The new house!

The new house!
This is our spring and summer view from the kitchen of our new home in Oklahoma!

Monday, February 29, 2016

"Man Up!" - LEAP

Happy Leap Day everyone!  I have a sense that the good Lord would like each of us to take a LEAP of faith and do something that is beyond our normal comfort zone… what do you think?  Are you game to throw caution into the wind, to take His hand and LEAP out into the unknown?  Hummmm… let me share a thought with you that just might give you an extra boost in trusting Him today.

I have not been able to get away from Paul’s instructions for husbands when he declared: “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.  He did this to make the church holy by cleansing it, washing it using water along with spoken words.  Then he could present it to himself as a glorious church, without any kind of stain or wrinkle-holy and without fault” (Ephesians 5:25-27 Good News Bible/God’s Word ©)  The comparison that the Apostle makes between Christ’s actions and those of a husband toward his wife is both inspiring and thought provoking.

As I continued to meditate on these verses yesterday and today it dawned on me that this is EXACTLY the way that Jesus sees you and me.  He sees and loves the church as husbands are told to encourage, love, care for, nurture and protect their wives… and in doing so, He sees us as being without stain, wrinkle free (take that anyway you need to!), holy and WITHOUT FAULT!”

Jesus is not focusing in on yours and my faults, weaknesses or shortcomings.  You’ll remember that when He talked to the women caught in the act of adultery, that He didn’t condemn or talk down to her.  He loved her, forgave her and encouraged her to leave that part of her life behind. (see: John 8:1-11)  

In reference to a conversation that he had with a man living under great condemnation but needing healing in his lungs due to a long habit of smoking cigarettes, Pastor Chad Norris in his book “Signs, Wonders and a Baptist Preacher” shared with the individual that “One of the biggest shocks of my life was when I realized how tender and loving God truly is.”  He shared the story of the women caught in adultery and then declared: “That passage seemed to open this man’s eyes to the idea that perhaps even in the midst of his own struggle, Jesus was not obsessed with it, nor was He looking to punish him for his shortcomings.” (pp 154-155)

That is my encouragement for you today.  Make the choice today to see yourself as Jesus sees you!  Don’t obsess with what you might consider to be the “problem areas” in your life.  Release the things that are holding you back to Him and then take that LEAP that you know He has been calling you to take!  The enemy of our faith loves to throw all and any kind of condemnation on you that he can… or that YOU ALLOW him to!

So… close that door!  See yourself as Jesus sees you and “head ‘em up and move ‘em out”… and take a LEAP on this Leap Day of this Leap Year!  And as you do, keep asking yourself… “Whose opinion of me am I expecting to believe today?

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Man Up!" - For Husbands Only

Have you ever read something that stirred up such emotion that tears welled up in your eyes?  I had that happen to me yesterday morning as I was reading in Ephesians chapter five.  I was looking at verse 25 where husbands are told “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it” (God’s Word ©) and I found myself physically nodding my head in agreement, for I believe that if men took the responsibility and really followed this course of action, the weird distortions over the idea of wives submitting to their husbands would never come up.  I would think that any wife who had a husband that gave his all for her would have no problem yielding to him if need be.

But it was verse 27 that made me sit up straight and wipe the tears forming in my eyes.  I am not totally sure why I had such a strong reaction but with the picture of a husband presenting his wife to Papa God, like Jesus does for the church “in all its (or her) glory, without any kind of stain or wrinkle – holy and without fault” (ISV / God’s Word ©), I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with intense sadness as I thought about the distorted current state of morals (that are opposite to God’s way) that seems to drive what’s now considered right and wrong in our world.

It all became clear as I thought about how the so called accepted norm of premarital sex, couples living together without the covenant of marriage, and even the way I have seen couples in both the world and IN THE CHURCH criticize and or make fun of their spouses on a regular basis, is SO against the principles set forth in God’s Word.  These actions are not doing anything to present any woman to God “without any kind of stain or wrinkle – holy and without fault”… is it?  I have come to appreciate single Mom’s as some of the most incredibly strong people in the world.  They are placed in a situation that they should NEVER have to experience.

Maybe I am stepping out onto a limb here… But as I read those verses I shook my head thinking that if their husbands had loved them as Christ loved the church and gave their ALL to them, that maybe it never would have come to that point.  I also realize that, as my maternal Grandmother would say, “it take two to tango!”  But it only seems logical that if a couple both went into their relationship with a strong understanding and life-long commitment to live their marriage as outlined in Ephesians five, then we would not see the atrocities that we all see in our communities every day.

Maybe I am so sensitive to this as I had my very character assailed when I started making decisions to be personally responsible (and not defer this important responsibility to anyone else) for my wife’s care when it became painfully evident to me that she would need someone by her side in the roughest period of her life.  Through it all, my eyes have been opened to the stark reality that many–many people out there do not think and act the way I have.  Almost every time we have gone to a medical facility the nurses and/or doctors have commented about how “lucky” my wife is to have me.  For the longest time that comment startled me, but now I am beginning to understand.  Just yesterday a lady stopped us in Walmart to comment about what a good thing I was doing for Piper.  When I immediately replied that is was a “labor of love” she could only smile and turn away.

