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A Stroll At Leisure With God

Results of the MRI at the Clinic Today

Thanks for praying for me yesterday. I’m glad the MRI is over. Now, we are headed to CBCI to get the results of the exam. The appointment is rather early so we have to head out in a little bit.

Thanks so much for praying. I love all of you. I will share the results with you in the next blog or sooner if I get really ambitious. Ha.
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MRI Today

I know I have said this before, but one of the main challenges with cancer is that you are never really done with it. These tests keep coming up. They remind you that it could have come back, even if it hasn’t.

When I hear someone talk about that he/she was “cured” of cancer, I raise my eyebrows a bit. The best one can say is that he or she is in remission right now, but with this stinking disease, you never really know how long this will last.

Have people been cured? Absolutely. But you can’t talk about even the possibility of cure until years and years have gone by and even then …

I’m not trying to deny the power of God here. God can do anything, of course. He can heal every kind of disease, as the New Testament demonstrates, but we have to leave those kinds of things up to Him. Personally, I would say that this disease keeps me on my toes in trusting Dr. Jesus. He is in charge of whether or not it comes back or not. Thus, as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:34, we just have to to take it one day at a time.

I honestly thought I was done with cancer and chemo because of the transplant. Obviously not.

So, all of that to say that I continue to trust Him with this test today. If He allows me to be in remission, I will rejoice. If not, same thing. He is the Chief Doctor, nonetheless.

I like Peterson’s translation of some of the verses in the final section of chapter six where the Savior talks about anxiety: “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Matthew
6:30-33 MSG).

“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God provisions.” This commandment applies to us all as we walk with Him daily, whether we are getting ready for an MRI or dealing with cancer or not. Focusing on God-reality, God- initiative, and God-provisions keep us firmly rooted in the present.

Lord, I trust You with another test today. Dr. Jesus, You have taken care of all of us to this point. There is no reason to believe anything has changed. I continue to lift up those folks in Houston. Stop the storm. Help the waters to subside. Please keep anyone else from dying. We love You, Lord. Amen.
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Benchmark

"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NASB).

The Holy Spirit illuminated this verse seven years ago as I was first diagnosed with cancer. Since then, it always seems to “come up” in my Bible reading at just the right time!

Today is another example of this.

I have had more than my share of anxiety about the MRI tomorrow. I think these falls have made me a little more worried. The discipline of thanking the Lord has seemed more difficult than ever. But once again, as I read the verse above, it reminds me that worry always steps outside the boundaries that the Lord has set for us—TODAY.

Already, I have violated that principle as I look to tomorrow and speculate beyond that.

Not good, and I have discovered that looking ahead always gets me in trouble AND what I conjecture about what will happen NEVER DOES.

Coming back to the verse above—it is the closing verse of Jesus’ teaching about anxiety. He reminds us that the Lord will always take care of us and always provide for us.

Not long ago, I watched a Christian broadcast video about Joel Osteen. The interviewer asked why he never talked about hell or some of the more negative doctrines of the Christian faith. He replied, “I think life already beats people up too much. Many are down and out. They don’t need to hear about it in a sermon. This is why I focus on encouraging folks.” This is why there are forty thousand people in the church as well.

I’m not here to beat up Joel Osteen. He will have to answer to God for what he has preached as I will. However, I consider myself one of the “down and out”—a very difficult situation. And I have seen how the Lord has used that to teach me and grow me. Even the “negate” can be positive! I will let the Lord decide.

Things may not turn out all peachy keen in human life in the future as Osteen promises, but God is God. He is still in charge of the present and He will take care of the future for us all. That future, as un-encouraging as Osteen indicates, includes both heaven AND hell. That fact does encourage me to love Him and trust Him today.

Lord, I thank You for today. Thank You for it. Help me live today and trust You for tomorrow. I pray for Joel Osteen and the church He serves. I pray that I would be honest and accurate as I seek, by your grace, to live and share the Word today. I love You, Lord. Amen.
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Not a Single Hour

Hey, I want to start off with a bit of good news for everybody. I did NOT fall yesterday! Hooray! Ha. I do consider it another victory on the Lord’s part that He kept me upright. I was extremely cautious, but even then, on a couple of occasions, I found that I just jumped up without thinking about it. Please pray that I would learn through practice not to do this.

Having said all that, I found that my neck was/still is extremely sore. I’m pretty sure that the reason is that it absorbed a lot of the fall on Saturday. There is no pain, just soreness. This is very difficult to deal with. I hope that it gets better soon.

Anyway, we are preparing for the MRI on Wednesday. This will give all of us a good indication of where things are with the brain tumor. I’m praying that there will be no trace of cancer, but incidents like the one that occurred on Saturday make me wonder.

But here I go again—looking ahead and letting Satan get me involved in speculation.

This is why, at this crucial time in my recovery, I’m so glad I have arrived at Matthew 6:25-34, the section in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about anxiety. I think I am going to stay in this passage a few days. I need to. Here is a verse that captured my attention today: “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew
6:27, NASB)

As much as I would like, I can do nothing to alter time. That is God’s purview. He is totally in charge of this. I would like to go back in time to change whatever it was (my dad’s cancer or other factors) that caused me to contract this crazy disease seven years ago. Can’t do it. I’d like to add a few days to this week to delay that MRI. Can’t do it. I’d like to speed up this week to get the MRI over with. Can’t do it.

Well, you get the idea … Jesus is saying that anxiety is useless. It is pointless to worry because, by doing so, we can’t do a thing to change time or anything, for that matter.

Lord, I thank You for giving me a day when I didn’t have a fall. Thank You for healing my neck from its soreness. I pray for all the folks in the Houston area who are suffering from this terrible flood. You are in charge of time and weather. Please cause the storm to pass and the flood to subside. Amen.
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Fall Number Five

Since I have gotten home from the hospital, I have fallen four, now five times. Yesterday, I had the “experience” of falling again—number five.

Here is what happened: Marilyn and I were having a conversation. She went into a different room. From there, she asked me a question. I didn’t quite hear her, so I jumped out of my chair and went to the door of the other room. As I stood in the doorway, I could tell that I was a little faint. Before I knew it, Marilyn was leaning over me, calling out my name. I could tell she was very upset and worried.

Apparently (this part of the story comes from Marilyn), shortly after I arrived at the door of the other room, my eyes rolled back in my head and I fell straight backwards on the hardwood floor. Marilyn raced over to see if I was okay, and she said it took a few seconds for me to wake up.

Thank the Lord, I suffered only a banged up elbow (it was bleeding) and a rather sizable knot on the back of my head, but otherwise, I was “none the worse for the wear.”

To be honest, this incident concerns us both as we look forward to the MRI I am scheduled to take this coming Wednesday. BUT, every time I have fallen, I have forgotten what the Physical Therapist, Courtney told me. “John, you just can’t jump up after you have been seated in a chair. You must first sit on the edge of the chair, gather yourself, and then get up slowly.”

All five times, I have fallen because I have jumped up too quickly from the seated position! When will I learn?

