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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Highest Court


Have you ever said or done something that was instantly judged incorrectly by another individual?  I’ve had that happen many times over the years and, let me say, it can have the most disheartening effect on you!  To be perfectly honest, I’ve also done some of the unjust judging myself… and I wish that I could go back and redo those situations now!

I can remember praying back in my Junior College days that I could develop a much quicker wit, or the ability to come back when spoken to, with a fast and funny… or even ‘zinging’ reply.  But you know… it never happened… and I’m quite happy about that!  I’ve always been the type of individual who needs to take a little time to think about, consider and at times pray about my return comments to others… especially when the other individual’s words were incorrect or a little biting.

Since my wife and I have been on this journey with her health concerns, I believe my need to mull over things said to us and my eventual – hopefully well-thought-out - reply has helped to keep peace amongst family and friends!  In the long run, it has also helped me to keep a certain level of personal sanity as I strive to care for my wife’s changing needs while things might be in turmoil all around me!

Correct judgement or discernment… read that Spiritual Discernment… has become a number one factor during this journey.  Many times there are daily decisions that have needed to be made concerning emergency situations, medicines, finances, medical care and the overall quality of daily life as a whole.  At times like this I have come to depend on the wisdom of the Lord and my ability to hear from Him and then follow through on whatever action I believe He is telling me to take.

And how do I do that?  Well, I keep myself and my wife filled with the Word of God.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you know our daily schedule.  We start and end the day with the confession of healing scriptures, read from various Christian books on faith and healing after meals, and then throughout the day, pray and speak different Words of God’s truth over Piper.  I have even opened up my private Bible study time to my wife as I vocally share with her as I am studying at the table before my breakfast!  (I joke with Piper that she and the dog always get fed before me!)

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is the greatest and/or highest judge or source of discernment in the land!  The writer of the book declares that “God’s word is living and active.  It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet.  God’s Word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions.” (God’s Word ©)  The King James Version interprets that last truth by saying that God’s Word “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

So what am I trying to say here?  It is pretty simple… God’s Word is the place to go if you need to develop a keen sense of spiritual discernment in your life.  It is the highest court in the world!  By focusing your expectations and dependence on the contents of God’s book of “Spirit and life” (John 6:63) you’ll greatly reduce the personal embarrassment and pain caused by making quick judgments that may be incorrect, as well as hurtful to those on the receiving end of your words!

You see, the judgements found in God’s Word are based on the infallible truth of our heavenly Father, not on predetermined answers based on an individual’s own beliefs or experiences.  It is very similar to a recent Supreme Court decision on the legality of the President’s temporary travel ban. 

My understanding is that the highest court in our land made a temporary decision to remove the hold on most of the items on the President’s order that was put on by two lower level federal courts.  While the two lower courts based their restraining orders on comments made by the then candidate Trump during the campaign and their disagreement with what he said, the higher court simply based their decision on the constitution of the land and what it states concerning the legal authority of the President in this matter of national security.

Think about it.  How many times have you made a judgement on the validity of something someone said strictly based on your own belief system or past experience?  If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably see where it may have happened a time or two!  Like I said, I know it has with me… even in some of the counselling that I’ve done in the past within my position as Assistant Pastor! 

I’ve learned a lot throughout our experiences over the last ten years when faced with the needs of my wife’s health.  And some of the most important things has been forcing myself to look at “Me” when I’ve had some incorrect judgments spoken toward my wife and I.  What is that old saying that when you point one finger at someone that there are three others pointing back at you!  The point is… I don’t want to cause others to go through what I have! 

Therefore, I have made the conscious decision to go to the highest court in the Land… BEFORE I make a judgment on others!  What about you?

Have a super rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to be quick to judge… or to seek God’s truth on the matter BEFORE I reply?”

Monday, June 26, 2017

Seasons!


It’s kind of funny in that during the summer months in our neighborhood, it is quite a bit louder outside after dark than it is during the day!  I can remember the exact opposite being true in most other neighborhoods that we have lived in over the years.  One in particular stands out.  When we moved from our home just north of town while living in Santa Rosa, California back in the mid 1990’s, we rented a really cute home in a very nice area in western Santa Rosa.  The only downside to the home was that it was only a couple houses down from a major thoroughfare that connected our city with the communities on the way to the coast.

Then, to make matter worse, right after we moved in they began to do some major reconstruction and widening work on the roadway which lasted about a year.  So for that whole season we had to keep the majority of our windows closed during the day due to the noise of the heavy equipment and the clouds of dust that they generated.  The only respite we enjoyed was in the evenings and on weekends!

In our country setting out here, it is quite a different story.  Days are usually quiet with the calm only broken by the occasional lawn tractor or barking dog.  But at night… well, while it is quiet and serene when the weather cools in late fall and winter, every cricket, singing frog, chattering squirrels, and who knows what else seem to join the menagerie of sounds that emanate from our pond, flowerbeds and the adjoining forested areas as the weather warms up.  And while we hardly hear any of the sounds within the walls of our well insulated house, as soon as I open the slider to take the dog out before bedtime the outside chorus quickly overcomes your senses!

I learned rather early in Fiver’s coming to be a part of our family that it’s best to keep him on a lease at night as he gets completely overwhelmed by the variety of noises and simply runs from fence to fence trying to figure it all out!  Now when we go out he does his thing and then just stands there like a statue staring off into the borders of our yard until I coax him to move and return with me into the quiet recesses of our home!

Since we have been here almost two years now, I am getting used to and expect to see the variety of critters, the blooms of the trees, the weather and the sounds of our area that tend to occur during the various seasons of the year.  And speaking of seasons… I was recounting to my wife last night as I prepared dinner, some of the many “miracles” that we have experienced in the midst of the difficulties we’ve been faced with concerning her health needs over the last ten years.

