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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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Is there a mountain in your life that needs removed?

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Have you ever driven through the mountains? If you have, you have no doubt marveled at how the road was seemingly carved out of solid rock.

It’s interesting to see how the engineers overcame certain obstacles in the building of these roads. Some roads go right through the mountain in elaborately constructed tunnels, while others wind all the way around the outside of the mountain.

However the method, one thing is certain: it took a lot of very hard work to move that mountain in order to construct safe roadways in its place.

Much like those roadways, all of us have mountains in our lives that serve as giant obstacles to us. These mountains come in many shapes and sizes, and all of them have one thing in common: they are in our way, and we must find a way around them.

Fortunately for us, Jesus gave His disciples an important lesson in removing these mountains from their lives.

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.    Mark 11:22-24

Knowing that we are children of faith, all of us can say that we have been given a certain measure of faith. Understanding this, it should be easy enough to follow Jesus’ instructions, agree?

Except that when we look at our own circumstances in light of the verses above, we question just what kind of faith we actually have. After all, Jesus makes it sound pretty easy, doesn’t he? Just say the words and POOF!, it’s done!

Yet when we say to our own mountain “be removed”, it doesn’t budge. What gives?

The key to understanding this is when Jesus says if we do not doubt in our hearts, we shall have what we ask.

Talk about a mountain! DOUBT is the biggest mountain in all of our lives. Well, at least it is in my life. If we are to have the faith to remove these mountains from our lives, DOUBT has to go.

How do we accomplish this?

The answer my friends is found in our hearts. The only way to remove the mountains from our lives is to assume a fighting position, and for a Christian that means to humble our heart before God and pray.

You see, it is only when we pray that we bring God into the battle. Merely reciting a repeat after me prayer that someone else prayed is not believing in your heart.

This must be personal!

I have found that having ‘mountain moving faith’ is a process. A very long and arduous process. It’s a process built upon one small victory after another until eventually you have the faith to say to those mountains in your life “be removed”, and they will obey you.

If you have a mountain in your life that needs to be removed, I suggest the starting point is simply humbling our heart before the Lord.

Self needs to disappear into the background, while the Lord needs to come to the forefront. When we are diminished, He is exalted. Less of us…more of Him.

That is the foundation of ‘mountain moving faith’. When we build upon it daily, we will begin to see those impassable mountains begin to crumble before our eyes.

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

 

 

Old habits sure are hard to break

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I like to talk to people. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re young or old, male or female, or what nationality they may claim. I find people interesting, and I enjoy striking up a conversation with them.

I’m that guy who goes to Walmart with his wife and disappears for a few minutes, only to be found two aisles over talking to someone he’s never met before.

Yep, that guy.

If I see someone just moving in the neighborhood I’ll probably strike up a conversation with them the first chance I get. Just did that a few days ago as a matter of fact.

The ladies in my house think my talking to complete strangers is a bit odd.

They may be right.

What’s funny (to me) about this is that until I was in my early 20’s I was extremely shy and socially awkward. Even looking someone in the eyes was a major struggle for me. Maybe some of you can relate?

It wasn’t until I became a Christian and began to grown in my faith that I actually began to see myself as “good enough” and on equal footing as the rest of the world. Oh sure, I had plenty of people telling me that I would never be more than the shy, introverted country boy I’d always been, but I was determined to be more than that.

By the grace of God and the support of the best wife in the world I went farther than what anyone ever thought I would or could. Along the way I found my voice and God opened many, many doors for me to use it. Again, it was nothing I did. To God be the Glory for every good thing that has come my way!

So, as I said, I enjoy talking to people. I’m finding out however, that I’m not supposed to be doing that any longer, at least not without some restraints. Let me explain.

A few months ago I was out walking and the school bus dropped off a young lady and as the bus pulled away, I said hello to her. She didn’t respond, which I took to mean she didn’t hear me. So I said something to the effect of “I bet you’re glad to be out of school for the day, aren’t you”? This time she murmured something that I couldn’t understand. With that, she seemed to pick up the pace and hurried to get home.

