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A Stroll At Leisure With God

The King Acknowledges THE KING

Again, I love how the passages come together in this Solid Life Reading Plan. I will get to this in a moment.

But before that—an update on how I am doing—pretty much the same. Yesterday, Marilyn said, “John, everything you are doing seems to be so slow. What is going on?” I am feeling better but I am just so sleepy most of the day and evening. I think I am still battling getting off this pill. It is still going on. Hopefully, one of these days, I will be better. Right now, however, I often feel like the “walking sleep man.” Ha.

Add to that the fact that we got one foot of snow—we needed the moisture—and things continue to feel weird, even though we get these types of storms frequently in April every year. Oh well …

In the meantime, back to the scripture reading. I read chapters three and four in Daniel this morning as well as chapters in 1 Timothy and 2 Thessalonians. Once again, a common theme emerged—the kingship of God.

For Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, he needed to learn this principle, so the Lord pushed him out into the wilderness for seven years. Here is his testimony:

“The part about the tree stump and roots being left means that your kingdom will still be there for you after you learn that it is heaven that runs things” (Daniel
4:26 MSG).

God wanted him to learn who runs things—heaven itself—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. A tough and long lesson.

Paul had learned this same lesson years later and had shared it with Timothy. Here is part of that testimony:

“Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever. Deep honor and bright glory to the King of All Time— One God, Immortal, Invisible, ever and always. Oh, yes! I’m passing this work on to you, my son Timothy. The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this. All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight we’re in” (1 Timothy 1:15-19, MSG).

Because God had saved Public Sinner Number One, He could save Timothy also. And, as a result, the honor and glory and praise goes to the King of All Time who urges each of us to continue to share just as Paul did.

God, this is a fight we are in. Help us as believers to share the good news that Jesus can save sinners by the power of His Spirit. Help us keep a grip on the Gospel and on You. Amen.
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Don't Fret

One of the passages I read this morning in Philippians, reminded me of a multiplicity of experiences I had about this time last year. Connor brought me home after my first round in the hospital. This round had to do with chemo. The intent was to destroy cancer and my immune system.

When I went back, they let me out too early. Marilyn had to bring me back to the hospital because I was speaking in gibberish and seeing hallucinations.

After that, I was ready to start all the tests for preparation for the transplant, and frankly, they scared me to death. The transplant also scared me with all the unknowns and everything else.

Well, I am sure you get it by now—all the fear, all the worry, and all the anxiety. I was fretting most of the time. The following verse helped me through all of this:

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (
Philippians 4:6-7 MSG).

I actually experienced this— “a sense of God’s wholeness.” All these tests and all these experiences were NOT part of some random THING that was happening to me. They were part of God’s plan and purpose for my life, and I learned to accept them as such.

But what did it boil down to? First, it consisted of prayer. Memorizing these verses and praying them back to the Lord over and over and over. It seemed as if this prayer thing lasted hours.

Second, it involved breathing. Breathing in, holding it, and breathing out—over and over and over. This is no “new age” thing. It was just a focus, and it became very powerful and helpful.

We need to teach folks how to trust God and to walk with Him every step of the way. I mean every step. This is so important.

Lord, I am grateful for first-hand experience with these verses in the most difficult thing of my life. Thank You for peace at the center of life. Amen.

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Knowing Jesus

Please pray for Marilyn. She wasn’t feeling well yesterday. I hope she is better today. It is hard when the three of us are down, but she has a lot on her with the two of us to manage and care for. Thanks.

I seemed to be doing a little better. It is hard to tell because I was so sleepy during the day—not as antsy—but very tired. Who knows? I guess it just takes me longer to “get off” these medications.

I know I sound like a broken record. The truth is that I “like” all portions and passages of the Word of God, but I particularly like Philippians 3. Paul gives a very impressive list of his pedigree. He carefully states everything that would be impressive for a Jew. Then, he says this:

“The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ— God’s righteousness” (Philippians
3:7-9 MSG).

This is an accurate translation, I believe. He calls everything on his very impressive list of credentials “dog dung,” refuse to be thrown out with the trash, in light of the very simple task of knowing Jesus as Lord.

The Christian faith is not about a long pedigree or list of “accomplishments.” It is very simply about knowing Christ Jesus as Lord—an intimate, personal relationship. I am so glad to be reminded of this as I continue to be sick—crazy.

Lord, I choose today to know You and make You known—Dawson Trotman’s motto. It is very good and very simple with a person with a cancer brain like mine. I love You and thank You today, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Great is Thy Faithfulness

Today, I stumbled across one of my favorite passages. I am going to quote it here: “GOD ’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left” (Lamentations 3:22-24 MSG).

This is one of the bright spots in the whole book as the city and this man’s world crumble all around him.

I wonder how I would be if this were to happen. Weird to say this, and it certainly does NOT compare, but sometimes it does feel that way because I never seem to feel all that great with coming off this steroid.

And, of course, there is always someone there with even greater news. As I was sharing this with a friend, he responded, “Cheer up, John. You are going to have to deal with this withdrawal for every pill you are taking until you are done with all of them.” I think he was trying to kid with me, but his words hit home. Of course, he is right. UGH. We will have to see.

In the meantime, it is back to the passage: God’s faithfulness is new every morning. I LOVE this. No matter how bad I feel and no matter how much my emotions change as a result, the Lord and his character NEVER change. I can trust Him. I can count on Him. I can love Him.

The next phrase of these verses is the title of one of my favorite hymns (in the KJV). It is “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I love that third verse:

Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy faithfulness!  Morning by morning new mercies I see.  All I have needed Thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! 

This sums up well the great task of meeting the Lord every morning in new mercies and with every need provided. Great is Thy faithfulness!

Lord, I am so thankful for You and your great faithfulness each and every morning. I count on a new helping today and love You for everything You do for us in our lives. Amen.

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"Helen"

Yesterday, as I was sitting in the parlor between the two front doors visiting with my mom, Donna came out to greet us.

“Donna,” I asked. “Can I get a copy of the newsletter?”

“Sure,” Donna responded. “And there is something else you need to know. We had a little homecoming celebration the other day. Your mom got ‘Homecoming Queen.’”

Wow, great. We did get a copy of the newsletter. My mom is indeed in there as the Reminiscence Resident of the Month. They call her “Helen,” but other than that … ha!

Marilyn and I are proud of her in there. We know it is very difficult, but she is trying hard. She is trying to make it.

When Donna left, my mom said, “I tried to get Homecoming Queen in high school and failed. I guess my time finally came.” Ha. Right. In a much more important place, I would contend, but again, we are just glad for her. Most of the time, she remembers neither reward. That is okay.

Well, on to the scripture reading for this morning as I start the book of Philippians. Here is a well-known section that stood out to me today:

Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter” (Philippians
1:27-30 MSG).

