I Need To Ask You A Question

Well, the holidays are over.  Betty is out of her casts.  I'm looking at a New Year, and I need your help. 

I've been blogging for some time. But there comes a time when you need to reassess what you are doing and why you are doing it.  

It was my original intent to write a daily devotional that would inspire you to grow in your relationship with Christ.  It has made some changes over the years, but that has been the main thrust.  

It occurred to me the other day that while I write, and I admit I am not the most prolific writer in the world or even the Northern Hemisphere.  I don't know if anyone is reading these blogs for their content.  I can see people clicking on the blogs, but clicking and reading are two different things.  

So with that said, if these blogs are valuable enough for you to say, "Yes - Russ, keep writing - I'm really reading them."  Click here and send me an email and write YES in the subject line.  

Thanks for your help and have a great day! 


She Is A Miracle - Because Of You

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 1: 10 - 14. 10 He also says to the Son, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain forever. They will wear out like old clothing. 12 You will fold them up like a cloak and discard them like old clothing. But you are always the same; you will live forever.” 13 And God never said to any of the angels, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.” 14 Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.

What does this passage mean to you? 

BLOG: "Wow! I am surprised that you are doing so good!" "You've made a remarkable recovery!" "You're doing so good!" "Most people wouldn't have bounced back as well as you have!"  

These are comments from doctors and medical professionals. 

People have been asking. "What do you eat?" "Do you work out?" "What kind of vitamins do you take?" Of course, we answer their questions, but there is another answer that is just as important. 

Ephesians 6:18  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

When Betty broke her leg, people prayed. When Betty broke both of her arms, people prayed with compassion and faith. Both of us spoke with people who were visibly shaken by what had happened. People we never met would walk up to us and say, "I'm praying for you." 

But Pastor Russ. Didn't God heal her? I beg to differ. 

Her body was able to start mending bones within days of the initial breaks. Doctors were shocked. 

She did not need surgery or any other assistance, other than the casts she wore. Some were surprised. 

While she had to deal with the change in lifestyle while she recovered, she never lost her will to live. Many commented on her enduring spirit. 

Do you think all of this happened because she takes the right vitamins? I don't think so. God was with her THROUGH THIS. Because people, like you, prayed with faith and persistence. God didn't make our lives easier. He is just seeing us through this. We still have some hurdles to jump before the doctors say, "It is finished!" She is weaning herself off of the boot for the next two weeks. There are some symptoms we may have to address a year from now. Really! 

What we cannot do is this. Move on and forget about it. The purpose of praying isn't to "fix" this. The purpose of praying is to invite God into the midst of our lives. Then we should thank Him for what He has done (and is going to do). God has done something great - let's give thanks and praise Him for keeping His promises! He promised He would never leave us or give up on is. Now you have a living example of His truth to inspire your faith. 

PRAY: Dear Jesus, thank you for what you have done for Pastor Betty! You've kept Your Word again! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! 

PS - Now that I don't have to dedicate as much time to Betty's care, I can begin to blog more often. But during this "sabbatical," I have been thinking about how I can improve my blogging for 2020. So hang in there. I'll be blogging daily again soon. 

Waiting On God

BIBLE READING: Heb 1: 5 - 9. 5 For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: "You are my Son. Today I have become your Father." God also said, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son." 6 And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said, "Let all of God's angels worship him." 7 Regarding the angels, he says, "He sends his angels like the winds, his servants like flames of fire." 8 But to the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. 9 You love justice and hate evil. Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else."

What does this passage mean to you? 

BLOG: Hey! I got another one in! I'm getting better at this! 

Waiting isn't one of my stronger qualities. That isn't to say that I can't be patient, but when your schedule gets turned upside down - you get to wait - A LOT!

I've tried to use this time constructively. Now I could read a book or take an online course. But instead, I decided to talk to God about some things. 

