November 2009


Christianity is not in the books.

Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38. This is the first and great commandment. 39. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’ ~Matthew 22:37-40

This is one of the things I have been learning and re-learning through this process: there is an urgency for relationship with God in Christ, and with people. The Lord is most certainly reorientating my priorities and perspective toward the realization that people, as Paul says in Thessalonians, are our reward. That ministering the Gospel means proclaiming and embodying, not just “talking about it.”

This post is to serve as a reminder, especially for all the scholar types, that God’s Word (and in this instance I mean the scriptures) are clear; that they are indeed “living and active,” and that He speaks to the “common man” through them in clear ways, before He ever speaks to the scholar/theologian; or at least the “common man” is often more ready to hear than is the “theologian.” What the Lord is making totally clear to me is that this life is short and the Gospel has an urgency to it; that the Gospel is a “lived reality” (more than a “read reality”), and that the LORD is concerned that we show compassion, mercy, and grace (one of the ways is by proclaiming the Gospel) to all those around us.

I think too often we care way too much about what other “theologians” or “Christians” think of us — especially when formulating our particular “theo-systems.” Jesus Christ is all that matters, we stand before Him; and like the Apostle Paul, we must live before and in Him. Which means that we jettison our comfort zones and live as if the LORD could come right now, and/or require our souls of us this very night. This, at least, is what the LORD has been showing me; He is calling me and my family to live a life of total abandonment to and for Him. Which doesn’t mean that books aren’t involved, but that we remember that books are written for a certain end; and that is for the edification of God’s people. Mostly, THE BOOK, God’s Word is written for God’s people to know and love Him through; and this if anything is what the LORD is encouraging me too, and that is that the scriptures are His love letter to me (and us), and that He still speaks through them (sometimes in midrashic and applied ways, in fact very often if we would only listen to Him).

I hope this has been an encouragement. In Christ!

We go into the medical oncologist this Wednesday, please pray that it all goes smoothly and that all the news is encouraging. One of the blessings here is that the oncologist we are going to see is one of the top five destinations in the U.S. for dealing with sarcomas; we live right next to OHSU (Oregon Health Science University), which is one of the top University hospitals in the nation . . . it’s kind’ve like the Lord knew we needed to be in the Pacific Northwest just for this season. Please pray that the cancer hasn’t spread, and that it is indeed self-contained (I like to think “God-contained”) to the mass; also that they will be able to go in and take the whole thing out without any complications, and that they will move quickly — I’m/we’re ready for this thing to be out of my body (it feels like a ticking time-bomb is in my body).

Here are some scriptures the LORD has been using to minister to me lately (these all came from my daily reading of scripture, which as you will see is very providential):

“For I will restore health to you, And heal you of your wounds says the LORD. . .” Jer. 30:17 a,b

“There is hope in your future, says the LORD, That your children shall come back to their own border.” Jer. 31:17

“Ah, LORD GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” Jer. 32:17

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jer. 32:27

“When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.'” John 11:4

There are more scriptures that He has impressed upon me, they have all been very encouraging and hope filled. I am so glad that the LORD is in control right now, we are trying to learn how to rest in Him. Thank you all for your continued prayers, I’ll keep the updates coming . . .

I was supposed to find out a week ago, today, what the results of my biopsy were; but all the doctor had at that point were my preliminary results, and all those said was that my mass involved lymphatic tissue — thus the assumption that I had lymphoma. It wasn’t until today that we actually found out what exactly I have; and let me tell you, I was scared to death — you see yesterday morning I did receive a call from the doctor’s office, and they told me I tested positive for a sarcoma, not lymphoma. Couple that with the idea that my mass involved lymphatic tissue, and we have a recipe for a complete nightmare. Anyway, we went in; I do in fact have a sarcoma (or soft-tissue tumor), its proper name is: Desmoplastic Small Cell Tumor. This might not sound like such great news, but considering the alternative, a sarcoma in my lymph nodes, this is great news. My cancer is very very rare, which is why they initially mistook it for lymphoma; it apparently starts out in the abdominal wall, and builds from there. The other part of this that is good news is that my mass appears to be at stage 1, in other words it hasn’t spread (metastized); which means that the surgeon can ideally go in, cut it out, and we can be done with it — beyond ideally, he can still go in, cut it out, and I will have to follow it up with some radiation and/or chemo-therapy. So potentially, at a functional level, this could be just like taking out a benign mass (i.e. no need for further treatment).