The suffering is just as much a gift as the trusting. I wish I could look at it totally that way, but Paul did, as he sat chained between two Roman guards twenty-four hours per day. He saw his suffering as an example for everyone in the church. If Paul could make it there, others can make it in their situation and continue to preach, just as he did.

Lord, again, these days are so hard for all of us in our own way. Continue to help us, Lord, as we continue to preach in the midst of it all. Help all of us to be examples, just as my mom is in that nursing home. We love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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No Afternoon Contest

I wish this “phase” of things were easy. Unfortunately, they are not. I’m going to give things a couple more days until I call the doctor back. I am still antsy and very uncomfortable, and I don’t know exactly why. It could be that I am still reacting to going off that steroid even after a few days. That is not what Ryan said. He claimed that it would take a couple of days, but everyone is different. No revelation there.

So, I will stay on this course and keep on plugging along.

In the meantime, I am back in the prophecy of Jeremiah reading about the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem. A few of the stragglers came to Jerry to ask him what the Lord said about their situation. After ten days, the prophet came back to give an answer that started this way:

“He then spoke: ‘This is the Message from GOD, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your prayer. He says, ‘If you are ready to stick it out in this land, I will build you up and not drag you down, I will plant you and not pull you up like a weed. I feel deep compassion on account of the doom I have visited on you. You don’t have to fear the king of Babylon. Your fears are for nothing. I’m on your side, ready to save and deliver you from anything he might do. I’ll pour mercy on you. What’s more, he will show you mercy! He’ll let you come back to your very own land’” (
Jeremiah 42:9-12 MSG).

This message seemed very simple: stay home, don’t fear, and the Lord will protect you. But what did the people do? Right. They went to Egypt in direct violation of the Lord’s command. Why?

I think it was because they really didn’t want to hear what the Lord was going to say. They were hoping that the Lord would confirm what they really wanted to do—go to Egypt. When He did not, they got mad at Jerry and went anyway.

The final chapter I read was in Ephesians. Here is the quote that stood out to me: “And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels” (
Ephesians 6:10-12 MSG).

Here is how I put those passages together: this is a spiritual warfare. I listen to the Word OR NOT, and I face the results. Pure and simple. And being sick is no excuse. This is a battle, no afternoon athletic contest. It is warfare.

The other day, I felt as if the Lord told me to do something, and I failed Him.

Lord, I confess me sin. I want to be immediately obedient to You in this warfare that all of us face. Give me the love and grace to do just that. Amen.
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Daylight Hours

If anything, I took a step back yesterday with fatigue. I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, and then, when I sat even for a little while, I would fall sound asleep. So, I let myself do it on more than one occasion. Again, this stuff is crazy, but it is just another step in this process, this disease. I long for the day that I can finally feel better. We will see.

In the meantime, one of my readings in the Solid Life Plan took me to Ephesians 5. This whole chapter is about getting saved and moving out of darkness into light: “You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it” (Ephesians
5:8-10 MSG).

The truth is that if you and I are saved, there is no more living in the darkness of stumbling around drunk but of living in the power of the Holy Spirit as subsequent verses show.

I continue to say that my job now is to learn to live, not just get by as a sick person, but it is hard with all these symptoms that I continue to deal with.

Plus, we continue to struggle with Mother. The other day, she called. She identified herself as Mary Louise and told Marilyn she wanted to see her. It was heartbreaking really, but this is another message that fits in with what Paul is talking about her.

We must continue, by the grace and the Spirit of God, to live in the light, not grope around in the darkness of death. This doesn’t mean that we don’t care about my mom. This could never be the case. It just means that we don’t focus on death all the time, with me or with her.

Again, the does NOT mean not caring. Please understand. It is just the focus of life, even for me. I must live in and walk in the light of life.

Lord, our heart breaks. I am still sick as I recover from this steroid. My mom is struggling. I continue to lift her up. Help us, Lord. Help us live as this passage exhorts, in the DAYLIGHT HOURS. Amen.
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Better Today

Yesterday was kind of weird. As I woke up, I felt two things: very tired for one and number two—a headache. I know it was withdrawal from the steroid. The doc told me I would feel bad and sure enough, he was right.

But I seem to be doing better today, and I thank God for this.

I tell you: this has been a four-month pilgrimage since the end of December with the virus, with the stomach issues, and finally with the cure—this steroid. Honestly, I think the cure—the steroid—has been the worst of all. Weird to say but true.

Anyway, as I indicated, I do seem to be doing better today and for this, I am grateful to God.

On to the passage for today in Ephesians. Let me go ahead and cite it: “In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.”
Ephesians 4:1-3 MSG

This was good for me to read this morning. The temptation is to feel that everything I have cited—the virus, the stomach issues, and the steroid—have been a sidetrack, but I don’t think so. I think they have been the path, every bit of it. The challenge continues for me to keep on the path, stay on it, no matter where it leads or what it goes through.

How about that?

I choose today, no matter how I feel, to humble myself and discipline myself, under the Lord’s mighty hand.

Lord, thank You for helping me feel better. I pray for continued improvement today, but no matter what the next thing is, I am going to keep on walking down the road, down the path You have laid out for me (Ephesians 2:10), no matter what. Enable me to exercise discipline and humility today and forever. Amen.

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The King Came Through Again!

Thanks AGAIN to all of you for praying. I wanted to tell you about the visit to the clinic yesterday. We had a good one, actually one of the best EVER. We met with Ryan and Tina.

When Tina entered, Marilyn began immediately to talk about the steroid. It wasn’t long before Tina said, “Oh, no problem. He is done with it—over!” We really had a hard time believing our ears, but she was emphatic.

As Ryan entered, she told him, “I just took John off that steroid.” At first, Ryan was a little skeptical because one doesn’t just “get off” of them. It is not quite that easy, but then he agreed and added, “Well, John, if you are ready with no more stomach problems, that is fine, but you will feel very tired the next couple of days. If you just can’t get out of bed, go ahead and resume, but be very careful with this avenue as well. I just think you need to be done with them.”

Me too! I will do anything or go through anything to get off the steroid. I think Lindsey and Marj would agree. But we left praising God for this because actually over the past several days I have just felt worse and worse with it. I am so glad to be done. The King came through again.

I say it that way because of the passages I read this morning. Ezekiel 31 and 32 talk about the Pharaoh of Egypt. He exercised world-domination until the Lord decided to bring him down because of the evil he committed. No king—no matter how strong or powerful—can stand against the King of Kings—Jesus, who reigns along with the Father at His right hand.

All of this is in context with Psalm 45—one of those “kingly” Psalms. To be honest, I’ve had a struggle with these Psalms my whole life. What is the deal? What or who do they describe? This contrast has helped me.

It is describing the King of Kings! Jesus is never toppled. His throne lasts forever. It is never toppled because of sin and evil.

