Sunday, August 31, 2008

Supreme. Again . (Part II)

As an insurance salesman, who both took, and taught, sales training courses over the years, I know a fair amount about selling. That calls for a lot of caution, in Spiritual matters, as I was taught early-on that we shouldn't try to "talk people into" saying what we want them to say. To do that was called "picking green apples".

To this day, calling on selling skills, if I can get a person to answer 7 questions "yes", I can get them to buy what I'm selling. That's unthinkable, when it's Jesus you're trying to "sell".

So that information isn't useful in the church sense, but here's a bit that is: When someone tells a salesman "Your price is too HIGH....", what they're really saying is "Your value is too LOW". Whether it's insurance or salvation or a consecrated life, when they decide against it, they simply don't see the value.

Since posting yesterday, I was reminded anew of how pervasive some of these problems are. Peg had signed up to watch the kiddies during the 10:45 worship hour, and she remarked they'd really had a hectic time. It seems the folks who were to watch one of the rooms simply hadn't shown up, so they'd run all those kids in to Peg's room.

They just didn't show up! And, there are classes of adults assigned the task, each week, of checking to see if there are adequate workers in each room. THEY apparently didn't do THAT, either!


For anyone interested in seeing all those grim thoughts I expressed, earlier, change, the $64 question is why don't people see the value in actually being part of the body (and acting like it), stepping up and using their gifts, coming to the church they joined, hiding some scripture in their hearts, etc?

I lean toward several thoughts, in trying to answer that:
  • One is the collective effect of the sermons they've heard over the years. I believe the spiritual health of a local church is tied to what they're getting from the pulpit, albeit it's greatly influenced by other things they see and hear in connection with the church. Two weeks ago, I taught a Sunday School in which Paul lamented that the Hebrews were still majoring in milk, when they ought to have been majoring on meat. Then, we all went to the sanctuary and heard the sermon, the sole point of which is why people ought to walk down the aisle.

  • Another thing might be that there's still somewhat of a disconnect between church life, and our workaday world. I hammer at my SS Class all the time, that every part of their life is part of their faith life! Their family, their job, their friendships with their neighbors, their participation in church, their recreation, ALL of it needs to be an expression of their faith.

  • Yet another is the teaching in the Sunday School Classes themselves, perhaps lesser but still important. To be blunt, I've seen enough classes in which the teacher read out of the Quarterly, or who talked at length about how hard it is to lead a Christian life, or taught Old Testament lessons without any connection to how we are to live today, that I think teachers get some of the "credit", along with the Pastors.

  • Then, perhaps, there are the examples set by other believers, among whom there seems to be a shortage of victorious living, particularly in the face of adversity.

  • And, last, perhaps there's a total lack of discernment in letting people into the church. If you walk the aisle and say the correct things, you're normally in, regardless of what you did in the prior church. Or didn't do. Ever.
In this setting, it's not hard to see a lot of folks not ever hearing about what sacrifice really is, or what it really means to crucify one's self in service to Jesus, or what a joyous, victorious Christian life even looks like.

I think we've been taught to settle for less. Less than all God has for us ... less than trusting Him, not only with our souls, but also with our lives and everything else we have .. and in what we expect (and even want to allow) God to do in and through us. And it's axiomatic (to me, anyway) that, when you settle for less than all God has for you, you're probably going to get even less than you settled for.

I once heard a Pastor report on a couple he'd visited. He stated they were Christians, but hadn't been in church for 17 years. He said "They're saved & love the Lord ... they just haven't been in church in 17 years". I can understand how easy it would be for a member ... particularly a new believer ... to equate simply having said the right prayer, to loving the Lord,. And never experiencing what that term really means.

That may be the most tragic example, of all, of settling for less.

What I do know is that the devoted, consecrated Christian life is SUPREMELY worth whatever it takes to live it ... regardless of what we may have to do, or not do, to lead such a life. And I don't see that much of that kind of living .. so much so that, when a really devoted servant comes along ... like Troy Smith (who endured and inspired through the ravages of cancer) and his widow Shanna (who inspired folks through their ordeal, and still does), that it's noteworthy.

All our lives should be such. It's worth it.

Supremely.

p.s.: Don't get the idea I'm holding myself out as any kind of example. I, like others, have my own laundry list of failures.

Labels:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Supreme

We call lots of things "Supreme"; a few actually are.

