Faith of a Father

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised; – Hebrews 10:23


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Do You “Mark the Wall?”

measuring faith

Ephesians 4:14 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

Here we see Paul is telling the Ephesians (and us) that we as Christians need to grow up because otherwise there are consequences. Like children, due to the lack of maturity, young Christians are easily influenced by wrong doctrine and deceptive religious leaders and authors.

My father in law has told such stories of how as a young married couple he and my mother in law were easily deceived shortly after their conversions. He describes how that once saved by God’s grace, they had such a hunger for the Word of God that they reached out to a number of organizations seeking to be spiritually feed. Unfortunately most of these organizations begged for money, and lots of it, yet provide at best spiritual pabulum and at worst outright heresy. It was when, again by God’s grace that they began to attend a solid Bible Believing church that taught them the Word of God where spiritual grow began to blossom within their lives. This initial growth embedded within their hearts a spiritual discernment enabling them to rightly divide the Word of God for continued and sustained growth to maturity. If you asked either one of them today if they believed that they were spiritually mature Christians they would say as Paul says, “I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 ) but the evidence of their maturity is exemplified in the hundreds, yeah thousands individuals they have personally influenced, mentored and discipled towards the Word of God and righteous living.

While part of us wants to live in a “Peter Pan” world of never growing up so that we can ignore accountability, Paul is reminding up that this kind of thinking will only hurt our walk with the Lord. I would also add that not only will this affect your life but also the lives of those around you. If I as a parent refuse to grow in the Lord, and have little to no desire to search the Scriptures, the potential negative effect on my wife and children could be devastating.

So how are you, how am I doing on our spiritual growth chart? Yes, some people grow faster or mature sooner than others but the question is; are you growing in the Lord? When my kids were little my wife used to mark the wall to see how much each of them had grown, some looked like they never grew and we only really noticed it when we made that new mark on the wall. And of course if we left it for each child to do their own measuring, seldom if ever was it accurate. So what about you? When was the last time you “marked the wall” of your spiritual life? Do you, do I attempt to measure ourselves or do we allow ourselves to be measured against the ruler of God’s Word? Why not take some time today to “mark the wall” and see how you’re growing, you just might surprise yourself.


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#11 Running the Race: The Finish Line

                                                                                                  Finish line

11. A goal is set – the finish line. Every race has a finish line. I remember running in the 4 miler and I started to see signs indicating the finish line was “just” ahead, so I was inspired to press on. I’d go around the corner and see another sign indicating the finish line was “just” ahead, so on I struggled. Finally, I could see the finish line, it was in sight! I was hurting and exhausted but once I actually saw it I was encouraged again. It didn’t matter that hundreds had crossed the line before me, I made it. I finished my first race. I was satisfied.

The goal of all runners is to finish their course. To finish the course set before them. Depending on the runner the goal may be to just finish the course and to have a feeling of personal accomplishment while for others it may be to finish in a specific time or in a specific placing such as in first place or top ten. Some run for the fame or the endorsements, but whatever the reason, completion is the goal.

I Corinthians 9 Paul talks about how as a free man he became a servant to have an audience with the slave, he became a Jew that he might witness to the Jews, and he became as weak to have opportunity to minister to the weak. In verse 23 he says he does all this, he denies himself of what is rightfully his position and station in life so that he might be a partner with whom he writes and that they might share in the winning of souls to Christ to the honoring and glory of Christ. From this Paul moves in to the passage that states:                                                                                                

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

In my 4 miler, while many received a prize, only one received “the prize”. Not so in our Christian race, God is no respecter of persons. Everyone that runs His race receives an incorruptible crown, the crown of everlasting life. What more could we every want or need, a reward that will never perish. A reward of eternity in heaven with the God of the universe, how great is that?

In Philippians chapter 3 Paul tells of his background, his pedigree, a man of means and station but he says he counts it all loss for Christ. He calls it all dung. What he had, the fame, the position as part of the Sanhedrin, the revered name, the success, and no doubt the fortune, he gave it all up for Christ. In verse 13 he says that he hasn’t “arrived”, nor is he some great man in society because of what he had accomplished in his past. Paul willingly put all these things, all these worldly successes behind him so that he might reach forth to those things which God has before him. He said he presses toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Reader, are you willing to leave those things behind that are hindering you from moving forward with Christ? Many people pursue fame and fortune, they strive for status and position in life, they seek recognition and accolades above all else. Some are even willing to put their struggle for material success above even their family and worse, their faith, to obtain a perishable crown. Is there anything wrong with success and striving for excellence? Of course not, as Christians we are commanded to do our best in whatever our hand finds to do. The question is how do you define success? Is it defined by things and position or in a relationship with Christ? As we see in the passages previously mentioned Paul didn’t define his success in his pedigree or in his status with the religious leaders of the day, he defined his success by his relationship with Christ.

What is your life’s goal? Yes we all want to live a comfortable life but what is driving you to live each day? How do you want to finish your course? Are you, am I seek a corruptible crown or an incorruptible crown? When your life comes to an end how will you be remembered? Will your life be summed up by the dash between two dates or will your life have eternal significance? Will your friends remember you for a brief period of time or are you striving to leave a lasting legacy?

“Two little lines I heard one day, 
Traveling along life’s busy way;
 
Bringing conviction to my heart,
 
And from my mind would not depart;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, 
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
 
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
 
And stand before His Judgement seat;
 
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, 
Gently pleads for a better choice
 
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
 
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, 
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
 
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
 
living for self or in His will;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, 
When Satan would a victory score;
 
When self would seek to have its way,
 
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, 
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
 
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
 
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, 
And from the world now let me turn;
 
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
 
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
 
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, 
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
 
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
 
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
 
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
 
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
 
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”

C.T Studd


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Running the Race: Be Prepared

 

running hail

10. The path is not easy.  There are hills and potential weather hindrances.  We were fortunate that the day of our race it was a cool and dry morning, but Lynchburg is called the Hill City for a reason.  Our course had hills to climb, not just small rises in elevation but several long hills.  For a new runner, this was rough.  My training consisted of a treadmill and a fairly flat road at the beach.  Veteran runners on the other hand know their courses and train on various terrains and in all kinds of weather.  I have seen runners on TV running in rain, sleet, snow, wind and extreme temperatures so they prepare themselves for these conditions they know they will ultimately encounter.   Knowing the course and being prepare to the best of your ability is key in running any race.

As we consider our Christian race do we wait until something extreme hits us and then scurry to figure out what we need to do or do we have a game plan for those “hills” and extreme “weather conditions” that will undoubtedly hit us?   Over the years we have taught our children that they must purpose in their heart today on how they will respond when confronted with sin tomorrow.  The time to decide what to do in a time of crisis is not in the mist of the crisis.  The time to decide how you will respond is before the crisis hits.  The Bible tells us that Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat (Daniel 1:8).  We cannot foresee all the storms of life ahead of us but we know they will come and preparing ahead of time helps us to have the victory over those storms and trials.

Paul says in I Corinthians 9:24-27,

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

So how do we prepare for the storms of life that want to blow us off course or worse, sink us?  Live the Word.  Let the Word of God become a part of your life.  Let it flow from you so that your response to the troubles, trials and testings of this world are biblical responses and are automatic and second nature to you.  Many people even “scholars” know the Word but they only know the Bible in a intellectual way they have not allowed it to grow and permeate every part of their life.  When Satan came to Christ to tempt him, Christ quoted the Scriptures to Satan (Matthew 4).  But is knowing or quoting the Scriptures enough?  No.  Satan quoted Scriptures to Christ (Matthew 4:5) so we know that anyone can quote the Bible.  It is not enough to just quote God’s Word but we must believe and live the Scriptures.  James 1:22 “But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”  This is how we prepare for the unknown storms of life that want to push us off course or wear us down until we feel like we can’t go any further.  Let the supernatural responses from God’s Word to the cares and trials of this life follow through us like an unstoppable river that cannot be contained within us.

So how are you preparing for the storms of life?  How am I?  Are were studying the Christian’s guide book?  Are we seeking to gain the strength we need by being a self made man?  Are we trying to help ourselves and stand on our own two feet?  Or are we deepening our faith with the Word and Love of God and allowing Him to control our life and allow His Spirit to give us the strength and guide us along our way?

Remember:

 “But without faith it is impossible to please him…” – Hebrews 11:6

“ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” – Philippians 4:13


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Endurance to Finish Your Race

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9.   The race requires endurance to complete it successfully.  Being able to withstand the pressures of the race both physically and spiritually is critical for no one wins a race by skipping their training and taking a blasé attitude.  

Hebrews 12:1  “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (endurance) the race that is set before us,”

I am reminded of when I was a freshman in collage I helped coach a high school soccer team that went all the way to the state championships.  We weren’t an overly talented team but we were a team that had a dedicated head coach and players that were willing to work harder than the other teams.   During practices the head coach pushed his players hard to build their stamina.  He would run them around the field over and over again requiring the last runner to sprint to the front of the line, when he got there he yelled and now the new last runner sprinted to the front of the line.   This training, along with other endurance skills enabled the out players to play hard throughout the entire game.  While other teams played hard, part-way through the second half they would start to drag.  Our players on the other hand had a second wind and were able to push past the other team and win.  The point of this story is that it is not always about being the best and the most skilled at something but having the endurance to outlast your opponent.  It is the same in our Christian life, while it is important to hone our “skills”, continue to learn and do our best ( I Corinthians 10:31), like a tortoise, plodding along, being consistent and developing the needed endurance is what gets us to the finish line.  

Physical conditioning is not easy.  It is tough, you want to quit, it hurts and often it is just plan no fun.  So it is with our spiritual conditioning, it is tough, there is often pain, and at times you just want to quit.  But like a runner in training, they press on.  We are reminded in II Corinthians 12:9 that His grace is sufficient for us.  When the pain seems to become overwhelming and we think of giving up, it is HIS grace that is sufficient, not our works.

So how do you want to cross the finish line?  Will you be a casualty in the race and have to be carried across the line on stretcher, will you allow the things of this world, the heartaches of life take your breath away or will you strengthen yourself in the Word of God and recognize that His grace is sufficient for you to finish your course? 

