Archive | June 2013

You’re a Grand Old Flag

Robbie is a chip off the old block.  His daddy is a Red, White and True patriot.  Bob makes sure our flag flies every day from spring until winter. Americana t-shirts are his favorite everyday garb and he even has a couple church shirts and ties that are emblazoned with the American flag and the Constitution. The political talking heads are on our television every night, and Bob loves to talk politics. To this day, although he knows his steps were ordered by the Lord in a different direction, he still talks about how he would have loved to have gone into the military.

Robbie wouldn’t know what the word patriotic means; he doesn’t understand what it means to be an American; he doesn’t have a clue that the country he lives in is called the United States of America.  He wears his Americana t-shirts like Daddy, however, and he absolutely loves patriotic music.  The Star Spangled Banner is his favorite and he gets excited when I sing it or play it on the harmonica for him.  He also loves America the Beautiful, Yankee Doodle, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, and God Bless America.  The last few weeks, though, a new song has taken center stage—You’re a Grand Old Flag.

I enjoy finding little gifts to bring home for Robbie when I go out.  They’re usually just little $1 or $2 items.  I put them in a gift bag with a piece or two of colored tissue paper and he thinks he has a real treasure as he enthusiastically pulls the tissue out and peers inside the bag to see what surprise Mommy has for him this time.  A couple weeks ago I spotted some large American flags at the dollar store and I thought of Robbie.  He loves to wave things in the air and I thought, Perfect!

The flag was too big to put in a gift bag so I hid it behind my back when I got home and said, “Robbie, Mommy has a surprise for you!”  I pulled it out and his eyes just lit up!  He stretched out his arms and leaned forward in his recliner, eager to get his hands on this wonderful new prize.  He already had a tiny American flag that he loved to wave, but this one was bigger, better—awesome!  He waved it wildly, listening to the loud flapping sound it made and watching the graceful ripples of its colors in the breeze he’d created.

Mommy began to sing You’re a Grand Old Flag and soon Daddy joined in the lively chorus.  Robbie waved his flag passionately and we sang just as robustly and even louder over and over again!  It was a rowdy time and so much fun!  Since then Robbie picks up that flag several times a day and expects us to jump in with You’re a Grand Old Flag!  Of course we are happy to oblige him.  Yes, sir!

You’re a grand old flag,
You’re a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You’re the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev’ry heart beats true
‘neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s never a boast or brag.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.

As patriots, we love our country, our flag and our great American pioneer heritage. We believe we live in the greatest country in the world—or in the history of the world. Americans are the most generous people in the world and the most willing to defend and help those in need. We are thankful for all with which God has blessed us in this country—for our freedoms, and our opportunities, our prosperity and our beautiful land.  We’re proud of our motto “In God We Trust;” proud whenever we sing The Am Ch flagsStar-Spangled Banner; proud to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

There is another flag to which we pledge allegiance, however, and that is the Christian flag.  As the American flag symbolizes our nation with its stars and stripes and stands for freedom, there is no mistaking the symbolism of the Christian flag.  The white field of this flag represents the purity of Jesus Christ and the peace we have with God when we trust in Him.  The red cross in the upper left quarter (or canton) of the flag symbolizes the blood He shed on the cross and His love.  The blue canton stands for faith and truth.  And as the American flag stands for freedom, likewise the Christian flag represents freedom, as well—the freedom we have in Jesus Christ.

We are freed from the bondage of sin when we trust Jesus as our Savior.  John 8:31-32, 36 says, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”  Galatians 5:1 goes on to say, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”  Freedom for our country was bought with the blood of men willing to fight and die for her.  Freedom for all those who would accept the free gift of salvation from sin’s slavery was bought with Jesus’ shed blood on the cross.  There is a pledge to this flag, as well:

I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag, and to the Saviour, for whose kingdom it stands.  One Saviour, crucified, risen and coming again,with life and liberty for all who believe.

