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A Stroll At Leisure With God

A Sad Day

I wonder how Bryan feels today.

But I will get to that in a moment.

Yesterday was a rough day. I felt lousy from beginning to end. This discouraged me greatly, and somehow, this made things worse. Again, I am a lousy patient. I wish this virus would end, and I could somehow start to feel better again. But, I am afraid that at this point, there is really nothing I can do but wait it out.

Well, back to the topic for today. This morning, I read a report from Todd Starnes of Fox News that yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America decided that “girls who identify as boys will now be allowed to join the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts—making a complete capitulation to the gender and sex revolutionaries.” He goes on to challenge the church to make a decisive separation from the Boy Scouts.

I would tend to agree that this should happen since this organization has abandoned its roots of teaching boys moral and ethical values in favor of a PC agenda. It literally makes me sick (or in my case, sick-ER).

Several years ago, I attended the ceremony, making Bryan, a young man in our church, an Eagle Scout. Bryan mentioned this on my last day at First Southern. It meant a lot to him that I was able to be there. I was honored that he invited me. I was in full agreement with everything that happened in that ceremony that night and very proud of Bryan for this accomplishment. I still am, but as far as the Scouts are concerned, I can never look at them the same….

I predict that this decision will eventually mark the end of this organization forever.

This whole thing should be another incentive (as if we needed one; God calls us to obedience) to take a stand against all “god-making businesses.” This statement is in a passage I read this morning about God’s Word to King Josiah: “GOD’s word, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you here that I’m on my way to bring the doom of judgment on this place and this people. Every word written in the book read by the king of Judah will happen. And why? Because they’ve deserted me and taken up with other gods, made me thoroughly angry by setting up their god-making businesses. My anger is raging white-hot against this place and nobody is going to put it out” (2 Kings
22, MSG).

This was God’s opinion of the idolatry and disobedience of the people of Judah; I can’t imagine that His opinion has changed, can you?

One of the other passages I read this morning—Acts 14—chronicles how Paul and Barnabas responded to the folks in Lystra who wanted to worship them as gods. “When Barnabas and Paul finally realized what was going on, they stopped them. Waving their arms, they interrupted the parade, calling out, ‘What do you think you’re doing! We’re not gods! We are men just like you, and we’re here to bring you the Message, to persuade you to abandon these silly god-superstitions and embrace God himself, the living God. We don’t make God; he makes us, and all of this—sky, earth, sea, and everything in them’” (Acts
14:14-15 MSG).

Just like King Josiah, the first two missionaries were vehement opponents of all idolatry. Whenever any nation or organization makes anti-God policies, they in effect put themselves in the “god-making business.”

Lord, I pray that You would shut the Boy Scouts of American down, as the church speaks out for You as the Only God and Your Word, the only standard of truth. Amen.
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Getting the Order Right

Well, Marilyn and I both are glad that this marathon weekend is finally over. Both of us commented that it felt like the longest either one of us has spent.

As far as I am concerned, I’m so ready to be over this virus that I contracted. I’ve been dealing with it on and off now for over a month. This seems to be a fairly typical time frame among folks I know who have had—some deal with it for less time; others have it for more. The fact that my immune system is suppressed does not help matters, of course.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting over it in the next few days, if the Lord wills. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to lay low and drink water—same song, different verse.

This morning, in the Solid Life Reading Plan, I read one of my favorite passages. I like it because it aptly portrays “the right order” when it comes to ministry.

Most churches and most Christians (myself at the top of the list) try to figure out what God wants in the way of outreach and ministry and THEN ask God to bless THEIR idea. And we wonder why we are often so weak and anemic when it comes to impacting this lost world.

The early church, however, got the order right: “The congregation in Antioch was blessed with a number of prophet-preachers and teachers: Barnabas, Simon, nicknamed Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, an advisor to the ruler Herod, Saul. One day as they were worshiping God—they were also fasting as they waited for guidance—the Holy Spirit spoke: ‘Take Barnabas and Saul and commission them for the work I have called them to do.’ So they commissioned them. In that circle of intensity and obedience, of fasting and praying, they laid hands on their heads and sent them off” (Acts
13:1-3 MSG).

The leadership of the church in Antioch got together to fast and pray, as they waited for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It was in that circle of “intensity and obedience” that the Spirit spoke. He asked the church to give up two of their best men and send them off in what would be the first missionary journey of the church.

I doubt these men could have “come up” with that idea and endeavor on their own, but that is just it: when we try to “figure things out,” we always end up frustrated and discouraged. When will we ever learn? When will I learn?

Instead of trying to figure God out and getting frustrated, I need to learn to pray and to wait on Him.

Years ago, God led a retired pastor and his wife to FSBC Northglenn. His name was Harvey White. Harvey and I spent a lot of time doing ministry together. On one of the many occasions in which I was venting frustration at Harvey, he stopped me with a wave of the hand and said, “John, quit fretting. Our job as God’s kids is to be AVAILABLE AND FAITHFUL. That’s it.”

If we are available, He will guide us in due time if we wait on Him. When I am thinking (and praying) right, I sincerely believe that the Lord has something for me. Until He shows me, my job is to stay on this couch and get over this stinking virus.

Spirit of God, thank You for Your divine leadership in our lives, and yes, again, I thank You for cancer, for the transplant, and even for this elongated cold. I confess my impatience and arrogance. I confess that I so often push against the “pricks.” What a waste of time and energy! I choose to be available and faithful as I wait on You. Amen.


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The Long Haul

It has finally dawned on me that this illness I have contracted could go on a long time. As Courtney said the other day at my appointment at the clinic, “John, just because you don’t have a fever or any serious symptoms as far as your recovery from transplant is concerned, it does not mean that this cold is not something for you to take seriously through rest and through drinking plenty of fluids. Take care of yourself!”

Yes, ma’am. Will do. No real choice AND I don’t feel like doing a whole lot anyway.

The beat goes on…. I’m just trying to take one day at a time, as always, and do what the doctor says.

Marilyn seems to be doing better, but she still has this nasty cough AND she just isn’t on top of things quite yet, so the two “invalids” just keep plugging along.

This morning, I came across one of my favorite chapters—2 Corinthians 4—in the Solid Life Reading Plan.

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Corinthians
4:16-18 MSG).

In 2 Corinthians, among other things, Paul is arguing against the false teachers who had infiltrated the church. Their focus was almost completely on “outward” things and indicators of “success.” Paul is explaining to them to avoid this perspective like the plague.

Instead, he urges them and us to keep our attention riveted on the God who works behind the scenes, in ways worldly people will never recognize.

Marilyn and I have to force ourselves to keep this same focus, just because right now, things seem bleak—with the two of us sick and my mom still in the nursing home. Difficult “stuff” for sure, but it can’t hold a candle to what the Lord has in store for us in eternity AND the unseen things we get to participate in right now.

Lord, as frustrating as sickness and long-term illness is, we continue to acknowledge that You are at work in the midst of all of it. I lift up everyone I know who has this virus. Heal them quickly. Encourage people like us who struggle with continuing to trust You through everything. I’m glad that “the things we can’t see now will last forever.” Amen.
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No Questions Asked

Well, I had an awful day yesterday, as I continued to have respiratory issues and an upset stomach. Finally, I called Tina, Dr. Ali’s assistant at the cancer center. In her reply she said, “Nausea is a very common result of the “Pentamidine Oral Inhalation.” She went on to urge me to take my anti-nausea medication and to continue to drinks lots of water. I did feel better toward the end of the day.

Let me back up a minute. What is the “Pentamidine Oral Inhalation”? I have not said much about it until now. This was the procedure I went over to the hospital to have after my appointment last Thursday. Courtney told me that it was no big deal.

Well, her prognostication was not quite true.

In this procedure, I was instructed to take medicine using a rather strange kind of gadget. The purpose of this is to “inhale” this medicine deep down in my lungs as a preventative for pneumonia—a very common danger for transplant patients.

The inhaling part was not the problem. It was the taste and smell of this medicine—very nasty. And this taste stayed with me most of the day yesterday, making me nauseous. It was crazy.

Anyway, I am glad that the Pentamidine Oral Inhalation is behind me for now. I’ve got to take it again every four weeks for the next several months. UGH.

I do not feel well today. I seem to be getting worse, but I still have no fever. Thus, there are no worries YET.

Two passages I read this morning in the Solid Life Reading Plan stood out to me. The first is in the Psalms:

“We’ve flown free from their fangs, free of their traps, free as a bird. Their grip is broken; we’re free as a bird in flight. GOD ’s strong name is our help, the same GOD who made heaven and earth” (Psalm
124:7-8 MSG).

The Strong Name of our God is our help. Praise His Holy Name! This is not just a way to end prayers, “… in Jesus’ name, Amen.” It is the signature of the King of the Universe working on my behalf. All I need to do is to depend on that name totally and completely.

Here is the second passage. Just a bit of background: after the miraculous work of the Spirit with the God-fearers in Cornelius’ household, the church called Peter in to find out what was going on. Up till then, Jews were not allowed to cavort with Gentiles, but Peter just told the story. Here is part of his testimony: “Just then three men showed up at the house where I was staying, sent from Caesarea to get me. The Spirit told me to go with them,
no questions asked. So I went with them, I and six friends, to the man who had sent for me. He told us how he had seen an angel right in his own house, real as his next-door neighbor, saying, ‘Send to Joppa and get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’ll tell you something that will save your life—in fact, you and everyone you care for’” (Acts 11:11-14, MSG, emphasis mine).