Oh let us not become distracted by the world, let us not give up but press toward that mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14) .


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Preventing another Newtown tragedy

Friday, December 14th, 2012 was a tragic day.  Twenty-eight individuals lost their lives due to a lone gunman at an elementary school in Newtown, CT.  Since then the families and friends of these individuals have been in our prayers continuously.  This act of terror will change the lives of so many people forever.  As a parent of five children I can only begin to imagine and yet even then fail to grasp the brokenness that comes to a parent’s heart when such devastation hits a family and community.

Over the past week we have heard from many people proclaiming what needs to be done to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again.  From arming teachers and placing armed guards and police officers in schools to stricter gun control laws and a re-implementation of the “assault rifle” ban.  Gun sales and accessories are skyrocketing and concealed weapons permits are on the rise.  As a concerned citizen and parent, I support an open and honest discussion on these topics.  I have heard politicians such as our President, House Representatives and Senators on both sides of the aisle seek to politicize this tragedy and have taken the popular position of never letting “a serious crisis go to waste.”  I am saddened that selfish goals and agendas have gotten in the way of the real issue.  In an effort to promote their agenda many politicians and influential organizations are attempting to treat this tragic incident like a cancerous disease that is spreading wildly throughout the body with only an aspirin.  It may make them feel like they are doing something to affect the cancer but in reality they are only covering symptoms of the bigger problem.

Our President, in a recent speech said, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end.  And to end them we must change.”  I agree one hundred percent.  Change is necessary.  The answer to the tragedy in CT and similar attacks across our country is not that difficult to figure out but it will be a difficult “fix” because many, if not most, will lack the courage and fortitude to make the necessary changes.

Tragedies of this kind don’t happen just because someone had access to a gun, and the answer is not just to have armed guards in assault garb roaming the schools.  Tragedies of this nature don’t happen because of lax gun laws, access to “assault rifles” or because our mental health system failed us.  This tragedy and others like it happen because we as a society have devalued life itself.  The teaching and training of righteous morals, values and absolute truth have been replaced by situational ethics, relative truth and “live and let live”.

 I’m not implying that we as a nation condone such murderous actions that happened in Newton or in any other area of the country, but what I am saying is that we as a nation are sending mixed messages about how we value life itself. 

 We all love the occasional heart-warming story of a life saved from the clutches of certain death yet in our entertainment, general media consumption and even in our political speech we allow ourselves to feast at the table of distain, anger, hatred, violence, all slathered with the au jus of depravity.

Why are we surprised when such a murderous terror act occurs in a small town like Newtown when saving the black footed ferret or the Mississippi gopher frog is more important to us than millions of unborn babies?  Why are we surprised when a horrific act occurs like what happened at Columbine, when violence and murder are popular movie and computer games themes?  Yes, some would say that videogames, TV programs, movies and music violence don’t affect societal actions, but go ask those who spend billions of dollars each year in advertising how medium affect societal actions..  Why are we surprised when such horrors like 9/11 happen, when we teach our children we are only accountable to our societal rules?  A society whose morals and values change almost annually based in large part on its emotions and feelings.  Why are we surprised when a 16 year old shoots and kills someone over a pair of tennis shoes, when we view ourselves and teach our children that we are nothing more than a higher form of life in the animal kingdom which evolved through the process of survival of the fittest? 

We will spend millions if not billions of our taxpayer dollars debating, posturing, politicizing and defaming one another over the symptoms of these violent attacks in our country while most will ignore the root cause; the devaluation of life due to the depravity of man by the ignoring of our need for absolutes (truth, morals and values) that are unchanging. We give ourselves too much credit when we make ourselves the authority over what is right and wrong.  Left to our own devices and a lack of these absolutes as our compass, chaos would abound.  We don’t need laws and rules because we are so good, it’s because we are not as good as we think we are.  Until we as a nation are willing to come together and address the root cause of our problems, like the cancer patient taking only aspirin, the President, Congress and “We the People” are fooling ourselves.  

So yes Mr. President, we must change.  But it is not our rhetoric or even our laws, but our hearts.


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Running the Race #8

8.  There are encouraging fans.  We discussed the other runners but we also have fans.  First and foremost, if we have no one else we have the Comforter, the third person of the Trinity who will always be with us (John 4:6 ) who will teach us (John 14:26) and encourage us ( John 15:26) . The Bible says that “He (the Lord) will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”  Hebrews 13:5b-6.  If we have no one else around us, He is all we need.  He is our strength, our deliver and our salvation in the time of trouble (Psalm 27:5 , Psalm 41:1, Isaiah 33:2)  He is our light and salvation, whom shall we fear?  (Psalm 27:1).   No one.

In addition, the Lord has provided us with other to witness and encourage us.  In Hebrews 12:1-3 it says:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Who are these witnesses or “fans”?  Verse one of this chapter begins with the word “Wherefore” which can also be translated “Therefore”.  My Dad used to say we need to ask what the “Therefore” is there for.  As we know, the original letters of the Bible were not divided into chapters and verses but were added for us to more easily reference the various portions of Scripture.  So in this case, the reader is reading the 11th chapter known as the “Faith Chapter” and rolls right on into chapter 12.  So the writer of Hebrews is referring to those in the Faith Chapter (chapter 11) as the great cloud of witnesses.  I would recommend that you take the time to go back and see who these witnesses are.  They are not only those that were named but so many that were unnamed in verses 32 through 40.  Close your eyes and imaging Abel, Noah, or Abraham surrounding you and cheering you on in your race with the Lord.  Imagine Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Joshua beside you encouraging you along the way.  Or how about seeing martyrs of the past shouting “You can do it, don’t give up, the pain is worth the victory!”  Wouldn’t that encourage anyone?  Guess what, you don’t have to imagine any of this.  The writer of Hebrews is saying THEY ARE THERE! The witnesses that surround us are those heroes of the faith, the named and unnamed, the abused and even martyred in His name are surrounding us and encouraging us.  There have been times in our family’s life when it seemed we were all alone and we needed Him to pick us up and carry us.  The other runners in the race seemed so distance and some may even have shunned us.  But what joy can come to our hearts when we can turn a spiritual corner and realize that we are not alone and that we have fans who have finished their race and are running the sidelines cheering, encouraging and yelling, “Don’t quit! It will be worth it all, when you see Jesus!

Are you discouraged? Do you feel like no one cares?  Do you feel like giving up at times and just stepping to the side and sitting on the curb?  Look to your left, look to your right.  Don’t you see them?  Can’t you hear them yelling to you?  DON’T QUIT!  The pain, the attacks, will be worth it all.  Look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.


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Running the Race Set Before Us (part 3)

Well this is taking longer then I though.  As I work through each point I hope to keep it short but I just can’t seem to do that.

7.  There are other runners.   Like all races, there are other runners.  In the race I was in there were over 3,000 participants combined in all the races.  Having others running the race was not a bad thing, it actually inspired me to do better.  The Monday before the race while I was at the Outter Banks, in Duck, NC I ran/walked 4 miles.  Granted, it was in the middle of the afternoon, but for the most part it was fairly flat with a few rises on the course.  It took me an hour and 8 minutes to complete the 4 miles.  When I ran the actual race, as noted earlier, it took me just under 50 minutes.  In addition, Lynchburg is called the “Hill City” for a reason and for a large portion of the course we were going up a long hill.  Why do I think I did better?  For various reasons, but one of the main reasons is because I was running with other runners.  There was something about running with 3000+ runners that was inspiring and encouraging.  It helped me to focus more and push myself further than had I been running alone.  It is the same in the Christian race.   There is something about living the Christian life and having others running with you.

When Christ sent out his disciples, he sent them two by two.  Paul took various missionary journeys and as he went he had others with him. Why?  Because it is important not only to have someone with you to encourage you along the way but to help push you to do more and go further then you may have ever dreamed had you gone alone.   As I ran my race, in a sense, the other runners, by their very presence were pushing me to go further, to go faster, to not give up.  Although we need no one but Christ and His strength to finish our course, isn’t it a blessing to run the Christian life with fellow believers?  Running the race that morning I saw strangers encouraging other strangers.   It didn’t matter who you were, what you looked like or how you ran, people were encouraging each other to help them finish the race before them.  As Christians, to be able to turn to someone next to you and to have that encouragement that they are right there with you, to know that they know what you are going through, they have experience the same or similar spiritual struggles, they know the spiritual hurts and pains that come, isn’t that  wonderful blessing?  To be able to look around and see that you are not alone is inspiring.   As we run this Christian race, what a blessing it is to be able to encourage one another and to be encouraged.

Maybe your running partner is your spouse, your parents or your kids.  Maybe there is that special someone or someones in your church that you have enjoyed running with in your Christian life.  No matter with whom you run, as Proverbs 27:17  says you are sharpening each other along the way.

In addition to the other runners encouraging you, they can also be someone to help hold you accountable and can help you to avoid detours and pitfalls.  As I ran my race I was able to look ahead and follow other runners.  I couldn’t see the finish line until 50 yards away from it but I knew that if I followed those ahead of me I would get there.

How about you? Do you, do I look at others running with us and see them as an encouragement or a distraction?  You may say, but Donn, they are not running the way I am,” or you may say “Donn, they aren’t wearing the exact same style and brand of shoes that I think they need.”  Yes, some may have a little different stride, some may even be wearing Nikes instead of New Balance shoes and some may even be carrying some unnecessary weight but are you encouraging them or blocking them from doing their best?  Maybe they are hardheaded and don’t want you help or suggestion or maybe they are just too comfortable with their extra weight and all you can do is kindly point them to the runner’s guide.  But are you helping or hindering?  Regardless of how others are running beside you, you are responsible to God for how YOU run your race.  If they are in the Christian race, are you encouraging them and allowing them to encourage you or are you allowing the other runner differences to be a distraction and a discouragement to you?