I was basing my thoughts around the scripture that I mentioned in our last blog from Isaiah 46:10.  Here the prophet of God is telling the children of Israel what God had promised them in the midst of their difficulties saying: “Declaring the end from the beginning… My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (English Standard Version)  I can’t help but get excited when I look back at ALL the things that God has done for us as we stepped out in faith to follow Him and His purpose for this situation in our lives.  And like I said in Friday’s post, while we had no idea of how He was going to accomplish His end purposes for us, we did know to simply keep an expectant eye of faith upon Him and obey each individual step that He told us to take along the way.

Then after I brought my laptop into the kitchen and opened up my Bible study program, I got really excited as I read aloud to Piper from the prophet’s concluding admonition a few verse down when he declared the Lord’s promise to them, “I am bringing the day of victory near--- it is not far away at all.  My triumph will not be delayed…” (Isaiah 46:13 Good News Bible)  You can imagine how excited that statement made us!  For that declaration is God’s intended END purpose for each of us!

So as we rejoiced in the kitchen I suddenly heard that voice on the inside of me quietly confirm our expectations by reciting Ecclesiastes 3:1 saying: “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven.” (KJV)  And what purpose do you think that He is talking about?  It’s God’s END purpose that He has intended for all the situations in our lives that we have turned over by faith to Him!

Just like I know that it is going to get pretty loud in our backyard at night during the summer season, I can rest assured in knowing that in God’s season, His END purpose for us will come to past in His right time… and you know?  You can have that SAME assurance as well!  PTL!

So get ready!  Your season of victory is near, for God’s plan for triumph for you is just around the corner!

WHEW!  Now that is exciting… wouldn’t you agree!

Have a great week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting the season of God’s END purpose for me to come?”

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Trust Zone...


As my wife and I traveled during the forty minute ride into Cary, NC for our dental cleaning appointments yesterday, we listened to a financial advisor on the local AM talk radio station.  At one point the host was answering a question concerning a caller who was having difficulty getting life insurance due to a past bout with a certain disease.  As they discussed the particular medical problem and the limited ways that the insurance companies work with that situation, I suddenly found myself thinking about my wife’s medical situation and some of the similar things that we experienced as we searched for the best answers for my wife’s needs after moving back to California in 2009.

And like a bolt of lightning, it suddenly struck me that God had an overall plan for our particular situation from the very beginning of our ordeal!  I realized that by obeying the directions that we felt the Lord was giving to us by quitting my outside-of- home employment, was actually the best medical and financial decision we could have made at the time. 

While we meandered along Highway 55 toward the small town of Apex, I began to look back at the step by step progression that the good Lord walked us through from 2009 until the present day.  And it all made perfect sense… by quitting my job when I did,it set in motion the progression of events that were necessary for us to apply for the different federal and state benefits that I had paid into through the 40 plus years of my work career.  And when that was all said and done, Piper was under the care of one of the best neurologists in northern California who, along with her team of experts, was at our side in those turbulent early days and patiently and very informatively walked us through all the changes that Piper was experiencing… and it didn’t cost us a cent!  And on top of that, we applied for and were accepted into a county program in which they paid me to take care of my wife.

Now on the other hand, if I had stayed at my outside employment we would have had to pay for some semi-skilled caregivers to come in and spend the day with Piper as it was evident that she could no longer be alone while I was at work.  This was an option that I was already familiar with as my siblings and I had hired care workers for my parents while they were still living in their home as my Dad needed increasing assistance that my Mom could not provide.  Therefore I knew the costs involved with this plan and it wasn’t hard to calculate that the income from my job would almost entirely go to this expense, leaving little for other things like food, rent and so on!

But what struck me the most was the revelation that God knew “the end from the beginning…” (Isaiah 46:10 KJV).  Clearly we didn’t at that time, but we knew just enough to keep seeking and obeying Him for every step that He directed us to take along the way!  Then it dawned on me that we had (and still are) walking in “The Trust Zone!”  Simply put, the eyes of our expectations were focused on Him and His Word so that we were always available to hear and follow each command He gave to us, no matter what other voices were trying to influence our decisions. 

Sure, quitting one’s job doesn’t always seem to be the logical thing to do when you’re facing a situation that will have a high impact on one’s resources.  But it seems that God doesn’t always follow the ways of man’s intellect or logic.  God’s ways are higher and boundless!  By this time on our short trip into the big city, I was so excited that I almost had to pull over and celebrate!  Then I thought about 1 Corinthians 2:16 where the Apostle Paul tells us that we Christians “have the mind of Christ” (KJV) which is a verse I have been speaking over Piper multiple times a day since the very beginning of this journey.

And I suddenly turned to look at Piper who was slumped in the seat next to me and ask… “So is that what it really means to have the mind of Christ?  To live and abide in ‘The Trust Zone’ where you may not always know the end picture, but are wholly trusting in God and His Word Who usually only unveils one step at a time.”

When we got home a few hours later (with clean, shiny teeth, I might add!) I immediately pulled out one of my Bibles and turned to 1 Corinthians chapter two and read from verse thirteen to sixteen where it talks about having the mind of Christ.  Verse thirteen begins by stating that “we don’t speak about these things (‘the things which God hath prepared for those who love him’ I Corinthians 2:9 KJV) using teachings that are based on intellectual arguments like people do.  Instead, we use the Spirit’s teachings.  We explain spiritual things to those who have the Spirit.” 