It is a grand old flag that we salute this Fourth of July.  As Americans we are proud and happy to join in the celebration of our nation’s history and to be living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  As I think of the Christian flag, though, and all it symbolizes, it is not pride that moves me to tears, but gratitude to God for His love and sacrifice, and for the eternal citizenship I have through Him in the land of the truly free and the home of the saved.

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Deliciously Dangerous

Robbie has been a new person since he began taking a new medicine called Onfi about two months ago.  This medication is specifically directed at the type of epilepsy Robbie has, called Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.  It is the most severe form of epilepsy with many, uncontrollable seizures every day.  Not only has the Onfi reduced the number and severity of Robbie’s seizures, but it has made a HUGE difference in the quality of his life!  Suddenly he is more awake and alert, he is enjoying his toys and music with a new vigor and he is attempting to do things he hasn’t done in years.  You can just see a new joy in his face and a zest for life that we have not seen in over twelve years.  The fog from the many drugs he has to take daily seems to have lifted, and with this new lease on life has come a new strength as he attempts more each day.  His movements are quicker and more controlled and his legs have begun to regain some strength.  He actually took six or seven steps in a row the other day (with Bob holding him up.) It had been years since he had done that!

Needless to say, we are amazed and overjoyed at this miracle the Lord has brought into our boy’s life!  Seeing Robbie so excited and enthusiastic makes every day more fun for us all.  We begin to wonder if there are some things we will be able to do now that we thought we had lost forever.  Can we go out together now as a family?  We’ve already been to a restaurant three times in the last six weeks—something we had only done once a year, if that often.  Can we take him to church again?  Would he even be able to get on a plane and fly someday???  New doors seem to be opening!

There is one little down-side to all this, however.  With his new strength and confidence, Robbie is attempting to do things that he simply cannot do and he doesn’t understand that.  For instance, it is more difficult for us to walk out of the room for a minute for a bathroom break, or to go out to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.  We have to watch him like a hawk.  If he sees a toy or pillow across the room that is out of his reach, he is going to try to stand up and go for it.  Since he has no balance, he could fall face first like a log, possibly into a piece of furniture, and maim or even kill himself.

This was brought home to us in another area the other night.  Stop for a moment and think what it would be like to have not had a morsel of food or a sip of beverage in your mouth for over twelve years.  It is difficult to think about, isn’t it?  That has been the case for Robbie since early 2001 when he went through a medical crisis and was on a ventilator for several weeks.  When he came off the ventilator he could no longer swallow and had to have a feeding tube installed.  Since then, his liquid food has gone directly through a g-tube into his stomach.  Trying to swallow anything, even his own saliva sometimes, brings about choking and could cause aspiration—which leads to pneumonia and another hospital stay.

Robbie quickly lost the desire to try to eat anything by mouth.  For many years he has been satisfied with simply holding a bagel, an apple, a licorice stick, roll, or cookie in his hand.  I’m not quite sure why just holding a piece of food in his hand seems to compensate for being unable to eat it, but for some reason it does.  Until now.

I was sitting right next to Robbie late the other night and watching TV while I fiddled on my laptop.  I glanced over at him at one point and saw that he had something in his mouth and seemed to be chewing!  He was grinning at me so proudly as if to say, “Look, Mom!  This is great!”

“Robbie!” I gasped.  “What do you have in your mouth?!”  Whatever it was had all but disappeared, but the scent of oatmeal cookie was on his breath.  A few crumbs, less than the size of a dime, were in the chair and two halves of a cookie were in his hand.  I gathered the crumbs and tried to pry the cookie halves out of his hand.  At the same time he was trying to peel open my fingers that held his crumbs while protecting the cookie in his other hand.  It was a bit of a tussle.  Finally he went into a little seizure and I was able to grab the cookie from him.  When he came out of the seizure a few seconds later he reproachfully scowled at me as if to say, “Hey!  That wasn’t fair!”

I almost cried.  He had been so happy, and truth be told, I was happy for him.  The first taste of something sweet in his mouth in twelve years!  At the same time I was scared to death!  I watched him closely to see if he would choke, but no—he coughed a bit but I saw no signs of him aspirating.  Whew.  I had such mixed emotions.  Elation because it was yet another sign of Robbie getting better, and shared joy with him for this little taste of yumminess.  Fear because it takes so little to bring on pneumonia in Robbie and that could kill him.  Guilt that I hadn’t been watching more closely.