"Pressure" has been my middle name for the last few weeks. I will not go into all the details, but let's say that I've learned how to be Mr. Mom if there is one thing that you want to do when under pressure is to make it stop! But stop isn't an option. You and I have been in situations where we have to go through it, not around it. What do you do? This is the verse that God gave me the other day. 

Psalm 46:10. "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

"Be still' means to stop striving, stop fighting, relax. It also means to "put your hands down." It is the hardest thing to do. But in the end, you have to let God fight your battles for you. 

Admit that you can't fix everything. This is an act of humility. Stop trying to be a savior and let Jesus be your Savior. 

Stop worrying. Nope, not easy but necessary. Worrying doesn't work. Jesus said so. 

Appreciate what you have. Often we will miss appreciating what we have because we are too focused on what we don't have. 

Pray persistently. This one is a given, but we need to pray and not give up. 

PRAY: Dear Jesus, help me to wait. AMEN. 

8 Steps To Making A Come Back

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 1:1 - 4.  1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. 4 This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.

What does this passage mean to you? 

BLOG: I blogged!! I know, I'm surprised too. But Betty got her arm casts off yesterday and is starting to become a little more independent. She still has her leg cast on, and her arms are not back to 100% yet, but we're getting there. 

When Betty broke her leg, it was a traumatic experience for everyone. Everything changed to accommodate the need. But when she broke her arms two weeks later, I knew that I was in trouble. Everything was going to change again. But how? 

First of all, stick to your priorities. Know what is essential, and don't be afraid to use the word, "NO!" My wife came first, and I had to set some of my responsibilities aside to meet her needs. 

Then, choose the change you wish to experience. I would never wish a broken leg and two broken arms on anyone - ever. But the change that it brought into our lives I do have something to say about. Everything doesn't have to be wrong. The power of significant change comes from a great attitude. 

Now, don't lose your joy. No, I wasn't happy about what happened, but I didn't allow that to steal my joy. Joy sustained me every day. 

You can use your new schedule to your advantage. I found myself in different places at different times. I used the time to reflect on life and what we need to change. 

You have to learn, learn, learn. Situations like these will teach you lots of things about yourself and others. (See the next step below.) But you will learn nothing if you refuse to be a student. Open your eyes and see your new life. 

Let change teach you compassion. Most people fight change with anger. That would be acceptable if the change were some injustice. But most of the time, change requires compassion towards someone who cannot help themselves and your pride. 

Run to Jesus, don't run away. In our anger, we will blame God and run away from Him. God is not a bully, and He didn't do this to you. But He will be right there if you go to Him. 

Don't be afraid. This one has been tough for me — too many unknowns. God has been with us, but the pressure can be debilitating at times. Remember, Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

PRAY: Dear Jesus, help me to make a comeback. AMEN. 

A Bad Thing Happened - Updated

BIBLE READING: Philemon. 17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL! 20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ. 21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!22 One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. 24 So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers. 25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

What does this passage mean to you?

BLOG: This blog may be a little long - but I guarantee that it is worth it. 

Here's the update to the whole "broken arms" disaster. Bad News: The Radius bones are broken near the elbow. Good News: We might get out of the soft casts next Tuesday - please pray. We're out of the wheelchair and now walking in a boot for the next two weeks. So, in short, she looks like a zombie walking. 

Today is Bettys Birthday. You can go on Facebook and wish her a Happy Birthday if you want to. But needless to say, we're holding off the "big celebrations" until later. 

This Sunday, I shared with the church, something that I thought I would share it with you. 

Often we try to understand why bad things happen to good people. We blame the devil, or we blame God by using the question, “What is God trying to tell you?”

In Betty's case, we blame the shoelace that got caught in the spokes of her scooter, locking it up and tossing her headfirst into the concrete. Neither the devil nor God is to blame for this. No more than you are to blame for getting the flu or unfortunate event that has happened to you. 

Jesus addressed this in John 9 
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The man is blind due to a birth defect of some kind. But the Old Testament tradition taught that if something terrible happened to you, it was God’s punishment - (Read the book of Job.) The Old Testament also explained that the sins of the father would be passed on to three or four generations. 

