that for a moment or two!
Consider this… Where is the seat of power in any nation? – In their capital city right? You can see that in the America. Each state has its own state capital where the government of that state resides and then Washington DC is the seat of the Federal government and is where the President resides. A few hundred years ago there were individual “kingdoms” all throughout Europe and Asia and the seat of power for each of those “kingdoms” was where the King or Queen’s throne was… in their capital city.
Can you see where I am going with this? If the all-powerful God of heaven and earth is enthroned upon our praises, then that means that the very seat of His power is located within our praises! When you and I begin to sing PRAISES to God, we are not just saying comforting words or just worshipping God but are, in actuality, releasing the Divine Power and influence of His kingdom upon our enemies and/or the situations that we are facing in our lives! Try to explain that one to the main stream media! It’s like we’re living in two different realms or as Greg Gutfeld said, seeing two different movies!
So what’s my point in this long after Thanksgiving post today? Don’t be moved by what you may see happening around you, or by what you may read in the news. God’s truth is the only truth that has and will continue to stand the test of time! When the rough and tumble times come to you, release the overwhelming power of the kingdom of God through your PRAISES unto Him… and see your world change!
Have a great start to the Holiday Season. Keep your eyes on the prize of His Word and keep your PRAISES loud and strong… and as you do, keep asking yourself… Whose power am I expecting to release – THROUGH MY PRAISES unto my GOD- TODAY?
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
As part of our daily routine, Piper and I always take our seventy-five pound Aussie out back in the late afternoon for some exercise… for him as well as for me! When we stepped out for this activity yesterday and I was guiding Piper’s chair over the threshold of the back door from the garage and onto the step and extension platform that I had built in order to accommodate an easy and safe in and out for her chair, I noticed a very unusual critter perched at one end of the step.
Once I had Piper set in the sun on the back patio, I went back to the step to take a closer look. At first I couldn’t tell if it was a big spider or a flying insect. After a few moments of closer inspection I deduced that it was in fact a flying insect, black in color with large wings and six legs. I would have loved to study it a little more but Fiver was anxious for my attention and was running around the yard in search of one of the balls we play catch and retrieve with and I needed to pull Piper’s hood down a little more snug over her ears. So, I helped the little critter off the step and into the dirt next to it so that I wouldn’t step on him when we went back in the house… but you know, I still have no idea what it was as I had never seen one of those in our yard before! Hopefully he’ll return so I can get a picture of him and do a little research.
That weird looking, fairly large flying insect got me to thinking about all the different creatures, insects, bugs, birds, rabbits, deer, and yes, even snakes that inhabit the forest surrounding two sides of our property. Our property line goes back an additional ten feet beyond our fence line, but I am pretty certain that I’ll most likely never venture back there without a good pair of tall boots and my new CO2 pellet pistol for the trees, bushes, vines and ground cover is very thick!
Then my thoughts ventured off beyond the confines of our property and I began to get overwhelmed thinking about all the things that our heavenly Father has created throughout our universe. These musings were increased last night as I stepped outback with Fiver around ten to let him do his thing before bedtime and took a few moments to look up toward the heavens.
Another perk of country living is not having the bright lights of the city. While we do have a street light across the road from the front of our house, the back is pretty dark at night. That darkness makes for a pretty incredible sight when you look up! The stars are so bright and seem to go on forever! I long for the time when Piper can accompany us outside at night for the star show as she loved the night sky and always enjoyed pointing out all the different constellations! (By the way, we do have motion detection lights that cover the whole house and yard around our property, and I also keep the porch and deck lights on throughout the night!)
With the onset of the holidays and in particular Thanksgiving here in America, the thoughts and sights of God’s creation just makes me want to raise my arms in thanksgiving unto Him for all the marvelous things that He has made for you and me to enjoy in this life. The beginning of Psalm 136 instructs us to “Give thanks to the LORD because he is good (pleasant, agreeable, excellent, valuable, appropriate, becoming, understanding, glad and happy*), because his mercy (his kindness, favor, goodness, faithfulness, compassion and goodwill*) endures forever.”