Anyway, sorry for the long story. I tell it in order to let You know that I am grateful to the Lord once again for helping me avoid serious injury EACH TIME I have fallen. In all five situations, without His grace and mercy, I could have really done a number on myself with a broken bone or concussion.

Here is the verse for today as I continue to make my way slowly through the Sermon on the Mount: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew
6:24, NASB).

As Jesus continues to talk about our possible responses to money, what dawns on me is the fact that the Lord continues to give plenty of evidence to support the fact that He is the One True God. This is why we need continually to thank Him for providing for us, taking care of us, and loving us.

Providing finances for us is just as much a provision of His grace as is taking care of an idiot like me when I continue to fall down.

Lord, I thank You for taking care of me AGAIN on the fall yesterday. I’m so thankful that You have done this five times now. I choose today to be devoted totally to You and to serve You, rather than money or good fortune or any other thing I might attribute to the care I am receiving today. It is You, all You, always has been. Amen.
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Clear Eye

"The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23, NASB)

As I have read these statements through the years, they have always seemed to be a little confusing to me, but this morning, it dawned on me that they are linked to what goes before as Jesus condemned storing up treasures on earth instead of heaven.

How does one do this? The key is the eye. If we turn the lamp on, and allow the windows of our lives to be open, then we are flooded with light. We discern things clearly. But if we don’t, we are stumbling around in the darkness. It is as simple as that.

We live in a visual culture. We are bombarded with images and pictures and videos on all the media like the phone, the computer, and the television. If the “lamp” is not on, we fall for all that, accumulating stuff here on earth while forgetting that this planet is not our ultimate home. It is the new heaven and the new earth. It is heaven.

This is a huge affirmation of where the Lord has Marilyn and me at this point. We both realize that neither one of us has that much longer to live here on earth.

Let me explain that. We are both plugging along. I think this virus seems to be doing better and better. Thanks for praying for me. So, there is nothing imminent on the horizon unless the Lord decides to take us home today. Come, Lord Jesus!

No, it isn’t that, but the situation with my mom and with me has shown both of us how tenuous human life really is. I am 59. How much time do I have? Who knows? God. He can choose to take me any time, but if He allows me to live longer, how much time do I have? Because I have no idea, then I must get at doing what I feel the Lord laid on my heart while I am still alive. Right?

So many of us have things we want to do, but we allow Satan to close the blinds on the windows and cause us to think, “Well, I have plenty of time. I will get to it later.” And “later” never comes.

Thus, there is one thing on my heart that, when I feel up to it, I have been working on right now. I will share more about this in the days ahead, but in the meantime, I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to do it. I believe that this is one of the reasons the Lord has left me here. We will see.

Lord, thank You that You are the lamp. You are the light of the world. Today, I pray that all of us would open the blinds and let the Light in. Give us the right perspective of how short and fleeting this human life really is and get us moving NOW. Amen.
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Unbelievable

Yesterday, I called the specialty pharmacy that supplies imbrutinib—the chemo pill—for a refill. As I was talking with the sales lady, she said that they could send it right out. However, someone would need to be there to sign for it when it arrives. Oh, man. I know how that works. You wait all day and it comes at 5:15 PM.

So, I said, “Is that absolutely necessary? Can’t you just leave it on our front porch?”

“No,” the lady responded. “This pill costs $15,000, and if we miss you a couple of times, we cancel the prescription and the only way you can continue to get it is to pay full price out of pocket, and I don’t think you want to do that.”

Ah, no!

$15,000! When she said that I nearly fell out of my chair. Just the other day, I railed against health insurance (I still have not received the salve), but after this, I want to take all (well, most) of it back. No one could pay that! Unbelievable. So, guess who is going to be waiting today? Gladly. With bells on my shoes! Ha. If I sign for it, it will cost me $10.00. I will gladly pay it.

As I continue to deal with all of this, my heart goes out to cancer patients who do not have health insurance. I just don’t know how they can make it. There is really no way. The real costs associated with this disease are not just large. They are astronomical, and they keep going up. There is no way the “average” person could pay these expenses out-of-pocket.

It is that kind of bankruptcy on the part of the “average” person that the Sermon on the Mount presupposes. Here is the final petition of the model prayer: “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]” (Matthew
6:13 NASB).

Jesus knows that we as humans apart from the Holy Spirit and in the weakness of our flesh do not have the inherent ability to resist temptation and deliver ourselves from evil. That is why we must pray for one another.

The thing that stood out to me today is that the model prayer is NOT for the individual Christian alone. These are not petitions I just pray for myself. This is an “us” and “we” prayer. Don’t get me wrong. I do pray for myself, but I also pray for others. This is absolutely crucial.

We need to pray for each other in crucial decisions and in spiritual warfare. This is crucial.

Of all the reasons I continue to write this blog, one of the main motivators is all of you. The fact that all of you are praying for me keeps me on track and out of the weeds. Plus, it reminds me of all of you and I pray for you as well. Thanks to all of you, again!

As I continue to say, there is no such thing as “Lone Ranger Christians.”

Lord, thanks for health insurance. I wouldn’t be able to take this chemo pill without this provision. Thanks for the privilege of praying for each other in all areas of life but especially in the matter of spiritual warfare. You are an awesome God. We love You. Amen.

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Forgiveness

I spent most of yesterday coughing and sneezing, but I think I feel a little better. I’m just trying to rest even more than usual and trying to pour water down into my system. I plan to do the same today.

One of the things that has been a huge motivator for me through this brain tumor surgery and recovery is that I don’t want to add anything else to the plate to make this process even longer and even harder. There are so many things that can fit in this category. One of them emerges in the model prayer—the whole issue of forgiveness.

I am going to cite two verses that come after the prayer in Matthew 6: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew
6:14-15 NASB).

Years ago, as I first studied this passage so that I could preach a sermon on it, I was very disturbed with these verses. At first glance, it looks as if God’s forgiveness toward us in CONTINGENT on our forgiveness of our brother. If we don’t forgive, then the Lord won’t forgive us.

This is one of those times where we have to weigh one verse or two over against the broader teaching of the Word of God. The Bible as a whole clearly teaches that God’s forgiveness is NOT contingent on anything we do but the grace and mercy of God. We accept it, not because of what we do. We receive this total forgiveness by grace through faith.

So, I believe that Jesus is saying that our forgiveness on a human level shows that we have been forgiven by God. If we don’t forgive our brother, how could we have received the forgiveness of God?

To be honest, I have struggled with the fact that it took them so long to diagnose my brain tumor at the clinic. I was complaining about a headache for a month and nobody took me seriously until Dr. M did that one final neurological test in ICU that showed them something was wrong. I had passed all the other neurological tests, except one. Go figure.

Anyway, I continue to think back on all of this, and I struggle, but as I continue to thank the Lord for all of it, I realize that these doctors and nurses are human like me. Humans make errors, but God doesn’t. The bottom line is that I am going through all of this because our Sovereign Dr. Jesus has allowed it AND He is now helping me with recovery. Thus, unforgiveness toward the doctors and nurses helps (or hurts) no one. It is a waste of time, and I need to turn my focus elsewhere.

