all the applause goes to Jesus

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I am a public school teacher and recently I was away (on sick leave) from my class of fifth grade students for two weeks. I sure missed them. It was my delight to return to my classroom last Monday to find a large poster hanging on the wall that read,

“Mr. Roberts, We Missed You.”

During the two weeks that I was away from my classroom I was at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where I had surgery to remove a tumor from my pancreas. God helped me, and I am thankful to say that the surgery was successful. I am healed from the extreme hypoglycemic conditions that were caused by the tumor. It was a miracle—an absolute miracle.

I like the way Eugene Peterson defines the term “miracle” in the Biblical context— it is not some unexplainable act of magic, but rather,

“It’s what God does for us, or does for us through other people, that we can’t do ourselves.”

I, along with many others, were praying for a “miracle” of healing in my life in Jesus’ name, and God did it. God used the doctors and the medical staff to heal me. To God be the glory!

The tumor was really wreaking havoc with my health. The tumor, called an insulinoma, caused my pancreas to produce excessive amounts of insulin, thus driving my blood sugar to extremely low levels. Every day while I was teaching school, I would battle the extreme and rapid ups and downs of my blood sugar levels. I could not manage it. My blood sugar would rapidly drop to a very low level and in response I would eat a handful of candy and it would go up for a few minutes and then rapidly drop again to a low and dangerous level. Again and again, throughout each day, I battled with this rare and dangerous condition.

Every day I was sick, weak, shaky, had a headache, had difficulty thinking and flat out felt horrible. I am sure my students could see the effects and felt the brunt of my poor health, plus they got used to me gulping down a handful of Mike and Ike candies multiple times each day. I am so thankful to be free of that illness!

For the past six months I have been wearing a blood glucose monitor that allows me to be aware of my blood sugar level at any given moment. It was a great help to me as I navigated, and tried to manage, the extreme and rapid changes in my blood sugar levels. I still had it on when I returned to my classroom on Monday. I told the students the story of my surgery and I shared with them that the tumor was gone and that I was healed. One of my students raised their hand and said, “So does that mean you won’t feel sick every afternoon?” I replied, “Yep, that is exactly what it means. I am healed!”

I told my students that a normal, healthy blood sugar level is right around 100. I told them that at 2:00 p.m. that day I would check my blood sugar and show them the results. (Over the months, 2:00 p.m. was a time that I was regularly hit very hard with the effects of hypoglycemia.)

At 2:00 p.m. one of my students raised their hand and reminded me that it was time to check my blood sugar level. All eyes were on me. I pulled out the blood glucose monitor, held it over the sensor on my arm and the numeric reading flashed on the screen. It was 103! I showed my classroom of 24 students the screen reading 103 and with smiles all around they spontaneously broke into applause.

I so appreciate their joy for me and their celebration of my healing. They are happy for me and I am exceedingly happy too. As they were clapping, I couldn’t help but think that it truly is a miracle and all the applause goes to Jesus.

I am thankful.


Faith in God is the only thing that makes sense

IMG_7451I recently journeyed through a time of serious physical illness. The malady had plagued me for years and had worsened over time. Once the illness was medically diagnosed, it took six months of appointments, poking, prodding, failed procedures and ultimately surgery to address the problem. When it first came up many months ago, I “dealt” with it in a practical, common sense sort of way.  But then, through a series of events I realized that I was leaving my faith in God out of this great need in my life. I thought the acceptable, sound, practical, common sense way was good enough and therein was my anemic faith. Somehow, unbeknownst to me, God had become a condiment on the shelf of my life, adding some nuance and flavor at times, but in this situation, that wasn’t enough. I needed all of Jesus and that called for faith. I am thankful to say that with God's help I was healed of my illness, but now I realize that the growth of my faith and trust in God was my greatest need, and the greatest blessing I received. Along with the psalmist I can testify, “In my distress, He has enlarged me,” (Ps. 4:1, KJV). I thank God for His mercy and faithfulness.

Needless to say, faith in God has my attention these days and this morning, with the help of John Henry Jowett (via The Best of John Henry Jowett) and others, I share these thoughts on faith.  

Yet he [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, . . . (Romans 4:20, NIV)

The “promise of God,” in short, was that Abraham was going to have a child and would be the father of a new nation of people whose number would surpass the myriad of stars in the sky. Yet, common sense said otherwise. All the facts—his age, his wife’s age, their situation—didn’t add up for what God said was going to be realized in and through his life, but that didn’t deter Abraham. He believed, and God used him.

