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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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Substitute Preacher…

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As I mentioned in my last post, this past week I have been filling in for my Pastor, who is taking a few days off for some much needed rest.

Since we have both Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services at our church, I needed to prepare two different messages, and when you add in hospital visitation it was a busy week.

Well, not that busy, but busier than what has become my new normal since retirement.; )

If you’ve never done something like this, it is both exhilarating and somewhat frightening, especially if you’ve been “out of the saddle” for awhile. It also helps a great deal to know that there are people praying for you, and I sincerely appreciate those of you who lift me up in prayer.

A lot of prayer and study time is necessary to deliver God’s word effectively, at least that’s how it is for me. I understand that many ministers preach from a sermon outline they’ve purchased online, and many simply purchase an entire sermon series which they then tweak to fit their needs.

I decided long ago however that I could not do it this way, preferring instead to spend time in the Word and in prayer in order to hear from the Lord as to what He would have me to deliver to the congregation.

This is not something I take lightly, and I approach it as if the Lord Himself were listening. Which, of course, He is.

As it turned out, it was well worth the effort, and I am happy to report that both messages were received with a lot of sincere enthusiasm, and many reported to be encouraged and strengthened.

I count it a privilege to be able to pray with people who have been broken by the cares of this life. Hearing them pour out their hearts to God, and to be able to pray and weep with them is an honor I do not take lightly.

It is humbling to be reminded that the Lord will still use a willing vessel, and I am thankful for the drive and passion for ministry He has instilled in me.

Sensing the presence of God was just icing on the cake, and that makes it all worthwhile for me.

Have a great Monday everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

Blessed and Highly Favored

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If you spend any time around Evangelical churches I’m sure you’ve heard the above expression. Often when someone will ask “how are you?”, the automatic response is “I’m blessed and highly favored”.

The meaning of this, of course, is that the person believes that God is blessing their life because He has chosen them to receive a special blessing. These days, more often than not, such beliefs center on the financial aspects of one’s life, rather than on spiritual growth or maturity.

Now, to be perfectly honest I do not care for the expression “blessed and highly favored”. This is because it appears to elevate one over another, or to indicate that God, who loves us all the same through Christ, actually prefers one of us over another of His children. A careful study of scripture reveals that we are all the same in Christ (Gal. 3:28).

Now having said all of this, I would like to state that if it were possible for a man to be “blessed and highly favored”, I would be that man. Speaking strictly from a relational viewpoint, I am indeed “blessed and highly favored”. Let me explain.

Less than 48 hours ago I went into the hospital for a procedure, one that I had gone through about seventeen years ago. Only when the procedure had been completed was I made aware of just how serious my condition was, and that my life had just been saved.

Of course, my immediate reaction was one of sincere gratitude to God for sparing my life. This is a very humbling experience, to say the least, and I will not stop giving thanks to Him for such a blessing as this.

However, as a famous announcer used to say, there is more to the story. I understand that God saved my life, and many prayers went up beforehand for the Dr.’s and Staff that would be taking care of me. But there was an Angel who never left me that I want to tell you about.

From the moment I went into the hospital, my precious wife never left my side except for the time I was undergoing the procedure. She stayed with me through it all, even spending the night with me, refusing to leave my side.

What a contrast we must have appeared to be to the Staff at the hospital! Early in the morning while being prepped and all that goers on prior to, I was stationed in a holding area with several other patients. You know the type, the cubicles that are enclosed by a curtain where you can hear everything being said by everyone there!

To my right was a couple that did nothing but complain. The patient complained about how long she had to wait, how long the procedure would take, how long before she could go home, how bad she needed to go to the bathroom. Her husband had apparently came in later than she thought he should have, so she blasted him for being late, reading a book, checking phone messages, you name it!

Yet there was my wife, being the calming influence I so desperately needed. Touching my arm or holding my hand, speaking only words of comfort and encouragement. There are no words to describe what she meant to me at that time.

We waited for three hours for the nurse to come and take me away, and not one time would she leave my side. Tell me, especially you men who happen to be reading this: how often do you hear of such faithfulness?

After I was taken to my room the first person there was my wife, along with my incredible pastor. From that moment on she left me one time for maybe three minutes to use the restroom. I implored her to go home and get some rest, but she was having none of it.

She ate dinner with me, sat as close as she could to me, and let me know how much she loved me. She tried to sleep on the “bed” they brought in for her but she wasn’t able. As I was awake most of the night, she stayed there by my side to comfort me. In a cold, hard chair.

As a matter of fact, the nurses only came in when it was time to do a procedure on me, otherwise they stayed away. I’m sure they realized I was in better hands with my dear wife!

There is no way I could tell you all that she did for me, as sometimes the proper words fail to come, even for a talker like me. All I know is this: I am blessed and highly favored to have her as my wife.

I could never have known that one day over 20 years ago when I first met her, that our love could have grown into what it has become. These aren’t mere words of platitude when I say this, but it is a fact that I do not deserve such a wife as I have been blessed with.

So, while this post hasn’t been especially “religious” or enlightening, I wanted to express to everyone that being “blessed and highly favored” means so much more than the type of car you drive, or how high the limit is on your credit card.

The love of a virtuous wife is far above rubies (Prov. 31:10)

And I get to live with one every day!