““You’re the handsomest of men; every word from your lips is sheer grace, and God has blessed you, blessed you so much. Strap your sword to your side, warrior! Accept praise! Accept due honor! Ride majestically! Ride triumphantly! Ride on the side of truth! Ride for the righteous meek! “Your instructions are glow-in-the-dark; you shoot sharp arrows Into enemy hearts; the king’s foes lie down in the dust, beaten. Your throne is God’s throne, ever and always; The scepter of your royal rule measures right living. You love the right and hate the wrong. And that is why God, your very own God, poured fragrant oil on your head, Marking you out as king from among your dear companions” Psalm
45:4-7 MSG

Lord, You are indeed the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—the handsomest of men because You are at one and the same time the Son of God. Amen.
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Words that Work

Probing the aspects of this test that the Lord has us in has been interesting, to say the least. There is the physical aspect of course.

Yesterday, the steroid stuff was as bad as ever, so today, in our appointment at the clinic in a little while, I am going to ask the doc if I can get off of them. PLEASE PRAY WITH US THAT THE DAYS OF STEROIDS, at least for now, WOULD BE OVER! It nearly drove me crazy in the late afternoon. CRAZY.

Then, there is the social aspect—this feeling of being totally alone. Of course, as I write this, please don’t take this as a knock to anyone in our field of friendships or at the church or on Facebook—wherever. It isn’t. I’m just convinced that it is the nature of disease itself. Two people with the exact diagnosis could feel this way or different. That is the only way I can explain it.

But it has shown me that I need to step up praying for others who are going through tough times as all of you are praying for me. And I will.

There are plenty of other aspects of this test, but the final one I want to mention this morning is emotional. This is perhaps the most difficult of all since people who are recovering or who are in transition (both of these situations apply to me) feel like a “duck out of water,” or sorts. I know that I have used this analogy before.

I think the same thing about retirement although no one I know who is retired is sitting around doing nothing. He or she is BUSIER that he or she was before. Ha! They complain that they would like to go back to work so they can work less.

I am convinced that the Lord has something for me. It is just a matter of waiting on Him in the present for the time when that door will open, and this is very difficult. VERY.

So, there you have it. Every test contains these features or more. Be on the lookout.

What or who is our strength through all of this? Of course, it is the Lord Himself and the Word itself. “He speaks the same way to Jacob, speaks words that work to Israel. He never did this to the other nations; they never heard such commands. Hallelujah!”
Psalm 147:19-20 MSG

“Words that work”—I love that phrase. Usually, more words only gum up the works, but not the Word of God. As I read and study, the Lord uses the Word to set my feet on solid ground and help me walk in the right way.

I love these prayer requests in 1 Thessalonians: “May God our Father himself and our Master Jesus clear the road to you! And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God our Father when our Master Jesus arrives with all his followers.”
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 MSG

These verses describe the result of living by the words that work: a clear road, overflowing love, infused with strength and purity, and filled with confidence. Wow! Awesome!

Lord, I am praying that prayer for all my readers this morning. I’m thankful for the grace you provide to help us through hard times. I commit this doctor visit to You. Help us through another and please, Lord, I pray that Dr. Ali would take me off this stinking steroid. Ha. But if not, … Amen.

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Tested Thoroughly

As we sit here day after day trying to figure out what is going on with us, I’m so grateful for the Word of God.

Think of these new believers, ostracized and even booted out of the synagogue, and all along they were trying to figure out what was going on.

What is it about us that we feel we deserve such “fine” treatment in light of what we read in the Bible? Those folks had it hard from every quarter.

I just seem to be feeling worse and worse as each day passes. I’m so thankful for the comments that Lindsey and Marge made on Facebook. Every cancer patient understands rubbing a hole in the floor (ha!) and the “necessary evil” of steroids. I am still going to make a plea when I go to the doc tomorrow. Maybe he will take me off this evil drug. We will see. If not, I will still have to trust God and His ability to help me deal with it each day.

I can guess, for sure, but I do wonder what the battery of tests were that the folks in the churches in the Ephesus area—the Lycus valley—and the church in Thessalonica experienced. We don’t know but we do know the purpose of those tests:

“God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas. We never used words to butter you up. No one knows that better than you. And God knows we never used words as a smoke screen to take advantage of you” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 MSG).

He tested the folks in Thessalonica so that they could be trusted with the Message of the Word of God. He rooted out all false motives through the hard times these folks went through.

This is why I strongly feel that the Lord has more oral and written proclamation for me because of all these tests. I pray that I am a faithful witness and proclaimer when He does choose to use me.

Here is another passage that fascinates me: “All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence” (
Ephesians 1:20-23 MSG).

The church is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. On a given Sunday of a home Bronco game here in the Mile High City, the most important gathering is NOT the 76000 at the stadium. It is the little gatherings of church folk all around the city. Of course, we are under attack.

Of course.

Lord, this is hard to do but I thank you for these thorough tests You are now putting us through. Please help us to use them and their result to be witnesses at the center of what You are doing. There is certainly nothing wrong with sports per se. It is just that I have lost a lot of my interest in them through all the “stuff” we are going through. Thank You even for this. Amen.
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The Testing Goes On

At one point yesterday, Marilyn and I looked at each other. We wonder when this is going to stop. We desperately want things to be easy, very easy, but they seem to end up being exactly the opposite—as hard as anyone could imagine.

I’m not going into detail here. I’m going to leave things on a generic level. But this is where we are. And the result? We are weary. So weary.

But the problem is that we want things to be comfortable and quick so that we can go on with our lives. This is the point, though. Maybe the Lord doesn’t want us to go on with our lives. This is why He has introduced us to the discipline of hardness. This is why things are so excruciatingly difficult. He wants our lives to change, and the only way that is going to happen is to introduce us to something that pushes us to the limit.

In Galatians six, Paul closes the argument of the book as he deals the death blow to the whole concept of circumcision. As we read these words, we might tend to yawn a bit. What does this have to do with us here in the twenty-first century? I have been thinking long and hard on this. I certainly don’t have all the answers.

A circumcision equivalent? I am not quite sure, but off the top of my head, I would say that it is an easy “believism” that is just painful enough (but quick) to make us feel religious. How about that? It is a formula for success with God. Who needs suffering? Who needs the cross, when you could have circumcision?

It is partial. It is quick. It is a sign. It makes you like everyone else. It is the classic one and done and that is it.

But Paul rails against it. He blasts it. Here is part of the chapter in which he speaks out against it with fervor: “Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” (Galatians
6:1-5 MSG)

This of course is the early part of the chapter. On the heels of the fruit of the Spirit, he redirects the focus outward to others and to ministry.

I tell you that with all the difficulty that Marilyn and I are experiencing, it is easy to become self-absorbed, circumcision-focused.