Lord, thank You again for this model prayer. I pray that all of us would keep our forgiveness up to date daily. Thank You from the bottom of my heart for the forgiveness of my sins that continues to flow. Thank You for mercy and grace. I love You, Lord. You are doctor number one! Amen.

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Caught It

It is (almost) a comedy of errors. When one side effect or issue subsides—the rashes and itchy skin (I still don’t have the salve) are a lot better, something else emerges.

As we were leaving the clinic yesterday, I could tell that I was starting to feel bad. And, as the day progressed, I felt worse and worse. I finally caught the virus Marilyn has had for the past several days. We were both praying that I could avoid it, but it is difficult to do so when one lives with another who is sick.

But I feel this morning as if some drove over me with a truck. I’m glad I can just lay low and drink a lot of water and rest. That is what I plan to do. This is another opportunity to thank the Lord “in everything.”

I thank Him for the virus, but I also thank Him for another good report. All my blood counts are good. One of the doctors and a couple of nurses told me I really looked good. Not too bad, right? Both of these things are very encouraging.

Thus, I am trying not to look that far ahead. This is another momentary setback on the way to recovery. I get depressed when I start to look that far ahead (or behind). This is what Satan wants. Instead, I’m asking the Lord for grace to stay in today.

The model prayer reinforces this for me today. “'Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew
6:11 NASB).

This prayer request reminds me of what the Lord said to the Israelites in the wilderness. He commanded them to gather only enough manna for one day at a time. The only exception to this rule was on Friday when they could pick up two days’ worth so that they could rest on the Sabbath.

“One day at a time, Sweet Jesus” is the principle, and I believe this is the greatest challenge we have as believers. Staying in the moment. Focusing on today without allowing our minds to project forward or backward.

I believe that this is a biblical foundation for the life of thanksgiving. The Lord is teaching me to look around and meditate on what He is doing and giving and providing RIGHT NOW. This is crucial. Too often I miss this blessing when my mind begins to drift.

Lord, we ask You to give us what we need today as we thank You for today. Thank You for the good report. Thank You even for this virus. Help me to do (or not do) today what is necessary to get over it soon. We love You, Lord, and thank You for another day of abundant life. Amen.

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Your Kingdom Come

I guess it has to do with the eclipse. But this morning, as I started to read what is erroneously called “the Lord’s prayer” (I think a better name is “the model prayer”), the Holy Spirit stopped me on the first verse.

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew
6:10 NASB).

All the craziness yesterday really bothered me. What happened reminded me of a statement about depravity in Romans 1. In our lostness, we worship the “creature, rather than the creator.” I wonder how many of the folks who jumped in their cars and raced to some spot to watch the eclipse, actually thought about the One who created the sun and the moon and the stars. He is the One who caused this once-in-four lifetimes event.

AND, what about the significance of it? He engineered it to go from one end of our country to another! How amazing!

As Marilyn and I were talking about all of this, I got more and more convicted, and more so this morning, as I read Matthew 6:10. The model prayer starts off with a petition for the kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth.

I don’t usually start my prayers with a focus on the kingdom of God and God’s will. I start with, “I want this; I want that; et cetera.”

To be honest with all of you, the Holy Spirit convicted me of an apathy about this whole “eclipse thing.” I found myself focused on the misdirected craze of the world (and there is nothing wrong with admiring and taking pictures of the event itself, but there is a line somewhere) rather than the kingdom and God.

The Spirit made me realize that this eclipse demonstrated that God is at work in this depraved world AND that He is coming back soon AND I need urgently to be out doing His will here on earth as it is now being done in heaven right now and for eternity. It made me realize how ready I am for Him to come back. I hope it is today!

Thus, Marilyn and I decided that it was definitely a sign of the judgment of God. We stopped and prayed, both of us repenting before a holy God. We also decided that any conversation about the eclipse is an opportunity to tell people about the God who is in charge of the universe.

Come, Lord Jesus!
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God Knows Before We Ask

I want to start off thanking all of you for praying for me. I still have not received the salve the doctor prescribed. However, my rashes, especially the one on my head, are A LOT better. On my head, I just ended up using some over-the-counter lotion. That’s it.

Plus, as I woke up this morning, it seemed rather noticeable that I felt a little bit better. Hum. I always wondered what that would feel like. I hope this good feeling will continue throughout the day, but for now, I am so grateful for this.

One more thing: thank you also for praying for Marilyn. Her virus seems to be getting better and so far, I have not caught it. Thus, answered prayer and praises all around! Hopefully, I would be saying the same thing if I had a different report.

Anyway, as I progress through the Sermon on the Mount, these two verses captured my attention. "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew
6:7-8, NASB).

The first intriguing term for me this morning is “meaningless repetition.” I do not believe this is referring to perseverance in prayer. Jesus makes many comments about continuing to ask. The story of the widow and the judge comes to mind here. No, I think He is speaking of oratorical prayers intended to impress the people who hear them rather simply making petitions to God.

Why is this important? Because God already knows what we NEED before we ask Him. He is not deaf or senile. He doesn’t need a lot of words.

If this is the case, why pray at all? I’m convinced that we need prayer more than the Lord does. In other words, I believe that the main purpose of prayer is fellowship with God—it is time for communion with Him. I’m not intimating that He does not want us to ask Him things, but the purpose of prayer goes beyond my prayer list. If I simply read off what I want, say Amen, and go on my merry way, I have missed the purpose of prayer.

This may sound crazy. It wouldn’t be the first time I was accused of insanity! Ha. But I believe that one of the main purposes of my illness is to slow me down enough to have fellowship with Him in that hospital bed and now on this couch. I discovered that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do this. I am looking forward to heaven even more!

Lord, thank You for today—another day You have made and I rejoice in it. As the world goes crazy over the eclipse, I pray that You would use this event to point people to You—the God of the Universe, the One in charge of planets and stars and everyone on the earth. Amen.
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God Sees in Secret

Yesterday seemed to be a little better day than the past several. I keep trying to figure out what I do on the good days so that I can repeat it and have more good days in a row. But it doesn’t seem to be working that way. I’m learning that recovery involves a lot of ups and downs. That’s it.

Marilyn is feeling better. Thanks for praying for her. So far, thank the Lord, I haven’t caught the virus she is struggling with. I’m grateful to the Lord for that as well.

This next week, I only have one appointment at the clinic as I did last week. Since I got home from the hospital, I have been going twice a week. I guess this means that they think I am doing better as well. Again, thank You, Jesus!

Continuing in the Sermon on the Mount, in the first paragraphs of chapter six, Jesus discusses two acts of righteousness as examples of serving the Lord in secret: giving alms (or money) to God and prayer. I am going to quote one part of what He says about prayer.

"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew
6:5-6 NASB).