It was an act of faith for Peter just to head off with these three men from Caesarea. I’m not sure I would have done this without a lot of explanation and questions. That is NOT the way Peter responded. He followed the leadership of the Holy Spirit, NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

Lord, during this very difficult time for Marilyn and me, we do have a lot of questions and wonder what is going on with us. This morning, I give You all the questions and all the answers, trusting that You always know EXACTLY what You are doing. Continue to help both of us get over this virus. I know that many others reading this blog either have it themselves and/or know folks who do. Heal them as well. We are asking all of this under the name and authorization of the King of the Universe, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
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Another GREAT Report

I want to begin by thanking all of you for your continued and sustained prayers for us. We had another GREAT report from the cancer clinic yesterday and I give God the glory for this.

First, the biopsy showed no cancer. Praise God!

Second, the biopsy showed that my old immune system is gone and the new one, the transplanted one, has fully taken over! Thanks be to the Lord!

Third, all my blood counts and level with one minor exception are normal. Glory be to the Lord of Hosts!

Courtney, one of Dr. Ali’s assistants, was the one to see us yesterday. She was very upbeat about all of this.

I asked her some questions about this virus I’ve got. Again, they believe that I have just a common head cold, BUT she urged me to continue to take care of myself, reminding me, “John, you are still on immune suppressing drugs, so continue to be very cautious. If you develop a fever or any of your symptoms get markedly worse, please let us know. I’m going to prescribe something to help you with your respiratory symptoms and something else that you can get over the counter.”

Thus, my goal right now is just to continue to lay low until I feel better. I certainly don’t want to make things worse because of any stupid decisions on my part. Courtney definitely reminded me that I was not “out of the woods” yet. Point well taken.

In the meantime, I have to tell all of you that I just don’t feel well this morning—my nose is very stopped up and I’ve got another headache. BUT, I continue to lean on Him:

“Since before time began no one has ever imagined, No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who happily do what is right, who keep a good memory of the way you work” (Isaiah 64, MSG).

Lord, I am so grateful for everything You have done for me and on my family’s behalf. Thank You for the good report and answering the prayers of everyone in this vast prayer army—all who are praying for us. Thank You that Marilyn continues to feel better. I continue to lift up my mom. Help me to be a good patient, for once in my life! Ha. Amen.
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Memory Lane

Mary Tyler Moore died yesterday.

This was a sad bit of news for Marilyn and me. In a day and time in which I am losing respect for many actors and actresses in Hollywood (for some I will never watch anything they are in, EVER again), I have always had respect for Moore in the two main TV sitcoms she was in: The Dick Van Dyke Show and the Mary Tyler More Show. She played a housewife in one and a single, working woman in the other.

Last night, Marilyn told me that at one point in Mary’s career, Gloria Steinem, the women’s movement activist, tried to recruit her to join “the movement.” Moore declined, saying something like, “Being and wife and mother is the highest calling for a woman.” Marilyn and I remarked that this comment sounds like something our mom would say.

Anyway, we watched a couple of episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore show last night, and as we did, I took a little stroll down memory lane.

Back in 1970, when the show began to air, my family adopted a Saturday evening ritual. Our step was to go to Shakey’s Pizza Parlor. Of course, the restaurant has since gone out of business.

Afterwards, we headed out to Stapleton Airport—this was Denver’s main airport before the city and county built a brand new way out in unincorporated Adams County. It is called DIA (Denver International Airport).

Back to Stapleton--my dad had an orange Chevrolet convertible at the time. Our custom was to pull up at a spot right at the fence of the airport and at a point where all the arriving aircraft were landing. He put the top down so we could get the “full effect” of what we were seeing and hearing—huge jet planes landing at the airport. My dad loved planes! All of us loved being together.

Even though we loved this time together, we didn’t stay long. We had a deadline. We had to get home to watch “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” It was an important part of our family time together on Saturday before we went to bed early so that we would be well-rested and ready for church the next day.

These are very vivid memories of my childhood, but they were rather short-lived because it wasn’t very long after we started this ritual that my dad was diagnosed with cancer and things changed.

After my dad went Home to be with the Lord, we still went to Shakey’s on Saturday night and many times my good friend Gary went with us.

Anyway, I digress. Thinking of Mary Tyler Moore and watching those episodes of her show brought back memories of good times in my family. That was 46 years ago—hard to believe. So much has changed since them … it is mind-boggling.

Well, today, I want to tell all of you that I didn’t have a very good day yesterday—a lot of coughing my head off and having a headache and feeling very fatigued. But I am glad to be going to the cancer clinic today for a previously scheduled appointment plus another procedure I will tell you about tomorrow.

Marilyn seems to be feeling a little bit better. Thanks for your prayers for both us. I will let you know what the doctor says in this blog tomorrow.

In the meantime, I continue to be confident in the Lord and agree with this assertion Paul makes in 2 Corinthians: In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can” (2 Corinthians
2, MSG).

Lord, thank You for involving us in Your victory parade for these past 46 years and longer—a LOT of water has gone under the bridge since 1970, but You have been with us, as the One Constant all these years. Actors and actresses come and go. Loved ones come and go, but You are the same forever. Amen.
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Southern Baptist in Decline

Before I get to the “topic” for today, I want to give you an update. I did not have a good day yesterday. I felt bad for most of the day on into the evening.

In the early part of the evening, we got a call from Sunrise at Orchard. Whenever we recognize that number, both Marilyn and I look at each other. We are immediately concerned that something has happened to Mother.

Last night, it was one of my mom’s nurses calling us because my mom wanted to talk with Marilyn. She said, “Marilyn, when are you coming to see me today?” Marilyn replied, “I have already been there, Mother. Don’t you remember?” No, she didn’t. Marilyn talked with her a while. She was afraid, confused, and emotional. It was a very difficult call. Please continue to pray for her.

As for me today, I’m glad to have another day where I just sit around. I relish the peace and quiet. After all we went through this Fall with construction going on in our home (that work is still not done, by the way, but at least no one is here every day) and in the Denver Water Board field behind our house (since the ground is covered with snow). It really has helped me get rest and get on the road to recovery from this virus.

Last night, I woke up (this is not unusual) and for some reason, I started looking at my phone (this is very unusual; I NEVER do this). I can’t find it now. I will keep looking. But I came across an article that detailed the decline of the SBC. This is certainly NOT new news. These stats usually come out in June, during the Southern Baptist Convention.

The facts are pretty bleak: in 2015, SBC churches lost 200,000 members. This is the ninth straight year for the decline of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Of course, theories abound as to why this is occurring.

By the way, as I share my view here, this is no veiled criticism of the church in Northglenn that I used to serve. In fact, I believe that FSBC does a great job of what I am going to talk about. No, these are general comments and observations.

Several years ago, I was with a group of people. We were discussing why the church in general seems to be declining. One person said something like this: “We are in a tough area. We constantly come into contact with street people.” As this person uttered these words, it seemed as if he/she was calling this situation some kind of obstacle for ministry.

Of course, I could not keep my mouth shut. Surprise, surprise, huh? This person’s comments actually made me mad. “Well, so we, but we look at it as an opportunity for ministry.”

I believe that SBC churches are in decline because we have forgotten our “raison d’etre”—our reason for being. It is not to crank out rituals and services. It is to minister to folks the Lord brings us, whether they are “desirable” or not.

Here is what Isaiah says in one of my readings for today: “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The GOD of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, GOD will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am’” (Isaiah 58, MSG).

Somehow, these months of recovery and this recent illness has brought these realities home to my heart more than ever before.

Lord, it is easy to criticize SBC churches in general, but please help me, when You bring me into contact with a person of need, give me discernment and love and grace, not to judge first of all, but to show compassion and mercy. I lift up my mom to You. Continue to help her, Lord. Amen.
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My Ways Are Not Your Ways

An update: yesterday morning I called Tina (Dr. Ali’s assistant) at the cancer clinic. She asked me several questions about what was going on with me. The last one was, “Do you have a fever?” “No,” I answered.

The truth is that I have been taking my temperature at least three times a day.

Way back to the instruction I received prior to being discharged from the hospital, each of the three teachers/nurses made a point of saying, “If you get sick, take your temperature. If it is 100.5 or greater, just come right over to the ER at the hospital.” UGH. I thank the Lord that I have not had a fever.

As a result of the conversation, Tina did not seem overly concerned about any danger concerning the transplant. She was concerned about me and this illness, adding, “I will talk to the doctor today to see if he has any additional recommendations. If so, I will call you.”

She didn’t.

Thus, I am glad that they were not overly concerned about any danger with the transplant. I praise God for this and again, I thank all of you for praying. I really deeply appreciate it.

In the meantime, I felt bad most of the day, but for some reason started to feel better in the evening. This morning, if anything, I feel worse. This is just the nature of this virus, I am afraid.

At one point in the day yesterday, as Marilyn and I just sat around talking. We both agreed, “We have no idea what the Lord is up to, so we just decided to give up speculation in favor of supplication AND continued rest and drinking tons of water. Some verses I read this morning in Isaiah confirms this (at least the trusting God part):

“’I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.’ GOD ’s Decree. ‘For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them’” (Isaiah
55:8-11 MSG).

Lord, I acknowledge that I have no idea what You are thinking and doing these days—this is a very difficult time for us. Thanks again for everyone in the Army of Prayer Warriors who is praying for us. I love each and everyone one of them. Continue to help Marilyn feel better. I lift up several friends who are dealing with this virus as well. It lasts for weeks. I love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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No Weapon Forged Against You

Hi everyone! Well, I’m afraid that this virus that is going around finally caught up with me. I’m going to call the doctor a little later and find out what he wants me to do. I will let you know how things go.

To be brutally honest, this is VERY discouraging to me, but I continue to trust Him and this promise He gave me today:

“’No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah
54:17 NASB).

Lord, I trust You now as much as ever. Amen.
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The Honor of Being Dishonored

Please pray for me. I woke up this morning feeling a little off (more than normal—ha!) in several ways. Immediately, I felt this anxiety hit me. Oh, no, I hope I am not getting sick. I don’t know for sure yet. The longer I sit here, the better I feel. So, I may just sit here much longer than normal today, drinking water and resting.