Then the next verse continues the thought declaring: “A person who isn’t spiritual doesn’t accept the teachings of God’s Spirit.  He thinks they’re nonsense.  He can’t understand them because a person must be spiritual (ie; in ‘The Trust Zone’) to evaluate them.” (I Corinthians 2:13-14 The Message)  At that point I sat back in my chair at the dining room table and simply muttered “WOW!” (I’ve been saying that a lot lately!)

Like I said earlier, we knew God had a plan that would turn out for our benefit if we followed Him each step along the way.  We just didn’t have any idea of the specifics of the plan.  All we did know to do was to follow Him without question or fear!  I’ve said many times before, that one of the hardest things that we have had to deal with along the way of this chapter in our lives was/is the fear of others and the way they project those fears onto our situation.

Well, let me tell you… on the rest of the way to and the whole way home, I simply sat back in my cushioned chair behind the wheel of our SUV and soaked in the goodness of God!  What a comfort and confirmation we received in knowing that we’ve been on the right path all along… as we sought to stay in “The Trust Zone” by simply putting our trust in the One who has NEVER let us down!

If you’re dealing with any questionable and/or tough situations today, let me assure you by our personal experience, that God’s Word IS true and that you can take comfort and have boldness in knowing that Papa God “knows the beginning from the end (for you and your particular situation)…” and as He told us along the way and says to YOU today: “My plan will stand, and I'll do everything I intended to do." (Isaiah 46:10 KJV/God’s Word ©)

Have a super weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What ZONE am I expecting to stay in today?”  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Book of Life!


I was thinking about an old Christian movie I had last watched a few years ago.  In one particular scene the good guy hands the troubled young bad guy a Bible to which the young man immediately throws to the ground.  And I’ll never forget the good guy’s remarks as he bends down and reverently picks up the old book and says while brushing off the dirt from its cover: “Don’t do that, this is the Word of God!”

Every time I have watched that scene in that western, I have commented to those with me… “You can always tell when someone really KNOWS God!”  It was easy to see that the line was not just words in a script that the actor was reciting… but that it came from his heart and life experiences.  Of course, I might add that the actor just happened to be a world renowned evangelist who had partnered with another well-known Pastor to produce and star in the movie!  The line and the action just seemed to point out how an individual can have a close and special connection with their Bible.

As a child being raised in a strong Catholic family, I don’t recall ever seeing a Bible in our home until I was in Junior High when a fellow teacher and friend of my Dad gave him one.  Then I vividly remember the green, hardbound book sitting on the end table to the left of our couch in the living room.  I can even think of a few times when I actually picked it up and thumbed through it… but I must admit that it didn’t seem to make much sense to me, even though it was a modern translation.

Well, most of you know the rest of the story.  Of how I met this vivacious young lady in High School who talked about Jesus like He was her best friend, and quoted phrases from that green book on the side table like it was alive with words of wisdom, hope  and love!  After that, I guess I was hooked… on her and eventually on that book as well!

It’s actually kind of funny now, in that the first Bible she gave me, while still in high school, was a paperback version of the Good News Bible.  And while I was developing a real hunger for the information in that book, I never really liked that translation back then… But now I find myself referring to it quite often as it is part of the multiple translations that are available to me on the Bible study software that I use on a daily basis!

Today, as I think about that particular scene in that Christian Western movie, I know exactly how the actor was feeling when he performed his part.  To me, the Bible is no longer just a book that one displays in a prominent place in their house, but it is the heart and soul of my wife and I’s whole life!  It IS the Word of God… Its words ARE Spirit and they ARE life! (See; John 6:63)

I’m pretty sure that I mentioned it before, but I am now the proud owner of over forty (probably more than 50 by now!) different translations of The Bible.  And it is not just because I like to collect them, but because I am always looking through them for the different words and/or phrases they may use to interpret from the original languages into English.  I guess that you could say that I am just hungry for the truth… and both Jesus and David boldly declared that the words of our Papa God contained between the pages of our Bibles ARE the truth! (See: John 17:17 and Psalm 119:160)

When I see one of Piper’s or my Bibles around the house I can’t help but smile because of the good feelings that I get from it.  It’s just like every time I see one of the pictures of Piper that are hanging ALL around our home and can’t help but breakout into a big toothy smile, because of all the good feelings that I get when I consider all the fantastic years of life that we have experienced together.

When I see one of my Bibles, I see a close and intimate friend!  I think of all the hours, over the last 47 years of my life, that I have spent seeking guidance, support, direction or just a dose of Godly love in a time of emotional need.  I see the hand of God reaching out to me in the middle of any and all the circumstances of my life!  I guess you could say that when I see one of my Bibles… I see my Papa God!  Over the years since High School, I have clearly come to see and personally experience what it was (and still is) that my spunky, spirited and blessed girlfriend and now wife knew and had when we first met!

What about you?  What is the Bible to you?  I was studying Hebrews 4:12 this morning where the author of the book explains to his (or her) readers: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (KJV)  After reading the verse a few times it finally struck me that the Holy Spirit Who inspired the writer was making the point that the written Word of God not only speaks to, and brings life to the spiritual side of man, but to the physical and emotional sides as well.

He begins by declaring that the Word is characteristically “living and active” (God’s Word ©).  Then goes on to explain that It works in our spiritual side within our soul and spirit, as well as in our physical being within the joints and marrow of our bodies and finally in our emotions by discerning the very thoughts and intents of our hearts.  That’s kind of special, wouldn’t you agree?  Jesus came to minister to the whole man (or women)!