“Go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father,” says Jesus. At its foundation, pray is solely between God and me. It is not, first of all, a public activity. What I have learned, however, is that, if folks don’t pray as Jesus commands, in secret, they won’t be attending prayer meeting. The private prayer is foundational for public worship and prayer. It teaches us how to do the latter because we don’t prayer for/to other people; we pray to God.

Sometimes, my prayers to Him are so honest that I wouldn’t like anyone else to hear them. Psalms has taught me that prayer is one of the most human things I do. I can tell God anything. He knows it all, anyway. Right?

I think we need to be “real” with God and each other, but I fear that Christianity is often the “street corner” type of ivory tower, “impress-others type of religion” that is a major turn-off to other Christians and non-believers alike.

Lord, thank You again for helping us. Things continue to be discouraging as I wait for the salve and deal with these irritating side-effects. I want to get well, and things are moving way too slow for my liking, but I thank You that You don’t operate to “my liking.” Your standards are much higher than that. Teach me to pray in secret and thus learn to worship in the congregation. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Practicing Righteousness

Well, I am thankful for the Lord’s care. I can say that about my whole life but especially the time since I have come home from the hospital.

I say that because yesterday, I had a rather severe fall—the fourth in the last few weeks. We were getting a sandwich, and in this deli, there was a step that I didn’t notice. I lost my balance and fell forward into a table and then I hit the ground.

But no harm, no foul. And I had a full cup of lemonade in my hand. I didn’t spill a drop. Once again, the Lord protected me from breaking my silly neck. That is the last thing I need right now—a broken bone or some other injury to deal with. Each time I have fallen so far, the Lord has intervened. Thank You, Jesus.

Other than that near disaster, I had a good day. Please pray for Marilyn. She is dealing with a virus and of course, the concern goes both ways. Please pray that she feels better soon and that I don’t catch it. Another opportunity to trust Jesus. Thank You for this virus, Lord.

Chapter six in Matthew begins a new section in the Sermon on the Mount that carries forward the arguments of chapter five. Jesus stands before the crowd like Moses did. He did not nullify the Law of God AT ALL but expanded the notion of what is truly right and truly wrong. It all begins in the heart.

Jesus goes on in chapter six with this statement:
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1, NASB).

If true obedience begins in the heart, then it should not matter who sees me “practice (my) righteousness.”

In fact, Jesus goes further. If I do good works to be seen, then I have no reward with God! This is a dramatic statement.

This is how it applies to me in this period of time in my life. I honestly believe that, when we are alone with no one around or no one to see us, this is the most important and the most difficult time of all.

I remember having this overwhelming urge to feel sorry for myself as I laid in the hospital bed day after day. I looked out the window. It was summer. I could not play golf or even get out of bed. Satan said, “You’ve been given a raw deal. Here you are—all alone in this bed. Poor John. God did this to you. He is mean. You have a right to some self-pity.” Et cetera.

And yet, on the other side of that coin, I had this acute awareness that I was not alone. The Lord was/is there. And He was watching.

This was the foundation for searching out the whole concept of giving thanks in the scriptures. It was no lofty spiritual pursuit on my part! I knew if I didn’t learn to respond differently to my troubles I would lose my mind in that hospital and that would not help.

I won’t quote this properly, but a statement I heard years ago applies here: “Who you are when you are alone is who you really are.” Something like that.

Lord, I am grateful, so grateful, that You are always there when we are going through tough times and it seems as if we are alone. Thank You that You are always there AND always watching. Help me to remember that today—every thought, every action falls under Your loving scrutiny. I love You Father, Son, Holy Spirit, more than the approval of men. Amen.
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Finally, Medicine Came In

No, it is not the salve I have been asking you to pray about. Please keep doing that. This is another medication I have been waiting on as well.

Let me explain. Before the brain surgery, I went to an eye doctor to which CBCI sent me. I was having trouble with my eyes. They seemed to be overly sensitive to light to the point where I was squinting all the time. Once again, this was driving me crazy (I probably don’t need to say that anymore—ha!). I kept taking the medicine he prescribed when I was in the hospital, but when I got home, I just failed to do it—laziness on my part. But, the symptoms continued.

I felt good enough to go back to him for a follow-up appointment a week ago Monday. He said I was doing better and prescribed another medication. Along with the salve, I waited and waited and waited. I finally got it yesterday. Marilyn went into the pharmacy to pick it up. As she came out, she was shaking her head, “If you did not have insurance, you would have to pay $500.00 for this!” Yikes! I guess this is why the insurance took so long to approve it—MONEY. Still, are you kidding me? Is there any consideration for the patient?

Well, once again, this is an opportunity to thank the Lord. If we didn’t believe that the Lord’s timing is perfect, where would we be?

This leads me to cite the final verse of chapter five in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew
5:48 NASB).

Talk about a standard! The Greek word translated “perfect” in the NASB literally means mature. We should be as mature as God! Wow. This is absolutely impossible without salvation and without the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Even then …

I have been talking about giving thanks since I returned home from the hospital. It is one thing to do it in rote, mechanical way. It is another thing to thank the Lord from the start with one’s whole heart. It seems that the Lord continues to give me one thing after another to thank Him for. Will I continue to do it? Will I learn?

Dr. Jesus, I confess my failure to thank You for the delay of these two medications. It is easier to rail against insurance companies and blame our money-oriented culture. I choose today to thank You even for this hassle AND for any other that comes up in this recovery process or beyond. I love You, Dr. Jesus. You are perfect, mature. You are the only One who can live UP to this standard and You dwell in me. Thank You. Amen.

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Sun and Rain

I am still waiting on the salve/lotion that the doctor prescribed. It STILL has not been approved. Marilyn and I both are getting frustrated. Thanks for some of the recommendations you have made. We will definitely try them out. Up till now, however, nothing seems to work. This incessant itching continues to drive me crazy.

As Marilyn said yesterday, “I don’t understand. The doctor has ordered it. They should just approve it. What is going on?” I have no idea, but this is just another example of how insurance-driven the medical industry is. This cream for my itching head is $60.00 WITH INSURANCE. Without it, I bet it is $200.00 to $300.00. If I had to pay the real price for all these medications, there is no way I could do it. So, we continue to wait, and I continue to scratch! Ha.

This whole scenario reminds me of when I first went into the hospital back in June. In addition to my headache and the brain surgery and the spinal meningitis, I had the hiccups! That was more irritating than the other big stuff. Here is what I have learned: God’s trials come in all shapes and sizes; each calls for giving thanks. It just dawned on me that I never did thank him for the hiccups. So, I do it right now, Lord—even hiccups.

This is a principle that Jesus uses in the arena of relationships. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew
5:44-46 NASB)

He commands us to love even our enemies. Then, he uses the examples of sun and rain. In a rural, farm culture like the nation of Israel in Jesus’ day, both were extremely important, as you can imagine. They still are today! But God in His mercy allows all of us, whether we are saved or not, to enjoy these two entities of His created world. He does not discriminate. Neither should we in our attitudes and actions toward our enemies. We should love enemy and friend, just the same.