Marilyn continues not to be feeling well. Please continue to pray for her as well. I think this prolonged illness is getting her down a bit. This is very understandable given the length of time it has been going on. I believe that she originally contracted this virus a few weeks ago. Then, she seemed to feel better for a couple of weeks only to have it return with a vengeance this past week.

Everyone I talk to gives testimony that this virus lasts several weeks. It is exasperating. Again, I sure hope I haven’t caught it.

Two of the dominant characteristics of the early disciples, especially Peter, is perseverance and boldness. Both of these spiritual traits were not present in the Big Fisherman prior to Pentecost. When the servant girls in Caiaphas’ courtyard approached him, he ran like a chicken in the wind, as I am sure you remember.

But the Holy Spirit dwelling in him changed him into a powerful gospel preacher. This is what he and John were doing when both were taken into custody and jailed in Acts 5. You know the story. The angel of the Lord freed these two servants and what did they do? They went right back out there to preach.

When the Sanhedrin discovered this, they went out and gently escorted them back to the courthouse. They did not want to cause a riot. Galileo gave his famous advice: if these men are from God, leave them alone. You don’t want to mess with the Lord (my paraphrase).

This quote picks up the story from there: “That convinced them. They called the apostles back in. After giving them a thorough whipping, they warned them not to speak in Jesus’ name and sent them off. The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name. Every day they were in the Temple and homes, teaching and preaching Christ Jesus, not letting up for a minute” (Acts
5:40-42 MSG).

Every time I read this story in Acts 5, I am more and more amazed at this response—Peter and John left the council “overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name.” I would hope that we would respond the same way if we ever came to a period of time in our nation (I believe we are not that far from it now) where we are arrested for preaching the gospel and for being conduits of the power of God.

Are we ready? Am I ready?

Lord, I thank You for the gospel we have to share and the “honor of being dishonored” for the Name of Jesus. Allow me to continue to serve You, no matter what. O Loving Father, Dr. Jesus, I pray for Marilyn and me—keep us both from experiencing everything this virus brings. Keep me from it totally. We trust You this morning. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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God vs Giants

I believe that the inauguration of a new president is a call for all Christians to pray for our country more than ever. Oftentimes I forget to pray for the president and his cabinet and congress and the justices on the Supreme Court BY NAME. This is a travesty and it is flat wrong.

I also often neglect governmental leaders here in Colorado and the city of Denver. Finding the names of all of these folks is not hard. They are readily available when you search Google online.

I am going to organize my list of governmental leaders so I can pray for each of them each week. We will see what happens with this.

Well, Marilyn had another rough day. It has been a long time since I have seen her this sick, but she drove herself to the doctor yesterday, and the doctor prescribed some medication for her. Hopefully, she will get better soon.

In the meantime, the Lord continues to protect me from getting sick. I’m so grateful to the Lord for this. I’m glad also that my mom has not caught anything either. I give Dr. Jesus the glory and the credit for this as well.

Here is another passage in Isaiah that caught my eye this morning: “Can plunder be retrieved from a giant, prisoners of war gotten back from a tyrant? But GOD says, ‘Even if a giant grips the plunder and a tyrant holds my people prisoner, I’m the one who’s on your side, defending your cause, rescuing your children. And your enemies, crazed and desperate, will turn on themselves, killing each other in a frenzy of self-destruction. Then everyone will know that I, GOD, have saved you—I, the Mighty One of Jacob’” (Isaiah
49:24-26 MSG).

This reference to a “giant” may be reminiscent of the story of David and Goliath—a real, historical event. But here in Isaiah, the Holy Spirit uses this reference as a symbol for a very strong man. Even if a giant plunders me and a wicked king throws me in jail, I will continue to trust Him to defend me and rescue, as He turns the enemy on himself and the Lord saves us.

A great example of how this works occurs in Acts 4 (another one of my readings today in the Solid Life Reading Plan). As soon as Peter and John were released from the custody of the Sanhedrin (the ruling body for the Jews), they went back to the church. All of them prayed. This is part of their prayer as recorded in Acts:

“For in fact they did meet—Herod and Pontius Pilate with nations and peoples, even Israel itself!—met in this very city to plot against your holy Son Jesus, the One you made Messiah, to carry out the plans you long ago set in motion. And now they’re at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message, as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts
4:27-30 MSG).

As we pray for our government officials, these verses in Acts remind me that we should also pray for boldness in the face of opposition. We must share the gospel with “fearless confidence.”

Lord, I thank You for allowing us to be a part of a nation that votes on its leadership. I lift up our new president, Donald Trump. Give him the grace to govern and lead wisely and well. I continue to pray for Marilyn. Heal her, Lord. Give Your church to do two things that the world will never do: pray and preach the gospel. I love you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Carrying Us on His Back

Marilyn is still sick. In fact, things got worse yesterday. She stayed in bed or in her chair next to the bed most of the day. I wish I could do more to help her …

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store to get some things for her. Then, I motored over to the nursing home to visit mother. We really do try to have at least one of us see her each day. We don’t always get that done, but we try.

My mom was emotional yesterday, especially when I told her about Marilyn being sick. “Is she in the hospital?” she asked. “No mother,” I replied. “She just has a bad virus, but she should be better in a few more days.” At least I hope so.

As far as I am concerned, yesterday was an okay day for me, but unlike most days, I started not to feel well as the evening progressed. Who knows what was going on? I seem to feel better this morning.

These are particularly difficult days. Thanks again for praying for us.

In the readings for today from Isaiah 46 and 47, the prophet continues this contrast between gods and God. He points out that blocks of wood that people worshiped must be carried along and carefully at that! One would not want an idol to fall off the wagon and break!

As I thought about this description of idolatry, it occurred to me that the worship of idols only adds to the burden when someone encounters difficult times. In addition to dealing with the sickness or loss—whatever the difficulty may be—one has to carry his/her god in addition to the burdens of the trial.

The exact opposite is true of the One and Only. Note these words from the prophet:

““Listen to me, family of Jacob, everyone that’s left of the family of Israel. I’ve been carrying you on my back from the day you were born, And I’ll keep on carrying you when you’re old. I’ll be there, bearing you when you’re old and gray. I’ve done it and will keep on doing it, carrying you on my back, saving you” (Isaiah
46:3-4 MSG).

Instead of us trying to carry Him, we can count on the fact that He carries us and unlike the famous poem “Footprints in the Sand,” He carries us ALL THE TIME, even through the good times. Has it ever occurred to You that we need the Lord to load us on His back always. I believe good times present more of a danger than tough times because we tend to forget Him when we don’t recognize that we need Him—ALWAYS.

Lord, this is one of those times where we recognize that we need You more than ever, but thank You for the fact that, whether I recognize it or not, “I need thee; oh, I need thee. Every hour I need thee.” Amen.
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The God who Works Behind the Scenes

Thanks for praying for Marilyn. She seemed to be doing a little better during the day yesterday, but as the evening progressed, she got worse and had to go to bed. It is not going to be easy to get over this virus.

A brother told me the other day that it took him six weeks to get over it! Yikes!

Once again, I am going overboard to do whatever I can to avoid catching it. I feel as if I am the modern-day Felix Unger. That reference dates me, for sure, but that was the name of the neat-freak (I don’t stack up there!) and germaphobe in the old TV series, “The Odd Couple”—one of my favorites of all time.

Anyway, both of us just keep plugging along, continuing to pray for healing and trusting God.

In the reading today, I came across two of my favorite chapters in the Suffering Servant passages in the second half of the prophecy of Isaiah. The prophet goes on a long tirade against the utter foolishness of worshiping a block of wood:

“Pretty stupid, wouldn’t you say? Don’t they have eyes in their heads? Are their brains working at all? Doesn’t it occur to them to say, ‘Half of this tree I used for firewood: I baked bread, roasted meat, and enjoyed a good meal. And now I’ve used the rest to make an abominable no-god. Here I am praying to a stick of wood!’” (Isaiah
44:18-19 MSG).

This sets the stage for a description of the One and Only God plus the ultimate destiny of idolaters:

“Clearly, you are a God who works behind the scenes, God of Israel, Savior God. Humiliated, all those others will be ashamed to show their faces in public. Out of work and at loose ends, the makers of no-god idols won’t know what to do with themselves. The people of Israel, though, are saved by you, GOD, saved with an eternal salvation. They won’t be ashamed, they won’t be at loose ends, ever” (Isaiah
45:15-17 MSG).

These descriptions remind me of a trip that Brother Shopan (this is the phonetic spelling of his name) took Bob and me on when Pam, Nancy, and I took the trip to Calcutta three years ago. Bob was a brother who was a member of another group who joined us in the class we attended in Kolkata in March of 2014.

Shopan took the two of us to the god manufacturing section of town. As we walked among those who were making gods, I felt this heavy oppression and deep sadness. People were actually going to purchase these “blocks of wood” and worship them! If I can find my pictures from that trip, I will try to attach one to the blog this morning.

There was nothing subtle about those god-makers and their idols. I can point them out and rail against them, but my idols—that seems to be another story.

I believe that the True God designed this transplant and long recovery (my Babylonian exile, so to speak) to reveal my idols and to help me rid them from my life. He is indeed “the God who works behind the scenes.” Idols are very visible and prominent, of course! But we worship the God who is spirit. We worship in spirit and truth, as Jesus explained at the well in Samaria.

It is interesting that the nation of Israel as a whole never struggled with idols again once they returned from Babylonian captivity.

Lord, again, thank You for this very difficult trial that is revealing idols and sin in my life. As You reveal, allow me to confess, repent, and refocus on You as the only God. I continue to lift up Marilyn. Heal her of this virus, so both of us can continue to worship You. Thanks again, O Company of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—for cancer, for the transplant, and for this long recovery (still no word about the results of the biopsy). I love You, Lord. Amen.
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In Over Your Head

Please pray for Marilyn this morning. She is sick. It started yesterday morning and seemed to get worse as the day went on. She eventually just went to bed late afternoon.

