Thursday, October 6, 2011

SHADOW OF DEATH: A Journey There & Back

The publishing of this blog is really a post script. These are the thoughts I had from June and July of this year. As I review it, it was prior to getting the results of the biopsy and then prior of the results of the CAT scan. What I experienced and learned from that time until today, I hope to get down on this blog soon. I am recovery well, but struggling with motivation. I will try to publish soon. 
SHADOW OF DEATH: A Journey There & Back
The shadows caste by the obscurities of the unknown, can be scarier, and more unsettling, than the realities we may be facing.
The Psalmist wrote: “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil...”
The Apostle Paul wrote: “If God be for us, who can be (or stand) against us?”
King David also wrote: “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come from? From the LORD, God the maker of heaven and earth.”
Sometimes it can be a long walk through the valley of the shadow of death. To walk through the valley, you often must walk down into the valley.  So we walk down into.. then we walk through. But what are we walking through to? To get to the other side? Or to get back to where we started from? It’s not the other side that has me worried... it’s the down and through that I am concerned about. To me down and through speaks to the process. Death is one thing...  dyeing is another. What is going to take place in the process of bringing me through to the other side? Thank the Lord it isn’t something you must do every other day. If I must walk through, I want to “.... walk and not faint.” It is reassuring to know the Lord Jesus Christ, and to have the confidence he can deliver me in times of trouble. The biggest trouble we must all face is death. I base my faith in Jesus Christ upon his past performance of raising from the dead, and the promise - he will be with me. “.... for you are with me...” 
“They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint...”

Back in July I began to let some family and friends know I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I have learned a lot about many things since this summer. One of the most comforting points, is that most men will die with prostate cancer, but not from it. (If it is detected early enough,) In my particular case, I see doctors regularly to ensure I can live as long as I can in good health. I am reminded that a “wise man sees trouble coming and takes appropriate action, but a fool doesn’t and suffers for it.”
I was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2011, just prior to my 55th birthday. What a bummer... major B U MM E R!
“All things work for the good for those that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” When you’re facing a death-sentence, it takes faith to believe this. 
I know the Lord can deliver me, but even if he doesn’t, by his grace, I will still have hope, faith and trust in him. I have some great examples that have gone before me which have shown me the way - first, I first consider what Jesus endured... and then look at some other examples.
Meshack, Shadrack & Abendigo (MS&A) were facing a death sentence and were to be thrown into the fiery furnace. Daniel, likewise was facing a death sentence and was going to be thrown into the lion’s den. In each case, they counted on the one who they placed their faith in to deliver them... one way or the other, God was going to deliver them! In both cases, God did deliver them from the destruction of their death sentences. No one can say what their personal anticipation(s) were in these situations. The one certainty we know of is that they had to “go through”... the furnace... the lion’s den. Perhaps they were facing the “.... the valley of the shadow of death...” The word “thrown” to me, makes me consider something that took place rather suddenly. The examples cited of MS&A and Daniel are clear regarding their anticipation of the nasty consequences they faced if they continued on their course of conscience. Thrown into the fiery furnance... thrown into the lion’s den. It is not that you aren’t aware of the consequences of your actions - you just don’t expect things to happen so quickly. In psychology, it’s refereed as a type of “normalcy bias.”
Lessons learned: Just because you’re not fireproof and you would burn easily when thrown into the fire, doesn’t mean when you are thrown into the fire, you’re going to get burned. Or just because your tasty, and lions get hungry and eat tasty people, doesn’t mean you’re going to get eaten if you’re thrown into the lions’ den! I would say that both examples would qualify as “storms” they were facing.
Jesus said: “Is this world you will face tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” So how can we prepare for the storms (tribulations) coming our way in this life? Jesus gave us some good advice. Building on the rock, hearing the words of Jesus, and putting them into practice, can be very beneficial, especially when the storm comes - and it will come. Matthew Henry wrote: “.... those who have not put the words of Jesus into practice, have been building their house upon sand, and and when the storm comes, when they need shelter the most, it will fail them.” Said another way, those who put the words of Jesus into practice, have been building upon rock and when they need shelter the most, it will stand and not collapse on them, keeping them safe from sudden destruction.
Maybe we should be “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” every day - metaphorically speaking of the life of the spirit. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus said, “not my will, but let your will be done.”  We must be willing to lay our lives down for the cause of Christ. “Unless a man is willing to loose his life, he cannot save it.” It is the process of how we live our lives and how we lay it down that determine how the Lord is glorified. 
Psalm 112: “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land: the generation of the upright will be blessed.... He will have no fear of bad news: his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the and he will look in triumph on his foes...”