That is NOT what Paul wants, NOT what the Lord is focused on.

I love this phrase— “doing the creative best you can with your own life”—love it! This is exactly the opposite of circumcision, if you think about it. This is my job today—to be the best “me” under God’s grace that I can be regardless of what is going on in my life.

Okay.

Lord, I thank You this morning for the cross. I embrace Jesus and the life He gives us through suffering and death, just like He experienced. We are identified with You: you in us, we in you. I love You Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.
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Marathon

Let me try to explain this. After church, I came home for a bit. Marilyn went on to the service at the nursing home to be with my mom on Easter. I, on the other hand, really struggled the whole day.

This time it is because of steroids. I know I have mentioned them before…. I’m so hyped-up, so antsy, that it is hard to get and stay in one place. Then, my engine is running so hard that it is impossible to sit and rest. Plus, I am not sleeping well at night. This is crazy! I hope I don’t have to take them much longer. The days seem like marathons.

Probably for other reasons as well … I didn’t get to preach on Easter for the first time in YEARS. It was very difficult. I tried to pray for preachers whenever I would get down about not preaching yesterday. It was a battle from the first of the day until the last.

Oh, well. This is another stage in the process. This is how I have to look at it or I would lose my mind.

Besides my readings in Ezekiel, I am also reading Galatians. This morning, I came across a couple of verses to share with all of you.

“I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love” (Galatians
5:4-6 MSG).

What matters is: faith expressed in love. I prayed about this for most of the day and came to two conclusions. First, I need to continue to trust God. About this time last year, I was in the hospital undergoing chemo treatment #1. I was right at the beginning of all of this. I had no idea what would go on.

Now, I am a year removed and SOOOO thankful.

Second, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I am going to find someone to love and do that. I can’t just sit in this house and stew in my own juices.

Here is another passage: “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original” (Galatians
5:25-26 MSG).

The Lord certainly has Marilyn and me in a unique set of circumstances. That is for sure. I love that last line: “each of us is an original.” AMEN. I love that. These last several months have been very difficult, but they are unique. The Lord has us in these circumstances. We know He has a plan and a purpose for us.

Lord, thanks for the “pancakes” in the midst of a hard life. Thank You also for our uniqueness. I choose today to trust You and love You and others. Give me someone to love today. Take my eyes off me and put them on some neighbor today. I love You Jesus. Amen.

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Slave Woman Versus the Free Woman

Again, it is amazing to see how the Word of God coheres, from all sections. I will get to that in a moment.

But first, HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY TO ALL OF YOU! I trust that you will have a great day in our Lord Jesus Christ in church with other believers who are worshiping the resurrected Christ. I must say that it is kind of weird not preaching on Easter, but this is where the Lord has me for now. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Many of the larger churches have/had multiple services for this weekend. They are expecting a crowd. It should be interesting to see.

Back to the Word of God—the correspondence between the prophecy of Ezekiel and the letter of Galatians is incredible. Israel of old went into captivity because they rebelled against the One True God in favor of idols. In the Solid Life Reading for this morning, chapters 21 and 22 prove to be two of the most gruesome chapters in the whole book, but the Lord has to go to great lengths to get His peoples’ attention and hopefully they will turn back to Him, but alas and alack, they do not!

It is equally as tragic that the churches in Galatia—those who originally had such a great relationship with Paul and took care of him when he got sick—eventually turned on the very God they loved so dearly in favor of an idol of “works salvation.” Paul is broken-hearted and grieved.

“And don’t you remember that even though taking in a sick guest was most troublesome for you, you chose to treat me as well as you would have treated an angel of God—as well as you would have treated Jesus himself if he had visited you? What has happened to the satisfaction you felt at that time? There were some of you then who, if possible, would have given your very eyes to me—that is how deeply you cared! And now have I suddenly become your enemy simply by telling you the truth? I can’t believe it…. Tell me now, you who have become so enamored with the law: Have you paid close attention to that law? Abraham, remember, had two sons: one by the slave woman and one by the free woman. The son of the slave woman was born by human connivance; the son of the free woman was born by God’s promise. This illustrates the very thing we are dealing with now. The two births represent two ways of being in relationship with God. One is from Mount Sinai in Arabia. It corresponds with what is now going on in Jerusalem—a slave life, producing slaves as offspring. This is the way of Hagar. In contrast to that, there is an invisible Jerusalem, a free Jerusalem, and she is our mother—this is the way of Sarah…. There is a Scripture that tells us what to do: “Expel the slave mother with her son, for the slave son will not inherit with the free son.” Isn’t that conclusive? We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman” (Galatians
4, MSG).

This is a long quote, but there is a stark contrast between the slave woman and the free woman. They compare the non-relationship of Hagar with the faith relationship of Sarah. The two absolutely cannot co-exist—not in the world, and certainly not in the church.

What the Lord is after is an intimate relationship with Him: “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians
4:6-7 NASB). Abba means “daddy.”

Who believers are on Easter are not just church-goers. We are actually sons and daughters of the Resurrected Lord. He is ALIVE. Since He is, we have the opportunity to enjoy His life and His position as the third chapter of Colossians reminds us— “seated with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

Lord, thanks for this special day but the truth is that all days in Jesus are resurrection days because we are alive in Him as the tradition of Sarah reminds us. Lord, I trust You today. Amen.
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Responding Out of Who I Am

Somehow, I am not as sleepy this morning. I praise God for this. Lately, as I am sure you can tell (and I am sorry for this) it is all I can do just to type on this computer, but today, I feel better. Maybe those pills are working. Who knows?

Yesterday here was a very warm Spring day. Oh, man. It was beautiful, and again, it confirms that this is my favorite time of the year.

The book of Ezekiel tends to get lost in the shuffle of all the books of the Bible for some reason. I think people feel that it is just too complicated or something? But I love it. One of the key phrases of the book is “then you will know that I am God.” This book presents the heart of God maybe more than all the other prophets as the people rebel and get sent to exile in Babylon to live at the lowest and dirtiest part of town, along the base of a river.

There were no trees there, nothing for one to think it was a gorgeous land. The truth is that it wasn’t.

Well, anyway, the verses I have chosen this morning sound a familiar warning:

“‘But they rebelled against me, wouldn’t listen to a word I said. None got rid of the vile things they were addicted to. They held on to the no-gods of Egypt as if for dear life. I seriously considered inflicting my anger on them in force right there in Egypt. Then I thought better of it. I acted out of who I was, not by how I felt. And I acted in a way that would evoke honor, not blasphemy, from the nations around them, nations who had seen me reveal myself by promising to lead my people out of Egypt. And then I did it: I led them out of Egypt into the desert…. But, dear Israel, you’ll also realize that I am GOD when I respond to you out of who I am, not by what I feel about the evil lives you’ve lived, the corrupt history you’ve compiled. Decree of GOD, the Master” (Ezekiel
20:8-10, 44 MSG).