And then there was uncertainty as to what we should do next—try to encourage him in learning again how to swallow, or nip it in the bud immediately?  It was dangerous to allow him to try to eat, and unfair to him if the attempt failed.  It would only bring on desires, and disappointment if those longings could not be met.  Still the temptation was great to give our child something that we all enjoy and is such a basic part of life.  Sadly, we came to the conclusion that it was not worth the risks and that Robbie could no longer even hold a cookie in his hand.

We Christians are bombarded daily with temptations that look attractive and appealing to our senses and yet if we are honest with ourselves, we know they are harmful to our spiritual well-being and not honoring to God.  Everyone around us is enjoying them, it seems—even fellow believers—so why can’t we?  With every year that passes, we become desensitized to some things that a decade ago we would have rejected automatically.  We watch movies and shows and read books that contain foul language and scenes that we would never have allowed in our homes before.  We participate in questionable activities, citing Christian license and ignoring our responsibility to not be a stumbling block to others.  We seek to be trendy and stylish; we try to “Christianize” the things of the world (Christian rock, Christian tattoos, Christian nightclubs); we embrace the world’s attitudes and values.  We forget when we let our standards slip that we are to be examples of righteousness and role models for the generations that follow, and that their standards may slip even more as a result.

The things of the world are designed to appeal to our senses, to draw us in and make us feel like we are part of the “in” crowd.  We have a carnal nature warring within us with the spiritual nature God gives us when we trust in Him.  Satan appealed to Eve’s carnal nature when he tempted her with the forbidden fruit.  “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.(Genesis 2:6)  We all know where that got us.  On the other hand, no one would have blamed Daniel if he and his friends had partaken of the king’s table—it was the best food and wine in the kingdom and highly to be desired.  “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” (Daniel 1:8)  Romans 8:6-7 says, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

I John 2:15-16 tells us to love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” Although we are in the world, we are not of the world and we ought not try to imitate the world.  God’s Word says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  …Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”   (II Corinthians 6:14, 17)

“Come out from among them and be ye separate…”  That is very clear.  We do not have to be like the world to reach the world for Christ, as some would tell us.  When we remain attached to worldly pleasures, attitudes or behaviors, be assured we displease our Father, we grieve the Holy Spirit and we bring reproach to the name of Christ.  We are not to be conformed to the world but transformed…  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  (Romans 12:1-2)

We should be different, so that the world sees a difference in us and wonders at it.  “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works… that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you” (Titus 2:7,8).  When our light shines in the darkness of this world it brings honor and praise to God.  “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;”  (I Peter 2:9)  I love being called a peculiar people!  Peculiar—special, unique, set apart!

That cookie—the temptation in Robbie’s hand—is not a bad thing in itself, but it is a danger to him and could, in fact, kill him.  The analogy here is that all the glittery, delicious, sweet temptations of this world for the Christian are a danger that pull us away from our close relationship with Christ, that harm our testimony, and drag us down spiritually.  As loving, caring parents we must tell our child no sometimes in order to protect him. Our loving  Heavenly Father tells us to stay away from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, as well, for our protection.  It would be well to heed Him.

Fire!

Black Forest, Colorado has been on my mind and in my prayers all week.  We lived just a few miles from where the wildfires have been raging for nine years.  I have friends who live there.  My son-in-law’s sister lives there. Last year’s Waldo Canyon fire was also a blow to my heart as many familiar landmarks and organizations were threatened and even destroyed by the inferno back then.  These catastrophes in the national news hit close to home when people and places you know are involved.

