Our New Home

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Expanding Your Horizons


The most encouraging segment that we watched on the PBS channel’s shows about North Carolina’s history, unique attractions, people and destinations was a story about a local man who was suddenly diagnosed with an eye disease.  He looked to be in his mid-thirties when he received the news that he would gradually lose his sight.  The report tells of the personal and emotional trials and tribulations that he went through as his sight was taken away.  But yet it documented such a determination that I have not seen in many people.

At one point he finally decided that he was not going to let his lack of sight deter him from living a full life, doing the things he enjoyed.  So he began to walk around the house, in the neighborhood and then around his town… without any aid but his white walking stick.  But wait!  The best of the story is yet to come.  Eventually he began to journey away from the paved sidewalks and streets of town and hike on the nature trails and paths in the woods around his hometown.

As his confidence grew he made the bold determination to hike the 2180+ mile Appalachian Trail that traverses from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.  During the program they interviewed his parents who openly expressed their concerns commenting that they thought that he’d lost his mind along with his sight!  But that didn’t stop him… and in the early spring the year he planted himself… alone… at the beginning camp in Georgia and began to ask the various groups as they came through if he could join in with them.

Well… he kept up his determination even though the first 24 groups rejected his plea.  But on the 25th he hit the jackpot and began his journey with the assistance of a young man who agreed to hike with him.  Then some two months later and the assistance of others along the way, he successfully hiked the entire trail!  I am not too sure that I would have had the guts, confidence and determination to do that!  What about you?

One of the things that really struck a chord with me, was something this gentleman said about the sudden changes in his life at the end of the interview.  He said that he finally understood that in his new situation, that somethings would never be the same again and that he learned to just get over it and find new things that he could do that would bring joy, comfort and meaning to his life!  I think that is a good word to all of us when making the decision to expand the boundaries of our comfort zones or not…

One of the points I read in the commentary as I have been studying I Timothy is something that Paul was basically trying to convey to the young Timothy saying, “If you are God’s servant, called by the Spirit, obeying His will, then you can stay with it and finish the walk.”* (See: I Timothy 1:12)  But Paul didn’t stop there, he also gave some practical advice declaring “It is not enough to proclaim the faith with our lips, we must practice the faith in our lives.”*  In other words, he was encouraging Timothy to not only believe, but to also step out and act on those beliefs!  Just like the blind gentleman I told you about.

I’ve discovered time and time again, that the hardest part of stepping out of my comfort zone is that first step.  After that, it tends to get easier with each step forward that I take… many times in total faith as I haven’t walked that path before!  I am not sure what hurts me the most in our situation… when those who refuse to take that first step end up negatively affecting my wife, or the negative affect I see festering in their own lives.  Sometimes our refusal to step up and beyond our comfort zone affects a lot more than just those immediately involved in the situation!

But on the other hand… Our courage in stepping out can have an immensely positive and encouraging effect on others like how I felt after viewing that story about the blind man’s courage to go beyond what he could not see (literally and emotionally!).  What helps me the most when faced with difficult steps in our current journey, is the knowledge that since God has called me to do what I am doing for my wife, that He has also equipped and enabled me to succeed… no matter how difficult or unusual the task or situation may be.

So… what do you think?  What will your next move be when faced with a situation that’s new to you?  Do you step up and out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons… or stay put?  Remember… keep in mind how your decisions will affect those around you.  Have a great weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What actions am I expecting to take when the limits of my comfort zone are being expanded?”



*Be Faithful, Warren Wiersbe, Study on 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, chapter one

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Stepping Out of the Zone...


I’ve mentioned many times that I have always been what many would consider to be a “dreamer.”  Dictionary.com defines a dreamer from two extremes saying on one hand that a dreamer is “a person who lives in a world of fantasy; one who is impractical and unrealistic.”  Then on the other side of the coin states that a dreamer is “a person whose ideas or projects are considered audacious or highly speculative; a visionary.”

I have come to learn that people who do not understand dreamers will automatically lean toward the first definition listed above.  Through the years I have been called naïve, told I was living in “La, La, Land,” am irresponsible and by a few, that I am just plain stupid!  But to those who have an understanding and appreciation of the inner workings of us dreamers, both my wife and I have been congratulated for our faith and confidence over some of the things we stepped out to do (even when they didn’t turn out as well as we had hoped), have received much prayer and encouragement and emotional support and at times even emulated as examples to follow.  So you can see that the reactions are quite polar!

But I have also learned that being a dreamer entails much responsibility, lots of faith and patience, planning, persistence and the ability to smile when others openly criticize you… for being you!  I imagine that it must be difficult for a non-dreamer to understand what’s going on in the mind and spirit of a dreamer!

I recently purchased a new bibliography on the life and times of the well-known American frontiersman Daniel Boone after seeing a two part segment on one of the North Carolina history programs on our local PBS TV channel.  It turns out that Daniel Boone spent 21 years of his life right here in our new home state after coming here at the age of eighteen with his parents and many siblings (There were 10 or 11 kids in the family!).  So with the new book, I decided to revive the tradition that we started during our first winter in our home, of spending a little time each afternoon in our cozy study reading from an historical book.