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Running the Race Set Before Us (part 2)

Continuing with our comparison between running a race and our Christian walk, we move on to point number 3:

3.  Seldom are 2 participant’s times the same.  When we started our race in the 10 and 4 mile races, while there was one starting sound, due to little magnetic strips on our assigned numbers on our chests, our individual times did not start and stop until we actually crossed the start and finish lines.  Because our Christian race begins when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and it is not over until we cross the finish line into Heaven upon our physical death, our races begin and end at different times.  As Christians, we may guestimate when we expect to finish our course down here on earth but as I said in another series, our life is short and we do not know when it will end. 

 James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

Hebrews 9:27:  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

I Peter 1:24  For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

4.  In every race there is a time keeper, but they don’t know how long it will take for us to complete our race until we actually finish.  In our Christian race, our timekeeper knows ahead of time when our race will start and end.  In Ephesians chapter one it says that God choose us before the foundations of the world and that he predestined (determined beforehand) that we were to be his children.  He says in Ecclesiastes 3:2 that there is a time to be born and a time to die.  And Job 14:5 tells us  “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;”  So as a Christian we can rest in the comfort of knowing that our time is in His hands. Psalm 31:15

5.  Extra weights and distractions are removed.  In a race you want to remove everything possible that will slow you down.  Some runners train while wearing weights on their legs but when race time comes, the weights come off.   In Hebrews 12 Paul tells us that we need lay aside every weight and the sin that easily besets us.  Notice it says weight AND the sin.  There may be some things that are good and “OK” but not beneficial or “best” for our Christian race.  Hobbies and sports are fine but if it begins to interfere with your relationship with Christ it is an issue.  Other things like social activities, various forms of media are fine as well as long as these do not consume us to where Christ takes second place in our life.  In less than a month from now an important election for our country will take place and while participating in the political process is great, if changing someone’s political view becomes more important than pointing them to Christ to change their heart, these are weights that need to be removed.  These are weights but if we allow them to weigh us down they hinder our performance.  The second portion of the verse says “and the sin…”.  While some things may be good but are weights to our race, other things are out right sins and must be immediately removed or serious injury and delays may hinder us from our peak “performance.”

 6.  Proper attire is necessary.  This kind of goes along with point #5 regarding weights but is referencing clothing more than other types of weights.  A runner wears clothing that will “draw” the sweat away from the body and lightweight shoes.  In the Christian race we need to have on the right attire.  We are told to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-17 ), we are to put on immortality ( I Corinthians 15:53 ), we are told to put on the new man, a changed godly man (Ephesians 4:24 ) we are told to put on the new man because we are holy and beloved of God and we are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, longsuffering, forbearance (holding up someone) , forgiveness one towards another, and above all we are to put on love.  I had a dorm mate in college and anytime he got the least bit sweaty he would change his clothes.  I swear I think he changed clothes even if he ran up the one flight of stairs to our dorm rooms and got just a little bit sweaty.   Like a man who showered and was washed clean would not think about putting back on his dirty clothes, so ought we as Christians to have a desire to put on what is clean and godly and desire not to put on the dirty clothes of this world and the things in life that will soil our Christian life.


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Running the Race Set Before Us

Donn finished his 4 Mile Race

 

A week ago today I ran in my first “race” since probably high school.  Our town has a 10 mile race every year and people come from across the country even from other countries to participate.   Although I have been exercising regularly since my heart attack last December, I knew I wasn’t ready for a 10 mile race and may never be, so after encouragement from co-workers I signed up for the 4 mile walking “race”.  This is the race that people sign up for who know they don’t have a prayer in being even somewhat competitive yet want to have a feeling of accomplishment, an opportunity to achieve a personal goal.  I figured I could run a couple of the miles so “running” the walk was my goal.

I finished the “race” with a time of 49:23, just a little more than 12.5 minute miles, nothing at all spectacular but a finish none the less, and a milestone in my rehabilitation and ongoing lifestyle changes.  I came in 19th place out of 727 “walkers”.  That sounded pretty good until I decided to include those who signed up for the 4 mile run as well in my calculations.  I came in 833rd when I combine the walking and running races, but hey, I was still in the top 50%.  When I told my wife of my second calculations she asked why I figured it out that way, that, doing so was depressing.  Maybe so but it gave me a clearer picture of where I really stood in the overall standings.  It brought more reality to me.

In contrast to my running, the winner of the 10 mile race was Kenyan born Julius Kogo who won his race with a time of 47:48.  He was done with his ten miles before I was done with my four!  A little closer to reality, my daughter has a 14 year old friend who completed her 4 mile race in 27 minutes.  Wow, what a difference.  She was almost done by the time I got halfway.

So after the race was all over I began to contemplate what I should post on my blog.  In my reflection I came up with 11 things found common to races.

  1. Registration is required
  2. Preparation is required, workout, training and mentors
  3. Seldom are 2 participants’ times the same.
  4. There is a time keeper
  5. Extra weights and distractions are removed
  6. Proper attire is necessary
  7. There are other runners
  8. There are encouraging fans
  9. The race requires endurance to complete it successfully
  10. The path is not easy, there are hills and potential weather hindrances
  11. A goal is set – the finish line

When I consider these topics I begin to see how they can apply to my Christian Life.  The Bible talks about our Christian life being a race I so I wanted to draw a comparison between the two.  The physical and the spiritual.

  1.  Just like the race I ran a week ago, an individual must sign up to participate in the Christian race.  Salvation is not an automatic registration, you don’t get “registered by going to church or being baptized or because your parents are Christians, we are not all “the children of God”.  Salvation is an individual, intentional pursuit of a relationship with Jesus Christ.  A recognition that we have sinned, we all have fallen short of the glory of God (  Romans 3:23), because of our sin, we are separated from God and are destined to Hell for all eternity (Isaiah 59:2) .  But, if we confess with our mouth, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:1-13) and trust in His finished work, what He accomplished on the Cross and His resurrection defeating death, we shall be saved (registered and a participant in the Christian race).   Without this salvation, you are bound on a broad course to Hell for all of eternity (Romans 6:15-23).   To learn more about this salvation, this entry into the Christian race and a part of God’s family feel free to contact me directly or go here
  2. Once we are registered in the Christian race, preparation for the race an ongoing need.   An athlete doesn’t get themselves into shape and never train again.  They continue to work hard and eat right, constantly trying to improve in areas of weakness.  As Christians, we must continue to develop our knowledge and exercise our faith, and take in proper spiritual nutrition continuously so that we may grow stronger in the Lord and in the power of His might (II Timothy 2:15) and many other Scripture references are listed here.   In addition to our own spiritual workouts and healthy eating, we need to seek out mentors that can help us and instruct us in the Word of God so we are prepared to face the course ahead of us.  Elijah mentored Elisha, Eli mentored Samuel, Mordecai mentored Esther, Naomi mentored Ruth, Moses mentored Joshua, Jesus mentored his 12 disciples and Paul mentored Timothy and many others, just to name a few mentorships in the Bible.

Next time we’ll pick up where we left off and continue on our discussion of the life’s race.


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The role of the Church: Ephesians 4:11-12

 

Ephesians 4:11-12 

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;   For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

 In these verses we read how Christ equipped the church and for what reason.  Many books have been written about the subject of these roles in the church and I could not do justice here to the topic so for those interested, an in depth study would be recommended.  

John Maxwell, noted Christian author and Leadership “guru” gives his definitions of these five roles in his “The Maxwell Leadership Bible: 

  1. Apostle:  One sent forth to pioneer and establish new works and new leaders.
  2. Prophet:  One who speaks forth God’s Word to inspire, correct, and motivate.
  3. Evangelist:  One who shares Christ with outsiders and trains others to do so.
  4. Pastor:  One who shepherds, guides, and guards God’s people as they serve.
  5. Teacher:  One who trains God’s people in the truth and teaches others to do so.

 I believe that all but the role of the Apostle are still active roles in the church today.  John MacArthur gives supporting Scriptural references to support this view: 

Six biblical reasons may be given as to why the apostolic office is not for today:

1.    The church was founded upon the apostles (Eph. 2:20)… Their role was to give grounding, support, direction – to provide the underpinning for a fledgling church. They were the church’s founders. That role was fulfilled by them and by definition can never be repeated.

2.    Apostles were eyewitnesses to the resurrection (1 Cor. 9:1)… There is no trustworthy evidence that (Jesus) has appeared to anyone since the close of the apostolic era.

3.    Apostles were chosen personally by Jesus Christ (Mt. 10:1-4).

4.    Apostles were authenticated by miraculous signs (Ac. 3:3-11; 5:15-16; 9:36-42; 20:6-12; 28:1-6)… No such miracles were ever performed – even in the apostolic era – by anyone other than the apostles and those commissioned by them.

5.    Apostles had absolute authority (Jude 17)… When the apostles spoke, there was no discussion.

6.    Apostles have an eternal and unique place of honor (Rev. 21:14).

John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan, © John MacArthur, 1992, p. 148-151

 As we look at the roles described in verse 11 for the church, we can see how that Christ gave the church all the leadership roles needed to make the church successful for the cause of Christ.  As we consider our churches today often times the churches that seem to over emphasis one or a few of these roles above others are the same churches that have lost their spiritual balance.  Like and individual that loads up only on proteins or only on carbohydrates, the church that does a similar thing will eventually become spiritual malnourished and will become ineffective. 

 The purpose of these roles in the church is as it says in verse 12: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” 

 And to that end, let me ask you this question:

 How can a spiritually malnourished saint perform their God-given work in ministry effectively?  And if they, if you, if I cannot effectively fulfill our responsibilities as a Christian, how can the body of Christ be edified or encouraged?  Consider your church today and then ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Is my church helping me and my family to become well balanced Christians? 
  2. Is it calling sin – sin, right – right and wrong –wrong?  Or is it afraid to address sin?
  3. At times do I feel the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sin or is every Sunday marshmallows and cotton candy? 
  4. Is my church an evangelistic church, reaching out to the lost and proclaiming the way of Salvation and encouraging and teaching me and my family to do the same?
  5. Does my church reach out to shepherd the flock, getting past the superficial topics and issues and helping its members to deep dive into each other’s lives as a way to encourage, uplift, support and edify each other?
  6. Is it dividing the Word of God rightly?  Is it teaching biblical doctrine or is it teaching feel-good sensationalism?  Is it helping and encouraging you and your family to dig deeper and build your spiritual life in such a way that you in turn can disciple others?