We waited day after day this week to hear if David’s sister Rhina and her family still had a home.  The flames, pushed by strong and shifting winds, were rapidly advancing toward their ranch.  Earlier in the day they were able to move their horses out of harm’s way, and helped some neighbors move their horses as well.  Suddenly they were given a two hour evacuation notice and they began the rush to pack up what they could, but even more suddenly, as the winds turned once more, they were told they had to leave immediately.  They left with only the clothes on their backs and a handful of important documents.  There was no way to take the herd of goats, their two llamas or all the barn cats.  It grieved their hearts to leave the animals behind but they had no choice.  The houses below them were burning and the fire was coming across the field straight at them.  They saw no hope, barring a miracle, that they would have a home to return to.

Word came to them some time later that officials had allowed the Humane Society in when the winds changed once again to rescue their animals.  Much of the distress they were under was lifted at that moment.  And beyond hope, the word was that although all the homes around them were destroyed, their house still stood.  The threat was still great, however, as the wind kept shifting and firefighters were forced to return again and again to areas they thought they had contained.  Days later they knew a miracle had happened—their house had survived amidst total devastation in their area.  At this time, the fire is 60% contained. Nearly 555 homes have been destroyed and 25 square miles have been scorched.

Fire.  It is one of the things we fear most.  It is no respecter of persons.  It is one of the worst ways to die.  It is one of the most difficult, painful things to survive when badly burnt.  It consumes everything in its path.  This thing which can be one of man’s most useful tools can also be one of his most destructive enemies.

Did you know fire in the Bible often represents God Himself and how He works in our lives?

God’s PresenceFire sometimes symbolizes the person and presence of God.  We see that in several passages of Scripture in the book of Exodus.  God spoke to Moses through a burning bush in chapter 3, verse 2.  The Lord came down to Mt. Sinai in fire.  “And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.(Exodus 19:18)  He led the Israelites through the wilderness with a pillar of fire.  (Exodus 12:21)  Later on, the prophet Ezekiel described his vision of God as surrounded by fire.  (Ezekiel 1:27)

God’s PunishmentJudgment and punishment by God in the Bible are very often carried out by fire.  In Genesis 19 we see the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, their sinfulness and ultimate destruction by fire and brimstone from God.  Disobedient priests in Leviticus 10 were punished by fire: “And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.(v. 2) Nahum 1:3, 6 tell us that He pours out the fire of His wrath on his enemies.  “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked… Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.”  His future and final judgment will be by fire, first for this old earth which has been stained by sin.  “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  (II Peter 3:10)  A new heaven and earth are created for all those to dwell with Him for all eternity.  For those who have rejected Him, however, everlasting hellfire awaits.  “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”  (Revelation 20:10, 12, 14-15)

God’s PurificationThe Lord likens the testing and trials we, His children, go through to purifying fires.  Just as silver and gold are purified by going through fire and burning the impurities away (see Isaiah 1:25), in His love He strengthens us and causes us to come through the fires shining like gold.  “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (I Peter 1:7, 4:12, 13)

It may seem strange to us that fire is a symbol of God’s wrath upon his enemies as well as a symbol of His love for His children.  Hebrews 12:29 says that “God is a consuming fire.”  His fire consumes the wicked and purifies the righteous.  The fire of His judgment leaves the unbeliever separated from God forever.  On the other hand, He walks through the purifying fires with His children, never leaving or forsaking them.  Remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3?  Jesus walked with them in the fiery furnace when they were tested for their faith in God.  God’s presence is with us, as well, when we walk through the fires of purification.  Isaiah 43:1, 2 says “…Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.  When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” 

We do not know why God has allowed this terrible fire to rage in Colorado.  It may be judgment for some; purification for others.  His presence is there, nonetheless, for all who call upon Him.  Let’s continue to remember the people of Black Forest, and others affected by wildfires elsewhere, in prayer.

The Value of Golf Shoes

The Missionary Our son-in-law Fernando is a missionary in Cuenca, Ecuador.  There was something different about Fernando from the time he first came to know Jesus as his Savior.  He was filled with a great zeal to bring others to know Him, as well.  He had a burden for his family, for his friends, for the people of his city.  Our daughter Laura met Fernando when she went as a college sophomore to Cuenca on a nearly year-long college work/study program called Arriba!  One of the young men in the group led Fernando to the Lord. Although the others in his family were not yet believers, they welcomed the entire group of young Americans into their home.  Before Laura returned to the States, she and Fernando knew they were beginning to have feelings for one another and shortly after she left they began a courtship via telephone, video and mail.  (This was pre-email and Facebook days—and before cheap phone rates, too!)  Eighteen months later Fernando came to the States and they were married.