Likewise, I am a benefactor of another beautiful summer morning here in Colorado. I get to enjoy it as an act of mercy from a loving God. He allows me to enjoy it, no matter what is going on with me or how frustrated I am, and I am so thankful for this. Where would we be today if God just decided that the earth would just stop rotating on its axis and because we had a bad attitude, He just decided that today, we would live in total darkness?

Lord, I thank You even for this itching and the hiccups and all the little stuff that is part of this trial. Thank You today for another example of Your mercy and grace. It is all the same. Help my love for You and others to be the same nondiscrimination as YOUR sun and YOUR rain. Amen.
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Conviction of Sin

The passage I read this morning brought to mind a sin I committed. I’ll get to it in a second.

This morning, I really don’t feel all that well. For some reason, I am more nauseated than usual. I have no reason why. This whole recovery “thing” doesn’t seem to be moving as fast as I would like. Surprise, surprise, huh?

I am still grateful to Jesus for the progress I have made and just thank Him for another day He is giving me. I am still trusting Him that He will help me get back on my feet totally. AND I thank Him for the pace of that recovery—never as fast as I want, of course! Ha.

Back to the Sermon on the Mount—here is the verse the Holy Spirit used to stop me in my tracks. “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew
5:42, NASB).

When I was in Kolkata a couple of years ago with Pam and Nancy from our church and with a great group of folks from Ken Caryl Baptist Church here in Denver, we were staying in this boarding house. It was very nice.

At the house, they even made available to us a laundry service. Every morning, this shy young man delivered clean clothes at your door.

One morning, I heard him outside my door so I went and opened it. I think I kind of shocked him, but I greeted him and we visited a moment. During the course of the conversation, he looked in my room and saw my air mattress on the bed. He said, “Can I have that?” He pointed at the mattress. I immediately balked and said, “I wish I could give it to you, but I need it.”

I told the group this story and a woman from Ken Caryl gave him her mattress. She got the blessing of obedience. I did not.

On the other side of that coin, on that same trip, I told one of our IMB missionaries who was working with us that I liked the bag he was carrying. He took it off and gave it to me the next day. I protested. He said he wanted to give it to me, and just turned and walked off. He got that blessing.

Lord, thank You for Your Word. I confess the sin of failing to be obedient to this command three years ago. Thank You for that trip to India, for that young man, for Jeanne from Ken Caryl, for that missionary who gave me his bag—this blessed me greatly, and for the lessons You teach us. I want to be ready today. Everything I think I own really belongs to You. Amen.
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Reversal

When am I going to learn? I guess the answer to that question is “someday.”

At the clinic yesterday, we got to meet with Dr. Ali. He prescribed some medicine for this incessant itching I am experiencing on my head. However, the insurance company has still not approved it quite yet. Please pray that they do today.

Everything is insurance-driven, as I indicated the other day. I get frustrated. This is a case in point. But some of these pills would be hundreds of dollars without it. Hopefully, we can pick it up today and I can start using it. We will see.

A little later on in our visit with the doctor, Marilyn said, “The other day, we met with Ryan. He indicated that, if the MRI showed that John was in remission, he might be able to come off the chemo pill. Is that right?”

Dr. Ali frowned, “Oh no. We might have to modify the dose if he is still having problems, but we will not be taking him off of it because we do not want the cancer to return. There is no research out there that indicates that it is good to stop it, unless he just can’t tolerate it.”

At that moment, I could feel my heart drop down in my chest, but the more I thanked the Lord, I realized that this was good. I don’t want to have to go back to the hospital for more cancer surgery EVER again. Thus, if this is the only way to avoid it, then I am all in. I have spent two full months in the hospital in the last two years. I figure this is enough. And, in addition, I am trusting Dr. Jesus, not a pill, anyway.

I continue to learn that, when I thank the Lord, He gives me the right perspective of any situation. When I fail to do this, it exposes me to fear and doubt and speculation.

You either trust Him or not. There is no middle ground.

The verse I want to quote this morning bears this out.
“But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil” (Matthew 5:37, NASB).

The context of this verse is Jesus’ statements about vows. He tells us that we should avoid them.

If there is anything that angers me when I hear it, it is, “I swear to God.” I hear this “vow” more often than I care to mention. If we have to use this, then our word means nothing. Zero. Instead, Jesus reminds us, our word—yes or no—ought to stand on its own AND we don’t need vows to buttress our comments.

Dr. Jesus, thank You for the visit with the doctor and thank You for the fact that I have to stay on the cancer pill. You are in charge of this illness, not me. Thank You that the doctor is on top of things and knows the current research, but You know a lot more and have cared for me to this point. I know You aren’t stopping now. Amen.
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Throw It Away

Yesterday was a frustrating day. Satan continues to attack us both. It seems that the longer I go on the chemo pill, I don’t seem to be getting better. Instead, I continue to deal with a series of side-effects. This time, it is my ears. They are itching, so much so that I am just miserable. I’ve tried all sorts of lotions. Nothing seems to help. They are driving me crazy.

I’m glad that we have an appointment at the clinic today. I hope they can prescribe something that will help. For some reason, this is presenting the biggest challenge yet for thanking God.

But I believe that this is THE battle—continuing to thank God while not allowing any hint of unlawful anger or bitterness. If I develop a root of bitterness about this silly thing, how does it help my itching ears? Not at all. In fact, I think it makes them worse. Thus, it just isn’t worth it.

Now that is a logical argument. I realize that we are emotional creatures and we don’t always live by logic but we are commanded to love the Lord WITH OUR MINDS as well.

Today, as I continue in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, I came across a phrase that I don’t ever remember noticing. Let me quote the two verses first: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and
throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30 NASB).

The context of these statements is Jesus’ teaching on adultery. Like the other commands He mentions, Jesus carries His arguments to the heart—the core of the issue. He argues that if one looks with lust on another, he has already committed adultery in his heart. Then, these statements follow.

Jesus is using hyperbole—exaggeration. I believe that what Jesus is saying is that we should do whatever it takes to avoid lust or sin or any kind. Tear your eye out. Cut off your hand. These are the parts of these statements I remember.

But for each one, He goes a step further. Not only should we tear/cut off an organ, but also we should “throw it from” us. Wow! That is language that makes it clear that we should totally separate ourselves from any hint of the possibility of sin.

We should throw our eye balls or hands far from us, or risk the danger of God throwing us into hell.

Lord, I confess my lackadaisical attitude toward sin. I choose today to hear and obey what You are saying—NEVER mess around with sin. I choose to thank You for this new side-effect and/or any others that emerge. Thanks again for all of Your people who read this and pray. This is serious business, very serious. Amen.
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A Biblical Cure for Church Fights

Even after all this time, Marilyn is helping me as I try to adjust and take my pain medications at the best time of day. This is necessary because I still don’t feel well most of the time.

However, yesterday, thank the Lord, He enabled me to get it right, and I had a day when I felt better. I told Marilyn late in the day, “I have almost forgotten what it is like to feel half-way decent.” This is a huge thing for which to give thanks. Thanks to all of you for continuing to pray.

