PastorJohnsBlog.com

A Stroll At Leisure With God

September 2017

Take Up His Cross

Jesus keeps raising the bar on discipleship in Matthew 10. It is really an incredible chapter that the Holy Spirit has put together. But I will come back to that topic in a moment.

I want to stop right here and thank all of you who are praying for the pain in my legs. The past two days, they seemed to be a little better. I attribute this to answered prayer. They bother me a little today. I figure that recovery will not be a straight line, but even a little improvement is tremendously encouraging. Thanks again SO MUCH.

Where would I be without all of you, the Lord’s army of prayer warriors on my behalf? All of us need such an army standing with us and behind us.

Back to Matthew 10. Jesus asserts that he did not come to this earth to bring peace but a sword. He goes on to say that his ministry will divide families and homes but he who loves his family more than the Lord is not worthy of Him.

Then, he makes these statements: “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew
10:38-39 NASB).

Crosses are not meant for carrying; they are meant for dying up. Thus, Jesus instructs us to trust our identification with Him through everything the cross meant and started: death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. We lose our lives here on earth to discover our new lives seated with Him in the heavenly realms (as Colossians 3 reminds us). As a result, our relationships here, even our family, does not compare to what we share with Jesus both now and into eternity.

Lord, thank You for answered prayer for my legs. I value and love everyone who faithfully prays for Marilyn and me. And yet, even the closest of human relationships do not compare to my life in You seated in the heavenlies. Today, I take up that cross once again and follow You. Amen.
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Confess Me Before Men

The other day, Marilyn and I had the opportunity to speak with someone about my cancer stuff. As we parted company and drove away, Marilyn said, “We should have mentioned the Lord in our conversation. I can’t believe we didn’t!”

Of course, that subject had not crossed my mind, but it dawned on me that she was right. I had blown another opportunity.

It then occurred to me that just about any topic of conversation can be pointed to the Lord. It doesn’t have to be cancer. We can give God glory out of any situation. This is one of the main aspects of sharing the gospel, if we will just be alert to it, like Marilyn was.

Jesus reinforces this point in Matthew: "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew
10:32-33 NASB).

Did you notice the very stern warning in Jesus’ statement? If we fail to confess Him before men, He will fail to confess us before our Father in heaven?

This reminds us of the biblical connection between belief and confession. It is not enough just to “hold” beliefs in private. But if I really believe, then what I believe will come out of my mouth; it will show in my lifestyle. This is the kind of discipleship Jesus advocates. It is the kind we ought to live.

Lord, open my mouth in conversations. Help me to be much more verbal about you, not just when cancer comes up, but whenever you give any of us a chance to share. Help us to confess You openly, unapologetically, and boldly. We love You Lord. Amen.

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Two Sparrows

My legs continue to ache. Marilyn and I are determined to get to the bottom of this issue. The doctor prescribed another medication at the clinic the other day; we are trying it. I sure hope it helps. We will see. Thanks for praying.

The one thing I can affirm is that the Lord cares. This apparent delay in the answer to prayer for relief from this pain is no sign of apathy on the Lord’s part. That is for sure.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matthew
10:29-31 NASB).

God’s love and care for us is very minute and detailed. He knows absolutely everything about us from the top of our head to the bottom of our feet. We need not fear.

I used to avoid praying detailed prayers just because I didn’t think the Lord cared. In the hospital, I prayed that I could sleep all the way through the night. This was an almost impossible request because the nurses came in and out all the way through the night. And yet, the Lord answered this prayer because I was asleep when they entered and I fell back to sleep immediately when they left. Prayer answered.

The Lord cares about details. He cares about the little things that are on our minds. There is nothing too small or too large for Him. I don’t need to worry that there is some prayer request out there that He won’t answer. No way!

And so, as I pray for my leg ache (and I know you are as well), I know He is in the process of answering right now. It is going to happen.

Lord, thank you for your intimate care of each of us. Thank You for hearing our prayers and answering each one. Thank You for the prayers of Your people. I pray that You would answer their prayers as well. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Report from the Clinic and the Pulmonary Test

I almost forgot to share what was happening yesterday and to ask for prayer. We had two appointments—one right after the other.

Ryan said that I was doing well on most of my blood counts. We spent most of the time talking about the aches in my legs. This is still a mystery. In fact, Ryan said, “John, this may be something that you are just going to have to live with, but we will keep working on it. I’m not exactly sure what it is.” Humm. Okay. Just something else to keep praying about. Please continue to do so. Thanks.

The Pulmonary test—you know, the one where you sit in a cubicle and get yelled at—ha (Ryan called it that)—went well. This is just a routine test of my lungs and respiration. The lady who performed the test said I did well but she sends it on to CBCI, just to see how I am doing.

Thus, overall, I’m grateful to the Lord that He helped me do well yesterday. Now, if the Lord can heal me of these aches and pains …

The scripture reading for today is quite challenging: "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” (Matthew
10:24-25 NASB)

Sharing in the life of Jesus as we do does not exempt us from suffering. They actually called the Son of God head demon. Think about what they will call us.

We have multiple examples in our culture these days—good and bad—of the malign that occurs when men and women stand on their principles. I believe it is time for believers to join the fray. It is time that we stand up and make our beliefs known. So much of what happens these days is meant totally to silence Christians while all sorts of whackos are called heroes. I think I will leave it at that.

Lord, thank You for calling us as disciples to follow the greatest cause and person ever—the Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to stand for Him, no matter what the cost. Thanks for all the prayers and for a good day at the clinic and at the hospital. I love You, Lord. Amen.
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He Who Perseveres to the End Shall be Saved

Jesus continues to give out some stern warnings about what is ahead for disciples of Jesus.

"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matthew
10:21-22 NASB).

This is severe stuff—division and hatred with families with the result that family members will turn other members over to death. Jesus makes those assertions and then He makes a general statement.

Christians will be hated. BUT it is the one who endures to the end that will be saved.

