Russ Ray

Trying to become more like Jesus

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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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Ministry for dummies

Finally, let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong. Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks. We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.—Ephesians 6:10-13 (CEV)

missile on targetI’ve mentioned a couple of times recently that my wife is currently considering a staff position as a worship leader at a new church (well, new to us, at least). Tonight, she will run her first worship practice in preparation for her try-out on Sunday. This is not so much her needing a try-out to get the job–the new church has made it clear that they want her and are standing behind her, but for her to try the job out to see if she wants to do it. Basically, for her to learn on the fly.

Let me tell you what has happened in the past month since she started considering this:

  • Some people at the new church have not reacted very well. However, some people at the new church have been awesomely encouraging.
  • Some people at our old church have not reacted very well. However, many people at our old church have been awesomely encouraging and praying for us.
  • We had a scare at our house when the ceiling started leaking. That will happen when your youngest plugs the sink and overflows it. All is well and dry now.
  • We had a scare at a friend’s new house when our youngest wrote all over herself with marker. And their brand new walls. And their brand new furniture. Thankfully, it cleaned up and all is well.
  • We had a week of bad health for everyone in the house. I think we have a seasonal flu/cold week at our house every year, but thankfully it happened after my insurance at my new job kicked in.
  • My wife and I are both constantly wondering how we can pull this off when we are so ill-equipped to run this ministry. This constantly reminds us that we need to rely on God to equip us instead. He has provided lots of help in this area already.

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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.

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What I’m up to

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.—Ephesians 5:25-28 (ESV)

I’m reading a couple of books right now, and I wanted to get a little bit of input from everyone to think about as I’m reading and afterwards:

  • Chazown by Craig Groeschel—this may sound like hyperbole, but this looks like it could be The Purpose-Driven Life for millennials and the 21st Century. It integrates with free tools on the internet to help you determine what God’s plan is for your life through your past experiences, your present position, and your future hopes.
  • Couples Who Pray by SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt—this will be a Valentine’s Day post next month, so I figured I better get started. News flash, guys: Valloween is less than a month away. Start making plans now.

A couple of questions (you may answer none of them, any of them, or all of them):

  1. Do you feel like you are doing right now what God has put you on earth to do? If not, do you know what God wants you to do and is preparing you for?
  2. Do you pray with your spouse? How often? What have been the effects?
  3. What is your best/worst Valentine’s Day story?

I will go first in the comments.