Our New Home!

Our New Home!
The sun sets on our first month in Oklahoma!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What's Before Your Eyes


We got to bed a little later than normal last night as I wanted to watch the State of the Union address which came on at nine o’clock our time.  I think that I might be getting somewhat used to the three-hour time difference between our new home out here on the East coast and our former abode on the West coast.  But I can’t totally blame the speech as I also read past midnight once I got Piper settled into her bed!

I always finish my daily activities by either reading my Bible or from a Christian teaching book that discusses one my favorite subjects… FAITH!  When I finally closed the pages of the mini-book “Having Faith in Your Faith” by Kenneth E. Hagin and placed it on the bed stand, I paused while my eyes slowly pursued all the pictures of my lovely wife that I put up on the wall next to my bed.  The pictures date from our pre-marriage days through 2005 when the visible signs of change in Piper’s physical features began to surface.

I realized a few years ago that it was very important for me to keep a vision of a normal healthy Piper before my eyes in order to dispel discouragement in the daily care and negative changes I could see happening in her.  Those pictures on the wall next to my bed as well as the various framed portraits that hang throughout our home help me to keep a strong, faith-filled vision of what the Word of God tells me about Papa God’s will for her complete healing and recovery.

As I focused on all the fun times depicted in the pictures on the wall next to my bed, I couldn’t help but to find myself reviewing Piper’s and my life of over 47 years together.  It also brought back the tremendously difficult times we encountered after we returned home to California after our three year stay in Oklahoma while I attended Bible College. 

As the realities of the disease that we were facing began to come to light through the various doctor’s appointments, tests, scans and emergency room visits, I also found myself having to test almost everything that I had ever believed in my Christian walk.  I have mentioned on various occasions of how Piper and I immediately committed this whole journey concerning the attack on her health to the care of the Lord by placing our trust in the truth of His Word at the first negative report we received while still living in Oklahoma.

What I didn’t expect though, was the testing we would receive once we returned home.  I learned early on that I was going to have to depend on MY faith and not that of others in order to see this thing through to the finish that we are expecting.  It was at that point that I  had to decide if I really understood and believed all the tenants of my faith that I had learned and developed since becoming a Christian in the early 1970’s.

This realization was especially brought home when some individuals I expected comfort, agreement and strength from did not react as I had hoped that they would.  With false accusations flying from some of these folks, many Christian friends telling me that I needed to follow their way in believing for a positive turn in Piper’s health, and others pulling away from us while looking depressed, fearful and discouraged, I saw the importance of knowing the strength of my own personal beliefs in the truth of God’s Word and of His unfailing, non-critical and grace-filled love for Piper and I.

So… what did I do?  The only thing I KNEW to do!  I upped the ante of the daily intake of God’s Word into our lives.  In the face of all the different view-points, both positive and negative, that were flying at us from what seemed like all directions, I had to KNOW-THAT-I KNOW what Papa God says about our unique situation in his Word.  I had to KNOW-THAT-I-KNOW that we were standing on THOSE PROMISES ALONE and the physical steps that He, in line with His Word, was telling us to follow along the way.* 

Like I was telling Piper’s Hospice Social Worker a few days ago, this is why I believe the Lord told me early on that the best thing I could do for Piper (along with the physical care of her daily needs) was to saturate her in His Word.  I was a little taken back, but yet emotionally thankful as she paused and told me that in her ten years of Hospice work that she could say without a doubt that if I hadn’t been giving Piper the care I do and been filling her with the Word that she was sure that Piper would not be with us right now!

Our now familiar scripture in Luke 2:18-19 tell us that “Everyone who heard the shepherd’s story was amazed.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (God’s Word ©/KJV)  As I continued to study these verses this morning I realized that over these years since that first negative report back in the summer of 2007, that I have been steadily following Mary’s example!

You’ll notice that Luke 2:18 tell us that everyone on the scene that night in the stable behind the inn in Bethlehem was taken in by the story that the shepherds told them.  Various translations tell us that these folks were amazed, astonished or struck with wonder.  That makes me think of the different times that I have seen some incredible sights when hiking in the Sierras in north eastern California.  Sometimes the panoramas that unfold before my eyes are simply breath-taking and I find myself amazed, astonished or filled with wonder.  But you know, that feeling doesn’t always stay with me after we’ve packed up and returned to our daily routines back home.

Verse nineteen, on the other hand, describes Mary’s response to what was happening around her saying that she “kept” or other translations say “treasured” or “preserved” these things and “pondered” them in her heart.  The word “kept” in the original languages means “To keep in mind, lest it be forgotten.” (Thayer’s)  While “pondered” is defined as “to combine, to converse, consult and consider; the action of comparing and weighing the facts and to bring them together in your heart.” (Strong’s, Thayer’s and Vincent Word Studies)

Vincent's Word Studies goes on to say that the word “kept” means “not merely to guard but to keep,” and further explains that “the compound verb is very expressive in the present active tense.”  Meaning that it was something that Mary thought about, considered and meditated on all the time… just like we should be doing by studying God’ Word on a daily basis.

I imagine that I keep pushing this point to you because of my on-going personal experience in having to really stand on my own faith in our daily stand for Piper’s health.  For just as I keep those various reminders of a healthy, spunky and very confident wife before my eyes, I also have to keep an active and present-day reminder of the truth, power, faithfulness and love of God before my eyes!