A steadfast heart that trusts in the LORD will have no fear of bad news. How do you determine a steadfast heart that is trusting in the LORD? 1- You fear the LORD. 2- You find delight in his commands.
I was informed a year ago, I had a moderate swollen prostate. My PSA level was 2.7. I was advised to keep a watch on it. Any change of conditions to my normal life activities.
I year later, my PSA was 4.2 - nearly doubled. My doctor recommended I see a urologist for an exam.
I saw the urologist for an examination. He reported I had moderate swelling and that he felt hardness on one side and a nodule on the other and recommended I have a biopsy.
I had a biopsy (15) and was told I have cancer and that since it was located if both sectors of the prostate, because of my age, I should have in removed.
He recommended that I have a CAT scan in order to determine if the cancer was contained in the prostate or had infected the other tissue surrounding the area. If the cancer is not contained, that would be a game changer.
I am awaiting my CAT scan. In the meantime, I am seeking the LORD for relief of this malady and researching alternative medicine remedies. I am also looking for the best surgeon, if that is the course I am to take. “All my days are in his hands.” 

For the past year, I have been numbering my days. “Teach me to number my days” King David said. I took it literally. If man’s life is three-score and ten, that’s 70 years. The example then is: 70 years x 365 days minus 55 years x 365 days will give you the number of days you have left. As of my 55th birthday this past July 12th, I have 5475+ days left. Understanding, there my be an accident or some other unforeseen circumstance, cancer as an example, my cut you short. I have been thinking that the LORD will add to my days in this life, as I serve him and follow his commands. So I believe the LORD has more than 70 years of days for me, and that I will see my children's, children in this life. (cite reference) Although I am currently being told, I may be cut short. “.... He will have no fear of bad news: his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear...”

When you consider, you have burned-up 55 years of days = 20075 of the 25500 and only have 5475 days left to serve the LORD, it brings this life into focus by framing it with the reality of your mortality! And that reality helps you focus on eternal life. Thank you LORD, “.... we are pilgrims and sojourners here...” Almost everyday, I read a Psalm that corresponds to the day of the month and write next to it the number of days I have left to serve the LORD. It helps me to remember, that my days are in his hands and that need to express my thankfulness and gratefulness to HIM for giving me another day.

I am beginning to understand why this blog by Brother Wilkerson was so close to me now back at the end of April of this year: It wasn't until June, I found out I was heading down that road...More later..

Brother David Wilkerson's last blog post prior to his death:
"To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights," he wrote, "and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, 'I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident."'

Friday, April 29, 2011

DEATH - "Be careful to be making preparations of it." Mr. Thomas Doolittle

I was just informed of the death of Brother David Wilkerson. I am sadden and shook. I have recently read a couple of references to death this past week, and the passing of this Brother drives the point home.
Wilkerson's last blog post, on Wednesday:
"To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights," he wrote, "and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, 'I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident."'
“The gospel will never save you if it shall not rule you.”
“‘See,” said the preacher, “the necessity of regeneration. Let the thought that you will be brought to death call off your affections for the things below. Redeem the time... Be careful to be making preparations of it. We live to learn to die. Our business is not to get riches, honors, or pleasures, but that we may depart in peace with God. Every corpse is a sermon; every tomb a teacher; every funeral an oration - to persuade you to learn to die.” - Mr. Thomas Doolittle 
Matthew Henry’s father “.... placed him in the family and under the tuition of that ‘holy, faithful minister, Mr. Thomas Doolittle, who then lived at Islington.’”     
We worship a risen, living Savior who has promised to give immortality to all who believe on His Name. No longer do men and women need to stumble in the fog and darkness of hopelessness. A Light shines brighter than the noonday sun, offering hope to everyone who has been born again.
Jesus promised, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25–26).
Long ago, Job asked the great question of the ages: “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). Death carries with it a certain dread. It has always been the enemy, the great, mysterious monster that makes people quake with fear.
Death stalks the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated. Death is no respecter of race, color or creed. Its shadow haunts us day and night. We never know when the moment of death will come for us.
Is there any hope?
For the rest of the message go to:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

“I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” - Not Intentions! Rev 2:23