I should be having surgery within the next week and a half or so, they want to move quickly on it. Unfortunately, due to the mass’ position I am going to have to lose one of my kidneys. The tumor is kind of positioned up behind it a bit, so they will have to remove that in order to give optimal accessiblity to the mass; at which point the doctor will be able to hopefully cut that sucker out of there (good riddins)! This will be a big surgery (three surgeons — the general, a urologist, and a vascular surgeon), so please continue to pray that the ideal situation is met; which is that the doctor will be able to cleanly and efficiently cut that stinkin’ mass out of my body without any residue of cancer left.

Potentially this could all be over in about two weeks, which gives me great hope; this last month has been a nightmare; except for those many moments when the Lord spoke to me; and except for the fact that there are thousands of Christians all over this world praying for me and my family (which is totally awesome, your prayers are working, keep them up, please!). Obviously this ordeal isn’t over with yet, your prayers are still most needed! We are trusting that this is only weeks from being over with, right now I am filled with such relief, you can’t even imagine (maybe you can). Please pray that the mass doesn’t metastisize, that the Lord will hedge it in until its cut out (that sucker); that the surgery will totally take care of the problem, that the Lord will sustain my family and I all the way through this (i.e. that our finances will be met, I’m going to be out of work for quite a few weeks just recovering), that the Lord’s name will be magnified (it already is at work, many non-Christians there are being impacted by this, they know I love the Lord, and that I am trusting Him to take me and my family through this — there are many who are opening up to me like never before, and about spiritual things [some aren’t though]). Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for your guys’ continued prayers; I really believe they are carrying the day, and that the Lord is hearing you — don’t stop!!!

Happy Thanksgiving, in Christ,

Bobby

Doesn’t the flesh just hate passages like this?:

. . . Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20. For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. ~I Corinthians 6:19, 20

As much as I want to assert myself, in my flesh, circumstances like I am facing (we [my family]) just won’t allow it; they remind me that I am mortal, and not God. But my flesh (sin nature) believes just the opposite, it believes that it is indeed God, and that my life belongs to me; that I create my own destiny, and nobody, but me, will determine how that looks. Yet my spirit says NO (by the Spirit), it recognizes that I am not God; that I don’t belong to myself; that I don’t create my own destiny. This is the space where fear can be injected, between the flesh and the Spirit; my flesh is being confronted with something that lets it know that it’s not in control, and my spirit is saying trust the one who is in control — Jesus Christ. My flesh wants to try and control something it cannot; my spirit wants to relinquish all control to the One who is. It is this constant battle between the flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5:17) that I continually find myself in. I go from fear (flesh), to the Spirit (peace and confidence). I go from realizing that I am not my own; to wanting to assert “my ownership.”

The Lord continues to say “rest and trust;” He continues to comfort in the direction that this is all going to be okay, that I am fine. His still small voice whispers hope and peace, even in the midst of the storm I mention above. He wants me to just rest in His loving control in the face of what seems to be something like a hurricane which intends to destroy me; He says NO, not at all, grab my hand, Bobby! He knows that my frame is but dust, since He has the same frame (albeit glorified now), and knows how much I can bear (apparently more than I realized 😉 ); He ministers to and through my weakness, He takes that which is intended to destroy and reverses it to something that produces life.

Please continue to pray, pray that this season may be a short one; and that it is about to come to an end. Thank you!

12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

Paul was just a man, right? Sometimes I read his perspective [eternal], and I just walk away completely ashamed and convicted. The thesis of Paul’s life was to live for Christ, which means to live for the other; his circumstances were always filtered through how the Gospel was going to advance. It didn’t matter to him whether he was in prison [the setting for this epistle], stoned [in the first century sense], shipwrecked, beaten with the rod, lashed, etc.; his driving concern was that the name of Jesus Christ was proclaimed, that the Gospel went forward.

The amazing thing to me is that Paul could write stuff like this (in the excerpt from above) in the face of being in prison; or even in the face of death. He was so concerned and consumed about making Jesus known that death was not a concern for him; in fact he saw death as a welcomed thing, an instance where he gets to be with Jesus forevermore. But his burden was that the people in the church knew who the living Christ was, and for that he was ready to stay, ready to continue the fight for Jesus Christ. What does it mean to say: For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain? I know what Paul is saying, and it’s easy to hear him say it (I say: “Amen, Paul”); but when faced with my own immortality (potentially), it is harder to say — especially for me to say: “to live is Christ.” I don’t think we can honestly say “to live is Christ,” until we can honestly say “to die is gain.”