I thought it to be especially encouraging when I looked up the word translated “marrow” in this verse.  Not too surprisingly, in the original Greek it means just what it says… “marrow!”  A modern definition of that word from the Oxford online dictionary describes the marrow as “a soft fatty substance in the cavities of our bones in which the blood cells are produced,” and that “the function of the blood cells is to bring oxygen to the heart” and from the heart “to carry oxygen around the body.”  So as most of us know… we cannot live without the functioning of the marrow in our bones!

God’s Word makes it pretty specific when it states in many places through the Bible that “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” (Leviticus 17:11 KJV)  I would say that God makes a strong point in declaring that His Word is the power of the Holy Spirit and the very life of God that works to our spiritual, physical and emotional benefit.  WOW!

So with all that in mind… If someone tossed my Bible down to the ground, I wouldn’t hesitate to quickly bend down and reverently dust it off and boldly declare… “Don’t do that, this is the very words of God!” 

What about you?

Have a terrific rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What expectations do I have when I read my Bible?”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Voices!


Have you ever considered how many voices you hear every day?  I was thinking about that this morning and started to add them up… Let’s see, there’s the voices of the singers of the Christian music we listen to throughout the day, the voice of the announcers on the Classical station we listen to in the evening, the various voices of the different folks I talk to on the phone, my neighbors, my kids, all the hospice workers, the employees of the stores we frequent, the Pastors and all the others that speak during the weekly church services… and the list goes on and on!  Then of course… there are the different voices in my head!

This subject jumped out at me this morning as I continued to study Joshua 1:9.  The Good News Bible declares: “Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident!  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.”  Right after I asked the Lord to direct my study this morning and I read this verse, the word “YOUR” started to flash in my mind’s eye!  As I began to meditate on that word I realized that the Lord was making a specific point to Joshua.  He made it clear to the new leader that He, the Lord was his God!  This was a very personal point that He was making to Joshua.

Then I considered the first part of the verse where the Lord reminds Joshua that He had already spoken to him concerning the subject of being strong, determined and confident.  And it hit me… Joshua KNEW the voice of the Lord!  Out of all the voices in the camp of the Israelites that were in all probably “helping” the new leader with their own suggestions and words of wisdom, he was able to discern the voice of the Lord!

That caused me to pause and think about how I can be in a crowded, noisy room (which I have been on many occasions working with the youth and children in the church) and immediately be able to recognize my wife’s sweet voice.  And then suddenly, it is like no one else is in the room as my full attention is on her!  For it is a voice I trust… and love to hear! (And I’d give just about anything right now to hear it again!)  Her voice is one that I have come to intimately know… and would recognize anywhere!

I believe that the same thing could be said about Joshua.  The voice of the Lord his God was one that he had come to intimately know and trust.  It is a relationship that he had developed through the years as Moses’ assistant.  Moses was unique in his time as he had such a close and personal relationship with The Lord that would speak face to face with him… and as his personal assistant you know that Joshua wasn’t far behind him!  Exodus 33:11 tells us that “The LORD would speak to Moses personally, as a man speaks to his friend. Then Moses would come back to the camp, but his assistant, Joshua, son of Nun, stayed inside the tent.” (God’s Word ©)  The Easy to Read version says that “Joshua son of Nun, always stayed in the tent.”

It’s pretty easy to see that Joshua had a heart that was extremely hungry for the things of God.  It seems that he always made it a point to hang around the residual anointing that lingered after Moses’ times with God in the tent or “Tabernacle of the congregation.” (Exodus 33:7 KJV) I can attest to that sensation as I also enjoyed staying behind in our church after experiencing a strong presence of the Spirit of God in some of the church services during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s! 

It could have been a move in the adult service or even one that we experienced in a children’s or youth service or even during a Family Fun Night.  I can remember many nights as I stood near the door with my finger poised over the alarm system keypad in the Children’s and Youth building not wanting to press the keys for I desired to stay a little bit longer as the anointing from the evening’s activities faded away!

Joshua was well prepared for the job that lay ahead for him as he diligently sought to become familiar with the voice and leading of the Lord during his apprenticeship under Moses.  Then when Moses left the scene, Joshua already KNEW the voice of the Lord when He began to converse directly with him as the Children of Israel’s new leader.  As I read the first chapter of the book of Joshua, I don’t see one place when Joshua questioned or doubted the identity of the voice that was speaking to him… do you?

It looks to me that Joshua barely batted an eyelash after receiving the command of the Lord, and immediately turned to his commanders, told them the plan and directed the leaders under him to get the people ready for action! (See: Joshua 1:11-18)  Joshua KNEW the voice of his Lord, was confident in it and moved accordingly without any fear or temptation of discouragement!

I have to say that when Piper and I began this journey with her health difficulties, we immediately went to the Lord in prayer and quickly recognized that voice that had spoken to us on many other occasions.  When He said move… we set our feet to walking.  And you know… it really didn’t matter what other “advice” and/or complaints we have received along the way as we KNEW the voice we had heard and stepped out with heartfelt determination and confidence… in Him!

I also believe that Papa God KNEW exactly what we would be facing in the years that followed.  One of the first courses of action He told me was to “saturate” Piper and I in the Word.  He KNEW that His Word would be the Spirit and life that would carry through the ordeal we faced. (See: John 6:63)  And we have and IT has as well!  This practice has also helped to keep us clearly in tune to His voice.  Like the voice of my wife… it is an unmistakable voice to me that I trust and obey without question!

What about you today?  Is the voice of the Lord one that you can clearly identify?  Is it a voice that brings immediate comfort to you?  Is it a voice that you trust enough to listen to and obey? 

Think about it  Remember, we strengthen and familiarize ourselves to His voice through the diligent study of His Word and through prayer.