You can see the Supreme Court Building in the picture over to the right. And when it comes to man's law, in the USA, they are.

Sometimes, lately, I wonder if they ought to be, but nonetheless, I guess they are.

One company, maybe more, even make what they call a Supreme Pizza. I've eaten quite a few, and they're about as far as anything from being Supreme. Maybe they're the best thing they make, but Peg's frozen cheese pizza, which she brings home from Food World and doctors up here, beats the other guys' all hollow. To my tastes, to least.

A cursory look through the online yellow pages tells me of used car dealers, fish markets, auto repair shops, "beverage" companies, and car washes who refer to themselves as "supreme".

Well, I don't know about all them, but I know a few things for sure. One is this: God is Supreme. He is so far above and beyond anything else that we cannot really comprehend Him, comprehend His glory, comprehend what all He has for us, comprehend what He "looks like", or much of anything else about Him.

Of course, we can comprehend some things He's said we could. For instance, look at the heavens on a dark, clear night, sometime. He said we could understand a lot about Him by just doing that.

As an aside, the most riveting example of that, that I've ever experienced was an overnight auto trip from Pskov to St. Petersburg, in Russia. Hale-Bopp, the comet, was on display and was absolutely impossible to miss. On that trip, the sky .. in the pitch-dark of the Russian countryside, was absolutely astounding. I can only imagine what it would have looked like when Romans 1:18-20 was penned.

So, we can comprehend His existence, we can comprehend those invisible attributes, things of that sort.

Then we can comprehend enough to be saved through faith in Jesus. Not in the natural .. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says that we cannot comprehend spiritual things in our natural state. It takes some sort of awakening .. quickening ... enabling courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

Man in general would be hopeless, since we cannot tell enough about God to get saved. But we can want to know Him, so He promised us the Holy Spirit to convict us of enough to make up our minds. See John 16:7 & following, for details.

Here's where our years in the Presbyterian church help. They'll say that the Holy Spirit does His "enlightening" in the elect, where us Baptists seem to think He enlightens everybody at some time or another, and then its up to us to accept it. Personally, I don't care which way it is; we don't get to pick & choose whom we tell about Jesus, based on whether we think they'll get saved.

Jesus current position at the right hand of His Father seems to be that of King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That sounds pretty supreme to me, and He certainly is that. And it seems a logical conclusion to me that a life here on earth, which follows Jesus, obeys His commands and His teachings, dedicated to bringing glory to His name, ought to be the supreme sort of life. I mean, if you want the best and highest use of some tool or other, you follow the instructions of the guy that made the tool , so why would we expect less if we devote ourselves to following God's instructions?

Herein lies the rub.

I don't know about all the other religions, but I'm a bit familiar with the SBC in general, and with our church in specific, and something strikes me as strange.

We've all heard the numbers ... 15 or 20% of the church does 80 or 85% of the work, 30 or 35% does the rest, and half do nothing.

Ditto for giving.

5% of the membership of the typical SBC church has ever tried to lead someone to faith in Jesus.

16 1/2 million members, with 5 or 6 million actually attending.

80-some percent of our youth falling away from church when they head for college. Never to return.

Divorce statistics within the church rivaling those outside.

Thousands of members, yet difficulty finding enough people to keep the children, teach the classes, etc etc.

You get the picture. Unless I'm wrong about A) a devoted Christian life being the supreme earthly life, or B) the numbers which seem commonly accepted, then C) something's wrong with the church, that the folks who walk in the door, and down the aisle, aren't getting the message.

SO ... the real question is: WHY?

(This has gotten kind of long .. Peg says people will get too bored to finish it .. so I can now use those words I've been envious of, but have never had the chance to use, meaningfully, before now ..)

... to be continued....

Labels:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

They've ALL Already Been Born....

...the folks who are in favor of legalized abortion, that is.

I'd say something about skinny people saying fat folks ought to be run out of town, or rich folks criticizing poor ones for poverty, but no such analogy can adequately convey the horror of ripping children out of their mothers' wombs.

And some of the arguments really stun me. "It's my body" ... well, it's the baby's body but you don't seem to care about THAT. "If men had babies, they'd all be pro-choice" ... thank you lady, for your frank expose of how self-serving YOUR thinking is. All that sort of stuff.

