April 2010


Hi everyone, I just wanted to ask for more prayer. Tomorrow, at 12 noon I have a pre-surgery CT scan; please pray that the Lord has done a miracle, that this tumor and cancer is just gone when they take a look tomorrow. If He doesn’t choose to work this way, then please pray that it is shrunk so much that it makes my surgery very minimal (that they won’t have to take my kidney and reconstruct my inferior vena cava). Also please continue for peace for me and my family; the closer I get to surgery the more nervous and excited I get. Please pray that I will be cancer-free no matter what no later than May 6th (my surgery date). I will be posting more, as we get closer to surgery (that is unless the Lord doesn’t choose to just take this tumor out of me Himself [directly]). Thanks everyone . . .

I found the following quite encouraging. It is a 10 point list, provided by pastor John Piper (some of you may be familiar with him — see my caveat at the end of this post); he wrote this right after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer (a battle I believe he has won, by God’s grace). You can see the original posting of these points here.

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.

2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Numbers 23:23). “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.

4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.

5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
Satan’s and God’s designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And to know that therefore, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 3:8; 1:21).

6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2). What a waste of cancer if we read day and night about cancer and not about God.

7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
When Epaphroditus brought the gifts to Paul sent by the Philippian church he became ill and almost died. Paul tells the Philippians, “He has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” (Philippians 2:26-27). What an amazing response! It does not say they were distressed that he was ill, but that he was distressed because they heard he was ill. That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.

8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don’t waste your cancer grieving as those who don’t have this hope.

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).

10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12 -13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.

Remember you are not left alone. You will have the help you need. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Pastor John

Caveat: I actually have some strong disagreements with John Piper on his theology of salvation (not that I don’t think he’s a brother); in fact I just posted on one of the problems I have with his approach over at my other blog: here. But just because I disagree with him on some salient points, doesn’t mean that I can’t think that he can say some very good and encouraging things; and the above represents that. If you have more questions about why I disagree with Piper’s theology on salvation (it’s a mechanical issue, or secondary issue, not an essential difference that I have with Piper), then please ask for clarification. Nevertheless, I hope the above, from Piper, blesses you (even if you don’t have cancer, you can plug whatever struggle you are currently facing into the place of  cancer in the list provided by John).

Here are two passages of scripture the LORD has recently comforted me through. In fact both times I was really despairing, and one night I opened my Bible (in the midst of that), and it fell opened to the first passage; the second time I was really struggling (and being attacked by the “enemy”), I opened my Bible and it literally fell open to the second passage I’ll share here:

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. ~Jeremiah 29:11-14

And,

1But now thus says the LORD,(A) he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
(B) “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
(C) I have called you by name, you are mine.
2(D) When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
(E) when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3For(F) I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
(G) I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and(H) Seba in exchange for you.
4Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
5(I) Fear not, for I am with you;
(J) I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
6I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring(K) my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
8Bring out(L) the people who are blind, yet have eyes,
who are deaf, yet have ears!
9(M) All the nations gather together,
and the peoples assemble.
Who among them can declare this,
and show us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right,
and let them hear and say, It is true.
10(N) “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and(O) my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
(P) Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
11(Q) I, I am the LORD,
and besides me there is no savior
. ~Isaiah 43:1-11

In Bible study (or literary studies) there is a “device” called “dramatic irony.” The perfect example of this is found in the book of Job. We as the readers have a birds-eye view of the whole story; we see God’s discussion with satan in heaven, we see God giving satan space to slam Job for a “season.” Then we see the unfolding of satan’s attack upon Job, we go through all the false accusations of Job’s friends; we see Job in great pain and affliction, we see him wondering what’s going on, wondering where God was. We see Job in great mental, emotional, and physical anguish. Then we turn the pages and see God responding to Job — not in the way we might think either — and finally we get to the end of the book; we see how it turns out, how Job is blessed, even more so than he was before — mostly because He came to know the LORD in ways he never did before. My point, is that with Job we know he’s going to be okay (we know the end of the story); Job didn’t have our vantage point, he had to go thru it.