After reading the introduction, the preface and looking of the multipage chronology of events in the life of our frontier hero, I turned to my wife with a smile, a laugh and a yearning in my heart and declared: “Like I’ve said before Honey, if we had lived back then I can almost guarantee that we would have had a covered wagon and would have been continually moving west every few years along with all the other pioneers as the country grew.”

I talked to our oldest daughter last week about a similar subject when she came over to spend the afternoon with us.  I explained how I would get bored and restless with all the secular jobs that I had held over the years after I had been working there for a while.  Looking back, it seemed to flow on a five year cycle.  I’d start the position with a bang, work hard and then find myself after a few years no longer looking forward to another day on the job!  In the discussion above, it would be like the farmer who is standing in the field he had finally cleared and tended for a few years and looks out across the horizon and begins to dream about the new lands, exciting adventures and challenges with all the other possibilities that loomed over the next mountain range!

But with those new adventures and challenges comes the reality of facing new things that you have never encountered before.  And while that can be exciting it also means that you are going to have to deal with the difficulties of stepping out of your comfort zone again!  The reality of this normal and sometimes daily event in each of our lives has really come to the forefront of my understanding during this long and difficult journey with my wife’s health.

Over the years I have continually been forced to step out of my personal comfort zone in the preservation of my wife’s life.  I was thinking yesterday about all the difficult phone calls, office visits, benefits research and more meetings, disease research and questioning and the hours of prayer in which I have endeavored to inquire for my wife’s needs.  Then on top of all that there is having to deal with other people’s reactions and/or responses to my wife’s situation… some outstanding in their reaching out to her and others who cannot seem to step beyond the confines of their own comfort zones.

One thing that impressed me in the two part documentary about Daniel Boone’s adventures in North Carolina that we watched on TV, was the outstanding strength and abilities of Boone’s wife Rebekah that he had met and married while in our state.  It seems that she was one of the main foundations of his life that enabled him to accomplish the things that are written in the history books.  She must have been a remarkable woman when you consider all that she did in raising ten children, caring for and defending the homestead while Daniel was on a long hunt (sometimes as long as two years at a time) and supporting and encouraging her husband through the ups and down of his remarkable life.

I would imagine that she was continually faced with situations while living on the wilderness borders of our young country that forced her to step beyond the securities of her comfort zone!  And from what I have seen on the TV documentary and read so far in the book, she did it with exemplary ease!

I got that same feeling of exemplary conduct with the writings of the Apostle Paul to his son-in-the-ministry Timothy.  In I Timothy 1:18-19 Paul encourages his protégé to take the calling as Pastor in the pagan city of Ephesus that had been prophesized over him and personally charged by Paul to accomplish with zeal by “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck…” (KJV)

Like Daniel and Rebecca Boone, Timothy and in some respects myself (although I’m not sure I can put myself on the same line as these strong historical characters!), I challenge each of my readers to take an honest look at how you handle that place that I am sure you have come to in your lives… when you are faced with new situations that you may not be familiar with… or be comfortable in pursuing.  How do you face that fear that tries to crop up and encourage you to simply turn around and go back to where you were before?  Do you swallow hard and set your confidence on the strength of God… or do you retreat and choose not to deal with the situation?

This is a tough one… but it is a decision that we have to make continually!  As a dreamer, it is a decision that I have had to face MANY times in my life… and I admit that it doesn’t necessarily get any easier… EXCEPT... that I always have the memory of the last success when I stepped out of my comfort zone in the faith and good conscience of the Lord and His Word that carries me through the initial tough times of any new move!

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to do today when faced with something that challenges the borders of my comfort zone?”

Monday, April 24, 2017

Love + Grace = _____________


This weekend seemed to be a series of revelations to me!  It started on Saturday morning when I continued to forge-on in my new study of I Timothy using one of the “Be” commentaries written by Warren Wiersbe as my initial guide.  It continued that evening as I watched one of three programs on the local PBS channel that I’ve been enjoying that cover things to do in North Carolina, historical sites and unique business endeavors in the Tar Heel State.  Then on Sunday there was the story of a gentleman who had recently become blind and the way he has faced his fears.  This was portrayed on the PBS show that works together with the “Our State” magazine that gives detailed monthly looks into many of the unique attributes of our new home.

And just before we went to bed last night, I flipped on one of the ministries we’ve supported for years and ended up staying up a little later than I had originally wanted to.  We did this in order to listen to and catch the significance of a prophecy that was given in 1974 that seems to relate to our current government’s administration, in line with God’s plan for America!

So, to say the least, it was a very enlightening weekend!  As I read from I Timothy 1:12-17 on Saturday morning my interest was piqued as I read verse fourteen where Paul, concerning his unique salvation experience, states that “the grace our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus.” KJV)  The Message Bible says that “Grace mixed with faith and love poured over and into me…”  While the 1889 Darby translation declares “The grace of our Lord surpassingly over-abounded with faith and love…”

The thought of love mixing with grace and mercy caught my attention.  And as I meditated on that idea my eyes glanced over to a couple of defining statements made by the author of the commentary.  Reverend Wiersbe wrote that “God in His mercy did not give Paul what he did deserve; instead, God in His grace gave Paul what he did not deserve.  Grace and mercy are God’s love in action.”

