Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I owe readers an explanation . . .

The weeks following our vacation have been difficult and I’ve neglected posting here, so I'll close the month with this explanation:

My beloved husband has been in outpatient four times – two where his graft failed and two for his plasmapheresis treatments plus in the hospital twice for thrombectomies – removal of blood clots from the graft – and about one doctor’s appointment each week since our return. Another graft failure today.

June is Myasthenia Gravis awareness month. I’ve posted each week in Facebook, but haven’t taken the time here – it does take longer to post here because it’s not just off the top of my head, which is the way my FB posts usually are typed (and at times deleted because I did not research and verify as I do here.)

I’d love to post here that my Beloved Husband was miraculously cured of MG, but pragmatism tells me that’s unlikely. He is not alone and we are blessed by his treatments keeping him functionally healthy. Others are not so lucky and are praying earnestly for miracles.

Five years ago our church was praying for such a miraculous cure that did not happen, and the patient’s husband wrote “If God Does Not Heal.”

One of the verses he included helped him then and us now:

But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. (Luke 4:25-27)

Biblical miracles did not include all of the sick or needy at any given time. There were specific incidents that glorified God while helping someone. They are examples, lessons for us. One we tend to overlook are three young Israelites who witnessed their faith to a king:

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:17-18)

Trusting that God is able to deliver under any circumstances – but if He doesn’t deliver as we asked or expected, that does not change Him and should not change us.

Just as I would like for people to be aware of Myasthenia Gravis, I would like for them to be aware of God and His relationship with mankind. I can only do this by what He’s done in my life – no miracles, but a daily walk that increases my joy of life.

Even in sorrow, even in concerns regarding our future, I am comfortable in the hope taught through the Bible. Thus, I would follow Peter’s admonition:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:15)

And, I can agree with the husband’s close, though healing was not coming:
I know that God is able to deliver her. But if not, bless the name of the Lord, because in all things, God is, and will always be, sovereign
A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: (Psalms 103:1-2)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Think About Your Pastor

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:1-5 KJV)

Your pastor is promised a crown that is not available to the rest of God’s people – a crown of glory that does not fade. It is a tremendous responsibility. The work he does has stringent job requirements:

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7 KJV)

Men who do not have a good report to those outside the church receive a great deal of news coverage and we often stereotype all by gleeful reports of spiritual failure. We all have the tendency not to understand that could be any one of us.  Our responsibilities to our pastors are a bit shorter:

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. (Hebrews 13:7 KJV)

Paul has a bit more:

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 KJV)

These men are called, as the apostles were and as we are, with differing responsibilities:

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, . . . Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: (Romans 1:1, 6 KJV)

As the called of Jesus Christ, we see in Him how we should be:

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15 KJV)

Forbearing [adjective (of a person) patient and restrained; synonyms: patient, tolerant, easygoing, lenient, clement, forgiving, understanding, accommodating, indulgent;] and forgiving [adjective: ready and willing to forgive; synonyms: merciful, lenient, compassionate, magnanimous, humane, softhearted, forbearing, tolerant, indulgent, understanding] – how do we fit into those words when it comes to our Pastors?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

God Knows “Why?”

I really appreciate being around people who love the Lord as much as I do and are willing to spend time with His word seeking answers. A week ago I wrote (and used this same graphic) while reading from Job, “When We Cry ‘Why?’” This morning I read a blog about Job written by a pastor.

About ten years ago we had an exceptionally active Youth Department. Several of the young people had dedicated their lives to our Lord, attended Bible college with the intent of serving Him and a large majority are doing so. Two of the young men are still pastors and one of the young ladies married a pastor who has written “Thoughts about Job.” I hope you’ll take time to read it, too.

I do understand why we think of Job when trouble occurs or tragedy strikes. It is good to know that, as Job, we can say:

Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.  (Job 16:19 KJV)

No matter what has happened, God has seen where we have been, where we are and what will happen next. Our record is on high – and we will be judged by that. We really don’t need friends to come along and tell us what they don’t know.

Did you notice that Job did not go to his friends? Instead, they came to him. Apparently not so much to console him as to make him confess his sins. Did you notice none of them seemed to be concerned that the same thing might happen to them?

Or, did they? We cannot know their thoughts, and the Bible does not give us insight, but our own experiences tell us that people can fear that what happens to others might happen to them. If we can place blame on specific actions – especially actions we do not take – perhaps those fears can be relieved and we’re more comfortable, right?

If a person has a terminal illness and we can say they lack faith, since our Lord said (more than once):

And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. (Luke 17:19 KJV)

I know of no man who had more “faith” than our Lord and Savior, the Messiah Jesus – and yet Jesus said:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15 KJV)

. . .  as well as:

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39 KJV)

Job did not know what was going to happen, Jesus did – and prayed that it not happen, but in any case God’s will is to be done.

God does know. It is very important that we know, too, that there is a record in heaven. Take time to find out how your name is written there.

And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Revelation 21:27 KJV)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

More Than One


I’ve needed some affirmation. April was a great month, most of May, too. The last of May was difficult and June is not starting well at all.

