Life in the Kingdom of God

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Romans 14:17-18

In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul reminds us that life in the kingdom of God is not just about eating and drinking. Nope, it has nothing to do with that at all! Instead, Paul declares that life in the kingdom of God is all about righteousness, peace, joy, and service. These things are pleasing to God.

It reminds me of another passage. This one comes from the Psalms and declares, “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful (Psalm 68:3). I love the way the psalmist proclaims that the righteous should to be glad and rejoice before God. Isn’t that the way we should live our lives in the kingdom of God?

It seems so simple. God asks so little of us in the big scheme of things. He holds the universe together, supplies all our needs, blesses us, sacrificed His only Son for us, provides us the opportunity to live with Him for eternity, and a host of innumerable acts of grace. In exchange, God simply wants us to praise Him with a spirit filled with joy, peace, and gladness. Wow, what a great deal! But wait a minute. Does this mean only when things are going my way and I’m on top of my game? Let’s scan both passages for a minute. I don’t see any qualifiers or conditions in either passage indicating we are to be glad, joyful, and peaceful only when things are going our way. We need to be this way all the time as we live life in the kingdom of God.

Even in the midst of dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, we are to be glad and rejoice before the Lord. Now I know that is a pretty bold request given all Alzheimer’s disease entails! But life in the kingdom of God isn’t over even though we struggle with the disease. There is still lots of living and loving left in our lives. God isn’t through with us just yet and the final chapter of our lives hasn’t been written.

So rejoice and be glad before God today. Praise Him with a joyful spirit and thank Him for all He has done in your life up to this point. Alzheimer’s is most certainly a challenging condition to say the least. It requires each of us to remain positive and find ways to cope with changing conditions. But the Holy Spirit is the key to keeping our lives righteous, peaceful, joyful, and filled with service!

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In ALL Things

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Today’s passage is one of my favorites from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman church. It is a passage I put to memory many, many years ago and I have used it countless times in prayer, teaching, devotions, and meditation. It reminds me how much God loves me. So much so that He can take the worst situation and work it to the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

I suppose you could say that a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease could be considered a “worst situation.” However, God has somehow worked this situation for good for me. How did He do this? By giving me a new heart and the Holy Spirit. To explain I once again turn to Brian Chapell’s book, The Promises of Grace. In it he claims the following:

In contrast to a life with a defective heart, a life with the new heart supplied by the Spirit has these vital signs: new desires, new abilities, new sense of obligation, and new deeds.

Since my diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, God has indeed given me new desires, new abilities, new sense of obligation, and new deeds. My desire is to bring an end to Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, I do all in my power to raise money, raise awareness, and raise support in an effort to help those with the disease. My new sense of obligation is to help find a cure or new treatment for the disease. Therefore, I have participated in two 18 month clinical trials and hope to do one more clinical trial. You see, clinical trial research is the only way we will ever bring an end to this disease. Finally, my new deeds include speaking about living with the disease, serving on the National Board of Directors, and serving on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s committee. All these things are good things brought about because of the disease.

God has somehow turned this diagnosis into something that will help others and maybe bring an end to this disease. Am I happy about living with dementia? Absolutely not! But the Holy Spirit fills me with joy and peace as I continue in the fight. Besides, when I am fighting or writing about the disease, I am not thinking about the final stages.

God is so gracious and I firmly believe and proclaim that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose!

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Pleasing God

Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. Romans 8:8

After being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I tried to continue my work as an engineer and Operations Research System Analyst for the Department of the Army. Unfortunately, my brain was no longer working like it did before so my analytical abilities and reasoning skills were severely impacted. As a result, my work suffered immensely. The command for which I worked didn’t want me to retire because they felt they could use my well established analytical record and good name to push through less than optimal work. After totally messing up some critical projects, I knew in my heart I could not allow my exemplary record to become tarnished. Besides, I could no longer accept a large salary when I could no longer perform in an exemplary manner. Therefore, I opted to retire early at the age of 55.

I wonder how often our good Christian names are tarnished because of the way we live out our lives. Today’s passage reminds us that if we are controlled by our sinful natures we cannot be pleasing to God. As children of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17), we must live and walk by the Spirit so as not to tarnish our God given relationship.