We have talked a little bit this morning. Of course, she seems more concerned for me than for herself. We are just going to stay away from each other as much as we can today. I will wear my mask here at home and continue to wash my hands often. Thanks for praying.

I went to see my mom yesterday afternoon. We had a good talk. Like her daughter, she is more concerned for me than she is for herself. Most of the time, as we talk, it is evident that she has memory issues, but there are times when it seems as if there is nothing wrong. She is very lucid.

At one point, she stated, “Well, John, I don’t understand what the Lord is doing, and I could spend a lot of time crying, but it would not do any good. We just need to keep trusting and waiting on God.”

As she uttered those words, my mind went back to that day in July of 2010. I had just received a call from the surgeon who did the biopsy on my lower abdomen, and she uttered those words, “John, I’m sorry to tell you that you have cancer—it is mantle cell, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

At that moment, it felt as if someone had kicked me in the gut, and my emotions just boiled over.

I was sitting next to my mom on our back porch, and emotionless (or at least it seemed that way), she put her arm around me, and said, “John, I just have this sense that the Lord will take care of this. I’m not going to cry and fall into despair. He has this.”

Makes me want to cry now as I think about this, but back then, the Lord used her to calm me down—the eye of the hurricane, right then and there.

How do you measure the impact of someone on your life? The Lord is still using her.

The Lord used these words in my life today: “But now, GOD ’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: ‘Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am GOD, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you”
(Isaiah
43:1-4 MSG).

It is funny (well not really) to think that I feel more “in over my head” when Marilyn gets sick than at any other time. But the Lord used my mom yesterday to affirm God’s protective care.

Lord, I lift up Marilyn today. Please help her get the rest she needs and help her recover quickly. Thank You again for my mom and for all the times in my life (not just the two I mentioned this morning) that You have used her to help me. It certainly does feel as if we are in one of those times when we are “in over our heads,” but You are taking us through the high water to the other side, just like You did with a large group of people coming out of Egypt years ago. Through it. “Through it all,” as Andre Crouch sings. Amen.
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Fresh Strength for Dropouts

God is bringing both of us opportunities to minister and with those opportunities comes plenty of things that can be barriers if we allow them. I’ll get to the opportunities in a moment, but first I want to tell you about my little “accident” yesterday. I’m fine. No injuries. In fact, I didn’t hit another car nor did someone else hit me.

Nope. This was all me and it could have been worse.

I was out yesterday morning running some errands. As I was entering I-25 from Orchard, I veered a little too far to the right. I didn’t even see this curb because of the accumulating snow and WHAM! I hit the curb and in fact, drove over it a bit.

Well, almost immediately, I got the notification that my tires needed to be inflated. I somehow made it home and looked at the two tires on my passenger side—both were nearly flat.

To make a long story short, I had to call a tow truck actually to tow my car over to Discount Tire on Hampden and ended up replacing all four tires. God took care of me. My wallet is much thinner. But everything was okay.

However, for some reason, this little incident kind of knocked me off my feet for the rest of the day. At one point, I said to Marilyn, “It isn’t as if I don’t have stuff to deal with now. Then, I had to do this and give myself even more to deal with.” In short, I allowed the enemy to pull me down over something that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Of course, right in the middle of all of this, the Lord brought me a ministry opportunity. Of course! I’ll get to that in a minute, but first I want to tell you about Marilyn.

She has befriended a lot of the nurses in the nursing home where my mom is. Last Saturday, Marilyn went to a baby shower of one of them. She had the opportunity to meet her family and friends. We are continuing to pray for her as well as the other nurses and residents. One of them sat with Marilyn the other day as she had a visit with my mom. She just needed someone to talk to. This is definitely one of mission fields.

Back to me for a moment—yesterday, as I was dealing with this car stuff and not in a good mood, I received a call from a couple we have known for years, since our days at Calvary Baptist of Englewood—35 years ago. Both husband and wife are going through very difficult times as both struggle with major health issues. The husband said, “John, I just can’t go on living this way. I’m in pain all the time.”

When he asked about how my family and I were doing, he paused for a moment and added, “Wow, it sounds as if you guys are going through tough times as well.” As he made that comment, it seems as if the Spirit of God spoke to me, “There are many hurting people out there on the fringes.”

One of the passages I read today—a very familiar one—coins a term that encapsulates how this couple and Marilyn and I feel these days:

“Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, ‘GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me’? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind” (Isaiah 40:27-31 MSG, emphasis mine).

“A fresh start to dropouts”—yes! That is how we feel. Through no choice of our own, we have been pushed to the margins as dropouts, watching the world go by. This is one of the major challenges of long-term illness. And the couple I talked to yesterday affirmed it as well.

The truth is, however, is that the Lord has our situation (s) well in hand. We must continue to wait on the Lord—a feat that is impossible without His Spirit and His grace.

In the meantime, I’m going to share Jesus with everyone who comes across my path, whether they have long-term illness or not.

Lord, thank You for taking care of me yesterday as I drove over that curb. It could’ve been a lot worse. We lift up all the nurses in the memory care unit at Sunrise at Orchard. I lift up this dear couple—energize them. Give them fresh strength as they continue to wait on You. That is what we are doing—waiting on You. Amen. P. S. I also pray for Edna this morning, one of our dear friends from our days in Waco. She went to the hospital yesterday.
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Fifteen More Years

At one point, God told King Hezekiah, “Get your affairs in order. You are going to die.” You know the story. When the king heard these words, he cried out to God, “Please don’t let me die now!” Isaiah the prophet had been with him, but he left.

“Isaiah, leaving, was not halfway across the courtyard when the word of GOD stopped him: ‘Go back and tell Hezekiah, prince of my people, “GOD ’s word, Hezekiah! From the God of your ancestor David: I’ve listened to your prayer and I’ve observed your tears. I’m going to heal you. In three days you will walk on your own legs into The Temple of GOD. I’ve just added fifteen years to your life; I’m saving you from the king of Assyria, and I’m covering this city with my shield—for my sake and my servant David’s sake”’” (2 Kings
20:4-6 MSG).

So, the Lord answered his prayer and granted him more time here on earth.

As I read this story both in 2 Kings and in Isaiah 38 and 39, a couple of questions come to mind. First, if the Holy Spirit told me in no uncertain terms, “John, your time is up. I’m taking you home,” how would I react? I hope that I would be glad and be excited that I was going to go home. I hope I would respond that way.

I often think about how great heaven is going to be for so many reasons: I get to see Jesus face to face, in all of His glory; I get to see my dad, my grandparents, and all the other saints who have preceded me; I get to leave this evil world that continues to be more and more evil; et cetera. I could go on, but one thing I could add to this list: I would be done with cancer forever.

One of the most tedious and tiresome aspects of this disease is that there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it in one way or another. I’m sick of it!

Well, I could go on … but the second thing I want to say is that in a lot of ways, I believe that the Lord has granted me a bit of a reprieve. Bone Marrow Transplants really are a modern-day medical phenomenon that didn’t exist even a few years ago. I’m grateful to the Lord that He has allowed me to go through this process. Of course, the bottom line is that He has granted me more time to live on this earth.

Unlike Hezekiah, I have no idea how much longer I have. The truth is that none of us do, but I am discovering, as I talk with folks, that we really don’t like to think about the finiteness of our lives. We just push that very real fact off into the distance, but this disease has forced me to think and pray about it.

Here is the question that is often on my heart: “Lord, I am more aware than ever that my life is finite. I could die at any moment, not just from a recurrence of cancer but from a myriad of causes. Because I know this, what do You want me to do?”

The biblical record shows that Hezekiah made some bad choices during his fifteen-year reprieve. I don’t want to do the same thing.

Another way of putting this is: if there is anything that I am convinced the Lord wants me to do in this finite, earthly life, I’d better get going on it NOW.

I don’t want to be one of those folks who, lying on their death bed, has a lot of regrets about things I left undone.

Lord, thank You again for the gift of cancer and for the gift of this transplant. Thank You for the teacher You are allowing these gifts to be in life. As long as I have left—however long or short a time it is—let me serve You with diligence and urgency. You are in charge of birth and death and everything else and on into eternity. Thank You also for eternal life—the quality of life here and the quantity of life forever. Amen.
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No Big Deal

One of the interesting features of the Solid Life Reading Plan is that it lumps similar passages in scripture together. I like this. What I have read the past couple of days is a case in point.

Yesterday, I read the story of Hezekiah in Isaiah 36 and 37. Today, I read the similar accounts in 2 Kings 19 and 2 Chronicles 32. You can bet that an incident is important if it shows up three times in the Word.

This story in all three accounts focuses on how this righteous king and the inhabitants of Jerusalem trusted the Lord in the face of insurmountable odds (the Assyrian army under Sennacherib far outnumbered and outclassed the Israelites) and the taunts of the pagan king.

But here is what stands out to me in the readings in Kings and Chronicles today: the victory that the Lord won is almost an afterthought in terms of how much ink it gets in the biblical record. The angel of the Lord wiped out 185,000 enemy troops. When Sennacherib saw this, here is what happened. Notice the brevity of these words: “Sennacherib king of Assyria got out of there fast, headed straight home for Nineveh, and stayed put. One day when he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer murdered him and then escaped to the land of Ararat. His son Esarhaddon became the next king” (2 Kings
19:36-37 MSG).

In other words, the Lord is faithful to fulfill His promises and taking care of enemy opposition, as far as the Lord is concerned, is “no big deal.”

I wish I could get this and keep this fact in my mind and heart. When I think back over this whole bone marrow transplant process, the Lord has done so many things in my life that seemed like a big deal but for Him, they are not. He has taken care of things, and they are in retrospect, no big deal.