Then a few lines down he continued his point that “It is not God’s love alone that saves us, for God loves the whole world (John 3:16).  It is by grace that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9) because God is rich in mercy and grace” (Ephesians 2:7).  I am not totally sure why, but that last line hit me like a brick and my mind was overwhelmed with understanding!

Throughout this journey that my sweet wife and I have been on with the deterioration of her health, I have often wondered how people who we know love us, have responded in some of the most difficult ways that either of us have ever experienced.  As I read this explanation I suddenly understood that the Godly agape love that Paul is talking about is a combination of LOVE and GRACE!   What we’ve been seeing is love without grace!  Then I also saw that love without grace is like the natural love that we see abounding in the world in which we live.

Through the years of ministry and secular management in three different corporations, I have often times shook my head in disbelief as I’ve witnessed couples fighting and/or getting divorced over things that I, in our experience, would consider having a simple solution.  But now I understand that the one quality that was missing in their relationships was grace!   

I have known for the forty seven years of our relationship, which includes five years of dating that began in High School, that I ALWAYS have an “ear of grace” with my wife!  I know without a doubt that I can tell her anything, including the just plain dumb or stupid things I’ve done over the years, and receive grace in the form of a warm hug, compassion, forgiveness (if necessary), and just the perfect words of encouragement without any trace of judgment or criticism.

I’ve discovered that love and grace go together hand in glove.  That grace enables or empowers our love walk and gives us the strength and ability to walk out the activity of love toward others… as well as to ourselves!  Love without grace is powerless to act in certain situations.  This kind of love results in but empty or meaningless words when real action is required.

LOVE plus GRACE = God’s Agape love.

We’ll continue on this theme for a few more blog posts… which just might include an example by one of America’s most well-known pioneer, woodsman and frontiersman Daniel Boone!  But in the meantime, I would encourage you to think about the combination of LOVE and GRACE that is working in your life!  How enabled is your love walk today?

Have a great week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting my activities to be filled with God’s GRACE today?”

Friday, April 21, 2017

Stress Busters!


One of the reasons we were drawn to this house, besides its beautiful and serene country setting near to the convinces of two towns, a hospital and within an hour’s drive to Piper’s various doctors as well as being in fairly close proximity to our oldest daughter and her husband, was the large lot and gardening opportunities that it presented to us. 

The lot is kind of unique in its location near the rear of the neighborhood with two sides backing up to forested areas.  Another special quality was that although the home was fifteen years old when we purchased it, the previous two owners had not really done much in the way of landscaping, except for a nice lawn surrounding the house, a few plants and shrubs in the front flowerbed and a 4ft fence enclosing the backyard.

For us, this piece of heaven was just what the doctor ordered!  With a love for gardening and yard work deeply embedded in my DNA, this property had our names written all over it!  I realized a few years back that my love for all kinds of yard work (well… maybe not raking leaves) was also a way for me to burn away the stresses of life and rejuvenate my spirit, soul and body!

As I look over our ¾ of an acre lot, I see a vast multitude of landscaping possibilities, highly accenting fruit trees, a large vegetable garden, cactus garden (love prickly pears!) and beautiful flowers artistically placed around the home.  But then reality hits home and I realize that there is only one of us to cultivate, care for, harvest and eat the garden products!  So I have to keep reminding myself to scale back my plans.  I would like to stay here for a while and at my age, it is important to think of the care of whatever I add to the yard in mind!

One of the simple things within the sphere of yard care that I have always found pleasure in is mowing the lawn… weird huh?  But with the right tools and attitude, I find it quite relaxing and thoroughly enjoy the results of a well-cared for lawn and yard!  Well… I put that theory to work over the last two days as I mowed and trimmed the front and back lawns.  Now granted the riding mower makes relatively quick work of the mowing and the gas powered string trimmer and blower help immensely as well!

But you know… I was feeling pretty emotionally and physically stretched this week and yardwork did not have its usual appeal to me.  So what did I do?  You guessed it… I dragged myself out to the shed, gassed up the tools and away I went… two days in a row!  And whoosh… It worked like a charm!  As I sat upon my bright red riding mower and looked over this beautiful piece of heaven that I firmly believe the Lord had in mind for us when it was built, the strain, pain, worries and cares of my wife’s situation seem to vanish amongst the trees bursting out with their spring greenery and the deep blue skies dotted with huge white puffy clouds!  Yes it worked again! 

I knew that if I got out there and started performing the yard chores that I would feel better… because that’s one of the ways that the Lord works in me!  But I’ve also learned (the hard way most times…) that with everything going on that demands my 24/7 attention, that I can’t over do it!  So instead of trying to do everything in one day and then regret it later in the evening when exhaustion sets in, I knew to spread out the various tasks involved in mowing and trimming the yard into a two or three day task.  That wisdom also gives more opportunities for Piper, the dog and I to be outside and enjoy nature for extended periods of time!