After yesterday, I realized that feeling good is going to be a huge adjustment, and I ask you to pray that, when this occurs, I will be ready to shift gears and be up and at ‘em! I do know that at this point, there is really only one thing that I feel sure the Lord is leading me to do, but I need to pray about this more. I will share this at some point.

In the meantime, the verses that the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart today took me down memory lane a bit, but they are not pleasant memories. Let me cite these familiar verses, first of all: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew
5:23-24 NASB).

If I had a dime for every time as a pastor that I sat across from someone who was angry with someone else in the church and yet refused to do anything about it, I would be a millionaire now. Following this admonition, along with the instructions in Matthew 18, is the biblical cure for church fights or any divisive quarrel between believers—go to the other person and make it right. If we would just do it …

As I read this today, it dawns on me that this command is a huge step of preparation for worship. Before we go to church, we need to make sure that no one has anything against us. If they do, and we attempt to worship anyway, it is a sham and a farce. Getting right with one’s brother or sister in the Lord is a priority. Then, we can worship.

Lord, thanks again for a good day yesterday. I will never take the good days for granted and I give You the credit for helping me in that regard. Thank You for the clear instructions in Your Word. Show me where I stand in light of the passage for today. Help me always to take the initiative in getting right with my fellow believer and to take those steps the first time you show me what to do. Amen.
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Annul

Another ominous passage … I will get to it in a moment.

Yesterday was one of those rare days when I had no doctor’s appointments. I still had to call Dr. Wise though because the pharmacy has still not approved the prescription he gave me for my eyes and they continue to bother me.

This raises an issue that all of you understand, I am sure. Why don’t they approve the prescription? Insurance, for some reason, has not.

It is amazing to me how insurance-driven the medical profession is. Often, I have to wait for this and call the clinic back to tell them that the medication they want me to take is still not okayed, and then, they have to call back … and so forth.

The other area where this issue raises its head is the kind of scan I take. On several occasions, the doctor has recommended a PET scan, but the insurance does not approve it, so I have to take a CT scan. This bothers Marilyn and I greatly. What are they missing because of the shift of scans?

All of this may sound as if I am railing against insurance companies. Please understand: I am NOT because without them, I have no idea how I would pay for cancer. I don’t see how anyone could. For example, I added up the cost of my first round of chemo plus the $8,000 shot (this is not a total, but this is the cost EACH TIME) was over $200,000!

This whole issue is an example, I believe, of what Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount: “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew
5:19 NASB). I believe that all of us should be prepared. I believe that we should use the brain that God gives us and be ready for some catastrophic illness or accident. Planning and the leadership of the Holy Spirit are not contradictory.

This passage sends chills up and down my spine. One better be careful what he preaches. He better make sure he obeys the truth himself and teaches others to do so. Yikes. No annulment allowed.

HOWEVER, having said all of this, I do know folks who, despite their best efforts, just can’t afford health insurance. My heart goes out to them. I just don’t see how they do it, and I am burdened to pray for them more than ever. Our ultimate insurance policy is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Doctor of doctors. I do not toss that statement out glibly. I’ve experienced this in my own life.

Lord, we do ultimately trust You, whether we have health insurance or not. Thank You for taking care of us. Thank You for loving us. I lift up those who, in addition to being sick, have to be concerned about money. Help me to pray and to do what I can to help. Amen.
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Good News from the Visit at the Clinic!

I am very prone to share challenging news. I wanted to take some time to share some good news. Of course, whether it is good news or “bad,” by His grace and the Holy Spirit, we thank Him for either one, right?

Anyway, we got to see Ryan, one of Dr. Ali’s physician assistants. For the first time in a few months, he indicated that all my blood counts looked good. Thank You, Lord.

Second, he made another statement that almost knocked me out of my chair. “John, we have scheduled an MRI for you at the end of the month (nothing new there). If it shows that your cancer is in remission, we may be able to take you off the chemo pill!” Wow. I was under the impression and I have been telling folks (I may even have written it in this forum) that I was on that pill for the rest of my life. This was awesome news. He went on, “I’m not promising anything, but maybe we will be able to do this.” I will take that “maybe” and run with it, without any further expectations. Thank You, Lord.

Third, after talking a little further, he added, “The encouraging thing about this is that, normally, when there is some sort of relapse, it is systemic—it has spread through the whole body—but it appears that this cancer you contracted was localized and therefore easier to treat. So again, we will see.” Amen. Thank You again, Lord.

I am grateful that even with a brain tumor, there is something to thank the Lord for—more than one thing.

With this “good news,” I want to thank the Lord and be very vocal about it, but too many times, I am not. Notice what Jesus calls this tendency: "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew
5:14-16 NASB).

He calls it putting a lit lamp “under a basket.” It dawns on me this morning that doing so not only hides the light AT FIRST, but also, it could cause a fire! Not good. Either way one looks at it, it is very damaging when Christians do not show the light that we are to this dark and sinful world. If we are not light, who will be?

Father, I confess the sin of putting a lamp over the Good News of the Gospel. Give me an opportunity to “shine” today. Help me to see that opportunity and be vocal with words and DEEDS so that folks in darkness will see it and glorify You. Amen.
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Thrown Out and Trampled

What an ominous verse! I’ll get to it in a moment.

But first … we actually did not have any doctor’s appointments yesterday. I wish I had felt better. However, the extra time afforded Marilyn and me the opportunity to talk about a lot of stuff. We are both convinced that we both need to do a better job of preparing for death.

I know this is a morbid subject and one about which we don’t want to talk (isn’t that the problem?), but we are starting actively to prepare for it. Neither of us have a will, for one thing. We have not arranged our funerals. There is a long list of items after that.

My mom did a good job of preparing. I am talking about Marilyn and me. We have decided to deal with this kind of stuff while it is on our minds and not be timid about it. I’m convinced that most people don’t think about this until they have to, and as a result, face a lot of unnecessary hassle and expense. Or, they leave this kind of thing for their relatives to deal with. Not good.

Anyway, what I just wrote is prompted by the verse the Holy Spirit brought to my attention in Matthew five. "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (Matthew
5:13 NASB).

This verse literally gives me chills. If I don’t live out my identity as the salt of the earth, the Lord throws me out AND men trample me under foot. I can’t think of a worse end than someone who honestly believes they are saved but they really are not and thus they end up separated from Him forever.

What does it mean for salt to become tasteless? I think this statement is a counterpart to John 15. There, the fruit is evident. If someone is saved, the world will see the fruit. Here, if someone is saved, the world will literally taste it.

Right now, one of my pills is a salt pill. I have to take it every day. There is no mistaking the salt taste as I put it in my mouth. It is unmistakable. It is briny. I wash it down as soon as possible. This is the way the Lord wants us to be in this “saltless” world.

Lord, no matter what is going on with my health, I choose saltiness. Give me the grace to be the salt of the earth in this short life, no matter how many more days You give me. Amen.
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Rejoice and Be Glad

My rather naïve hope in my visit to the eye doctor was that he would say, “John, your eyes are totally cured (a word that is seldom if ever used when dealing with cancer) of Graft versus Host Disease. Go in peace.” Ha. Nope.