I thank Him this morning for taking me through all the tests and procedures and milestones of recovery. The results of this recent bone marrow biopsy are just the next step. No matter what the results are, I am confident that He will continue to take care of me.

One more thing to share: yesterday was one of those days where I felt great. I have to pause here and now this morning to thank Him for this as well.

Lord, give me the grace to continue to trust You so that what is not a big deal to You is not a big deal to me. It is just human to have some level of apprehension about what is going on, but the bottom line is You always take care of the Sennacheribs. Thank You for this day. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Turn "It" Over to the Lord

I love the narrative chapters in the book of Isaiah. Today, in the Solid Life Reading Plan, I got to read two of them—chapters 36 and 37. They tell the story of how the righteous king of Judah, Hezekiah, dealt with the invasion of the Assyrians. Their king, Sennacherib and his “press secretary” Rabshekah, led the way.

They tried to intimidate Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem with taunts that pointed to their track record up to that point and that tried to denigrate the people’s faith in God first of all and their trust in Hezekiah their leader.

At one point, having received a written communique from Rabshekah, here is what the king did: “Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messengers and read it. Then he went into the sanctuary of GOD and spread the letter out before GOD” (Isaiah
37:14 MSG).

In laying this letter our before the Lord, Hezekiah was essentially turning this whole situation—the potential invasion and all the taunts—over to the Lord. Of course, the Lord owns everything from the start. He is in charge of every detail of our lives. No doubt, but this action demonstrated the king’s belief in that reality. And, of course, the Lord did indeed take care of things—he wiped out the Assyrian army, killing 185,000 troops. Sennacherib and his press secretary had nothing to say.

The Assyrian king retreated to his home where he was murdered. Threat over!

As Christians, I think all of us fall prey to little ditties and quips we know as we face crises in life. One of the main quips I know is, “Oh, John, just turn that over to Jesus!” On one hand, that is very good advice (I will explain in a moment). On the other hand, it seems rather dismissive while failing to recognize our humanness. Let me explain.

Yesterday was not a good day physically for me. The incision in my hip where they took out a piece of my hip bone (the bone marrow biopsy) really started to bother me. Plus, I just did not feel well for most of the day. All I felt like doing was sitting around for most of the day.

These types of days where I sit around are often dangerous for me because the devil takes opportunity when I am down physically to pounce on me. I began to worry about what is ahead in this recovery and worry about whether the biopsy will show that I have cancer. I look out the window and wonder when I will ever be able to function on anything close to a “normal” lifestyle again. Et cetera, et cetera.

Well, yesterday, as I found myself continuing to spiral downwards, the Holy Spirit caught me and I just felt led to pray to God and to tell Him everything that was going through my mind. I can’t take any credit for this response. The Spirit compelled me to do it.

Here is where the advice of “turning things over to Jesus” was good, BUT here is where it is bad, in a sense. Later in the day, on several occasions, I felt “Rabshekah” taunting me again. Thus, I had to do it over and over and over. It was an attack of the enemy and one time did not do it.

The biblical record shows that Rabshekah taunted the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Hezekiah over and over. Each time, they did not respond to him. Why? Because they continued to turn things over to the Lord. The written letter was the final communication. It was simply the occasion for Hezekiah and the people to “turn things over to Jesus” AGAIN.

Lord, thank You for rescuing me over and over and over, not only yesterday, but these past six years as I have dealt with cancer and my whole life. You are always faithful to take care of the “enemy,” no matter who or what it is. Today, as Romans 12:1-2 admonish, I give You my body. I place everything that I am on the altar before You. I trust You, O Company of the Trinity, to continue to take care of things, everything. Amen.
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Open Hand and Outstretched Arms

Thanks for praying for the biopsy yesterday. It went very well. Of course, I won’t know the results for a few days, but when I find out, I will be glad to share the news.

When the biopsy was finished, Marilyn and I went out for a late breakfast/early lunch because I was hungry since they didn’t allow me to eat prior to the procedure. Then, we went to CBCI for my appointment.

It didn’t take long for Dr. Ali and Tina to enter the waiting room. Both were very upbeat. I was so grateful to God to hear that my ANC was still well over three thousand. Plus, all my other counts looked good. As a matter of fact, we talked more about the Broncos than about me. It is clear that Dr. Ali doesn’t know much about football nor does he even watch it (Tina is a rabid fan, however), but he asks me questions because he knows I am a fan.

We had a good short visit and they let us go. The doctor has paired me down to going to the clinic every OTHER week, so it will be two weeks before I have to go back. As we were driving away, I said to Marilyn, “Well, I’m thankful that they seemed to indicate that I am doing well. I’m just going to go with that for the next two weeks.” At the point, Marilyn stuck out her hand and we “slapped five.”

Back to the biopsy—when it was finished, I seemed to be in much less pain than I was the last time. When I told Marilyn this, she said, “Well, I guess I can tell you now.” Huh? Tell me what? She continued, “Last time, the woman who performed it kind of messed up. She had to try a couple of times.” Whoa. No wonder I was in pain for much longer than normal afterwards.

This reminded me of the first Bone Marrow Biopsy I had ever had. Way back in August of 2010, the first oncologist we visited (it wasn’t Dr. Jotte, the one we ended up going to) did the procedure in his office. His assistant “tried” to do it. I had no sedation except local anesthesia. It was a nightmare. She could not get it, so she had to remove the instrument that takes out the piece of the hip bone and she called the doctor. He raced in to “try” again. I was in so much pain that I hyperventilated. Oh, man… But I am so thankful that the last eight or nine (including the one before yesterday) biopsies I have had have gone much better, including and especially yesterday.

Thanks again for your prayers.

On to the passage for today—Hezekiah reinstituted the Passover celebration. It was a huge step of obedience, and it rallied both Israel and Judah to repent and return to the Lord.

“The king gave the orders, and the couriers delivered the invitations from the king and his leaders throughout Israel and Judah. The invitation read: ‘O Israelites! Come back to GOD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he can return to you who have survived the predations of the kings of Assyria. Don’t repeat the sins of your ancestors who turned their backs on GOD, the God of their ancestors who then brought them to ruin—you can see the ruins all around you. Don’t be pigheaded as your ancestors were. Clasp GOD ’s outstretched hand. Come to his Temple of holy worship, consecrated for all time. Serve GOD, your God. You’ll no longer be in danger of his hot anger. If you come back to GOD, your captive relatives and children will be treated compassionately and allowed to come home. Your GOD is gracious and kind and won’t snub you—come back and he’ll welcome you with open arms’” (2 Chronicles
30:6-9 MSG).

After all the sin and all the rebellion of people in both nations, God was waiting for them to “clasp his outstretched hand” and run to His “open arms.” That’s always the way our Lord is.

This reminds me of the parable of the lost sons. When the younger son returned home from his life of sin and dissipation, how did the Father receive him?

Helmut Thielicke, the German theologian, wrote a book on the parables of Jesus highlighting this famous story. He called it
The Waiting Father.

Lord, thank You for getting us through that biopsy and appointment at the clinic yesterday. We place the outcome of this procedure in Your very capable hands. Thank You that You are so ready to show mercy and forgive when we confess our sins to You. I love You, O Waiting Father. I clasp Your hand and gladly accept Your divine hug, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Another Bone Marrow Biopsy EARLY This Morning

Marilyn and I have to be at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital this morning at 6:45 to check in. It usually takes about an hour to prepare for this procedure. It should occur at 7:45. I’m getting this biopsy done “with sedation,” an act that makes this a little easier. They put me out, and I wake up when it is done—not bad!

The tough part is the pain that I experience afterwards PLUS the fact that I won’t be able to take a shower for twenty-four hours after this is completed. Oh, well.

I’ve now lost count as to how many of these I have had since August of 2010.

I’m not exactly sure what we are going to do when they release us after an hour recovery time as the procedure is completed. We have a 10:45 appointment at the clinic—not sure it is worth coming all the way home and then going back. We will just have to see. I do know that I will be eating breakfast during that time. I will be hungry. They don’t allow me to eat anything prior to the biopsy.

Please pray that my biopsy shows no cancer and that my ANC continues to maintain a high level. Marilyn will be glad when this morning is over.

There is a phrase that captured my attention in one of the readings this morning. Hezekiah ranks up there as one of the most godly kings Judah ever had since David. He totally ridded the land of pagan altars and cleaned out the Temple, reinstituting corporate worship there. Notice this statement the king made: “
I have decided to make a covenant with the GOD of Israel and turn history around so that GOD will no longer be angry with us. Children, don’t drag your feet in this! GOD has chosen you to take your place before him to serve in conducting and leading worship— this is your life work; make sure you do it and do it well” (2 Chronicles 29:10-11 MSG, emphasis mine).

Whenever we decide to trust God in conversion or repent/return to Him when we have been disobedient, we literally “turn history around.”

Somewhere I heard someone say, “As Christians, we are not defined by our past but by our future.” WOW.

Lord, thank You for another one of these biopsies. You have helped me in the past. I once again trust You for the results today and for the future. Thank You for turning my history around when You saved me and as You keep me saved. Thanks for the hospital and doctors and procedures like this to check how I am doing. Thanks again for everyone who is praying. O Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—we love You today. Amen.
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No Lions on the Road

Last night, we had a power outage in our neighborhood about midnight. I realized something had happened when my phone on the nightstand by my bed suddenly lit up. It woke me up. Realizing that there were no lights on in my neighbor’s house next door, I got up to check—no lights on in the neighborhood. It was kind of eerie feeling, but I was too sleepy to worry about it.

About an hour later, the electricity came back on. I knew it because my alarm clock started flashing. But I wonder—how many other folks realized it?