That is a curious comment. I believe the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith. And the old Baptist quip: once saved, always saved. NOW, let me hasten to say that I believe both of those statements and I believe that the Bible teaches both.

But what about Jesus’ statement here? I believe that He is talking about EVIDENCE of salvation. If you continue to walk with Him, all the way through trial and difficulty and hatred (even from your own family), then you prove that you have been genuinely saved. But, if you drop away, you show that MAYBE you haven’t. I say “maybe” because people do turn away for a time, but then the Lord brings them back. This is another situation.

The bottom line is that if you are saved, you WILL continue and persevere to the end. If not, there is a likelihood that you were never saved in the first place. Ultimately, all of this is up to the Lord.

I want to be part of the group that perseveres to the end, no matter what happens to me and my family.

Lord, You never promise us an easy path in this Christian life. Give me and Marilyn and everyone reading this blog who claims to know You the grace to persevere all the way to the end, demonstrating that we have been, are, and will be saved. Amen.

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The Spirit Speaks in Us and Through Us

Yesterday, I came across some material about the relation between faith and trials in our lives. It was excellent stuff. He approached this study from the perspective of the life of Abraham. God tested the old man with a famine in the land, and as you know, Abe failed the test when he lied about the identity of his wife to Pharaoh. It just created a big mess.

Here is one thing he said, “Once the famine strikes, we do not see Abe praying.” Wow. What a profound thought and pure indication why he (and we) get into trouble.

I’m discovering that my prayer life is not as robust as it was in the hospital. This is a common track record for me. When things aren’t as bad, I tend to slack off. This word on the relation of faith and trials has awakened me. I need to get back in the saddle.

Thanks for praying for us. After church, Marilyn and I came back here for a relaxing day at home. I seemed to feel better for most of the day until my legs started to ache in the late afternoon. Instead of praying about this, I spent most of the rest of the griping and complaining. I got an “F” on my grade for negotiating the trial for the day.

I’m convinced that this is where the discipline of stopping and thanking God and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide comes in. Jesus speaks about this is a different context in Matthew 10:

“But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matthew
10:19-20 NASB).

We need to trust the Holy Spirit to speak to us and through us. We don’t need to rely on ourselves. Standing firm in temptation or standing strong in a courtroom depends on the Lord, not us.

Lord, thank You for calling me back to prayer. Thank You Spirit of God for speaking to us and through us. May You continue to do that today. Amen.

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Sheep in the Midst of Wolves

When I was a teenager, my youth pastor, Dennis, spent time disciplining Andy and me. We used Tommy Hanks’ materials. It was excellent.

One day, I was complaining to Dennis about the fact that I didn’t have any friends. People at school ostracized me because I was a Christian.

I’ll never forget his response. He took out a piece of paper and drew a makeshift herd of sheep (drawing was not his strong suit) and then he drew a circle of wolves around it. Then, he added, “John, you are never going to be totally popular in this world because Jesus reminds us that we are sheep but we are surrounded by wolves. This is a picture of our world. Don’t ever forget it.” Wow. How powerful!

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles” (Matthew
10:16-18 NASB).

Dennis’ picture was powerful, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. In addition to being surrounded, we will be hauled to court where we will have the opportunity for testimony. It will be an even larger challenge.

As I continue to deal with the side effects of whatever is going on with me, I realize that things could be and probably will be even more difficult in this cruel, evil world. The thing about trials is that they are preparation, not only for service, but also for more difficult trials. The Lord is getting us ready for something. Are we ready?

Lord, I thank You for Dennis’ picture and the impact it had on my life. Thank You for trials now. Thank You for preparing us and taking care of us. Give us the courage and grace to speak out for You no matter where we end up. Amen.
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Shake the Dust Off Your Feet

Yesterday was just another one of those days where it was a mixed bag. I felt better during the middle of the day, but in the morning and in the late afternoon/evening, I did not. We are still trying to figure out when to take the medicines to get the maximum effect. This remains a work-in-progress.

The passage for today in Matthew 10 continues a series of instructions that Jesus gave the disciples before sending them out on mission.

“And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city” (Matthew
10:11-15 NASB).

It is clear that Jesus is teaching some basic truths we would all do well to digest. First, he teaches us to depend on Him as we give testimony. These disciples are instructed to find a person of peace in a city, give his house a blessing, and stay there until moving on. If the house ends up not being worthy, he is to change the blessing to a curse.

Second, if the disciple’s words are not received and the disciple leaves the city, he is to shake the dust of his feet. This has always been a rather curious statement to me. I believe that it signals the judgment of God on that particular city. The disciple has preached. The people have not responded. Now the disciple shakes off every vestige of contact, even dust on the feet, as he turns the city over to judgment. What an ominous picture of the judgment of God!

Jesus goes on to say that Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than this city—wow, even more scary.

This passage reminds me that we should not be afraid of people’s response to the Gospel. THEY should be afraid of us!

And, it is an encouragement to me that someday, I will be back sharing the Good News again, and I can hardly wait!

Lord, You are awesome and so is Your message. It is nothing to be trifled with. Thank You for the encouragement of today. Help us to serve You and follow You and continue to preach Your message. Help me to do this, in this forum but also in many other places. Amen.
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A Workman Worthy of His Hire

In the passage today, Jesus gives instructions to the twelve disciples as He calls them together and sends them out. But I will get to that in a moment.

We had a good visit at the clinic yesterday. I thank the Lord that all my blood counts look good. Everything seems to fine on the broader front.

It just continues to be these symptoms that make me feel bad. Today is an example. Just not on top of things.

Genoa the nurse and Hannah the doctor’s assistant, asked us a lot of questions. They are going to run some tests on me to find out what is going on. One of the biggest theories is Graft vs. Host, not only in my stomach but also in my legs. This could be the reason my legs continue to ache.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will undergo these tests. We will see. In the meantime, thanks for continuing to pray. We really appreciate it.

On to the passage for today. Here it is: “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support’” (
Matthew 10:5-10 NASB).

