Monday, December 17, 2012

Life Lessons from Joseph & Mary

The month of December is one of my favorite times of the year. Our days will be filled with Christmas events which will include family, friends and food, and, yes, gifts!  All of our gifts will appreciated but some will be returned because of wrong size, color or we already have one. But my most valuable gift of this month will return but not be returned by me! What gift might that be? The gift of The Lord Jesus Christ, for one day He will return to my world!

As I think of this gift my mind goes to the scriptures. They are my point of reference as to His life story. They give information about His birth, ministry and purpose. In December I always read His birth story.

As I read the birth story this month in Matthew 1:18-25 many thoughts filled my mind as I pondered the story. Mathew writes the following (King James Version):

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 

The word 'found' gives the thought that the promise was true. The promise was wonderful but it also brought problems.

Who found it? Mary found out first. It must have created great emotion tension within her mind and heart. The rubbing together of opposite forces and thoughts always creates heat. The forces, that is the Spirit and flesh, have meet. She is pregnant! She being used by her LORD yet her lifelong dream is about to be destroyed, that is, her marriage to Joseph. Will he believe my story? Will he  think I'm lying? I must  also protect his reputation and let others know that he has not violated me neither failed as an honorable man and kept himself. Will others believe that he is just?

19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 

Joseph found out second! Her story brings clouds of doubt and despair to his mind! What action should he take? Joseph is a man of high character. He is described as just. His emotions run wild! They stumble over the logic of how conception happens! Her story seems impossible. She must be lying. His own self esteem is being attacked! I'm not good enough to keep her from desiring other men. Yet her character weighs in and tries to balance the accusations of his logical mind. He comes up with a plan. I will put her away. I will take it on the chin! I will move forward.

20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 

He placed Mary on trial in his mind as he tried to sleep. He tossed and turned. What shall I do? His analytical mind spoke the impossibility of her story. Reasoning cross examined the story. No way! Then to her defense her character took the stand and spoke. She's always been honest and true. But she is pregnant! Why did she give such an illogical reason for how it happened? Wouldn't had been better for her to say she had been violated by one of the Romans soldiers? He would have felt the emotions of anger and hatred toward his oppressor for their abuse of such an helpless one as Mary. This would have caused him to feel compassion and concern for Mary! Yet her story was impossible to believe! He finally fell asleep!

In middle of the night the door opened in the court room that played in his head. An angelic being walked in and spoke with the defense counsel! The creature was sworn in and Joseph found out who it was: The Angel of the LORD! With a calm confident voice the angle spoke! He turned and look at Joseph. Mary has been overshadowed by the Spirit of God! God is using her to bring the Savior of the world into physical being! She has been faithful to you! She is telling the truth!

22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 

Now Matthew interject his interpretation to the reader as to why the story has to be true! It is a fulfillment of a promise of scripture spoken by the prophet Isaiah (7:14)! God always completes His promises! The Word is always fulfilled!

24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. 

Joseph awakens and sits up in his bed! The cloud of confusion and depression has been blown away by the Spirit! He has direction and  confidence! He will continue with the marriage! He understands that not only has Mary been chosen but also he has been chosen to protect, provide and prepare the child to be the Savior of  the World!

His understanding of God's purpose for Mary and himself causes him to discipline himself and not allow his flesh to rule! Even though married he will keep himself from her! God's will must rule everything!

When asked after the birth what is your son's name? He continues to obey the angel and speaks loudly for all to hear: Jesus, Jehovah has become salvation!

What lessons do I learn from my Christmas reading of 2012?

The first one is that it is important to have the Holy Ghost overshadow you. When the Holy Ghost is within it will impregnate you with your purpose for existence. You must allow this revelation to grow within your being and push it to the forefront of your life! It must come to be known to all!

Secondly what God places in your life might not be understood by others. They might have other plans for you and the birth of God's dreams clash! It is lonely when you are trying to do the will of God!

Thirdly, we must understand that disciples disciple themselves. We must disciple ourselves to daily spend time in prayer and His word. You cannot live your life in a fleshly state and expect to be anointed by the Spirit! Remember that God's Spirit is the Holy Spirit! The adjective of Holy was the primary word that the New Testament writers used to describe characteristic of the Spirit. What is Holy or hágios? It means properly, different (unlike), other ("otherness"). It also implies something "set apart" and therefore "different (distinguished/distinct)" – i.e. "other," because special to The Lord ( Since the Spirit is Holy then if the Spirit is to operate through our lives then we must continually be striving to live a different and distinct life from the other lives and influences of this world (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).