I mentioned in our last post of how I love to think about and thank Papa God for all that He has done for Piper and I over the years, but sometimes I believe that it is also important to just thank God for who He is and for all that He has done throughout all generations. According to Dake’s Study Notes, Psalm 136 is a great place for us to start in thanking God for who He is. Dake explains that there are 26 admonitions to give thanks to the Lord in this psalm of thanksgiving and also 28 facts about God in those admonitions that all conclude with the truth that “His mercy endures forever.” (See the multiple definitions of ‘mercy’ above*)
I took the time to recite the verses of this Psalm at the breakfast table this morning so that Piper could join in with the act of Thanksgiving. While speaking out the 26 admonitions and 28 facts about our heavenly Father, I could not help but to raise my hands as I became emotionally involved in the moment of worship unto Him.
The word translated ‘thanksgiving’ actually comes with the connotation of physically raising our hands in reverence and praise to the Lord. Now that I know that, I can understand why I am usually moved to raise my hands and arms whenever I begin to praise the Lord whether at church, at home and even in the car! (Did I ever tell you about the time that I was the ONLY one who raised their hands during the singing of the ending hymn at the end of a New Year’s Watchnight service at the very traditional Baptist church we attended in the late seventies? Got a lot of strange looks… but I couldn’t help myself! I didn’t do it on purpose… my hands just sort of popped up!)
Tomorrow as you gather to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, I challenge you to read Psalm 136 together and then take a moment to go around the room and give everyone present the opportunity to thank God for who He is, and for all He has done. I guarantee that it will be a Thanksgiving gathering like you’ve never had before! (Let me know how many hands go up during this time!)
Piper and I wish each of you a very blessed, happy and meaningful Thanksgiving this year. And as you are about to bite into that turkey drumstick, ask yourself… “What am I expecting to THANK GOD FOR today, and tomorrow?”
*Definitions from the original Hebrew and Greek translations as defined by Strong’s, Thayer’s and Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions)
Monday, November 20, 2017
I stepped out onto the back deck late Saturday afternoon to enjoy the crisp weather and to quietly bask in the sights and fragrances of our backyard where I had done some pre-winter trimming of the bushes on Thursday and then mowed & swept the lawn earlier that day. My eyes were immediately drawn toward the pink western skies as the setting sun was giving its last effort at staying above the horizon.
It was another one of those times that I have grown to love out here with the sound of the breeze shimmering through the leaves that were still clinging to the trees around our property. The swish of the trees occasionally harmonized with the different species of birds singing their evening songs and the distant bark of one of our neighbor’s dogs. But besides those sounds, I was encapsulated with one of the greatest perks of country living… wonderful and peace-inducing QUIET!
As I feasted on the sights around me, I couldn’t help by thank the Lord for His faithfulness to my wife and I. Back in 2013 when I first began to get indications from the Lord in prayer about moving out here, I had no idea that we would end up in this location. In fact, I had never even heard of the town of Fuquay-Varina, Harnett County, Lillington nor any of the locations around our new home that are becoming more and more familiar to us with each passing day!
What I had heard in prayer back then was, that besides a few other key details of why the move was significant to God for us to make, was that it was important for us to own something (ie; a house again) in our later years. Well, standing on “our” deck some four and a half years later, I could only shake my head in awe of His lovingkindness and favor toward us.
In this Thanksgiving week, I can’t help but think of the goodness of our heavenly Father and speak out the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 136:1,4 declaring that I “Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his mercy (kindness, favor, faithfulness – Strong’s and Thayer’s) endures forever. (I) Give thanks to the only one who does miraculous things, because his mercy endures forever.” (God’s Word ©)
I spent a little time while preparing dinner last night talking with my wife about all the “miraculous” things that the Lord has done for us since we returned to California and eventually out here after attending Bible College in Oklahoma from 2006 – 2009. As the list got longer and longer, I suddenly received a revelation about a firm position we took in the early years of our marriage that set the stage for most of the items of the list we were making that night.
If you remember some of the posts I wrote last week, I mentioned the story in 2 Chronicles 20 when the Lord spoke through the prophet to Jehoshaphat and the children of Israel as they faced a life threatening event. In verse seventeen the Lord declared: “You won’t fight this battle. Instead, take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord for you…” (God’s Word ©) In this situation Papa God was telling the Israelites to take the position of trust in Him and His words to them. It was that position of trust that enabled them to hold their ground before the oncoming armies and to use praise as their only offensive weaponry.
