The new house!

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fear... What's That?

I was studying the Word the other morning and had one of those wonderful revelation moments when a particular truth drops into your heart with great insight and understanding.  Then after barely a second or two I paused with a dash of trepidation and thought… “Oh boy, now I’m probably gonna be tested over this today!”  

Tell me the truth now, have you ever gone through that?  Well my clash with fear only lasted a moment as I had another revelation moment and heard from deep inside the consideration that “God doesn’t lead, teach or love us through fear… because He doesn’t have any… AND neither do we!”  II Timothy 1:7 tells us “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (MKJV)

I find it hard to think that God would stoop so low as to “borrow” one of the devil’s favorite tools to use on His children!  That would be like saying God’s ways aren’t thousands of times stronger and more effective than those of the enemy of our souls.  It’s actually kind of a funny thought, but yet we are tempted to fall into the trap of fear almost every day!  I believe that fear should be so unknown to the Christian that we don’t even recognize it when it knocks at our door, but ignore it and step right into the “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” mode. (Philippians 4:13 MKJV)

I am reminded of an old Disney TV movie entitled “Time Flyer.”  It tells the imaginative story of a young boy who travels back through time in a time machine designed many years previously by his Grandfather, since passed on an attempt to beat Lindbergh across the Atlantic, and built in modern times by the man’s now old, best friend.  The boy travels back to just a few days before his Grandfather takes off on his doomed flight.  Once there he meets his Grandfather and eventually proves his unlikely story and identity by showing the man his completed invention.

One of the interesting scenes that goes along with our talking about having a lack of knowledge of fear occurs when the inventor is looking over some of the workings of the machine, pauses while starring at one particular device and says, “Oh… that’s how they did that!”  You see, when he was originally drawing up the machine’s design, he had concepts of what he needed for it to work, but had no knowledge of the existence of any technology yet discovered to perform certain tasks.

That should be how Christians consider fear.  We may have a concept of it, but we have not been given the spirit of fear, and thereby have no knowledge or experience of its working in us.  All we know is what we have… and that is God’s power (or ability), His love and His soundness mind!

After the wild ride that my wife and I have been on for the last few years, I have become sort of an expert in seeing what fear can do to someone who submits to it.  Let’s just say that it makes you do some pretty weird things!  It not only blinds one to the truth and the right path to take, it seems like it totally scrambles one’s thoughts, words and actions. One thing I have learned is to expect the unexpected when I am in the presence of someone yielding to fear!

We’ve actually had some Christian folks tell us that they were afraid when they heard about some of the steps of faith we began to take toward my wife’s healing.  Believe me… that is not something that you want to tell an individual who is in the midst of the most difficult situation in their lives, has their emotions screaming out and in turmoil and has just committed the life of the most important person in their world, in a huge step of faith, to the Lord and His Word, while under the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit!  As I look back now… I am not sure if their fear was actually for us… or for themselves.

As Christians we are new creations with a GRACE based perspective and response to life.  Fear was part of our old nature, and if you recall… the “old things have passed away (they are supposed to be dead and buried…and if you attempt to dig it up it is going to be rotten and smelly from the deterioration of the tomb!); behold, all things have become new.” (MKJV)

So… how well are you acquainted with fear?  Hopefully, you two are still strangers… for you and I should be so well acquainted and intimate with Papa God that fear can blow all around us… but yet we never notice it!  Hummm… that would be like Jesus as He slept in the boat while the storm raged all around him and scared the pants off of His disciples! (See: Mark 4:35-41)

Power, love and a sound mind!  That’s our response to life’s situations!  Cool, don’t you think?  Having that approach puts me in a totally different mindset when I get out of bed each day… How about you?

Have a great week, and as you do, keep TELLING yourself: “I am EXPECTING to respond to life without FEAR today, in order to be a blessing and not a curse to those around me!”

Friday, May 27, 2016

Grace vs The Law

I’ve been told that it is easy for young people to be in my presence because I simply accept them for who they are without judgement.  Where ever we have ministered, be it with young adults, youth or kids, my wife and I have always tried to find common ground from which to begin our relationship.  Then we always sought to minister first and foremost on the love of God… thereby establishing His common ground with each of the members of the group.  

I think that is one of the reasons that I am so sensitive to people who tend to quickly respond to another individuals difference of opinion, or course of action with judgement and/or criticism.  I’m sure that it is also because there is still a part of me that is smarting a bit from the few who vehemently responded to me in the decisions I made concerning the care of my wife when we began the journey we are now traversing.

