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Marking a Tragedy

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Tragedy:

an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.

“a tragedy that killed 95 people”   [1]

Do you know someone who has suffered a tragedy? Most of us do.

Perhaps it is you that has suffered a tragedy? I know I have. Several of them actually.

How does one recover from a tragedy? Does one ever really recover from a tragedy?

Are there people who never recover from a tragedy? I believe there are.

I know someone like this. This person keeps a “death calendar”. Every year when it’s time to buy a new calendar, this person will go through it marking the dates when the people they loved died. This is a “death calendar”.

Certain dates are marked with personal notes such as “this is the day my world ended”. This day is marked for mourning and little else. This is a day for closing the curtains and sitting in the dark, alone with the distant memories of the day when life stopped.

This is what I refer to as Marking a Tragedy. An event so traumatic that it causes us to put our life on hold. We don’t move past it because we either cannot or will not.

All life now centers around the tragedy. Indeed, it has become larger than life itself.

In a lifetime of dealing with my own personal tragedies and in observing the tragedies of others,I have come to the conclusion that there is a very fine line between those who suffer tragedy and never recover, and those who suffer tragedy and go on to lead productive lives.

So I wonder, what makes the difference? Why doesn’t everyone recover from their personal tragedy and go on to lead a fulfilling and productive life?

The answer, at least in part, I believe is found in the word purpose. I like the word purpose because it speaks of something, a force perhaps, beyond our own limitations.

When we realize our purpose for being, it propels us forward in life and gives us the necessary strength and courage to overcome life’s challenges. And yes, that includes tragedy.

In my own life, I can say with the utmost confidence that a sense of purpose has kept me grounded and on track(for the most part), enabling me to move beyond situations that otherwise would have likely destroyed me.

As a young man of 23 I accepted the call into ministry, a decision that completely altered my life. For the first time, I had discovered purpose and that discovery was instrumental in seeing me through some very hard times.

For example, I quickly learned that accepting this calling was not met by those nearest to me with the same joy and excitement as I felt. Far from it actually. Because of their “lack of enthusiasm” towards what I was sure God was calling me to do, it caused me to question everything about what I believed. So much so, that I wanted to throw in the towel at least once or twice a month.

Yet for all of that, and there was a lot of “that”, I could never shake the sense of purpose that I felt when doing the work of the ministry. In ways that I could not understand, it seemed that every time I was ready to quit that sense of purpose would become even stronger.

As the weeks and months turned into years and now into decades, several events have occurred in my life that meet the definition of tragedy. At least a couple of those events should have destroyed my life, and even now they continue to try to hinder me.

As someone who has spent a great deal of time studying the scriptures, I have found them to be the antidote for life’s challenges. I have lost count of how many times God’s word has pulled me back from the brink.

Like the time I was sitting in my living room, Bible in my hands, crying out to the Lord that I couldn’t take it any longer. Having been blindsided by what was soon to turn into yet another tragedy, I had reached the end of my ability to hold on.

It was then that I felt the urge to turn in my Bible to the book of Job. Now, those of you who know Job’s story also know that this isn’t the most likely place to turn for encouragement when you are at the end of your rope.

Yet when I opened the book of Job to the 38th chapter, I saw it. In verse 1 it says “The the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said”,

Did you see the “hidden message” that I so desperately need to hear from the Lord that day?

While all along I had been asking, pleading with the Lord to take away my pain and hurt, the Lord used this verse to let me know that He could speak to me in the midst of my storm. He didn’t need to wait until the storm had passed, He could speak out of my storm!

As the realization of this truth became more clear to me, I literally jumped up out of my chair shouting “YES”! I knew then that everything was going to be alright. No, the storm didn’t dissipate immediately, in fact the worst was yet to come. That didn’t matter however, because I was assured that God had a purpose for me and therefore would see me through this tragedy.

My prayer for you today is that you will understand that you have purpose. You are needed, and you are most certainly loved. Life may have knocked you down to the point where you don’t want to get back up. Get back up anyway.

Seasons come and seasons go. Seasons of joy, excitement, and hope, along with seasons of tragedy, despair, and discouragement. Seasons are, however, just that. A season.

I leave you with the 2nd half of Psalm 30:5…

”Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning”.

Be blessed this day, in Jesus name!

Ron

[1] Bing search

Integrity: a priceless commodity

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Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.   source: dictionary.com

We don’t hear much about integrity these days. No doubt the above definition will explain part of the reason for that.

Morals, ethics, and honesty seem to be in short supply just about everywhere you look. What used to be the bedrock qualification to gain acceptance into a noble field of endeavor, is now no longer a requirement for participation.

