Russ Ray

Trying to become more like Jesus

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God gives and takes away

I only pay attention to the important anniversaries: my wedding anniversary, birthdays in my family, and my work anniversary (so I know when my raise is coming). Yet, it didn’t surprise me that my wife mentioned this week that it had been a year since our previous church released us from ministry.

I haven’t really wanted to write about it much, because it makes me angry. I could go into a lot of details, but they would really embarrass people at our old church. Dredging that up isn’t productive for anyone and would really just be gossip that would only interest a small group of people, which I wouldn’t be interest in doing anyway.

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Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight

In The Untouchables, the great philosopher Sean Connery makes a comment about how unwise it is to bring a knife to a gunfight.

Connery’s son Indiana Jones demonstrated this in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I may or may not be correct about the family relationships there.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.—Ephesians 6:10 (ESV)

How ludicrous would you look if you defended yourself with a Nerf gun against people with real guns? And yet, that’s what we do in our lives when we try to accomplish things in our own strength.

When I try to resist sin with my own strength, I am feeble and fail.

When I try to endure trials with my own strength, I am frail and collapse.

When I try to do what I know I should do and I’m disconnected from God, it is inevitable that I will fail. It may not be immediate (in fact, immediate failure would be welcome, because false success feeds the ego), but it is assured.

Why? Because in my own strength, I am bringing a knife to a gunfight. In my own pride, I am the swordsman showing off my skills, while the enemy takes but a moment to roll his eyes and pull the trigger.

Let’s put away the Nerf guns and draw from true power, the power of God’s strength. If we want 2017 to be a blessed and successful year, we need to be strengthened by God’s might if we want our actions to be effective.

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This Costco is not our home

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines.Isaiah 25:6 (NIV)

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.Deuteronomy 28:12 (NIV)

213kpigLiving with four women in the house means that we go through a lot of toilet paper. With three children, it also means there is a 60% chance that the roll won’t get changed when they run out, and for some reason whenever I get there I always end up being the one who gets stuck with no roll.

We began running out so frequently that my wife decided to solve the problem by gigantic rolls of toilet paper in gigantic Costco size packages.

People seem to love Costco, and it’s why they also seem to have stores everywhere now, but there is very little that I ever want to buy there. For example, the 5-pound jar of beef jerky is just too much temptation for me to stay up all night eating the whole jar and playing video games with several bottles of Coke.

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Let me tell you a story

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!—Romans 11:33 (ESV)

The_art_scholar_by_amartinsdebarrosAbout 10 years ago, I talked to my wife about the possibility of going back to school to get my Master’s degree. At the time, I didn’t see much opportunity for growth in my job without moving into management, so I felt that a Master’s degree would help me get my foot in the door. My choice was a toss-up between an MBA and an MS Management, and eventually, I chose the MSM because I felt I would get an applied approach that I needed.

About halfway through the program, I had three straight teachers who graduated from the same program and came back to teach classes to adults at night. I was still seeing no advancement potential at my workplace and the idea was intriguing enough to pursue, so when I graduated two years later, I put in an application to become a college instructor and was hired in 2007.

My part-time job as a wannabe college professor has been a great blessing to our family. It’s allowed my wife to stay home and teach our kids. It’s provided an extra income when funds were tight. It’s given me a chance to share my academic experiences with others less fortunate than me: most of them had to put off college because of family commitments or lack of finances.

I learned something very important about my major last week. Like I said, I was undecided which one to take, but I learned some very interesting information while reading through a conversation on LinkedIn:

“In order to teach as an adjunct at an accredited university in the State of IN most require 18 credit hours at the Master’s level in the area that you teach and many require that you are actively working in the field. The MBA does not have 18 credit hours in a specific area. The MSM and the Master’s in Organizational Leadership do.

I could not believe what I was reading. In my indecision about my degree choice and my ignorance about the law, God had the plan worked out years in advance for this huge blessing for my family.

He knew that my plan for my degree was not the same as His plan.

He knew that my choice of degree would have to align with His plan.

His plan was ultimately better than my plan.

I pray today that God will provide whatever wisdom you are seeking from Him, and also that you and I will have the faith to do it.


But God…

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.—Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV)

I had no idea what I was going to write when I woke up today…

But God did.

I may or may not have vaguely mentioned this before, but along with my day job and my part-time job taking care of my dad, I also have a part-time job teaching grown-ups who have gone back to college. I’ve been on a break since the end of May, and I haven’t been able to pick up any courses since then.

This was a bit of a concern, because we’ve got a Disney vacation we’re trying to pay for and we need some other things around the house fixed up… the regular check every other month comes in handy for such things.

I’ve been trying to pick up some extra work this summer, but that’s the time of year that the full-time faculty pick up extra work, so it is usually more competitive. After my most recent contact with the school, it looked like there were no classes open through September.

Some of the timing was advantageous. If I had been trying to take care of Dad and finalize some of the things we’ve been working on for him in the last two months plus grading papers and prepping for class, I would be a basket case. We had just figured that God was removing a distraction for the time being.

Still, it was a concern… but God came in this morning with His usual timing, and now I’m starting a new class on Tuesday.

When I was born, I wasn’t really part of a Christian family… but God knew that He would call to me throughout my life.

When I was a kid, my mom took me to Vacation Bible School to learn about Jesus… but God knew that I would hate Him for most of my life.

When I was deep in sin and rejected by the world, I hated myself… but God knew that He would restore me and give me a wife and family that love me.

When my wife was downsized at her job, I worried how we were going to pay the bills and the mortgage on the house we had just bought… but God made sure we never missed a payment and got her a job within 2 weeks.

When we tried so hard for so long for our first child, we thought it would never be possible without expensive fertility treatments… but God gave us two more girls after Maddie that didn’t need a fertility doctor.

When our baby was born and laying there with a vent tube shoved down her throat, I thought we were going to lose her… but God has already given her nearly 6 years of wonderful life that we’ve cherished.

God knows the beginning, the middle, and the end of our story. We are just here watching it play out, watching His plan put into action, and acting on the things we can do while trusting God to act on the things that only He can do.

I thought I was going to write something trite today to check off a box that I wrote something… but God had other plans.