I think it is interesting that Jesus tells the disciples NOT to try to acquire money or to take duplicate coats or sandals or staffs. Instead, they are to go stay in a home and trust the Lord to take care of their needs. The emphasis is on the mission and the ministry. The Lord will take care of the rest. No distractions. No extra burdens. The Lord will provide.

Lord, I thank You for the good report yesterday. Thank You for taking care of us all in such amazing ways. We continue to trust You in that regard. Thank You that Your grace makes us worthy workers in Your kingdom. Amen.
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Visit to the Clinic Today

Over the past few days, I honestly feel that I have gotten better in one way, but I am still dealing with challenges in others. On the one hand, my nausea seems to be improving. I’m so grateful to the Lord for this. It gets old to be sick to one’s stomach day after day. I know I don’t need to tell all of you this.

On the other hand, however, I’m still dealing with a rather aggravating set of body pains that just don’t go away. It is hard to get comfortable and settled. I hope they can help me with this, as it is almost as uncomfortable as nausea.

So, the beat goes on … Thanks to all of you for your continued and sustained prayers. Marilyn and I deeply appreciate them and you.

The verse for today begins a new passage on Jesus’ choice of the twelve disciples. Here is the first verse of that section: “Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness” (Matthew
10:1 NASB).

Jesus gave this group authority over illness and demon-possession. Somehow, this statement strikes me as a little odd. It is not that the disciples had that authority but that so few us nowadays do. And, to be honest, I am a little skeptical of the claims of “faith-healers” anyway. This is an attitude that I need to pray about.

In the meantime, I will say that I do believe in the LORD’S ability to heal as firmly as I ever have. Whether He chooses to use men in that process is up to Him. He does whatever He wants.

But I think the point of the above verse is one of the main themes of Matthew and that is authority. The disciples of Jesus have authority over diseases and the demonic world. Jesus gives us this authority.

For me, this means that cancer is NOT more powerful than the Lord is. God is still in charge of it, no matter what happens. I can take this assurance to the clinic today and trust Him for the timing of His healing power.

Jesus, I thank You for the authority over the maladies of this world and over Satan and his demons. You are totally in charge of both. You own all authority and You give it as You please. Help us use this authority to see people saved today. Amen.
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He Felt Compassion

It didn’t take long at the start of Jesus’ public ministry that He soon became inundated with sick people. If that had been me (and time and eternity is glad that I am not), I would have easily become overwhelmed with the crowds and ready to avoid them.

But not Jesus.

“Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest’” (
Matthew 9:35-38 NASB).

Jesus felt compassion for the crowds, both those who were sick and those who were not. They were all in the position of being sheep without a shepherd.

Then, Jesus went to talk about laborers for this vast harvest, and pleaded with the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest, asking for more workers. We actually get to work with Jesus in the harvest field, ministering to lost sheep. What a task!

As I read these words, I realize that the Lord has put me in a dual position. I continue to be in a situation where I need the Lord’s healing. AND, I am also called to be a worker in the harvest. This seven-year disease has put me in a position to have compassion for folks who are suffering from long-term illness.

Years ago, I am ashamed to say, I just got frustrated when I met people who had been sick for a long time, “Just get over it,” I would say in my heart, but now, things are different.

People that are sick just need someone to care about them (as so many of you have demonstrated with me—thank you all so much) and to pray for them and just to be there. It is not really a magic formula. There is no substitute for folks who will just be out in the harvest with the sheep.

Lord, I thank You for Your compassion for sheep like me. Help us to demonstrate that same kind of compassion to the lost sheep. Amen.

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A Sick Woman Touches Jesus' Robe

This is a famous story about a healing Jesus performed.

“And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I will get well.’ But Jesus turning and seeing her said, ‘Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’ At once the woman was made well” (Matthew
9:20-22 NASB).

The thing that makes this miracle more intriguing is that Jesus is already on His way to heal the synagogue official’s daughter. In other words, He was busy.

As He was making His way to the official’s house, this woman approached Jesus and touched Him. Jesus felt the power going out of Him, and so He responded to this lady. She was healed instantly.

What an awesome story! The Savior knew immediately that healing power had gone out of Him. No one who genuinely reaches out to Jesus in faith will be disappointed. Nothing escapes His notice.

This is a huge encouragement to me today.

I continue to struggle with nausea, body aches, headaches, and fatigue. This is very frustrating to me. I wonder when these symptoms will end. I continue to reach out to Jesus for healing. So far, this has not occurred, but I know it is NOT because Jesus is not sensitive to my needs.

He is still responsive to every time I reach out to Him. He is there. And He cares more than words can say.

I have to be diligent to keep all of this in mind because I think it is easy to get bitter and disillusioned toward God, and that certainly would not help right now.

That woman reached out to Jesus. She was in a crowd bumping up against Him, but He still noticed and He still cared.

Lord, thank You for this very encouraging story. So far, as I continue to reach out to You, You have not healed me YET, but I continue to trust You and know that You are there. I know that You care. I love You, Jesus. Amen.
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Sinners Need the Doctor

Yesterday was another one of those long, hard days. Marilyn went to see mom in the afternoon. She seemed to be doing okay. When Marilyn returned, we watched the Bronco game together.

Let me stop right here. This was unusual for me. I think I’ve mentioned this before but somehow, over the past year and a half since I had the transplant, my television habits have changed rather dramatically. I just don’t watch it as I used to. I have no explanation for this except that I have lost interest, even in most sporting events, including Bronco games, believe that or not.

But yesterday, I decided to watch the game, and I’m glad I did! During the rain delay, we went out to eat, and found a rather surprising number of folks out and about.

Anyway, Matthew 9, after recording the call of Matthew, the tax collector, tells about a party at Matthew’s house. In attendance were all sorts of unseemly folks, ostensibly Matthew’s buddies who were like he was, social outcasts.

Of course, the religious folks had a problem with the attendance list and Jesus’ association with them. Here is the conversation that followed:

“When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?’ But when Jesus heard this, He said, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: “I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,” for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Matthew
9:11-13 NASB).