That’s also one reason I have not put any current pictures of my lovely wife out there for public viewing these last few years.  Not only does it hurt me to see the look of hopelessness on some people’s faces when they look upon her countenance right now but I also want people to remember her as she once was… and will be again!

So… what memories and or truths do you “keep” before your eyes on a daily basis?  Do you regularly fill your mind and your heart with the encouraging promises found within the pages of your Bible?  As for me and my family… It is the ONLY way to go!  Have a wonderful rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What picture am I expecting to put into my head today?”



 *(See: Lindsey Roberts article “You Have to Know What You Have.” http://oralroberts.com/uncategorized/you-have-to-know-what-you-have/)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Pay Attention!


Over the years it seems like I’ve found myself in front of groups of people from the very get-go!  From singing a solo in my Kindergarten class graduation to leading the entire division at Hewlett Packard in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” (which I started off in a key that was too low… oophs! – where was Piper when I needed her!) on the occasion of the Division Manager’s birthday.  I have ended up in a leadership role in just about every job, family activity or church ministry we’ve been a part of.  Many of these positions just happened!  It wasn’t even like I was planning on interviewing for the job or activity.

For instance, after I had been at Hewlett Packard working as a silk-screener and darkroom tech for about six months in 1980, my supervisor who was transferring back to a division in the Bay Area came up to me at the coffee station and stated: “Well, are you going to apply for my position or not?”  That one threw me for a loop as I was told that one normally doesn’t apply for a management position until you’d been with the company for 1.5 years!  So, I sort of stammered out a weak “I guess so…” and found myself in the position a few weeks later!

The same thing happened with the church we were volunteering at about ten years later when we were leading the Praise and Worship and the Children’s Ministry.  The Pastor’s took us out to dinner and asked me to become his Assistant with a nice part-time salary that enabled us to purchase Piper’s long-awaited, wanted and prayed for Suburban!

A similar event had occurred with the first church we attended a few weeks after Piper and were married, when I was asked to join the staff as the Youth Minister.  And to be honest, I could go on sighting various times that this happened to us… but I think you get the idea!

One thing I learned rather quickly though, whether it was leading a meeting with my team at Hewlett Packard or Home Depot, teaching the Youth, working with their parents, planning and then leading a large Children’s Church event or preaching on Sunday morning to the church congregation, not everybody who is involved always looks like they really want to be there!

So… over the years I have honed the task of getting and then retaining the students or adult’s attention.  Now don’t get me wrong here… I am not saying that I have fully perfected this because every situation is different from the last one.  But I’ve gotten better over the years, thanks in a big part to my long-suffering wife who would stand in the back of the youth meetings or volunteer team meetings at church and regularly give me the “cut it off… NOW!” sign by making a cutting motion with her right hand under her neck!

But it wasn’t just the hand motion, it was the look on her face that belayed her true feelings and how far off I’d gotten from my lesson or how specific my timing was to be… ie; “time to wrap it up” or “STOP NOW!”  So, not only am I thankful for Piper’s discretion, but so should all those who were in attendance to our ministry over the years… as Piper was quietly and unnoticed behind the scenes (or the chairs in the room) directing the event!

Some of the funniest times would be when a member of our team at my secular job would doze off during a meeting… or a member of the congregation would nod off during a sermon.  In the meeting format I would usually ask the sleepy (or hopefully not bored) member a question in order to rouse them from the temptations of a nice warm nap! 

Since I’ve always enjoyed walking around when I preached, it was easy and seemingly not too evident of my motives, to walk over toward the eye-closed congregationalist in church.  This usually did the trick, but I also learned (with Piper’s constant encouragement) to keep on track and avoid rabbit-trails or too many personal examples! 

Another key is that I have always enjoyed using humor when I teach or preach.  A good hearty laugh keeps one’s focus on the speaker and also tends to send a surge of adrenaline into a tired listener!  Of course, all the years in Children’s and Youth ministry has also enabled me to use lots of tangible examples and a large array of hand and body motions!  Who says that an adult can’t enjoy a good laugh on a Sunday morning!

And what’s my point here?  Well, just as I work to keep my audience in tune, excited and expectant of my message at church, we should work to approach our time in God’s Word with the same enthusiasm and expectation!  Romans 10:17 declares: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (KJV)  Wuest’s Word Studies explains to us “That as the gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit engenders faith in the gospel message in the hearts of those who believe.”  I would think that the key thoughts in this statement are “in the power of the Holy Spirit” and “of those who believe.”

Adam Clarke seems to agree, in discussing our intake of the Word he declares “if heard attentively, faith will be produced…”  Once again, the key being our “attentiveness” to the Word that we are studying or hearing through a preacher.  I believe that Paul had this in mind when he penned this verse as he used the Greek word “rhema” to define the Word he was referring to.  Rhema “(pronounced RAY-MAH) means ‘the spoken word.’ In the Bible, the Greek translation for rhema is “God’s Word revealed.” (https://rhemashope.wordpress.com/the-rhema-word/)  In other words, it is a word from the Lord that He has given you with some special and personal meaning, insight or revelation for your life.  It means that your coming to attentively “hear” the Word that your studying or hearing preached with expectation is rewarded by the Holy Spirit’s revelation in your own heart.

But if you’re not expecting to receive, then most likely, you’ll leave with that expectation met!  So like I always say… “What are you expecting” when you go to study God’ Word?