Have a great week, and as you do keep asking yourself… “How clearly am I expecting to recognize the voice of the Lord today?”

Friday, June 16, 2017

Am I a Hindrance?


Our next door neighbors had a gathering last night complete with kids playing on the lawn, music blasting and the sounds of people having a good time!  These folks normally keep to themselves and are not around much of the time.  In fact, in the almost two years we’ve been here, I’ve only talked with them a couple of times.  So when they have friends and or family over, it is kind of enjoyable to hear the noise!

As Piper and I sat on the couch after dinner, we caught glimpses of some boys chasing a soccer ball on the neighbor’s lawn, and every so often the ball would come skirting across our lawn with the boys not far behind as they sought to retrieve it.  Each time this happened, Fiver’s ears would go up and he would trot over to one of our front windows and observe the activity.  I think that he, like me, was enjoying the sight of the kids playing, as he never barked but just quietly observed and wagged his tail.

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, our country community is normally pretty quiet and even though there are kids in the neighborhood, we don’t often see them outside playing!  So the activity next door and on our lawn was fun to observe.  I have always enjoyed living in an active neighborhood with kids playing and having fun!  That’s probably one reason I spent my ministerial career working with children and youth!  Let’s face it… my wife and I just enjoy being around life!

As a child, I was raised in a very encouraging family.  My Mom was an outgoing women who loved to laugh and encourage others.  And although my Dad was on the quieter side, he also had a warm and encouraging way about him.  I imagine that I never really had a chance to be any other way than encouraging!  Then I meet this girl in high school who had a bubbling, encouraging personality and I was hooked for life!  With that union… our kids never had a chance either!

Therefore it was natural for me, as a young Christian, to be drawn to scripture verses such as Joshua 1:9.  The Good News Bible puts it this way exclaiming: “Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the LORD your God, am with you wherever you go."

The angel of the Lord’s words to Joshua are commands that are deeply embedded in my DNA.  To be determined and confident without being afraid or discouraged are characteristics that make my enthusiasm for life swoon and tenderly encourage me to be all that I can be, and do the best at whatever the Lord calls me to accomplish… and to do it in such a way that I am not afraid nor discouraged… but encouraged and quickened by the power of Papa God and His Word.

Does this decision come easy to me?  YES!  Is it always easy to accomplish? NO!  Am I always successful in my efforts… Well, not really… but I don’t like to quit!  So I get up and try again!  This is a way of life that I always strive for and expect to see victory in.  One of the things that I have learned though, is that not everyone thinks the same as I do.  This has been an eye-opening reality check for me as Piper and I have walked through the battle for her health…but let me digress for a moment…

The thought behind the command to “not be afraid” in our scripture verse describes an individual who is in “dread” over a situation and is “in awe” by the negative events happening to the point where they are allowing the pressure “to harass and oppress” them and finally “to prevail” in their lives. (See Strong’s H6202) 

To be “dismayed” (KJV) or “discouraged” (GNB) implies that the individual yielding to these symptoms is “breaking down by the violence, confusion and or fear” of the situation. (Strong’s H2865)  Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions adds the idea one being “shattered or broken”, while the Oxford Online Dictionary defines “discouragement” as “to deprive of courage, hope or confidence.  To be disheartened.  To obstruct by opposition or difficulty, to hinder or express or make clear disappointment of.”

So, like I mentioned earlier, I found out rather early in this “valley” of our lives that we now find ourselves “walking through” (See Psalm 23:4 KJV), that not everyone would react like us!  After studying this scripture in Joshua 1:9 over the last week and looking up the definitions to the various word we’ve outlined in our last blog and this current one, I had the revelation that the confusing and many times frustrating actions we saw demonstrated against us clearly point to the Bible definition of one who was in fear, dismayed or discouraged!

As I was clearing off the table after breakfast yesterday, it hit me that our actions definitely will betray our words and/or the “face” we are putting on in the midst of the rough times in our lives.  And you know… It explained a lot to me!  But wait... it gets better  Just as I turned the light out last night, before my head ever hit the pillow… I suddenly realized the importance of ME not allowing myself to yield to fear or discouragement.  As I sat there frozen in bed with my hand stopped in mid-motion in the action of pulling up the sheet and blanket in order to cover me for the night, I understood that I did not want MY negative, feeling-sorry-for-myself actions to – in anyway- limit what God has planned for my wife’s healing and life!

With wide-eyes I realized that my yielding to fear and/or discouragement could actually act to harass, obstruct and hinder God’s working in my wife’s life... as well as in my own!  Believe me when I say how REAL that thought was to me as I know what it is like to be painfully harassed in my efforts to do what I felt the Lord was instructing me to do and have first-hand experience in dealing with obstructions, difficulty and hindrances continually placed along my path.

And that is NOT something that I want to BE in the path of God’s plans!  So last night – still before my head hit the pillow! - I resolved to “be stout hearted and decided in my convictions” (hebrew4christians.com definition of “Terrified”) and “not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD my God, is with me wherever I go.” (GNB – personalized)

What do you think?  Have your actions every betrayed what you were really thinking? Have your actions ever been a hindrance to someone else… or maybe even to God?  Hummm… something to consider… wouldn’t you say!

Have a wonderful weekend… we’re supposed to have thunderstorms all weekend, but we’ll see… and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to allow my actions to be a hindrance to anyone today?”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

To BE or not To BE...