I knew from the beginning they would be returning to Ecuador as missionaries.  With his zeal to win his family and countrymen to the Lord, and her great love for the people, it was no surprise that God would call them to that mission field.  As Laurie’s mother it was hard to say goodbye to them and my grandchildren when the time came, but how could I say no to the Lord?  If this was His will for them, then who was I to try to hold them back?

Twenty years and seven children later, they are currently working to start a third church in Cuenca.  Everyone in Fernando’s family has come to know Jesus as their Savior, including his parents, grandmother, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews.  Some of his friends and many others have met the Lord, as well, through his witness to them.  Fernando is bold in evangelizing and takes every opportunity to tell others about the Lord.

The Method Fernando has an advantage over American missionaries.  Of course, language is never the obstacle it often is for gringos on the field.  More importantly, however, as an Ecuadorian and Cuencano himself, Fernando has an understanding of the mindset, culture and religious background of his people that other missionaries will seldom achieve.  American missionaries will often come into a mission field and labor for decades trying to turn a small group of people into a carbon copy of an American church.  American hymns, American programs, American methods.  They fail to meet the people where they are and how they think, believing that their ways are superior to the native culture of the people they are trying to win.

Fernando has been criticized in the past by older, more “experienced” missionaries for, what seems to them, his unorthodox ways.  The hymns he uses may have the traditional words and music we know, but sung with guitars, panpipes and folk drums—the music of the people.  Sunday is traditionally very much a family day, gathering with extended family after the morning church service. Because this is very important culturally, they do not have Sunday evening services.  Fernando leads Bible studies several evenings during the week, however, with couples or small groups as a means to not only discipleship, but also evangelizing.

Ninety-five percent of the people of Ecuador are practicing Catholics.  Only three percent are “evangelicals” (and included in that statistic are several cults such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and the like.)  And then there is the tiny, “secret” population of Jews in Ecuador.  Hidden for centuries because of the persecution they had suffered in Europe, only in recent years has it become known that there are about 700-1000 Jews in all of Ecuador, or 00.01% of the total population.  Fernando, suspecting that there was Jewish blood in his background from certain memories he had of his grandfather, had his DNA tested and confirmed, that indeed, he is part Jewish.  This has opened a unique door to him.  Having been raised in Catholicism, finding Christ as his Savior and converting to an evangelical, born-again Christian, and then discovering his roots in Judaism, Fernando has found that door opened to him on all three fronts as far as evangelism is concerned.  He understands the Catholic for he has been there.  He has a love for the Jew and has studied deeply how the Old Testament and Jewish feasts and holidays relate to Jesus Christ, salvation and His church.  In short, he knows how to reach these people and is prepared when the Lord brings them into his path.

Then there are the unconventional methods Fernando uses to bring witnessing opportunities his way.  Even when the people are only nominally Catholic, they are often suspicious and resistant to talking on a one-on-one basis with an evangelical, considering them all, including Baptists, to be cults. He recently invited a group of the friends of his youth up to his family’s country property for a mini-reunion.  It was an opportunity to touch base with them again and reestablish relationships.  They knew what he been like in his youth before he knew the Lord, and they had all seen or, at least heard of, the change in their old friend Fernando Naranjo.  They were curious but not willing to talk in a large group about spiritual things.

One by one, Fernando has invited these men and others to a non-threatening, relaxing atmosphere where they are more willing to open up about their spiritual needs and listen to Fernando’s presentation of the Gospel.  He takes literally Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:19, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” and takes them fishing, or teaches them to tie flies.  In a peaceful situation without interruptions, the conversation turns to spiritual things and Fernando can share his testimony and how they, too, can know Jesus and have peace with God.  Finding a common thread of interest opens doors and smoothes the way to evangelism.