Scripture reminds us to live our lives in a manner pleasing to God. In Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica he wrote, “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:1–20).” The Apostle Paul desired the Thessalonians to live holy lives free from sexual impurity. He wanted the saints in Thessalonica to lead quiet lives, mind their own business, and work with their hands to ensure their daily lives would win the respect of others. Living under these holy guidelines and walking in the Spirit would certainly please God.

As I struggle with Alzheimer’s, I continue to work with my hands in service to others, live a peaceful life, mind my own business, spend time with the Lord, and do my best to avoid unrighteous activities. In fact, Alzheimer’s has enabled me to slow down; spend more time in prayer, reading, and study; and live more simply.

I pray my life is pleasing to God in spite of my disease. How about you?

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The Greatest Gift of All

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

Bryan Chapel, one of my favorite study authors, wrote in his book, The Promises of Grace, the following insightful truth:

Regardless of what difficulties they face, all Christians must be ever diligent to remember the greatness of the truth that they already have the greatest gift of all–life in in the Spirit. If they forget this deep well of ever-dependable joy, they are doomed to measure their joy by the shifting sands of their circumstances, their achievements, or their acceptance. They must remember they have access to an infinite reservoir of happiness in the life the Spirit provides and have the privilege of tasting its refreshment even when their world turns to desert.

This is exactly what the Apostle Paul was attempting to relay to the saints in Rome when he wrote Chapter 8 of Romans which is often entitled Life through the Spirit. In today’s passage, Paul specifically tells them that if their mind is governed by the Spirit (in other words if they live and walk by the Spirit) they will experience a new life in Christ and a peace that surpasses all understanding. Wow, what an incredible promise Paul made to his brothers and sisters in Christ given all the church in Rome faced!

I’m not much to mince words; however, I love the way Bryan Chapel expresses “life in the Spirit.” He claims the following:

  • It is the greatest gift of all.
  • It provides an infinite reservoir of happiness.
  • It produces ever-dependable joy.
  • It gives us the privilege of tasting its refreshment even when our world turns to desert.

Well I can’t imagine a more difficult or barren desert than early-onset Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia. These disease dries up your memories, reasoning skills, and decision making abilities. However, as Christians we can still enjoy the fruits of living life in the Spirit. God is with us as we journey through the dementia desert and He brings joy, comfort, strength, contentment, peace and purpose even though we struggle with the daily demands of the disease.

How do I know this to be true? Because I have been living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease for over 8 years now. During this time of journeying through the dementia desert, God has done all this and much more. Like the Apostle Paul claimed, God has granted me life and peace as I remain attached to the vine of Christ. I know He can do the same for you!

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Evil Versus Good

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing. Romans 7:19

A few years ago, in our young adult Sunday school class we discussed the topic of sin for quite a few Sundays. Of course, we could collectively remember most of the sins from the Ten Commandments and were pretty sure we were doing well on many of them. However, the study we were using led us into the “gray sins” which we listed on a dry erase board for all to see. We listed things like stirring up stuff, talking trash about others, telling white lies, ignoring the needy, not living up to our full potential, and being two-faced. Our list of thirty “gray sins” remained on the board for a month and members of the church were both intrigued and convicted by the list.

As I read today’s passage written by the Apostle Paul, I wondered if perhaps he was referring to these kind of sins when he declared, “But the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing.” Perhaps Paul was doing somewhat okay on most of the Ten Commandments but maybe his heart was not as pure as God needed it to be.

Since I’ve retired because of Alzheimer’s disease, I’ve had lots of time to reflect on my life. I suppose I’m as guilty as anyone, to include the Apostle Paul, of not having my heart right with God. I’ve engaged in many of the gray sins and even broken some of the Ten Commandments as well. It seems, like Paul, I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I seem to keep on doing. This is especially true when I don’t stay connected to the vine of Christ through prayer, Scripture reading, and meditation.

Like Paul, all I can do is repent, forget the past, and press on to live a life pleasing to Him. Is it tough? Yes, especially when Alzheimer’s disease rears its ugly head and I am a bit more stressed and critical than I should be. When that happens, I try to slow down, spend some time in stillness before the Lord, and seek His forgiveness. When I do this, His grace overwhelms me!