I wrote a poem about abortion some years ago. A friend had written one about babies marching through Heaven, singing "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know" ... being the souls of aborted babies. Well, I'm more concerned about the folks who will stand before God and try to justify the whole issue one day, so I started to write a nice little poem called "They Just Didn't Know". But a very dark mood enveloped me as the words came forth and I had to erase the nice name; it wasn't until the last line appeared on my screen that I knew what the title would be.

Twice as I was writing it .. at the office (shhh .. don't tell anyone ... uhhh .. never mind .. the statute of limitations has run...), I saved it and tried to go back to work. But I couldn't; I finally had to sit and finish it before I could do anything else.

It took me 45 minutes to write, but 2 months to memorize. It was almost as if someone else had written it, that's how difficult it was. And, Bart Barber's post about abortion a bit ago has prompted me to cover up another new post with this one. It's time I put what I believe God gave me, nearly 20 years ago, out there for anyone who stops in, to see.

Anyway .. for your (hopefully) edification:



IN DARKNESS SO STILL

The clinics were filling with souls gone astray
As the sadness of badness was having its way
The wealthy, the learned, concerned but with pleasure
Had multiplied misery to heights beyond measure

The masses raised glasses to self and to friends
Concerned with the moment, availing all ends
To serve but themselves, with never a thought
Of the millions of murders, and what they had wrought.

But what of that young one, confused and forlorn ..
Who hears mostly "worldness", shouldn't we warn
That should she die, having salvation received
In heaven she may face that soul she conceived

But killed, by means of abortionists' tools
And thus joined the ranks of those Godless fools
Who elevate mankind and pleasure on earth
At the cost of most everything of heavenly worth

And what of the seemingly intelligent mass
With doctoral credentials and worldly class
Who'll stand before God some day and explain
Why such agony, misery, anguish and pain

Were dealt out in measure unknown by the world
As satan's great plan to destroy us unfurled
And they, in their "wisdom", shed innocent blood
Tearing out children, in that terrible flood....

Who knows what to do and yet does it not
Is guilty of sin ... yet we know that a lot
Of good souls detesting such abomination
Have never submitted to Christ's domination

Else all that we do, and all that we say
Would speak volumes against those events of this day
That cause those who look on this product of woe
To know with a certainty that satan's the foe.

So sadness envelopes us all, without choice
For those who raise not a protesting voice
And all those who face not the fruit of their acts
And doctors who kill despite biblical facts

Will all face a judge asking why, in this life
We did what we did, whether with word or with knife
I know I'll plead Jesus as my only answer
But yet I'm not happy, in the face of the cancer

Of ungodly clinics, and churches that never
Cause comfortable members to be driven to sever
Those clandestine footholds our enemy will hold
In lives that won't do what the Bible has told.

Oh God, may I ask; make me up to the task
As a witness to all, whether they ask
Or silently march to those clinics to kill
Your innocent children ... in darkness so still.

Labels:

Bethesda Baptist, an Old Bible, and My Hair

Here's another of the pictures I scanned into my computer in recent months. It brings back some interesting memories, one of which was pretty important to me.

We were in London in May of 1991 (as I recall). It was our first business trip, and the boss had sent us over for a week to meet and negotiate with our Lloyd's, London Brokers, and with several of the Underwriters at Lloyds'. It was quite an experience, to put it mildly.

We got there on a Friday morning, so we could spend the weekend adjusting, before our meetings Monday through Friday noon. Being good (?) Baptists, we looked for Baptist churches in the phone book and found one a short Underground ride from the hotel. In fact, it was quite close to Harrod's, and we went for the service Sunday morning.

It happened to be an anniversary celebration .. their 125th. They were hoping for 125 in attendance, and I believe they made it. Curiously, their speaker that morning was from Jacksonville, FL, so we went thousands of miles to hear a guy we could've gone to the Sunshine State to hear....

I don't remember much about the service except two distinct impressions: one was the feeling of expectation that I was about to see a hunchback appear from somewhere and carry someone off; the other was the impression a hard wooden pew makes on one's derriere'.

But the service was life-changing for me, in one way. At the end, they gave everyone there one page from a 125-year-old bible that had come completely apart. I didn't much look at it, olde Englishe writing and all, until I got home. When I did, my eyes fell on...

"Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

That's Leviticus 19:32, King James Version (you expected something else?).

It suddenly dawned on me (read: God convicted me) that I was trying to cover up something in myself that God said was worthy of being honored. So I went home and threw a nearly-new bottle of a well-known hair coloring solution, in the trash can.