Now please don’t think that I am trying to slap myself on the back here, as I am only doing what is in my heart… what I believe the Apostle Paul was trying to teach EVERY HUSBAND, and love my wife as Christ loves each and every one of us in His church… to the point that He literally gave EVERYTHING for us!  My joints may be a little (or a lot!) sore at the end of the day and I may be pretty tired, but I am at perfect peace because I know that I am doing the right thing and that He will continue to strengthen me and meet my needs as I stay faithful to Him and to my wife… no matter what example others have set or what anyone else may say, do or think about it!

Husbands… doesn’t the thought of seeing your wife presented to God and to the world on a daily basis without any kind of stain or wrinkle, as one who is holy and without fault excite you?  It sure does me and I will continue to live my life this way and do my best to be a good example to my children for their marriages and to the world around me.  What do you think guys… can you do it?  I think so, for I believe that Papa God would not ask us to do anything that we (with His assistance) could not do!

Have a great weekend and as you do, continue to ask yourself… “Whose standard am I expecting to live for today?”

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

“Man Up!” – Simple Praise ♫

I have mentioned many times of my wife’s and my love of music.  I think that this is one of the many things we shared when we first got together at the beginning of the 1970’s.  We both loved to sing… but were at totally opposite ends of the spectrum.  My new girl loved to listen to and sing Christian music.  She was quite knowledgeable of all the old hymns as well as with the more contemporary folk music that was popular among the younger believers at the time.  I, on the other hand… was COOL!  I was the lead singer in a rock and roll band and could tell you about and sing most of the lyrics to almost all the songs played on the top 40 radio stations at the time.

I couldn’t get enough of the stuff!  I even had a little cube radio in the bathroom that I pressed the button on first thing in the morning and every other time I entered the room.  My clock radio was used so much that it got to the point that I had to bang it with my hand in order for it to play!  When I got into high school I would put my new stereo speakers in the window so I could blast my tunes while I washed the car in the driveway!  

So I sang my tunes and Piper sang hers.  What was really strange to me was that Piper never listened to the popular radio stations.  The current array of artist on the charts were unknown to her.  Therefore I introduced her to the “COOL” music and she introduced me to hers… although while I didn’t say much about it because I was head over heels for her… I thought the Christian folk stuff was pretty corny and a bad imitation of the “real music” I enjoyed… That is until she introduced me to the Second Chapter of Acts in 1973.  That one band turned me upside down and I became a fanatic at searching out the “underground” Christian bands that played a similar style of music.

One of the first activities I pursued with the budget given me as the Youth Minister at the First Baptist Church was the development of a lending library of albums by these bands in order to introduce our youth to this genre of music which was relatively unknown in conservative Christian churches at that time.  A few years later I even went so far as to give away most of my secular albums and eight track tapes!

Piper and I learned early on that praise was a powerful tool in controlling and leading our emotions, keeping our faith strong, and in warding off the attacks of depression and/or hopelessness that come at most people throughout their lives.  It would not be uncommon for me to walk through the front door of our home after work and hear Piper or the kids singing praise songs to God.  I could almost always depend on Piper’s first reaction to a tough situation, bad news or a rough day being to break out into a simple whimsical song of praise.  She could almost always turn around any negatives I was thinking about or going through with her song, combined with a sweet smile and that bright gleam in her eyes! 

Nowadays I find myself doing the same thing for her on a daily basis!  It reminds me of the article I read a few weeks ago from an Alzheimer’s Association email I received.  It told the story of a husband whose wife had the disease and how he was doing all he could do to take care of her and pay her back for all the love she had given to him throughout the many years of their marriage.  Those are my exact thoughts and reasoning for all that I do.

Those songs of praise also keep me from giving into the heartache that I feel every day.  When the pressure gets almost over whelming, I know to break into one of those simple songs of praise – whether I feel like it or not!  As I focus my attention away from me and back on to Him, I suddenly have something to smile about. Ephesians 5:19 tells us that the cure for getting drunk on any worldly dependence, habit, addiction or distraction is to “Sing and make music to the Lord with your hearts.” (God’s Word ©)  The writer of Proverbs 15:13 also realized the truth to this reaction to the pressures that weigh heavy upon each of us when he wrote: “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but with a heartache comes depression.” (God’s Word ©)

I have seen those who have received my wife’s (temporary – according to the Word of God) condition without any song of praise where the depression in their homes and visible on their faces is so thick that you could almost cut it with a knife!  And I must tell you that this is not for me… nor is it good for my wife.  Depression is just not good for anyone to yield to and as Christians we have the tools and the power to replace it with a joy that pumps us full of the Godly expectation that clears our minds and enables us to move forward to where Papa God wants us to be!