“Have I not commanded you?  BE strong, (vigorous, assertive, confident, perseverant, and disciplined) and courageous!  Do not tremble (or BE afraid or timid) or BE dismayed (or discouraged), for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9 NASB amplified)



According to Dictionary.com the verb “BE” describes an action where the subject of the sentence is called “to occupy a place or position.”  The Oxford online dictionary defines “BE” as to “exist, having the state; quality, identity, nature or role specified.”  So, when you take those definitions into account as you study Joshua 1:9 and the words that the angel of the Lord spoke to Moses’ replacement, following the great leader’s departure from this world, you can plainly see that God had some specific actions (and/or character traits) that He wanted Joshua to do or “BE” and others that He did NOT want Joshua to do or “BE!”  From my point of view, the angel of the Lord was using what my wife termed as “The Oreo Cookie” technique when giving Joshua some leadership tips and techniques.

First he begins to build his Oreo cookie by taking a chocolate wafer as he reminds the new leader of the command he has already mentioned a couple of times in the previous few verses.  He builds up Joshua by telling him all the positive character traits that he needs for him to develop or “BE.”  In order to be successful in the job given to him, Joshua is instructed to “BE: strong, (vigorous, assertive, confident, perseverant, and disciplined) and courageous!”

Then he spreads the cream inside the chocolate cookie by warning him of the character traits that he needs to alertly and actively stay away from.  The angel of the Lord makes it clear that in his leadership role Joshua must BE not afraid or timid and BE not dismayed or discouraged!”

And finally he concludes his instruction by adding the bottom chocolate cookie wafer with the encouragement in knowing that he will never “BE” alone because “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”” 

From the very early days of my Christian walk back in the early 1970’s, I learned to take the commands in the first nine verses of the book of Joshua very seriously.  That section of scripture quickly became one of the first and foremost directions from God’s Word that I deeply stirred into the makeup of my life.  To be honest… that’s why my wife and I named our first son Joshua!  There was never a question of what our first child’s name would be.  We didn’t just confer the name upon him though, but we also prayed the Biblical Joshua’s strength, confidence and courage into our son daily while he was still in the womb, and for many years since then… and you know… We can see many of those traits in him today, some 37 years later!

The Tree of Life version of the Bible states the beginning of this verse as “Have I not commanded you? Chazak!  Be strong!”  In order to reflect the importance and strength of the angel’s command from the Lord to Joshua, it repeats the command to BE strong” twice.  Once in the original Hebrew and then in English.  This would be similar to the Apostolic Bible Polyglot’s Greek translation that I mentioned in my last post that begins with the attention grabbing declaration to Joshua: “Behold!” which describes an exclamation used to capture the listener’s attention concerning an important message of something, as the Oxford online dictionary puts it: “to see or observe a things or person, especially a remarkable or impressive one.”

Hebrew4christians.com describes the word “Chazak” as a command to BE stout hearted and decided in your convictions, and the Lord will instill courage to your heart.”  I really like that description, don’t you?  After hearing the Lord’s directions to us for me to quit my outside job that kept me away from our home and Piper’s increasing needs for nine to twelve hours each day (depending on which Home Depot store my merchandising team went to that day), we KNEW that we would have to face some financial challenges along the way and also have to deal with persecution from some folks who we realized would not be in agreement with our move.

That’s why we sought the Lord, prayed and came up with and initiated a financial plan as well as a business plan for my lawn and yard care business BEFORE giving in my two week notice.  But even more importantly, we didn’t make a move until we became “DECIDED in our convictions” concerning what we felt we needed to do.  With that conviction already decided in our hearts, we then KNEW that we could withstand any difficulty that we might face along the way.

Once we became DECIDED in our conviction” we had the foundation to begin a new chapter in our lives where we daily have needed to BE strong, BE confident and BE courageous!”  Like never before, the God given and God quickened nature to “BE” just like He told Joshua to “BE” has increased in us!  Each new adventure, each new task, and each new responsibility that we have been called to do and “BE” has worked to develop us more and more into His image!

I can honestly say, that every time I read this particular verse, something inside of me jumps for joy with the expectation of what God might have us to learn and “BE” next!  Have you ever sensed similar things from the Word in your own life?  Those are some of the most exciting times that my wife and I have ever had!

So… I’d better bring this post to a close, but don’t fret… we’ll take a brief look at those “BE NOTS” in our next post.  But until then, I would encourage you to meditate on Joshua 1:9 and listen to hear how or what the Lord would call you to “BE!”  Have a great rest of the week and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Who or What am I expecting to “BE” today?”

Monday, June 12, 2017

Being Obstinate...


I’m pretty sure that I mentioned in a recent blog about the picture that I saw of a gal whose facial expressions strongly reminded me of my wife Piper before the fight for her health began in 2007.  In that picture I saw the confidence, determination, purpose and passion that typified the way Piper lived her life.  She always amazed me in that she seemed to never be afraid of almost anything!  She had the knack of taking the things that life dished out to her and turning them into opportunities for her Papa God to be magnified by yielding to Him and simply trusting and allowing Him and His Word to do what He said He would do… for as she would say: “with God all things are possible!”  (Matthew 19:26 KJV)

The years from 2007 through September of 2009 were difficult and confusing as we knew something was going on with Piper’s health, but the doctors in Oklahoma seemed to have a difficult time putting a name to it.  The many tests pointed one direction while her still active lifestyle demonstrated the tests to have a false narrative.  But besides her having difficulties coming up with “the right word” in the midst of a conversation, I saw the change beginning in 2008 when little comments or actions betrayed the situation.  During that period of time I began to notice that her steadfast determination and confidence were beginning to slip away.

After seeing that picture the other day, I realized that I hadn’t seen or experienced the “old” Piper I married and loved through all these many years of dating and marriage for about nine years now!  I am so thankful that this picture of a stranger portraying a look that characterized my wife’s personality and life that helped to build a strong marriage and family with me was reignited in my memory. 