This came to mind yesterday as I was reading in Colossians about the acts of God’s grace toward us.  In chapter two verses 13-14 Paul comments how “God made you alive with Christ when he forgave all our failures.  He did this by erasing the charges that were brought against us by the written laws God had established.  He took the charges away by nailing them to the cross.” (God’s Word ©)  So, if I understand Paul’s point, it would seem that through God’s grace, we have been forgiven of our failures.  

Then why, I continually find myself asking, do some Christians feel like it is their right or responsibility to be the first to judge or criticize a brother or sister's beliefs or actions if they differ from what they believe or the course of action they would choose to follow?  After a little bit of study in the Word and prayer on the matter, I began to think that maybe these particular folks have somehow come up with a personal translation of the Christian life that is a mixture of grace and the law.

This is a little confusing to me as Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:17 that He came to fulfill the law.  So we do we still try to incorporate it in our belief system?  Jesus said the most important ideal to follow was love.  Wouldn’t it make sense then for us to love others first and not judge them… just like the example that Jesus set during the three years of His ministry on the earth?

This explanation would explain why I would be both frustrated and confused when mature Christians responded in judgement without understanding the reasoning’s behind our steps.  In discussing the Law, one of my commentaries stated that “The law was certainly against us, because it was impossible for us to meet its holy demands,”* and that Jesus was the ONLY one who was able to meet the requirements and set us free from those demands. In my case, these individual’s reactions did little (read that ZERO!) to make me feel loved, warm and cozy, but instead led me to be upset and under great condemnation.

I see this type of interaction going on in our current Presidential race.  It seems like criticism and judgement is a normal part of the process.  But I am not too sure that this is part of the normal process for us Christians to be following in our daily lives!  What do you think?  Is it our job to point out what we may consider failures in other people’s lives or should we love them, pray for them and thereby allow God to work in the situation?

I think I know what Jesus would say and do… How about you?  Have a terrific Holiday weekend (at least here in the USA!).  But no matter where you live, you can still have a great weekend, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What response am I expecting to make to others today?”

*Be Complete, A Commentary on Colossians, Dr. Warren Wiesbe, Chapter six

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

First and Foremost

When I was mowing some of the tight spots in our backyard that I can’t get to with the riding mower a week or so ago, I came around the back of our shed with my Toro self-propelled mower and must have sucked up something into the gas filter as the machine coughed a few times and then died!  My first thought was to get a new filter and I immediately pictured the Toro sales and service center in our little town of Fuquay-Varina.  Then after a slight pause I remembered when a similar situation had occurred with my 1982 Datsun 4X4 pickup and how my older son and I figured it out and changed the filter on our own.  So, I decided that if I could do it with my vehicle, surely I could change the filter on my lawn mower… right?

Well, it has since cleared itself and seems to be running fine now!  But when I do need to change it I can buy the part at our local Home Depot and make what looks to be an easy switch (I had taken the cowl off the motor and access looks simple!).  My point in this story though, is where my mind went as soon as I was faced with a difficulty.  It is just like how my wife’s and my minds immediately went to God’s promises when we received the first negative report concerning her health back in 2007.

I’ve mentioned numerous times over the last few weeks of how Colossians 2:10 tells us that we are complete in Christ and as I reviewed my commentary on this verse I read something that really caught my eye.  With the completeness of Christ in mind, the author made the point that “therefore our spiritual growth is not by addition but by nutritionand that “we grow from the inside out.” *

Now let me say that I appreciate all the natural remedies or aids that people have suggested for my wife’s condition, but I find it very strange how some Christian individuals put these natural courses of action BEFORE (and in some cases instead of) standing with us as we set our faith in motion with the Word of God.  I came back to this experience in a roundabout fashion today as I made my way down to Colossians 2:12 where we are told that we were buried with Him (Christ) in baptism and then arose with Him “through the faith of the operation of God…” (KJV)

We decided early on that we definitely desired to have that same faith-fueled “operation of God” to do its work in the healing of Piper’s body!   Like I also read this morning “We have experienced the energy of God through faith in Christ, so why turn back to the deadness of the law,”* or go back to the lifelessness of our old dead nature?  2 Corinthians 5:17 informs us that as believers “behold, all things have become new.” (KJV)  Therefore, why would I want to go back to the old things that never had any lasting effect anyway, when we can and should trust our lives in the freshness, the newness and the miraculous power of God and His Word?

So… think about that with me for a moment here.  Where would you rather entrust your well-being?  What would your FIRST choice be?  I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with looking at natural aids, I continually read articles on the progress with the scientific fight for the resolution to Alzheimer’s and we are following some of the processes I have read about as well as some we have heard from our doctors, but that is not where we have our trust!  When push comes to shove, our FIRST and FOREMOST trust continues to be in the truth of God’s Word… even when the physical circumstances may seem to be going in an opposite direction.  