Fourthly, we must be as Joseph and obey what is spoken to us. Verse 24 states that Joseph "did" as the angel of The Lord bid him. Obedience to God's Word is a must to receive our blessing! Yet obedience was not a one time act, for Joseph took Mary as his wife in obedience to the angel yet he continued to obey and pronounced that the name of his son was Jesus as instructed. We must be continually obedient to the will of God throughout all of our lives if we are to see salvation come to the world though us!

Yes, Christmas is a time of gifts but understand the greatest joy is in the giving of a gift not the receiving of a gift! The best gift you can give to your world this Christmas is the gift that God has given to you, that is, share with someone the story of how the Holy Ghost has overshadowed your life and changed your world!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Life Story of My Mother

My mother, Imogene Wilmoth, entered into eternal life at the age of 81 years, 10 months 20 days. She resided in her "little mansion" at The Pines Mobile Home Park at 6746 Tam O Shanter Avenue Space 69 in Stockton, CA. She passed from this life on December 4, 2012 at Elk Grove, CA after a brief vicious battle with cancer.

She was born at Paragould, AR on January 14, 1931 to Fred and Bertha Kieffner. She was named by her oldest brother Edwin who decided on her name because a neighborhood girlfriend was named Imogene. She the ninth of 11 children. Seven brothers and three sisters. She was the baby of the four girls.

Her home was filled with the love of a wonderful mother and work ethic of her farmer father. Her older brothers would laugh and fight while her sisters would baby her. Her outgoing personality at times would help to evade her parents’ correction. When she failed to get them to laugh she would run and hide in the tree outside the house to avoid the switch of her mother.

As a girl she was expected to wash dishes, feed the chickens, and clean the house. Her most despised chore was chopping the long rows of cotton in the heat of summer. She said that the hot and humid Missouri sun seemed to create a mirage of eternal cotton rows.

As a young girl she had many favorite things such as the book, Little Women, the Christmas Holidays, and spending time at Paragould Park, wading in the creek. School was an opportunity to study history which proved to be her favorite subject along with making friends like Norma Jewel Buck. Being from Arkansas she was fond of all types of southern food but pork chops topped the list.

When asked what her parents taught her she began with the values instilled into her by her father. This included: to obey others, be honest, work hard, have commitment, be zealous for life, and be a lady with respect. Her mother taught her, to be kind to others, always be myself, respect my elders, feel free to ask and then you will receive.

The love of her father, she said, gave her security, the sense that he will always take care of me. She loved that her mother was loving and kind. She always appreciated her mom’s trustworthiness as she could confide in her and know that the secrets were safe.

School was a wonderful place for her. A place to be surrounded by people! As a young girl she loved playing sports, especially basketball since she was naturally tall. She was a natural at acting in dramas. She had no problem with speaking her lines and getting in character.

It was at Arbyrd High that she met the love of her life Buel Wilmoth. This handsome young man who was extremely athletic caused her heart to skip! They were both 18 years old when they were married on May 28 1949 at 11:30 AM in Paragould Arkansas. Her dreams were fulfilled as he lifted her and carried her over the thresh hold of the little rented house.

The Korean War was approaching and Buel joined the Marines. After Boot Camp they were stationed at different bases from Florida to Southern California. At the conclusion of his time of service they moved to Flint Michigan joining two of her sister's families looking for auto factory work.

They found work but she found something more! She found another love, The Lord Jesus Christ! Her sister's, Ona and Daisy, and her brother in law Harold Ruff led her to their church. South Flint Tabernacle became a home away from home. Here she was baptized in Jesus name and received the gift of the Holy Ghost in 1954. This experience marked her life! It would become her tower of strength in times of heart ache.

Faithfully she attended becoming involved in many area of serving. From singing soprano in the choir to cooking chicken dinners. But the one area that she loved most was in ministering to children. Here her love for acting motivated her to help direct in the children's Christmas Dramas. Her outgoing personality caused her to be able to hold the attention of her Sunday school students. She was very demonstrative in her teaching. Her love for the children was so great that she would awake at night to write songs for her class, such as "We are the Pentecostal Children".