Did you notice the phrase that is repeated a couple of times? It is I that responded “to you out of who I am, not by what I feel about the evil lives you lived.” Wow. Very powerful.

The Lord does not operate on the same principles that we do. He is not emotional; He is holy. The sin and evil of the people of Israel offended God’s holiness, not the feeling of anger. That might be the way that we feel but not God.

If we want to avoid the offense of His holiness, we must worship Him, not other idols of any kind and twist ourselves out of a “faith relationship” into the realm of works and idolatry. This is the warning that Galatians 3 echoes. I also read that chapter this morning. It is amazing how these two passages coincide. Well, not really … After all, it is the Word of God.

Lord, thank You that as believers, You call us to a life of holy focus on You. Keep us from idols. I love You Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.
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Everything is Okay

Well, the hyped-up feeling is back. This is why I hate the steroids. UGH. I hope I won’t have to take them for very long. Please pray with me about this.

In the meantime, I put my foot in my mouth quite frequently. In a group of total strangers, I made a comment about the ministry God gave me at the church. It was way out of line and very prideful. I’m not going to repeat it here. No need to do this. But it just showed me that I have a long way to go.

This fits in with two passages I read this morning in the Solid Life Reading Plan. Here is the first. These are familiar verses:

“What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a ‘law man’ so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily” (Galatians 2:19-21 MSG).

These verses are good reminders that my ego—me—is no longer central to life and work. In fact, the old John Talbert died and is gone. Thank the Lord for this, but when I got saved, resurrection occurred. A new John Talbert rose who lives (or aspires to live) by grace. This is a great application of the Easter message.

As great as the Resurrection was and is, it is not the only thing. In Christ, we rise to a new life as well, just as Jesus did.

But is that all? No.

“That clinches it—help’s coming, an answer’s on the way, everything’s going to work out. See those people polishing their chariots, and those others grooming their horses? But we’re making garlands for GOD our God. The chariots will rust, those horses pull up lame— and we’ll be on our feet, standing tall” (Psalm 20:6-8 MSG).

When the Word claims that everything is going to work out, this is not blind optimism. This is truth. God says it. It is true. All the strong things and persons in this life won’t last, but God’s people will thrive.

Lord, thank You for saving me—the old has been crucified with Christ and everything is new—resurrection new. Thank You for the real help You provide. Help is indeed on the way. I am waiting. I trust You. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Reports from the Two Doctors

Actually, the two doctor’s visits went very well. At the clinic, as Dr. Ali came in, he was very upbeat. However, he said, “Well, John, after all this time, we finally discovered that you do have Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD).” So, this means that I have to go back on a steroid AND I have to increase my Tac medicine in order to deal with it.

I am honestly not too happy with each alternative because both meds affect me greatly, one being a steroid, but it is what it is. Hopefully, I won’t be on each for very long.

As far as the Gastro doc is concerned, he simply looked over my medications. He stated, “John, those drugs they gave you for the BK virus were very severe. They would stop anyone up, but I am glad that you are off of them now.” He did not recommend any further action, unless I start to feel bad, but the fact that I was feeling good went a long way. It does with me. I know that! Ha!

Thus, overall, things went well. I have some increase in meds, but hopefully, this won’t last very long. Hopefully.

On to the Bible study for today—Ezekiel 16 is a very long chapter about the whoring rebellion of Israel and how the Lord dealt with it. Galatians 1 indicates that the church was a part of that sin.

“I can’t believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message! It is not a minor variation, you know; it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God. Those who are provoking this agitation among you are turning the Message of Christ on its head. Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven!—were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed. I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed” (
Galatians 1:6-9 MSG).

Just like the Jews of the Babylonian revolt, the Jews of Paul’s day turned from the gospel to other gods. This was an outrage in both situations.

Back to Galatians—these verses set the tone for the whole book. This book is a call back to the gospel for the church. A call back to the gospel for the church? Are you kidding? Nope.

Sometimes, the church gets away from her mission and chases off various things except sharing Jesus with lost folks. As a pastor myself, I discovered that a lot of people had no interest in sharing. This is stunning but true.

Lord, thank You for the great report and the prayers for yesterday. Please help us to have Your heart, Your heart for sharing the gospel—not perverting it—to the ends of the earth. Guide us in this. Propel us outward to a lost and dying world. Amen.

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Two Doctor Visits Today

Yes, you read that right. Today, I have to go to two different doctors. First, at 10:45, I have to go to the clinic for a check-up. I think they want to make sure that the shifts of medicine Marilyn ordered are still working. I’m confident they are.

Second, at 2:30, I have an appointment with the Gastro doc, the one who gave me the endoscopy. Here is where things get a little complicated. Ryan could not decipher this doctor’s original report about my endoscopy. Thus, he sent me back there to get a fuller report and to look at my meds. We will see. I am doing better so I wonder what he is going to say.

The bottom line for both docs is that I hope they say that I am doing well AND they take me off of more medication.

Well, on to the passage for today. The prophet Ezekiel received the task from God to preach against the various forms of false doctrine that were prevalent in the pulpit of his day. I want to list them here.

First, the preaching of Zeke’s day is described as “easy going.” “Tell them, ‘GOD, the Master, says, This proverb’s going to have a short life!’ Tell them, ‘Time’s about up. Every warning is about to come true. False alarms and easygoing preaching are a thing of the past in the life of Israel.’ I, GOD, am doing the speaking. What I say happens. None of what I say is on hold. What I say, I’ll do—and soon, you rebels!’ Decree of GOD the Master” (Ezekiel
12:23-25 MSG).

In other words, the preaching of the prophet’s day did not match the crisis the people should be waiting for.

Second, the prophets of Ezekiel’s day just made up sermons out of their own heads. “GOD ’s Message came to me: ‘Son of man, preach against the prophets of Israel who are making things up out of their own heads and calling it “prophesying.”’ GOD ’s Message came to me: ‘Son of man, preach against the prophets of Israel who are making things up out of their own heads and calling it “prophesying.”’ Preach to them the real thing. Tell them, ‘Listen to GOD’S Message!’ GOD, the Master, pronounces doom on the empty-headed prophets who do their own thing and know nothing of what’s going on! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals scavenging through the ruins. They haven’t lifted a finger to repair the defenses of the city and have risked nothing to help Israel stand on GOD ’s Day of Judgment. All they do is fantasize comforting illusions and preach lying sermons. They say ‘GOD says . . .’ when GOD hasn’t so much as breathed in their direction. And yet they stand around thinking that something they said is going to happen’” (Ezekiel
13:1-2 MSG). Made up preaching—how tragic can it get?