He DID say that my eyes are better, but he put me on another medication for the time being.

All kidding aside, I’m actually glad because I am still having trouble with my eyes. It seems that I feel the need to squint all the time. It is very frustrating. We will see what happens.

Anyway, in my reading in Matthew, this morning I came to chapter five, the Sermon on the Mount, and specifically, the Beatitudes.

The last Beatitude captured my attention: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew
5:11-12 NASB).

This reminds me of the command to rejoice in Philippians 4 and 1 Thessalonians 5, but here Jesus gives a time frame to it. “Rejoice WHEN you are persecuted.” I find this very interesting and challenging.

Most of us shy away from any trouble or doing anything that might cause someone to think we are some kind of religious nut. Heaven forbid! I know I do. This is why I appreciate Marilyn so much.

Someone the other day commented about how good I look (were they really looking at me?). Marilyn jumped in, “Well, we are trusting the Lord to take care of Him and we have a lot of people praying for us.” Wow. It was great. The person was a bit stunned, as she changed the topic of conversation.

This was awesome, but it is nothing compared to what the prophets went through—all kinds of severe persecution and even martyrdom.

Lord, thank You for any and every bit of persecution we face because of Jesus and the gospel. We rejoice and are glad and thank You for everything. Thanks for the good report yesterday. Thanks AGAIN for everyone who is praying and for Your mercy and grace. We love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Immediately

Yesterday, at the clinic, one of the doctors at CBCI, Dr. M, perked up when I told him about the three major symptoms (in addition to fatigue and nausea) I was having with the chemo pill: nosebleeds, shaking (my hands specifically), and a sharp pain in my chest.

On number one, my counts were good, thank the Lord, so he went on to tell me that this pill tends to thin the blood. I found this out very quickly because the nurse who accessed my port noticed that when she was done, I was bleeding A LOT. She quickly took care of things and gave me a new band aid, but still it was rather disturbing. I’ve never had bleeding like that through the port for seven years!

Number two—just goes with the territory on the chemo pill. This should get better over time.

Number three—this concerned the doctor most of all. They did an EKG on me. Everything checked out okay, but I still need to be careful. Not totally sure what is going on there.

After we left, Marilyn and I thanked God for the clinic and the doctors. They are very thorough and I appreciate the fact that they took the time to check me out/answer all my questions and concerns. It was a very good visit.

Today, in chapter four of Matthew, one word in the scriptures literally jumped off the page at me as I was reading: “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him’” (Matthew
4:18-20 NASB).

Did you notice it? It is the word “immediately.” Jesus called, and immediately, Peter and Andrew dropped their nets and followed. James and John responded the same way.

This story always reminds me of something Kris used to teach kids. I love Kris and her family. She said that obedience is doing what God tells you THE FIRST TIME. Wow. I love that. I always got into trouble if I didn’t take out the trash the first time my dad told me to do it. Parents will understand this. When you tell your child what to do, and they don’t respond immediately, it tends to make dad and mom angry. Ha.

Through this test the Lord is giving Marilyn and me, we are both determined to continue to obey Him immediately, the first time He calls.

Jesus, thank You for all the help and the good report we received at the clinic yesterday. Thank You for the opportunity this day affords to obey You. Help us as I see the eye doctor today. Thanks again for everyone who is reading this and praying. We love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Loneliness Vs. Obesity

Yesterday, Marilyn came across an article that stated loneliness has taken over for obesity as the number one problem in American cities today, and believe this or not, it is more lethal.

I am so thankful for all of you who read this blog and comment (or not) and pray for us. But I am learning as I see people and meet them in all these clinics that I go to, that most people do not have the Lord AND as a result, have no network of friends or people praying for them. Can you imagine?

I keep thinking about this guy we would often see at the radiation clinic. His name is Eldon. He is a self-professed “hermit.” He is a Vietnam vet and he has PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). He can’t drive because traffic scares him, so he takes buses everywhere. He told us that he had forty-four radiation treatments to take. He actually talked our arms off (especially Marilyn’s) while we were there. This proves my point. Our hearts still go out to him.

Add to that sad story, all the folks at these clinics who drive themselves there because they don’t have a caregiver. It just breaks our hearts to see this. I guarantee we will see people sitting there alone when we go down to the clinic today.

This is a ministry opportunity for us, just to say hi or have a brief conversation with these folks. Marilyn is great at this.

But it is also another opportunity to give thanks to the Lord for everything and everyone He has provided for me. I honestly can’t imagine going through these past seven years with cancer totally alone.

I admire John the Baptist who (as far as we know) lived alone out in the wilderness with his strange garb and diet. He preached the gospel of repentance in such a way as NOT to gain friends: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew
3:7-8 NASB). This would not be a popular message! Ya think!

What I am talking about today is a need that all of us have, and it is vitally important, and we need to minister to lonely people, but it is not a higher priority than God and His gospel. In fact, if people repented and turned to Him, they would find what they were looking for. So, we still need to share and as Bill Bright said, “Leave the results up to God.”

Lord, thank You for the church and the network of people praying for us. Thank You also for Marilyn—couldn’t make it without her. I lift up Eldon and all the lonely people at these clinics. Give us eyes to see them. Thank You for this day. Amen.

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The Dark Side

There is a “dark side” of the Christmas story you don’t hear a lot about … but I will get to that in a moment.

After a good day on Friday, I didn’t have a good day yesterday. I seemed to be nauseated from the start and as fatigued as ever. So, I dozed on and off for a couple of hours in the morning AND in the afternoon.

Sleeping during the day has been one of the biggest adjustments of this whole time. I NEVER used to sleep during the day, EVER, with the possible exception of maybe some dozing on Sunday afternoons. I just didn’t feel like it and didn’t want to.

But now, I find that I can’t help myself, and I realized fairly quickly that right now, one of the main things my body needs is rest and a lot of it. So, I quit fighting it and just gave in. This is how I am spending most of my daylight hours these days.

This is a mystery to me, but it is not the first mystery. One other huge one is in Matthew 2.

“Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi” (Matthew
2:16 NASB).

Do you remember reading THIS aspect of the Christmas story? No cute manger scenes here. This bothers me—to think that at the birth of the Savior, all these little innocent boys died as well so that the major sound you would hear at the birth of Jesus was wailing and crying. Why?

Well, Matthew is very careful to add that this too was according to the plan and purpose of God! How about that? What do we do with this?

Not to oversimplify at this point, but we need to stop and thank God for ALL aspects of the Christmas story—the “light” side and the “dark” side, for us, the good days and the bad. I had wished that the graph of how I am feeling would just keep going up and up, but I guess not …

Lord, I thank You even for the dark side. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it, but nonetheless … I pray for a better day today. Again, I thank You for everyone who is reading this and praying. We love each one. We love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Merry Christmas!

