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A grateful and appreciative heart

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Now that the traditional day of Thanksgiving is over, I thought I’d follow up on my last post with a bit more on what it means to me personally to be both grateful and thankful, particularly in regards to our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I feel it is very important to maintain a grateful and appreciative heart for the things I have received in this life. Notice that I said the word maintain. That means we have to work at it, otherwise it’s not going to happen. Maintaining a grateful and appreciative heart is all on us, and it doesn’t happen automatically. If you’ve ever slipped into one of those moments when you just don’t feel very thankful, you know what I’m talking about.

By the same token, that I am able to say I am a child of God often leaves me nearly speechless. If you could have seen the person I used to be, you would have numbered me with those who were destined for the scrap heap of humanity.

How God can find something useful in any of us leaves me scratching my head. Have you ever felt this way?

Even today, over 40 years after accepting the Lord Jesus as my Savior, I marvel at God’s unique ability to see past what we were and slowly bring to fruition what we are destined to become. Seriously, who but God can do such things?

I made so many mistakes in my early Christian life that I sometimes wondered why I should even bother trying to live for Him. Comparing myself to other, more mature Christians left me shaking my head wondering how in the world they do it. How could these people never make mistakes? How could they always be so faithful?

Well, as all of us know by now, none of us are perfect are we? Neither do we always have it all together like we want others to believe we do. You see, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Christian for four days, forty days, or forty years, we still live in a fallen world that is wrought with one peril after another. Everywhere we turn there are challenges and obstacles in our path.

Some days remaining faithful to Him seems more like a dream than a reality. Can you relate? Can I get an “Amen”!

I will be forever thankful for what God has done in my life. After much work and countless hours spent upon the Potter’s wheel, he has slowly transformed me from a wild, bitter, and angry young man into someone who is now almost unrecognizable from the person I was. I say that knowing full well that He still has much to do to help me to reach my full potential.

No one needs to remind me that I am a man who has been blessed far beyond what I truly deserve. The Lord has taken me from being a blasphemous, proud, and unthankful heathen to a man after God’s own heart. [1]

How could I not praise him for what he has done?

For all that the Lord has done in my life, nothing compares with how that in an instant He changed the course of my eternal destination. I who was once on the fast track to Hell and eternal separation from all that is good, has had his soul re-routed to a destination where joy shall never end.

As my friend Bill Sweeney says, it may sound corny, but I actually believe that one day I’m going to a far better place because of Jesus. [2]

I would be remiss if I failed to mention how thankful and how grateful I am to have by my side the most wonderful wife anyone could ever hope to have. The mere fact that she’s still here is a testament to her abiding love for me. When I think of how much she has had to put up with through the years, I am presented with a clear picture of love, dedication, sacrifice, and commitment.

This may surprise many of you, but I lean towards being very strong-willed(insert smile here). I suppose that comes from being raised the way I was, that and being in positions of authority and responsibility for a large part of my life. My point being, sometimes it isn’t easy to live with someone like me, yet my sweet Princess somehow manages to keep me in check.

She is the calming voice of reason when I want to take a situation in my own hands to right a wrong that may have been done. She is the great communicator in our home when at times I want to clam up, satisfied within my own mind that I know all there is to know about the situation.

I am convinced that God brought us together in a Divine manner at just the right time. Two broken and shattered lives, neither looking for or ever expecting to love again. Yet God somehow orchestrated things so that we would meet one day in the foyer of a church, a church she was visiting only because of a friends invitation.

I could never have imagined that this shy young lady who wouldn’t even make eye contact with me when we were introduced, would one day complete me in a way I never thought possible and that together we would write our own Love Story.

These are just some of the reasons why I am a thankful and grateful man today. And yes, it is true, there are days when I need to be reminded of all of this. When I am, I’m humbled once again at the realization of where I’ve come from and where I’m destined to go.

For all of this, I am forever grateful and appreciative to my Savior.

Have a blessed day everyone!

Ron

[1] 2 Timothy 3:2 (KJV)

[2] For more of Bill Sweeney’s story of how the Lord has sustained him through a long battle with ALS, check out his website here: https://unshakablehope.com/about/

 

 

 

Don’t Rush The Process!

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We live in a world where speed is of the essence. All of us are impatient and want what we want-when we want it-which is usually immediately. custom_clock_hands_16007

Sound familiar?

When it comes to the process of shaping and molding us into the child of God that we are destined to become however, speed does not appear to command a position of priority with the Lord.

At least where I am concerned, He doesn’t seem to be rushing the work along. Maybe you feel the same way? It would seem then that by all accounts, God has his own timetable when it comes to the work he is doing in us.

Christianity 101 says that all of us are on a journey with Christ. On this journey are mountain top experiences, below sea level valleys, incredible growth spurts, times when we seem to be mired in quicksand, and dare I say, a time or two in God’s woodshed.

All of this is just part of the refining process being wrought in us, a process intended to remove the impurities and replace them with more of Him. custom_bubbling_cauldron_15528

The Bible is filled with accounts of ordinary people like you and I going through this process. One of the best examples of this is found in Acts chapter seven, where Stephen is recalling the story of Moses being exiled to the wilderness where he would eventually receive the call of God.