Odd, I thought.

Just last night I was wandering around Target and I hear the familiar sounds of SuperMario coming from the electronics section of the store. I used to love playing Mario when it first came out, so I was naturally drawn to the sounds.

As I round the corner I see a young boy about 10 years of age intently focused on the game he was playing. He was pretty good at it and I complimented him on his skills. In response he barely glanced over his shoulder at me. I watched a few more seconds and told him that I too used to love to play Mario, and this time he didn’t even look at me. The silence felt very awkward, so I quickly left.

Recounting these events with my family I was told that I was probably thought of as an old creeper. In other words, I cannot strike up a conversation with children I don’t know, because I will be thought of as a potential predator.

As I listened to my daughter(who works with kids at a day care)tell me about how I should keep to myself when I’m around strange kids, it all started to make sense and I knew she was right. After all, no telling how many times these kids have been told about “Stranger Danger”. To them, I’m just another old guy that wants to harm them.

I get it.

Still, none of this sits well with me. I don’t like not being able to smile at a child or make over a baby in the store without it stepping over some line that society has deemed uncrossable. It’s just an automatic, natural thing to want to say “hi”.

Honestly, I get it.

Sadly, I get it.

Actually, tit’s kind of heartbreaking if you want to know the truth about it.

So I guess I’m left to wander around the store, hands in my pockets, eyes straight ahead, wearing blinders so I don’t notice the children. I’m to pretend there are nothing but grown ups within 100 yards of me. Which really stinks, because I seem to get along much better with kids than people my own age.

And that my friends, is the society we have descended into. Not much more to say about that I suppose.

Old habits sure are hard to break…I wonder how long it’ll be before I smile at some kid and ask “how ya doin”?

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

Whatever you do, do it with purpose!

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Last night I spoke at our church from Daniel chapter one, which tells the story of Israel being carried away into Babylon and of Daniel being selected to stand before the king.

As heartbreaking as it is to read of God’s punishment for their rebellion, the captivity of Israel served a dual purpose.

As prophesied by Jeremiah, Israel was going to be punished for their continual rebellion against God by being carried away to Babylon as captive slaves for a period of 70 years. This was the fulfillment of that prophecy. [1]

While in Babylon, God used Daniel in miraculous ways to revel Himself to a people who otherwise would have never known about Him. Through his ability to interpret dreams and his unwavering faith in God’s deliverance, Daniel was able to turn the heart of the king of Babylon completely toward the Lord. [2]

None of this would have been possible however, had Daniel not maintained a positive attitude in spite of the overwhelming situation he found himself in.

Uprooted from everything he knew at a very young age, Daniel could have easily succumbed to bitterness and allowed his heart to become hardened towards his God.

Like so many of us, he could have asked God “WHY?” a thousand times, yet what he did instead was fall back on what he had already been taught, which was to keep God first in his life.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.   Daniel 6:8

Daniel had purposed in his heart that despite his circumstances, he would not reject the Lord. In essence, he was drawing a line in the sand and letting everyone know that he would not be drawn into the sinful culture of his captors.

What does that say about this young man? Well, for one thing, it says that his faith in God wasn’t predicated by his feelings. If Daniel was going on feelings alone, I’m pretty sure he had much to be discouraged about had he chosen that path.

Being a hostage in the king’s court, separated from his family, the feelings of loneliness and abandonment could easily have overwhelmed him.

I have a standard answer to tell people who say that they haven’t sensed or felt God’s presence in their life for a season. That is that God has promised to ‘never leave us nor forsake us ‘. And that God’s promises trump our feelings. [3]

Every. Single. Time.

As I told the congregation last night, there are times when we find ourselves in situations that are not of our choosing. We did nothing to warrant the predicament we find ourselves in. Yet here we are, and we must choose how we will face adversity.

I have found myself in those situations and have been forced to endure hardship all because of the poor choices of someone else. While our own poor choices bring about consequences that must be dealt with, it’s quite another matter when you are forced to suffer because of someone else.

Can I get an AMEN?

Let’s face it, there can be no doubt that some things are just not meant to be understood by our limited ability to reason and comprehend. In those times, I believe God calls us to simply place one foot in front of another as we walk with Him. That is real FAITH my friends!

If we choose to be like Daniel, and purpose in our hearts that we will not defile ourselves with doubt and conformity to the world’s way of doing things, we can expect God to stand with us no matter how difficult the test.

God’s vision and hope for you far exceeds your present condition. Think about that, and rest assured that God has his hand upon you.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Jeremiah 25:11

[2] Daniel 2:48, Daniel 3: 28,29, Daniel 6: 26,27

[3] Hebrews 13:5

Blessed are they that mourn…

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In my previous post, we dealt the 1st of the Beatitudes, the promise made to those who are poor in spirit yet possess the kingdom. With this second Beatitude, we turn our attention to a promise that those who now mourn will one day be comforted.

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted“. [1]

Whenever I hear the word “mourn” I think of a very deep sadness or grief, the kind that nearly overwhelms the soul. We humans mourn over all types of situations. It’s how we cope, or how we endure trials that are often beyond our capability to handle.

Mourning is an outward indicator of pain and grief. It reflects our inward sense of hopelessness over something that is usually out of our control. The loss of a loved one, for example, is one of the most common events that will cause us to mourn and suffer grief.

Of course, there are other types of mourning as well. In Jesus’ day for example, there was no doubt a spirit of heaviness upon the nation of Israel. This once proud, favored nation had succumbed to sin and found themselves under the authority of a foreign government.

No doubt Jesus himself was mourning the condition of his people as he looked out upon Jerusalem and lamented the fact that though he had continually called them back to righteousness, they had steadfastly refused to come. [2]

On a lesser extent, I’m sure that many of us today mourn the condition of our society, being forced to come to terms with the fact that what once was, is now gone forever.

Perhaps, like me, you mourn the present apostate condition of the Church. Knowing that Jesus gave his very life for the Church that now largely rejects him causes me to mourn greatly for what could have been.

Whenever we find ourselves in a place of mourning, it can be extremely difficult to see beyond our present circumstance to a place of having hope for a brighter day.

Jesus, however, said that those who mourn shall be comforted. So, what do we take away from that statement?

Perhaps the most important thing to learn from what Jesus said is that there will be an end to the mourning. Overwhelming as it may be in the moment, the source of our mourning must give way to the peace and the presence of God.

The Apostle Paul said that the peace of God surpasses all understanding [3], and it is during these intense times of mourning that He will show up, often when we least expect it, bringing the comfort of a peace beyond our own understanding.

That alone offers great comfort, because I can tell you from personal experience that there are times in our lives when it appears the pages of our circumstances will never turn.

To this very day, I mourn and grieve over certain things that I have been forced to deal with. And while the pain may not be as intense as it once was, it is still there, scarcely hidden beneath a thin veneer of faith and hope.

I thank God however that the story doesn’t end there, because Jesus said that comfort was coming! In fact, we are told that while weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning! [4]

We have inherited the promise of Jesus that we will be comforted. Whatever is causing us to mourn, it has an expiration date affixed to it. It will not last, nor can it defeat us.

I hope you will join me in clinging to the promises of God that one day, every tear will be wiped away. The day is coming when neither death, sorrow, or crying will ever be heard again. [5]

Until that day, take solace in knowing that God sees, hears, and understands the things that cause us to mourn.

Comfort is coming, in Jesus name!

The next Beatitude we’ll look into is “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth”.

Be blessed!

Ron

[1] Matthew 5:4

[2] Matthew 23:37

[3] Philippians 4:7

[4] Psalm 30:5

[5] Revelation 21:4

 

Real heroes of the faith are still among us: part 1

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The New Testament book of Hebrews contains a record of what many call “heroes of the faith”. In fact, chapter 11 of Hebrews is commonly referred to as the faith chapter because it lists what some call the “faith hall of fame”.