Jesus came for sinners, not “saints.” Therefore, it was perfectly in concert with that mission that Jesus went to a party with these folks in attendance.

On the Sundays where I don’t feel like going to church, I just take notice of the folks who are out and about. They are usually just trying to fill time. They seem aimless, wandering about from activity to activity. We would not liken them to the tax collectors and “sinners” at the party Jesus attended, but without Jesus, they like us are lost and on our way to hell. That puts us all in the same category.

We need to join Jesus in this mission to the “sinners” of our world, and I can’t help but think that the Lord has some sort of plan for Marilyn and me after these long months of recovery and the chance we have had to observe lost folks and how much they need Jesus.

Lord, all of us need Jesus. Give us the boldness to be doctors to sick “sinners” in a world of folks who are lost without You. Thank You for getting us through another weekend. We offer You compassion, the same kind of compassion You offer us in salvation. We love You, Lord. Amen.
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A Man Called Matthew

Thanks for praying for us. From a physical standpoint, it seemed as if it were a better day. I am continuing to take part of the meds that the doctor prescribed. The other medication is still awaiting approval from the insurance company—here we go again. By the way, I never received that salve for the itchy soars on my head. Go figure. I hope the timing is better in this case. We will see.

Matthew 9 begins with a singular statement. “As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he got up and followed Him” (Matthew
9:9 NASB).

As most of you know, I am sure, tax collectors in Jesus’ day were usually known as pretty unseemly fellows. They were Jews who worked for the occupying Roman army and were usually known as traitors who dipped into the till for themselves.

Matthew, the human instrument the Holy Spirit used to write this gospel, was simply sitting in his booth, doing his job, when Jesus came along. He called Matthew to follow Him. Immediately, Matthew got up and followed Him—no questions, no comments, and no hesitancy.

As Matthew continues to talk about Jesus’ authority, here is a poignant example of His authority over men. Jesus spoke and Matthew followed. That is it. There was just something about Him, something about His call. It compelled men to drop what they were doing and go with Him right now. Peter and Andrew and James and John were other examples of this kind of response.

It is the same kind of response He demands of us today. This involves a recognition of His divine authority. Jesus is totally in charge. When He calls, we need to jump. It is a willingness to obey with no hesitancy, “the first time He calls,” as Kris taught the kids in our fellowship. And, it involves leaving the old life and old job behind for a new life of discipleship.

Lord, as I continue to recover from this cancer surgery, I recognize that my number one obligation is following You. This is still and always at the top of the list, no matter what happens to me. Teach us what it means to be disciples, Lord. Amen.
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The Son of Man Has Authority

After the Sermon on the Mount, from chapter eight through the first several verses of chapter nine, the Holy Spirit shows us the authority of Jesus, but I will get to that in a moment.

Yesterday, we just got fed up with me feeling bad. So, we called the clinic and they got us in at 1:45 in the afternoon. Hannah, one of the doctor’s assistants, was very helpful. They were concerned about the nausea and its impact on my appetite. I have actually lost a couple of pounds since I was there this past Monday.

They ordered a new nausea med. They gave me a lot of fluid. They prescribed potassium to help me aching legs. They told me to call in, even if it was over the weekend, for help if I seem to be getting worse.

They are still not sure what the cause of the nausea is. Hannah doubts that it is the cancer pill. She thinks it is Graft vs. Host Disease in my stomach. She will be ordering another endoscopy just to make sure we know what is going on.

I am just so thankful that they are progressing forward on trying to find out what is wrong with me. This has gone on for so long. I’m hopeful that they can get to the bottom of it, and I can start to feel better. My faith is totally in Jesus to get this thing turned around.

Back to the Gospel of Matthew, the Spirit of God as He illumines the scriptures, shows us the multi-faceted authority of Jesus here on earth. He has authority over sickness and healing. He has authority over the wind and the waves. He has authority over the demonic world. And finally, the passage for today demonstrates that He has authority to forgive sins here on earth.

“’Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ -then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home." And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (Matthew
9:5-8 NASB).

I praise Him for His authority. There is no illness or disease on this planet that is stronger than Jesus. He has authority, total authority, over everything and everyone on this planet, all the time!

Lord, I thank You for the visit to the clinic yesterday and the ray of hope it provided. Thank You for Hannah and the other doctors and nurses and all their help. I just trust Your authority for continued progress today. Help us all to appropriate by faith Your authority in every arena of life. Amen.
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Send Us into the Herd of Swine

What a powerful story about Jesus’ lordship over the demonic! But I will get to that in a moment.

Yesterday, I got so tired of feeling bad that I called the clinic and left a message for Tina, Dr. Ali’s main assistant. In a couple of hours, she called me back. I asked her if she had some different meds I could take just because the ones I have don’t seem to be working on nausea and pain in my legs.

“Well, John, what we have given you is very powerful stuff. Do you want to come into the clinic?”

“No, Tina. I don’t. Just wanted to see if there was anything else I could take.” Apparently not. We agreed that if I didn’t feel well this morning, I would just go on in.

The jury is still out on that one. I will see how things go as the morning progresses. I do seem to be feeling a bit better. We will see.

Again, I am just so weary of these side effects. So weary.

Anyway, back to the text in Matthew 8 where Jesus encountered two very violent, demon-possessed men in the country of the Gadarenes. “And they cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’ Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. The demons began to entreat Him, saying, ‘If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine’” (Matthew
8:29-31 NASB).

When they saw Jesus, these two men were obviously afraid, “What are you going to do to us? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” At this point, I am assuming that they are talking about the end time.

At their request, Jesus ordered them to go into a herd of pigs, and of course, they obeyed.

This story reminds me that Jesus is totally in control of the demonic world both now and forever. The demons do not ordered Jesus around; it is exactly the opposite. Our world makes much of the demonic, but Jesus is in control, not them.

I need to remember this when I feel that Satan is on the prowl in my life and it seems he is so powerful. At that point, I need to turn away from him and turn toward the One in Charge.