In our case, it also began with taking a position of trust followed by praise. Let me explain… I won’t give you all the details as some of you might already be familiar with this story, but in the early summer of 1980 Piper was on maternity leave from Hewlett Packard where she had worked for about six months. Both of our hearts desires was for her to be a stay-at-home Mom when our kids came along. The only problem though, was that my fledgling photography business was not steady enough for us to be without her income.
In discussing the matter we decided that we would wait and see what happened as I had already put in an application at HP a few months previous to this time, before Piper let her supervisor know if she was coming back or not after her leave was up. After about a month or so of waiting along with some time spent in concentrated prayer, I heard the Lord one day distinctly telling me that we had the cart before the horse! We were waiting to see the results of our prayer before we took any steps of faith… kind of the opposite to the classic definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 where the writer said that: “Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot (yet) see.” (God’s Word ©)
I still can remember going into that small green kitchen at my Grandmother’s house that we were renting from my folks where Piper was cooking dinner and telling her what I had heard in prayer. Well, without ANY hesitation, Piper readily agreed as she was getting similar directions in her private prayers. So, without any further discussion we took hands with our little sheltie at our feet and thanked God for His directions and faithfulness to us and committed my job at HP to Him.
Piper called her boss the very next day and let her know that she would not be returning at the end of her maternity leave. We had made the decision that our financial future was in His hands… lock, stock and barrel! From that day on we never put finances before God’s plans for us. Now that’s not to say that we didn’t consider finances when making decisions, but God and His Word always had the final say as to the next step that we felt called to take.
Oh by the way… within a few weeks of that decision, Piper and I took our baby Josh to HP so that Piper could introduce him to the team she worked with. After signing in at the front desk in building one, we walked past the personnel department that was located right behind the entrance and continued down the open hallway. About half way through the building I heard someone calling my name and turned to see Steve, the man from personnel with whom I had previously talked to concerning my application jogging up behind us. Once he caught up to us he took a moment to catch his breath and then said that he had been trying to contact me as the management of the PC Shop were interested in me and wanted him to set up an interview!
Well, the rest is history! About a month later I went to work in the Printed Circuit proto shop, silk screening PC boards as well as putting in some hours each week developing negatives for the designers of the boards upstairs. I think God was just waiting for us to get our priorities right!
As I thought about that fateful decision back in 1980 while in the kitchen with Piper this last weekend, I couldn’t help but to let the thanksgivings flow to our Father in heaven because of all the blessings He has bestowed on us over the last 37 years since then, because of that lesson we learned in putting Him and His Word first. Now a days it just comes kind of naturally and that way of thinking is usually the first way we go. But you know… we have had to watch in that it doesn’t just become sort of rout to us! Each new decision needs to have a fresh anointing of our faith, a fresh perspective of His faithfulness and goodness to us, and a fresh recognition of Hebrews 11:1 concerning the outcome of our expectations!
As we look to the celebration of Thanksgiving in a few days, what are you thankful for? Why wait until you sit at the table with family and friends on Thursday before thinking about things to be thankful for. Start today and give the Lord a week of Thanks-giving for all that He has done for you!
Have a great holiday week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to be thankful for today?”
Friday, November 17, 2017
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everything just seemed to go right for you? Sure you have. We all have. At times like that it is easy to look back and see how you were in the right place at the right time for everything to come together like it did! The opposite can also happen… you know… when nothing seems to go in your favor. At these times it is easy to think about how you just might have been in the wrong place and the wrong time!