 If your church is not helping you to eat a spiritually balanced diet, then determine if it is you or the church.  If you’re only picking the sweets from a balanced spiritual buffet, then shame on you, repent and learn to eat the broccoli.  You’ll find that it’s does a body good.

If you find that the church has good intentions but fall short, in the right spirit and with humility go to your pastor and discuss the topic.   But if your church cannot, or is unwilling to provide a balance diet as Paul has outlined in verse 11, seek another church that can and will.  You may say, but Donn, I attend a small church and you don’t understand, it just isn’t big enough to provide it all.  I know what it is like to be a part of a small assembly of believers.  I know what it is like for your family to be the only ones in attendance at a service.  I know what it is like to be a teenager and the only ushers.  Our family started a church in mid to late 1970’s in Chatham, Ontario, Canada.  We did not have the resources today but my Dad had preaching and teaching tapes available to the membership.  He had a large library that people could borrow from if they desire.  Even in small churches today there are so many resources available to us as Christians that we should not lack in our spiritual diet.  There are books, CD’s, DVD’s, online courses, blogs and websites that we can feast on.  The key to all of these is to be discerning in knowing which ones to dine on and which ones are spiritual junk foods.   Your pastor and spiritual mentors can help you to determine at which “restaurant” to dine.

 So are you being spiritually completed at your church?  If not, what are you going to do about it?


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Getting Back to Ephesians….

I recently finished the series entitled: Lessons From a Heart Attack and I wanted to get back into my study of the book of Ephesians.  I’ll probably intermingle other topics along the way.

 As a reminder, I have broken up the book of Ephesians into sections about relationships.  So far we have discussed the following:

  1.  Our Relationship with God = Chapter 1-2:10
  2.  Our Relationship with Christ = Chapter 2:11-3:21
  3.  And we are now in beginning of section three:  Our Relationship with Fellow Christians and the World = Chapter 4:1-5:21

 Since it has been awhile, why not go back and review some of the previous posts.  These can be found to the right under “Categories”.

 I plan to have my next posting on Ephesians within the week.


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Lessons From a Heart Attack: Family Perspective (Part 2)

Ashley is our oldest child, an active blogger  ( www.stayathomedaughter.com ) and is preparing for her wedding next April.  She guest posts on a number of popular Christian women’s blogs and has a heart for in depth studying God’s Word.  Amber is our middle child and has a passion for horses.  Her life testimony was recently observed on a website bulletin board and was asked by another young lady to share with her more about how to have a deeper relationship with God.   Sherry and I are so blessed.

“When I first heard the news that my dad was having a heart attack my heart stopped too.  It was completely unexpected and something that had never even crossed my mind as a concern.  My eyes filled with tears and I began to worry about the worse possible scenario. I knew what this could mean for us, I knew this could mean life would have to go on with all its special celebrations and every day events without my sweet daddy to share it with.  Who would help me choose a husband?  Who would walk down the aisle with me?  Where would I go to for wise godly council?  How could I live without him?

Though I did worry, though I did cry and my mind began to go numb with the overwhelmingness of it all, something stuck out in my mind.  A lesson I had begun to learn only a few months earlier.  God had started to drive into me a deeper understanding of His love, wisdom and sovereignty and with that the freedom to trust Him.  This lesson secured in my mind that night and stayed with me through the whole ordeal.  Though I was still very concerned a certain peace that can’t be explained came over me and I knew more than I had ever known that God intended good for me and my family.  I realized more fully that however this turned out we could make it through because God was in control and He desired to give us the best.

This trust was further emphasized when I recognized God’s sovereign hand in all the details; He had it completely under control.  How else could my father have been in the hospital with the doctors when the heart attack started?  Or how is it that I had planned to sit at the front of the church that Sunday night but “by chance” ended up sitting by the back door which made it easy to find me and make a quick exit?

Only a loving, all-wise God who is in control of it all could have orchestrate all of these and many, many more details so perfectly together.  My trust in Him was intensely strengthened.

I praise the Lord for His mercy in sparing my father’s life, a gift none of us deserve but will always be grateful for and for His gift of peace and trust that have stayed close by me even months later.”

–          Ashley

“When Daddy asked me to write on his blog it scared me, and for that reason I didn’t want to do it.  But the more I thought about it the more I said to myself “Why not?” So here it goes!

TRUST

Through the long nights of crying and long hours of walking and talking to God the more he seemed to comfort me.  Slowly I began to trust him more and more. Through all of this, God really showed me that he knows what’s going on and he hasn’t and won’t leave me.

I can still remember lying in bed talking to God and saying “God, I don’t know how this is going to end but your will be done! I trust you!” After that I just felt peace! Sure enough God did pull us through and Daddy is doing well!

I owe a BIG thanks to my Grandparents and Chris Cartwright. They were truly a blessing to me through all of that. And I can’t thank God enough for them.

So what did I learn? Trust God! He will never fail you!

I love you Daddy!”

–          Amber

Thanks Ashley and Amber for sharing your heart and thank you for your desire to grow in the Lord and to allowing Him to sanctify you through each life experience.  I love you both.  – Dad


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Lessons From a Heart Attack: Family Perspective (Part 1)

My family has been a huge blessing and encouragement to me and even more so since my Heart Attack this past December.  They have willingly accepted without complaint the various changes that we have made in our home and have repeatedly helped to keep me accountable to the things God has been showing me.   I am grateful for each member of my family, for their love and compassion towards me and their willingness to help pick me up when I stumble and encourage me as I continue to grow in His grace.

Although from my view, I have felt I was the direct target of God’s love through my heart attack and it was for my sanctification I am blessed that my family has allowed God to show them lessons to apply to their lives.  As I said in Lesson #3 From a Heart Attack: We influence others more than we think!  we can influence those around us positively or negatively by how we respond to the events that affect us.  I have asked the ladies in my home if they would be willing to write a short post about how God has used this heart attack in their life and they have so willingly agreed.

This first post was written by my beautiful and loving wife Sherry.  She is my best friend, a wonderful encourager and the joy of my heart.


The first thing that comes to my mind is the importance of gratitude. It can be so easy to take things for granted; whether that is material things, opportunities, or people. God has blessed Donn and me with a strong relationship where we daily express our love to each other and regularly express gratitude, yet this experience has made me even more conscious of noticing the little things, the daily things, and not just noticing them but expressing them to my loved ones. On December 11, 2011 I could have lost the opportunity to ever again tell Donn what he means to me. I could have lost the opportunity to ever tell him again that I love him, or that I appreciate the way he makes me feel safe and secure. I could have lost the opportunity to ever tell him how handsome I think he is, how much I love to hear him laugh or how much I love spending time with him. Forever gone to me could have been the opportunity to say thank you for the little things like taking my dish to the counter, bringing home a candy bar to me or filling the gas tank up for me. I could have lost the opportunity to thank him for working so hard to provide not only for our needs but most of our wants too. I could have never had the chance to express to him again how much his spiritual leadership means to me and how proud I am of him. It is easy in the daily grind to overlook these things or come to expect them therefore letting them loose their meaning. Along the way it’s easy to become “thin skinned” allowing ourselves to get hurt over insignificant things, those things that didn’t bother us when we were just beginning our relationship together. This experience has opened my eyes to how precious TODAY is, for it may be all we have. The Bible reminds us in James 4:14 “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Tomorrow is not promised to us or to our loved ones so I need to make today count because tomorrow may be too late.

Another thing that really hit me is that today’s actions, whether good or bad, have consequences. I may not see the consequences right away, but they are there and will eventually make themselves known. The Bible tells us in Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will reap also.” Eating that second helping on a regular basis, or often in our case, that bowl of ice cream each night before bed, adds up. I may not see it on the scales today, or even this month but if I keep it up I will eventually see those results. If I lie, I very well may get away with it, but if I lie on a regular basis I will eventually get caught. If I’m too busy to weed my garden it may not make a difference this week or even next but eventually the weeds will overtake the garden and ruin the hope I had for home grown veggies. Neglecting one’s health may not seem to make a difference now, but a life style of neglecting it will eventually reap unwanted results. Donn’s heart attack reminded me that choosing to indulge in the wrong food, or refusing to get the exercise we all know we need is not something that only affects me. If Donn had died from his heart attack it would have affected many more people than just him. I am not an island unto myself. What I do matters not only to God, but I need to also stop being self focused and realize that the things I do affect many more people than just me and I need to act accordingly. The other week Donn and I were up very early and were headed to the gym and Donn said to me, “Remind me again why we are doing this.” He was just being funny, but it made me seriously think about an answer and later I told him, “We are doing this so one day we can be a part of our grandchildren’s lives.”  Too often I am guilty of not thinking through the long term consequences of my actions and I am seeing how this experience has reminded me of that importance.

I would like to end with this last lesson I learned and that is, God needs to be my all in all. Though I love Donn beyond words my identity needs to be in Christ Alone. My ultimate security, fulfillment, peace, joy, love, satisfaction needs to be found in my relationship with Christ. Yes, God has placed people in my life who help to enhance these qualities, but I need to look to God as the one who truly meets these needs in my life. This means I need to have a thriving relationship with Him. Just as it is important to not overlook what Donn means to me or has done for me, I need to not overlook all that God has done for me. He loved me enough to sacrifice His son on my behalf so I wouldn’t have to pay the penalty for my sin. People fail us, people leave us, yet God is always faithful. In the fear I experienced as I was all alone at the hospital and Donn was having his heart attack, I can say “the peace of God which passes all understanding kept my heart and mind through Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:7) Had God chosen to take Donn that day I would have experienced the greatest loss of my life, yet I knew no matter the outcome God would sustain me. Yes, I would grieve, I would hurt, I would be tempted to not want to carry on, yet I know without a doubt that God would carry me through anything He allowed in my life.  There is no greater comfort and no greater lesson I could have learned than that.                                                                             —Sherry

Thanks Sherry for caring for me, showing me that you love me and most importantly, loving God, for without a deep and abiding relationship with God all other relationships will ultimately fail.  Ecclesiastes 4:12  “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”


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Thank God for His gracious gift – a heart attack!