I think 2 Corinthians 2:14 sums up my understanding perfectly as Paul told his readers in NO uncertain terms NOW thanks be to God, who ALWAYS causes us to triumph in Christ…” (MKJV)  Let me ask you a tough question today… What does ALWAYS mean to you?

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What would I expect my FIRST thought to be in ANY situation today?”

*Be Complete, A Commentary on Colossians, Dr. Warren W.Wiersbe, chapter six

Monday, May 23, 2016

On the Floor!

I seem to be having a difficult time getting away from thinking about the importance of the joy of the Lord.  Throughout the last few days and again today, I have had plenty of opportunities to not only read about it in the Word but also experience it firsthand!  Last week I sat on the floor with an ache in my hip looking at all the boxes still stacked around our guest room and felt an increasing desire to be overcome with I saw.  But then I considered the various contingencies that I had available to me…  I could give in to the anxiety and yield to the stress of what was very real before me or simply sit back and begin to praise the Lord.

Now, I know of many folks who would think I was crazy if they saw me doing that, but the only other one in the house was my wife and I knew that she would be right at my side and join in with me if she could.  In fact… she would have NEVER let it get as far as I did!  So… I closed my eyes and began to loudly praise the Lord when suddenly… I saw the contents of the room in a totally different light.  Instead of a TON of boxes, I saw groupings of five or ten boxes strategically laid out around the room – and you know they were!  Without knowing it, I had grouped the boxes in related stacks when I went through them earlier in the week!  Then I heard that little voice inside saying “Just do it in steps!” 

Well, that instantly made the job more doable!  Hummm… anger and stress got replaced with joy!  Then a day or two later, after a particularly difficult time helping my wife take care of some personal needs, I found myself feeling sorry for myself, worn out, sore and sitting on the bathroom floor.  Seems like I’ve been spending a lot of time on the floor lately, doesn’t it?  Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to be strong in faith when you are physically challenged and needing strength?  Well, that’s exactly where I found myself on the floor in that little room.

And for a moment or two I had the best little pity party I’ve had in a long time.  But you know… it didn’t make me feel any better but worse for the wear!  So I stopped, thought about it and where I felt my best answers would come from and began to… you guessed it… Praise the Lord aloud!  Then I began to laugh!  And after a few minutes of that I suddenly began to see the promises in the Word of God that we’ve been standing on for six or seven years become bigger in my mind’s eye than the physical situation I had just gone through.  I felt stronger, happier and more expectant!

Then it happened once more as I was getting my wife up and ready for the day… about five minutes after my morning study time in the Word.  It was really weird.  All of a sudden it was like my mind changed to mush!  Have you ever had a morning like that?  My wife was a bit weak, but nothing I normally couldn’t handle, but I found myself doing strange things like putting her clothes on in the wrong order, putting items on her without taking off her sleep wear and… well, you get the picture!

Through it all though, my wife was a real trooper!  She still has more patience than just about anyone else I know!  I finally had to just stop, hold her up as she sat on the edge of the bed and sit on the floor in front of her (there I am on the floor again…) and ask: “Lord!  What is going on here?”  But before I got the words all out I knew the answer!  Someone was attempting to steal the Word I had just studied about the importance and relevance of the Joy of the Lord being our strength!  So without another thought I began to laugh and thank the Lord for His goodness and grace.  Then I finished the job and we went into the kitchen to get breakfast.

All those experiences got me to consider something I had written down yesterday as we listened to the pastor preaching his message.  Something he said triggered the thought that: “If the joy of the Lord truly is our strength, then it makes good sense that every Christian should be majoring and abounding in joy!”  Then I this morning I added, “Instead of yielding to complaining, depression and fear!”

In our journey over these last ten years I have seen both sides of the coin coming from Christian friends and acquaintances and I will freely admit that it is A LOT more enjoyable and rewarding being around those major in joy and hardly dabble in the arenas of complaining, depression and fear.  Now I understand that we all have to deal with attacks from those three areas, some worse than others, but the answer is still the same and it is actually quite simple.  Praise, thanksgiving and laughter because you KNOW THAT YOU KNOW that Papa God’s Word is far GREATER than ANYTHING that the enemy of our faith would try and intimidate us with… and let me repeat thatFAR GREATER!

So, what will your approach be this week?  Worry, stress and allowing yourself to be overcome with what is set before you orLooking up to the power that is FAR GREATER than anything else and allowing yourself to be filled with the strength that comes with the JOY of the Lord?  Have a great week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Whose JOY am I expecting to keep present and active in me today?”