If you are struggling with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia, you may have a similar problem doing evil versus good. If you do, I hope you can reflect, repent, and feel His grace as well. Then perhaps you can live a life worthy of the Gospel because Alzheimer’s doesn’t give you a free pass either!

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The Power of Grace and Everlasting Love

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38

I love to read books and I especially enjoy reading Christian literature. Unfortunately, I am unable to remember most of the information that I read at any given time even though I have read it multiple times. Nonetheless, I still take pleasure in reading even if it only brings enjoyment and temporary knowledge at the immediate moment.

One of my recent books was The Promises of Grace by Bryan Chapell. Bryan weaves the threads of grace into his book by using Chapter 8 of Romans as his literary loom. In fact, Bryan uses today’s verse to remind us how God’s grace keeps us from being separated from Him. Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God; Absolutely Nothing. That is how powerful grace is in our lives!

As I thought about the encouraging words of this sweet Scripture, God reminded me through the Holy Spirit that even Alzheimer’s disease could not separate me from His everlasting love. No matter what happens, no matter how bad I might get, no matter how forgetful I become, no matter where I may end up, God’s love will always be with me. Therefore, I should not burden myself with thoughts of how the future will unfold. My Heavenly Father will carry that burden for me. All I need do is praise Him, serve Him, talk with Him, have faith in Him, and love Him. His glorious grace and everlasting love will take care of everything else!

If you are struggling today because of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia or perhaps you are worried about what the future holds because of some other burden you are carrying, let God carry all the future burdens for you. Allow His grace to fill your life as you begin to completely trust in His grace. He alone holds the key to your future. So, instead of worrying, spend some time in patient prayer, practical service, powerful praise, or purposeful activity. Let His glorious grace and everlasting love handle the rest!

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Do What Is Right

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. Romans 12:17

When I was a young boy, I joined the Boy Scouts and poured my heart into following the Boy Scout motto. I remember the camping trips, merit badges, summer camp, and special things we did in our little troop, Troop 486. One thing remains rooted in my heart from scouting however: do a good deed every day. I can still recall lying down at night to go to sleep and remembering I had not done my good deed for the day. I would get out of bed and do something for my mom so I could fulfill my scout obligation. Soon, doing good deeds became a habit embedded in my daily routine and not only did I do good deeds for my mom but for also others. Scouting was in my heart and the good deeds flowed from this true scout’s heart filled with love.

Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul was trying to get the saints in Rome to understand. If they belonged to God, then doing what is right and good will naturally flow from deep within their hearts rather than doing what is evil. Paul further instructs them not to imitate conform to what is evil in the world but to offer themselves as living sacrifices doing what is holy and pleasing to God. Doing good, rather than evil, and showing love is an inward sign of Christ living within us. However, doing evil and displaying hateful emotions is an inward sign of Satan residing within our hearts.

Since being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, my prayer is that I will continue to be able to do good deeds and show the love of Christ. I also pray the disease will not change my heart or desire to continue to do these acts of kindness toward others. Thus far, this has been the case in my daily life. By faith in Christ, I know I’ll continue to be able to do good deeds and show the love of Christ in some capacity even though I struggle with the daily demands of dementia.

Alzheimer’s may impact my brain, but my heart belongs to Christ. He alone protects the essence of who I am in Him! He will do the same for you. All you need to do is ask for His help and then you can do what is right!

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What Leads to Peace

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14:19

A few years ago, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post entitled Advice from an Old Farmer. This list of quaint agricultural wisdom contained some interesting quid bits of old time knowledge which included:

  • Every path has a few puddles.
  • When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
  • The best sermons are lived, not preached.
  • Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
  • If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
  • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
  • Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.

But the jewel hidden within the long list was, “You cannot unsay a cruel word.” How true the words of that old farmer were back then and today.

One of my greatest fears as I journey through the Alzheimer’s valley and the disease continues to take its toll on me, is that I might become a bitter, selfish, ungracious, unkind, arrogant, bitter, and belligerent man like I was in my 20’s. This is something I never want to happen again and I pray a lot about it. I certainly don’t want to act this way to my wife who takes such good care of me. I’d rather just not communicate than to say any hurtful, unkind, or belligerent words that I can never take back. Like the old farmer said, “Silence is sometimes the best answer.”