That thought even spilled over into other areas of my life. When Peg experienced menopause, she and I decided we would embrace it and understand it and not try to offset the effects with this hormone or that drug. When her emotions rose up and caused her to do something that wasn't like her, she had a little hand signal that let me know I hadn't done anything, it was just hormones. That was a good time for us, in fact.

Not that we don't fight back when illness comes. But I'm doggoned if I'm going to go out of my way to avoid the process of growing old, as God has made us the way we are (other than what sin brings me).

And we've applied the same to me as we face the vagaries of age. Men experience, usually in their mid-40's, a thing called andropause (some refer to it as the midlife crisis). It concerns loss of normal drive .. you know, that part of us that makes us more hunter-killers than shoppers, and wanting more to conquer miles than travel them. What I've found is that, after the experience of re-orientation of my emotional makeup, I'm more prone to do the things I ought to do because they're right to do, rather than simply trying to close a sale or teach a class or win an argument because I'm driven to.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons the Bible seems to equate age with wisdom.

It also may well be, that the Leviticus verse sparked the idea in me that God wasn't about the business of filling some "God-shaped hole" in us (which I'd heard all my spiritual life); rather, He was about shaping us to fit into the place in HIS life, to which He wants to conform us.

It's a lot like the old man who used to carve the most beautiful elephants anyone ever saw. Out of wood, stone, soap, most anything. When they asked him how he made them so lifelike, he said:

"Easy. You just chip away everything that doesn't look like elephant".

I think that's the process God uses on us, only with a different image. If we'll hand Him our hammer & chisel, at least......

In my case, it was a bottle of Grecian Formula.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Was Saving Myself For Peggy.....

I guess so, anyway ... that's about the only thing I can think of that'd account for the expression on my face. See, this picture was taken May 12, 1942, at my 4th birthday party, when you'd think I'd be happy.

Oh .. wait .. I don't think 4-year old boys like girls. Yeh .. that must be it.

I had previously scanned in the thousands of pictures that my folks had accumulated over the years; since my brother had divorced and remarried, my mom wanted all the photos to stay in our family to be passed on to future generations. At least that's what she said. So, this evening, I've been scrolling through all the pictures and noticed this one. Mostly because I didn't look like I was very happy to be having a birthday. Or else I didn't like the girls.

In fairness to me, I think one of the little girls was Diane Broekema, who lived catty corner across the street. She seemed to like me, which she demonstrated by picking up dog "stuff" out of the yard and chasing me around with it.

Well, that's what they SAID 4-year-old girls did when they liked you. And we had a LOT of dogs in the neighborhood.

What a sweet, innocent time. We played in the streets ... we even played baseball out there at the corner, using the streetlight at the corner as a backstop and the strike-zone. And since folks didn't want us hitting the ball into their yards, we routinely learned to "place hit" into either right field (Waltham St.), or left field (Lincoln Street).

That was a great place to play ball, except for the fact that the baseball cover only lasted about two weeks before the concrete had completely shredded it.

When I look at this picture, and then in a mirror, I'm reminded of what God said (among lots of other things):

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6, NIV)

If I'd grown up just like the kid in the picture, I doubt I'd be of much use to anybody for anything except a bad example. But I didn't. Mom and Dad saw to it that I was trained up in lots of things, and more than just religion.

In fact, religion wasn't much on the radar screen other than taking us to Sunday School and summertime VBS. So, although it wasn't talked about or much in evidence in the home, VBS did lead to me trusting Jesus at a very early age.

But there are other things. All the things I recall about getting along with people ... that I remember learning, I remember my Mother teaching me. And as a world's most extreme Daddy's boy, I really paid attention to how my Dad behaved himself.

I couldn't have had a better example .. aside from the church thing .. in matters like honesty, work ethics, doing a job well, treasuring your family, loving your wife, many things like that. And Mom taught me to always say please and thank you, to open the door for ladies, to walk on the curb side when accompanying a lady, and to treat people with respect and dignity. Particularly those older than I, whom I was to address as Miss, Mister, Mrs., etc.

I was also a second son. So Art was the one who got to do the stuff I didn't, until 3 years later, which is an eternity when you're four.