I would encourage you to keep that thought or question in mind every time you grab your Bible, go to church or listen to a minister on TV.  Remember Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1 God’s Word ©) 

Have a great week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting from my time in God’s Word today?”

Friday, January 26, 2018

DING!


Well, here we go again!  It looks like I am stuck on another verse of scripture.  I haven’t been able to take my eyes off of Proverbs 29:18 since Monday!  The more I study this word of the Lord the more I see just how prophetic this verse is to my life personally and to society today as well.  The Contemporary English Version brings a very current twist to this word declaring: “Without guidance from God, law and order disappear, but God blesses everyone who obeys his law.”

An interesting aspect of this prophecy is that the word translated “law” does not only refer to the Old Testament Law that God gave to the Israelites, or as a type and shadow of Israel, the Church today through the New Testament Gospels and epistles, but can also refer to “a precept or statue” or any “body of legal directives.” (Strong’s and Brown-Driver-Briggs) In other words, it could also refer to the governmental law of the land.

So, as I watched a news program the other night, a little bell went off inside of me when I found myself shaking my head in confusion while I heard of some individual states in our Union that are openly defiant when it comes to following the legal statutes of Federal Law… with one state going so far as to threaten to persecute people in that state who follow those laws in the performance of their daily responsibilities… Huh?  What’s going on here?

Some legislators are talking about a coming Constitutional crisis.  I can’t help but think about a similar time in the mid-1800’s that led to a very divisive, deadly and economically devastating civil war in our country!  What are these people thinking?  What is driving this rebellion… “Ding!”  … Proverbs 29:18 states that... “Without prophetic vision people run wild…” (God’s Word ©)  Other versions say that without God’s guidance “the people will lose self-control” (ERV) or “cast off restraint” (ESV)  or as our main verse today declares “law and order disappear.”

As more people turn away from the precepts in God’s Word what we are seeing today can only get worse!  But don’t panic just yet!  There is hope… There is the Church of Jesus Christ and strong and knowledgeable Christians who not only study and live the standards as found in His Word, but champion a life-style that differs from, challenges and overcomes the anti-God, secular ways of the world.

I am totally convinced that the man and woman of God who stays sensitive to the ways of God and is walking in active faith in the directives that the Lord is giving to them will always make decisions that will eventually prove to be of better common sense than those who strictly go by their intellect.  Intellect makes decisions on what an individual can see in the natural.  While a born-again Christian who is regularly seeking and staying in-tune to the things of God has the Almighty working for him or her.

The Christian takes steps of faith based not on what they may see around them, but based on the truth, faithfulness and love of God.  And although they may not see the conclusion of their steps and realize that their steps may not make much sense according to needs of the current situation, they trust in the One who sees the whole picture and knows how everything will come together… step by step, “from faith to faith!” (Romans 1:17 KJV)

Piper and I have seen this unfold a great multiplicity of times in our lives where we received some major persecution when the steps we took in what we believed to be in obedience to God’s directives did not seem to make good sense at the time.  But in looking back today, we can see how each step was part of God’s divine puzzle for the final outcome of what He had planned for us!

Our trust in Him always comes from our knowledge of His will for us as found in His Word… within the pages of our personal Bibles.  I was trying to remember the exact wording of a particular scripture the other night as I was helping Piper to bed and couldn’t find what I was looking for in the modern translation I keep at my bedside. 

Then I remembered Piper’s long-time friend… her King James Study Bible that we keep on her bed stand.  And while that volume hasn’t seen a lot of activity over the last few years, a wave of joy, comfort and peace flooded my soul as I went right to the verse I was desiring to read to her and discovered her wonderful handwriting in the margin of the page with personal notes about the verse!

I’m not sure if this is weird… but there is nothing better to each of us than holding and reading from our personal and well-used and worn Bibles.  I still get flutters inside when I refer back to the first Study Bible I bought in the 1980’s (It’s actually the first Bible I ever bought for myself – the leather cover was so worn out that I had to get a Bible cover to preserve the material and binding!)  It is loaded with my hand scribbled notes, underlining and highlighting and brings back fond memories and revelations from those days!

How do you think about your Bibles… or of the special revelations you’ve had during church or personal study times?  Maybe this weekend is the time to revive the adventures that can only be experienced within the pages of God’s Word!  Have a terrific weekend, and as you do, keep telling yourself… “How much of an adventure am I expecting to have as I study God’s Word today?”

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Where to Find It!


After my morning Bible study today, I realized that most of my wife’s and my adult Christian life has been spent assisting others in grasping a Godly vision for their lives.  I can’t say that it was always an obvious effort, in fact most times it was simply the two of us, either separately or together, living out our Christian convictions in our daily lives.

As I continued to study Proverbs 29:18 it dawned on me that this is just what Christians do!  Solomon, the author most associated with this proverb, boldly asserted: “If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” (MSG)

As Assistant Pastors, Piper and I spend countless hours at church and our home talking with adults, youth and kids who were in the midst of trying situations.  We were not the type to immediately tell the other folks what we felt they needed to do… and if you’ve been reading this blog for very long you probably know what direction we took… Yep!  We guided them into God’s Word!  And why did we do that?  To get them to see His perspective or vision on what they were facing!

We’ve always felt that it was important for the individual in need to discover and then take ownership of God’s plan for what they were dealing with.  Once they cast their eyes upon what He had to say, the door was opened for them to begin to build an expectation of His best in their situation and as that expectation was ignited they were able to build up their faith for His victory in their lives.