As you read through this chapter, one is struck by the presence of some very familiar names. Abraham, Moses, David, Samson, and Gideon to name just a few. Readers who are familiar with the Old Testament can no doubt recall some of the events associated with these well known men of God.

Yet there are references to other,unnamed heroes of the faith that are recorded here as well. While the writer of Hebrews doesn’t mention them by name, he does list some of their “qualifications” for enshrinement into the “faith hall of fame”.

Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.  Hebrews 11:35-38

Though lesser known than the Old Testament patriarchs or kings, these “others” were nonetheless uniquely qualified to take their place alongside their more famous predecessors.

These were men and women who refused to bow the knee, but instead held fast to their faith in God and believed that a better day was coming. Put to the severest of tests, these faithful soldiers endured unimaginable persecution because they counted their lives as nothing that they might win the ultimate prize.

Our minds today simply won’t permit us to comprehend the untold sufferings described in the verses noted above. Being stoned to death is itself a terrifying method of execution, but can you imagine what it was like for someone to be sawn in two?

Church history reveals that tens of thousands of Christians were persecuted by some of the most vile,heinous, and satanically inspired means imaginable in an effort to eradicate the true Church. Yet somehow, the sustaining grace of God kept alive a remnant, for which you and I owe an enormous debt of gratitude.

In our present culture however, I am often surprised at the apparent unwillingness of many in the church to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude v3). Indeed, there seems to be an attitude of spiritual entitlement among us that would be totally unrecognizable to the early church.

No doubt this is due in part to the prevalence of the gospel of “easy believism” and “health and wealth” that is pandered about today. It should be noted as well that neither of these false gospels would have ever been taught in the early church.

In fact, I’ll go on record and say that such teachings are part of what Paul described as “another gospel”, one that he said anyone preaching it is accursed (Galatians 1:8). That is for another day however.

 

In part 2 of this series, I will introduce you to some modern day heroes of the faith. Their identities may not be well known among believers today, yet their stories are no less inspiring than those found in the book of Hebrews.

Until then!

Ron

If my choices are between happy or sad…

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I choose Happy!

Of course, we don’t always get to choose, do we?

Life, in its continuous ebb and flow of emotions, will sometimes throw difficult challenges our way, leaving us to deal with them as they come. When this happens, and it happens to all of us, “Happy” seems a long way off doesn’t it?

For example, I’ve been dealing with a seemingly endless array of car troubles lately, troubles that are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. Just today, I had to call a tow truck to take the car back to the garage (it was just there last Friday!).

Of course this unnerved me a bit, as I have already sunk considerable money into this vehicle and the prospect of spending who knows how much more seemed to set my head to spinning.

The more I thought of it however, the more I realized it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I mean it could have died earlier today while my daughter was driving it on the interstate. If that would have happened the outcome could have been disastrous.

So while I am not pleased at having to have more unplanned work done on this car, I am extremely thankful that my daughter is safe and no harm was done.

All of us have these kinds of issues to deal with, what some would call “1st world problems”. In the big picture, it really isn’t that big of a deal.

Unless something drastic happens, the sun is still going to rise tomorrow, the birds will sing their beautiful songs, and I have family that loves me, including a wife who is a constant source of encouragement to me.

The Apostle James had something to say about the trials and difficult situation we might find ourselves in from time to time. See if you agree with me that his perspective is a little different than most.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  James 1:2-3  ESV

Did you catch that? When life throws you a curve ball, he said we should rejoice! That seems strange to our carnal minds, doesn’t it? Can any of us truthfully say that when we’re up against a struggle that our first inclination is to rejoice?

It’s when we read the second part of the scriptures that it begins to make sense. James says that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. The King James renders this as “worketh patience“.

That’s what these challenges do to us; they cause us to learn to be steadfast, or patient in the midst of the trial. When we fully grasp this truth, we begin to better understand that God can use even our trials as part of the refining process all of us are going through.

And that my friends, puts a smile on my face, and dare I say it….

 

Happy bird french fry

Be blessed!

Ron

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