Yesterday ended up being a busy day when we hadn’t planned for it. I guess they are all like that, huh? I had an appointment at the hospital to get a Pentamodine treatment. Of all the tests I take, this is perhaps my least favorite of them all.

Apparently, with where I am in my cancer/transplant/post-brain tumor phase, there is a real danger that I could get pneumonia and so what happens is that I have to sit in this chair to inhale the nastiest stuff ever down into my lungs for a half an hour or so.

The first time I did it, I got sick. The next time, I didn’t. Yesterday seemed to go okay but the whole thing leaves a rancid taste in the mouth.

What did I write the other day? Giving thanks is tested (or not) in the small things of life. This is one of those instances where I was tempted not to do it. Thank God for THIS? No way. YES, WAY.

When we finished, we had to race home to meet some repairmen. Their work went a lot longer than we had planned. It was late before they got done and we could eat some dinner.

Anyway, an additional thing to thank the Lord for was that I seemed to feel a little better yesterday. After Thursday, it was a welcome relief.

Today, I am going to start a new plan for reading through the Bible. Am I done talking about giving thanks? Nope. This seems to be a lens that the Lord has given me. It is hard not to see everything I read in the Word through it.

Case in point: today, I’m starting in the Gospel of Matthew. You know the story. The Holy Spirit conceives Jesus in the womb of Mary before she and Joseph get married. I wonder why He did it THAT WAY?? If you have an answer to that question, please tell me! Ha.

“But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit’” (Matthew
1:20 NASB).

Merry Christmas here in August! The Holy Spirit told His servant not to be afraid but to accept by faith what He is doing. This is a thanksgiving message that applies at all times of the year, not just Christmas, right?

Lord, thank You for the miraculous birth of Your Son through a humble human like Mary and her equally human husband who accepted it by faith and through Pentamodine treatments—all the same. You are worthy of worship. Thank You for another opportunity to thank You and serve You. Amen.

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Eternity to Thank Him

Yesterday was my worst day on the chemo pill. Before we left for our appointment, I was so sick, I could barely hold my head up. Weird stuff. All of a sudden.

At the clinic, they could see that I was feeling very poorly. Hannah, Physician’s assistant, ordered fluid via IV and a nausea med through my port. The only problem with that was that I had taken a nausea pill earlier that morning and I guess the two medications did not interact well because it wasn’t long before I felt so antsy I couldn’t sit still.

Everyone rushed back into the room. They ordered another pill, (this one puts me to sleep) and it seemed to calm me down.

At the same time as this was going on, they were running another test to see how adrenal glands were functioning. Apparently, steroids take over the function of the adrenal glands when you are taking them. Now that I am not any longer, they want to make sure they are still functioning.

Are you keeping up with all this stuff? I don’t blame you if not. This kind of thing is par for the course for me, but for others … Needless to say, we were there three hours and were totally worn out when we left.

But I am so thankful for the help they gave me and for the fact that Hannah cut down even more the number of pills I am taking each day. I’m so grateful for this.

I think it is very interesting that the book of Revelation records the fact that in heaven, the twenty-four elders live out the kind of life in the presence of the Father as he commands to those of us in cancer clinics or in the gym here on earth. Notice these two verses:

“And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, "We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign” (Revelation
11:16-17 NASB).

At this point, I am reminded of a phrase that Jesus uses: “on earth as it is in heaven.” These two verses chronicle the beginning of God’s reign on earth (I don’t want to get into arguments about millennial views at this point). In eternity, we will GIVE THANKS forever and ever. I believe it will take that long to do it and we still won’t be able to.

In the meantime, as Colossians three reminds us, we are seated with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Jesus is our life. We might as well get started right now!

Lord, as hard as this is, I thank You for yesterday. Thanks for all the doctors and physician’s assistants and nurses who have helped me at CBCI. You are the ultimate Doctor, Doctor of Doctors. Thanks for the continual stream of prayers on our behalf. We love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Because of Your Will They Are Created

In the Thanksgiving verses I selected today, there is a phrase that jumped out of the text that captured my attention, praising God for His creation: “And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created’” (Revelation 4:9-11, NASB).

As I was eating breakfast a few minutes ago, a thought went through my head, “It will sure be interesting to see how all of this will turn out.”

Honestly, as Marilyn and I often talk about how difficult these days are for both of us, we often chuckle, (and I know I have said this before, but we need reminders of it), “The Lord must have something for us or He would have taken us home by now.”

But all of us are born physically and live right now by the will of God. All of us, whether we are sick or not. God chooses who is alive and the second the Lord wants to take you home, there is not a doctor in the world that can stop Him. There is a lot of comfort in knowing that.

Oh, one more thing: the chemo pill. For the most part I have tolerated it. The main thing is that it has contributed to my fatigue over the past few days. Plus, I’ve had some nausea and it has kept me awake a little bit, but it will be interesting to see its effects over time. I will be sure to let all of you know (of course!). In the meantime, thanks for praying.

Lord, I sit here on this couch today because You have decided in Your will for me to exist. Thank You for creating this whole world and all of us. You did it. We give You full credit today. Thank You for the chemo pill. Help me make the adjustment to it as You continue to help us through these difficult days. Thanks again for the prayers of your people for us. Amen.
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An Infamous Day

Today marks the forty-fourth anniversary of my dad’s death.

In some ways, it seems like yesterday; in other ways, it feels as if it were a million years ago. He’s been home in heaven with Jesus now almost as many years as he was alive on earth. We still miss him as much as ever. That’s the way grief works. You never “get over it.”

Now, we are struggling with my mom’s situation. It is just so hard to see her in that nursing home, especially after she had that fall the other day. Thanks be to God, though, that she didn’t break any bones when she fell.

Please pray for Sunrise at Orchard. We are very concerned about what appears to be a decreasing level of concern and care. These places have so much turnover. It is such a transient business. Nurses and patients coming and going all the time.

Speaking of which, the clinic was a madhouse yesterday. We did not have a good experience there. The two nurses that tried to access my port and a vein in my arm obviously did not know what they were doing. Finally, Marilyn called a stop to it, “Okay, that’s enough. Stop poking and prodding on him!” They both left, and soon a nurse’s assistant came in and did it.

They are swamped as well. So, they have to use fill-ins, but gee whiz. Practice on dummies, not real patients. As you can tell, I’m still a little agitated about what happened, but I know there are more and more people who need care, and these places are scrambling. As we left yesterday, the waiting room at CBCI was literally packed out with people. It is crazy.

Again, I know I sound like a broken record, but this whole situation is an opportunity to thank God. I don’t feel like it. I can’t see many logical reasons to do so, but it is. We need to take the opportunity here to be gracious and kind and understanding.

I may have cited this verse in an earlier post. If I have, please forgive the repetition, but I think it is appropriate here: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews
13:15 NASB).

Holy Spirit, fill me today so that Your fruit is evident in my life toward all the health care workers who are trying their best to care for me. I lift up those two nurses from yesterday. I pray that You would raise up competent and caring workers for Sunrise and for CBCI. Thank You for putting us in a position to minister Your love. Amen.

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