You see, that expectation that Papa God and His Word will work for you develops confidence in Him… and in your own ability to know Him in ever increasing and deeper manifestations of His love for you!

Through the years we’ve come to see many strong and mature Christians who still have areas in their lives that they have not yet fully surrendered to God… or you could say that they have not yet discovered His vision for that part of them (I’ll openly include myself as one of these folks as I’ve learned some shocking things about what was in me as I have had to handle different physical, emotional and spiritual situations throughout my wife’s illness). 

In my life, I have discovered those areas in me by the way I find myself first responding to a new situation.  When I react in judgement, fear, or anger I know that something is amiss!  This was one of the most shocking things for me at the beginning of our ordeal.  Now, a few yeas later, I tend to go right past the shock and delve into His Word to get His vision on how I need to handle this situation… permanently!

I also discovered another part of this puzzle while in the Old Testament over the last few days.  I realized that the people of God in the Old Testament were very much focused on sin, while the New Testament Christian (ie; you and me) are to be focused on love.  In the OT the Children of Israel followed the law as their mandate to God’s way with the major purpose of the Law to point the Jewish people to their need for a Savior.  The Law was a list of Do’s and Don’ts that made the followers of it continually conscious of their sins.

In the NT Jesus died to save us from our sins and in one swift move the sin problem was taken care of… for good!  Not just covered for a year like the OT yearly sacrifice of the blood of a lamb ceremony but totally and completely… once and for all for those who will accept Him as their personal Savior and Lord!  A Christian need not be focused on sin anymore, but on the love of Jesus!

So, if your response to any situation in this world expresses itself through the judgment of others or yourself, or in fear or in anger… you’ve got the focus of your vision in the wrong place!

And what is my point to all of this?  Well my friend, its another important reason for us to be studying God’s Word on a daily basis.  It is the only way to discover His vision for everything going on in your life… AND… help others in finding another vision and therefore a Godly expectancy for answers in their lives as well!

Like I keep saying… The answer is in the Word.  In many ways as Christians we need to be more like my Dad when I would call out from my room when doing homework and ask “How do you spell ________ ?” and he would inevitably call back: “Look it up in the dictionary!”  Except in our case, our Christian response to others (as well as to the questions we personally face on a regular basis) should be: “Look it up in the Bible!”

Eventually you’ll get to the place of not even having to think about it, but go directly to the Word that you’ve stored in your heart, downloaded to your phone, tablet or laptop or in the book sitting on the dining room table.  If you’re like me you’ll even get a bit excited at the prospect of exploring in the Word!  I just got a new Dell laptop as my older Toshiba was beginning to do some strange things! 

I spent an hour or more yesterday downloading various programs including my eSword Bible Study program to which I added a few new study sources.  And today I felt like a little kid as I told my wife that I was quite excited about studying the Word with the new resources… Oooh… maybe I’ll discover some new truths I hadn’t seen before!
So dig in to His Word and see what new truths are awaiting for you to discover in your quest to focus your sights on His vision for your daily lives.  And as you do, keep saying to yourself… “What VISION am I expecting to discover in my Bible today?"

Monday, January 22, 2018

Never Never-Land or Vision?


While I was making the beds and cleaning up our bedroom late yesterday morning, I found myself mulling over our Pastor’s sermon about the Christian’s need to have a vision.  Among many other scriptures he used Proverbs 29:18 as a foundation for his point.  This verse reads: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (KJV)  A modern version tells us that without vision “the people cast off restraint,” (ESV) and yet another that “… the people will lose self control.” (ERV)

I had to laugh at the modern translations as that seems to be exactly what we are seeing among many people in the world today.  This verse makes it pretty clear (at least to me!) that the correct vision to hang onto in this life comes from God’s will as found in His Word.  Without that ever-before us, we can easily get off track and lose self-control.

I also had to stop what I was doing for a moment and mention to my wife who was sitting quietly in the middle of the room that “We’ve always had a vision for the things we sought to accomplish throughout our marriage… and even before.”  I can remember as a young elementary age kid planning for things in the future.  It was like I’ve always needed to have something before me that I was reaching for in order to keep life interesting, challenging and meaningful to me.

Then when my spunky girlfriend began to introduce me to the Word of God in High School, it just seemed like a logical transition to transfer the directions of my visions from my limited capacity into the hands of what I was beginning to see and hunger for… a strong, mighty, faithful and loving Father God.  And it has kinda been that way ever since those early days in the fall of 1970.

And that thought takes me right back to our discussion of the importance of personal Bible Study time each and every day!  In our last two posts we gave some practical methods for the study of God’s Word and I felt like yesterday’s conclusion of a two part series on vision was another way to stimulate our interest in His Word.

The Psalmist in Psalms 119:114 prayed to the Father explaining that “You are my hiding place and my shield.  My hope is based on your word.” (God’s Word ©)  What he was saying was pretty much the same point as the statement from Proverbs 29:18 above.  A quick glance into the Hebrew and Greek translations will confirm that the word “hope” (as usual) would better be translated “expectation.”  So therefore you could say that “My ‘expectation’ is based on your word” with “word” referring to the “logos” or written word of God. (Strong’s)

The writer is establishing the idea that his expectations in life are solely based on the vision he gains from his daily-increasing familiarity with God’s Word.