Psalm 106:1-2

Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.  Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? who can shew forth all his praise?

It may sound strange to hear someone say this but over the past 8 months I have prayed this over and over many times.  I cannot comprehend all the reasons God allowed me to experience a heart attack, but I can tell you that there are some things He needed for me to learn and He used this event to get my attention.   Was I a rebellious individual running as far from God as I could?  No, in fact, over the last number of years I think in many ways my relationship to my Lord has been the strongest it has ever been but like many Christians, I began to fall into a comfortable routine in my Christian life and a few subtle areas that seemed to take root in my life overtook more than I realized.  I allowed excuses to cover up and hide a few corners in the heart that I didn’t want to let go. In doing so I got used to not calling these areas what they really were, sin.  When we begin to rationalize those “acceptable” sins we become blinded to their affects on our life.  So yes, I do thank God for His great love for me to do what it took to get my attention so that I might pursue a more sanctified life.

After my heart attack happened and I began to realize the significance of it’s importance to both my physical and spiritual life there were several overriding reasons why I wrote these blog posts called “Lessons from a Heart Attack”.

First, for some personal accountability.  It has now been eight months since my attack and even now I need to continuously be reminded to stay on track, both physically and spiritually.  Even in these few months we have already seen and experienced how easy it is to slip on our good intentions.  By posting these lessons online, I am in a small way allowing myself to be seen by all and become accountable in a more public way.

The second reason I am posting is a hope that you, the reader, might glean something from my ramblings.  If even one little thought or comment might be an ember to a changed life, it would be worth it.  It is my hope that one of these posts would stir up within someone a desire to dig deeper into the Word of God and create a burning desire to live a more sanctified life.  Or for someone to be convicted by God’s Word enough to be will to make a radical change in both their physical and spiritual heart.

Over the past number of months I have shared 5 lessons that God wanted me to re-learn and renew in my life from my Heart Attack:

Lesson #1: Don’t waste the Warning Signs and Risk Factors

Lesson #2:  Things are not always what they appear

Lesson #3:  We influence others more than we think!

Lesson #4:  Good intentions often lead us in circles

Lesson #5:  Don’t forget the brevity of this life

What happened to me, happens to millions of people every year.  Statistically, I am nothing special.  Fifty percent live, the others die.  But I would dare to say that it is the few who take their experience, trial or testing and truly seek after God, and having  a desire to learn the lessons He wants them to learn, the correction needed in their life and the refining He desires to sanctify them are the ones that can truly say, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

So let me ask you:

What has been the “heart attack” in your life?

What significant event has God providentially allowed to come into your life to teach you and sanctify you?

What lessons have you learn from it?

Have you taken the time to write out these lessons so that you can articulate and remember them?

Have you shared these lessons with someone to help hold you accountable?

God has a purpose in ALL things, to refine us and sanctify us.  What are you doing to allow God to accomplish His purpose in your life?

Don’t waste your heart attack !

Next up, I will be sharing comments from several family members on how God has used my heart attack in their life.


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Lesson #5 From a Heart Attack: “I Have How Long?” (part 3)

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Lesson #5, Part 3

Recently for a 4 week period, I had the opportunity to share these lessons with the family Sunday School class that we attend.  Because I am not a regular teacher, preparing for these weeks has distracted me from completing part 3 of the fifth lesson. 

It is neat to see how God directs others in their message preparations to match up perfectly with an ongoing theme that God is showing and using in our lives.  Since my last posting, during an outreach ministry in our local city park, our pastor preached a message to our church and park goers on the Brevity of Life.  Then again on the eighth of August, he preached on Applying Wisdom.  It never gets old to see God working to overlay teaching from different sources to drive home a point we need.

In my last post I said that I wanted to discuss how wisdom is applied in two general ways and while I didn’t say what these two ways were it in the blog, I did in our Sunday School class and these were:  to our physical life and to our spiritual life.  But the more I began to mediate on it I was reminded that this was the wrong approach.  To apply God’s wisdom to the root of our being is to apply wisdom to our spiritual life because our physical life is only an outworking of our spiritual life.

In the last post we ended discussing Psalm 90:12 which says: 

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

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And we talked about the purpose of numbering our days which is to apply our hearts unto wisdom.   We briefly went through the topic of what is wisdom and how to obtain it.  Because my pastor did a great job in his message several Sunday nights ago, instead of me spending many words expounding on a topic that he has done a masterful job in doing I want to refer you to his message on the topic of Applying Wisdom.  You can listen to his full message here.   So get you Bible out or go to your favorite Bible website, turn to James chapter 3 and listen to Pastor Bryan Ferrell as he does some expository teaching on Applying Wisdom. 

So what did you think?  I trust you took the time to listen to Pastor Ferrell message and found it useful.  As you can see from the link, there are many other sermons available from Pastor Ferrell available at your fingertips.  Why not add this link to your favorites!

On my next blog post (which I hope to have posted a lot sooner) I will wrap this topic up and plan to have a few posts from my family on how God has used this experience in their life.


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Lesson from a Heart Attack: I Have How Long? – Part 2

I have how long?

Today we are picking up where we left off from Lesson #5 entitled “I Have How Long”.

In Psalm 90:12 we read,

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

For what purpose does the Psalmist tell us to number our days?  So that we will recognize the brevity of this life and will live out our lives in wisdom.

So let me ask you, how many days do you have left to live?

According to the US Census Bureau, the average length of life in the US is 78.3 years and it is expected to go up to an “amazing” 79.5 by 2020.  If you lived until the ripe old age of 78 how many years would you have left?   For me, it would be 31 years remaining.  Now take out a calculator and multiply the years you have left by 365 days in a year.  Now you have done partially what the Psalmist asks.  I have approximately 11,315 days left with approximately 60% of my life already over.

What about you, how many days do you have left?

My desire is not to encourage us to be consumed with our mortality, but to take the time to regularly assess where we are in life and apply our hearts towards wisdom.  We so often apply our hearts toward family events like births, graduations, marriages, grandchildren and retirement and while these things are good, our actions and reactions in these areas are only a reflection of our pursuit or lack thereof of godly wisdom to our hearts.

Why should we apply our hearts towards wisdom?  We will not do an in depth study on wisdom but I’d like to provide a little insight for you to study out further.  To answer the question, why, we must first define wisdom.

What is Wisdom?

Wisdom is the ability to properly use and apply knowledge, therefore we must first have knowledge before we can have wisdom.  The application of wisdom in the Bible has three levels:

  1. Level one is defined as to have skills such as a craftsman (Ex 35:25-26, 30-36, Jer. 10:9).
  2. The second level is defined as having insight into life’s issues and problems, a problem solver.  I think of an engineer, an attorney, or a judge when I think of this level.  Here are the facts and here is how to solve the problem.  In many ways King Solomon would fall into this category (I Kings 3:1-15, I Kings 4:32-34).
  3. The third level is defined as a way of thinking and being, orderly and morally upright.  Allowing godly wisdom to flow in and through us.  This is the primary purpose of the book of Proverbs (examples: Prov 4:20-27, 22:6, 24:9)
  4. The Bible says in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” It doesn’t say fools despise knowledge, although some do, many fools, and yes even some in the educational system desire knowledge but they fail to have a level three kind of wisdom.   Have you ever heard someone you know that you consider pretty smart say to you they can’t understand the Bible? Or have you wondered why so many smart people reject God’s Word?  It is because they have a human knowledge and they don’t fear (reverence) the Lord.   They can only get to a level two wisdom because they ignore God’s knowledge (Word of God) and harden their hearts towards godly wisdom.  As we reverence the Lord, we will grow more and more in His knowledge, (reading His Word).  As we grow in His knowledge we recognize our human wisdom falls desperately short and it is His wisdom, His application of His knowledge that we need to live a wise and godly life.  So, we then desire more of His wisdom which we realize comes from knowing Him more – Godly knowledge.  (I Corinthians 2:1-16)
  5. It is a gift from God.  James 1:5 “But if any many lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraidth not; and it shall be given him.”   We cannot receive God’s wisdom but through His Spirit – I Corinth 2:14-16
  6. Wisdom is desired by the world.  This is seen in 1Kings 10:23-24

So now that we have a little better understanding of what wisdom is and where it comes from how do we apply our hearts towards wisdom?  How do we apply our hearts towards a level three kind of wisdom?  Here are 4 steps to doing this:

  1. Desire wisdom  Prov 3:13, Prov 4:5, Prov 19:8
  2. Recognize wisdom comes from God  Col 2:2, Psalm 119:18, Prov 2:6, Daniel 2:20, Eph 1:7James 1:5
  3. Pray for wisdom  James 1:5, Eph 1:17, Col 1:9
  4. Seek wisdom in God’s Word  Psalm 119:98

Additional reading on wisdom from  John MacArthur and John Piper

So how does numbering our days and applying wisdom play out in our lives in a practical way?  I see applying our hearts towards wisdom in two general ways. Come back for part three of this discussion and we will spend a little time on this subject.

Comments and feedback welcomed.


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Lesson #5 From a Heart Attack: “I Have How Long?” (part 1)

There are several reasons that I am writing these blog posts called Lessons from a Heart Attack.  First, for some personal accountability.  It has been six months since my attack and I need to continuously be reminded to stay on track, both physically and spiritually.  We have seen how easy it is to slip with good intentions.  By posting these lessons online, I am in a small way allowing myself to be seen by all and become accountable in a more public way.  The second reason I am posting is a hope that you, the reader might glean something from my ramblings.  I hope that these posts might be a catalyst for you to do more of an in-depth study in areas that are of interest or that may be convicting.