As I think about this, and my own precarious situation, it is amazing to think about dramatic irony; there is a story that has already been written by God, there is a so-called “back-story” going on here. To learn from Job, God is sovereignly in control of all the circumstances of my life; when I cry out to Him and wonder where He is and what He’s doing, to learn from Job, God is in control and every circumstance is ordered by Him. Beyond this there is a time of refreshing and rest coming; in ways that me and my family have never known (since we’ve never known the depth of suffering we are currently experiencing). There is great hope in looking at Job. God is in control, and He doesn’t want to keep that a secret; He also doesn’t want to hide that He is a God of great comfort, who doesn’t answer to us, but instead lovingly comes to us in His way, in His time. Dramatic irony is an ongoing reality, in my life, and in all of our lives; unfortunately we don’t know, specifically (we do in general as Christians), how each of our particular stories end (whatever kind of suffering or trial we are currently facing in life as God’s children). The good news is that God knows how each of our stories end and begin; He’s in control, and He just wants us to trust and rest in Him (I say to myself).

Anyway, just a reflection.

I originally posted this at another blog of mine in August 2009, ironically as I posted this I had cancer myself (I thought it was a hernia at that point).

H/T: The JollyBlogger (For the whole story on Clayton go Here)

The JollyBlogger is struggling with Terminal (which I don’t believe in terminal cancer, it’s not terminal until the “end” actually comes, the Lord is the God of the impossible) Cancer himself, you can hear his story in this brief video interview of him. He is a Presbyterian pastor and blogger who I ran into a long time ago (when I first started blogging); his bout with cancer is relatively recent (as far as his diagnosis, within the last year). I think you’ll really be moved by his testimony, he gives an awesome telling of the Theology of the Cross; the wisdom of God is right at the heart of things, and David Wayne and Clayton both know this very well. Maybe you’re not facing terminal cancer, nevertheless we all have suffering of some sort (fighting against sin can cause this); it is in that place where we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ most clearly!

Please continue to pray for David, he is doing better right now; and that’s always encouraging.

We went to the vascular surgeon today, a great guy, and top-notch surgeon (he is the head of vascular surgery at OHSU and Harvard trained). He will take part in my surgery; my tumor is pushed up against my inferior vena cava (it is the vein where all the blood is fed back from the lower extremities, about the size of a water hose), which means during the surgery they are going to have to do one of two things, either:

a) Reconstruct my vena cava, which involves placing some gortex where they cut into the vena cava (to have the space to get my tumor out). The side-effect would be that I would have to be on blood thinners for 6mos to a year.

or

b) They would have to “tie off” my vena cava (make it dysfunctional). The side effect would be leg swelling for a week or two, and also that I would have to wear compression stockings for the rest of my life (the outcome actually varies).

Of course we want option “A”!!! Would you please pray for option “A” as well? The doctor said that looking at where my tumor is positioned it is actually in a prime location to do the reconstruction; and that reconstruction for a younger guy, like me, is always the route he wants to take in these situations (option “B” could result in some lack of mobility, or at least slower than I normally might be, as far as physical activity — like sports). He said that he won’t know for sure though until they’re actually “in.” Again, please pray for option “A,” I’m trying not to worry about this (I really don’t want “B”); but it is hard not to, so also please pray that I would continue to just trust and rest in the LORD (pray for my wife too) experiencing His peace in this regard.