When we returned from our marvelous vacation, Beloved Husband’s graft was plugged and his plasmapheresis delayed until a thrombectomy was done. Three weeks later, at his next plex (the shortened version), another blood clot blockage and a trip scheduled to the hospital for another thrombectomy (sorry – some medical terms don’t take to being shortened.) Which delays his plex for another week.

June is Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month. It certainly has our attention, and we’ve been aware of the disease since September, 2011. We will be aware of it the rest of our lives. Sometimes it becomes difficult and decisions musts be made. Turning to scriptures is a help and I ran across a page with the above graphic – only a clip from the page, and the graphic is linked to the page.

However, I want to stress that the questions we say, such as “I am not able,” have more than one answer in the Bible. Here is given Luke 18:27, which reads in full:

And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. (Luke 18:27 KJV)

That “with God” part is very important, and it is part of another verse that enables us:

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (2 Corinthians 9:8 KJV)

There more than single verses that give us hope – if we read them, believe them, study them and depend on the Lord who provided them. That “sufficiency in all things” comes after other verses:

Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness. But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:5-7 KJV)

Paul’s letter was written to Christians, not to the unsaved. It was written to a church, exhorting them in this chapter to respond to a request for funds. Some, then, look at verse at as a tit-for-tat agreement that if we give bountifully God will reward us.

Not so quick. Verse 8 states that God is able, through His grace, to provide sufficiently for us. No action on our part is required. However, He may abound to good works. That is still His call.

It takes more than one verse for us to understand God’s work in our lives, and there is more than one verse that provides directions to God’s path for all men. We should never build our faith on a single verse, never on one study session.

It is not easy, as evidenced in verses in Luke 18:

For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? (Luke 18:25-26 KJV)

No one – without God. Those important words in verse 27, “with God.” The Bible also explains the who and the how:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)

That gives me hope – that it is true, and the other promises are, too.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Truly Joyful Noise


I’ve heard the joke for many years: “As lonely as the third verse in a Baptist Hymnal.” I also heard:  “I haven’t heard that verse.” “That’s because you go to a Baptist church.”

Actually, I do – and have for the majority of my life. I have visited other churches and find that they also omit a verse or two along the way – though I’ve never heard why. In the more modern churches with screens and choruses, that’s probably never noticed.

It was Wednesday night when our song leader took us through three songs, all their verses – and I loved it. I hope we continue to include all the verses as we sing. They all have stories to tell and omitting a song’s verse is similar to omitting a biblical verse – part of the story is missing.

As long-time readers know, one of my favorite hymnists is Fanny Crosby, another is John Newton. I wonder how many who sing Amazing Grace know that the final verse in most hymnals:

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we first begun

. . . which I consider to be an awesome ending, so uplifting, was not added until 1790 and the author is unknown.

Go ahead and look up the biographies for these two blessed authors and learn how God worked in their lives as well as how they shared their faith. Look into the background of your favorite songs – find the who/what/when/how/ and why they were written along with why they remain in our lives. That’s part of their history.

It would do us all well to remember Mahalia Jackson’s quote regarding gospel songs:
Those songs come out of conviction and suffering. The worst voices can get through singing them 'cause they're telling their experiences.
Which brings me to today’s Bible verses. I’ve often used:

Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: (Psalms 66:1 KJV)

. . . mostly because I can’t sing on key and the most I can do is make a joyful noise. But that whole Psalm is a song and the first verse would not be complete without the whole, including the last verses:

Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me. (Psalms 66:16-20 KJV)

That’s what I hope to do here each day – tell what God has done for my soul, how He hears my prayers, and how He has not turned away from me. Oh, to truly share that joy!!

Monday, June 1, 2015

When we cry "WHY?!"

Satan appeared before God complaining about Job:

Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. (Job 1:10 KJV)

Why shouldn’t job praise God as a righteous man? He was blessed by God in all things. Why wouldn’t he expect that to continue as long as he and God had a good relationship. Or, consider a man born blind:

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:2 KJV)

This question didn’t come from someone trying to catch our Lord with a legal trickery – it came from those who traveled with Him, who still believed that bad things happen to sinners. Jesus knew better:

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9:3 KJV)

Realize that explanation did not change any of the past, any more than Job’s losses. Grief, pain, anger – all those emotions are with us when tragedy strikes. Job grieved for his children:

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground,

. . . and remembered his God:

and worshipped, (Job 1:20 KJV)

Long discussions later, Job speaks to God:

Then Job answered the LORD, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. (Job 42:1-3 KJV)

We do not understand tragedy any more than Job understood it. We do not know what is in God’s mind, either. Job had not sinned, neither had the blind man, nor his parents. Yet their stories are included in God’s word and we attempt to apply the lessons to our own lives.

What Job did know, and the blind man saw, was God’s work. Paul believed that work continued:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 KJV)

He also believed that God provides sufficiently:

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (2 Corinthians 9:8 KJV)

When tragedy does occur in our lives, we’ve been given hope:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalms 46:1 KJV)

He has the ability to apply peace beyond our ability to understand:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 KJV)

Ask Him, not just for everything, but about anything – even our grief and anger.