In retrospect, I can see God's hand from even before the time of this photo. When I was about 19 months old, I contracted pneumonia and a mastoid infection (inner ear bones). I had a temperature of 106 and the doctor said just take him home .. there's nothing more they can do. So they called a friend who was Christian Science, who arranged for a "Reader" to come pray over me. She prayed several hours over me and then left, saying look for a change "tomorrow". Subsequently, I woke up from my comatose state and asked for ice cream.

At midnight.

Some time later, Dad told me all the things they'd done to try to get me to wake up and stay awake, and it wasn't really until then that I could identify with them as frightened young parents.

I was also painfully "grab mom's leg and not let go when she left me at kindergarten" kind of shy. They later detailed what all they'd done to bring me out of that shell. I mean, I'd cry walking down the street, in the grocery store, etc. if anyone even looked at me.

Dad later confessed they may have gone overboard on that part, judging by the results....

Several years later, after being the wallflower, the brain, the unpopular boy when girls were seemingly interested in athletic-types, we moved to Indianapolis, from the suburbs of Chicago. One boy named Bob White greeted me like a normal kid and I figured, since they didn't know how inferior I was, I'd act like a normal kid. And I did.

Then, many years later, after I'd gotten married, a neighbor invited us to Sunday School and the rest is history. It was as if God had taken me in when I trusted as much of me as I could manage, to as much of Jesus as I could comprehend; then, in that Sunday School, God said recess was over, and he reeled me in.

But it all started with the kid in the picture, miraculously saved from rampant infection, reared by parents who loved and cared, and exemplified the nuclear family.

It's not really a reflection on me, but rather on Jesus, which is why I can see the truth of this:

"...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus". (Philippians 1:6, NIV)

Labels:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Enmity. Bondage. Forgiveness. Freedom. Joy.

Here's a picture of a couple of kids I met in the early 1990's in Missouri, on a mission trip.

We tend to go on those trips and think of the big picture .. the VBS kids who show up ... the block parties we put on ... the Youth Choir Concerts we do for assembled masses. But sometimes the small things look pretty big when you look back on them.

Case in point: the kids in the picture. Just check their expressions; they were for real.

The backstory: the girl was one of two that the church we were working with had sent along to help with our backyard bible clubs. This was an area that'd been flooded, and FEMA had set up a trailer park. We put on the bible club as part of our mission activities.

The boy had ridden up on a bicycle and had struck up a conversation with me; I was the "Superintendent" of the club and, once I'd gotten the kids going, I didn't have anything to do.

Anyway, the kids was a fairly typical early teenager, and had somewhat of an attitude (less than the one I had at 20, which led my future father-in-law to threaten me with buckshot if I ever showed my face again....) about himself and his family, particularly with reference to his dad and his uncles. You didn't mess with the brothers, and everybody knew it. Or so he said, anyway.

When he saw the girls, he remarked that they were the stuck-ups, the snobs of the youth group. Looking back, it may have been some of the same "class resentment" that fueled my problems with my future father-in-law, except in reverse. After a day or two, as we'd finished discussing another daily dose of the brothers' reputation and the girls' (alleged) snobbery, I asked him what he thought God's opinion of those attitudes was.

Just the one simple question.

He looked at me for a long time, and finally said "I don't think He likes it." I told him I agreed with his thoughts on that. But then I asked him what I thought he ought to DO about it. He said "I think I have a lot of people to apologize to". I asked him if that included the girls, and he said yes. I then asked him when he thought he'd do that, and he said he might as well start right away. So I looked at the girls and said "Well.....?"

He said the only problem was they wouldn't talk to him (and they wouldn't). I said OK .. go tell them I'd like to talk to them, and you're just the messenger boy. So they came over and sat on the ground.

I then said to them "He's got something to say to you". At which point he said "Look ... I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have treated you the way I have been". Both girls looked at the ground and then at him, and they said "You know, we need to apologize, too ... I don't think we've ever really given you a chance".

I took the picture a few minutes later, of people set free from something that never should have happened to kids in a Church youth group, anyway.

Now I have no idea where that all led, but I can tell you that when we left that day .. the last day of Backyard Bible Club, they were friends and happy to be so. And the last time I saw the boy, he came skidding up to me on his bicycle .. one of those banana-type chopper deals .. and said "I'm up to 23 now, and have a few more to go".

And, with that, he rode off.

I stand amazed, both now and then, of how much God can do with the little things we do for Him. And this little episode is perhaps one of the more poignant ones in my memory. I thought it worth sharing, when I happened upon this picture, this morning.

