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

Ashley is our oldest child, an active blogger  ( ) 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!


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)


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.


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  :

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.