Did you know that the Bible has a great deal to say about integrity? The entire book of Job, for example, is a testament to one man’s concern for maintaining his integrity.

The book of Job is one of the oldest in the Bible, with many scholars believing that Job was alive during the time of Abraham. It is a powerful story of good vs. evil, and brings to the forefront the age old question of why do bad things happen to good people?

As we open this particular book, we see that Satan has presented himself to God and proceeds to ask Him to remove the protective hedge from Job. This was Satan’s vain attempt to prove whether Job’s love for God was rooted in his wealth and prosperity, or if in fact it was rooted in Godly integrity.

God then permitted Satan to afflict Job, which he does by causing the loss of all ten of his children, all of his wealth, and all of his material possessions. In spite of all of this unspeakable sorrow, Job held on to his integrity.

In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.   Job 1:22

Unfortunately for Job however, his time of testing was far from over. The day came when Satan once again presented himself to God.

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” Job 2:3

Did you see that Job held fast to his integrity?

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”   Job 2:4,5

After this Satan was then permitted to afflict Job physically, yet was ordered to spare his life. This is where we find Job being afflicted with boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. So severe was this torment, that even his wife urged him to put an end to it all by cursing God and dying.

There is much that we can identify with in the story of Job. All of us have suffered loss,whether it was through death, divorce, or abandonment.

Many can relate to losing their wealth and seeing their finances shattered to the point of bankruptcy. Indeed, there are many among us that have enjoyed life in the penthouse, only to see it all crumble before our eyes, leaving us to wonder how this could be.

As I write this I wonder how many readers are at this very moment suffering from a debilitating disease or an incurable condition? Have you been to the brink where you just wanted to end it all and put an end to your suffering?

If so, you can identify with Job.

Job had three friends who came to see him upon hearing of all the calamity that had befallen him. Like Job, in times of despair and suffering we need people to lean on, to draw comfort from. Of course, we need real friends, not the type who cast one accusation after another at Job.

Through all of the pain and suffering, the abandonment of those he once thought were his best friends, and most importantly the silence of God, Job maintained his integrity. How was this possible you may ask?

I believe Job had a “big picture” view of life. He knew that this life was filled with its mountains and its valley’s. Though he was the “greatest man in all the East”, he also knew that all of it could vanish in an instant.

This is why he continually offered sacrifices on behalf of his children. If they had inadvertently sinned he wanted to make sure they were covered.

Job lived by the creed that his integrity could not be bought nor compromised. Read the following words he spoke to his friends as he declared his intentions to hold fast to his integrity to the very end.

As long as my breath is in me,
And the breath of God in my nostrils,
My lips will not speak wickedness,
Nor my tongue utter deceit.
Far be it from me
That I should say you are right;
Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go;
My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live.   Job 27: 3-6

What a difference it would make in this world if more people lived like they believed this! Can’t you just imagine what it would be like in our churches alone if all of us who profess Christ lived this way?

While we may not hold influence over the masses to the point of convincing them that this is the better way, we can do our part to see that we ourselves adopt the same convictions that Job had.

Integrity is a priceless commodity.

The good news for all of us is that we don’t have to purchase it, nor could we. Jesus Christ did that for all mankind when he died on an old rugged cross. Our integrity is rooted in Him, for He is our righteousness!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

faced with the appalling loss of his possessions, his children, and finally his own health, Job still refuses to curse God.

 

The Perspective of Time

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“What a difference a day can make”.I’ve heard that remark so many times through the years.

Imagine the difference then that a few years can make. That’s what I was thinking the other day as I read several chapters in the book of Job. As I began reading it dawned on me that I had neglected this Old Testament book for quite some time.

I always loved it’s beautiful descriptors of the battle of “good vs.evil”,Satan vs. God. It always seemed that no matter how hard Satan tried to discredit God,the faithfulness of God always prevailed.It was great to reconnect with this old,familiar book.

Now,for those of you who are not familiar with the book of Job,it is often regarded as one of the greatest studies of the human response to suffering.More importantly,it is a study of trust.If the reader will carefully study the book of Job,he or she will see the subject of trust come to the forefront as Job ultimately concludes that God is just and righteous.

Many people who read this book quickly form the opinion that God is not fair,that He was unjust in allowing an upright man such as Job to suffer. This is understandable, considering the Biblical description of Job is as a man that was “pure and upright,and one who feared God and turned away from evil”.

I believed that myself,long ago. Just like I believed that God was not fair because He refused to allow Moses to enter the promised land because of one mistake. Boy did I ever struggle with that one!

