It is good to give thanks to the LORD
For the past few weeks, I thought I had solidified my topic for this edition’s testimony. However, as the days wore on, it just was not coming together, and it became clear the reason for that was because it was my topic and not the Lord’s. I realized I had not prayed for discernment on what he wanted me to cover as I usually do. I resolved that problem and turned it over to the Lord.
The days went by and nothing. A few days ago, I received a call from a pastor and missionary friend who lives in Canada. His name is Mark. He had called about a week earlier and left a message wanting to pass his thanks along to the Breath of God Ministry and Band of Brothers for a gift we sent at Christmas. He called again as he wanted to personally connect to convey his gratitude. We talked about how blessed we are, not only for how God blesses us individually but also for allowing us to be involved with His work. He shared a difficulty of being a pastor during these times and the impact it has had on his missionary work. He did not lament, though, as the Lord had revealed many needs that needed to be addressed. He was excited about a need in India his team learned of that they could not turn away from. That need was 50 young orphan girls who have been isolated in a small one-room building since the start of the pandemic last year. How horrific that must be! He was grateful his group learned of this situation, and he was excited that they are currently having an orphanage built to house the children. I really enjoy talking with Pastor Mark as he is always so grateful for the work his team is able to perform, as he often says, “All for Jesus.” He exudes a lifestyle of gratitude and lives the scripture verses, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night.” (Psalm 92:1-2 NKJV)
I woke up this morning, rolled over to check the time and temperature, and noticed the date, March 13, 2021. I realized that it was three months ago today I received a call from my heart surgeon saying, “we have a bed available, and I would like you to come to the hospital today so I can do your surgery first thing in the morning.” I had been targeted for a mid-January operation. He stressed that delaying was not a good option. That was a shock! At that moment, I was watching a church service online. What to do? Well, as they say, the rest is history: the surgery, triple bypass, went well; my recovery, although not always smooth, is now going nicely; and I have been given a new lease on life. As I lay there this morning thinking about all that has transpired, I was reminded of how extremely fortunate I have been, not only the past few months but my entire life. Then, the light bulb went off, gratitude. God had planted that thought through the talk with my friend Mark. Lying there, I realized He wants me to share my gratitude for His love for me with you.
For years, I believe I took my blessings for granted. I knew I was fortunate to have come from a loving family, to have moved to America where the opportunities to succeed through hard work seemed endless, to have met the love of my life, and to live in a time when you could achieve that “American Dream.” Through good health, hard work, the help of friends, the love and support of my wife, and good fortune, I was able to achieve a prosperous life. But, as I have explained before, something was missing, and that was Jesus. I knew about Him my whole life, and looking back, I now realize he was always there protecting me, standing at the door of my heart, waiting for me to invite Him in. I am sure that my mother-in-law and Liva’s prayers had a lot to do with that, and I am so grateful for their perseverance. Seven years ago, I opened that door and let Him in. Since that day, I have found a joy that I could not have imagined in years past. Jesus talks about it in John 15:9-11: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Let me digress a minute. I have seen that joy in people. I first saw it in my mother-in-law, although I did not realize what it was at the time. I have written about her before, but it bears repeating. Opal had such a spirit of joy that emanated from her love of Jesus. I will always be grateful knowing she prayed for me every day of her life. Everyone should be so fortunate to have someone pray for them every day without fail. We connected like few mothers-in-law and sons-in-law ever do. Liva often said, “she likes you more than she does me.” One regret I have is that she never got to know of my salvation. But I am sure she knew it would happen one day as her trust in Jesus was so complete. Since being saved, I have seen that “complete joy” many times. Pastor Mark exudes it, and other friends exhibit it. They are such enthusiastic, humble servants of the Lord that enrich my life.
Prior to getting saved, my joy was nowhere complete, I was a lot like those good Old Testament Israelites, who were rescued from bondage in Egypt, and nothing was ever good enough for them. They were not only rescued from slavery, but they also inherited the “promised land,” and yet they still complained and rebelled. Throughout my life, I have been blessed far beyond what I deserved and often received more than I gave. I don’t think I was a glass-half-empty person, but there were far too many times I found clouds behind the silver lining. With Jesus, I am learning to replace complaining with gratitude.
I recently found a silver lining behind some dark clouds. There I was working hard with my Band of Brothers trying to raise money to brighten the lives of nursing home residents that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re experiencing a world of isolation like few others have. Then out of the blue, “serious coronary disease” (my cardiologist’s words) raised its ugly head requiring triple bypass surgery. There was a time I would have been bitter, very discouraged, and even angry. I’m sure my thoughts would have included, “Hey God, why this when I’m trying to do good here?” Rather than complain about my plight, I viewed this trial as a blessing and as an opportunity full of potential with God’s help. And it has, reinforcing Paul’s words, “We know all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
It may seem strange that I am grateful for my bypass trial. It clearly was not the most pleasant thing to undergo. Without it, however, I would have never experienced that wonderful encounter with angels that I discussed in my last testimony. Without it, I would not be enjoying His “peace that passes all understanding.” Without it, I wouldn’t have that “complete joy” that my mother-in-law possessed, and that Pastor Mark and other friends exhibit so freely.
By putting my faith in Jesus, I have learned that I instantly received treasures far better than this world can offer. We not only get the gift of eternal life, but He comes and abides in us in the form of the Holy Spirit, allowing us to live a much richer, abundant life that He desires for us. When I invited Him into my heart, He changed me forever, transforming me in how I see the world by realigning my priorities to His will and putting me on the path to righteousness. I am and will always be eternally grateful for His faithfulness towards me.
Easter Is Upon Us
As Easter approaches, I cannot fathom what Jesus did for me, the pain He endured to cleanse me of my sins. He suffered the most horrible of deaths, mocked and scorned throughout the unrelenting barbaric cruelty unleashed on Him, and He did it with willing obedience. How God the Father must love us that He would have His Son die so gruesomely for us so that we could have eternal life if we believed Jesus died for our sins! His mercy and grace towards us know no bounds. It is available to all; just believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised from the dead.
My hope and prayer are that I can live that abundant life that God desires for me. I know I must keep His commands as it is written in John 15: 9-11 mentioned earlier. I want to make the most of what time I have left serving Him. To do that, I know I must listen for His voice. I need to be like Joshua as he asked God in the book of Joshua 5:14 (NIV), “What message does the Lord have for his servant?” I am totally aware that I will not find His voice in today’s culture. I need to be tuned into what the Bible says, listen to pastors who preach the Word and emulate friends who are Godly examples. I am fortunate and grateful to have such believers in my life. It takes more than listening, though. To enjoy that abundant life, I must seize those opportunities, i.e., obey when they arise. I am so grateful that God put me in a time-out phase so that I could get my priorities aligned to try to live an abundant life, one that my friend Pastor Mark says, “All for Jesus.”
If you do not know Jesus but desire an abundant life also, just know that He too desires an ongoing relationship with you. He is standing at the door of your heart, just waiting for an invitation to come in. What better time than Easter to open the door and invite Him! Do so, and you too will experience “complete joy” from here on throughout all eternity, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20 NIV)
Feature images: Backyard Photography, Alan Tucker