Jesus, I thank You that You are in charge of Satan and his demons. You call the shots, not them. Thank You that You are in charge now and in the future when You come back and set up shop here on this new heaven and new earth. Take over through me today. Guide me as I pray about going to the doctor or not. Amen.
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Asleep in the Boat

Thanks for praying for us yesterday. I actually seemed to be doing a little better. Not today, however, but I think that this recovery process will be a bit of an up and down affair. Thus, I will take that.

The passage for today is particularly poignant for me. You know the story. Jesus is out on the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. One of “those” storms arises—a nor’easter. It is powerful and starts to knock the boat around a bit. The fact that the fisherman/disciples of Jesus are afraid says a lot about this storm. It is no small affair.

But one wouldn’t know it by looking at Jesus: “And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing!’ He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm” (Matthew
8:24-26 NASB).

In the middle of the storm, Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat! I can’t get over this, in the midst of tossing waves and a hard rain—there He was! And the disciples came up to Him— “Jesus, save us! We are dying! Help!”

Unperturbed, Jesus rebuked them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”

Here was the problem: the disciples took their cues from the raging storm and not from the sleeping Savior. And we always get into trouble when we do the same. Always.

But this wasn’t a problem for Jesus. The Bible says that He got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and everything calmed down.

My worry and fretting about circumstances doesn’t change a thing—ever! But once I turn my focus to Jesus and trust Him, He can take care of things in the snap of His fingers.

I need to remember this instead of projecting this illness and recovery way into the future. No wonder I struggle with worry! It won’t help and it won’t change a thing. Only Jesus can do that!

Lord, I turn my focus to you, asleep in the boat. I trust You today for your sustained help in this recovery process. I choose to put my focus on You and not on the “storm.” Teach us all to take our cues only from you. Amen.

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No Prior Agendas

Yesterday was another long, hard day. I just didn’t feel well at all. It was really a battle not only on a physical level but also on a mental. I struggled with discouragement and depression.

Right in the middle of the afternoon, a friend called. The timing was perfect (as the Lord’s timing always is). We talked and laughed and prayed together. The Lord used that conversation to lift me up. Praise His name!

I needed that conversation because lately, in addition to discouragement, I am finding that I am taking less time than ever to be thankful. This is diminishing in my life lately because I am making demands to God more and more.

Instead of just thanking Him for who He is and what He is doing in my life, I am becoming more and more frustrated and demanding.

I am like two disciples that approached Jesus (the text does not say that they are angry, but they just have prior agendas).

“Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. Then a scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead’” (Matthew 8:18-22 NASB).

The scribe who approached Jesus seemed to be a very willing candidate. He just had one agenda: He promised to follow the Son of God to any location Jesus chose—just as long as it was SOMEWHERE, it was okay.

Jesus responded by telling the scribe that following Him is NOT about destinations. It is a life on the go. Jesus decides where.

The second wanna-be disciple claimed that he was willing to follow the Savior, IF Jesus will wait for the funeral of his father. That would be one thing, but the text demonstrates that this man’s father is not dead and probably not even sick. He wants Jesus to wait until the timing is right.

Jesus doesn’t wait for anyone.

We all have to be careful not to pin any prior agendas on Jesus when He calls us to a life of discipleship.

In my situation, I can’t let my impatience shade my perspective of the Lord and cause me to take my mind and heart off gratitude.

Lord, I confess the sin of trying to pin prior agendas on You in regard to my cancer recovery. I acknowledge that You are in charge of times and places. I’ll leave that and every other issue up to You. Show us what it means simply to follow You and serve You, with no holds barred. We love You, Lord. Amen.
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As You Have Believed

As it turned out yesterday morning, Marilyn and I ended up going to the clinic. Two weeks ago, the doctor told us that we were on an every-other week schedule. We had two appointments on the books for this week. We just assumed that they wanted us to come in on Thursday, but when we called, they asked that we come in yesterday.

Anyway, it was a timely visit because we got to tell them about what has been going on with me. Ryan and Tina were concerned. They prescribed an anti-biotic and told me to keep resting and drinking water. They are just concerned that I don’t get sicker at this point. We will see what happens over the next few days.

In the meantime, I am really going to continue to take care of myself and hopefully get better soon. I am so ready to be done with all these symptoms. It is discouraging but I am continuing to thank the Lord that He is at work.

Continuing in the Gospel of Matthew, I came today to the story of the centurion and his servant. He told Jesus not to bother with a trip to his house. Instead, just speak the word and his slave would be healed because, like Jesus, the centurion was a man under authority. As you remember, Jesus marveled at this faith.

“And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment” (Matthew
8:13 NASB).

Jesus healed the servant “as you have believed.” The faith of the centurion set the tone for the healing. I think this is incredible. Jesus responded to the man’s faith, and He does the same for us.

This is a challenge for me today because the longer these side-effects go on, the more difficult it is to continue to believe in Him. Thus, the call is for continued rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving as I wait on His timing. Why is this part of my recovery taking so long? I have no idea, but I feel compelled to continue to trust Him. That’s it.

Lord, I am so thankful for the opportunity that these side-effects give to trust You. I need Your grace and strength to continue to do so. Thanks for the visit to the clinic yesterday. Help us all to stay the course. Thank You for everyone who is praying. Amen.

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I Am Willing

I’m thankful that the Lord took us through a long and hard weekend. I continued to feel nauseated; I coughed up “stuff” from my stomach; and I am still fatigued. This is getting old and fast. I’m going to try to talk with Tina, Dr. Ali’s assistant, this morning and see if they can give me anything to help with these symptoms. We will see what happens. Thanks for continuing to pray. We appreciate it.

In the meantime, it looks as if Fall is coming. As I have said on more than one occasion, I’m looking forward to the cooler weather. It will be fun to be outside more often.

After the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew shares this incident: “When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew
8:1-3 NASB).