Just like I believed that God was not fair when tragedy struck my own life. Just like you may be thinking right now concerning a situation you are dealing with. We all want to shout aloud “how can a God of love allow this to happen” at times,don’t we?

Can I tell you something that time has taught me about the “fairness” of God?

Unlike God,we lack the ability to see the future. The hear and now is our dwelling place,and we are forced to deal with life as it comes. That includes those things we identify as unfair.

Just like Job,we cannot see the end of the trial while we are in the midst of it. But He can,which is why we must learn to be slower to question the “fairness” of God. Remember,God always has a plan where you are concerned. And that includes the trials you go through. Coincidence is not in His vocabulary.

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)

The perspective of time has taught me the deeper meaning of this present life being a place of preparation for the eternal one that is to come. Time has taught me that God knew all along what he was doing when he permitted Job to be attacked by Satan,that he knew what he was doing when he refused to allow Moses to enter into the promised land.

That he knew all along what he was doing when he allowed me to walk through the fire,instead of quenching it first.

Nothing takes God by surprise. Nothing.

The perspective of time has taught me to trust God. To trust the refining process that all of us are going through. To trust that while I may not understand the things that have happened to me,or the things I am presently enduring,He does.

To a child of God,this is enough. If we’re faithful,the perspective of time will teach us this principle.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

A Lifetime of “What if’s “

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What would our lives be like if only we would have…?

Haven’t we all asked ourselves this question? Has there been that “if only I would have…”  moment in your life?

If only I would have taken that job. If only I would have married him instead. If only I had taken more interest in my family. If only I would have acknowledged God sooner.

Or to phrase it differently…

What if I would have…? What if I would have turned left instead of right? What if would have stayed in school…?

These questions used to consume my every waking moment. Let me explain.

A few evenings ago my wife and I were listening to a well known minister delivering his weekly TV message,and while it was interesting it really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Until he said these words:

“If you were to hold a postmortem over the greatest defeats of your life,you will find in the debris a broken down alter,a closed Bible, and cut off communication with God. Every time. No longer praying,no longer opening the Book or communicating with God is a set up for tremendous failure”.

As I heard these words I immediately looked to my wife at the same time she looked at me. And we both knew that he was talking about a part of my life.

So with that I’d like to share a very personal part of my journey with you that relates to the above quote. It is my hope that it will help you to understand how easy it is to find yourself in the same condition.

I became a Christian over 38 years ago.When I accepted the Lord into my heart He changed the person I was. I no longer cursed,drank,thought wrong thoughts,or ran with the wrong crowd. I left behind nearly every relationship in my life because they were all negative influences on me. I made that decision then and I have never regretted it.

I went “all in” with Jesus and I paid a great price to do so. Family rejected me,and that includes my own mother.I was considered a black sheep,an oddball that no longer fit in.No one wanted anything to do with me any longer.

All I had was Jesus,and to my great surprise I learned that He was all I needed. Oh to be sure I was often lonely and discouraged,but He sustained me in the darkest times.

And those were precious days to me. Days when it was as if I could sense the very presence of the Lord by my side.Days when his word would seem to jump off the page as it entered my heart.

In my personal life I began to prosper in many ways.I began to be financially successful. I found a new job. I made a lot of money. I started collecting a lot of possessions.I began to receive the accolades of the church for the knowledge and abilities I had. People started complimenting me on my status and my success.

And I loved it all.

But after a few years things began to change.Slowly,subtlety at first so that I didn’t know it was happening to me.Until everything fell apart.

I lost the job and the fantastic salary that went with it. The things I had collected were sold or pawned off to pay the bills.The church looked the other way as though I had become an embarrassment to them.The praise of men completely disappeared. There were no compliments to be found.

Oh to be sure I tried to turn the situation around. I tried mightily to reverse my fortunes. But it seemed that at every corner was one roadblock after another.One more mountain to climb.

For a long time in my stubbornness I fought this crazy fight,sure that at some point I would prevail.After all,isn’t that what determined,successful people do? Just fight harder and eventually you’ll come out on top,right?

Yet I eventually had to admit that my life had been completely dismantled and torn apart.

I had asked myself a thousand times “why the struggles? Why the defeats? Why the taking two steps forward and one one step backward? Why are things that should be so easy now so difficult”?

The answer was simple: there was a communication problem between myself and God.

But if the answer is that simple then why didn’t I do something about it?

PRIDE

Pride that says “I can do this on my own”. Pride that says “it’ll be alright”. Pride that says “I will”,but we never do. Pride that says “God understands”.

“If you were to hold a postmortem over the greatest defeats of your life,you will find in the debris a broken down alter,a closed Bible, and cut off communication with God. Every time. No longer praying,no longer opening the Book or communicating with God is a set up for tremendous failure”.