“Common sense” was overwhelmingly opposed to all that God said to Abraham. And yet he, “did not waver” or as the KJV says, “he staggered not.” In the Book of Hebrews it says the saints, Abraham included, were commended for their faith; not for their wisdom, practicality, realism, or common sense, but for their faith. I like George MacDonald’s take on faith,

“Faith is that which, knowing the Lord’s will, goes and does it; or, not knowing it, stands and waits . . .” (p. 135)

In other words, faith is a verb. It’s all about trust. Abraham had faith in God, he trusted in the Lord more than in the visible facts . . . and he went. Along these lines Jowett says,

For faith is a finer sense even than common sense. ... Believing is the only true seeing! (p. 135)

The world will quickly call out this behavior as foolishness—and justifiably so. Simple faith does look foolish and it may even feel foolish. But, where is your hope and your trust? Abraham’s trust was in God. The Apostle Paul, the writer of the Romans 4 account, trusted in Jesus too and when confronted with an appeal to common sense said,

We are fools for Christ, . . . (1 Cor. 4:10, NIV)

Facts, experience, knowledge and expertise are all real, important and in their goodness, used by God in our midst. But they don’t trump faith— which is trusting in God in the midst of the unlikely and the inconceivable, and then acting on it. God is more real and more reliable than the apparent. Paul tells us why,

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor. 1:25, NIV)

Jowett wrote this a hundred years ago, but it still rings true:

Never was there greater need of deep-living men and women who will confront the proud and massed “unlikelies” with the spoken promise of our God. (p. 135)

“Deep-living men and women, . . .” God help me! How many times have I thought and even said, “It is unlikely”? In the face of sickness, challenge, financial need, broken relationships, extenuating circumstances, loss, disappointment, frustration, waiting, . . . even death, am I allowing for the goodness of God to shine through, or am I shrouding it with “common sense” and the reasonable response, “it is unlikely”?

The word “unlikely” is defined via Webster as “not promising.” Considering Abraham’s situation: going beyond safe boundaries, moving to a land where he knew no one, having a wife who was aged and barren, and the harsh fact that he was no spring chicken himself, all lead one to the conclusion that the ideas of starting over, creating a new nation and having a baby were all highly “unlikely” for Abraham. Or to put it another way, it was a nice thought but, “not promising.”

And then I read the entire context of Rom. 4:20,

Yet he [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:20-22, NIV)

Wow, here I sit in 2020 with 4000 years of perspective and I see that God’s promise to Abraham panned out, ultimately in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m not opposed to common sense. In fact, I engage it in my own life, pray for it in my children’s lives and wish for it in the lives of other drivers on the road. But my faith and trust reside in a reality that goes beyond common sense—they are centered on the promises of God.

Biblehub.com says there are 7487 promises of God in the Bible. Wow. Abraham stepped out in faith on one of them and it was, credited to him as righteousness. The beauty is that God made good on all His promises and they are certified by John 3:16-17 (NLT),

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

So, where is your trust? Where is my faith? Do I rely on common sense or in the promises of God? And where do I find God’s promises? Thanks to the Holy Spirit and the likes of Moses, King David, the Prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Apostle Paul, a good place to start is in the Word of God (remember? . . . 7,487).

The Bible is the primary way that “deep-living men and women” hear from and abide in God. The Word is living and active, saturated with the Spirit of God. It is light, truth, milk, a mirror, honey, water, food, the law, the way, and life. It is to be a part of us, like a belt of strength and stability around our waist. It stands as a sword for us in the midst of the battle and a lifeline for us in the midst of the storm. It is the standard by which we trust in Jesus and live for Him by faith.

And the result? . . . Jowett sums it up well,

These are the men and women who remain victors on the field at the end of the long and bloody day. At the beginning of the day theirs is the faith which give substance to things hoped for; at the end of the day the things hoped for have become their eternal possession. (p. 136)

Common sense is important, hopefully affording sound judgement in practical and mundane matters, but life is so much more than that. It is wild and alive, and you are precious, so much so that you were bought with a price. We were made by the Creator to love, serve, create, delight in His goodness, call upon His name in prayer and trust Him with all things—the common and the uncommon. Jesus is no condiment, He is our hope and help at all times.