Working with the land not only energizes my physical body, but it renews my spirit-man, bolsters my resolve and re-focuses my vision off from the physical circumstances and back onto the Word of God and His truth concerning our needs.  Where I might be in the place of gradually cracking open the door to doubt and unbelief, by the time I turn the key and switch off the mower, scriptures like those found in Mark 5:36 when Jesus immediately turned to Jarius after some of his workers came to report the death of his beloved daughter, looked him in the eye and with great love and conviction spoke unto him: “Be not afraid, only believe” come alive to me again!

So yeah… We’ve got a good sized piece of land out here, but no, it is not too much for me to handle… it is exactly what the good Lord knew that I needed to work through and accomplish the task set before me in carrying for my wonderful wife in her time of greatest need.  Isn’t God good!

What are your stress-relievers?  What activities cause you to refocus your energies and commitment to your faith in the Word of God?  What activities lift you from the grasps of fear and bring you back into a firm belief in the love of God and His Word working on your behalf?  Let me know!  I’d love to hear of all the various and unique ways that God works through different folks.

Have a great weekend!  We’re supposed to have scattered thunderstorms for the next few days, although it is warm and sunny right now.  Hopefully you’ll get some opportunities to relieve any stress and refocus on the truth of God’s Word… and as you do, keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to become stress-free today?”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Inside Information


When the kids were young and we were highly involved with the church, I got in to the habit of recording my favorite Sunday football games so that I could watch them during the week and not take time away from the family in-between the ministry activities over the weekend.  I was never one to be upset about finding out the outcome of the game before I watched them.  In fact, I kind of liked knowing the final score before I turned on the VCR. 

That way when I watched the recording it was like I had “Inside Information” and observed the game from that standpoint, looking for particular plays, both good or bad that helped to determine the final outcome.  Added to this was the fact that I had a die-hard 49er fan for a boss at Hewlett Packard and by the end of the day on Monday we had the game completely diagnosed, knew what improvements were needed and were highly anticipating the next game.  So even before I actually watched the game, I had the complete game book analysis for it!

I got the feeling as I began a study in I Timothy this morning that young Pastor Timothy also had and endeavored to use the “Inside Information” that his spiritual father Paul gave to him as he attempted to minister to the needs of the church in Ephesus.  From the very beginning of the letter it is evident that the great Apostle is sharing with his protégé from his personal playbook, complete with play by play analysis from his years of practical experience in the field.

I think that one of the most important pieces of “Inside Information” that Paul gave him is found at the very beginning of his pastoral letter in I Timothy 1:1.  In his salutation Paul reminds Timothy of his credentials by declaring that the letter is “From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior…” and then gives him the greatest secret or “Inside Information” needed to undergird him throughout each and every day of his life.  Paul simply reminded Timothy that “Jesus Christ (is) our confidence.” (God’s Word ©)

The King James Version gives us a more familiar translation of that verse saying “the Lord Jesus Christ which is our hope.”  But when you look up the word "hope" in the Greek you’ll notice that it actually is talking about what we are “expecting.”  So you could read it as “Jesus Christ who is our expectation.” 

That understanding speaks a clear and deep message to me.  For in each and every turn that my life takes, Jesus Christ and His Word (See John 1:1) is all the “Inside Information” that I need to have concerning what is happening at that moment.  When things happen… the answer Jesus gives me in His Word is the outcome I am to expect!

The author of the commentary that I am using in my study of I and II Timothy, Titus and Philemon wrote concerning this verse that “To a discouraged Timothy, the title “Our Hope” (or “Our Expectation”) was a real boost.”  I have to tell you that I experienced that “boost” this morning after helping my wife partake of her morning meal.  She was having a hard time taking in the food and although she finally ate a good amount, it was difficult for me to see the changes that have been taking place within her system.

With patience waning and emotional distress taking its toll, I decided that it was probably best to just say nothing in English, but only pray in the Spirit and let the One with the “Inside Information” do what was best for us in that moment of need. (See Romans 8:26)  At moments like this I NEED to have the absolute peace of mind in the FACT that Jesus is my expectation, my hope and/or my confidence!  That “Inside Information” is part of the Word that I mentioned in a recent blog post that sets us apart from the rest of the world!

Without the knowledge of that “Inside Information” I don’t know how I would have made it through these last ten years.  How do you make it through each day?  Do you rely on Jesus’ “Inside Information” or do you look to other sources to meet, or be your expectations?  Think about it…

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Who or What is my ‘Inside Information’ source of EXPECTATIONS today?”



*”Be Faithful” a commentary on 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon by Warren W. Wiersbe, ©1981)

Monday, April 17, 2017

It's Real!


I read something last night just before I turned out the light that really moved me!  Each evening after I help my wife get ready for and into bed, I enjoy taking a little time to do some pleasure reading.  Then to cap off the day and go to sleep with good thoughts and good Word, I’ll briefly read from the Bible or a Christian teaching book.  Well, last night was no different except for the fact that my reading time was shortened as I was having great difficulty keeping my eyes open! 

But then a funny thing happened…  As I picked up reading from where I had left off the previous evening in “The Collected Works of John G. Lake,” I suddenly became wide awake with the revelation of God! 