From these two verses, one can also learn how to quickly discern the source of your and/or other's vision in life.  When Piper and I were first faced with the reality of what we were up against with the attack in her body, we immediately (if not sooner!) turned to God and His Word for our vision of her health.  There was NEVER any question!  We had just spent three years being saturated in the Word in Bible College and the Church and Christian community we were involved with in Oklahoma.  Other thoughts, reasoning’s or diagnosis NEVER had a chance to sneak in!

When we returned home, I can’t say that everyone responded with the same positive resiliency as we had.  I think the worst year started in late summer of 2010 when I quit my job at The Home Depot to take care of my wife full time.  For us it was simply a matter of continuing to follow the vision that God’s Word was prescribing to us and stepping out in faith.  But we soon discovered that not everyone was agreeable to our steps of faith for it seemed they had a different source for the vision that was unfolding in their understandings.

But, as you most likely know by now, the results of any vision does not always present themselves immediately and ours didn’t either… but then slowly and methodically things began to change for our benefit… just as the vision from the scriptures in God’s Word had given to us back in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

So… what kind of vision for your life do you want to have?  You know Piper’s and my answer to that question… and we have some 47 years of results to prove it!  Is it always easy?  NO!  Does it always work out exactly the way you think it should? NO! 

BUT - through faith, lots of continual expectation and daily communication with the Father through the pages of your Bible - you will eventually see His Will, His VISION and therefore His grace and faithfulness come to fruition in your life.

Don’t wait another day… start today!  Have a great week as you delve into the wonderful truths in God’s Word for you, and as you do, keep telling yourself… “I am excited and EXPECTANT about finding God’s VISION for my life today!”

Friday, January 19, 2018

I Am Expecting to...


Have you ever noticed how the members of the Democrat and Republican political parties in our country seem to talk about current events from two totally different viewpoints?  I’ve gotten to the point that I can almost tell you what a representative of either party will say when asked a question by a reporter.  I even tend to not shake my head anymore when certain retorts seem to completely miss the point of the question being discussed, or their reply seems totally out of step with any logical solution!

I did have to laugh last week when I saw an interview with former President Obama when he made the comment that the people who watch Fox News “are ‘living on a different planet’ than people who consume mainstream media.” (http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/01/12/obama-rips-fox-news-viewers-are-living-on-different-planet.html)  What made me laugh was the thought that Fox News continues to be the most watched cable news network. 

A national report from 2017 declared that the “FOX News Channel hit a ratings milestone in cable news by marking 15 years as the most-watched news channel, Nielsen data revealed. In January, FOX News Channel garnered an average of 2.8 million viewers, up 35 percent from the previous year.” (www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/01/31/fox-news-channel-marks-ratings-milestone.html)  So my thought was something like… “just who is living on another planet?”

I clearly remember that when some of the false accusations were made against me as I set out to follow what I believed the Lord was instructing me to do (and time has proven this true…) in the initial days of our all-out fight against the attack of Alzheimer’s in my wife, that I could only shake my head in wonderment thinking where in the world did those things come from?  I remember telling someone I trusted that it was like these folks were living in an alternate universe… seeing things from a totally different and false perspective!

With all that in mind, it is important when one sits down to study God’s Word that you see things from the same perspective as the Author of the book!  That is why I mentioned the two prayers from the book of Ephesians in our last post. (“Jump In… Get Wet!” 1/17/18)  In these prayers we preface any study time with a request to God to open up the eyes and ears of our understanding to His point of view.  Unlocking the doors in us to His wisdom, knowledge and understanding!

You see, as a Christian, when you asked Jesus Christ into your life as personal Savior and Lord, your spirit was reborn and the Holy Spirit took up residence in you!*  Then by praying these prayers you are giving the Holy Spirit the go-ahead to lead and instruct you through whatever parts of the Word you are studying that day!  Maybe even more importantly, when you pray these prays you are yielding to Him and in effect, placing your understanding in the same universe or place as His!

Jesus spoke of the soon coming Holy Spirit to His disciples in John 14 and 15 saying: “However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. He will remind you of everything that I have ever told you.” (John 14:26 God’s Word © - see also John 15:26)  So the excuse of not understanding the Bible kind of goes up in smoke when you yield yourself to the counsel of “The Helper” whose job it is to “declare the truth about Me (Jesus).” (John 15:26 God’s Word ©)

I remember many years ago in the first area I worked in at Hewlett Packard, having a discussion with another supervisor about the Bible.  His first comment was, “Well, I read the Bible once” and then went into detail of how it didn’t make any sense to him.  I replied with many of the same discussion points I wrote of above and he just kind of shrugged his shoulders and nodded!  We worked together for many years and Piper and I became friends with him and his fiancé.  In fact we drove to her hometown in Sunnyvale, California and shot their wedding pictures for them.  It was quite a fun day for us all!

I’m not sure if my friend and his wife ever became Christians as we lost contact when they moved back to the South Bay area (south of San Francisco) but we had many more discussions around this subject up until they moved!  I believe a seed was planted though!

Like I mentioned in the last post, the more you study the Word the better you get at it and the more in-tune to God’s way of thinking you’ll become… and the hunger for more of the knowledge of His will for you will begin to burn in you!

So what do you think?  Have I stirred up a desire to find God’s will for your life?  It is all in His book… Written within its pages is His will for you!  Ah… Go ahead!  Take the plunge!