I am not saying that I don’t think Paul feared the process of dying (although he didn’t seem to), but instead that he was so consumed with living in Christ; that dying in Christ was really only its obverse — in other words, his life was so shaped by both sides of this coin, that to die physically was to only transition from one locale to the best locale; wherein he would continue on in the pattern he was already living (even on earth) . . . only in a glorified way.

 One of the things I think the Lord is trying to teach me (in particular) is that I need to take on Paul’s attitude. That until I can say “to die is gain” (honestly), that to say “to live is Christ” is somewhat hollow. Really all I’m saying, is that I think the Lord is pressing me further into the “eternal perspective;” challenging me to live in a way that really is abandoned to Him. Challenging me to let go of all the creaturely comforts that this earth has to offer; which means that He is challenging me to find my stability completely  in Him (and in nothing or no one else). To recognize that this world has nothing to offer; and that the only thing that is lasting is Him, and thus the only thing that is lasting on this earth are people in Him — which means that proclaiming Christ is paramount, and nothing this world has to offer should hinder that.

Just some reflections . . .

You know, it is still possible that my mass is benign. We only received the preliminary results on Wednesday, and all they really said is that the mass involves lymphatic tissue; they don’t say, per se, that it is in fact malignant, yet. Our doctor even told us that it’s possible that the results could still come back benign; so please continue to pray in that direction, we haven’t lost total hope on that. Thanks!

I am going to continue to blog through this season of life, I find it therapeutic for one thing; many of my posts are going to be dealing with questions oriented around my particular health issue, at the moment. Also I am going to create a “page” that is dedicated to updating everyone on the progress of my treatments, and finally my recovery — you will see that at the upper part of my blog (with the rest of the pages). Anyway, this post is going to deal with the question of “why?”

I think it’s probably natural for all human beings to ask the question of “why?” when faced with life threating conditions. Certainly in my case (my families’ case) I am dealing with a real life, very weighty issue, cancer. I don’t want to deal with it (but I must), I don’t understand the point, I am frustrated to have life so interrupted from my plans, I want my comfortability back — my sense of security, I want a feeling of control; so this all leads me to the question of Why?

The Lord doesn’t really answer the why questions for is, but wait we’re in luck; in this case He actually does, He explains through His Word ‘why’ we suffer — He lets us know the purpose for suffering (whatever is the particular cause of the suffering). II Corinthians 1:2-7 says:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4. who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7. and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as your are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

Should we be surprised then that we encounter various kinds of suffering and tribulation? What this passage tells us is that suffering has purpose, it has a point; not only for this life, but for the life to come (in glorification). It tells us that suffering of any kind, in Christ, is not in vein; and that one of the reasons we experience suffering is so that we can experience the superabundant comfort of our Father. The thing is, is that we would never know, really, how to bear the burdens of others (Gal. 6) without going through the fire and deep waters ourselves (Is. 43). This is one of the reasons for affliction and the subsequent suffering; it is so that we can experience the comfort of the Lord. And here is the hope part, we go through these sufferings and comfortings so that later we can come alongside another suffering brother or sister and comfort them with the same comfort that we ourselves experienced in the midst of the same or similar circumstances. In fact I’ve already experienced this kind of comfort myself; one of my former profs from Bible College lived through lymphoma some 30 years ago. I met with him, and prayed with him recently; the most encouraging thing, the most comforting thing to me, was to be sitting with him, and talking with a survivor of the same thing that I am currently facing.

So “WHY?”, because the Lord wants to show us His comfort so that we can later show others that same comfort; and be part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of “paracleting” (or comforting). This charges all kinds of suffering, not just mine right now, but all of ours, with Christ-filled purpose. It also explains a bit of “why” we must go through things, it’s for the other; it’s not about me (although it involves me), there is a bigger thing going on than just “our” plans. God is faithful, and He is also faithful to bring things into our lives that we would never choose; this is what a loving and comforting Father does.

My next posts will be on Romans 5:1ff and Hebrews 12 (and discipline) . . .

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