SINCE LAST SEPTEMBER, I’ve been a discussion leader in the Alpha evangelism program on Thursday nights at our church. It’s an international program that’s been around since 1990. You probably know about it.
Each night participants streamed into the auditorium and made their way to their tables. Well, not all of them streamed-in. There were two people who struggled to swing their legs out of their car and then they’d wrestle with their walkers to get them out of the back seat. Once mobilized, they proceeded to, and I can’t think of a better term, ‘snail’ their way toward the front double doors where they’d noisily wrestle with each of those too. Others would usually come to their aid.
Those closest to me keep encouraging me to write about navigating through suffering, disappointment, and discouragement. They think that because I have a nero-muscular disorder (see my post God is With Us In Our Pain), was diagnosed with cancer last November, and had surgery in March to end three years of suffering with a prostate condition, that I must be good at it. Good enough, anyway, to offer some insight and wisdom. But, frankly, I’d rather be known as a great rock-climber, surfer, or skydiver.
Is God’s forgiveness enough, or does complete forgiveness require self-forgiveness? The biblical answer is: “God’s forgiveness completely absolves us of our sin.” Self-forgiveness, is not a biblical concept.
However, our emotions are quite real and we must distinguish between the efficacy of God’s forgiveness of sin and the management of our grief and self-condemnation. We receive His forgiveness, but we often have to work through our emotions.
Pursuing Christlikeness was of paramount importance to committed believers in past centuries. Strategies for developing the fruit of the Spirit and Christlike virtue prompted much discussion and analysis, both verbal and written. They painstakingly considered all facets of these character qualities to determine how best to live them out in their daily lives. Quite frankly, many of them make us look like rank amateurs in comparison. We can learn much from them.
I first read Gordon MacDonald’s Ordering Your Private World when it was originally released in 1984. He had been our pastor at Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts, for the prior two years where everyone affectionately called him Pastor Mac. Today, he is the chancellor at Denver Seminary. When the book was released, I was in the midst of frantic, high-pressured seminary training preparing for a life of ministry; which he had inspired me, and many others, to undertake.
The son of one of Herod’s royal officials was close to death. The official traveled 18 miles up to Cana in the hope of successfully pleading with Jesus to return with him to Capernaum to heal his son….
God’s glorious presence filled the tabernacle that Moses built in the wilderness, and the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem. However, Jesus Christ is the supreme revelation of God’s glory. He is God in the flesh. In Him God dwelt, or, more accurately in the Greek, “tabernacled” among us. The love of God the Father, sent His Son, the eternal Word, into the world to give us true life and true light, and to baptize us with the Holy Spirit.
Today, afresh, we can receive Him into our lives and so proclaim Jesus Christ as the glory of the One and Only Son. Today, afresh, we can proclaim that through our faith in Him, and by the Father’s will, we have been granted the right to be His adopted children.
May the glorious light and life of Christ be evident in all we do this day.
It’s popular to pray using some of the near 500 names, titles, and attributes of God found in the Bible. A study of these words is good and beneficial in furthering one’s understanding of God in the Old and New Testaments. For such a study, I highly recommend John Avery’s excellent book The Name Quest.1
I have a chronic neuro-muscular condition called Cervical Dystonia. I was diagnosed in 2014. Like a wrecking ball, it shattered my once active life. I used to fly us around the Pacific Northwest in our plane. I used to practice karate. I used to do a lot of things.
This is the first time I’ve revealed my condition online. I’m doing it now because things just got worse. There are so few suffers of this rare condition that a support group must be international. Even then, there are only 2,500 members. Each major holiday we usually lose one or two to suicide. Most have unsupportive family and friends who say the most hurtful things to them. Some have no one, and no income. Tragically, they give up the fight.
I’m blessed to have a supportive, loving, and encouraging wife and family. I’m blessed to have Christ in my life. Some days, despite all my family’s love, only He can reach into the deep place in my heart that needs joy. Until He grants me healing, I join in His sufferings, and I follow His example: not my will, but His be done on earth as it is in heaven. Trust in Him is key, and so is leaning on His Word and not my own understanding.
One of the kindnesses of suffering — at least mine — is the quiet. Life is simple. The stress of managing multi-million dollar projects, for example, is gone. Many times, in that quiet, it is just God and me … and a lot of pain. I can have long quiet times. I can pray. I can reflect. I can write. I think that’s His will for me right now. I just released an updated and edited version of my book, and I have two writing projects scheduled for this year.
Due to the treatments to paralyze the affected neck muscles, I feel close to normal for three weeks out of ten, but then the slide downward begins all over again. It’s frustrating.
Hanging in there is vital. Things change and research continues on this condition. More doctors have become aware of it. Because it’s rare, many sufferers, like me, get misdiagnosed and mistreated for years. Last summer was difficult for me, but then in August a new doctor added something new to the treatments which has lessened the extreme symptoms. I’ll take it.
This is the place from which I write. Through writing I try to comfort others with the comfort and hope I have received from Him. I want others to see the grandeur, greatness, gentleness, and compassion of God in Christ through the power and presence of His Holy Spirit. I want to encourage others to take a deep dive in their faith and to get closer to Christ. Ultimately, I hope to help Christians align their wills, thoughts, and hearts with His. This is what Jesus prayed for in the Upper Room when He prayed for unity.
Many times, I have asked God to remove this thorn in my flesh. He hasn’t yet. The Apostle Paul was right, God’s grace is sufficient and His power is perfected in weakness. Yet, I continue to ask for healing.
I have experienced healing and other miracles first hand over the years. For example, last week God worked radically in my wife’s career. God is good. We’ve been praying about her situation for two years.
In contrast, last week I developed a significant complication which is causing acute pain, stiffness, and more sleeplessness. I didn’t need this, but God is still good. Today, I get an MRI to determine exactly what’s going on in my neck and to see if there is anything the orthopedic surgeon can do about it.
Chronic illness is not fun. Despite it, my goal is to connect deeper with God and to follow Christ in His suffering. Did I mention how important it was to trust God and submit to His will?
God can instantly heal me if He chooses, but then would I get too busy and too distracted to write? I often wonder if has God painted me into this corner to do the one thing He wants me to do.
Jesus is calling you deeper in your relationship with Him.
Stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, is, to put it politely, unpleasant. I seemed to have suffered from it more often than other children. I dreaded the experience. No one, I’m sure, ever happily said, “I have a stomach flu and can’t wait for the finale.” But it appeared to affect me more severely than most.
Fortunately, three decades passed without contracting this type of flu again. Those dreadful memories had long since faded. But then, one Sunday morning, my stomach felt a little queasy. I shrugged it off, but it progressively worsened—you know where this is heading. Around mid-afternoon the feeling became vaguely familiar, but I didn’t know why. Eventually it hit me: “Oh no, I remember this!”
A few hours later, and right on schedule as I recalled the process, it was time to head to the, um, loo.