For beginners I would suggest that you start within the epistle letters that start following the book of Acts as these letters were specifically written to the church.  I might also encourage you to take a look at the preface to each of the books that most study bibles have (again – download eSword where you can get free Bible downloads, concordances that explain many of the words, phrases, and some historical context to the book you are going to read, biblical time maps and much more!  http://www.e-sword.net/).  The preface will give you some background to the writer of the book, the approximate time of the writing, and some history of the times and places mentioned in the book.

I would also suggest that when you read the scriptures that you read it like it is being spoken to you.  As you get into each book you’ll become more aware of the context of the message being shared.  But most of all… Depend on the Holy Spirit to guide you whenever you sit down to study God’s Word!  After praying the two Ephesians prayers, go into your reading with the idea that your understanding has been opened up and that you will receive whatever God wants to teach you that day!

So… have an enjoyable time in the Word!  It is one of my favorite places to spend time first thing in the morning with smaller doses throughout the day and then it’s the last thing my eyes see before I turn the light out each night!  Have fun, and as you do, keep telling yourselfI am expecting to receive Godly understanding, wisdom and knowledge every time I study my Bible!”



*PS:  Remember, this all begins when you accept Jesus and His Spirit comes to live in you… So if you’ve never asked Jesus to become your personal Savor and Lord, I invite you to pray this prayer aloud… and then rejoice at your new life!

“God, I know that, in my lifetime, I have not always lived for you, and I have sinned in ways I probably don't even know yet are sins. I know that you have plans for me, and I want to live in those plans. I pray to you for forgiveness for the ways in which I have sinned.

I am choosing now to accept you, Jesus, into my heart as Savor and Lord. I am eternally grateful for your sacrifice on the cross and how you died so I can have eternal life. I pray that I will be filled with the Holy Spirit and that I continue to live as you desire for me to live. I put myself--my life and my future--in your hands. I pray that you work in my life and guide my steps so that I continue to live for you for the rest of this life.

In your name, I pray. Amen.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Jump In... Get Wet!


One of the first places I turned to after Piper was first diagnosed with a form of dementia in 2009 was to books!  Not necessarily ink and paper books, but online research for articles published in the scientific and medical journals that had been written over the years.  I decided early on that I wanted to know as much as I could about this thing that was attacking my wife’s body.  As a psychology major in college I quickly came to realize that everything in this field is based on research and testing with the results being published for the professional field to digest.  One of the things that was hammered into the student’s heads by almost all the professors was the process of investigating the research and how the facts were tested and compiled by the author.

Theories and findings are proven or at least seen as logical or illogical based, many times, on the testing that was done, the amount of subjects tested, the test subject’s qualifications in line with the theorem that is being tested and many such factors and controls put into place that validate the conclusions.

So with that in mind, I felt like I had a decent idea of what I was doing when I set out on my quest.  My initial thoughts for the research was to gain a reasonable understanding of what was going on with Piper’s brain and how to best interact with her as the changes occurred, have some knowledge of what to expect in the future, be familiar with the current avenues of treatment, and be able to converse somewhat intelligently with the various doctors we were beginning to see.

The other unseen benefit of the hours of research that I did and continue to pursue, was to be able to better counteract the information and supposed reasons for the sickness and potential cures that others felt very free to share during the early stages of our battle.  It suddenly felt like many people thought they were an “expert” on the subject!  Things got pretty bizarre for a while there as some family members actually accused me of causing it while other friends and family told me of destructive behaviors that I would “need to watch out for” as well as those who told me of what they “knew” to be the instigator of the disease and the cure for it.

So whether it was blaming me for Piper’s situation or the other incorrect reasoning’s that were shared, my research debunked most of the mis-directions, helped to keep me on a level path and not receive condemnation or needless fears.  It also helped to keep my faith on a strong path as I firmly resolved that the final word for Piper and I would always be what God’s Word says about Piper and sickness in her body.

I guess you could say that this is also the main reason I seek the wisdom and findings of God within the pages of my Bible on a daily basis.  It’s funny, because the more I read of His story, wisdom and plans, the more information I want!  So… how do I accomplish this?  Well, I start off my study time with the Lord in His Word by daily praying the prayers that the Apostle Paul wrote to us as found in Ephesians 1:17-23 and Ephesians 3:16-21.

Verses 16 and 17 in Ephesians chapter one perfectly summarizes what Paul was praying for his readers and what we can personalize and pray for ourselves saying: “I pray that the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give you (me) a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you (I) come to know Christ better.  Then you (I) will have deeper insight. You (I) will know the confidence that he calls you (me) to have and the glorious wealth that God's people (I) will inherit.” (God’s Word ©)  The word translated “confidence” in this modern translation is stated as “hope” in the King James Version and would be better served to be translated “expectation.” (Strong’s)

As I personalize these scriptures as if they were written to me, I find myself getting excited about the wisdom and revelation that I am going to find in God’s Word that day and sense a burning expectation building up inside of me to receive and DO God’s best.

By this time I usually have a sense of where He wants me to begin my study and/or the subject He may want me to pursue.  Most times this direction is based on current life events I am experiencing, the Christian teaching book(s) I am reading alone or with my wife, or possibly something the Pastor or another minister that I may follow said that caught my spiritual attention.  So with various Bible translations spread out before me, or since my Bible School days, my (free) eSword Bible Study Program on my computer (http://www.e-sword.net/index.html), and my trusty notebook at my side, I jump in to reading the Word before me.