After a life changing divorce she began to work on her education. She attended the following schools: Victor Business School and Dempsey Key Punch. She needed to provide for her children. This love for education led her to enter into C.S. Mott College in her late 30's. It did not matter that she was the oldest in the class, she wanted to excel. Her desire was to be a teacher and the goal was met as she began to teach at C.S. Mott College.

She moved to California at the age of 52. Her son, BJ and daughter Rhonda had moved to there to go to college. She would say to all that like Huck Finn "I've come to California to see what the world about"! Here she started over, looking for work. She was aggressive when looking for job and seemed to always find something very interesting. She worked as a hostess at a hunting club in the San Joaquin Delta where she met individuals such as Baron Hilton of Hilton Hotels. A freak winter storm caused the island to become a covered with water. This led to her finding employment as the private cook of Charles Berolzheimer the owner of California Cedar Products Company (Cal Cedar) the world's largest supplier of wooden slats used in the production of wood-cased pencils and the developer of the Duraflame log. Her job allowed her to be paid year around but only to work 9 months of the year. It seemed perfect for her but after a few years she grew bored and desired other work. She took the needed test and became an employee of the State of California. She continued to reach back to her past and became a teacher again for the California Youth Authorities. This was the position she retired at.

In retirement her grandchildren became the center of her attention. Her home was a place where they would come to always knowing that "Grams" would allow you to get away with murder. Eddie's Pizza was always delivering to her door. At Grams you would be able to lie in bed and eat chips never having to worrying that you would get in trouble for it. In fact she became an accomplice with you in your crime by getting her own bowl, filling it with chips and munching right beside you in the bed .

Chocolate was important to her and her family. She would make "Chocolate Pizza and Chocolate gravy"! The grandchild would beg her to make her world class "Chocolate Rolls" that her mother had taught to her to make. These special deserts would satisfy everyone's sweet tooth.

There were special times when she would covered her hands with lotion to rub your feet so you could relax. She would also sit you at her feet and slowing she would rub your head and face. At the same time she would be saying: "Swish, Swish making sounds of waves of the ocean! She would say: “The waves come in and the waves go out, Swish! She was rewarded when you fell asleep!

One of her dreams was to take her total family on a cruise. This dream became a reality in 2005 when she paid all eleven to go spend three days together, laughing and eating!

As her journey of life came to a close she began to feel physical pain. Her last two months were months of extreme pain! Yet as her pain would reach its climax she would call on the name of Jesus! Her faith in Him helped her to cope as she entered into eternal life.

She is survived by her sisters Ona Ruff of Forrest City, AR and Daisy Young of Grand Blanc, MI. Her last surviving brother is Bobby Kieffner of Newport, AR.

She has two children, by her husband Buel Wilmoth. The children are son BJ Wilmoth who is married to Michelle, and daughter Rhonda Castaneto who is married to Arthur.

Here grandchildren are:
Brandon and Rachael Wilmoth of Redlands, CA.
Derrick and Alyssa Wilmoth of Redlands CA.
Todd and Courtney Wilmoth of Riverside CA.
Stepheny and Eric Weisz of Lodi, CA
Chelsea Castaneto of Long Beach, CA and
AJ Castaneto of Lodi, CA.

She has also been blessed to have five great grand children:
Brenden Wilmoth of Redlands, CA
Larissa Wilmoth of Redlands, CA
Luke Wilmoth of Redlands, CA
Audery Wilmoth of Redlands, CA and
Shiloh Wilmoth of Riverside CA.

She has been a wonder daughter, special sister, loving aunt, faithful mother, and caring grandmother and great grandmother. I honor her today!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Importance of Thanksgiving Every Day

Each month I try to read Proverbs daily and I couple another book or books with it. In October it was the Proverbs and the gospels. During the month of November the book of Proverbs and Psalms.

Psalms is a book that expresses the emotions of the writers and humans in general. I have noticed that one  of the most important emotions that is expressed is of thanksgiving. Twenty two times the writers use the word "thanks" and eight times "thanksgiving".

This attitude of gratitude shows appreciation to God for His attributes and blessings. These attributes run the gambit from thanking Him for His mercy to thanking Him for His goodness (107:1). Thanksgiving is used to describe the needed attitude when coming to His house (100:4). It must continue to be in our hearts and  mouth after we enter His house. Why? For it is the means of how we are to enter into the presence of God (95:2) once we are in His house. Thanksgiving is used as an adjective to describe our singing (147:7). It is the attitude we need to have when we testify of the Lord and His  wonderful works to those who do not know Him and/or serve Him (26:7).