To save space here, I’ll leave it to you to read Acts 7:23-30 for yourself. The key takeaway that I want to impress upon you from these verses is that Moses was 40 years old when he was exiled to the Midian desert.

He was 80 years old when God sent him back to Egypt to deliver the people of Israel from bondage.

This means that Moses spent 40 years on the back side of the Midian desert before God called him out. I don’t care who you are, that’s a long time to wait!

What do you think was happening during those 40 years? Well, we know that he had a wife and two sons, and we know that he worked for his father in law. But what about Moses, the future leader of Israel, what was happening to the man?

desert

Photo by Dan Grinwis on Unsplash

Here’s what I believed happened to the man Moses. I think God went to work on him, and it took God all 40 years to get Egypt out of Moses!

Remember, Moses was raised in luxury and privilege in Pharaoh’s household until he was 40 years of age. It’s only natural to think that during those years he had become accustomed to the finer things in life. I know I would!

What a stark contrast to go from Pharaoh’s household to a burning desert!

During those long years in isolation, Moses was no doubt subjected to countless hardships, hardships he was not accustomed to.

Brokenness, Humility, and Solitude became the new way of life for Moses, and I have no doubt that this was very painful for him to endure.

Ah, but you see, even Moses had to go through the refining process.

And the process could not be rushed.

Just like the process you’re going through cannot be rushed.

The process by which Moses was transformed into a mighty servant of God was not without pain and sacrifice. It came with a great price to him, requiring him to forsake all that he once held dear to his heart.

Sometimes this is what God requires of us, to sell out completely to Him. Maybe this is you at this moment?

You see, God had another plan for Moses life, one he could not begin to imagine.

Consider this thought: God spent 40 years getting Egypt out of Moses, only to send him right back there with an assignment that no one could have seen coming.

I mean seriously, who but God could do such a thing?

To Moses, 40 years must have seemed to be an eternity. To us, 40 days seems like an eternity, but when God is in the works He will sustain our strength and equip us for the task ahead.

I want to encourage all of you who may be on the Potter’s wheel or passing through the Refiners fire to be patient and wait upon the Lord.

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.   Isaiah 40:31 

wait upon the Lord

Don’t rush the process friends; He knows what He’s doing with you!

Be blessed,

Ron

Where is the Lord?

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That was the question Jeremiah heard from the Lord.

We don’t hear much about prophets today,unless it’s something about the fact that there are so many false prophets in the world.discernment

True prophets are not popular people. In fact,if you were called to be a prophet in Old Testament times you were virtually guaranteed a life of hardship. The prophets mantle was one of harsh words,condemnation,and “thus saith the Lord”.

Not exactly the ingredients necessary to make friends. Then again, God never sought out His prophets from a Charm School either.

Jeremiah was one such prophet. A prophet during the last 40 years of Judah’s existence,Jeremiah became known as the weeping prophet. He had been given a harsh message to deliver to Judah,which was made even more challenging because he possessed a sensitive and broken heart over the condition of his people.

Unfortunately for Jeremiah,this tender spirit made his anguish even more intense as his family,friends,kings,priests,basically the entire nation of Judah rejected his words.Called of God at a young age,rejection and loneliness were to become his two constant companions for the rest of his life.

As God began to speak into the life of His young prophet,it becomes apparent that he will have little time in which to “grow into the job”. Almost immediately, Jeremiah hears these words from the Lord:

The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.  Jer. 2:8

The fact that the priests weren’t even asking where the Lord was says volumes about the moral and spiritual condition of Judah. They had become so insensitive to the presence of God that they did not even recognize that He had departed from them.

Forsaking the Lord,Judah had installed a new religion,one that included the worship of nearly everything except God.In doing this,they had long ago stopped wondering why the Lord’s presence had departed from them,and why they no longer enjoyed His blessings. For them,it had become business as usual.

Herein lies a great danger that the church must guard against today. In our “we must have it now” culture the pressure is on to produce results. This has largely been brought about by the church departing from the biblical model of church growth in favor of a more corporate mentality.

It is my firm conviction that this pressure to perform has brought about a devastating change in our approach to a Holy God. Instead of waiting upon the Lord in our own “upper rooms”,we have instead invented a new church paradigm where results can be manufactured at will.

Church services are now planned down to the minute,much like a board meeting. From the opening greeting to the closing prayer,everything has been carefully scripted.Statistics are consulted as though they were inspired data points.Results are measured in percentages,not souls.Business plans,not God,are the driving force behind our actions.

There is an incredible and valuable lesson that we today can learn from the question “where is the Lord?”. That being that when we no longer see the manifestation of God’s presence in our midst,alarm bells should be going off.

When I speak of the manifestation of God’s presence,I am referring to the acts of love,kindness,mercy,and compassion that are the hallmarks of a transformed life.I am not referring to the foolishness that passes for God’s presence in many churches today.

Any pastor today who is shepherding a congregation where these traits are not outwardly and abundantly apparent for all to see,should be greatly concerned about the overall spiritual health of that congregation.

Think about the church you currently attend. Do you see the fruits of lives transformed by Christ,or is it business as usual in your church?

Perhaps most tragic of all is this: has God departed and we don’t even know it?

Something for us to think about this Lord’s day.