John G. Lake was a “Canadian-American leader in the Pentecostal movement in the early 20th century.”*  Beginning in 1908 he spent five years in South Africa and together with Thomas Hezmalhalch co-founded the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa.  From there he spent an additional twenty years ministering mainly along the west coast of the United States, setting up healing rooms, holding healing campaigns and establishing churches. He had such an impact in the healing ministry “that according to statistics, the U.S. Government declared his city, Spokane, Washington to be the healthiest city in America”**

It was in reading of an incident that he reported while in South Africa that sent my heart soaring last night.  Mr. Lake told of a time when he was holding a meeting in a home where ten born-again, spirit-filled brothers were in attendance when the youngest of them suddenly fell under the power of the Spirit.  “He arose and we observed that he was giving the arrangements for a drama.  He was perfectly under the power of the Spirit.  He had no consciousness in the natural of what was taking place. 

All at once, the Spirit fell upon another of the brothers, then another and another until all ten became actors in the same drama.  We sat there amazed for hours, observing a perfect five act drama.  A presentation of God’s dealings with the race of man throughout the history of the world.”  Mr. Lake concluded the story saying that “I left that night with the awe of God on my soul so deep that, for weeks afterwards, I felt as if I wanted to walk very softly.”

I am not sure why this report so moved me, except that I had never heard of the Spirit of God moving in such a way.  After turning out the light for the night, I could not help but to keep repeating that story over and over again in my head!  Then I was overwhelmed with the thought that “God REALLY can do anything… can’t he!”

I wonder how many of us REALLY take verses like Mark 10:27 seriously.  Here and in other inferences throughout the Gospels, Jesus plainly states that; “…with men it is impossible, but NOT with God: for WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.” (KJV)  Once again I enjoy the way the Message Bible paraphrase accents this thought by saying in modern terminology that “Jesus was blunt: ‘No chance at all if you think you can pull it (getting yourself saved or any other seemingly impossible miracle you may need at the time) off by yourself.  Every chance in the world if you let God do it.’ ”

The early church seemed to have this detail down pat.  What happened to us in our world today?  It is almost like the miraculous of God has gotten lost throughout the ages since then.  It hurts me when I read articles in the daily news where the miraculous power of God is dismissed due to its “political incorrectness.”  I guess that for some, it is just easier to translate the Bible according to the terms of the social norms of the day instead of by the miraculous, situation changing, life-altering power of the Holy Ghost working through the hearts and hands of faith-filled Believers.

You know… I’ve been around this stuff for way too long to start doubting God’s impossible-busting abilities today!  I’ve personally seen the arm of a young Junior High girl healed after breaking it in a fall on the slopes at a Baptist snow camp in the mid-1970’s after my wife and I laid hands on her in the car on the way back to camp after our long afternoon at the local hospital.

I’ve seen young elementary school children lifting up holy hands and weeping in joy with thanksgiving while singing worship songs as the Holy Spirit fell during children’s church.  I’ve seen entire youth groups on the floor under the power of the Holy Spirit at the completion of youth services in our local church with the parents who had come to pick up their kids, standing around the edges of the room in awe of Almighty God as He moved amongst their children.  And I have personally felt the literal power of God move through me and into the body of the sick who had come to the front of the church for healing prayer.

All I can say is that IT IS REALL!  And it is here today!  I believe that Papa God is just waiting for His body to accept their responsibilities and take their place by moving out in faith to reach out to those in need.  Listen closely… Is He calling you out today?  If so… remember Paul’s encouraging words to us in Ephesians 3:20 saying “God can do anything, you know – far more than you can ever imagine, or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” (The Message)

So what’s stopping you?

Have a great week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What impossibility-busting power am I expecting God to work through me today?”



*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_G._Lake

**https://healingrooms.com/index.php?page_id=422

Friday, April 14, 2017

Let's Get This Right!


I read an article yesterday on one of the mainstream news online websites and I have to say that I felt sad and to be honest, a little embarrassed for the author of the piece!  This individual was writing in disagreement to something that many well-known Christian leaders including Franklin Graham have stated concerning what many of us see as a special call or even ‘anointing’ for Donald Trump and his administration.

The author began his article by establishing his credentials declaring that he has been an ordained minister with one of the mainline Christian denominations for many decades.  He then went on to state how these other ministers were totally incorrect in their declarations and wrote of his thoughts and experiences on the matter while inserting some scriptures to defend his point of view.

What immediately caught my attention was that he completely ignored the multitude of scriptures in the Bible that clearly legitimize the reasoning behind the opposing minister’s publicized statements.  He tended to base the majority of his article on personal experiences backed by a socially correct, natural and thereby powerless (and in reality, incomplete and/or inaccurate) interpretation of God’s Word.  I can’t say that I was offended by the article, but it definitely caused me to stop and think about its significance to the impact of the Gospel message that we are told to take to the far reaches of the globe.