That common thread is not always fishing.  The Naranjos have recently discovered a little mini-golf place on the outskirts of town.  Fernando enjoys golfing, although he doesn’t get to go very often.  He decided to take the kids there for mini-golf one day and they had a great time.  While they were there they met the family who owns the place.  There seemed to be an instant connection between the two families and they struck up a friendship.  The best thing was, though, that this family was open and curious about the things of the Lord.  Fernando has been back several times to hit a bucket of balls or take the kids, striving to keep the lines of communication open.  Each time he went, the owner had more questions for him about the Bible and the Lord.  Fernando had his eye on a Bible he had seen at a bookstore for this man and was planning to buy it as soon as he had the money to get it.

Recently Fernando had left a set of golf clubs that someone gave him, as well as a pair of white golf shoes that were like new at the place.  The man said folks asked if he had things like that for sale from time to time and Fernando wanted to sell them.  The next time he went, the owner said with a grin that he was getting a pair of white golf shoes from his family for Father’s Day and asked Fernando how much he wanted for the shoes.  Fernando replied that he had planned to sell them for $55 but for him he would take $30.  The man was elated and hurried off to get the $30.  As Fernando told Laurie about the exchange later he said, “I’m going to use that money to buy that Bible for him!”  A pretty good trade, wouldn’t you say?  God’s Word and possibly salvation for an entire family someday for a pair of golf shoes!

The MessageJesus met people where they were and treated them as individuals with specific needs.  Zaccheus.  The woman at the well.  Nicodemus.  Blind Bartimaeus.  The thief next to Him on the cross.  The Bible says, “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”  (Matthew 9:35)  When Christ shed His blood on that cross, it was not for the world as a whole, but for each individual person in the world to determine what he or she would do with the gift of salvation that Jesus offered—accept it or reject it.  His message was simple.  It is the Gospel and the Gospel is this: Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:  I Corinthians 15:1-4)

God calls us all to share the Gospel.  He does not expect us all to be great evangelists or preachers or to go to a foreign mission field.  But He does want us to share what God has done for us, and to be willing and able to share the way of salvation in our own simple way when He brings others to our path.   We are all different and have different gifts and callings.  Our methods may be different, but the message is the same: how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

Fernando, like Simon Peter and his brother Andrew; like the sons of Zebedee, John and James, is a fisher of men.  He golfs for God.  He reaches out to people with an understanding of their cultural and religious backgrounds.  He uses whatever methods will give him an opportunity to bring someone to Jesus.  Please pray for Fernando and Laurie as they minister in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Oh, and by the way—Feliz Cumpleaños—er, Happy Birthday—on Wednesday, Fernando!  We love you!

Best of the Best

Today is Bob’s birthday–#62!  Robbie and I have done our best to celebrate him the last two days.  We went to Red Lobster yesterday for a birthday lunch, and a mighty fine lunch it was! After a delicious meal of coconut shrimp, salmon and steak—and plenty of those yummy Cheddar Bay Biscuits—three of the waiters came over to our table with a big piece of chocolate cake and ice cream, complete with a lighted candle, and sang “Happy Birthday” to him.  I had all I could do not to giggle!  It was the poorest rendition of the birthday song I’ve ever heard!  I tried to jump in and sing with them but since it was in three different keys, I wasn’t sure where to jump!  Bob and I looked at Robbie; sure he wouldn’t be able to handle it.  He hates the birthday song (we usually sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”) and he really hates unharmonious music.  Somehow, though, he held it together with only a pouty lip and furrowed brow to show his displeasure.

Today we will have another nice lunch here at home.  Laurie and her family plan to Skype with Bob at 2:00 this afternoon.  They want to wish him a happy birthday, but they also have a special announcement to make to him.  They recently found out that the baby they are expecting is a boy and they plan to name him Michael Robert, after Bob!  (I’m not spoiling their surprise.  He won’t read this until later.)  The excitement will continue when Julie’s family Skypes this afternoon, too.  Bob loves and misses his children and grandchildren, so when we Skype with them it is always a special occasion.