Acts 4:20 " For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (NIV)

Labels: ,

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Great Hypocrisy

We've all, I suppose, heard the alleged excuse that many non-churched folks use for not going to church; namely, churches are full of hypocrites. I don't put a lot of stock in excuses, but this one may have a ring of truth to it. That's particularly true when you consider the possibility that, whereas some people simply don't want to go to church .. or get saved .. and simply use that as an excuse, there may be many serious people out there who are put off by what they see as hypocrisy. That the hypocrisy makes the entire God/Jesus/Church thing less appealing that it ought to be.

Than it really is.

For a minute, let's chase the giant rabbit in the room .. the elephant- sized one .. which bears on this whole matter. We got the diagnosis/test results of my CAT scan and whole-body bone scan, which took place last Thursday, a couple hours ago. Briefly, the bone scan was clear, but the CAT scan showed a 1.25" growth where a lymph node was, high in the abdomen. There are lots of things they can do about that, but my doctor has put me on a regimen of Lupron injections, which is a hormone which stops the growth of the cancer. He said he'll give them to me for 18 months and then stop them, and see what the PSA does. The PSA should go to zero now .. we'll check it in 4 weeks .. and then they'll check the deal again after 18 months. If it starts up again, after stopping the Lupron, then back on Lupron I go.

I might add that the PSA is now only 4.1, and I have a friend who'd had the radiation seed treatment years ago, whose PSA is now 12 and they're not even going to deal with it until it hits 20, so my doctor seems appropriately aggressive in treating me.

Can I get an AMEN for Dr. Burrus, please?

Back to my main thought. When the doctor said the PSA was too high after the surgery, my active imagination, naturally, thought up all the permutations of what might come of this. But early on, Peg and I decided that if our faith wasn't something we could LIVE, even with test results yet to be determined, then THAT faith wasn't worth having, and I sure oughtn't to be teaching it. Besides, we'd been through this, albeit with reversed roles, from about 1992 to 2001, with Peg and breast cancer. We already knew all those "vain imaginings", and where they'd get us, anyway.

So we decided we'd live our faith. All of it.

We're fine, and we were all along. I've had a fair idea that I was going to die someday, and if somebody'd told me as a kid that I'd live to be 70 or 75, I'm not sure I'd have believed them anyway.

Bottom line: if I was fine before this came up, I'm fine now. And I would have been, regardless of the results today, and I will be, regardless of what may develop in the future.

I was talking to a young lady who's an acquaintance of mine, this morning. She made the expectable well-wishing thoughts for a friend, and said she'd be more concerned about her family if she thought she was dying of cancer, than she would be about herself. I said I appreciated her wishes, and then asked her where she was going to go when she died. She said heaven, at least she hoped so. (We had the expected chat about that, as I think we ought to, and can, know that one for sure.) But then I made my point, which had prompted the question: If I trust God with my soul, I can doggone well trust Him with my family when I'm no longer around.

This very morning, I read a dissertation by John Piper on the topic of "Don't Waste Your Cancer". I don't intend to. And here's the crux of that, and the reason for the title of this post.

When I've asked about this alleged hypocrisy, here and there, what I hear mostly is stuff like people seeing church-members participating in activities we condemn in our sermons or lessons or public statements. Think of railing against drinking and then getting yourself seen in a liquor store buying a fifth of Old Rotgut.

Or preaching against gambling and then catching the preacher buying lottery tickets. But I don't think that's the great hypocrisy of the church.

As a member of our "prayer team" at church, we've seen requests come in from folks for years. And a decent number of folks have come to one of our unofficial meetings for special prayer. And I hasten to add we're grateful for all opportunities to pray something specific and special for someone, but many times we've seen people awaiting diagnoses following a battery of tests. And it's been discouraging to see many people evidence no confidence in the Lord and His ability to see us through those uncertainties they're facing. I have seen some who bordered on frantic in their demeanor, while forced to wait. My first prayer for them (and for myself, to be selfish) is increased faith.

I've also noticed, more times than I want to recall, people discussing the "joy of the Lord" defining it as something other than joy. Ditto for love, meaning willingness to sacrifice, rather than the true meaning of love which compels you to action, up to and including sacrifice.

Which brings me to what I see as the great hypocrisy of the church, namely this:

Telling the world what we believe, and then not acting like we believe it.