I love this little story. To be honest, one of the things I have been struggling with is the delay on these side-effects. I am so ready to be well and to be on my way to recovery. I continue to pray about this, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. I’m wondering what is going on with the Lord. Is He still there? Does He care?

These are the sentiments that this leper was essentially voicing to Jesus. And I can understand it. If you are sick for a long time, and you pray and pray and pray, and it doesn’t seem as if the answer is forthcoming, then it is easy to wonder.

But Jesus is very clear in His response. He tells this man that He is ready and willing. The readiness of the Son of God is NEVER the issue. He is always there, available to heal us as we call out to Him. In this situation, as in ours, it is just a matter of His sovereign timing and will.

When He is ready, He can heal with the snap of His fingers. He is willing. I just feel as if the challenge for me is to continue to trust and wait and pray.

Lord, thank You for these side-effects. I don’t know what is going on but I know You do. I trust You to take care of them in Your time and in Your way. I KNOW You are willing. I love You, Lord. Amen.
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As One Having Authority

Yesterday was kind of a rough day. In the morning, I felt nauseated. In the afternoon, I seemed to feel a little better. In the evening, I declined a bit again.

Somehow, I allowed this scenario to bring me down. I am so ready to be done with these common side effects: nausea, headaches, and fatigue. They continue to persist. I guess it is just a matter of lasting them out and someday … We will see. Thank You for them, nonetheless Lord.

In the meantime, I can tell that there is a tinge of Fall in the air. Usually, I’m a little sad to see summer go, but not this year. It was so hot the past couple of months that it limited my ability to walk outside, but now that Fall is coming, I’m looking forward to walking around the neighborhood and just enjoying more extended time sitting on our back porch.

Having said that, one huge downside are the hurricanes and earthquakes and forest fires that are ravaging our country. I’m praying that today, the strength and devastation would be lessened somehow.

Today, I have arrived at the final two verses of the Sermon on the Mount: “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew
7:28-29 NASB).

Not only was the content of Jesus’ sermon different, but also, the way He uttered His message was unique. The Bible says that He spoke to “them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”

The scribes were masters of quoting rabbis and other so-called expects in the law, but Jesus didn’t need to do this. He is THE expert. He is the author and finisher of the Law—the One who came to bring fulfillment. Obedience to the Law of God is only possible through Jesus.

This means that His words demand obedience; and what Jesus demands He empowers. I’m learning that there are no exceptions to Jesus’ commands. There are no circumstances that could emerge as an opportunity to wiggle out of doing what He says, even brain tumors.

Satan loves to try to manufacture excuses, “Well, John, you can take a day off from obeying me. You are going through a lot.” NOPE. No days off. I’m finding that as this trial advances, I need Him more than ever.

Lord, thank You for all these side effects that I am experiencing. I need You more than ever as this trial continues. No days off from loving You and following You. I acknowledge You as the ultimate Authority. Give us all the grace to continue to obey. Amen.
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And the Floods Came

The pictures of Houston are heart-breaking. Seeing the long line of cars in Florida evacuating is just as troubling. In addition to that, there is the 8.1 earthquake that hit Mexico and Guatemala. It has set off tsunami warnings up and down the Pacific Coast.

I can’t remember a time in my life where there were more disasters piled on top of one another.

All this makes me think of this part of the country—what could happen here? The Lord knows, but the fact is that we need to be just as ready as people in other parts of the country. We need to be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

The passage I read this morning in Matthew 7 brought all of this more firmly to mind: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew
7:24-25 NASB).

Of course, with the type of weather we have been having, it is difficult if not impossible for a house to stand, no matter how good the foundation is. But Jesus’ point is well-taken. We need to be prepared for bad weather. Likewise, we need to be ready for spiritual “bad weather” as well. We do that through hearing and obeying the Word of God. This builds a foundation in life that can withstand ANY storm.

I don’t want to be caught off-guard and not prepared. The Word of God imbedded in one’s heart is the cause of this.

It has been amazing as I have gone through cancer these past seven years, how often a verse of passage just comes to mind, and the Lord uses it to lift me up and encourage me.

When I was a kid and Dennis was disciplining Andy and me, he urged us to memorize scripture. Frankly, I was not too motivated, but now, I am so glad he “forced” us to do this because these verses are coming back as the Holy Spirit brings them to mind. It is awesome.

Lord, I lifted up all the victims of the storms in Texas and Florida as well as Mexico and Guatemala. Please protect them. I pray that there will be no more deaths. Likewise, protect us as we hide the Word of God in our hearts. Thank You for a solid foundation. Amen.
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Words are Empty, By Themselves

Yesterday, we drove down to the hospital to see Dr. Johnson. His office is in the building right across the street from the hospital complex.

After talking with us for a few moments, he took us across the hall actually to show us the MRI. There were actually two pictures up on the screen. The first was the MRI they took prior to my surgery in June. It showed a pretty good sized mass in the lower part of my brain.

When I saw the first picture, it took me back a bit. It was larger than I imagined that it would be.

My eyes quickly darted to the second picture. There was no mass as far as I could tell but it was kind of hard to discern it. Marilyn asked, “Dr. Johnson, did the radiation and the chemo pill get the whole tumor?”

“Yes,” he replied.

Marilyn went on, “What is the likelihood of this tumor coming back?”

“Not very much,” he stated. “I would say 3 to 5%.”

We were so glad to hear this and felt encouraged as we walked out the door of his office.

The words that the doctor uttered demonstrate the opposite effect of what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS’” (Matthew
7:21-23 NASB).

The doc’s words were very encouraging, but Jesus is interested in more than words. And in fact, many will appeal to the Lord on that basis. Some will do even more. They will make pious declarations plus the performance of miracles and casting out of demons. But even those “religious activities,” apart from a relationship with the Lord that demonstrates itself in lawful deeds, are pointless.

Again, it is tragic to think of the shock that many will experience when Jesus comes back. They will think they are fine because they showed up in church every Sunday and uttered beautiful-sounding, spiritual words, but they will end up in hell.