I was reminded of the article later on in the day, as I was reading from a book on faith to my wife.  In talking about the significance of the Word of God in the life of the believer, the writer of the book quoted from Matthew 4:4 concerning Jesus’ response to the temptation of the devil in the wilderness of Judea after His baptism.  Without a second thought Jesus immediately replied to the devil’s comments, declaring “…It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (KJV)

The moment I read that verse I thought back to a similar and  familiar verse I’ve been studying and writing about in John 6:63 where Jesus helped His disciples through some confusion by stating: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (KJV)  It is pretty evident to me that in both of these verses, and many others like them, that Jesus is pointing out the importance of His Word in the lives of His followers… like you and me! 

Then as I studied these verses along with Psalm 1:1-5 this morning, it dawned on me that our knowledge of, trust in and actions based on the Word of God is what sets us apart from others in this world.  But again, it cannot be just a head knowledge that never allows us to explore beyond the confines of our own limited human understanding, but one that is growing in an intimate, personal and experiential knowing of God’s agape love for each of us individually!

According to another familiar scripture found in Ephesians 3:19, the Apostle Paul declared that this kind of knowledge of God’s love is what sets us free from the limits of our own understanding and enables us to go way beyond any natural knowledge while opening wide the doors so that we can be completely filled with God.  Now if that kind of lifestyle doesn’t separate us from the rest of the world… than I think nothing will!

So yes… I was shaken a little by all this… but it caused me to REALLY take a look inside and see if my interpretation of the Word is limited by what is socially acceptable around me or is it based on what God’s Word says?  When people see me and the life I live, do they see what they see in everyone else, or do they see something a little (or hopefully A LOT) different from the world’s standard operating procedure?  Do my words and subsequent actions portray a Gospel message that fits right in with what I see happening around me or read in the newspaper or online news sites, or is it a dramatically different message that encourages, gives hope to the hopeless and joy to the brokenhearted?

Jesus used to amaze the folks He spoke to when He walked this earth (See: Matthew 7:28, 8:27, 9:23, 12:23… and a whole bunch more!).  Can I say the same thing about my life?  How about you?  Remember it is called “The Good News” for a reason!  I want to get this right… don’t you?

Have a great weekend, and as you do keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting my life to portray today?”

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Live the Thrill!


I have to admit that I had been getting a little concerned over the last month or so.  As I looked around our rural neighborhood, I noticed that just about everybody’s grass around their properties was beginning to turn green EXCEPT for mine!  Due to the weather patterns out here, the lawns go dormant in late fall and usually begin to turn green again in spring as the temperatures rise and warms the ground.  My back lawn seemed to be following the correct pattern, but the front was a different story.

Thoughts of having to reseed began to fill my mind as I found myself considering all the worst things that could happen!  But then I had the thought (like duh!!!) “Why not seek the Lord’s wisdom on this?”  So I did and I kept getting the idea that all was going to be fine… even though I didn’t see any changes as time went by.  But He said what He said and I knew that I needed to get my thoughts on what He said… and not on what my eyes were seeing!

Then it happened!  I was out back tossing the ball to Fiver one afternoon when something caught his interest and he dropped the ball near the left side front fence line and went off with his nose to the ground… most likely he caught a whiff of one of the squirrels who like to sit on the fence posts, leaving behind a powerful scent!  So I ambled off across the yard to the ball and bent down to pick it up… and that’s when I saw it.

While reaching for the ball which was wedged between the fence slats, I glanced through the fence into the front yard and noticed little green blades of beautiful grass pushing up from the ground, fighting their way to daylight between the thick brown dormant grasses.  I have to tell you… it was a Hallelujah moment for me!  Thank goodness that there are no neighbors on that side of the yard for they may have thought that I slipped a cog or something… then again… maybe not… they might have just seen it as normal for me!

But the point is, that at that moment of discovery, I was THRILLED to have a visible representation of what the Lord said was happening… even though I could not see it at the time He spoke to my heart!  Dictionary.com defines the word or action of being THRILLED as “to affect with a sudden wave of keen emotion or excitement, as to produce a tremor or tingling sensation throughout the body!”  And that is exactly what I felt as I continued to stare at the front lawn and see green blades beginning to push up all over the lawn!  A few days later we had a good rain and now it looks like the green blades of spring and summer lawn have finally won the fight to stay!

Now some of you may think that my reaction to the return of our green lawn is a little over the top… but you know… with everything going on in my life, in particular the daily struggle I fight in caring for my beautiful bride, I have learned to enjoy each day and every new positive event in that day as a special celebration of life!  I don’t know how much longer that I will be blessed to enjoy my wife’s physical presence in this life and I want to make each day happy and encouraging for her… as well as for me.

So yes… I tend to be THRILLED at the seemingly smallest of victories each day.  I want my existence to radiate the joy of the Lord to my wife as well as to those who step onto our little piece of heaven here in North Carolina.  I want to see the hand of the Lord in everything I do.  I don’t want to be swayed by the fears that I face every time I look at my wife’s changing physical countenance.  I want to surround myself with people who will encourage the two of us, those who are free to face, laugh with and reach out to my wonderful wife.