So let continue on…

Several hours after my heart attack and having settled into my hospital room, I still didn’t grasp the severity of what happened.   For some reason I wasn’t overly concerned and I began telling people I was ready to return to work the next day.  Of course that didn’t happen.  I don’t know if it was adrenaline or denial or both but in my mind I truly felt as if nothing serious had really happened to me.  Of course while I didn’t think it was much to get overly concerned about apparently someone wasn’t as nonchalant about the whole situation and being a typical guy, I didn’t pick up on the “hints” from that somebody.  My better, smarter and much wiser half was getting a “little” annoyed to say the least about my “no big deal” attitude.  She recognized the seriousness of what had and could have happened and I didn’t.  (Note to self:  Check to see if there is an online course on how to recognize hints from your wife.) 

To be honest I don’t remember exactly when but at some point during those first few days following my attack our doctor told us that 50% of the people who have my kind of heart attack don’t make it to the hospital.  This comment actually took several weeks to sink in before I realized that every second person who had the kind of heart attack that I had… DIED.    

Here are some stats according to buzzle.com  :

Approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack in the United States every year, from which as many as 500,000 die.

Out of these 500,000 deaths recorded in the United States every year, 250,000 deaths occur on the way to the hospital.

In case of heart attack, 50 percent of deaths occur within an hour of the attack before they could get proper medical help.

According to a World Health Organization study, almost half the cases of heart attacks in the world are attributed to high blood pressure.

Heart attack is one of the most common health issue(sic) in the United States, with at least one case of the same for every 20 seconds and one fatality every minute.

Sudden death from a heart attack is more common in women than it is in men. According to the National Registry of Myocardial Infarction, women under the age of 50 are twice as likely to succumb to a heart attack as opposed to their male counterparts.

In 2010, heart attacks are estimated to cost the United States a whopping $316.4 billion in order to provide health care services, medications and, not to forget, lost productivity. (In the first month from my heart attack, mine cost $77,000)  With so many complications to its credit, heart attack is undoubtedly one of the most serious ailment in the world. And hence, it is better off to resort to the practice of healthy living and keep such health issues at bay.

Lesson #5 from a Heart Attack:  Don’t forget the brevity of this life.

My life could have easily been over at the age of 46 leaving a beautiful and loving wife and 5 wonderful kids alone without a Husband or Dad.  The reality of this thought brings serenity to the moment.

We are reminded by the Psalmist that this life is short.  In Psalm 90:10 we read, The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” 

And yet 70 years is not promised to us.  Recently, on two occasions I was once again reminded of the brevity of this life.  One day while at lunch, during the course of my developing this post I received notice that the son of a co-worker was severely injured in a vehicle accident.  He was 20 years old and fighting for his life.  A week past and this young man’s earthly struggle ended.  One moment he was carefree and living his life to the fullest, now he is gone.  Then again almost two weeks ago, I received an email telling me that a 21 year old young man who our family has known for 15 years died after a short battle with cancer.  We all no doubt have similar examples of the brevity of this life.  A young mother dies of cancer with a loving husband and 3 or 4 children grieving their loss.  A soldier, mortally wounded in Afghanistan, or maybe a father in the “prime if his life” dies of a heart attack.  We all have sobering examples.  Death comes so often when we least expect it.

As we continue to look to the Scriptures we read more about the brevity of our lives.

Job 7:1 Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?

Psalm 39:4  LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.

Psalm 78:39   For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

Proverbs 27:1  Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Luke 12:13-21 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.  And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?   And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.  And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:  And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?  And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?  So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

James 4:14-15 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.

I Peter 1:24    For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

At a Liberty University graduation event in 1997, Billy Graham told the students, “The greatest surprise in life to me is the brevity of life.”   Here is a man who lived a full and biblically successful life for God, at this writing he is 93 years old.  He is someone we would say has lived a long and full life, yet he acknowledges life’s brevity compared to eternity.

Many years ago I had the occasional pleasure of ministering with an old time evangelist by the name of B.M. Page.  He had printed up and handed out bumper stickers that said, “Cheer up, you’ll soon be dead.”  While an odd phrase, this saying brought many to contemplate their future and the brevity of this life.  He too lived to be in his 90’s I believe, and he would admit as well that the brevity of life was real.  Most of us will not live as long as these two godly men yet their lives were considered brief compared to eternity.  How much shorter will most of ours be?

Come back soon, to continue on with the second part of a three part post discussing Lesson #5.


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Lesson #4 From a Heart Attack: Going In Circles

Over the years I have watched many people respond to self inflicted devastating events in their lives. We all have seen it happen; an accident due to continued reckless driving, an illness due to poor eating habits and lack of exercise (insert my name here), a diagnosis of cancer due to years of smoking, or other personal life changing events due to poor choices. I have found myself thinking, “Well that ought to get their attention” or, “Well of course they had a heart attack, what did they expect? Look at what they eat!”

After such a life changing event most individuals take immediate action and begin to make changes in their lives. The “husky” (aka fat) guy like me begins to eat better and purposes to lose the weight and exercise, the guy that went bankrupt takes some Dave Ramsey classes and gets fired up, the reckless driver begins to drive as if they were in Driver’s Ed again, the Dad or Mom who flips out takes anger management classes, and the smoker diagnosed with throat cancer starts a tobacco cessation program, the examples are endless. The similarity with most all of these examples is that they begin to make changes in their behaviors that contributed to the unwanted consequences. Many of us who have found ourselves in some kind of self inflicted mess and have had good intentions of not getting ourselves back into that same or similar situation have found our good intentions short lived.

Today I want to discuss those life changing events that should be a catalyst to changed lives.

The 4th lesson I’m struggling through is: Good intentions often leads us in circles.

Over the years you and I have seen many people “fall off the wagon of….” We’ve seen the guy that had his chest split open from heart surgery go back to eating pizza, fried foods, and for desert eat Cold Stone ice cream and washed it all down with a diet Coke. We have seen the drunk that nearly killed someone with their car go back to drinking. And how many times have we seen that individual moving on to a new yet very much the same kind of bad relationship they just ended? When we see these kinds of things happening over and over again often we ask ourselves, “How can they…? Don’t they get it? Don’t they care?” After my heart attack while I attended cardio-rehab I noticed as “new” old people came in, I heard a lot of, “Welcome back” and “Good to see you again.” I thought to myself, “Why are they back? Didn’t they learn the first time around?” Of course these were my thoughts only weeks after my heart attack. I would soon realize how easy it is to “fall off the wagon”.

Since my heart attack I have begun to realize all over again how easy it is to continue in the circle of good intentions. My intention to lose weight and get back into shape has been a noble one, a really good idea, and yes definitely a smart decision. I worked hard and after much work and restraint I lost 25 pounds in the first two months after my heart attack. Since then I have stabilized on my weight. Why? I tell myself it is because I am exercising and muscle weighs more than fat but the reality is I have slacked off in being diligent in my new lifestyle. Something I vowed I didn’t want to do. I’m not doing what I did to lose the 25 pounds. My good intentions, if left unfulfilled will bring me full circle back to where I started prior to my heart attack. I could easily become the epitome of who I have fussed about. My good intentions could be the death of me, literally. I shouldn’t, I can’t let that happen, too much is at stake.

As I think about the aspects of good intentions, I am brought to the thought of our spiritual lives. So often, like in our failed attempts to modify our lifestyles, we fail in our spiritual lives. We intend to read our Bibles more regularly, we intend to stop the sins that so easily beset us, we intend to have a greater outreach toward others, we intend to control our anger or our lying, or for some maybe it is their intent to one day stop fighting God and give their life completely over to Him. Like other areas of our life, we regroup after a life changing event and our spiritual behavior beings to change for the better, but we find that we soon end up going in the circle of good intentions. We do right, we fail, we repent, we do right, we fail, we repent and on and on it goes. The circle of good intentions seems to have us trapped.

So what is the answer? We have good intentions, we know what the right things to do are, but we soon realize these good intentions are not enough.

First, we have to recognize the root of our problem. In business we call this Root Cause Analysis (RCA), the Navy calls it, Debriefing (this was the RCA training we were implementing the week I had my heart attack). In short, it is a process to determine the root cause to prevent reoccurring bad actions and effects (symptoms) from happening over and over again. My problem isn’t that I eat too much and don’t exercise, it is much deeper. Too often we try to fix the symptoms of an issue and wonder why it keeps reoccurring. We try to address the action instead of the internal root cause, our heart attitude and desire. Over eating is a symptom, mismanagement of your finances is a symptom, gossip is a symptom, lying is a symptom, and cursing, blasphemy and disobedience are all symptoms of a deeper cause. Addressing these symptoms may fix the short term issue but it will not ultimately address the real issue and thus the circle of good intentions.

I believe that the root cause in most if not all of these vicious cycles of good intentions is simply put, our sin. And in most cases, I believe it stems from the sin of selfish pride. If you dig down to the roots of the good intentions you have attempted only to fail over and over again you will no doubt uncover the sin of selfish pride. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Why do many people struggle to lose weight? Because we, I, have made unhealthy food more desirable then my health. Do we have difficulties doing our devotions regularly? Why, because our personal time is more valuable to us than building our relationship with God. Just can’t gain victory over xyz sin? Why, because too often our desire for xyz is valued more than pleasing God. But don’t lose heart, while not an excuse, we know that we are not alone in this sin cursed walk of life.

In the weeks leading up to the crucifixion of Christ and the celebration of Easter many of us were reminded of the apostle Peter and of his good intentions in Mark 14. After having observed the Passover, Christ and his disciples went out to the Mount of Olives. Here Christ told his disciples that night they would deny Him. Peter protested and said that while all others may deny Him, he would not deny him. Of course as Paul Harvey used to say, “and now the rest of the story.” We know the events that took place later and Peter didn’t deny Christ once, but three times. Peter had good intentions, but he failed. Another faithful servant of God by the name of Paul confessed that his good intentions were not enough either. He said: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. – Romans 7:19. Further in the passage Paul talks about two “laws” struggling against each other, the law of sin and the law of God. Do you find yourself struggling daily with these two laws? I know I do. We know what the right thing is to do yet we continue to struggle to do that right thing. James says in James 4:17, “Therefore to  him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not to him it is sin.” 