I’ll explain some more of my process in the next few posts, but to newcomers I might suggest one of the many “Through the Bible in a Year” Bibles available at Christian Book Stores or online.  There are also countless “Read the Bible in a year” plans where you can use your own favorite version to follow.  (To find many examples of these good volumes and plans simply do an online search using the “Through the Bible in a Year” keywords.)

One of the more popular Bible apps for your smart phone or tablet in recent years is “YouVersion” (https://www.youversion.com/).  Through it you can download many different Bible versions in order find the one(s) you like the best, follow multiple daily reading plans, interact with a community of users and much more!  I think many times about when we were in Church in Oklahoma and would glance over to the front row where the Associate Pastors would sit with their Bible’s in hand following the Senior Pastor’s sermon.  I would crack a smile almost every time when one of them seemed to buck the trend and would be following along with the Bible on his phone!

I would imagine that the Bible phone apps have surpassed the online versions that I like to use on my laptop!  I just like having the big screen and access to a full keyboard.  But anyway you like it, there are Bible applications available.  So give it a try!  Do some research, try out the different mediums including a nice paper and ink version… there is something about holding an actual book in one’s hand… at least to me!

Jump in… get wet… and don’t be afraid to get confused at first but keep pursing the wisdom in God’s Word and find out what works best for you!  I’ll give you more hints and ideas next time… but in the meantime… JUST GET STARTED!

Have a great rest of the week!  It’s snowing pretty hard out here right now!  So we plan to stay warm inside and enjoy the winter wonderland all around us!  Stay alert to God’s best for you, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “How EXPECTANT of God’s Best am I today?”

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Daily Bible Study! … Who me... How??


Yes… You’re right!  I am writing my normal Monday blog this week on Tuesday!  As it turned out, we had planned to spend the afternoon yesterday with our daughter in Morrisville (about 40 minutes away) so we had scheduled an earlier time for Piper’s CNA to come by.  Well, she came early, stayed longer than usual and it inadvertently put us behind schedule.  So, hopefully it’s okay that I made the executive decision to write yesterday’s blog today!



For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to books.  One of my favorite places to spend time is at the local library or better yet, at a Book Fair!  One the first things I did out here was to find the closest library branch and procure a Library Card!  Then a few months later my daughter and my wife and I attended a large Book Fair in Durham, NC.  It was a wonderful experience with three or four large rooms (and/or tents) over-flowing with used, inexpensive books!

I would imagine that my love for books can be traced back to my early elementary summer days when my Mom would take me every few weeks to get a book or two at the local Montgomery Village Branch Library (now long gone) or to the big stone Main branch downtown (built in 1904, damaged and repaired following the 1906 earthquake and then replaced in the 1960’s).  I still have fond memories of one particular incident when we were at the library and I couldn’t find a book I liked and my Mom finally suggested (more like twisted my arm!) to get one that to my young eyes looked quite boring!

Well, you guessed it… after I begrudgingly checked out the book and took it home, I finally gave in and read it… AND LOVED IT!  And while I don’t remember the title of the novel, I do remember that it was the story of a family going through tough times and in particular their young son who learned the lesson of love and giving when they took a needy stranger into their home one Christmas.

So yea, I am drawn to book shelves in people’s houses, spent hours doing homework in the libraries at the Santa Rosa Junior College, at Chico State University and Sonoma State University where I finally graduated with a degree in Psychology with an emphasis in family and adolescent psychology in 1981… and over the years have amassed a nice library of books of my own!

Therefore it makes complete sense that I would have found myself drawn to the 66 books found within the pages of a Bible!  I vividly recall the time as a Junior High student when curiosity caused me to pick up the new Bible sitting on the side table in the living room that a fellow teacher with my Dad had recently given him.  As I thumbed through the Old and New testaments, I discovered that I was interested and felt a peculiar spark deep inside, but readily admit that none of it seemed to make any sense to me… until about four or five years later when a certain spunky, freckled brunette I met in High School introduced me to the One behind those 66 books and began to open up the life-changing and life-guiding meanings found within it’s pages!

As I was getting my wife ready for the day on Sunday morning, I found myself thinking about our long-standing habits of daily Bible Study and how I have been sharing the importance of doing so in our blog posts.  Then it suddenly dawned on me that there may be some of our readers who find themselves in a similar place that I was in when I first picked up that black Catholic Bible back in junior high.  Maybe you have a desire to read and study God’s Word but might not really know how to begin… or you read it but it doesn’t always make a lot of sense to you???

Well, if that’s you, I totally understand and believe me it is nothing to be worried or feel less than confident about!  It’s perfectly normal.  So what I’d like to do is to share some tips, explain a few things I’ve learned in 30 plus years of Christian ministry about the Bible, and suggest a few different ways to embark upon the exciting adventure of a daily time in the Word! 

I have a daily system that I have fine-tuned through the years that I enjoy and seems to work for me, but there are all kinds and manner of Bible study methods and daily Bible reading plans out there.  And in this digital age your favorite Bible translation, reading plan and study programs are as close as your laptop, tablet or smart phone!

The important thing to remember is that the Apostle Paul told us that “Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 God’s Word ©)  In other words, the best and according to Paul, only way to develop and grow our level of Biblical understanding and practical faith is by the regular “hearing” of the Word of Christ (ie; through the daily reading our Bibles and listening to its truths taught by the abundance of wonderful and solid ministries that teach the Word – including the number one source of your local church fellowship).