And how do I do this?  By establishing the foundation of each day on the THRILL I discover in the written Word of God each and every time I read it, meditate on it, speak it, sing it and act on it.  Psalm 1:1-3 tell us that we are blessed when we do not “follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners or join the company of mockers.  Instead we THRILL to God’s word and we chew on scripture day and night and are therefore like a tree planted besides streams – a tree that produces fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither.  For we thus succeed in everything we do!” (God’s Word ©/The Message Bible/personalized)

So according to the Word, the THRILL of our lives has to start with being THRILLED each and every day with and in the Word!  I’ve said it before, but the one thing that THRILLED me the most in our years of ministry was seeing the light of understanding suddenly go on in the eyes of the youth and children we ministered to as we shared God’s Word of spirit and life with them. (See John 6:63)  It was the light of life that seemed to catch their entire lives on fire for Him.  These young folks suddenly saw life a little different than they had before.  There was a new joy awakening within them that we prayed would continue to burn for the rest of their lives.

So maybe I do get a little over-excited when I see the hand of the Lord in our daily lives… no matter how big or small it may be.  I used to get a bit annoyed at how emotional my Dad would get as he got older… but you know… I’m the same way now… and probably a little worse!  But I don’t consider it an annoyance anymore.  For I want to be glad and rejoice as much as I can… whenever and wherever I see the move of the Lord!  How about you?

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do ,keep asking yourself… “How THRILLED am I expecting myself to be when I observe the hand of the Lord in my life today?”

Monday, April 10, 2017

Confirmations


I was thinking yesterday about all the things that Papa God has confirmed to Piper and I over the last nine or so years since we have been on this journey with her health.  I sometimes think that He does this so that we not only can feel His love, but also as a personal reassurance to ourselves. 

If you’ve ever stepped out in faith to follow what you believe are the Lord’s specific directions for you, then you probably have also had the ‘pleasure’ of being told that you are naïve, foolish, in La La Land, reckless, just a dreamer or best yet, that you are not being caring toward a loved one.  Does any of that sound familiar?  They all do to me… so when the Lord confirms a direction that we followed, I liken it to sitting down next to a cool, refreshing stream on a hot day!

But you know… I’ve come to a place where I expect to have some push back when we step out in faith.  Sometimes I am surprised as to where to pushback comes from, but I’ve come to learn that the enemy of our faith doesn’t want us to follow the Lord… much less succeed at what He calls us to do! 

John 6:64 in the Message Bible brings out an interesting point in response to the previous verse that we looked at last week where Jesus told His confused disciples that “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63 KJV)  Then He follows up that statement with another zinger, informing them “But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this.  (For Jesus knew from the start that some weren’t going to risk themselves with him…)”

That verse seemed to answer a lot of “Why?” questions for me!  Throughout this difficult period in our lives I have clearly seen two types of folks… those who do… and those who don’t!  Most folks who have come into our lives during this time don’t resist or refuse to have fellowship with us as they openly link their lives with ours.  But there have been a few that have resisted and refused to have any part in this battle that we are fighting…  Or at the least have played a very limited role in their interactions with us.

So, like I’ve said in past posts, it takes great strength to walk some of the uncharted paths that we are called to walk in this life.  Looking back yesterday, I could clearly see that we moved at just the right time in order for us to land in just the right place here in the countryside two miles south of the town of Fuquay-Varina in North Carolina.  Geez… a few months prior to our move I’d never even heard of the place!  In fact when we moved I knew VERY LITTLE about the state we were led to pick up lock, stock and barrel and move to… sight unseen! 

Granted, my daughter and her husband had been living here for a few years so I knew it was a great place with pretty decent weather for the east coast!  In fact it is very uncanny, that most of the major weather that comes through this side of the country seems to go around us… You think maybe the Lord has something to do with that!!!

Over the past almost three years that we’ve been here (hard to believe, but it will be three years the middle of next month!) I will come across a scripture in my daily Bible study times that will light up my remembrances of things we’ve done and it is as if the Lord is saying: “See, I told you it would all work out!”  Sometimes, like yesterday, they come a little stronger and I feel like someone just dumped a container of ice cold Gatorade down my back as I think… “Gee… I’m not as naïve, foolish, thoughtless or stupid as some have thought of me!”  And I have to be honest… that is a good feeling, but not in a prideful way. It comes instead as thanksgiving to the faithfulness and love of our Father God Who is always looking out for the best of those who seek Him.

So yeah… Following the Lord is not always the easiest thing to do!  In my case over the last nine years, I firmly believe that it was the only option for us to take!  But the rewards are far greater than any other thing or person can ever promise (and most likely NOT deliver on!). 

So, yes… I expect to receive confirmations down the line and through the years after obeying His Word and walking His paths that we have diligently sought out and followed.  And even though I don’t know the time or the place when they will come, I am blessed tremendously by them and find myself ever more committed and more trusting in following the new paths He calls us to walk!  Take a peek at Mark 16:20 and see for yourself what it says about Papa God confirming the Word that we put to work in our lives…

So… How about you?  Have you received any confirmations lately?  If not… maybe something needs a little readjusting in your life… Have a great week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to receive God’s confirmations to the actions I take on His Word in my life today, tomorrow or in the future?”