“I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” - Not Intentions! 
NIV - Revelations 2:23
“.... Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”   - Rev 2:23
Be assured, the LORD will repay us according to our deeds and not according to our intentions. “.... I am he who searches the hearts and minds...” If he searches our hearts and minds, he knows our intentions. He knows our deeds. Personally, I am long on (have many) good intentions and short on (have few accomplishments - actions) - DEEDs. It’s not what we intend to do that counts, but what we do, and... do not do. It is also important, that when we do something, we need to be doing the right thing. Let’s look at some examples:
“I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” 
- Mk 9:41
“Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” - Mt 25:34-40
“They also will answer, `Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” - Mt 25:44-46
Worth noting: “.... whatever you did not do ...”  Inaction on our part, is a deed, we do not want to be rewarded for. Clearly, the LORD has certain expectations for the righteous. Especially relating to our dealings with one another. When we find ourselves presented with a situation where we can intervene and remedy an effect for the good, the LORD’s expectation is that we will do the right thing.
One day, along time ago, I was out visiting some sick people and I came across a Muslim, a believer in Allah, the moon god, Islam and his prophet, Mohamed. I found this out rather quickly, because I told him, I was a Christian. He didn’t think I wanted to visit with him because he was a Muslim. Long story, short, he invited me in anyway and we had a conversation. He asked me, “What’s in it for you?” I asked him if he meant, since I was spending some time out visiting people, what was I expecting in return? I told him, I could only be “so-SAVED” and I was not out “earning my salvation.” I went on to tell him the things I do, when I do the right things, are a result of having a personal relationship with Jesus and having been saved (forgiven). The works were a result of my faith and affect that Jesus Christ was having in my life. It was not a result of my wanting to earn anything. It was the impact of the Word-of-God on my heart and the reflection of that power in my life. Sadly, like most people, he was not interested in what Jesus had done for him and the visitation ended.   
There were two criminals sentenced to death and crucified along with Jesus. One on his right and another on the left. One accepted Jesus as Savior, the other rejected him. One of the criminals hurled insults at him, questioned his authority and ability to save, and then tried to tell Jesus what to do. This one rejected Jesus, and would not acknowledge he was getting what his own deeds deserved. He did not want to account or be held accountable for his own sinfulness. In contrast, the other criminal realized he was under the same death sentence as Jesus. He feared God, acknowledged he was getting what his deeds deserved and that Jesus had done nothing wrong. He recognized Jesus had the authority and power to save him and asked Jesus to remember him . - Lk 23:32-43
We are all like criminals, under a death sentence, about to be punished justly for what our deeds deserve. We likewise, need to fear God, humble ourselves, and recognize we need a Savior; we do not have the power to save ourselves - There is no other name, by which men must be saved - Jesus Christ, the sinless who died for the sinful, which God has raised from the dead!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stay True to the Gospel of Jesus Christ - Don’t Abandoned Your Convictions! Galatians 1-6