Finally, the book of Romans picks up on this as well. Paul warns in this way: “One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents” (
Romans 16:17-18 MSG). This is perhaps the most dangerous form of false teaching: the one that takes bits and pieces of truth mixed in with lies.

I have to tell all of you that this litany scares me deeply. Both in Zeke’s day and in that of Paul, the people took their cue from this preaching. It is scary to think that our relaxed, piece together messages can give people the perspective that everything is well in a nation. UGH.

Lord, it has been a year since I preached an oral message in a church, but regardless, I still have the call to PREACH THE WORD. Help me do that and never stop, in whatever forum. I give You these doctor’s appointments today. Once again, I place them in Your capable hands. I love You Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.
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God's Glory Departed, the One We Are Invited To

Here are a couple of problems with the blog each morning. First, and foremost, I seem to be a lot more tired than normal. I start to write, and all of a sudden, I get very sleepy. I have to fight along with the effort to stay awake.

Second, this steroid that the doctor continues to give me (he is weaning me off this drug; I hope he takes me off of it altogether) knocks me for a loop. It continues to make me antsy. Thus, these two things are in conflict with one another. It is a very weird feeling. I pray that I can get back to “normal” soon—whatever that is.

Having said all that, I am NOT going to quit writing. Nope.

Again, I love the interesting combination of verses in the Solid Life Reading Plan. Today is no exception.

In the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, these are some the most tragic words in the Old Testament. As the Lord is destroying the city of Jerusalem, He is also removing the Glory from the Temple. This is tragic stuff.

“Then the cherubim spread their wings, with the wheels beside them and the Glory of the God of Israel hovering over them. The Glory of GOD ascended from within the city and rested on the mountain to the east of the city” (
Ezekiel 11:22-23 MSG).

Because of the sin of the people, God is out of there! This is very tragic.

Now, balance that we this statement in the first verse of Romans, chapter 15: “So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! Jesus, staying true to God’s purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do! For instance: Then I’ll join outsiders in a hymn-sing; I’ll sing to your name! And this one: Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together! And again: People of all nations, celebrate God! All colors and races, give hearty praise! And Isaiah’s word: There’s the root of our ancestor Jesse, breaking through the earth and growing tree tall, Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope! Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!” (
Romans 15:7-13 MSG)

In Paul’s message to the church, He invites Jewish and non-Jewish believers alike into the Temple and into the Glory of the family of God. This is exciting stuff. We are a part of this number, and the Glory is back because Jesus, the Glory of the Only Begotten Son of God is back. If that is true (and it is!), we can rejoice in the Glory of God in Christ.

Lord, it is so sad to see the Glory departing from the old temple, but we know that in Christ, You made us a part of the new covenant and have allow us in Jesus to be part and parcel of it. No more “outsiders,” only Insiders. Amen.
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Prophet and Priest Have No Clue

As God is in process of destroying Judah, even the religious leadership will be affected. Notice these words from Ezekiel: “They throw their money into the gutters. Their hard-earned cash stinks like garbage. They find that it won’t buy a thing they either want or need on Judgment Day. They tripped on money and fell into sin. Proud and pretentious with their jewels, they deck out their vile and vulgar no-gods in finery. I’ll make those god-obscenities a stench in their nostrils. I’ll give away their religious junk— strangers will pick it up for free, the godless spit on it and make jokes. I’ll turn my face so I won’t have to look as my treasured place and people are violated, As violent strangers walk in and desecrate place and people— A bloody massacre, as crime and violence fill the city. I’ll bring in the dregs of humanity to move into their houses. I’ll put a stop to the boasting and strutting of the high-and-mighty, And see to it that there’ll be nothing holy left in their holy places. Catastrophe descends. They look for peace, but there’s no peace to be found— Disaster on the heels of disaster, one rumor after another. They clamor for the prophet to tell them what’s up, but nobody knows anything. Priests don’t have a clue; the elders don’t know what to say. The king holds his head in despair; the prince is devastated. The common people are paralyzed. Gripped by fear, they can’t move. I’ll deal with them where they are, judge them on their terms. They’ll know that I am GOD” (Ezekiel 7:19-27 MSG).

Can you imagine this scenario? No one knows what is going on from the top of society to the bottom. It is a scary deal.

The combination of these verses once again is a rather awesome thing. I know I am not a formal “pastor” as such, but I still have the role of pastoral leadership. I have been convicted lately. One thing that I seem to be lapsing into is impatience, even anger, with folks that are working behind the counter. My attitude is bad.

Who am I to act like that? Every encounter is an opportunity to share and I have been blowing it. Look at these words from Romans: “Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong” (Romans
14:22-23 MSG).

Being a “false teacher/preacher” is not just limited to the pulpit. It affects every relationship in life. I have really slipped in this regard, and I need to get back on track.

Lord, I confess my sin in this regard. I don’t want to be a part of the prophets/priests You judge. I want to be part of the preachers You use to love and to share with this lost and dying world. I love You, Lord. Amen.
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A Strange Man with a Powerful Message

I don’t think “strange man” quite gets at it. If “Zeke” was strange, it was because he was obedient to the strange things the Lord told him to do. There was a lot of that in the first few chapters of Ezekiel.

I wonder if I would be willing to do strange things if Jesus told me to do them. Sometimes, I think I care more about what total strangers think rather than the Lord, but that is a different story.

God told him to eat the Word; God told him to build a model of the military siege, laying on his side for 390 days and his other side for 40; God tied him up with ropes to make sure he didn’t move (one of the hardest things to do); God told him to eat food over cow dung; and then God urged him to cut his hair off, distributing it in and around the city. Strange stuff.

Back in chapter two, there is an explanation of all of this: “He said, ‘Son of man, I’m sending you to the family of Israel, a rebellious nation if there ever was one. They and their ancestors have fomented rebellion right up to the present. They’re a hard case, these people to whom I’m sending you—hardened in their sin. Tell them, “This is the Message of GOD, the Master.” They are a defiant bunch. Whether or not they listen, at least they’ll know that a prophet’s been here. But don’t be afraid of them, son of man, and don’t be afraid of anything they say. Don’t be afraid when living among them is like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in your bed. Don’t be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. They’re a bunch of rebels. Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern. They’re hardened rebels’” (Ezekiel
2:3-7 MSG).

What impresses me here is God’s personal warning to the prophet: do what I tell you; say what I tell you or else! It is a solemn word, and I can see the prophet arguing a bit, but as always, the Lord did not leave him much room for choice.

Right now, this extended illness has made me feel more isolated and lonely than ever. I’m convinced that is how the people of God feel most of the time. Alone. This is a result of their obedience to God. This is why more people don’t sign up, for sure.

Lord, no matter what You lead me to do to get the Word out, help me do it. Again, it seems strange that I am no longer a pastor. I still miss it, but You know what You are doing even when I don’t understand. And I don’t … But I love just as much or more. Amen.