Friday, April 7, 2017

& The Best Advice Is...



When I went back to college after a five year hiatus, I quickly began to realize that I had bitten off a little more than I could chew with my original timing plan.   During the first semester I carried 16 units, began a new job working swing shift at Hewlett Packard, continued on as the Youth Minister at our church and on top of that, my wife and I were expecting our first child!  To say that things were a bit crazy would be a vast understatement.

So, after that semester I began to make some adjustments to my completion of College schedule.  Originally I had hoped to finish my senior year of schooling in one year but the circumstances of life forced me to spread out the classes and extend it to two!  Needless to say, those two years of dedication and effort took a lot of communication and coordination between my wife and I.  There were days when I would leave the house around nine in the morning and not return until around eleven in the evening.

I think this was a time when Piper’s uncanny ability to keep a great attitude and multi-task shined its brightest as she cared for our new born son, made our new house into a quaint, comfortable and warm home for our family (did I also mention that we had just moved into my Grandmother’s house after her passing?) and diligently made sure my needs were met during the few hours I was home each day!  I can’t recall one time that she ever complained during that period of time in our lives.  She always met me at the door with a smile, a hug and words of joyful encouragement.

Needless to say when I walked across the outdoor stage on June 3rd 1981 to receive my diploma, I felt relieved, satisfied at a job well done and bubbling over with astounding love for all that my wife had done in order for me to get there that day!  (After everything she put up with… I ended up with a 4.0 average!)

The school had a long standing tradition that had the graduating students march down from the stage in twos, across the front row of the audience and then proceed to a double line of all the professors in order to spend time with them before being released to be with their perspective families and well-wishers.  As we marched away from the all those in attendance toward the professors, I suddenly had the revelation that there was no one that I really wanted to speak to in the assembled group of professors.  

The two professors that I had gotten to know and had gone to for assistance at various times over my two years at the school had both left the school during my final semester and the one that I really wanted to be with and thank was sitting back in the crowd with a baby stroller at her side!  So… I decided to break with long standing tradition and stepped out of line and made a beeline back to the crowd.

To this day, I can still remember the cute and shining smile glowing from my wife’s adorably freckled face as she stood next to our son Josh in his stroller and my Mom and Dad at their side.  I can also recall the long and tight hug that ensued following our coming together.  If it hadn’t been for her constant giving of herself, the Word of God she freely shared with me and the empowering life of Christ that radiated from her being over that long two year stretch, I would never had been able to complete that goal!

I think that Jesus may have been thinking of situations like that as He spoke to His questioning disciples saying: “The Spirit is the one who gives life!  Human strength (or effort) can do nothing.  The words that I have spoken to you are from that life-giving spirit.” (John 6:63 CEV)  He knew that we Christians would not be able to persevere through all the situations of our lives without our dependence on His Word and the Spirit and Life that they invigorate our lives with.

Once again, don’t get me wrong… Human effort and dedication are a good thing and at times very necessary, but they tend to work much more successfully when they are infused with and led by the Spirit and Life of Christ.  After we returned from our three year stint in Oklahoma in 2009 (so I could attend Bible College this time...) I continued working for The Home Depot in a traveling position, supervising an in-house merchandising team.  After a year of this, it became quite apparent that we needed to make some changes as Piper’s health needs were getting more pronounced. 

As before, we faced a situation where we could continue to follow human tradition and keep working at the same job and possibly hire someone to come in and care for my wife, or seek the Lord’s direction and go with His plan that we knew would bring the Spirit and Life into our situation.  Well… as you most likely know already, it was pretty much a NO brainer for us.  

We began to seek the Lord and at the right time I quit my outside job, and became Piper’s full-time caregiver, with the ability to take her on yard and garden care jobs with me in order to keep an eye on her and help in stimulating her awareness and slow the process of her rapidly decaying senses.

As I have reported in past blogs, we received a lot of constant negative reaction for our decision.  I didn’t realize how much that pressure was until we moved across country to our new home here in North Carolina.  As I thought about it the other day, I saw that it was almost as though these different individuals were doing their best to keep us focused on natural things like finances, doctors, natural remedies or very limited aspects of God’s healing for my wife.

Once I left my job and went back to my own business so we could endeavor to follow God’s plan for us, we both felt the presence of the Spirit and Life of Christ in greater depth and detail in our lives.  At that time we needed His Life to infuse our situation.  It was time for us to leave the traditions of man behind and throw in our lot with Him and His Word.  Looking back now, I can see that it was the right move to make as all the miracles that followed our obedience to Him confirm it!   

So… some seven years later now… we continue to follow His plan for our lives.  In many respects it has gotten easier, but in other respects it has gotten a lot harder, especially as I look upon my wife’s physical countenance.  But now more than ever I… make that “WE” need His Spirit and His Life constantly invigorating us in every part of our lives.

We need His love, His power, His wisdom and His strength as never before.  To us, the traditions of men have all fallen to the side in our quest to be smack-dab in the middle of His perfect will for us.  I am SO GLAD that we chose to follow Him instead of man’s advice… How about you?

Have a great weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s advice are you expecting to follow today?”