That is why I like to start my day reading the Bible and spending some time in prayer. It helps me remember who I am and what’s important in life. Take today’s passage as an example. The Apostle Paul is reminding us to make EVERY EFFORT to do what (or act in a way that) leads to peace and mutual edification. Wow, what wonderful advice for anyone, especially someone living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Perhaps you have been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or having been living with the disease for some time now and struggle with the same fear that I have. If so, remember Paul’s words and make EVERY EFFORT to do what leads to peace in your household. Start your day with the Holy Scriptures and prayer seeking God’s advice on how you might hold your tongue and live a life of peace. Then do as the old farmer suggested, “Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God!”

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Passing Judgment on Others

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. Romans 14:13

While working on a church project last week with some of the guys from our Methodist’s Men’s Group, we were casually talking about some of the flaws we noticed on the walls of the Sunday school wing which we were prepping to paint. One of the men, Randy, commented how sad it was that some people don’t take care of the church like they should. Then another guy said, “Well they are probably talking bad about you right now!” In a very quiet and calm tone Randy earnestly replied, “Well if they are talking bad about me, then at least they aren’t talking bad about someone else which is perfectly fine with me.”

As I pondered about what Randy said, I knew he had the right attitude about someone else’s negative gossip. In fact, we should not be concerned at all about what others say because Christ is always watching out for us. And perhaps by being the subject of their negative gossip, Christ is protecting someone else who might be more vulnerable to their malicious tongue.

In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul is reminding us to stop passing judgment on one another and to not be a stumbling block or obstacle to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In many ways, this is exactly what Randy was doing when he offered up his quiet comment.

Since my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I often hear comments like, “You don’t act like you have Alzheimer’s disease because you seem fine to me.” Of course, this kind of comment really hurts. But like Randy, I try to just let it go and not pass judgment on the person. No one knows how a person should act depending on what stage of the disease they are in. Besides, Alzheimer’s disease impacts each person differently especially in the early to mid-stages of the disease.

If you are dealing with dementia, try your best to not let another person’s comments ruffle your feathers. Learn to let it go and, like the Apostle Paul instructed, don’t pass judgment on them. Instead, do all in your power to not be the “stumbling block or obstacle” which Paul talks about. Instead, be an instrument of peace and joy and let the light of Christ shine in your life!

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None of Us Lives for Ourselves Alone

For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. Romans 14:7

One of my favorite devotional books is My Utmost For His Highest written by Oswald Chambers. For many years while working as an engineer and analyst for the Department of the Army, I would always start my morning by reading a devotion from this book which was readily visible on my desk. Reading one of these devotions before I started my day helped me remember who I served as I went about my day.

In one of Oswald Chambers’ devotions he asks, “Has it ever dawned on you that you are responsible spiritually to God for other people? For instance, if I allow any turning away from God in my private life, everyone around me suffers.” Wow, what an awesome task to be responsible spiritually to God for other people! Interestingly enough, Chambers places no condition on his question. In other words, it makes no difference if you are healthy or ill, wealthy or poor, joyful or sorrowful, employed or unemployed, married or single, or living in an estate or homeless. As Christians, we are duty bound to be spiritually responsible for those around us through our actions, prayers, words, and thoughts.

Since my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and subsequent early retirement due to the disease, I have come to appreciate how important it is to be spiritually responsible for others. Perhaps because I have more free time now than while I was working, I spend more time studying the Bible, meditating on its words, praying for others, and being of service where I am able. I do these things in spite of my disease because that is what Christ expects from me.

Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul was trying to get the saints in Rome to understand in today’s passage when he said, “None of us lives for ourselves alone.” We are greater than ourselves and therefore responsible for the spiritual and physical well-being of others. Besides, isn’t this exactly what Christ called us to do?

If you are dealing with the daily demands of dementia, you may wonder what you can do to spiritually help others. First and foremost, stay attached to the vine of Christ and don’t turn away from God in your private life. Then pray for those around you whether it be your caregivers, members of your support group(s), family members, or even the people in the nursing home/assisted living facility which you may reside. Then ask God to show you how you might be of service to them in some small way. He will always bring forth an opportunity that fits your ability if you ask.

Remember, none of us lives for ourselves alone if we belong to Christ. Therefore, become spiritually responsible for those around you. When you do this, your actions will be a pleasing and selfless offering to God.

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