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No Wild Goose Chase

I like Opening Day. I like the Masters golf tournament. I like the onset of Spring. When I think about where I was this time last year, it is crazy. I was headed to the hospital or I was near it. Crazy.

But I am so thankful that a year has gone by. Praise God!

I continue to improve, I think. Meals are problematic with nausea, but otherwise, I tend to be doing okay.

As I read chapter two of Colossians, it is all laid out there in straightforward form.

“I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery! I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or ‘the Secret’” (Colossians 2:2-4 MSG).

A “wild goose chase”—anything that runs after anyone but Jesus is indeed a wild goose chase and thus a complete waste of time.

Paul was frustrated. It is evident. He just pointed people to Jesus and they diverted their attention away from Him! How frustrating!

But for those who lived in Him and grew in Him—the Christian life was simple and straight-forward: ‘My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well-constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving” (Colossians
2:6-7 MSG).

The Vietnamese man who tends our garden is now working on planting. He plants the flowers deep in the ground with the expectation and hope they will take root and grow. It could happen; it could not.

BUT, we don’t have to wonder with Jesus. If we are rooting in Him, we can count on stability and growth.

Lord, help me with this steroid and with this medication I am taking in the morning. I pray that I could “wean off” of it soon. Thank You for the good report. Thank You for bringing me this far. I love You, Amen.

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The Report of the Doctor

Marilyn was a little nervous.

Let me back up for a second. As you can probably tell, we have had our communication issues with the cancer center, for one reason or another. I’m not going to bash them. They have a lot of people to take care of. Yesterday, Tina said that they are short of folks. People come and go all the time. All of this is understandable.

Anyway, we have had a tough time on occasion communicating with them, so when it came to me have struggles, Marilyn made some decisions regarding my pill intake. I need her to do this. As the patient, my brain just isn’t working that well these days. Call it “cancer brain” or whatever …

Marilyn just decided to cut back some meds I don’t need to take any longer because I am over what they addressed. When we went to the clinic, she was worried they would jump on her for doing this.

As it turns out, they were okay with things because, generally, I am feeling better, and so, they tweaked things even more and were thrilled that I seem to be doing better. We had a good visit with the doc. He was upbeat and answered our questions.

Marilyn was relieved. So was I.

On to the passage for today—I’m reading the final chapters of the book of Jeremiah—the comments about the fall of Babylon.

“There’s more. GOD says more: “Watch this: I’m whipping up A death-dealing hurricane against Babylon—‘Hurricane Persia’— against all who live in that perverse land. I’m sending a cleanup crew into Babylon. They’ll clean the place out from top to bottom. When they get through there’ll be nothing left of her worth taking or talking about. They won’t miss a thing. A total and final Doomsday! Fighters will fight with everything they’ve got. It’s no-holds-barred. They will spare nothing and no one. It’s final and wholesale destruction—the end! Babylon littered with the wounded, streets piled with corpses. It turns out that Israel and Judah are not widowed after all. As their God, GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies, I am still alive and well, committed to them even though They filled their land with sin against Israel’s most Holy God. (Jeremiah
51:1-5 MSG).

The first point the prophet makes is that the Lord is going to use Persia to take Babylon down because the Lord has not given up His protection of Israel. Through all the sin and judgment of Israel, He is still on her side.

“God says, ‘You, Babylon, are my hammer, my weapon of war. I’ll use you to smash godless nations, use you to knock kingdoms to bits. I’ll use you to smash horse and rider, use you to smash chariot and driver. I’ll use you to smash man and woman, use you to smash the old man and the boy. I’ll use you to smash the young man and young woman, use you to smash shepherd and sheep. I’ll use you to smash farmer and yoked oxen, use you to smash governors and senators’” (Jeremiah
51:20-23 MSG).

God used Babylon as a hammer for a time period. Then, He was done with her for good.

This is how powerful the Lord is. He can even use illness; he can even use an enemy nation and her gods for a period of time. And then …

Lord, I am thankful for the good report at the doctor yesterday and for Marilyn’s diligent care. Thank You for Your judgment on sin and evil. I love You Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.
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The Spacious Jesus

Well, we have an appointment with the doctor today. I say FINALLY. These appointments that come up every other month feel as if they are occurring every other YEAR. We have a lot of questions to ask him.

One of the curious things about this appointment is that it is on the second floor. The scheduler, when she called, was very careful to tell us to go to the “second floor.” Kind of strange, but we will go anywhere.

Let me give you some of the layout at CBCI. When one walks across the little bridge from the parking area, we usually get on the elevator and go one floor up to the third floor where we usually have our appointments but not today. There is another office on the second floor. We see people coming in and out of it. We are not sure what the difference is. We are hoping that second floor is for folk who are not as serious/farther along in treatment. We will find out today.

We have a lot of questions for the doc, as I have said. I’ll be sure to pass on the information we receive.

Every week of the year, this is my favorite week of the year, as Spring is beginning to spring out all over. The next few days will see all the snow quickly melted off as we soar into the seventies. It promises to be beautiful. Plus, this is the week of the Masters golf tournament, a sure sign of Spring.

My friend Gary had promised that we would actually go to the tournament this year. It doesn’t look as if that is going to happen because of my health but maybe one of these years.

Anyway, the remarkable chapter I read this morning as I am now determined to finish up the Solid Life reading program is Colossians 1. There is Paul’s usual commendation of the church and a prayer in the first verses of the chapter.

Then, there is a rather extended diatribe about Jesus—one of the longest and the best in the whole New Testament. It compares to John 1 and Hebrews 1, and I love it. I am going to quote from it here.

“We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels— everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross” (Colossians
1:18-20 MSG).

So much about Jesus here … Everything got started in and through Him. He was there with the Father from the foundation of the world. AND, He is big enough that everything and everyone finds room in Him.

This is an incredible statement of the sovereignty of God. He can gather up and handle everything in His identity as the Son. In other words, there is nothing they can tell me today—on second floor no less—that can’t be gathered up into our roomy and spacious Savior. He is LARGE.

Jesus, I thank You that You are co-equal with God as Creator and Redeemer, AND, You are always in charge. Nothing happens outside Your purview and leadership. I give You this appointment and this illness and the disappointment of not being able to go to the Masters this year. I place it all at Your feet and love You just the same. Amen.
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Total Defeat--Even Gods

Well, I decided to go back to the reading plan and finish it up. I’m fairly close, so it puts me back in Jeremiah. The last couple of chapters chronicle the defeat of Babylon—the enemy—right down to her gods: “The Message of GOD through the prophet Jeremiah on Babylon, land of the Chaldeans: ‘Get the word out to the nations! Preach it! Go public with this, broadcast it far and wide: Babylon taken, god-Bel hanging his head in shame, god-Marduk exposed as a fraud. All her god-idols shuffling in shame, all her play-gods exposed as cheap frauds. For a nation will come out of the north to attack her, reduce her cities to rubble. Empty of life—no animals, no people— not a sound, not a movement, not a breath’” (Jeremiah 50:1-3 MSG).