As I laid there awake for a while longer, one thought occurred to me: is this a metaphor of the American church? Is the power off and we don’t even know it? How many churches just go about their routines day after month after decade without any thought of the power of God on display?

My several months away from church as I continue to recover from this transplant have made me long for and pray for revival in the church more than ever? My definition of revival is a Spirit-originated recognition of our powerlessness, a genuine recognition of our sin, and a mass turning back to the Lord that includes a recognition of who we really are in Jesus.

I long to see that occur during my lifetime, but I wonder how many of us are asleep and don’t realize that the power is off?

I know this is kind of a strange thought to have as one lays in bed at midnight during an electrical failure. I fear, however, that we are taking God for granted, just as we take electricity for granted. It is weird how I missed it even at midnight. My room started to get cold. Brrrr.

One of the things we take for granted is the Lord’s protection on us as a nation. Two passages I read this morning reminded me of this. First, after Assyria destroyed Israel’s capitol city of Samaria, here is what happened: “The king of Assyria brought in people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and relocated them in the towns of Samaria, replacing the exiled Israelites. They moved in as if they owned the place and made themselves at home. When the Assyrians first moved in, GOD was just another god to them; they neither honored nor worshiped him. Then GOD sent lions among them and people were mauled and killed” (2 Kings
17:24-25 MSG).

I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed that before: for the pagan enemies of Israel, living in Israel, God sent lions among them as a reminder that He is God.

Notice this second reference: “There will be a highway called the Holy Road. No one rude or rebellious is permitted on this road. It’s for GOD ’s people exclusively— impossible to get lost on this road. Not even fools can get lost on it. No lions on this road, no dangerous wild animals— Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening. Only the redeemed will walk on it. The people GOD has ransomed will come back on this road. They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion, unfading halos of joy encircling their heads, Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night” (Isaiah
35:8-10 MSG).

Did you see it? In the ultimate restoration of God’s people from exile, He will protect them from lions and other wild animals as the travel Holy Road back to the Lord!

Lord, wake up Your church. We are living and “doing business” far below Your standards. Where is the power? We are conducting business without You and no one of us seems to notice or care. I continue to pray for revival. Let it begin with me as I appropriate who I am in You, O Company of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Protect us from lions along the way. We trust You and love You. Amen.
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The Big Altar vs the Small Altar

I love the juxtaposition of passages in the Solid Life Reading Plan. The Lord is using these passages to give me strong exhortations during this time of recovery.

Today is no exception.

Notice the sin of Ahaz, King of Judah, in the following verses: “The minute the king saw the altar he approached it with reverence and arranged a service of worship with a full course of offerings: Whole-Burnt-Offerings with billows of smoke, Grain-Offerings, libations of Drink-Offerings, the sprinkling of blood from the Peace-Offerings—the works. But the old bronze Altar that signaled the presence of GOD he displaced from its central place and pushed it off to the side of his new altar” (2 Kings
16:12-14 MSG).

Let me give you a little background. Ahaz was scared out of his wits as he faced a war against a coalition of enemy kings and armies, so he appealed to Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria to help him out. In addition, he reasoned, “If the King of Assyria’s gods helped him, maybe they will help me.” He investigated the pagan worship of his hoped-for ally and sought to replicate what they did in the Temple of the Lord.

Thus, he built a shiny new and BIG altar in the Temple, moving it to the center. In order to do this, he moved the bronze altar, smaller and less “impressive” in size and “newness,” off to the side.

The cross reference passage in 2 Chronicles 28 gives the additional bit of information the Ahaz also put these new big altars in pagan worship centers all over the nation of Judah, compounding his sin.

One more thing: Ahaz did this with the hope that his new “buddy” Tiglath would be impressed.

All of this did not end up well for Ahaz. This type of thing never does.

The word “idolatry” has the connotation of being very blatant, as in worshiping some type of object and totally rejecting God. Certainly, this is one type of idolatry. But the sin delineated in these passages is much more subtle. It is not on the surface about rejecting God as such. It is about displacing Him, moving Him to the side, as it were. This is just as if not more dangerous.

One of the other passages I read this morning is 1 Corinthians 7 in which Paul compares marriage to the life of singleness. He certainly does not laud one over the other, except to say that he prefers singleness. The bottom line for him, whether one is married or not, is a life of “undistracted devotion” to God (1 Corinthians 7:35). Interesting.

One of the frequent topics of conversation Marilyn and I have these days is about marriage and singleness. Both of us are certainly open to marriage, but for right now, God has us both single, and because we feel this is God’s will for both of us FOR NOW, we are thankful that the Lord has given us this gift (marriage is a gift also) to be able to go through everything we are facing right now.

But the key is continuing to keep the worship of God at the center and not allow anything, including my mom at the nursing or me with cancer to be a distraction.

This may sound weird, but my main preoccupation these days on those few opportunities when people like store clerks and I get in a conversation about cancer and bone marrow transplants is to continue to keep God at the center and not let anything or anyone be a distraction.

Lord, thank You for the set of circumstances including singleness that You have crafted for Marilyn and me right now. Thank You also for the beautiful institution of marriage. Both are gifts from You, depending on Your will and leadership. Whatever our situation, help us to continue to allow You, the One and Only God who reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be our central preoccupation today AND if someone asks, give me the boldness to them about You. Amen.
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Old Stomping Ground

After Marilyn’s visit with my mom yesterday, as she came back out to the car, she said, “Don’t you think it is time to get your mail?” I still haven’t closed out the post office box I have down the street from where I used to live in Thornton.

Before I resigned Jim and Betty did a great job of keeping up with my mail, but I didn’t want them to continue to worry about it after my resignation from the church.

So, Marilyn drove us up there yesterday afternoon. As we were nearing the post office, she said, “Could we stop and visit that baker you used to go to? What is her name?”

“Her name is Lisa,” I replied. “Great idea.” I can’t believe that I had forgotten about Lisa and her little business, “Lisa Ann’s Bakery.” Of course. I still need to gain some weight. Plus, Anne and the women at church are still available to make desserts….

Anyway, back to Lisa and a little background. My usual routine on days when I did not go out to lunch with someone in the church was to go to Arby’s, go get my mail, and head home. In the process of doing this, I kept noticing this sign. It read, “Fresh, hot cinnamon rolls,” with an arrow pointing west. Well, of course, it didn’t take long for me to go west to check it out.

Actually, my post office box is in Eastlake. This is a small community sandwiched between Washington Street and Colorado Boulevard north of 120
th Avenue. It is interesting because not many people know about it. It has a little main street with just a few businesses surrounded by a little neighborhood of houses.

If you blink, you miss it.

Lisa Ann’s Bakery is one of those businesses. Her little (little being the key term here but I love it in a world of big, bigger, biggest) shop is blast from the past. She plays old music, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett et cetera. She has a gift shop, but her main stay is baking. Oh, man. Can she ever bake! At first, I ate her cinnamon rolls—to die for. Then, her sticky buns and blueberry muffins and brownies … well, you get the idea.

It is fun to go in there for the sugar blast, for sure, but Lisa is such a character. She is thin as a rail. One time I asked her, “Lisa, how come you don’t weigh a whole lot more? I would not be able to fit through a door if I owned a bakery?”

“Great metabolism,” she answered with a smirk on her face. She is a hoot.

Back to yesterday, as we walked in her bakery (she has since moved from “downtown” to a “prominent” corner in Eastlake), she exclaimed, “John! I was just thinking about you the other day. I haven’t seen you for ages. What on earth has been going on with you?” I gave her a quick update on my medical stuff and introduced her to Marilyn. We had a great visit and of course, we bought some “merchandise.” Oh, man. Everything she makes is off the charts.

It was just a great visit. We grabbed my mail and headed back down the highway …

Here is a verse that the Spirit brought to my attention this morning: “Why is everyone hungry for more? ‘More, more,’ they say. ‘More, more.’ I have God’s more-than-enough, More joy in one ordinary day Why is everyone hungry for more? ‘More, more,’ they say. ‘More, more.’ I have God’s more-than-enough, More joy in one ordinary day Than they get in all their shopping sprees. At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep, For you, GOD, have put my life back together” (Psalm
4:6-7 MSG).

I’m not quite sure how to take this?? But I am almost positive that these statements do NOT apply to cinnamon rolls and chocolate. Ha.

Lord, thank You for leading Marilyn and me to one of my old stomping grounds. Thank You for using Lisa to encourage us yesterday. I continue to pray for her. Thank You for helping both of us feel a little better yesterday, especially after eating a few double chocolate cookies. We love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Hover and Deliver

Even though we had a better day in some ways, Marilyn and I continue to struggle physically. Neither one of us knows exactly what is going on to cause these physical maladies, but we are learning just to take one day at a time and go with how we feel. If we feel better, we try to do some things. If not, we lay low and rest.

I just can’t tie myself up in knots trying to diagnose what is going on. I’m no doctor, even though I “act” like it sometimes. Ha.

Here is one portion of scripture that correlates with how I feel in many ways:

“Thank you! Everything in me says ‘Thank you!’ Angels listen as I sing my thanks. I kneel in worship facing your holy temple and say it again: ‘Thank you!’ Thank you for your love, thank you for your faithfulness; Most holy is your name, most holy is your Word. The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength”
(Psalm
138:1-3 MSG).

I love that last phrase: “making my life large with strength.” In my opinion, the Psalmist is saying that the Lord delivers us from the myopic focus that worry tends to cause. I mentioned “tying myself up in knots.” This is what happens to me when I focus continually on myself and how I am feeling in the moment and not the Lord.

This leads me to share the second passage I would like to cite on this Sunday morning:

“This is what GOD told me: ‘Like a lion, king of the beasts, that gnaws and chews and worries its prey, not fazed in the least by a bunch of shepherds who arrive to chase it off, So GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies comes down to fight on Mount Zion, to make war from its heights. And like a huge eagle hovering in the sky, GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies protects Jerusalem. I’ll protect and rescue it. Yes, I’ll hover and deliver’” (Isaiah
31:4-5 MSG).

