An Open Heart

Being With Jesus:
Ephesians 1:18

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.

By Bill Rasmussen
Editor, raynoah.com

I recently went through open heart surgery for a double bypass.

I’m sharing these thoughts in the hopes that they will be an encouragement to someone. Two to three years ago I began to feel a lack of energy when I started to do tasks that required exertion. I didn’t think much about the cause other than “maybe it’s because I’m getting older.”

Then two to three weeks ago I began to experience chest pains, otherwise known as “Angina”. Upon a visit to my primary care physician, he immediately referred me to a cardiologist and prescribed nitroglycerin. After a visit to the cardiologist, he informed me that I needed to undergo some additional tests. An echocardiogram was scheduled and it showed some possible blockage of two heart arteries. The pain continued and the “nitro” worked its magic BUT the Doc said the next test would be an angiogram. The angiogram was immediately scheduled at St. Vincent hospital and the results of the angiogram showed 100, 98 & 87% blockages in the main arteries supplying blood to the heart itself. The test was performed on a Wednesday morning and the results given to us immediately with instructions to contact our cardiologist.

Now watch the Lord and his angels swing into action! He takes care of every detail.

Upon returning home from the hospital, I called the cardiologist’s office for an appointment and was told that they could see me in a week. I told the receptionist, I don’t think I can wait that long as there is 100% blockage. She responded with there has been a cancellation today and we can see you at noon. After that visit, the cardiologist called the cardiac surgeon and I was scheduled to visit him the next day at 10am. He had already scheduled surgery for Monday morning after reviewing the test results before I even visited him. At 4pm after the visit with my surgeon, I was scheduled for a visit to the heart unit at the hospital for surgery indoctrination in preparation for Monday morning surgery. Here an angel in the personage of a nurse, told us you don’t have to go home today and wait for surgery over the weekend, we can admit you right now if you ask us to. We agreed and she called the surgeon and they scheduled emergency surgery for Saturday morning at 7am.

Check Your HeartAgain in the way the Lord works out details, my surgeon was the senior cardiac surgeon, Dr. Storm Floten, from the world renowned “Starr Heart Clinic” and the anesthesiologist was the Director of Anesthesiology at St Vincent Hospital. All for emergency surgery on a Saturday morning. I am so blessed. I woke up some time Saturday night/Sunday morning in CICU and they told me my “rabbi’s” had already been by to see me. Thank you Pastors Ray & Ron. I spent 4 more days in the hospital and then they sent me home. God is so good because even after open heart surgery I have experienced no pain and the healing is coming along nicely. And thank you to everyone who has prayed, visited, or called. Most of all, thank you to Jesus.

I don’t know how close I was to Eternity’s door but there wasn’t much margin with 100% blockage. I have to believe there must be some assignments to still complete and maybe writing this blog is my first assignment since I have never done anything like this before!!!

Two lessons here: First, listen to your body and take good care of it. It is the temple of the Lord.

The Eyes of Your HeartSecondly, this is a good segue to talking more about an “Open heart”. Let’s look at Ephesians 1:18. In the New International Version, it says,

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”

Jesus has a wonderful plan all laid out for us to benefit from an eternity with him. But we must accept this plan of grace. Confess your sin, tell him you are sorry, ask for forgiveness and accept his grace for your life.

As your brother and friend, I encourage you, just as I accepted the surgeon’s gift of restoring my health by totally putting my life in his hands with open heart surgery, to “OPEN YOUR HEART” to our Living Savior, know the hope to which he has called you, and in effect totally put your life in his hands. You must open your heart and accept his gift. It will be the best decision you will ever make and it is so easy. An open heart and a softened spirit. An eternity with God.

Thank you Pastor Ray, for letting me share my heart with your readers.

Where Does Time Go?

Reflect:
Psalm 90

The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away…[so] teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:10,12)

True story: Kermit the frog was once heard saying, “Time’s fun when your having flies.” Okay, not true, but you get the point. Kermit got his idiom a bit garbled, but that is quite understandable when Miss Piggy is stalking you!

Kermit was on to something! The truth is, time does fly—whether you are having fun or not. Moses was reflecting on how relatively brief life was when he said in Psalm 90:10,

The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

How true that is! Are you as amazed as I am with the speed of time? What once seemed interminable when I was a kid—school, chores, the preacher’s sermon, winter, life—now seems to rush by like a speeding locomotive. I blinked and suddenly this fifteen year-old kid panting to get his driver’s permit is now in his fifties and panting just walking up the stairs.

Sometimes we forget that our aging parents were once vibrant young adults.

Sometimes we forget that our aging parents were once vibrant young adults.

 

And time keeps on rolling. Watching my wife-to-be walk down the aisle has turned into the new adventure of empty nesting—overnight! Staring in amazement at the mystery of life as our daughters were born seems like only yesterday. Witnessing them go through college and contemplating their own careers, places to live, the kind of impact they want to have in this world seems like a lifetime ago.  Now adding sons-in-law and grandkids and happily adjusting to life as grandparents occupies our world. Walking with my parents as they age and face difficult senior care transitions and having “end of life” discussions with them is something I never contemplated.

Wow, time flies!

You could certainly add your own experience to the narrative. And those of you who are older can definitely add an urgent witness to the speed of life even more than I can at this stage of life: Suddenly, the grandkids are getting married; great grandchildren are arriving; the body is not working quite like it used to even though the mind still thinks of yourself as a youngster, full of vim and vigor; you are facing life without your soul-mate—and something you never dreamed possible is now a gritty reality.

Time flies!

Yes, time flies, and I need to add a twist. As the poet said, “Tis one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” That is the truth, my friend. Time flies, so use it wisely. Make the most of it. Time is a gift from God, that’s why it’s called the present.