The stirring memories of that look caused a fresh determination to rise up in me and I immediately began to revisit, study and speak over her a verse from the Old Testament that has always been a favorite of ours.  This scripture found in Joshua 1:9 declares “Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the LORD your God, am with you wherever you go." (The Good News Bible)

Determined and confident, not afraid and not discouraged… words and actions that perfectly described Piper Kaye Berruto!  It is interesting though, that the more I have studied this verse that I have underlined in just about every hard copy Bible I have along with copious hand scribbled notes written under, next to and in the margin of those same Bibles from studies and sermons over the years, the more instruction and confirmations I am receiving for my own life and personal activities!

The Apostolic Bible Polyglot which is a Greek interpretation of the Old Testament puts Joshua 1:9 this way saying: “Behold, I give charge to you, be strong and be manly!  You should not be timid, nor should you be terrified, (for) the Lord your God is with you in every place where ever you should go.”  The word “manly” immediately stood out to me.  I’m sure that one reason it jumped off the page at me was due to “Political Incorrectness” that our modern society would quickly put on that term!  But the other reason was that I have heard that term spoken to my heart many times in my daily personal Bible Study over these last nine years.

I have heard the Lord instructing me to “Man Up” under the pressure of everything that we have been through along with the many difficult steps, phone calls, medical appointments, reams of paperwork and the outgoing explosion of finances that we’ve… I’VE… had to pray over, deal with, make decisions for and/or do since those early days in 2007.

Yesterday as I studied this verse, I felt led to look up the words “strong” and “manly” and found some interesting things!  One of the meanings in Hebrew for “strong” is “to be “obstinate!”  Well, that definition definitely resonated with me as I have been called that name when I refused to yield to outside influences that did not chime in with the directions we believed the Lord was instructing us to follow, and I also saw the disgust and confusion in others who, while they might not have spoken the word “obstinate,” you could sure see it flaming in their eyes as I stood my ground with a smile on my face!

A modern definition of “obstinate” describes the action as “stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or chosen course of action or attitude, despite attempts to persuade one to do so; not easily controlled or overcome.” (Oxford online dictionary)  I actually took that as a good thing that I have done in the face of adversity!  I believe it was another one of the many confirmations that the Lord has given me as we have sought to seek and follow His directions for us.

The Greek meaning for “manly” took a different turn than I thought it would.  Besides the obvious meaning of “to make a man out of or to make brave,” Thayer’s Greek Definitions tells how it comes from another word meaning “of a husband or of a betrothed or future husband.”

Well, like I said, that thought hit me like a rod hitting a gong!  Suddenly my obstinate behavior in negative response to some of the cruel and incorrect accusations or “advice” I’ve been given over the years came back with the joyfully understood realization that all along I have been endeavoring only to do what Papa God has expected me to do as Piper’s loving husband and protector in her deepest time of need.

So… I think you could say that, among other things, the role of a husband to his wife is one of obstinate and manly obedience in following the will and direction of the Lord in the face of any adversity that might come against her!  Hummm…. Talk about “Political Correctness!” I’m not sure how that explanation would fly in the world’s eyes!  But you know… At this point, I really don’t care what THEY say… I only care about what and how the Lord and His Word directs me to act toward my wife! 

What do you think?

Have a great week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… How ‘Obstinate’ in the face of adversity am I expecting to act today?”

Friday, June 9, 2017

Piper's Athletic Shoes...


My wife has always liked having a good pair of running or walking shoes.  While other women seem to collect dress shoes, my Piper enjoyed having a variety of jogging or walking shoes.  Even as I write this post today, there are about four pair sitting on the shelf in the walk-in closet in our master bedroom!  It’s not that she was a jogger, but she defiantly loved to take daily walks.  I can still picture in detail the last seven neighborhoods that we lived in because of all the strolls we took throughout them.   Always hand in hand, sometimes with the kids, sometimes the two of us alone.  In the last few neighborhoods we usually were also accompanied by our former dog, Mandie!

I noticed this morning that in most of the pictures of Piper that I have around house, she is wearing a different pair of athletic shoes!  Like I said, she liked to walk… in fact, in a spiritual sense, she liked to keep walking through and beyond the attacks of the enemy upon herself or our family as well.  Whenever she felt the pressure of the enemy in our home she would not sit in the midst of the mire and do nothing, but would almost immediately move into the fresh realm of the Spirit of God through vocal praise and worshipful song coupled with a smile and a laugh!  It would not be unusual for her to coax the family over to the piano where we would sing light-hearted praise songs to Jesus while her tiny fingers literally danced across the ivory keys… now stained and with some chipped edges from all the years of usage.

I had a chance to follow her example as I was assisting her during breakfast a little while ago.  After swallowing her various medications, she was not too interested in drinking her protein drink.  And to be honest, I had to fight off the shadow of fear and frustration as I used every trick in the book that I have learned to help encourage her swallowing mechanism to work… and you know how I did it?  I did not allow myself to get stuck in the mire of the attack but quickly began to move through it by singing some very simple – Children’s Church simple – praise songs unto Jesus!

Then instead of allowing the anger of discouragement to take a hold of me, I began to laugh.  At first it was a little forced, but after a while it began to flow with joy and thanksgiving as I turned my immediate focus away from was not happening and moved on to the realization of what will happen as I yield it all to Jesus!  And SHAZAM!  Little by little (and I emphasize ‘little’) she began to swallow and after a while ended up consuming more than she usually does in the morning.