"But even if we or an angle from heaven should preach another gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” Gal 1:8
I started to look at Galatians in November of 2010. It appears to me that everything that followed was addressing the main concern that the Apostle Paul first articulated. I was encouraged to learn, after coming to my own conclusions, there was debate in the Christian community, if the letter was addressing one continuous theme or several issues. You will need to draw your own conclusions.
Paul was addressing Christian believers that were deserting the grace of Jesus Christ by turning to a perverted gospel preached to them by men with twisted minds. This resulted in division of the Christians into different factions, confusion, envy, jealousy, strife, loss of joy and most importantly loss of effectiveness in peaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of  Christ.” Gal 1:10.
I believe what Paul was stating, and what he was about to say, stemmed from the problems associated with and caused by the desire of church leaders and other Believers who became more concerned about being accepted and pleasing to men than God.  Peter and others abandoned their convictions and contributed to perverting the gospel of Jesus Christ by teaching and preaching another gospel by their actions and example. As an example, Paul cited they drew back from other believers and taught others to do the same. There is no place in the Bible the LORD commands believers to separate themselves from other believers - unless they are involved in practicing sin. Peter would have done well to separate himself from those of the circumcision group - because they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel! Instead - he joined them. Please help me LORD Jesus. This is an example of what not to do.  “They were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel. They were, by their actions, in effect preaching another gospel. Paul said, I don’t care who it is that is preaching it! I guess he meant that. Paul was being true to his convictions by serving God and not pleasing men. Paul brought rebuke to Peter and others because they weren’t lining up! Peter was afraid of men who came from James in Jerusalem and the Jewish believers on the ground in Galatia. Peter was more concerned about what the clergy from Jerusalem was going to think about him mixing with other believers, than what God commanded! Peter was more concerned about what the “laity” of the “Circumcision Group” was going to think about him mixing it up with other non-Jewish believers, than what God had commanded him. WE WILL do the same things, if we care more about pleasing men, and having their approval, than serving God and what he has commanded! The result of their actions caused the separation of believers into different camps; it caused confusion, upheaval and loss of joy. It caused conceit and envy within the church and got them out of step with the Spirit of God. It caused one group to think they were 2nd Class Kingdom citizens and the other group to think they were something special because they were…. Jews… they practiced separation, circumcision or other traditions. 
Wanting to please men caused Peter to abandon his convictions, embrace the traditions of men and move away from the truth. He led others in the wrong direction - We cannot substitute our traditions for the commands of God and call it the truth! What can we learn from this? Said another way - the fear of men, and the desire to please them, will cause us to compromise our convictions and accept substitutions (traditions) for the truth (the Gospel). Be a servant of the LORD Jesus Christ and never allow the fear of men or the desire to please men cause you to abandon your convictions and stop serving Jesus Christ.
“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face,  because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But whe  they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles, because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.” 2:11-13.
“When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” 2:14
Paul was an expert on Jewish customs and traditions. He knew bondage, error and hypocrisy when he saw it. “.... he was clearly in the wrong.” See Galatians 2:11.
Traditions and customs in line with the truth of the gospel are fine. Be careful the traditions and customs you elect to follow don’t cause you to conduct your life in a way contrary to the truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The fear of men can cause us to embrace another gospel and miss the purpose to which Jesus Christ has called us - to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! Not convinced? Look at Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
To add more gravity to Paul’s concerns, Galatians 1:6-15. He wanted anyone, angels and himself included, to be eternally condemned for preaching another gospel. I believe Peter, who he was to confront, because he was not acting in line with the truth, was preaching another gospel. He was preaching another gospel by the example he set of separating himself from other believers, because “they were not of the circumcision group.” Gal 2:12 It is hard to think, the Apostle Peter, was back to denying the LORD by compromising with those that were teaching observance of circumcision was necessary, in addition to believing in Jesus, for salvation.  It may have been that the circumcision group was teaching, if you were circumcised, it would make you a better Christian! I have heard many “teachers” add to the “requirements for salvation” that would make you a better or special Christian...
Here, Paul was setting the example of serving Christ, by not being concerned about pleasing men, by confronting Peter about his hypocrisy. Peter, was setting the example of what happens when you compromise your convictions and you become more concerned about what others think of you. This is an example of what happens when your fear men. It was the example of compromise. From time to time, we will be faced with a choice to make regarding who we will serve. Will we be a servant of Christ, or a servant of man? A Christ pleaser or a man pleaser?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Blessings to my New Brothers-In-The-LORD - Toby & Nelson

I had the honor and previlage of sharing my faith in Jesus Christ when I was out traveling this week and observed the salvation of God! Both drivers that picked me up and dropped me off at the Chicago O'Hare Airport had Devine Appointments and came to know Jesus Christ as their personal LORD and Savior. I am truly grateful to the LORD for finding me worthy to share "The Good News." It was truly a miracle and the power of the LORD that reached out a mighty hand to save. Toby is 41, married for 7 years and has a 6 year old son. He gets up every morning between 4-4:30 to pray to God look for help and direction for him life... and guess who shows up in Chicago and needs a ride to St Charles? After we prayed together, he was very excited to get home to his wife and tell her all about what the LORD had done for him.  Nelson is in his mid-sixty's, a Marine and Viet-Nam Veteran of multiple tours and campaings, one includeing "The Siege at Khe Sanh."  He came to Viet-Nam believing in God, and left not believing in God. By the time our 1 hour trip ended, I had spoken bucketfuls of faith and all he said in the end before we prayed together is that he really believes all that I was saying and wanted March 31st to be the first day of the rest of his new life. He want me to pray with him and it was a done deal! I also had an opportunity to meet James Fabian, a 21 year old student from Dublin, Ireland, traveling the world in support of a Debate Team. He was on his way to Burlington, VT. I had the opportunity to share my faith with him over lunch for 1.5 hours. I am confident the seed of the gospel will bare fruit down the road. It was wonderful to experience being the hand of God once again. I started getting use to standing around breathing and taking up space. My faith has been boosted and I hope to be writing again soon.

Blessings to all my family and friends -