So perhaps it would be a good idea to follow Moses’ lead and pray that prayer today—and every day: “Lord, teach me to number my days soberly, so that I might live each of them wisely.”

“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Your Assignment Today:  Stop and smell the roses!

 

The Best of Churches, The Worst of Churches

5×5×5 Bible Plan

Read: Revelation 3
Meditation:
Revelation 3:7 & 14

“To the church in Philadelphia…To the church in Laodicea…”

Shift Your Focus… To paraphrase the unforgettable opening line of Dickens’ classic, A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of churches, it was the worst of churches.”

Throughout the centuries, Biblical scholars have interpreted the letters to the seven churches in Revelation in a variety of ways.  Some have suggested that these letters are written literally to seven contemporary churches throughout Asia Minor during the time of John’s imprisonment, describing real conditions that existed in those churches.  Others suggest that these seven churches represent eras of church history, with the last two, Philadelphia and Laodicea, concurrently representing the condition of the church at the end of time.

I lean heavily toward the latter, but however you wish to interpret, the message to these last two churches is clear, and quite applicable to the church in our day:

One, God assesses the condition of his church far differently than we do.  What we consider weak, ineffective and unattractive in a church God treasures because of that church’s fidelity to his Word.  Size, slickness and sizzle do not impress God if his Word is not being honored above all else.

On the other hand, what we might consider attractive, powerful, and impacting in a church because of its bigness, buildings and budget, God may assess as way off the mark because Biblical truth has been neglected or compromised, all in the name of cultural relevance and church growth.

That leads to the second thought:  Beware of all the bells and whistles when evaluating the church.  If these last two churches do represent the condition of the church in the last days, it is rather obvious that many of today’s churches are indeed the church at Laodicea.  Don’t get caught up in the personality cult and celebrity worship of TV preachers or the hype of the mega-church.

Ask yourself:  Does my church honor God’s Word above all else?  Is my pastor and are my spiritual leaders truly people of God—full of the Holy Spirit, evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives and passionate about fulfilling the purposes of God for the church without compromise?  Is this a church with whom God is well pleased?

If so, then you’ve got a great church.  If not, start praying!

“God evaluates by character not charisma.”

Prayer… Father, purify you church, that we might be the Bride of Christ, pure, spotless, and ready for the return of the Bridegroom.

A Savior That Gets Under Your Skin

5×5×5 Bible Plan

Read: Matthew 15
Meditation:
Matthew 15:12-14

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”

Shift Your Focus… On a fairly regular basis, Jesus got under people’s skin. In fact, he flat out annoyed them—and it didn’t bother him in the least.  He didn’t come to earth to win a popularity contest, he came to get in the way of people’s headlong plunge into hell.  That meant he had to tell them the truth—even if it ruffled their feathers.  By the way, he is still doing that today, and chances are, he’s fixing to ruffle your feathers, too (if he hasn’t already)!

So why is Jesus so annoying?  How come he doesn’t always play nice?  What is it that makes him so willing to irritate sinners and saints—especially saints—alike? I’ve already given the answer, but let me restate it once again:

Jesus is more committed to your holiness than he is concerned about your happiness!

You see, it is holiness that will get you into heaven and keep you out of hell. Now that’s not just my opinion, that’s a direct quote from the Word of God.  Hebrews 12:14 (NLT) very clearly says, “work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.”

That’s why Jesus is so willing to get up in your grill and tell it like it is.  He wants you to be holy, just as he is holy.  That’s why he says things that are uncomfortable, that will make you squirm, that are frankly, offensive…things like,

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you.” (John 6:53, NLT)

“You will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.” (Luke 13:3, NLT)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NLT)

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21, NLT)

“All who love me will do what I say…Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.” (John 14:23-24, NLT)

And on and on the list of Jesus’ annoying sayings goes. Now of course, Jesus is not annoying for annoyance sake.  He says things that make us uncomfortable because he loves us, and wants us to partake of his holiness.  In fact, in the greatest act of love imaginable, he died on the cross so that you and I could enter through his sacrifice into the very holiness that will put us and keep us in right standing with a holy God.  That is called imputed holiness—which Jesus offers as a free gift, received only and completely by grace through faith.

What a deal—Jesus paid the full price for my holiness, and all I have to do is turn to him in full repentance of my sins, full acceptance of his death and resurrection, full surrender to his Lordship over my life, and I am declared holy.  Moreover, I am then declared legally holy because I now stand before God in the holiness of Jesus Christ.

Now there is one more thing: Hebrews 12:14 said we are to “work at living a holy life”.  Since Jesus has graciously done so very much to make us holy, we ought to gladly and thankfully make every effort (this is not about earning, mind you, you can’t earn what you’ve already been freely given) to live a life of complete and utter holiness before God.

Before you groan about this “holiness” thing—truthfully, it’s not such a bad or burdensome deal.  All you really need to do, in light of what has already been done for you, is to gratefully love God will all our heart, mind, and body.  Then once you’ve done that, just do as you like.

But just remember, to keep you loving God as he deserves, expect Jesus to annoy you along the way!

“How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing…it is irresistible.” ~C.S. Lewis

Prayer… Today Lord Jesus, I desire to rid my life of behaviors and thought patterns that prevent my further growth in your holiness. I repent of those things that are keeping me from it and I ask your help in resolutely moving forward.

Blog Update

Dear Blog Reader,

I will now be attempting to publish a day in advance in case you are following the Bible reading schedule provided in “Red Letter Challenge“.  The goal will be to get the blog posted in time, especially if you’re an early riser, for you to read both the assigned chapter in the Gospels along with my take on that day’s reading before you head off for work or school.

Hope that makes sense…and helps your journey through the Red Letters.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Ray