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It’s never over until He says it’s over!

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Like most of you, my life has had its share of defining moments.

Whether it was accepting Jesus as my Savior, finishing school, getting married, buying a house, losing my dad when I was only 12, memorable vacations, landing a good job and having a successful career, all of these and more are defining moments in my life.

There is yet another defining moment, one that took place exactly nineteen years ago today, that I want to mention in this blog.

Very early on a Monday morning 19 years ago, my wife and I drove to the hospital where I was scheduled to have open heart surgery.

A few months prior to this, on my daughter’s second birthday, I had suffered a massive heart attack while mowing the lawn. Subsequent procedures, rehab, and medications failed to keep my arteries open, and we were faced with the dim reality that surgery was the only option left.

A lot of things go through your mind when you are facing something of this magnitude. For one thing, while open heart surgery has become a normal procedure these days, there is nothing normal about it when it’s you that is going to be operated on.

Emotions, if left unchecked, will get the best of you and leave you in a constant state of panic and fear. Of course, all of this is very normal, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they are not being honest with you.

As best as I can remember, there were about three weeks between the time I was told I had to have surgery and the day I actually went to the hospital for the procedure.

During those three weeks you have to undergo a battery of tests and procedures, none of which do anything to allay the fears that creep into the mind. Actually, by the time they finish all of these tests, you just want to have the surgery and get it over with.

People that know that I had open heart surgery generally will ask one of two questions.

1. How were you able to overcome the fear of such a serious surgery?

2. If you are a Christian that believes God still heals today, why didn’t God heal you so you didn’t have to have the surgery?

The answer to the first question is that God gave me a peace that passes all understanding about the situation. It’s hard to explain to non-believers, but driving to the hospital that morning I had no fear.

How is that possible? It was because I knew that no matter what happened, I was completely in God’s hands. If I did not come through the surgery, I was going to be in His presence for all of eternity.

If I did come through, I knew that God wasn’t done with me yet. So how could I lose? How could I not be at peace knowing that I was safe and secure in the Father’s arms?

Now, to be sure, my wife was very fearful of me not coming through the surgery. After all, we had only been married three years and we had a two year old baby. What wife and mother wouldn’t be scared?

That does not mean that she didn’t have any faith. Quite the contrary! My wife has more faith than any person I know, and literally trusts God for everything.

The way that I answer the second question is because God chose not to miraculously heal me. Could He have? Of course he could have! He is God after all. But He chose not to. And whether you believe this or not, I was OK with his decision.

Would I have rather He instantly healed me? You better believe I would have preferred that to the surgery. I may be crazy, but I’m not that crazy!

In case you haven’t noticed, Christians die every day from one type of disease or another. Can anyone quote the chapter and verse from the Bible that says Christians will live long, illness free lives, and die peacefully in their sleep at a ripe old age?

Didn’t think so!

The fact is that God is Sovereign. He is in control. He orders our footsteps, not us. It is God who exalts and also brings low. In short, our lives are not our own, but His to do with as he pleases.

That is a bitter pill for many to swallow, and I have learned that submission to God’s will is a lifelong process. You don’t wake up one morning and suddenly say “from this day forward I will submit every part of my life to the Lord”.

It just doesn’t work that way. Getting to the place where we trust God with our very lives comes from the daily experience of learning to trust the Lord that He alone knows what is best for our lives.

Coming through open heart surgery changes a person in several ways. There are the physical benefits of course, but there is also a change that takes place in the inner heart because now you know an attribute of God that may have been hidden from you before.

You now know God as Faithful in a way that goes far beyond words. And because you know Him as Faithful, you know that there is nothing that He cannot do for you.

These past nineteen years have been years of great joy, moments of severe testing, times of rejoicing, and yes even occasions of despair. Through them all however, God has been faithful to stand by us. I cannot think of a single time that I have felt as if God did not have my life in His hands.

Maybe you are facing the trial of a lifetime. Maybe fear has gripped your heart and panic rules the day. Maybe events from your past haunt you with the torment that you will never be free of them. Maybe the defining moments of your life have left you battered, broken, and helpless.

If this is you, I’ve got good news for you. It’s not over until He says it’s over! You are still standing. You may have been knocked down but you are not counted out.

There is still life to live, victories to cherish, mountains to conquer, and enemies to defeat all because God has you in the palm of His hands.

Nineteen years ago today there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding my life. Would I live or die? If I lived, what kind of life would I be able to have? Would I ever be the same again?

Praise God I am alive and well today to say that God is Faithful to sustain us and keep us. It is true, I cannot do some things as well as I used to. Part of that is heart related and part of it is the normal aging process all of us deal with.

I choose to focus however on what I can do, not what I cannot do. God has chosen to keep me around and as long as I am here, I will give Him praise and thanks for the wonderful life I have been blessed to live.

It’s not over until he says it’s over. My life, as well as your, is not and will not be defined by illness or weakness. God brought me through then and He will bring me through tomorrow!

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes ministry is all about the little things

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This morning my wife and I came upon a family in the parking lot of a McDonald’s that were in a bad situation. We noticed them right away as we pulled into the drive thru, and it was apparent that they were distraught over something. Their minivan that was pulling a small U-Haul trailer had broken down, leaving at least 7 people, 4 of which were very small children, stranded far from home.

When we drove around the restaurant after picking up our order, we pulled up next to them and saw that the hood of their minivan was open. The look on the faces of the adults said it all, and if you’ve ever been in such a predicament, you can appreciate their situation.

I got out of the car and asked one of the men if they had help on the way, and he responded by saying “no sir, we have no one to help us, and we don’t have any money”. He mentioned something about a fuel leak, and by the strong smell of gasoline it was obvious he was right.

In the few seconds I had spoken with him I was able to assess their situation a little better, and it was clear that these little children were frightened. They were also hungry, as one little boy was quick to tell me. These kids were obviously from ‘less than affluent means’ because none of them had shoes, and only the little girl had a shirt on.

I told the man I couldn’t fix his car, but if he would allow me to, I would love to buy them breakfast. You would have thought I offered to give them something of great value, he was that appreciative. When I mentioned breakfast all the kids spoke up and told me they were hungry, which tore at my heart so much that I wanted to hug each one of those children.

I handed the man enough money to buy them all breakfast, and almost in unison those little kids started thanking me, as did the adults. I told my wife later that I hoped that the next person who was supposed to help them would also be right on time, because I just knew the Lord would touch someone’s heart to assist them.

As I was saying goodbye to them, I told them God would bless them with the help they needed. Pulling away, I looked in my mirror and saw all 4 kids being led into McDonald’s for breakfast, and I couldn’t help but think about the old McDonald’s commercial that says “I’m, lovin’ it”. Can it get any better than that?

Real Ministry really is all about the little things!

Be blessed,

Ron

The very same Jesus

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For all of the talk about the demise of Christianity, it is interesting to note that Christianity remains the largest religious group in the world among people who lay claim to some form of religion.

Of course, we know that within Christianity there are dozens of different denominations, as well as hundreds of offshoots of these mainline denominations.

Additionally, there is no way to measure the sincerity of one’s relationship with Jesus. Is every person attending church really a Christian? Who but God can say?

As confusing as all of this sounds, it is important to point out that there is one central truth that binds all Christians, churches, and denominations together.

Jesus Christ is the head of the church.

Denominational and personal beliefs aside, this is an immutable, non-negotiable fact.

To the unsaved world, however, Jesus is typically viewed as just another historical figure, or at best some type of prophet, or religious wise man, one who long ago died and faded into obscurity.

It is this mindset that I want to delve into with this post. This worldly perception of Jesus, that he existed from an historical perspective only, is unfortunately alive and well in the church today.

It’s true, we Christians sometimes have a tendency to think of Jesus as was instead of is. Perhaps this is because we are constantly being inundated with worldly viewpoints on the person of Jesus. TV shows for example, are notorious for portraying Jesus in the past tense.

In the rare instance when they might mention the resurrection of Jesus, it almost always comes with the obligatory wink wink. Their thoughts of course are that no intelligent person really believes in that resurrection stuff.

So, it isn’t too difficult to understand why Christians can sometimes lean towards the world’s viewpoint, especially if we focus more on the world’s opinions than the truth of God’s word.

This is why we might hear someone say something to the effect of “if only Jesus were here today” when reflecting upon the current conditions of our world. They are thinking of Jesus as was instead of is!

So many times I hear believers talk as though Jesus is a million miles away, abiding comfortably in some far off galaxy called Heaven, oblivious to all that is happening in our lives.

To be sure, scripture does teach that Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father(Acts 2:33). But scripture also teaches that though he departed from this earth, he did not leave us alone.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.   John 16:7

His Spirit abides within each of us who have accepted Him as Lord and Savior. That means that the very same Jesus that walked the shores of Galilee also now abides within you.  He is NOT a million miles away from you!

I hope you caught that. The very same Jesus….

Why should any of this matter to you, and why is it something to think about?

Look at it this way: the next time you call upon the Lord, would it make a difference in how you approach Him if you understood that he was in fact already abiding within your heart?

What if the next time you think to yourself “if only Jesus were actually present here with me”, you approached the situation from the position of “Jesus, I know you are with me. You said that you would never leave me or forsake me, and that you were a very present help in the time of trouble”? (Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 46:1)

Would that not change your perspective? Of course it would! Instead of wringing our hands in desperation, wishing and hoping, we acknowledge his presence by affirming our faith and trust in him!

The Christian church today must have a fresh revelation of who Jesus is, not who he was. We must recapture the truth of the ages that Jesus Christ is alive forevermore, and he resides in our hearts!

My prayer is that we would have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church today. God’s word is alive, it is anointed, and it is inspired.

It is speaking to us today, revealing the risen Savior to the lost and hopeless. May we open our hearts to know that the very same Jesus that walked the shores of Galilee some two thousand years ago is alive and abiding in our hearts this very day!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

A salute to Ms. Ivory

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When was the last time a perfect stranger said something so sweet and kind to you that it totally caught you off guard?

Such a thing happened to my wife and I today. We were walking in the parking lot of a store, headed for the entrance, when all of a sudden this sweet elderly lady called out to us.

Now, if I’m being honest, normally when a stranger calls out to me I will usually go on the defensive. Who knows what they want from you, or what their intentions might be.

Sadly, this is the world in which we live.

However what Ms. Ivory wanted was simply to say “thank you” for restoring her faith in love. She proceeded to tell us that people had been cross and short tempered with her and that had left her feeling like there wasn’t any love left in the world.

Being an elderly woman I imagine she has seen her share of coldness and rudeness from people, especially being a black woman living in the South.

When she saw my wife and I walking and holding hands it made her day and she couldn’t help but tell us all about it.

Ms. Ivory is evidently a Christian because she was praising the Lord for my wife and I, and she said she could see the love we had for one another.

It seemed like it only took seconds before we were thanking the Lord with her, and we chatted a few more moments before making our way into the store.

As I sit here a few hours later and reflect upon our chance meeting with Ms. Ivory, I’m not at all convinced there was anything “chance”about it.

You see, I too have been wondering about the coldness, rudeness, and lack of care and concern so pronounced today. It would be just like the Lord to show up in such a way as to say “I still have a people and they’re walking all around you”!

I’m grateful for having met Ms. Ivory today, and if by chance you’re reading this and happen to be in the Sarasota Fl. area anytime soon, be on the lookout for a car with the license plate “Ms. Ivory”.

And should you be blessed enough to get to speak with her, don’t be surprised if she doesn’t make your day too, because her smile and attitude are infectious!

Thank you Ms. Ivory!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

Putting in our order

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Who doesn’t like the occasional fast food take out vs. the work of preparing and cooking a big meal at home? Just the other night for example, my Princess decided she wanted Chinese take out, so Chinese it was.

And yes….it was very good!!

The convenience of fast food is pretty awesome if you ask me. Simply pick up the phone and call it in, or even better do it all online. Within a few minutes of placing our order, we’re sitting down to eat!

Of course, you know what they say about too much of a good thing. Simply putting in an order comes at a high cost if done frequently. Whether it’s spending extra money on top of the weeks grocery budget, or the ever expanding waist line, convenience isn’t cheap.

That being said, I think we’ve gotten quite comfortable with the ease and simplicity of putting in our order, and when you think about it, this mindset carries over into many parts of our lives.

We want maximum benefit while exerting minimum effort. Place a call, click a mouse, or speak into a device and things appear on our doorstep almost magically. Technology at its finest!

So it is sometimes in our walk with the Lord. Have you noticed that when we are facing difficult circumstances, our initial thoughts are often to try the “call, click a mouse, or speak into a device” approach when searching for a solution?

That’s called Human nature 101. Who doesn’t like easy?

Unfortunately, all too often the issues we are facing today seem to turn into giants before our very eyes. When that happens, ‘easy’ rarely works because it takes far more than simply putting in our order to send those same giants packing.

I have been guilty of this, and more times than not I didn’t even realize it until it was brought to my attention. That’s because I can get so caught up in the ‘what’s wrong’ that instead of immediately turning to the Lord, I search everywhere else, looking for that easy solution.

Do you ever do this?

The point I’m trying to make with this is that while we all have needs, and we’re all dealing with something, we also have to understand that more often than not, the solutions to today’s complex issues are not easy.

We can’t just “put in our order”, walk away, and be done with it while expecting that things will work out somehow or another. If we’re going to overcome and have the victory, we need to pray.

We might think of prayer as optional, or even a last resort thing to do when we’re out of options, but the reality of it is we are expected to pray. Jesus didn’t say ‘if you pray’, but rather when you pray.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.   Matthew 6:6

Prayer cements our relationship with our Heavenly Father. It is an open line of communication that each of us has with Him, and provides the means in which we may cast our cares upon Him instead of carrying them ourselves.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.   1st Peter 5:6,7

I can think of no greater need in the body of Christ today than the need for regular prayer. The kind of praying I’m talking about is not merely putting in our order, it is personally communicating with the Almighty. Not just when we are facing giants, but every single day!

Prayer is a critical component of our relationship with the Father.

One I need to desperately rekindle.

How about you?

If you’re tired of seeing no results from simply ‘placing your order’, I believe sincere prayer will be a game changer.

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

Taking my toys and going home

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For just a moment, envision the little boy or girl who doesn’t like the baseball game, the rules, or the players. Frustration rises with each swing and a miss. The tension mounts with each strikeout, with each dropped ball.

Finally, unable to take it any longer he or she loudly announces to anyone that will listen that “I’m taking my toys and going home”!

Have you ever taken your toys and gone home? Or at the very least, wanted to? Maybe the better question would be are there any of us who haven’t wanted to take our toys and go home?

There are lots of ways to do it, many of them having nothing to do with playing a game.

How about wanting to quit your job? In my long work career I must have quit my job a thousand times. Though I didn’t vocalize it, I know I thought to myself “I’m done, I quit, I’m outa here” at least that many times. Only to return the next day of course!

When things don’t go our way, or the way we think they should go, it can be difficult to stay the course. This is especially true if we think we have all the answers and know better than the leader how things should be done.

I’ve found myself in such a predicament more than a few times, and I’ve come to realize that it’s especially easy for me to fall into this trap now that I am retired.

With no one now to supervise, direct, or teach (the Princess of the house refuses to play the part), I find myself becoming unnecessarily critical of others who don’t do it the way I think they should.

It happens at church too. Decisions are made about the order of service, the color of the carpet, song selection, and a host of other necessary things. Oh, and there are all those rules one is expected to follow, any one of which could cause us to want to take our toys and go home.

How hard is it to criticize the decisions of others?

Not very!

Have you ever thought about what is at the root of this behavior? What makes an otherwise rational, intelligent individual act like this?

In a word, it’s a heart problem. It’s a “it’s my way or the highway” problem. It’s an obedience problem. In other words, it all goes back to a selfish heart that says if I don’t get my way, I’m taking my toys and going home.

It’s during these times when it’s best to pull back a bit and ask ourselves “is this how Jesus would want me to handle this situation”?

The answer to that can be found in the garden of Gethsemane. It was here that Jesus showed us the better way when it comes to obedience.

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”   Mat. 26:39

It’s not about what I want, Jesus prayed, but it’s about what the Father desires. Jesus was the epitome of what a real servant is, becoming obedient even to the death on the Cross.

There’s a vital lesson here for all of us. Our attitudes towards others is a direct reflection of the condition of our heart. Getting angry, pouting, and taking our toys and going home is not the mark of a humble servant. It is the mark of someone whose heart has grown cold.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some work to do in this area.

How about you?

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

 

More than conquerors

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When you think of the word ‘Conqueror’, what do you envision?

  • Overcomer?
  • Warrior?
  • Winner?

While the dictionary definition looks like this, when I think of the word ‘Conqueror’, I think of a battle that has been fought and won.

Battles are fought every day of our lives. Some are won and some are lost. Let’s face it, we do not always feel like a Conqueror, do we? That is just the unfortunate reality of living in a fallen world

From a spiritual perspective, things can appear to be not much different in that we are in a constant state of battle, winning some and coming up short in others.

There is one huge difference however, and that is that when we look at things from an eternal point of view, we win.

Simply stated, we win.

The Apostle Paul knew a few things about conquering. In his amazing letter to the Christians at Rome, Paul talks about things that were a very real threat to those believers.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   Romans 8:35

Those early Christians suffered horribly under Roman authority, especially Nero. Persecution, death, starvation, and torture were things every Christian back then had to come to grips with. On the surface, from a fleshly point of view, one might expect that any of these things could, if possible, separate the believer from his Lord.

Paul, however, answered his own question by declaring that he knew of nothing that could separate a child of God from their Heavenly Father. Nothing!

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:37-39

This matters to us today because the intensity of the battle is increasing at a rapid pace. Christians are facing severe trials of their faith today, many of whom are being put to death daily. Consider that every month, on average:

  • 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons
  • 105 Churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked
  • 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned

Here in the U.S. Christians are facing a different kind of orchestrated attack. Instead of blatant persecution and killings, we Christians in America are being worn down gradually. Our resistance to sin is being eroded, gradually worn down by the forces of evil and spiritual wickedness that sit in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Make no mistake beloved, the enemy is very, very real. His methods in America, while vastly different (up till now), are no less effective in their efforts to quench the Spirit of God, and to destroy the testimony of Jesus in this nation.

Our hope lies in the truth of God’s word that declares that we are more than conquerors, and that there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God. It is imperative that we grasp this and burn it into our hearts.

May I remind you that this world is not our home. This is merely a dress rehearsal for the life which is to come. As hard as it is not to become attached to our favorite things or causes, simply stated we are just passing through. There’s something far more grand than this earth that will be our eternal home one day.

Much like the Patriarch Abraham who looked for a city whose builder and maker was God(Hebrews 11:10), we have a promise of a home far beyond anything our eyes can imagine. A city reserved for those who are ‘More than Conquerors’.

I don’t know exactly what’s coming next. I cannot state for certain what Christians in America will be called upon to endure for His glory. Paul mentioned “things present or things to come”, so we know that something is coming, yet whatever it is, it cannot pull you from the arms of Jesus.

What I can state with 100% certainty is that God will give us the grace to conquer it all through Him.

That you would take comfort in these words is my prayer,

Ron

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