So, do you need hope today?  Do you need spiritual, emotional and physical strength?  Then I would strongly encourage you to break into a simple but heartfelt song of praise unto our God that will lift you out of the depths of depression and hopelessness and into the arena of His unlimited resources that are there for you.  Remember that Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “A joyful heart is good medicine, but depression drains one’s strength.” (God’s Word ©)

Therefore, my prayer for you today is that you yield to His praise and have a joyful, victorious (no matter what the circumstances look like) day today… and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Whose song am I expecting to sing today?”

Monday, February 22, 2016

"Man Up!" - Signs

I found myself following a long rabbit trail as I studied in the Word yesterday morning.  I had started out with Ephesians 5:1-2 where the writer is encouraging his readers to imitate God by walking in love as Jesus did when He traversed the towns and countryside around Jerusalem.  Then six scriptures later ended up at the end of the book of Mark.  My immediate thought was to compare Paul’s statement to “Live in love as Christ also loved us…” (Ephesians 5:2 God’s Word ©) with Mark’s conclusion to his Gospel declaring that from His position at the right hand of God, Jesus was “working with and confirming the word (logos) with signs following.  Amen.” (Mark 16:20 KJV)

As I followed that direction I realized that Jesus, and later His disciples demonstrated their love through the miraculous signs and wonders that followed the Word that they ministered to those in need.  The word translated “following” is also defined as “accompanied” in both Strong’s and Thayer’s Greek dictionaries.  I personally like that idea better as it gives me strength and confidence in knowing that Jesus is right there with me accompanying the Word that I speak and confirming it with His mighty signs and wonders.

After that thought, the word “signs” just sort of jumped off the page to me!  Have you ever had that happen?  When I looked up the word “signs” I discovered that it means just that… a sign!  Thayer’s went a little deeper explaining that it is “of signs portending remarkable events soon to happen.”  Since I wasn’t familiar with the use of the term “portending” I looked it up on one of the online dictionaries where it defined it as “a sign or warning that something momentous or calamitous is likely to happen.”

That explanation sounded to me a lot like the positive definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1.  Where faith is a “sign” that assures us of what we are expecting to happen due to our stand of faith in God’s Word.  As I sat there at my desk, I drifted off into deep thought picturing the many signs that we see around us every day.  As I looked out our study window I saw the street sign that tells the name of our street and the cross street that runs perpendicular to our home.  I pictured the “for sale” sign on the house down the street and the “Sprint” sign on the phone box on the corner of our property.

Then I had a picture of my wife holding a sign and had to stop and think about what that sign would say.  Then it hit me… Why of course!... Since we are standing for her healing based on the promises of Papa God as Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord that heals, I laughed and drew a picture of a sign in my note book that said “HEALED AND WHOLE!”

From there my mind flashed back to some of the scenes that the Fox newscasters were showing on TV as they discussed the results of the South Carolina Primary on the previous evening.  Every time they reported from rooms where the different candidates were getting ready to make their various speeches from, most of their supporters were holding signs that showed who they were voting for.  They were letting the world know where they stood and what they believed!  

Then is dawned on me that this is EXACTLY what we should be doing as Christians and especially when we are standing in faith for a particular need with the answer based on God’s Word.  How are those around us going to know who and what we stand for if we don’t have a sign that declares what it is?  Now I’m not necessarily saying that we need to be carrying cardboard signs attached to a standard, but our words, our inner (and outer) peace and our actions of love should be the signs that accompany us wherever we go!

A few days ago my wife and I went to Walmart to get a few groceries and when our turn in line at the cashier came, the young lady nodded to Piper and stated that she was sleeping and looked so content.  To which I commented that it was probably more the strong anti-seizure meds that were affecting her.  I also told her about the diagnoses of Alzheimer’s.  The cashier nodded slowly and as a sad look started to come across her face I immediately mentioned “but we’re not giving up as we serve a mighty God.”  And WOW  what a change came over her!  She immediately broke into a huge smile and exuberantly declared that “Yes, we do serve a mighty God who can do anything!”

Thinking about that experience now, I can see that as soon as we put up our “sign” designating Who and what we were believing for, the gal’s whole countenance changed and our conversation was quickly hot-wired with a charge of Faith!  That incident made my day and in fact… my weekend as well… and I bet it did for that faith-charged cashier too!
That’s the effect that I like to have on people and situations… don’t you? 

So, let me ask you at the beginning of this new week… what “sign” are you going to be carrying and holding high as you walk through your activities each day?  What are you believing for?  Who are you believing in?  Who gets your vote as your favorite Lord and Savior of your life?

Answer those questions and hold your sign up with confidence, peace and joy!  Have a tremendous week and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What SIGN am I expecting to hold up today?”