Truly, faith is a finer sense even than common sense. Faith in God is the only thing that makes sense.


singing a little louder

IMG_3743A dear friend recently reminded me of the wonderful song, "Praise the Lord" sung by Russ Taff.  It is a song and message that I love.

Back in the day, I had the privilege of singing this song in scores of worship services. It was always amazing to see the song touch the lives of the listeners. The power of the song resides in its message and Truth. 

After 30+ years of living in and under the Truth of this song I am still singing it today, albeit a little louder and more fervently. 

We are flying home from Mayo Clinic today. I am thankful. 

 

 


Are you desperate? . . . I am.

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Don’t listen to them; just trust me. (Mark 5:36, MSG)

 

 

Are you desperate? I am.

I am scheduled for an upcoming surgery that is very complex and critical to my health, and I recently “googled” the procedure and read the possible complications and side effects.

Note to self for the future: “Don’t google it!”

But, I did google it and I didn’t like what I read. So what do I do with that?

I found my answer in God’s Word.

In Mark 5:21-43 Jesus encounters a desperate father and a despairing woman. It’s an all too real story, awash with struggle, pain, sadness, and desperation.

(Yes, I just redundantly used the words, desperate, despairing and desperation in the two previous sentences. They are all forms of an idea, concept and experience that I want nothing to do with, but in this Biblical account they are implicit and important.)

The man and the woman in this story are “at the end of their rope.” The woman has exhausted all possible solutions for help and healing, and the man has a twelve-year-old-daughter who is dying.  They both need God’s help, but therein is hope, because as Dallas Willard has said,

“God can be found at, www.at-the-end-of-your-rope.com.”

The man and the woman, in their despair, look to Jesus for help—and He helps. Jesus, the Word made flesh, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, touches, heals, helps and restores. It’s an amazing and beautiful story of God’s provision, faithfulness and love.

There’s a twist at the end of the story that got my attention. Jesus is delayed in going with the desperate father to help his dying daughter and the account goes like this:

While [Jesus] was still talking, some people came from the [man’s] house and told him, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?”

Jesus overheard what they were talking about and said to the [man],

“Don’t listen to them; just trust me.”

Wow, Jesus tells the desperate father, “Don’t listen to them; just trust me.”

In this I hear Jesus saying to me, “Ryan, don’t google it; just trust me.”

Are you desperate?

I am, and I’m trusting in Jesus.

(Below is a powerful video rendition of the Mark 5:21-43 scripture account. Please take ten-minutes and watch it.)

 


This Tree—Merry Christmas!

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Here is a picture of our Christmas tree,

and it may be, that it means nothing to you,

but to me . . .

 

It was adorned by hands that I love, love, love,

and is topped by a star of promise from above.

 

The ornaments that fill the branches and boughs,

hold stories that range from then until now.

 

They are memories of God’s faithful hand in our lives,

they tell of His goodness and keep Hope alive.

 

The lights that shine brightly into the night,

remind us it's time for joy and delight.

 

The wondrous sight of our Christmas tree,

calls to mind words the angel said unto me.

 

"This day is born a Savior—Jesus your Lord,

who paid the price for you, that none could afford."

 

So, when I look at our tree, I see Jesus in all,

Saying “Come unto me” and harken His call.

 

That is a picture of our Christmas tree,

And it may be, that it means nothing to you,

But to me . . .


Happy Birthday Dina! You are a gift!

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Dina,

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words,

but I say ten thousand is too few.

As I struggle, slip and slide through life,

I’m glad that it’s with you.

Your smile, your love, your constant care,

steady me as I glide;

and even when I trip and fall,

you’re there right by my side.

As the days fly by, the seasons pass,

and the calendar hints we're old;

I’m blessed by God, and this is true,

that the one, whose mittened hand I hold,

is you.

Happy Birthday Dina!

With all my love,

Ryan


a great pair—32 years together!

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. . . one shoe always missing the other.                                        —John Blase

Dina,

When I think of legendary duos, my mind immediately goes to Mickey and Minnie (yes, I’ll be your Mickey) and good ol’ Snoopy and Charlie.

To me these pairs represent forever love, wholesome fun and committed friendship, and when I think of those attributes I think of us, and our 32 years together.

What a joy it is to be married to you. You are definitely my “better half,” and together we make a great pair. Dina, you are God’s good gift to me. With you, I can go anywhere this adventure of life leads, and without you, I would be like, “. . . one shoe always missing the other.”

Happy Anniversary Dina! I love you!

With all my heart,

Ryan