As I was studying in the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles chapter twenty and the story of Jehoshaphat and the children of Israel’s victory over three opposing enemy armies, I discovered that this also seems to be true when it comes to following God’s plans for the various activities and situations in our lives. In verses sixteen and seventeen the Lord spoke through the prophet Jahaziel and gave the Israelites some very specific directions for them to follow. He told them, “Tomorrow, they (the three enemy armies) will travel through the ascent of Ziz. Meet them at the end of valley before the wilderness of Jeruel. There I will be watching. Stand and watch, but do not fight the battle. There, you will watch the Eternal save you.” (The Voice Bible)
Evidently there is a right time and place for us to be during our stands of faith for the situations and needs of our lives where God is best positioned to fight and win the battle for us! In this story it is pretty obvious that if the Israelites had not followed God’s specific directions that they would have been wiped out. Sometimes the situations we go to the Lord for help in aren’t as black and white, aren’t as dramatic and may have multiple scenarios for us to choose from… besides what we sense that the Lord is telling us. But on the other hand… like in the case of my wife’s health, there is only one possible solution… and that is God’s way!
I can look back today and see how many of the steps of faith that we have taken along this journey over the last ten years have been the right thing to do at the right time. Most of these steps that we took though, weren’t as quickly brought to a successful conclusion as with our story in 2 Chronicles 20. When we followed what we strongly felt was the Lord’s directions for us and I quit my outside job so as to be able to care for Piper 24/7 back in 2010, it took almost two years before we saw all the tangible benefits of that plan.
At the time I was mainly thinking about Piper’s needs and care and was ready to do whatever I had to do to make it work. During those two years I had time to research available benefit programs that we could apply for, learned about the mandatory waiting periods before we could apply, the strict financial limits (that we met once I quit my outside job), the various medical evaluations we needed to get and the reams of paperwork I had to fill out. Once the Federal benefit qualifications were met, I then discovered State and County benefits that were available because of the Federal benefits Piper began to receive.
If I hadn’t obeyed the word of the Lord to us and stepped out in faith at the right time we would not have been in the right place to receive all those benefits. When all the paperwork was complete, approved and the finances began to come in, we ended up having a greater monthly income than I was making at my secular job… that kept me out of the home for up to twelve hours a day… and I was being paid to take care of my wife! Isn’t God good?
Another thing that I thought was interesting while studying this account in the Bible, is the multiple occasions that the Lord had to remind the Israelites that they were not to fight in this battle. God’s plan was quite unusual and I am sure that it must have been difficult for Israel’s trained solders to stand still and watch when the huge enemy force was coming against them and their families. But God knew what needed to happen in order for His plan to succeed.
The same could be said for you and me and the plans He has for us throughout our lives. We took A LOT of flak, accusation and criticism for obeying God because to some, quitting my job just didn’t make good financial sense. But through it all we continued on and eventually reaped the rewards of our obedience and forbearance.
I believe, just as with the children of Israel’s obedience to God’s unusual plan, that our stepping out in faith at the right time allowed Papa God the right place to fight the unseen battles we needed fought in order to receive His best for us. And since the Word tells us “that God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34 KJV), if He did it for the Israelites in the Old Testament, and He did it for us in these New Testament times… that He’ll do the same for you!
Have a wonderful weekend! We are supposed to have some beautiful weather and since a good majority of the leaves are down, I’m hoping to get some lawns mowed and swept for their final trim before the winter season! Be blessed and look for opportunities to be a blessing to those around you, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to be in the right place at the right time in order to be a part of God’s plan for me today?”
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
♫ “Saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace
Let's follow our leader into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other, whoa whoa this is the great adventure.” ♪ *
--- Steven Curtis Chapman
I had the opportunity to get blessed yesterday toward the end of our grocery shopping adventure at our local Super Walmart. The older gal who checked us out has been a regular checker since we first started shopping there a couple of years ago. In the past when we had gone through her line I barely got a few lines of communication from her. But for some reason this time was different.
By the time we got to the front of the line I had already been joking with the gentleman before me as I noticed that he was about to purchase a pair of slippers identical to the pair I have. He in turn joked with the cashier and she just seemed to keep it going when she started scanning our items. As we laughed she suddenly took a real interest in Piper, her situation and my care for her. The lady mentioned that she had seen us many times in the store and always took note of my attentiveness to my wife.
She went on to say many nice things about my attitude concerning our situation and my personal care for Piper. By the time we walked out of the store I felt like I was walking on the clouds! Once we got to our car in the parking lot, I pushed Piper up to the car door, opened the door and then went down on a knee so that I could gently move her feet off the foot stirrups, pick her up and seat her in the car. While I was kneeling by her I heard a man’s gentle voice behind me asking if I needed any help.