Several years ago, when I lived in the house on Holly Street, my back windows looked out on a huge open field with a single lone tree in the distance and a “dot” at the top of the tree. One day, with binoculars, I focused on that dot, trying to discern what it was. It didn’t take three seconds to learn that it was a large bald eagle! I watched that bird sitting and flying and serving “food” to his/her babies in the huge next below. What a magnificent bird! I’m so glad that the eagle is our national bird.

Anyway, that bird that sat in the top of the lone tree would often just take off and soar, sometimes flapping his/her wings, but often, there was no flapping—just soaring up and around and across that field. It was mesmerizing! I’ll never forget it.

By the way, Marilyn found a website recently in which a realtor here in metro Denver positioned cameras at various perspectives around an eagle’s next. I have no idea how he pulled this off, but this continuously running feed shows a male and female bald eagles taking care of the young in their nest.

One eaglet has already hatched. There is another egg in the nest that hasn’t, but it is interesting to see this papa and momma care for their baby. They switch off. The female sits on the next for a while; then, the male returns, bringing food and taking “his shift” on the next, while the female flies off. Wow.

I’m not sure that this is the site that Marilyn is referencing, but go to
www.explore.org for a live “eagle cam.”

Lord, thank You that Your Spirit hovered over the hovered over the earth in creation. Thank you for hovering over us and delivering us even today. Thank You that we live in You and You live in us, making our lives large with strength. We are up and down, but you are not. You are always “up,” literally, seated on Your throne in charge and in control. We love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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One of the Biggest Answers to Prayer EVER

My heart is so full of gratitude to God and to all of you this morning.

Let me tell you what happened yesterday.

We went to the clinic for labs. For some reason, to get my blood, they don’t use my triple lumens catheter or my port. The poke me in the arm. Abigail was the nurse.

We had a good chat with her. She is a Baylor grad and shortly after graduating a couple of years ago, moved up here to work at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute. We always enjoy talking with her about Baylor and Waco.

Anyway, after she left the waiting room, Marilyn and I prayed. I was still so concerned about my ANC. Remember, we were asking the Lord to have it skyrocket up so that we could give testimony that the Lord did it. We had no idea….

Let me fast forward a bit. When we left the appointment to go to the Walgreens pharmacy across the street from the hospital to pick up a prescription, I called Tina with a couple of questions. One of them was, “Tina, the last couple of times you guys took my blood and discovered that my ANC was 250, was that the total amount or was that just a partial number?” Somehow, I had it in my head that 250 was just my white blood count as a part of the total ANC number. I have no idea where I got that notion—another example of cancer brain, I guess. Ha.

Anyway, Tina paused a moment and said, “No, that was the total number.” So, my ANC had gone down as low as it had been right after the transplant in early August. Wow.

Back to our praying in the waiting room—we asked the Lord again to help this figure skyrocket so that we could give testimony.

Finally, Abigail came back into the room. She was all smiles. “John, your ANC is three thousand, two hundred …” That is all I heard! What? Wow. I almost started to cry. Marilyn and I both raised our arms and said almost in unison, “Thank You Jesus! Thank You so much!” Of course, at that point, we were preaching to choir a bit. Abigail was beaming. “I guess those shots the doctor prescribed worked.”

Marilyn replied, “Maybe so, but we have been praying and asking the Lord to raise John’s ANC, and he sure did!” Amen to that.

Get this: my ANC went up three thousand points from last week to this week!!! Talk about skyrocket! No one will ever convince me that this was anything but a miracle from God.

Praise be to His name AND thanks so much to all of you for praying for me.

Have you ever been in shock when the Lord answered prayer? I guess this is a comment on my unbelief, but still to this very moment, I can’t get over it.

I really had a rough day yesterday from a physical standpoint. I just did not feel well, but my heart was and is so full.

Oh, and by the way, I had another friend who was having a procedure to find out what is going on with him. He is in remission from cancer. The test did not show any recurrence. So, Marilyn and I praise God for that as well—two miracles in one day!

“But GOD ’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. GOD takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones” (Isaiah
30:18 MSG).

Lord, thank You again with all my heart for these two miracles. Again, You showed that You are a prayer-answering God and it is always “exceeding abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think,” as Paul states in Ephesians. We love you, O Company of the Trinity. I will continue to testify to others about how great You are. Amen.

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Perfect Peace, Content to Linger

Today, I have an appointment at the clinic. They are going to take my blood and see how I am doing. They will be paying particular attention to my ANC. I will also be receiving my third shot. The purpose of this shot is to help raise my ANC.

What is going and why is my ANC down? I have no idea and apparently, neither does Dr. Ali or Tina or any of the nurses.

Honestly, I have not been feeling well these past few days, but if someone were to back me in a corner to give a definitive explanation, I could not do it. Maybe I have been sick, but who knows? This may simply be one of those instances that is a mystery. As you remember, this is one of the possibilities for all of this that the doc gave the other day.

In the meantime, please pray that this level has gone way back up. Marilyn and I have been praying this and adding this, “Lord, we pray that this level goes way up, through the roof, so that we can give You the glory and tell everyone that You answer prayer.”

The truth is that this clinic, with all the personnel who work there, is my main mission field these days. I have been praying for Dr. Ali, Tina, and the many nurses we have met over the past several months. It is amazing how many of these nurses have “live-in” boyfriends. I am praying that they come to know the Lord and learn about biblical relationships and marriage.

Well, anyway, I derived a lot of comfort from one of the chapters I read this morning in the prophecy of Isaiah. I am going to cite two sections from this chapter, first, two of my favorite verses in the whole Bible: “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock” (Isaiah
26:3-4 NASB).

Here is the other: “The path of right-living people is level. The Leveler evens the road for the right-living. We’re in no hurry, GOD. We’re content to linger in the path sign-posted with your decisions. Who you are and what you’ve done are all we’ll ever want” (Isaiah 26:7-8, MSG).

I claim His perfect peace and I choose to be content to linger. On days like this, where I am a bit anxious as I head to the clinic, I need to learn to slow down, breathe, and be “content to linger in the path sign-posted with your—His—decisions.”

God, You are never, ever in a hurry. Sometimes this is frustrating to me. I want answers and help and need both yesterday. When I get in this type of panic, I know this is a denial of Who you are and what you have done in my life. I appeal to Your throne of grace and trust You for the peace that passes all understanding TODAY, a peace that stands guard over my mind and heart. Amen.
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The Messiah's Misfits

I did not feel well yesterday. I was fatigued and cold most of the day.

The app on my phone tells me that, this morning, it is currently 2 degrees. With wind chill, it is -8 degrees. Brrrrr.

I think my main issue physically is my body trying to adjust to these frigid temperatures. Thus, as much as possible, I am going to lay low again today and glad to do it.

It is crazy when one thinks about the huge disparity in temperatures in this state. Just a couple of days ago, it was 50 degrees. For all of October and November, the temperatures were unseasonably warm—in the 60’s and 70’s—one of the most beautiful Falls ever. We got spoiled, but now winter has finally showed up. We were due, I guess.

One more thing. Early afternoon, my sister got a call from the nursing home. My mom had a fall. Apparently, her walker was folded up as she started to use it. Her arm got tangled in it and she fell forward. Sophia, one of the nurses, said that she was certain my mom had broken something in this fall, but upon investigation, Marilyn and the nurses discovered that she didn’t, amazingly. Her chest was sore, but that was it. We praise God for this and continue to pray for her, asking all of you to do the same. Thanks.

Anyway, this morning, I am very intrigued as Paul defends himself to the church at Corinth. As you know, the church was very divided among the personalities the Lord had used to minister to this congregation. In defending himself, Paul gave them a dose of reality:

“It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, ‘God bless you.’ When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better” (1 Corinthians
4:9-13 MSG).

In other words, for Paul, the ministry had proven NOT to be a place to have a large mansion and bank account. There is nothing wrong with those things, per se, but Paul is turning popular notions of “success” on their heads.

One of the things I have been doing as I sit on the couch under a heated throw is to reflect on all the years I served as pastor. Certainly, there were a lot of joys associated with serving as I saw the Lord change lives and impact folks, but I would be lying if I said it was easy. It certainly wasn’t.

But the truth is: for all of us in this evil world, it is not easy to be a believer. We continue to be marginalized in our overly tolerant, politically correct culture where everything goes, absolutely everything, except the name of Jesus. Then, there is no toleration, no sympathy. But Paul’s testimony above indicates that this is always the way it has been for the “Messiah’s misfits.” How should we respond to this?

I am reminded what Paul and Silas did as they were released from custody from the Sanhedrin—they rejoiced that they were counted worthy of suffering for the Name.

Father, thank You for the extended opportunity for prayer and reflection that these frigid weather conditions afford. Thank You for allowing me to serve You. Thank You for everything that reminds us that “this world is not my home; I’m just a passin through.” Thank You for taking care of my mom in her fall yesterday. Thank You for a roof and walls and heat. Thank You for caring for us even the world hates You and Your followers. Amen.
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A Vivid Picture of Judgment

I am not exactly sure what it is, but in so many ways, the world looks different to me. I guess this isn’t so abnormal, given the fact that I have had chemo, the transplant, the long recovery that is on-going, and the fact that so many things have changed in my life.

The fact that we haven’t been in church for months has continued to give us a birds-eye view of a large percentage of folks that don’t give God a second thought. For them, Sunday is just another day. They are out running errands, filling up their empty lives with football games and activities.

Somehow, I even look at football differently. Now that the Broncos’ and Baylor’s seasons are over, I really have no interest in it, and even when my two teams were playing, the games had less appeal than ever before. I am not arguing that watching football and being a fan is wrong. I’m just talking about my level of interest.