Eventually, all enemies will be exposed. All false gods will be brought to nothing. It is awesome to see how the Lord works in judgment.

Well, I continue to do well, but somehow, not in the morning. I seem to be having some problems today so my post is going to be even shorter.

However, as a general rule, I am better and better each day with more of an appetite. If I could just get over the nausea I feel still at meals for some reason, I would be a lot better. We hope to get some answers when we go to the doctor tomorrow. I hope he is okay with some of the shifts in medication that Marilyn made. They certainly help me feel better. We will see.

Lord, everything that is an enemy and who purports to be a god will falter and fail, but You will always still be Lord and in charge. Continue to help me get over all of this. Thanks for the help and answered prayer to this point. I love You, Lord. Amen.
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Overcome Evil with Good

The final verse in this momentous chapter is a doozy. I love it. It teaches a great principle. I’m going to quote it from the Message and the NASB.

“Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good” (Romans
12:20-21 MSG).

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans
12:21 NASB).

Over the years, I can’t tell you how many angry people have sat in my office. I have tried to convince them of this principle and they have refused. It is just easier to nurse one’s little pet anger than actually do something about it.

Of course, I can’t complain. I’ve done it way too much myself.

This verse turns pop wisdom on its head. Pop knowledge says “feel your way into a new way of acting,” but this verse debunks that. It says, “act your way into a new way of feeling.”

Well, I continue to eat food like a bear in the woods preparing for hibernation. It is so crazy, but I am glad I feel somewhat better, except at meal time when I still have nausea. Weird stuff. I am going to keep eating as Marilyn and I accumulate questions for the doctor when we see him on Thursday. It should be interesting.

Father, I give you all of this. Help me learn and apply this principle. Thanks for helping me have a greater appetite. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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The Great Somebody

Man, I can’t ever remember a time in my life when I ate so much. I think I ate non-stop from morning until night. Here is the weird thing: I NEVER felt full. I think I have just been starved, literally, and now I am making up for it. I still have nausea when I eat meals but not with these snacks. That even sounds “weirder,” I know.

Please pray for Marilyn. She continues to have a hard time with all of this and seems to be struggling. It is more difficult to watch her struggle than to do it myself.

One thing that has helped dramatically: Marilyn has helped me cut down my medications, some that I don’t need any longer. We are a little apprehensive to do this, but they continue to affect me adversely. We will talk all of this over with the doc on Thursday. We are slated to see him then.

Anyway, back to the scriptures as I continue to read in Romans. I am impressed with these “shot gun” commandments, bang, bang, bang—one right after another. They focus on body life. Notice the passage for today:

“Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.”
Romans
12:14-16 MSG

So much in those few short verses. I love folks who celebrate with you when you get something new. I hope we are not so petty that we can’t do this. I hate it when someone says, “Whoa, look at that. Wow, you really must be rich to be able to have one of those.” Versus, “Wow, that is beautiful. I like it. Glad you were able to get it.” Can’t we just celebrate with each other?

Or cry with each other? People don’t need another lecture on how to feel. They just need someone who will cry with them.

Then, there is that last phrase: our friends tell a lot about us. Am I friends only with folks that can benefit me? Or, do I make friends with people who are lower on the socio-economic ladder?

I am so glad for folks who cared about me. Who am I to think I am a “somebody”?

Lord, I am going to take some time this morning to thank folks who became my friends in the church. There are so many very gracious folks. Thanks again for the body of Jesus. Amen.
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Pray Harder in Tough Times

When someone says, “pray harder,” I struggle a bit. How does one “pray harder”?

Let me go ahead and give the full quote in MSG and NASB just to help us here.

“Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.”
Romans
12:11-13 MSG

“not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”
Romans
12:11-13 NASB

I prefer the NASB and the link between perseverance in pressing times (the literal concept of tribulation) and DEVOTION to prayer, in other words, keeping at it all the time, especially when things are tough.

Oh, okay. I understand it a little better but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Marilyn and I had a better day, but things are still very hard. Very hard for both of us. When it comes time to pray together before we go to bed at night, I struggle just getting the words to come out of my mouth. I know she does.

BUT, we have to thank Him for helping us. Thanksgiving is a kind of jump starter. Once you get going on that, the “prayer lawn mower” tends to get started easier. Nothing, however, is easy. The devil will see to that.

It does help to pray with someone. I appreciate Marilyn’s commitment to prayer. It keeps me going when I don’t want to.

Plus, I know that all of you are praying. This helps even more.

I wish I had some kind of magic wand at this point. There just aren’t any easy answers, just the command among several. That is it.

Lord, please help us continue to be devoted to prayer. We are really having a hard time. I know many of the readers are in the same boat, in all probability. Give us grace, Lord. Amen.
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Medications?

Well, maybe I had a break-through yesterday.

Let me back up a second. The other day at the clinic, Tina said, “Let’s see if there are any medications we can take you off of.” She found two related to that BK virus I suffered since my days at the hospital. They are related to helping me overcome urgency and frequency, but since that is better, she is right. Why take them?

At first, it was a hard go because I had withdrawal from both of them. I felt horrible, but gradually, I got over that AND my appetite has returned, at least yesterday.

This is so weird to tell all of you: I ate pretty much the whole day. I had seven to eight snacks. I just decided that if there were a hint of feeling bad, I would just eat. Eat, I did. Man oh man! I have just been hungry, and I didn’t know it because of this medication.

Last night, I did not feel full AT ALL. Again, weird.

I think I have just been starving myself, and my body is craving food. And, now, I don’t believe it has to do with any previous theory—just the interaction of drugs all this time.

This would make sense as to why I have been losing weight since I got home—it is a stinking drug!

Well, anyway, this is my theory for now. We will see what happens.

Notice this little list of exhortations in Romans: “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle” (Romans
12:9-10 MSG).

I am not a musician (by any stretch of the imagination), but I think I get “second fiddle.” What Paul is saying is: let others lead at times. Practice serving. Let others have the spotlight.

Not too many years ago, I remember listening to a pastor who happened to be in the worship band in his church as well. He said it was good for him to let others lead in his life at times. I agree. There is a problem with someone who always forces himself into the spotlight. Let God handle all THAT.

Here Paul is talking about HOW to work the administration of gifts in the body of Christ. It boils down to love—of course. Doesn’t it always?

Lord, thanks for your help yesterday. I may not be on the right track, but You helped me yesterday. I pray for more help today. I love You and love the body. Amen.
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