When I turned around I observed a gentleman about my age with long gray hair smiling at us. I politely declined his offer and thanked him profusely for the offer. (I have the process down to a science and don’t really see how another hand or two would be able to help me get her through the car doorway into the front seat!) A few minutes later after I had gotten Piper into the car and was unloading the groceries from the cart into the back seat, I suddenly heard that same voice joking that he forgot the item he was planning to return to the store and had to come back to his car.
We talked for a few moments and he made mentioned of how peaceful “my daughter” looked as he motioned to Piper in the front seat. I had to laugh at that point and told him that she actually was my wife. He went on to say how young she looks and then stated many of the same nice things that the cashier had back in the store.
I have to admit that his taking the time to talk with and encourage me really touched my heart. After loading the groceries and parking the cart, I slumped into the driver’s seat next to Piper and simply stared across the parking lot as I considered everything both the kind folks had said. Then I found myself drifting off into deep thought as the events of the last ten years flashed through my brain…
Piper took a long time to drink a good portion of her breakfast this morning and I have to admit that I did have to fight a little bit of discouragement while I encouraged her to swallow each little milliliter of her breakfast protein drink. By the time it was obvious that she wasn’t going to swallow anymore, I was feeling like I’d just run a few miles on our new tread mill but I pushed on, grabbed the dog’s lease and prepared to take him out for his morning constitutional… and that’s when I heard Steven Curtis Chapman singing “The Great Adventure” from my computer’s Pandora morning mix.
At that point I stopped in mid-stride and had to smile and admit that we have been on quite “The Great Adventure” since we began this journey. That thought along with the remembrances of the two conversations yesterday cause me to reflect upon the “POSITION” that we took back in the beginning days in 2007.
In 2 Chronicles chapter twenty we read the story of King Jehoshaphat and the children of Israel’s fight against three enemy armies that had joined together to attack them. In verse seventeen we hear the Lord speaking to the people telling them: “You won't fight this battle. Instead, take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD for you, Judah and Jerusalem. Don't be frightened or terrified. Tomorrow go out to face them. The LORD is with you." (God’s Word ©) A few verses later we find out that the POSITION they were called to take was that of PRAISE! (2 Chronicles 20:21)
The thought of Jehoshaphat and the children of Israel’s POSITION of PRAISE made me smile as I stood between the table and the sliding glass window on the way to the back deck, for that is the exact same POSITION that Piper and I took and continue to take throughout this “Great Adventure” of faith that we have embarked upon. That scripture and that POSITION contain so much material to discuss, but I’ll bring today’s post to a close sufficing to say that it is our POSITION of PRAISE that gets me up with a smile on my face, a song on my lips and the expectation of God’s best in my heart each day.
Without a doubt the mornings have been the toughest time of the day for us as Piper is usually at her weakest point when I first get her up, it is the time when most of her emergency situations have taken place and for some reason is the time when she consumes the largest intake of food for the day. Without our POSITION of PRAISE, I am not sure how I could face each and every new day.
2 Chronicles 20:20 informs us that even though they faced unbeatable odds and the very real potential of death itself that the children of Israel still “got up early in the morning and went to the desert of Tekoa...” That determination was the effect of their POSITION of PRAISE because they believed the Lord and what their King told them when he declared: “Listen to me, people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem. Trust the LORD your God, and believe. Believe his prophets, and you will succeed."
It is our trust and belief in the Lord and His Word that empowers our POSITION of PRAISE to face the trials of this life… with a smile on your face, a song on your lips and the expectation of God’s best in your heart each day.
What can I say? IT WORKS FOR ME… and will for you as well!
Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to take a POSTION of PRAISE today?”
PS: The conclusion of Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “The Great Adventure” ends with the words: "The love of God will take us far beyond our wildest dreams"*
*Songwriters: STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN, GEOFF MOORE
© CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP
Monday, November 13, 2017
On Saturday night my wife and I were in the living room watching a movie when she suddenly started twitching a little. It wasn’t an emergency situation but it was obvious that something out of the ordinary was going on. So I leaned forward as she was sitting in her chair in front of the couch and gently began to massage her shoulders while I softly told her “It’s okay.” Well the hand touch and words of comfort did the trick and she relaxed and didn’t have any more difficulties throughout the rest of the evening.
About ten minutes later the dog who was asleep at my feet began to whimper and twitch as he was having what seemed to be another nightmare. So, once again, I leaned over and gently began to pet his side while I softly told him that “It’s okay!” And as with my wife, he quickly responded, woke up and barely turned his head to look up at me with a blank expression that seemed to be saying “Huh?”
Once Fiver went back to sleep, I leaned back on the couch and suddenly began laughing as I thought “How many times over the last ten years have I said that to my wife during the many emergency situations that we have been through since that first report of the potential of Alzheimer’s back in 2007.” Then feeling a bit of self-pity, I looked up to the ceiling and said, “Gee, I’d love to have someone (like Piper) saying that to me!”
But you know… that thought didn’t last very long as the direction toward feeling sorry for myself was suddenly side-swiped by my recalling the personal experience that I have every time I read or confess the Word of God and/or break out into heartfelt or many times “the sacrifice of praise.” (Hebrews 13:15) For EVERY time I’ve done that, Papa God comes through by telling me that “It’s okay!”
I’ve been studying II Chronicles 20:14-30 over the last week and I keep finding myself astonished at the POWER that our praises unto God have on the situations we all face on a daily basis. Verses 14-17 outline God’s plan for the childen of Israel as they were about to face off with an overwhelmingly large and well trained enemy force. Through a prophet the Lord told them:
“This is what the LORD says to you: Don't be frightened or terrified by this large crowd. The battle isn't yours. It's God's. Tomorrow go into battle against them. They will be coming up the Ziz Pass. You will find them at the end of the valley in front of the Jeruel Desert. You won't fight this battle. Instead, take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD for you, Judah and Jerusalem. Don't be frightened or terrified. Tomorrow go out to face them. The LORD is with you."
Then when you read on you’ll see that it looked like the Lord wasn’t done with His instructions and must have spoken to the King during the night. In the morning as they prepared to march off to meet the enemy, King Jehoshaphat encouraged his troops and “After he had advised the people, he appointed people to sing to the LORD and praise him for the beauty of his holiness. As they went in front of the troops, they sang, "Thank the LORD because his mercy endures forever!" (20:21)
So wait a minute here folks… If I read this right, the King’s strategy to fight the battle was to put the Praise and Worship team out in front of the army? Have any of you ever heard of this type of military plan before? Obviously God must have known something about the power of PRAISE that not too many others knew… and probably don’t know today as well! So what happened? Did God’s preposterous plan work?
Well, of course it did! The next four verses tell us exactly what happened. “As they started to sing praises, the LORD set ambushes against the Ammonites, Moabites, and the people of Mount Seir who had come into Judah. They were defeated. Then the Ammonites and Moabites attacked the people from Mount Seir and annihilated them. After they had finished off the people of Seir, they helped destroy one another. The people of Judah went to the watchtower in the desert and looked for the crowd. Corpses were lying on the ground. No one had escaped. When Jehoshaphat and his troops came to take the loot, they found among them a lot of goods, clothes, and valuables. They found more than they could carry. They spent three days collecting the loot. (20:22-25)*
WOW! What do you think about that? Have you ever experienced a similar situation in your life where your exclamations of heartfelt PRAISE positively changed the negativity that you were facing? Maybe it wasn’t the treat of complete annihilation to you and your family… and everybody else you know… but yet important enough to you that you took the time and effort to PRAISE Him.
It was THAT power, THAT peace and my overwhelming TRUST in God that has empowered me to PRAISE Him in my darkest moments and thereby cause me to understand how much God has been helping me since that fateful night as I received that call while standing alone in the power tools aisle in the Garden Department at the South Tulsa Home Depot in 2007.
You and I can PRAISE Him in the midst of ANY situation or circumstances and know that “It will be okay” BECAUSE we love Him and trust Him and his Word… more THAN ANYTHING ELSE!