But we are under the New Testament. 
#1 - Jesus broke every curse on the cross. Being a follower of Jesus means you do not have to carry on the family curse. 
#2 - Jesus went to the cross because He knew that someone would fall off of their scooter and break both of their arms. (Isa 53.)

While God will use opportunities to teach us patience, build our faith, and draw us closer to Him, He isn’t a bully. He will allow us to experience our mistakes and failures - then love us through them. He knows we live in a world of sin that includes war, disease, accidents, and more. He will still love us through them too. 

When bad things happen to good people, God will rush to your side. But hell will show up to take advantage of the situation. 

God is doing great things here at FFWC, and hell would love nothing more than to: distract you from your source of hope and strength, discourage you from believing God is here for you right now, depress you into giving up on yourself and everything else. 

People have been asking, “What can I do?” 
- Be a friend. Friendship is more important than anything. 
- Pray for her. Healing in Jesus' name. 
- Encourage her. Anyone who has gone through anything like this will tell you, and depression will come. 
- Be patient with me. I have to make a lot of tough calls. 
- Help us pick up the pieces. Anytime your life goes under pressure, and you will discover what will last and what you're made of. 

Now, after all of that - let me say this. 

Every wise pastor will tell you that you are married to your wife, not the church. If you reverse this order, you might end up divorced. Over the last few years, the pressure that comes with pastoring has increased. Any pastor can confirm that. But when the pressure comes, it chews up your margins. What are margins, you ask? Have you ever read a book that had some white space around the page for you to make notes or comments on? Well, life is a lot like a book. You need margins spiritually, emotionally, and physically. But slowly, over time, your margins can disappear. You can't keep up, and you make too many mistakes, you're physically exhausted, your marriage and family suffer. You don't plan it, but it happens. Life slowly chews up your margins, and you start doing things you said you would never do. 

Being my wife's primary caretaker for the last few weeks had changed my heart. I can see mistakes that we are making in ministry, our marriage and family that are costing us dearly. I wish "fixing" these issues were as easy as mending a broken bone. But they are not, they will take more time. 

Normal has to change because, in reality - normal was dysfunctional. But good will come from this. God will get the glory, and roses will bloom again. 

So my birthday present to my wife is this. "Honey, I didn't know I could say this after 35 years of marriage - I love you now more than ever." 

PRAY: Dear Jesus, help me to have healthy margins for my life, my marriage, and my family. AMEN 

I'll blog again, but I do ask for your patience. My new "normal" has yet to be found. 

A Bad Thing Happened

BIBLE READING: Philemon  8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

What does this passage mean to you? 

BLOG: I didn't blog yesterday, but in my defense, I was very, very busy. 

Around 1 pm, I heard a scream. It was my wife, and I recognized what kind of cry it was. She had fallen and hurt herself. Long story short, she broke both arms. Now, remember, she broke her leg just a couple of weeks ago. She was and is in pain. 

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

We all love to quote that verse, especially when we face something whose reward is welcomed. But the problem is when we encounter something severe and painful. We don't want to quote it. No, I am not saying that I don't want to serve and love my wife. I am saying that I don't want to watch her go through this. It is painful and harsh. 

But - I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

How, Pastor, can I face these seemingly impossible problems? Here are a few things you can do to meet the unwanted or undesired. 

Remember that God is the God of the impossible. You say, "impossible." God says, "I've got you." Trust Him through this time. 

Love the person, not the problem. We can and will get angry. But remember to focus your love on the person, not your anger. Sure, maybe they deserve it (no my wife doesn't) but not now. There are a time and place to do the right thing. 

Believe in yourself. God created you knowing that you were going to go through this. 

Don't be afraid. What if I make a mistake? It isn't a matter of "if" as much as a matter of "when." Don't be afraid to make mistakes, to say "I'm sorry," or forgive yourself. 

PRAY: Dear Jesus, I can do all things because you are my source of strength. AMEN