The story is told of Watchman Nee, the well know Chinese Christian and church leader who was once staying in a place with some twenty other Christian brothers. There was inadequate provision for bathing in the home where they stayed, so they went for a daily plunge in the river. On one occasion a brother got a cramp in his leg, and suddenly saw he was sinking fast, so Watchman motioned to another brother, who was an expert swimmer, to hasten to his rescue. But to Watchman’s astonishment he made no move. Growing desperate Watchman cried out: “Don’t you see the man is drowning?” The other brothers, as agitate as he was, shouted vigorously too. But the good swimmer still did not move. Calm and collected, he remained just where he was, apparently postponing the unwelcome task. Meantime the voice of the poor drowning brother grew fainter and his efforts feebler. In Watchman’s heart he said: “I hate that man! Think of his letting a brother drown before his very eyes and not going to the rescue!”
But when the man was actually sinking, with a few swift strokes the swimmer was at his side, and both were soon safely ashore. Nevertheless, when Watchman got an opportunity, he aired his views. “I have never seen any Christian who loved his life quite as much as you do,” he said. “Think of the distress you would have saved that brother if you had considered yourself a little less and him a little more.” But the swimmer, Watchman soon discovered, knew his business better than he did. “Had I gone earlier,” he said, “he would have clutched me so fast and hard that both of us would have gone under. A drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.”

Once we have recognized that our good intentions fail because of sin, we need to recognize that we cannot overcome our sin on our own. The point that I want to make with this story is that we cannot help ourselves; sin cannot be overcome until we are willing to be helped. Until we give up and recognize we do not have the strength within us to do it on our own and allow the mighty arms of the Rescuer to save us, we will struggle and gulp down the water of hopelessness and ultimately be lost.

There is an old saying that, “God helps those who help themselves.” Boy, what a lie from the devil that was; started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve took of the forbidden fruit. It is sad that this lie has been taught for many years. You see, God helps those who realize they have no hope, those that are weak and unable to do for themselves. Like the drowning swimmer, we cannot be saved until we give up and realize we need help. Until we reach that point, our pride keeps us from allowing God to reach down and bring hope for the hopeless. Our rescue from the cycle of good intentions, from the sin of selfish pride can only come when we realize that we cannot make the changes on our own. Our actions are the symptoms of our heart, changed actions are the symptoms of a changed heart.

So what is next once we realize that it is our selfish pride that keeps us from breaking through the cycle of good intentions? While books have been written on overcoming sin, allow me to point you to three chapters in Romans that I would encourage you to read and mediate on as first steps to victory.

Romans chapters 6, 7 and 8 give an explanation of sin in relationship to the believer and unbeliever. The following is the outline of these 3 chapters by Matthew Henry along with the link to his comments. I’d highly recommend that you take a few minutes to read the chapter and comments by Matthew Henry.

Romans Chapter 6

  • Believers must die to sin, and live to God. (Verse 1-2)
  • This is urged by their Christian baptism and union with Christ. (Verse 3-10)
  • They are made alive to God. (Verse 11-15)
  • And are freed from the dominion of sin. (Verse 16-20)
  • The end of sin is death, and of holiness everlasting life. (Verse 21-23)

Romans Chapter 7

  • Believers are united to Christ, that they may bring forth fruit unto God. (Verse 1-6)
  • The use and excellence of the law. (Verse 7-13)
  • The spiritual conflicts between corruption and grace in a believer. (Verse 14-25)

Romans Chapter 8

  • The freedom of believers from condemnation. (Verse 1-9)
  • Their privileges as being the children of God. (Verse 10-17)
  • Their hopeful prospects under tribulations. (Verse 18-25)
  • Their assistance from the Spirit in prayer. (Verse 26,27)
  • Their interest in the love of God. (Verse 28-31)
  • Their final triumph, through Christ. (Verse 32-39)

Can we ever be totally free from the effects of sin in our lives? For the believer, not until we are resurrected and join our Heavenly Father in Heaven, but I’ll leave you with this encouragement: Proverbs 24:16 reads, “For a just man falleth seven times, and rises up again, but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” Yes, a righteous man may cycle through his good intentions a number of times but he will not allow sin to defeat him.

This has been the hardest post to write as it seems to be the most convicting to me. In a society where nothing is our own fault it is easy to find excuses for why we fail thereby not forcing ourselves to seek out and deal with the root cause. So what about you? How are you doing with your good intentions? Are you going in circles too often? Like the swimmer drowning in their self sufficiency, we cannot have victory over our good intentions without the sacrificial gift of a Savior.


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Lesson #3 From a Heart Attack: We influence others more than we think!

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The day that I had my heart attack there was a whirlwind of events with many people involved.  After our initial visit at the doctor’s office my wife Sherry drove me to the hospital for my blood test.   It was then that we discuss who and when we should contact people to let them know that I was on the way to the hospital.  We figured it was a “just to be sure trip” with nothing important to tell so we figured we’d wait until we had the “all clear” and we’d let people know later what a wasted afternoon we had. 

Once the blood test was done to test for elevated enzymes we were told to get to the ER immediately.  We thought it was kind of odd at the time that we had to ask someone in the lab if they were going to show us the way through the hallways to the ER or if we had to find it ourselves.  Someone came out and we followed them.  Hey, maybe it’s not too bad; they didn’t even bother to wheel me up in a wheelchair.  At least I’m not gonna have a heart attack or something.

Once the ER realized my situation, everything went pretty fast.  Within minutes and while being prepped for a heart catherization I had my heart attack.  Sherry was trying to deal with the admissions person regarding our insurance, both her parents and my mom needed to be called, at church , during the middle of the service, with kids in various locations in the service.  Someone had to figure out what to do with the kids while our parents came to the hospital.  Fortunately, a good family friend, Chris, stayed with the kids that evening to keep them occupied.  While this is going on, I’m in the ER fussing about the consultant that I was to meet that night and all that I had to do in preparation for the next day’s offsite training I was coordinating for work.  There were six or more people in my ER bay, and probably 4 or five people had to be called in to work to staff in the cath lab during my procedure.    

Since my heart attack I have seen many nurses both in the hospital and out.  Of course I continue to have contact with my doctor, I had 12 sessions of Cardio rehab with 3-4 nurses at the rehab center managing all the patients in various fashion each visit.  While I was out of work my HR Coordinator Kristie had to cover for me, and of course my immediate family was a constant source of help and encouragement.   

I said all this to say:  You don’t live on an Island, you influence and affect others whether you know it or not. 

My heart attack affected and continues to affect many people.  The doctors and nurses, the medical staff that had to be called in for the catherization, my employer and coworkers, as well as the rehab people.   Apparently my heart attack has affected several men at church, or at least a number of women have told me it will!  And of course most of all my family was greatly impacted.  Our lifestyle at home has changed.  For one thing, no more do we have 3-5 boxes of ice cream open in the freezer!  My actions of eating what I wanted and as much as I wanted, my lack of regular exercise, and just plain procrastination of doing what was best no doubt assisted in my heart attack which has, as I said, affected many people, most importantly my family.  I am realizing that my heart attack even affects people with whom I will never have contact.  For example, the medical expenses for my heart attack cost tens of thousands of dollars which in turn can affect our insurance plan’s experience rate which in turn, while minimal, could have an effect on future rates.   The trickle-down effect of our influence runs further than we ever think.    

But just as my heart attack has affected many people positively and negatively in many different ways, I am reminded that everything I do and everything you do in the open and in secret will affect someone else.  My wife has a saying that she tells our children regularly, “You can choose your sin but you can’t choose your consequences or who will be affected by them.”  How true.  The things we do every day, those little things that don’t seem to add up to anything big, that candy bar, that extra hamburger, that lie, that secret sin,  affect not only you but those around you.  On the flip side, you can influence many people positively as well.  How you respond to crisis, how you encourage others, or how you exemplify integrity at work or with your family, these are just a few positive ways you can influence others. Stop and think about your day today.  Sit down and make a list of how you influenced others today both positively or negatively. 

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

It is really amazing when we think about it how much influence we have with other people.  Even that cashier you cheered up by saying a kind word or that driver you yelled some “not so nice” words at, you influenced even them.

Now what about your family?  How are you influencing them?  Are you a positive influence or negative influence?  Are you pointing others to Christ or are you pointing others towards the world, the flesh, and ungodliness?  Even as Christians we can become too comfortable at home where we say and do things we know we shouldn’t.  Why do you think so many children that were reared in a home with Christian parents stray from the Lord?  I submit to you that in many cases they see our hypocrisy.

The following are some verses that I have found regarding influence.  I’m sure you can add many more to this list.

I Corinthians 15:339(ESV)) – Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.

Psalm 1:1(ESV) – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.

Proverbs 13:20(ESV) – Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

I Peter 3:15-16(ESV) – But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Proverbs 27:12(ESV) – Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 22:24-25(ESV) – Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Proverbs 13:20(ESV) – Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

As we can see, there are many Scripture passages that reference our influence.  See more here 

My point is what we do, good or bad, right or wrong, godly or ungodly, in secret or in the open, out loud or only in our minds, everything we do will affect someone else.  It may have an affect short term or it may be years before it affects someone else, but it will.

I came across the following video sometime ago and I thought it would be appropriate here. 


Mom, Dad, how are you influencing those around you, especially your children?  Are you influencing others towards what is right?  What about your health?  Are you, am I, setting a good healthy example?  Do we watch what we eat and exercise like we should?  The Bible says to the Christian, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  What kind of temple do you want the Holy Ghost to live in?  What about your spiritual walk with the Lord, do your children, friends and co-workers see you striving to serve Him or do they see you striving to please yourself or others more?

We all have choices to make in our lives and each choice we make WILL affect those around you.  It may be physically, emotionally, financially, and most important spiritually.  What do others see in you?  A heart attack waiting to happen, or someone striving to be healthy?  Do they see someone serving self or seeking God?  The first to answers in these statements (heart attack and self)  will bring pain, misery and heartache, the second answers (health and God) will  bring contentment, joy and peace. 

The question is not are you influencing others, the question is HOW are you influencing others?


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Lessons From a Heart Attack #2

The day started off like any other normal Sunday.  The plan was to go to Sunday School and then the morning service at our church, spend the afternoon taking a nap and for our evening service as part of our monthly ministry, take the 4 younger kids downtown to the Salvation Army to play their instruments in the service for the homeless men.  But this Sunday evening was going to be a little different in that we were to play a number of Christmas songs, have the men join in the songs and pass out Christmas sugar cookies that the kids baked and decorated.  This was going to be a great day serving the Lord and others.  As you’ve guessed, it didn’t end up as we planned.

We came home from the morning service and had lunch.  Seven out of ten Sundays we usually have spaghetti.  It is quick and easy.  Then it was nap time!  I lay down but couldn’t get comfortable.  No matter how I laid, I couldn’t get this pain in my chest to go away.  I took some Tums assuming that it was indigestion from the spaghetti sauce but it didn’t seem to help.  For about 2 .5 hours I tossed and turned with Sherry sleeping soundly beside me of course.  Finally I thought tea would help so I got up and began making the tea but soon realized that I really needed to see the doctor.  I felt stupid for going to the doctor’s office for something that was probably nothing.  They’d examine me, tell me to take some Pepcid or something and to be careful with what I eat from now on, but I knew something wasn’t right.

At about 4 PM we arrived at the doctor’s office and they began to run some tests.  My chest hurt with intermittent pain and my tongue was swollen and I was very anxious.  After an exam and a perfectly normal looking EKG, the doctor felt that it was an allergic reaction to the spaghetti sauce and gave me a steroid shot, Benadryl and a nasty cocktail of meds to chug down.  She continued to reassure us that she really felt it was not my heart but an allergic reaction and that the meds should help.  During all this time my pain continued to come and go and while I understood what the doctor was saying, something just didn’t seem right.

The doctor could tell I was very anxious and while she felt this was an allergic reaction and not a heart issue she decide that “to help her sleep better” she wanted to send us to the hospital’s lab to test for an enzyme that is secreted during a heart episode.  Was this her gut or training telling her to double check?  Or was it her way of trying to ease my anxiety?  Regardless, Sherry and I fully believe that it was the Lord prompting her to get further testing done on my heart.

stock photo : Drawing BloodWe arrived at the hospital lab and within about 45 minutes we were being told that we need to go up to the ER.  Once there, we stood around for about 5 minutes while my doctor, who had called in to the ER discussed my condition with the ER staff.  Within 15-20 minutes of arriving in the ER and while being prepped for the Heart Cath Lab I had my heart attack.  My EKG spiked showing the attack and then once the meds kicked in it went back to normal, this is what they expected to see with the meds clearing the blockages.  Within 30 minutes from arriving in the ER I was being wheeled into the Cath Lab.  Two 100% blockages were found and two 50% blockages, not what they expected to see with a good EKG.  A long stint was place in the front artery fixing both 100% blockages and meds will be used to treat the partial blockages.  As I said, the odd thing was that after the attack the EKG went back to showing a normal healthy pattern even with the blockages and remember I also mentioned that the EKG at the doctor’s office showed my heart function was normal as well.   As the doctor who did the stint put it, “He couldn’t trust my EKG’s”.  For some reason they were not picking up the blockages.   

Lesson #2:  Things are not always what they appear

You must be willing to consider more then what the initial tests are telling you and seek the root cause.   If you suspect the answer is wrong even when you’re told it is right, pursue wisdom, knowledge, understanding.

The more I live, the more I am amazed at how God has created our bodies and how complex we are.  Anyone that has any remote understand of our body’s complexity surely cannot believe in the process of evolution.  The fact that God has made our bodies to tell us when something is wrong by way of aches, pains, swelling and at times even by a sensation, a taste or odd feeling in an area of our body is truly amazing.   When the doctor told us she believed my condition was an allergic reaction and not a heart attack, I could not tell you why but that answer didn’t seem right, there had to be more to it.  I could not express it verbally at the time but she obviously could see my continued uneasiness and anxiety.  The first answer wasn’t cutting it and I was somewhat relieved when my doctor decided more testing was needed.

Our medical professionals are very educated and have spent years learning about our bodies, diseases and conditions and how to treat us as patients.  They have a lot of wisdom and knowledge and I for one am very thankful for their dedication.  Like all fields of science, a lot of their diagnosis and treatment plans are based on percentages and norms.  (This is because God has created our universe with order but that is another topic for study.  I’d recommend those interested in learning more about our universe and it’s order to visit Anwers in Genesis).  Doctors prescribe treatments and medication based on outcomes that have been consistently tested, verified and proven to work in most instances.  Yet given all of that precision and accuracy God did not create us to be robots but has created our minds to question things when the pieces don’t seem to quite fit.  Fortunately, most doctors are also willing to consider their initial assessments.  Their egos aren’t as big as many of us think.  They are able and willing to factor in additional information (a patient’s anxiety for example) and consider additional options and evaluations as needed.  Sometimes, even they must rely on their “gut” feelings as they too realize that the first answer is not always the right answer even when the test says it is the right answer.  I am living proof of this and am extremely grateful to my God first as well as to my doctor.

Allow me to insert a short rabbit trail here on how the first answer is not always the right answer.             A number of years ago, my wife was admitted to the hospital due to some medical concerns just shortly before the birth of one of our children.  It was time to do another check on the baby’s condition and so they strapped up a nearby monitor to check our baby’s heart rate.  As they watch the monitor panic set in, they couldn’t find the heartbeat!  Our baby was in distress and immediate surgery was being considered.  More medical personnel hurried in and things started to happen quickly.  Fortunately before too much time had elapse, my father in law looked at the monitor and read the sign attached, “Broken, Do Not Use”.  My father in law commented later that maybe they needed a new office at the hospital called the Office of Common Sense.  While somewhat humorous now, my point again is that sometimes we must push past what we initially believed to be true and seek the root cause.  The first answer is not always the right answer.

Let me ask you this question, how much is a husband worth to his wife or a father to his children?  My doctor could have easily assumed the allergic reaction was the only issue based on symptoms and test results and then she could have given me an Epipen injection and sent me home with a prescription.  She could have avoided the more costly, more invasive procedure and stayed with what seemed the most obvious.  But she knew something was not right, and she pursued it, even when the first answer appeared to be an easy one.  She knew a few extra dollars in cost was well worth what was at stake.  For that we are grateful. 

Now consider your spiritual life.  Far too often we live our lives taking the quick and easy answers, answers that are many times comfortable and acceptable; ones that don’t create a backlash or stir up controversy.  We don’t want to “make waves” so we go with the flow, what is expected, what everyone else is saying or doing.  The term tolerance comes to mind.  Tolerance can be a good thing but our society has perverted this term to mean acceptance of sin.  Oftentimes these answers may come in the form of a preacher or pastor expounding eloquently on the virtues of self acceptance and self reliance instead of teaching that man is depraved.  Unfortunately these “comfortable” and “non-invasive” teachings come from world’s philosophies that contradict the Scriptures. 

I’m reminded of a book written back in 1976 entitled “I’m OK, You’re OK” by Thomas Harris.  I’m afraid many self proclaimed Christians have accepted this worldview.  The problem with this Navy psychiatrist’s premise is that we are NOT ok.  We all have a sin nature and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and as Isaiah 64:6 says all our righteousness are as filthy rags.  We need a radical change in our spiritual hearts and that is to willingly commit our lives to Jesus Christ and  be willing to allow His control in all areas of our lives.  In essence, we need to die to self and live for Christ.

Many Christians and unbelievers alike don’t mind the spiritual steroid shots (feel good sermons) and the spiritual placebo capsules (a quick superficial prayer, an all roads lead to heaven worldview or even an “I’m not that bad” attitude) for the “simple” answers to our spiritual needs, but unfortunately our spiritual needs should not be taken lightly.  I can only imagine what my household would be like today if my doctor had taken the “first” or “simple” answer of only an allergic reaction.  Instead of celebrating my birthday several days ago, my family most likely would be still mourning my death.  Just like many people don’t want to be bothered with actually dealing with serious medical conditions, so too many don’t like to pursue the more invasive spiritual answers that pierce our soul and convict us.  To consider that we might be spiritually going down the wrong path, injecting our lives with the feel good but wrong answers and downing the placebos of self and pride are ideas many don’t want to consider.  We don’t want to think ill of ourselves and our need for spiritual heart surgery.  Like my doctor who ignored “conventional” wisdom, we must be willing to count the cost of the pursuit and be willing to allow the action necessary to truly reap the benefits for our soul.

I believe the reason that many believers and unbelievers alike never go past what they deem as the easy or comfortable spiritual answers, is because of one of the following three reasons:

  1. We are afraid to know the truth and try to convince ourselves that ignorance is bliss and therefore we won’t be held accountable.  But we know that this answer is only an attempt to deceive ourselves.  Answer:  I Corinthians 3:18, I John 1:8, I John 2:4, Romans 14:11-12
  2. We don’t know where else to go to get the truth.  Answer: John 8:31, John14:17, II Timothy 3:16
  3. We really know the truth yet we somehow think that if we ignore it, it will somehow just go away.  This is the area where I think so many of those who name the Name of Christ fall.  Answer:  Romans 1:18-32, II Timothy 4:3-4, I John 1: 5-10, James 4:17

We all come to a point in our lives where we have to make a choice.  We can choose the answers that the world tells us is right and only address the superficial needs in our life or we can pursue what our sinful nature wants to reject and yearn for the more invasive answer to satisfy our soul.

Like the event that took me to the doctor on that Sunday, the answers we seek for our spiritual lives will have consequences – Heaven or Hell, in fellowship or out of fellowship with God.

Like my doctor who was willing to pursue her “gut feeling” even though the tests indicated nothing more needed to be done, we too must be willing to look past what the world says about God and His Word and seek the truth.  It is literally a matter of life and death.

If you’re getting that still small voice within telling you there is more to life then what the world has to offer, if it is telling you that the world’s “right” is really wrong, pursue the Lord.  Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your path, ask Him to guide you in your questions and search.  Matthew 7:7-8.  (John MacArthur has a great read on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit here). 

We must be willing to look past what appears to be the obvious and pursue the right diagnosis both in our physical and spiritual life, it really is a matter of life and death.