Lord, thank You for the good visit with Dr. Johnson. I’m thankful for the power of good news, but apart from a relationship with you that is backed up with righteous deeds, they are empty. Help us to focus on loving You and following You today. Amen.
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Appointment with the Neurosurgeon

Before I talk about the appointment for today, I just wanted to share a brief report about yesterday morning. The skin doctor did not give me a thorough check. He just looked at the dark spot on my hand. I’ve had this for several months, and I have been suspicious of it.

After closely examining it, he said, “John, I don’t see any problems there but I would like for you to come back in a couple of months for a follow-up appointment.” I thank the Lord for this report. I’m glad I don’t have another type of cancer to deal with in addition to the brain tumor.

Later on this morning, Marilyn and I are headed down to PSL to see the neurosurgeon who operated on me two months ago. He wants to check on my head as well. I’m thankful for Dr. Johnson. He did a really good job. There is basically no sign of the incision. Things are healing up very well.

Well, anyway, the passage for today is very straightforward: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew
7:19-20 NASB).

The context of these two verses is Jesus’ discussion of false teachers. There is no guessing game here. Fruit is a very obvious thing. One can tell quite easily. And if a tree bears “bad fruit,” then we need to discern it and stay away from the false prophets. The Holy Spirit makes this clear.

Recently, I got a phone call from a dear couple at First Southern. They wanted to discuss some weird visitors who came to their door. As our conversation progressed, I realized that they discerned that things were not right. They really didn’t need me to tell them, but I was glad to affirm what the Spirit of God had already revealed to them.

This is very dangerous stuff. We need to avoid bad fruit at all costs.

Lord, thank You for giving that awesome couple the discernment they needed. Please give this to all of us. Help us to see bad fruit and run in the opposite direction. Thanks for the good report yesterday. I pray for the visit with Dr. Johnson today. Thanks again for the great job he did. Amen.
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Early Appointment with the Skin Doctor

In course of the past several months, I have contracted various as sundry skin “issues” from the itchy rash on my face (I never got the salve), Graft vs. Host Disease on my arms and chest, a rash on my legs related to a deficiency in blood platelets, and finally a rather suspicious mole on my hand. I just think it is time to get this places checked out.

Thanks for praying. I will certainly let you know how things go. I am hopeful that none of the spots and moles are cancerous. This is another opportunity to trust God.

Thanks for all your comments and prayers on the heels of the blog yesterday. We continue to lift up mom to the Lord.

Lord, each day presents another adventure in trust. It just seems as if the challenges never end, but You are in charge of each and every one. We love and thank You for another day. Amen.
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Report on my Mom

Yesterday, we received a call from Nancy who is in charge of the dementia area at Sunrise at Orchard. She was recommending that my mom go into hospice. Of course, when one hears that term, it is a little scary. For one thing, my mom weighs 89 pounds. Last year at this time, she weighed 130. She just doesn’t have much of an appetite.

Nancy went on to explain that hospice care is different these days. Basically, it is just care that is much more focused. A nurse would come to see her every day. If she fell, no one would take her to the hospital immediately; they would call the nurse who would come to check her out. Now, of course, if the injury were serious enough, they would call an ambulance.

But the emphasis would shift on her care from efforts for a cure to her comfort. But this is not necessarily permanent. Nancy explained that if hospice proves inadequate, they can move her back to what she has been experiencing.

Even though Nancy couched hospice care a little differently, it was still difficult for both Marilyn and me to get this conversation off our minds.

The other day, I felt well enough to go with Marilyn to see my mom. In spite of the fact that she appears to be weak and frail, she seemed to be doing very well. This is what makes Nancy’s phone call even more disturbing.

Please pray for her as you have already been doing.

I haven’t mentioned my mom in this forum for a while. I need to do it more often. Whenever I go with Marilyn, seeing my mom and some of the other residents is a huge downer. I have been conducting services and going to nursing homes now for years, but this seems harder because my mom is there. It hits closer to home.

Here are the verses for today: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew
7:13-14 NASB).

I wonder about the residents at the nursing home. I wonder how many are entering through the narrow gate and how many are not.

The other day, as Marilyn was passing a man sitting in the hall, he stopped Marilyn and said, “I don’t know who I am!” Oh, man! This is unbelievably sad, but this is the condition at the end of life for everyone who on the broad way that leads to destruction.

Lord, I lift up my mom today. Strengthen her. Give her back her appetite. I pray for the other residents. Point them to the narrow path. Amen.
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The Golden Rule and Prayer

Something dawned on me as I continue to read the first part of Matthew 7 in the Sermon on the Mount. The first part of this awesome chapter ends with this verse: "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NASB)

The “therefore” summarizes everything Jesus uttered in the previous verses where Jesus talks about the way God answers prayer. If we ask Him for a piece of bread, He does not give us a stone; if we ask for a fish, He does not give us a snake. He treats us with the same respect as a father treats his son.

THEREFORE, we should treat others the way we want to be treated.

Here is what I learned from this passage: prayer informs the right way to conduct human relations AND the proper handling of human relationships gives us insight into how to pray to God. You can’t have one without the other!

These verses are another reminder that it is impossible to conduct relationships well without a vibrant personal relationship with the Lord and a prayer life that speaks to Him about any and every thing.

I have to keep this in mind as I face another couple of challenges. First, for the past few days, I have been dealing with nausea. It seems to get worse as the day progresses and then, at the end of the day, it gets a little better. Weird stuff. I continue to take my meds and hope it gets better soon. Of course, this affects my appetite as well. Not good.

Second, I am still on the tail end of this virus I caught from Marilyn. I tend to cough a lot these days. Marilyn is helping me stay on top of this because the last thing I want to do is get pneumonia.

Lord, please help my interpersonal relations reflect a vibrant prayer life. I can’t have one without the other. Please take care of the nausea and the drainage down my throat. Keep me from getting pneumonia and help a friend who is dealing with it right now. Help him to get better soon. Amen.
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Stones and Snakes

Thanks for praying. Yesterday was a better day for me. I really made an effort to take my pain medication at better times during the day. It seemed to help a lot.