In addition, the other day, at the nursing home, while Marilyn was visiting with my mom, another lady sat down in a chair next to them. Marilyn tried to involve her in the conversation and shared Jesus with her, but this lady seemed to have no capacity to hear or understand the message, for one reason or another. She just seemed hopelessly lost and in despair. It affected Marilyn deeply. We still pray for that woman. Her name is also Marilyn coincidentally.

I think my reading of the prophets has also contributed to these shifts in my perspective. I wonder if we have lost the prophetic edge in the contemporary American church pulpit. We are so concerned to preach messages that appeal to folks that we have forgotten to tell folks that, without Jesus, they are going to hell and that, unless America repents, we face the awesome reality of judgment.

We are so afraid of being labeled a “fire and brimstone preacher.”

In one of Isaiah’s sermons, he preaches against the King of Judah’s chief administrator: “The Master, GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies, spoke: ‘Come. Go to this steward, Shebna, who is in charge of all the king’s affairs, and tell him: What’s going on here? You’re an outsider here and yet you act like you own the place, make a big, fancy tomb for yourself where everyone can see it, making sure everyone will think you’re important. GOD is about to sack you, to throw you to the dogs. He’ll grab you by the hair, swing you round and round dizzyingly, and then let you go, sailing through the air like a ball, until you’re out of sight. Where you’ll land, nobody knows. And there you’ll die, and all the stuff you’ve collected heaped on your grave. You’ve disgraced your master’s house! You’re fired—and good riddance!” (Isaiah
22:15-19 MSG).

This is almost comical if it were not so tragic. No matter who you are, or where you work, if you defy the Lord, He will take care of business. Can you imagine being in your front yard pulling weeds in the summer and seeing a man flying through the air and he fades into the distance? I know that the language of God through the prophet is metaphorical in some senses, but still …

By the way, since my ANC is down, it is best to stay away from crowds or congregations, for now. We continue to miss corporate worship. Please pray that this level would go back up. I go back in on Friday for more tests.

Lord, my heart is burdened as never before as I see folks going about their business in this lost and dying world. The end is not good for them, those who refuse to believe in you. Please wake us up in the Christian community. Help us not be afraid “to tell it like it is.” I pray for Marilyn at the nursing home. Help her to get saved so that she has the hope of eternal life. Help us to be on the lookout for flying people—again not so funny. Amen.
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90,000 Christian Martyrs

The other night, as we were sitting on the couch, getting ready to pray and go to bed, Marilyn came across an article that indicated that 90,000 Christians across the world had been martyred in 2016. Does that number surprise you? I was shocked. Plus, we learned that oftentimes, the death of these precious saints was painful and torturous. (http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/01/01/report-90000-christians-killed-faith-2016/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social).

Of course, we never hear about this on any news channel. It is sobering, to say the least.

This has been a burden on my heart the last few days. All I can do is to pray for the families of those who have been tortured and killed. Not just killed. TORTURED and killed. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to know that someone you love is being tortured?

Richard Wurmbrand, himself a victim of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the former communist regime in Romania, started an organization and a newsletter called “Voice of the Martyrs.” I recommend it. If you subscribe, be ready to be very uncomfortable.

There are other sources as well. On a regular basis, Jim sends out emails detailing the persecution going on in various parts of the world but particularly in South Asia. These come from the International Mission Board. They are equally challenging.

Even as I write this morning, it is difficult to think of believers shivering in the cold, hungry and thirsty, beaten and bruised and sick, laying on the floor of some dark prison cell while I sit here on this couch under a blanket.

I believe that all Christians here in the West need to be exposed to what is really happening in other parts of the world, number one, so that we can pray. Number two, we need the perspective that these stories give us.

All of this would be discouraging if we didn’t know the Lord.

This morning, in the Solid Life Plan, I came across two passages that give me a heavenly perspective of God in control.

“A Message concerning Edom: A voice calls to me from the Seir mountains in Edom, ‘Night watchman! How long till daybreak? How long will this night last?’ The night watchman calls back, ‘Morning’s coming, But for now it’s still night. If you ask me again, I’ll give the same answer’” (Isaiah
21:11-12 MSG). These verses remind me of a song Larnelle Harris sang years ago, “Lord, Send that Morning” (I believe that is the correct title).

Here is the second passage: “I don’t want to hear any of you bragging about yourself or anyone else. Everything is already yours as a gift—Paul, Apollos, Peter, the world, life, death, the present, the future—all of it is yours, and you are privileged to be in union with Christ, who is in union with God” (1 Corinthians
3:21-23 MSG). I like the Amplified Bible translation of verse 23: “Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas (Peter), or the universe or life or death, or the immediate and threatening present or the [subsequent and uncertain] future–all are yours.”

I like that: “the immediate and threatening present or the subsequent and uncertain future”—these actually belong to us through our union with Jesus. Wow.

Lord, it is so easy, when we hear of persecution and martyrdom abroad, to think that it will never happen here. Forgive us for this shortsightedness. Whatever happens, wherever, I thank You that the present and future actually belong to us. Wow. Awesome. In the meantime, in our suffering here and in the suffering of persecuted believers all over the world, “Lord, send that morning!” Amen.

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A Drop in the Bucket

In an interview with cornerback Chris Harris Jr., after the Broncos won yesterday, they asked him about Gary Kubiak. Harris started his remarks by making reference to the fact that the decision to retire was a tough one for Kubiak because coaching the Broncos was his “dream job.” When Harris said that, I could really relate.

Yesterday, through the day, memories kept flooding my mind. I remember how it felt to be seated in the congregation years ago at Riverside Baptist Church here in Denver listening to a visiting evangelist. I don’t remember his name, but he preached one of the best sermons I have ever heard in my life. As he was preaching, everything in me yearned to preach, but it just wasn’t God’s time yet. This was years before God called me into full-time vocational ministry.

It is funny what you remember and when.

Again, I am confident about the Lord’s leadership and the great possibilities that lie ahead, but I am realizing now, more than ever, in addition to the physical stuff, I am dealing with the mental side of recovery. This will be the greatest challenge EVER.

On the flip side of things, I feel as if I am learning more about ministry than ever before. Maybe that isn’t quite it … maybe it is just getting perspective of ministry when the shoe is on the other foot, as it were.

Two things to share from my reading today in John 6 in the Solid Life Reading Plan. First, notice this statement before the feeding of the five thousand: “One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, ‘There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this’” (John
6:8-9 MSG).

What hit me this morning is that most of us (myself at the top of the list), when we don’t know what to do, do nothing. And the main reason for this is that we feel that our little “five loaves and two fish” is nothing. If Jesus hadn’t been there, this miracle would never have occurred—of course. But the disciples would have done nothing because they had so little.

“Little becomes much when you put it in the hands of the Lord.”

Second, Jesus gives us insight into the crowd mentality. “Jesus answered, ‘You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free. “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last’” (John
6:26-27 MSG).

Jesus was never impressed with numbers or crowds. We are. We call them “successful churches.” But there were 70,000 plus or minus at the Bronco game yesterday. So what? Crowds gather for multiple reasons; true disciples follow even when there are no free lunches involved. “Come with me and die” was essentially Jesus’ message.

And, as we see later in John 6, we can’t even follow Him unless the Lord enables us to do so. This message thinned out the crowd very fast. Still does.

Lord, thank You for this New Year and the challenges ahead—the toughest yet. The only way any of us can endure is through You and because of You. I offer myself to You, today. I don’t have much. I’m dealing with recovery from this transplant. You know this. Take the little that I am as I chose today, along with the few, brave, and the proud (in You not in ourselves)—the Lord’s Marine Corp—to deny ourselves, take up the cross daily, and follow You. Amen.
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2016 Done: 2017--God's Plans

Well, just to celebrate the New Year—it is only a few hours old—I did something wild and crazy. Are you ready? I had scrambled eggs for breakfast! I have not had eggs since last July right before I went into the hospital. Since then up to now, I just have not had any interest in them. Go figure!

I would be lying if I said anything other than, “I am glad that 2016—the year of constant and uncomfortable change—is over! Praise God!” Over the past couple of days (since I didn’t feel like doing much of anything else), I have been reflecting on everything that has changed—all the way from small things to very significant things. The list is long. Here are a few things:

--My mom had a stroke and is now in memory care in a nursing home.
--My hearing is impaired. It will never be the same, unless the Lord heals it.
--I have the experience of spending a month of my life in the hospital.
--I have a new immune system. Thank You, Dr. Jesus.
--As of today, I am cancer free. Again, thank You!
--I have the experience of being loved and prayed for by an “army of prayer warriors.”
--I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Marilyn.
--I am as grateful as ever for relationships and friendships.
--I have seen the Lord answer prayer over and over, confirming His faithfulness.
--I resigned the church I have served for over twenty-seven years.
--I am more of a stranger in this world than ever. I long to go Home.
--I love Jesus more.

I know that many of you could add more things. Again, this is only a partial list. I could go on and on. I will continue to add to it in the days ahead. I think this is a good exercise. I recommend it.

In the meantime, it still comes back to the verse the Lord gave me when I was first diagnosed—Matthew 6:34—don’t worry about tomorrow because it has enough trouble of its own. Day by day, starting with today.

Here are a few verses from my reading this morning in 1 Corinthians 2. I am going to highlight one section: “We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text:
No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him. But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you” (1 Corinthians 2:6-10, MSG).

I have this wonderful sense of expectation for the New Year. I am excited about all the unknowns—the continuing adventure of trusting God.

Lord, thank You for getting us all through 2016—the year of the new normal with constant and uncomfortable change. It is hard. We can expect nothing less in 2017. But we can also thank You that You will be there as always, every step of the way, with a plan none of us could ever imagine. Wow. Amen.
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