Beloved, I have now lived long enough to fully understand the simplicity of following Christ and allowing Him to direct my steps and take control of my life.

The keys to a victorious life in Christ are an open Bible and prayer. That’s it.

You can read every book out there that touts the latest formula for successful Christian living,and you will come away unfulfilled.

You can “sow a seed” with every ministry on TV and still not be victorious.

You can quote scripture from memory from morning to evening and still come away empty.

However, a few moments completely alone with Christ and His word will keep open those avenues of communication,and victory shall be yours.

I praise God that I no longer live in a world of “what if’s” or “if only’s”. I am eternally thankful that God loves me enough to bring about correction,even when it hurt.And I am especially grateful that I have seen God restore that which the locust has destroyed.

My prayer is that all of us take to heart the depths of Christ’s love for us. It is unreachable and unsearchable in it’s vastness.

Let us go forward in Him in such a way that when we reach the end of our days no one will gaze upon us and say “if only”,but rather they will be able to say they loved the Lord with all their heart.

Ron

 

No Matter What…

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I will remember what you have done for me O God.

I have not forgotten how you spoke peace into my heart when I was at my lowest point so many years ago. Job 38:1,which I had read many times before, suddenly came alive in my heart that day when I realized that you are God even in the midst of the most violent storm. I knew at that moment you were going to rescue my soul from the waters that sought to drown me.

I have never forgotten that “encounter”.

It has sustained me and encouraged me more times than I can remember. It has left an indelible mark upon my heart,as if You knew all along that this would be a defining moment between us.A reference point that I could draw from again and again.

Like I am now.

Your word has been a constant in my life. Is it any wonder the Word of God has been described as “a lamp unto my feet”? Surely there can be no greater road map in this life than your word,a guide that directs us even in the darkest of nights. Like an old familiar friend, it always calls me back to its pages should I become slothful and inattentive to its beckoning voice.

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Through the years I have rejoiced at the transforming power of your word. I have been witness to seeing the hardest hearts melt when confronted with the message of hope and renewal found within its pages. I have seen grown men and women literally run to the alter under the convicting,yet loving wooing of the Holy Spirit.

I often marvel at what some men consider to be miraculous,or at the numbers of people seeking miracles, when by the simple act of a wayward soul repenting of their sins the angels of heaven begin to rejoice. What else can men do here on earth that causes celebration in heaven? Can anything be more miraculous than the Creator reclaiming one of His own?rejoicing-among


As much as I wish it were not so, I have also been witness to my own failures. I have faltered,fallen short on countless occasions,and no doubt disappointed many people. I find that even at this stage of my life there is still much I do not understand about this covenant relationship with our Lord. There are days when I still have more questions than answers. Is this how it is supposed to be? That this sense of wonderment about unanswered questions will serve as our own “thorn in the flesh” to keep us on our knees?

You know how hard I have tried to become one of “them”,to fit in with the crowd. I’ve joined their ranks. Several times. Sat through the classes. Studied their course materials.Taken and passed the exams. Have the sheepskin in the frame. Attended their conferences. Shook hands with the “right people”. Held titles and positions. Yet for all of that, I did not fit in. I could not bring myself to “go along to get along” when my conscious balked at the shallowness of it all. For this I am branded a “what might have been”. I’ve heard “I don’t know what to do with you” more than once.

Still,no matter what,I will remember what you have done for me O God.

I will praise you,for I remember your kindness to me these many years. Though men and denominations have long ago abandoned me,and many others like me by the side of the road,yet you remain faithful to me.Your mercy endures forever.

I confess that I struggle to understand why my phone never rings. Why my inbox remains empty. Why the invitations have all dried up. Why so many that I poured into over the years have forgotten that I exist. Could it be that since I am no longer in a position to help them ascend the ladder,I am of no value to them? The “amens”, the slaps on the back,the firm handshakes of approval,now there is nothing but silence.

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Except from you O God.I hear your voice calling out to me daily.

Actually, I do understand. I am an embarrassment to the Laodicean church of this generation. There is no place for the likes of me in a church that has become so much like the world as to be nearly indistinguishable from it. I speak the truth in love,which means I refuse to soften the message for the sake of men; to do so would be to prostitute your Word.I am an anomaly,a throwback to a long forgotten age, an age before political correctness ensnared the church in its damning choke hold. I know no other way.

I will remember what you have done for me O God.

Where you are leading me I do not know,but time has proven that I can trust you to take me safely there.How I will get there remains a mystery,yet I know that you have it all worked out.

No Matter What.

I will praise You in this storm.