I’m learning that my head just doesn’t function well when it comes to taking medicine.

I was talking with Marilyn about this, and she replied, “John, things are different now for you. You need to be a step ahead of things so that the pain doesn’t amp up.” She is right. I’m living in “the new normal” these days.

I just have to get over a strong desire to return to what “normal” was several years ago before I contracted cancer. Way back then, years would go by when I did not even see a doctor. Now, things are very different. That is for sure.

Today, I am continuing my reading in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7. Here are the verses that captured my attention: “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
(Matthew 7:9-11, NASB).

I’m learning that there is a direct relationship between how I talk with/to others and prayer. Speech that honors others and especially my brother and sister in Christ is foundational to a vibrant prayer life. One cannot separate those two.

I need to go to the Lord with specific requests and trust Him to give me what I ask for. If I ask for bread, He is not going to give me a stone. If I ask for fish, He is not going to hand me a snake. Just like our earthly fathers, the Lord will provide what we ask. We don’t need to doubt this.

Recently, I got convicted that I was failing to be direct and specific about talking to the Lord about my cancer stuff. I think we sometimes think that praying for yourself is selfish. No way! This passage gives huge incentive for doing so.

When I was a boy, I asked my dad for an electric football game. When he gave it to me, I cried (I was/am a little brat). Why? It wasn’t the RIGHT electric football set. I told him this. What did he do? He returned the original game and got the one I wanted! I’m not sure I would have done this if I were a dad, but my father got the exact one I was asking for.

Likewise, our heavenly Father is not sadistic. When we ask, He gives us what we ask for. We can count on Him.

Father, I ask for complete and total healing from cancer and all its side effects. I pray that You help me get over the nausea and headaches that go with taking this chemo pill. I thank You that You are a prayer-answering God. I count on You today. Amen.
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A Weird Turn of Events

After getting the good report on the MRI, I fully expected to have a good day yesterday. Unfortunately, I did not.

As the day wore on, I seemed to feel worse and worse with nausea and fatigue. Marilyn helped me adjust my medications so that I could stay ahead of the game a bit. I’m going to try that today. Hopefully, I will feel better.

The nausea and fatigue I experienced knocked me for a loop. I battled discouragement more than ever because I had expected the “graph” of how I feel just to keep going up and up. Of course, that isn’t going to happen. Oh well. Hopefully today will be better.

The challenge now is to manage expectations with the grace and help of the Holy Spirit and just keep plugging ahead, trusting Him for the pace of recovery as well. The beat goes on.

This morning, as I continuing reading in the Sermon on the Mount, I came across a curious verse, one that has always perplexed me: “Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege” (Matthew
7:6, MSG).

Jesus had been talking about a judgmental attitude that ignores big issues while trying to take care of “specks” in the neighbor’s eye. Jesus decries this attitude and approach.

By the way, I’ve discovered that when I am consumed with a judgmental attitude toward someone, it usually reflects the fact that I am dealing with exactly the same problem, if I would just turn the focus on myself.

Be that as it may, I like the Message version translation of this verse. Jesus is making it clear that when I judge my brother, I’m actually being very flippant and failing to honor God. He doesn’t need any more Messiahs; we already have One and we just invite problems when we try to take over God’s work. Only the Lord can do the Lord’s work.

I need to be very careful how I respond to others. I think that is among many of my challenges these days. Instead of trusting His timing, I make a god out of my own plans and expectations. I must be particularly cautious that I don’t allow this perspective to “lop over” in relationships.

Lord, I thank You for the setback yesterday. I confess the sin of making my expectations God. You are the one and only Messiah. You don’t need any extra “help” from me. Help me not to get so focused on cancer that I neglect “loving my neighbor as myself.” Amen.
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Praise God!

Yesterday, after the nurse took my blood and one of the Physician’s Assistant checked on my meds, Dr. Ali came in the room with a big smile on his face, “John, the MRI went great. There is no sign of cancer!” He seemed genuinely excited. Believe me, so was/am I!

This whole thing had been such a weight the past couple of weeks, as all of you could gather as you read this blog.

But now, I am finally ready to be well and continue to get better.

In spite of what I wrote a couple of days ago, I’m trusting the Lord for total healing. I’m praying that cancer would not return again. And I will just trust Him for that. If it does, I know the Lord will help me as He has before, but in the meantime, I am determined just to enjoy each day as the Lord gives it to me.

One other thing—we told the doctor about my fainting spell a week or so ago. He seemed very concerned. He told me that if something like that—where I fall and hit my head—happens again, I need to go to the ER immediately. UGH. I certainly don’t want to do that, so I am going to be much more careful to get up from chairs slowly.

Dr. Ali added, “Since this happened before the MRI and the scan didn’t show any injury from this fall, you are okay, but this is nothing to fiddle around with in the future.” It was actually that fall that made me wonder if there was something going on up there in my tiny brain, but the Lord took care of this as well. Again, I say, “Praise God!”

Thus, all of this having been said, I am determined to stay on a track of wellness, no matter what that involves. The first few verses of Matthew 7 in the Sermon on the Mount help me with this. “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own” (Matthew 7, MSG).

I believe that one of the dangers of long-term illness is that it could cause myopia—a solitary focus on one area of life while neglecting others. Somehow, I find myself to be less patient with others and more apt to be judgmental than I ever have. I have to watch this and be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Just having this disease and transplant and brain tumor does NOT make me special. I just woke up one day to face all this stuff and more. That’s it. The Lord did it, not me.

However, in addition to all the cancer treatments, I don’t need to add any further trouble to the list that will cause boomerangs flying my way!

Lord, I am so deeply grateful to you for the good results of that MRI. Thanks also for everyone who is concerned about us and prayed for us. We could not make it without You or them. Keep us from a critical spirit and arrogantly setting ourselves up as judges. Today, keep my focus on You, dear Jesus. Amen.
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