Another benefit that I recently mentioned in another post is Paul’s encouragement to Timothy when he explained the need to teach the Word to his congregation by qualifying the importance of the Word saying that, “Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God's approval.” (2 Timothy 3:16 God’s Word ©)  God’s Word contains the direction, support and wisdom that we need to succeed in our daily lives.  Jesus Himself called it, “The Bread of life…” (John 6:35 KJV).

So don’t be afraid to jump in and get wet!  It’s a plunge that you’ll never regret!  I’ll start sharing more of this on Wednesday (as I watch the snow that’s supposed to blanket the area tomorrow) and together we’ll experience the wonder and power of God’s Word.  Have a great week, and as you do keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to grow in my FAITH today?”

Friday, January 12, 2018

Food Gone Bad... PHEW!


Many years ago my wife asked me to tell her that I loved her every day and as far as I can remember, that is one request that I have never failed to fulfill.  If anything, I usually mention those three special words from the depths of my heart multiple times a day!  I believe she wanted to be reminded that our love for each other is new, fresh and stronger each and every new day.

Even though the effects of Alzheimer’s has negated her ability to respond to me much anymore, I continue to tell her how much I love her each and every day.  On some days the most special moments for me are spent kneeling down next to her chair, holding her hand, looking into her still bright brown eyes and telling her how much I love her.  Every-so-often I’ll catch a little spark or a moment of a glow in her eyes from deep inside that lets me know that she is acknowledging my words to her.

Those daily words and intimate times of holding her hand are some of the things that keep me going through the roller coaster ride that we have been on since those first tests in the summer of 2007 in Broken Arrow Oklahoma.  Words cannot describe how blessed I am to have had such a special and close relationship with this wonderful women.  I was looking at one of her many pictures that I have framed on the walls in our dining room the other day and began to tear up as I thanked Papa God for her.  What really got to me at that moment was the realization of how much the Father must love me by giving me this wonderful, beautiful, smart, holy and all around spunky partner in life.

The oneness of our relationship through the years has been one of the greatest aspects of dealing with all the changes that have occurred in her through this personality stealing disease.  Because we have been so close, it has been easy for me to see and hold on to all the other indicators she may show through her eyes, body movements, an almost unnoticeable nod of the head, or the way she’ll sometimes slide her hand into mine and hold it while I am physically adjusting her position in her chair.

I believe that the closeness that Piper and I continued to develop since those first heart-fluttering days in High School in September of 1970 is similar to the type of relationship that every Christian should be developing between them and God from the first days of their relationship together.  And just how does one develop that kind of relationship with God… I’m glad you asked!  Through the pages and adventures found in His book, the Bible.

The Apostle John called Jesus the Word of God at the very beginning of his gospel declaring that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 KJV)  In a personal letter to his protégé and fledgling Pastor Timothy, Paul reminded him that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man (and woman) of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 3:16-17 KJV) And John summed it all up in the last book of the Bible in his revelation/vision of Jesus when he described Jesus as wearing “clothes dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13 God’s Word ©)

So if Jesus is the Word of God, how else then would one get to know Him than through His Word!  And on top of that… Paul told Timothy that the other benefit of studying the Word was that it “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man (and woman) of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

I was trying to think back to when I started studying the Word on a regular basis and figured that it had to be when we began attending a small church meeting in a large motel in the early 1980’s.  Pastor Doug was a great teacher of the Bible and brought forth such depth and meaning from its pages that I remember being overwhelmed with excitement, expectation, hunger and zeal to know all I could about Jesus!  So, today, like I’ve said in many a post, I cannot even fathom what it would be like without a day that begins in personal time with Him in His Word.

Another Pastor we served under once taught that the Bible is like an onion with many layers.  It never gets old, it stays fresh and current to the events happening in your life and it always has His answers to the questions you face.  Therefore… in answer to the question I proposed at the end of Wednesday’s post (1/10/18  “Diet Plans…”), I believe that it is important for us to spend some meaningful time in God’s Word on a daily basis.

Which reminds me of Moses and the Children of Israel in the wilderness when God sent manna for them to eat.  Moses instructed them to go out each morning and “gather as much as you can eat.”  But he also warned them that “no one may keep any of it until morning” as it wouldn’t keep fresh.  But you know people… some of them did it anyway but were rudely awakened when they discovered the next morning that the left overs were “full of worms and smelled bad.” (Exodus 16:15,16,19,20 God’s Word ©)

Have you ever experienced the shock of opening up a container of some special food you saved and are blown away by the terrible stench of food that’s gone bad… Phew!  Well, I think that Moses’ words to his followers are a type and shadow of us reading the written Word of God on a daily basis.  I have found out that when the tough times come… and they do eventually come to all of us… that I don’t want to be depending on a stale revelation from God’s Word.  It works a lot better for me when that revelation is fresh and new to that day.  It not only taste better in the situation I’m facing, but is also a lot more powerful in helping me to stand for the victory I need in that particular circumstance.

So… what will it be for you?  Stale… old PHEWY revelation… or FRESH and empowering for what you are currently staring down?  And please don’t give me the excuse that “I don’t have the time…” I have also learned the hard way through the years, that all of us always tend make time for what is important to us!  It is all a matter of personal priorities!

So… have a great weekend even if you have to make some minor (or major) priority changes in your life in order to spend more time getting to know God in His Word.   And as you do, keep asking yourself… “How much closer am I expecting to get with my heavenly Father as I spend personal time with Him alone in His Word… today?”