Then in the midst of all that breakfast adventure today, I suddenly thought about what I consider as one of the funniest scriptures in the Bible found in Exodus 14:23-25.  Here we have the story of the Israelites’ experience as they crossed the Red Sea under the threat of the Egyptian army which was rapidly closing in on them from behind.  Once the Israelites all entered the open pathway through the sea, verse 23 states that “The Egyptians pursued them and all the Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and cavalry followed them into the sea.”  Then things got really interesting… and to me… quite funny!

Once on the path where the water was miraculously parted from, Exodus 14:24 declares “Just before dawn, the LORD looked down from the column of fire and smoke and threw the Egyptian camp into a panic.”  You would think that by now the Egyptians would be quite awe struck with the Israelites and the power of their God.  They had seen and experienced all the plagues that rained down on their land due to the word of Moses and the pride of the Pharaoh and now they found themselves traveling through a dry stretch in the midst of towering walls of water that was mysteriously being held back by the unseen hand of the Israelites’ God.  I don’t think that it took much effort on God’s part to get them into a panic!

And who can say that God doesn’t have a sense of humor as I can imagine God looking down from the column of fire and smoke and thought with a snarky grin on his face… “Uh! Uh!  This will be good…” and “He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they could hardly move.”  Well, I bet that freaked the Pharaoh’s mighty army out and caused them to go completely berserk!  If I were them, I would also have shouted out in total panic exclaiming “Let’s get out of here!  The Lord is fighting against us!”  (God’s Word ©)  I mean come on… you think!!! 

Every time I think of and/or read that part of the story I can’t help but laugh as I get a visualization of the Lord giggling while He maneuvered to save His children from the onslaught of the enemy.  I personally believe that Papa God enjoys helping us in our walk upon this earth… and sometimes He has a rather fun time in doing so!

I realized today that just as my wife always knew to keep moving on past the attacks of the enemy, so did Moses when they reached the banks of the Red Sea.  He knew that they needed to keep moving so that God could keep them safe and do whatever He thought necessary to protect them.  Many of the Israelites complained when they hit the roadblock of the Sea, but Moses looked to His heavenly Father for help, the Lord responded and Moses told them to shut up, get up and MOVE!  You see, I believe that they had to move forward so that Papa God could get the pursuing enemy into a place where he could take them out of the picture for the sake of His children… and in doing so in such a way that they would remember and recall the event for generations to come.  Think about it… we are STILLL hearing about it today!

So as far as you are concerned… what will it be?  When the pressures of life come upon you, will you slump around and get stuck in the mire of the negativity coming against you… or SHUT UP your complaining and feeling sorry for yourself (like I forced myself to do today), and GET UP and MOVE on by praise and worshipful song combined with a smile and a laugh… which enables God to move in your behalf?  Hummm…

Have a GREAT weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to MOVE beyond the attacks of the enemy to the place where God can MOVE on my behalf today?”

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Peanut Butter and Jelly!


I had a nice conversation with our younger son yesterday afternoon.  He was asking how we were doing and I mentioned that my emotions have been strained with the reality of Piper’s loss of weight due to her reduced food intake.  But I also expressed that we are not giving up on God’s Word and that I have been trying to keep my mind occupied on other things in and around the house and not dwell on the negatives that I may see with my physical eyes.  I told him that although I’ve been feeling a bit worn out that I have been forcing myself to get out and work on my various projects because I know that once I'm up and working around our property that I will feel much better physically, mentally and emotionally… and it seems to be working pretty well!

You know… it doesn’t really do me… or the yard… any good if all I do is talk about the many projects I want to accomplish and not do anything about it!  It is another one of those circumstances where I have to put some actions behind my conversation!  Which reminds me of James’ words to the Christians living in and around Jerusalem.  In chapter two of his letter he talks about the futility of seeing a friend in need and saying all kinds of nice and even encouraging things to them without actually providing some assistance for their needs.  He concludes that thought with the question, “where does that get you?” (James 2:16 The Message)

And then I cannot help but laugh at the bluntness of his next statement as described by The Message Bible saying: “Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” (James 2:17 The Message)  It has been my unfortunate experience within the context of the battle that my wife and I have been fighting over the attack on her health, that the obviousness of the nonsense coming out of the lips of those who have said some nice (and many times not so nice) things to us without accompanying actions… are seen by everyone but them! 

This experience is what caused me to coin the phrase I use a lot now describing this activity as “empty words!”  Then I later discovered that I wasn’t alone in my frustration as the Apostle John speaks of such things in 1John 3:18 telling us that we should always “show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words.” (God’s Word ©)

In chapter two of his epistle, Pastor James talks a lot about faith without works and how it all connects to love.  In verse eight he points us to “The Royal Law” (KJV)  The footnote in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges explains this law as “The love of God which has its roots in faith.”  So from his writings we can establish the fact that love, faith and action naturally go together… kind of like peanut butter and jelly! 

Well, if I’ve learned anything from our multitude of experiences – both good and bad – during this chapter in Piper’s and my life, it is asking what relevance this experience may have in my life?  How can I take what I have been through and use it as a lesson for me?  I admit that I have done a lot of introspection over the events of our lives over these last ten years, and have seen areas that I needed to change… and that is exactly what I have endeavored to do!  I’ve learned many things through both the positive and negative experiences… some that have been initiated by me while others by the people around me.

I’ve always tended to have a student mentality and enjoy learning new things… even when they’re not too fun at the time!  What about you?  Do you always combine love with faith and action?  Is it something that you might need to work on?  Lately, the truth of love, faith and action has spent a lot of time bouncing around in my brain!  I guess I’ve still got MORE to learn!

So… Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to combine faith and action as a part of my love walk today?”