Bob received his birthday/Father’s Day gift from me a couple months ago when he bought himself another handgun.  (I can’t shop for such things—he has to do it himself.)  Robbie had a gift for him, though.  He loves to give gifts in gift bags so he can “help” pull out the tissue paper and then the gift.  Yesterday he gave Daddy three new t-shirts—two patriotic ones (Bob loves his patriotic t-shirts and wears them all the time) and one that had two thumbs up for Dad.  Robbie has just recently learned to do “thumbs up” so it was perfect for him to give to his daddy!  I liked the gift bag Robbie gave his dad.  It had dogs all over it and said “Dad—Best in Show”

That’s Bob—best in show!  Actually, he’s the Best of the Best!   Now, I know there are some of you who think the husband or father in your life is the best, and that’s fine, you can think that if you like, but in my world Bob is best.  His name even says it—B.O.B. (Best of Best.)  Forgive me for repeating this, but the list of things I love about Bob is just as true as it was four years ago when I wrote it:

  1. He makes me laugh – What a goof! Whether it’s slapstick, “punny,” or stand-up comedy, those wheels are always turning in his head to somehow make me laugh!
  2. He protects me – Oh, there are times I feel over-protected, but I always know he is looking out for my best and simply wants to be sure I am safe and well.
  3. He’s my problem solver – All I have to do is open my mouth with the slightest hint of a question or problem and he jumps right in, trying to take care of it for me. Sometimes all I’m really looking for is a little sympathy, but he’ll find a solution, nevertheless, if he can!
  4. He’s a faithful husband – Bob is 100% a family man. When he took those wedding vows, he meant them for life. I know without a doubt he would never do anything to jeopardize our family or marriage.
  5. He’s an awesome dad – I know there has never been a better dad to his children! He’s always done his best and been there for the girls to help them in any way he could; and as a daddy to Robbie—well, let’s just say thirty-seven years of willingly changing diapers, cheerfully bathing, dressing, feeding and caring for Robbie, and lovingly standing beside him through all the testing and trials, and being his best pal says it all.
  6. He’s a man of faith – From the moment of his salvation forty-four years ago. Bob has loved and served the Lord with his whole heart. His faith in God is unshakeable and he does not waver or worry because he trusts in Him. He’s a godly leader in our family and a faithful witness for the Lord at every opportunity.
  7. He’s does the “little things” – Making my coffee in the morning, bringing me flowers or chocolates for no reason, getting the car washed for me when I’m going out, making sure I get those nights out from time to time…
  8. He is like a rock – He stands up for his convictions whether they be spiritual, political or philosophical. He is dependable, responsible and steady. I know he will always be there, doing his best.
  9. He is generous and caring to others, loyal and gives his all – I have literally seen him give the coat off his back and boots off his feet to a homeless man. He’ll drop everything if a neighbor needs help. He is loyal to his employers and gives everything he’s got on the job.
  10. He loves me – He accepts me the way I am, despite my shortcomings. He supports and encourages me in all my endeavors and many times put me first before his own desires. I couldn’t ask for a better husband and am thankful to God for giving him to me.

I could add one more—although it drives me a little crazy sometimes!  Bob is a perfectionist.  In just about everything.  I have to admit, I am a perfectionist, too, in some areas.  I cannot keep up with him, however, when it comes to his standards!   He is confident, determined and skilled, so it is difficult for him to yield even a little bit of control on a work project because he thinks he can do it better (and he’s right!)  He wants things super-clean and healthy and safe, because he is protective of his family.  He gives 100% of himself to everything he does.   The motivation for that, I think, is I Corinthians 10:31b, “…whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”  It is in his nature to be a perfectionist, but it is also a part of the man of God he has become. He wants always to do his best, whether it’s for me, or his family, friends, neighbors or even strangers—but always for God.

The rest of us may not be perfectionists to the degree that Bob is, but we all ought to do the best we can for the glory of God!  What a testimony for the Lord and a blessing to Him when we do our best!