The command of thanksgiving that has impacted me the most is to "magnify the Lord" with thanksgiving (69:30).  The writer says this "pleases the Lord" (69:31) better than any other sacrifice (69:31)! This has affected my prayer life as it has caused me to enter into prayer in a positive manner instead of the negative thinking of my circumstances and problems. As I thank Him for His goodness, mercy, and provision of the past He becomes magnified, that is literally "to grow up or become great" (Brown-Diver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon) and powerful in my mind. This cause my faith to grow! If He provided in the past He will provide in the present and future!

Now faith grips my heart and mind! Hebrews teaches me that my faith also pleases the Lord (11:6)! My faith will cause me to seek the Lord diligently and my reward will come.

Thanksgiving and faith are tightly connected. Thanksgiving builds my faith and as my faith is built my prayers become powerful! My prayers of faith bring the blessings of God  to the work of God and my family.

As we enjoy Thanksgiving today, make sure you think and speak about thanksgiving not as a special day that happens once a year but as an needed component of our every day prayer life!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Mediterranean, Paul and I!

I want to thank the wonderful saints of Hope Center of Redlands for honoring my wife and I two years ago on our 25th anniversary as Pastor's of our church. Not only did they honor us but sacrificially gave us the funds for the trip of a lifetime. That trip included a visit to Europe (Brussels, Paris and Rome) and a Mediterranean Cruise (Greek Islands, Athens, Istanbul and Ephesus in Turkey) with our best friends, Pastor and Sis. Phil White of Burbank.

Today I'm at sea on the Celebrity Cruise "Equinox" in the Mediterranean Sea. This ship is one of the newest of Celebrities ships. For the last two years it has ranked the highest of their fleet. There are 2850 guests and 800 employee's on this trip! The ship is 1,041 feet long and weights 122,000 tons!

You have 10 restaurants to visit for your meal. At the main restaurant, which is a buffet, you select from choices which are from around the world. The food is of the highest quality.

Not only are you pampered with service but your room is spotless! Our king size bed is as comfortable as you can get!

As I stand in my room's balcony surveying the horizon of Sea, I am flooded by the thoughts of Paul sailing on this Sea on three Missionary tours (Acts 13:4,13; 14:26; 16:10-11; 18:18, 21; 20:6,13,15,38; 21:1-8) On each trip he is not sailing for pleasure but for the expanding of the church. He is preaching the gospel for the purpose of seeing people converted and become disciples . He desires that each church would impact the citizens of their city and turn them from pagan God's to the One True God, Jesus Christ!

Most likely while sailing the Sea as a passenger on a ship there were some of the comforts of home. He had food, bed and the companionship of Barnabas, Silas, Pricilla and Aquila, Timothy and Luke (Acts 14:26; 18:18; 20:13-15; 21:1-8). As they sailed they talked of the journey, shared their stories, spoke of the victories, conversed about the scriptures, and made their future plans.

Yet that was not the only times he sailed these waters! He also traveled as a prisoner (Acts 27:1-8). Now the comforts of home could not be found in the belly of the ship. He was alone without any friends. Food was limited. He could be found at the end of a oar rowing when the winds had died! Storms from the north came hurling at the ship! Fear griped the sailors! The ship had to be helped to stay together! Ropes were used to undergrid the construction integrity of the ship! Overboard went cargo and foods to lighten the load. The tackling was thrown overboard! The clouds caused darkness to cover the sky and water for three days (Acts 27:14-20)! The ship collapsed and Paul found himself in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea clinging to a piece of board (Acts 27:41-44).

This was not the only time Paul was shipwrecked. In 2 Corinthians 11:25 Paul states he was shipwrecked three times! He states that he was in "perils" of the sea (11:26)! He was adrift in the deep for a night and a day (11:25)!

Yet through every trial of the sea Paul stayed full of faith! He never allowed the storms to rain on his parade of faith! He is not fearful as the sailors but confident in the Word of God that he has received. Dearly he held onto the words of past that came from Ananias:

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen
        vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and
        kings, and the children of Israel:
For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my
        name's sake.
(Acts 9:15, 16 KJV)

Paul will not be overcome by the waters of the Sea for he has been chosen to stand before the Roman King, Caesar! He does not know how God will save him from the Sea but he knows that the author of his faith is also the finisher of his faith (Hebrews 12:2). His God has a plan already in place. He will make a way of escape for each temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).