So. When my cancer was diagnosed, I told God I wasn't willing to settle for a watered-down version of faith, or joy, or peace, that conforms to the revised definitions the church has invented to mask the fact that the church seems to have been short on real faith or real joy or real peace. I wanted my life to reflect, every day, nothing less than the real deal, from a God Who loves me despite what any doctor on earth will ever tell me, or what my eyes may see.

Besides, in the words of my friend Nancy Kelly, I intend to live forever.

So far, so good.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 04, 2008

There's More Than One Kind......

Of Miracle, that is.

My PSA test was first abnormal in November of 2007; it was 3.9. Now, 4,0 is where they get upset and all, so my family doctor said to come back in 6 months. Which I did. Results in May 2008: 5.1.

Time to see the urologist, which I also did. Took biopsies and found cancer in 2 of 12 samples. So we scheduled surgery for 6/19, and I said bye-bye to my prostate and associated internals. And when the pathology came back, it showed 60% involvement, whereas only 2 of 12 biopsies showed cancer. When I remarked, to the doctor, that those 2 could as easily have missed it, he said indeed they could have.

Miracle #1. I posted about that, here.

Fast forward to July 28 and I went beck for the routine post-surgery followup PSA test. We got those results last Thursday.

4.1

The doctor was frankly puzzled; my profile and my case history was so crashingly typical that he just couldn't believe that the samples hadn't been switched, so he called me back in last Friday for another test. He just called with the results.

4.1.

SO. What's that mean? One of two scenarios.

  • First .. the cancer might have spread to the surrounding tissue before surgery, in which case the answer will be to have radiation treatments on the area.
  • Second .. the cancer might have metastasized to other parts of the body. That's another story, and while there are treatments which prolong the lifespan, like hormone therapy, it's treatable but not curable. NOT the preferred alternative.

I'll be hearing from the hospital to get a bone scan and a CAT scan, shortly. I'll report back here with the results.

But I need to share some thoughts that have been chasing around my mind ever since the somewhat-perplexed doctor called me Thursday.

First of all, as my new favorite buzz-phrase says, "Life is a death sentence". None of us gets out of it alive. But, as the second half of the phrase says, "Death is a life sentence".

God said some similar things, and some even more pointed things in the Bible. Consider this:

Job 14:1-5: "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure. Do you fix your eye on such a one? Will you bring him before you for judgment? Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one! Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. (NIV)

Near as I can tell, that say that my days were decreed by God. I want all I can get, but that's not up to me.

and...

Hebrews 9:27: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (I like the KJV of this verse, as it speaks of an appointment, which seems accurate. And also well understood in this culture.)

Looking at those two passages, I conclude that no disease is going to determine the date of my death. My Heavenly Father's already done that. And while diseases seem to hate us, my Heavenly Father loves me. And He's already said His plans weren't to curse us, but to bless us.

Amen to that.

As I mentioned to my SS class yesterday, perhaps the ones who are truly blessed in this life are those who are sovereignly called upon by God to live what they believe. For too many of my years, being a church member didn't really call on me to do anything out of the ordinary for a modern American family man. But now, facing whatever's lurking "in the corn" [HT Jerry Grace} has made it even more important that I live what I've believed and have been teaching. I told them that, if I couldn't do that now, I had no right to be teaching them anything.

Said the same thing at CB Scott's church, in the "Spiritual Gifts" class I'm leading there, last night.

In case anyone thinks this is some form of "punishment" for something, I'm firmly convinced Jesus took all that a long, long time ago. So I don't buy any of that.

Seems to me that a miracle is a supernatural intervention by God, into what we see as the "natural order" of things. A zero PSA was the only thing the doctor could see as the natural order following my surgery. So I'm thinking that my 4.1 is precisely what God had in mind for me. And that, as part of blessing me, not cursing me.

So, if Mr. Cancer thinks he's set the date for my ultimate earthly demise, I have news for him.

God already beat him to it.

***UPDATE*** I'm scheduled for an abdominal CAT scan, and a whole-body bone scan, this Thursday. Stay tuned for the news......

***AND YET ANOTHER UPDATE*** The tests were, frankly, easier than I expected, particularly for a test that I'm hoping to fail in one way or another (if they don't find anything, well .....). The doctor's office just called and I have an appointment at 2:30 Monday to go over the results. Another one of those weekends, I guess.

Labels: