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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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Gems from Proverbs

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Today I thought I would share with my readers a few choice verses from one of my favorite chapters in Proverbs, chapter eighteen.

The Hebrew term mashal, which is translated as “proverb”, means a “parable” or a “wise saying”. Just in case you are not familiar with the book of Proverbs, it is an Old Testament book written by Solomon and other wise men, or “sages” of that era.

These wise men were gifted with both Godly wisdom and counsel, and their writings touch upon the practical and spiritual issues of life. Personally, I find the Proverbs to contain some of the best teaching and Godly counsel to be found in the entire Bible.

So with that being said, here are a few of my favorite verses from Proverbs chapter eighteen. I wonder how many of you will also find comfort and encouragement in these words of wisdom?

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.   Prov. 18:10

I’m sure I could never begin to count the times I’ve ran to the Lord for shelter and comfort from the storms of life. His name exemplifies strength and power!

The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge,
And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.   Prov. 18:15

The study of God’s word is a lifetime endeavor. Wisdom and knowledge do not come to those who approach the Lord with arrogance and a prideful heart. Wisdom and knowledge are earned…they are not given!

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.   Prov. 18:21

What comes out of our mouth has eternal implications. Do you know that the words our tongue produces reveal what is in our heart? Words of hatred and evil have the power of death in them, while words of kindness and love have the power of life in them.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
And obtains favor from the Lord.   Prov. 18:22

I could have written this verse! I know I’ve found a good thing in my Princess. As a matter of fact, I’ve found my best thing in her!

A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.   Prov. 18:24

Yes, there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Many people believe that to be their BFF. For me personally, that friend is called Jesus.

These are just a few of the verses in Proverbs 18 that really speak to me. What are some of your favorite verses?

Have a blessed Lord’s day!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

Has life paralyzed you?

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My wife and I were recently discussing the impact that her father’s death has had on her mother. Married for over fifty-six years, she has never recovered from the death of her soulmate five years ago.

Nearing eighty years of age and in very good physical health, she still goes to the store, still goes to church, still does a few of the things she’s always done. The difference however is that while she may still function at a certain level, in essence she stopped living the same day that he did.

Gone is the joy, the spark of life, the passion for living.

Of course, everyone processes grief and trauma differently, and it’s for certain that one can never place a time frame on how long it will take to begin really living life again. What must become our “new normal” takes time to adjust to, and we are all on a different clock in that regard.

Let’s face it, life will sometimes put you in a difficult place. Whether because of your own actions and choices, or those of others, the end result may find you incapacitated emotionally or physically.

In my own life for example, I still vividly remember the day my father passed away. As a 12-year-old boy who thought his dad was Superman, I was devastated beyond words. I remember like it was yesterday the feeling of numbness that enveloped me.

Little did I know that this feeling would last for many months, and in some ways for years.  Nothing was the same, nor would it ever be again.

I was hurt, bitter, depressed, and angry. That one event haunted me for many years, even well into adulthood. I cannot begin to tell of the poor decisions I made in life, many of which I want to think could have been avoided had my dad still been alive to guide me.

I struggled for many years with being able to deal with my emotions regarding the loss of my father. In those days, one didn’t go to a psychologist or therapist for advice or treatment. My “therapy” consisted of being told to ‘suck it up’ and get on with my life.

So, ‘suck it up’ I did, immersing myself in work, the lives of my kids, and anything else that would help me to move on from the pain of my loss. For several years I worked two jobs, including weekends and nights in a vain attempt to keep my mind busy so I wouldn’t have to continually replay the thoughts of what was, and what could have been.

At some point in our lives however, we come to a fork in the road where a decision must be made. Either we stay in a place of despair, or we climb out and begin to live again. For me, that happened when at 22 years of age I gave my life to Jesus.

Only then did I realize that God had a purpose and a plan for my life after all.

I learned that if I were ever going to overcome adversity, I had to learn to trust again. And that trust started with the Lord. I had to learn to lay aside the hurt and anguish that was consuming my life and grab hold of something much bigger than I, trusting that He knew better than I what was best.

Bit by bit, I came to see ” that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” [1] and that there was an antidote for the paralyzing baggage I had carried around for so many years.

After many trials and failed attempts in my search for answers, what I found that helped me more than anything was God’s Word.

His Word became my lifeline. More than once when I was on the edge of despair I found comfort in one verse or another, as God made his word come alive in my heart. Despite the storms of life that have raged, He has provided hope and comfort like no other, and he has proven himself to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. [2]

Perhaps you have experienced some type of trauma or a devastating, paralyzing loss in your own life. If you have, may I encourage you to take one small step in His direction?

I promise you that if you will trust Jesus with just a tiny portion of your hurt,doubt, and fear, He will in no wise cast you off.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

As you begin to trust Him more, you will begin to understand that in spite of your circumstances, it is the Father’s plan to give you a future and a hope. [3]

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

[1] Psalm 34:8

[2] Proverbs 18:24

[3] Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you believe, I mean REALLY believe?

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“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;”  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”             2nd Timothy 4:3-4

The misguided congregation of Elevation church has done exactly that. They have placed in the position of pastor a young man that is openly sowing unbelief in the midst of his own congregation, and none dares to call him out on it.

This ‘pastor’ recently preached a message to his congregation, stating that he had doubts in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Furthermore, he claimed that no one in the congregation fully believed these things.” [1]

Wow! The ‘pastor’ of the church openly declared that none of his congregation was without doubt regarding the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. There is not one single person attending that church that is convinced by scripture of the truth surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? What kind of a place is this?

This my friends, is an abomination. It is a slap in the face of Jesus Christ that an unbeliever such as this man would be placed in the position of shepherd over God’s people.

Yes, I’m sure many of you didn’t like that. It’s awful harsh and judgmental, isn’t it?

It’s also the truth.

At the end of this debacle the ‘pastor’ stated “I have my doubts. Is that alright? Do you need to find another church now that you know the man with the mic has doubts? I have my doubts.”

The answer the congregation should have given was a resounding YES!, followed by an immediate mass exodus to the nearest exit doors, never to return.

I may have doubts about my own capabilities, motives, and yes I even have doubts about my personal value to God’s kingdom. It’s a very normal and human thing to doubt such things about ourselves. If you’re reading this, I dare say you feel the same way at times.

That being said, I can however testify with 100% certainty that I have no doubts as to the truth of the death, burial, and resurrection of my Savior. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Everything I believe about Him, indeed my very salvation is secured by the truth of His death, burial, and resurrection.

To doubt this is to acknowledge that I have yet to pass from death to life. [2]

If He did not die, I am still lost. If He did not raise from the dead, I am still lost. There is NO MIDDLE GROUND!

How can I be so certain about this? It’s because I have a relationship with Him! I know exactly who He is! Every page of scripture has His DNA embedded in it! He is the Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us!

What about you? Do you REALLY believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Or are you seeking for a ‘teacher’ who will lead you down the path of fables?

My sincere prayer is that you can answer YES to the former while rejecting the latter.

Be blessed and secure in His Truth!

Ron

 

[1] For the record, I do not endorse or agree with every article or post from the Pulpit and Pen.

[2] John 5:24

From a child’s perspective

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I recently had an enlightening conversation with a friend of mine, and as we were talking he told me about something interesting that occurred in his church’s Sunday school class.

Being one of the teachers of 1st thru 5th grade students, he frequently tells me about some of the things the kids say and do, and I must concur that “Kids Say the Darndest Things”.

On this particular Sunday morning, it seems the lesson was on “Worry”. The gist of the lesson was that each child was given a piece of paper with 15 words listed on it. All of the words involved things you might worry about as a child.

The kids were instructed to circle the five things they would be most worried about from the list that included:

  • the death of a friend or loved one
  • forgetting your homework
  • getting lost
  • fear of the dark
  • being hungry

As each student turned in their paper the teacher tallied the scores, and the results were somewhat surprising. The #1 selection was the death of a friend or loved one. This is understandable, considering the trauma of such an event.

What was very surprising however was that the 2nd most popular selection was being hungry. Especially intriguing is the fact that none of the kids in his class know what being hungry feels like!

How sad is it that little kids who have never missed a meal worry so much about going hungry? What exactly does this say about our society? What does this say about our priorities as a nation? Better yet…

What Would Jesus Do?

Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven” belongs to such as these. And after He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there.…   Matthew 19:13-15

Children are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Is it because our adult eyes no longer acknowledge the Lord that we are blind to this fact?

As a nation, we have rejected God and His plan for right living. In its place we have chosen instead to be inundated with 24/7 images of adultery, drugs, murder, prostitution, greed, abuse, divorce, and every conceivable type of debauchery imaginable.

And our children are growing up in these same homes, listening, wondering, and worrying if one day they too will feel the pangs of hunger, if they haven’t already.

If I’m being honest here, I sometimes wonder about the seeds we adults have planted in the minds of our children. The horrible things that we have exposed them to must surely be an affront to God.

Little kids are smart, much smarter than we like to give them credit for, and they instinctively know when things aren’t right. Given the opportunity, how long do you think it would take our children to prioritize the hunger problem in America?

It’s a crying shame that we as adults don’t have the same heart as they do.

Ron

 

Does it really matter what you believe?

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According to some people it doesn’t. After all, don’t all roads lead to Heaven? And at the end of it all, isn’t God going to give everyone a free pass into Heaven? Or at the very least, give us another chance after death to make things “right enough” to earn a spot in heaven?

That actually sounds nice doesn’t it? I mean, if God is love and all, why wouldn’t He let everyone into Heaven? What kind of God would exclude good people anyway?

I used to believe this, every last word of it. You might say my “religion” was built upon the premise that if God was who people said He was, at the end of the game all of our scores will be added up and guess what?

We all get in because God is a swell guy that sees all the good works we’re doing. You know, working hard to get to Heaven and all that.

Being raised as I was without any religious or Bible education, I was simply doing what everyone else who was raised in similar circumstances was doing; I invented my own religious belief system. A system built upon my own works and good deeds.

And I was doing fine until…

One day someone told me that Jesus was the only way, that He loved me, and that He died just for me, and right then my “religion” was exposed for what it was: just another frail attempt by a sinful man to justify his own sinful behavior.

When I started going to church and reading the Bible for myself, I soon realized just how far off the mark I had drifted. As a matter of fact, reading the Gospels alone was enough to convince me that what one believes actually did matter.

You see, what I discovered was that according to the Bible, there was such a thing as right and wrong. Not only that, but I also discovered that my opinions about it didn’t really matter all that much, because you see the Bible confronted me with a TRUTH that rendered my own opinions pretty much worthless.

This is why it grieves my soul today when I hear people say “there’s good in all churches” (not true). Or when I hear people say ”well, they may not teach it just like the Bible says, but its close enough” (no, it’s not). Or my all-time favorite: “I know they say some things that don’t line up with the Word, but I just take the good stuff and throw away the rest”.

Is God so wishy washy that he considers close enough or good enough to be sufficient? I mean seriously, is this kind of like horseshoes, where close enough earns you points?

Do we really believe that close enough or good enough is really “good enough”? Is this really something we want to leave to chance? Isn’t it serious enough to want to know for certainty?

Can someone even define “good enough” or “close enough”?

And can we of our own making devise a religion that will make us good enough, much like I thought I had done?

Well, not according to God’s Word we can’t!

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;  Romans 3:10

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  Mark 10:18

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov. 16:25

It DOES matter what you believe! It matters because it matters to a Holy God, and it is only because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we are saved today.

Good enough? Not me. The only good in me is HIM.

And that’s all that matters!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is not here!

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He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  Matt. 28:6

With those words, spoken by the angel who had rolled the stone away from the entrance to the tomb where Jesus had been placed, the destiny of all mankind was forever altered.

Having risen from the dead, Jesus Christ became the death conqueror. Man has been freed from all fear surrounding death. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, thus breaking the stronghold of Satan once and for all!

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.  1st Cor. 15:20-26 

I rejoice this Easter Sunday in the knowledge that the tomb is empty. My hope is no longer in anything but Christ, and I am sealed to the day of redemption in Him.

If you do not know Jesus as your risen Savior, you can! Simply call upon Him, confess your sins to Him, believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins, and receive Him as your Lord.

Have a blessed Easter everyone!!

Ron