But he also understood that God's will might come with personal pain! Yet he must not pain stop him from fulfilling the purpose of his life! The shipwrecks and their suffering are the fulfillment of God's spoken Word to Paul! He realizes that he is in the will of God and the problems are merely stepping stones to his reward!

He is blessed that he also receives a Word from God during the present trial. First the Word from God comes by the Gift of Spirit as the Word of Knowledge. Before the journey is to continue after the stop at the city of Lasea (Acts 27:8) Paul admonishes the  centurion that he perceives that if they start again on the trip at this time, there will be loss of cargo, the ship and lives (Acts 27:10). The centurion does not listen to Paul but to the master of the ship and the ships owner and precedes forward.

As they begin to sail again toward Rome, the massive storm hits the ship just as Paul had predicted! The sailors fight the storm! It will not be a fight for cargo or the owners ship but for their very lives!

Once again in the middle of the trial, Paul receives a Word from God by the visit of an angel in the night. The angel reminds Paul of the words given to him from Ananias: "you will stand before kings", thus you must be brought before Caesar! You will not die from this shipwreck, in fact, none on the ship will lose their life. Paul passes on the message to the ships crew and encourages them to be of good cheer and believe God's Word as he believes it (Acts 27:23-25)!

As we read this biographical event of Paul's life, we can learn many lessons. First we must understand that this event is not a battle of spiritual warfare with Satan but is a battle between Paul and his flesh. Will he trust God and His Word or will he allow his emotions to be controlled by the circumstances of the moment? This is the great battle for every child of God, the battle between flesh and the Word of God! The battle is always fought within the mind.

Even when it is an attack between Satan and child of God, it will always be lost or won in the realm of the flesh, that is the mind. It will always come down to your belief in God's Word or to your believing the words of Satan. Whatever report you believe will be the winner of the battle.

You might be asking, how do I win the battle to believe the Word of God? You should place in your mind scriptures that you can recall that speak of everlasting sureness of God's Word. Scriptures as of:

1 Peter 1:24, 25 KJV

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of
        grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
        But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word
        which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Psalm 119:89 KJV

Forever O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.

Mark 13:31 KJV

        Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass

Secondly we must come to grips with suffering. We must understand often it is in the trial of suffering that we will receive a Word from God! God is speaking to us at various time. The problem is not God speaking but us hearing. Our lives are very busied and full of demands. These demands scream very loud and drown out the voice of God that is speaking to us. Often it is only when we are in trial of wilderness that we are quiet enough to hear His voice. The trial causes us to still ourselves and open our spiritual ears.

In every trial we ask ourselves the questions of who and why. Who is doing this? Satan? God? or ourselves? Why is this trial happening? Is it an attack from Satan? Is God punishing me? Did I make a wrong decision that led to this moment? We must examine our lives looking to see if we have sinned and take care of that sin if we have. Then we must examine our attitudes to purge ourselves of negative thoughts and feelings about people and life in general. Once we have done this we will have stopped voices that are speaking to us and turn our attention to God's voice. God will be in every trial with us (Matt 28:20). We must put full attention to finding His voice, listening to it, and then obeying it.

Thirdly we must become like Paul and in every situation look for God! Searching for God will cause us to have an attitude change. This search gives purpose for the suffering which causes our attitude to change. Often in suffering we think we are the only individual who is suffering. We compare our suffering with others and come to God with the question of why. We should be taking personal accountability and speaking to God the question: What do I need to do? I am limited in changing the attitude and actions of others but have complete control over my attitude and actions. God is present in every trial to give strength to help us go through the trial and/or to give us wisdom to learn and grow from it.

The prayer of Jesus for His disciples was not for deliverance from the world and its trials and pain but that the Father (Spirit) would keep them from evil (John 17:15). Paul's prayer for the church at Ephesus was that the Father would strengthen the church with might in their inner man. This strength would come by the Spirit (Ephesians 3:14-16). Both understood that the handling of suffering in a positive manner is one of the greatest testimonies that can be given by man to other men as a display of God's power.

Yes, Paul would suffer but the suffering had purpose. It was part of the baggage of the trip of doing God's will of standing and testifying to kings. Perhaps God is wanting to use us to testify of His greatness as we confound others with the manner we handle suffering.