Obviously it worked for the Israelites back in Jehoshaphat’s time, and I can relate experience after experience in my life where it has worked… and I bet you can too! Have a great new week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting myself to PRAISE GOD so that it will be okay when my life takes a downward spiral?”
*All scriptures quoted from the God’s Word © translation.
Friday, November 10, 2017
I wrote a song back in the nineties for a children’s play that I penned for a holiday presentation that declared:
♪ “He put a new song right into my heart,
It’s a song of praise to Jesus
Just like the shepherds sang when they saw the King,
It’s a song of praise to Jesus!”
Halelu……jah, Hallelujah to the King,
Hallelu.…..jah, Oh we praise the newborn King!” ♫
Over the years and many Christmases and play presentations later, that song and certain lines from the play have become a regular part of our family’s Christmas celebration traditions. There is a line in the play where the main characters gleefully shout: “Tomorrow’s Christmas day, and you know what that means… Presents in the morning!” Well, with our family currently spread between California, Oklahoma and North Carolina over the last few years, I can always depend on one of the siblings sending out a group family text on Christmas Eve with that familiar line, which in turn opens up a long thread of communication of Christmas cheer between all of us!
I thought of that particular song this morning as I continued with my study of Psalm 100. Verse four in the King James Version encourages us to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” Many of the modern translations tell us to enter in with ‘songs’ of thanksgiving and praise, which is exactly the way the original Hebrew implies that the actions ‘thanksgiving’ and ‘praise’ should be presented. That revelation got me to realize that we are not to just come into His presence with dry or empty words but with actual ‘songs’ of heartfelt thanksgiving and praise! Our desire to come into His presence should be such a joy-filled and exciting event that we can’t help but sing our way in the door!
In Psalm 69:30 the writer declares that “I want to praise the name of God with a ‘song’ of praise.” (God’s Word ©) I am sure that for the musician David, singing unto the Lord was a natural way of expression for him. I was thinking this morning that Piper’s and my relationship was filled with music from the very get-go! We were both raised in musical families where singing around the piano was not an uncommon activity.
I was in a secular rock band when we met and played the guitar while Piper was classically trained on the piano (and continued lessons into her Junior College years when she also took organ lessons – I have fond memories of going to meet her after her individual lessons in one of the practice rooms in the old, musty music building!) Piper also played flute and piccolo in the high school band and then gave all of our kid’s piano lessons… which they still play today!
So… to come into His presence in song is quite natural for us as well. But let me say… that while a certain familiarity with music is helpful, it should not be the driving factor for songs of praise. The heart of a worshipper should be ignited into songs of praise and thanksgiving by their close, personal and intimate relationship with the Lord! Psalm 100:3 gives us the key premise to the workings of this Psalm… and most likely for all the Psalms as well. It states that we are to: “Know ye that the LORD he is God…” (KJV) The word “know” is that word in the Greek that we’ve all come to know and love (if you are a regular reader of this blog) “ginosko” which implies a close, personal and intimate relationship with the Lord. It is the “Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.” (Thayer’s)
As I meditated on this point yesterday I felt the Lord saying down in my spirit that “I should know Him just as I know my wife of 42 years… intimately, closely and with a loving knowledge of her innermost thoughts, needs and desires… and with ZERO doubt in my mind concerning the extent of her love for me!”
That natural kind of love between us is the driving factor for me to do ANYTHING for her. It is also the kind of love that should automatically drive us to come into the Lord’s presence with heartfelt songs of thanksgiving and praise. And you know… it doesn’t matter if you have a beautiful voice or can’t carry a tune in a bucket. David makes that extremely clear when he began Psalm 100 with the encouragement to “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD…” (KJV)
My Mom used to joke about her close friend Norma who knew she couldn’t hold a note but sang to her heart’s content when singing hymns in church! She always figured that her off-key rendition would just get lost amongst the other worshippers in the service! I believe that God is more interested in the heart of the worshipper than the tone!
So what do you think? Are you going to enter His presence with ‘songs’ of worship? I think that it would make Him very happy and bless you as well! Go ahead… give it a try!
Have a wonderful weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to enter His gates and His courts with heartfelt ‘songs’ of thanksgiving and praise today?”