Also please pray that instead of fear, as we get closer to the surgery date (which I’ve been struggling with a bit), that instead the peace of Christ might intensify for me and my whole family. While I’m excited about the surgery, it is nerve racking, in the sense that this is a decisive thing. Even though I’ve been reassured by the LORD, over and over and over and over again; and even though close family members, who have a close walk with the Lord, have been reassured the same way, the “enemy” comes in like a flood at points, and there is fear — reassured that everything will be successful (even the surgeons and doctors believe this is curable). The real battle here is spiritual (Eph. 6:12), the enemy never gives up (but “so what let me eat my donut” [that’s an inside joke for one reader here]); but then again, neither does the LORD God almighty, who’s my “King” (do you know Him?)! I’m starting to feel like I could preach 🙂 . . . thank you, everyone!

Update on my current health

I’m feeling really strong, the longer I’m off chemo the better I feel (imagine that). My last “labs” were really good (all my numbers were really good, as far as blood count, and all kinds of stuff). I’m starting to grow back some facial hair, and I’m even developing a bit of a “shadow” on my head — sweet! It’s nice to feel a little bit normal again (that’s all I really desire, to be “normal” again — which I’m not sure what that is 😉 ), but you know what I mean. I’ve gained about 10 to 12lbs since my last stay in the hospital, about a month ago (I dropped to about 158lbs and now I’m back up to 170 to 175lbs [185 is ideal]. I walk about 2 to 3 miles a day, and for the last 4 days I’ve actually ridden my motor cycle. Other than the cancer I’m feeling great 🙂 ! Anyway, we continue to c0vet all your prayers, I know we’re going to make it; but not without you guys (and of course the LORD)! I want to leave you with a sermon that is just emboldening and inspiring (not sure it’s a sermon, it’s more like a spiritual pep rally, you’ll see), this is Dr. S. M. Lockridge (the first version is the “abridged” version and has been put to music, if you want the full effect listen to the second video — or both):

and

Just a small request. Last time I was in the hospital I had a hemmorage in my left eye (caused by a coughing attack I had), it has resulted in a bit of a “floater” in my eye; this is supposed to resolve over-time, but it’s really kind of bugging me. Would you all just pray that this issue would resolve quickly? Thank you!

I just wanted to jot down all the positive things that the Lord has done ever since this whole ordeal has started; I thought this would be therapeutic for me, since lately I’ve been getting bombarded with negative things that really aren’t even true (i.e. spiritual warfare).

  • The tumor was/is self-contained.
  • My cancer is curable and operable.
  • My cancer is typically fast growing and spreading, instead it has been acting like a slow growing tumor, even having calcified before chemo started (which means the Lord did and is doing a miracle with my cancer).
  • We have been provided for financially from the get go, and continue to be.
  • My doctors, both of them, have recently said that my cancer is curable.
  • My heart is still healthy.
  • The chemo has actually been effective, it has shrunk my tumor significantly.
  • The Lord has been speaking to me in very clear ways, ways that are reassuring and filled with His hope.
  • The Lord has been sustaining my family.
  • I am still physically healthy, I haven’t gotten sick in any ways, except for recent side effects from the chemo.
  • The Lord has visited us in special ways, i.e. in the beginning of all this I’m sure we had an angel-experience (and in the mean time so has our son).
  • I have constantly been reassured that I am going to live through this whole thing; the Lord has given me John 11:4 as my primary verse of hope, He was speaking this passage to my heart in the very beginning of all of this, even before I identified it in John 11:4 (the impression He gave me, early on was: “this is not unto death”).
  • We have seen the body of Christ in ways that we have never seen it before (at least in a personal/experiential way) . . . that includes all of you guys (amazing)!

There are many other things that the Lord has done through this, but I think this will be a good list to refer to when the enemy comes in like a flood trying to rob me/us of the hope that the Lord has and is working in and through our lives. He is faithful, and meets us at every step; He always reassures, before each doctor visit, that there is good news coming, and it always is good news. His grace is sufficient, and I know He is going to see us through this whole ordeal. May 6th is certainly a “D-day” of sorts, and He has reassured me that that is going to go well too; given the above I have no reason to doubt that at all (to me the above are like rememberance stones that we can take into the future and know that we can trust God’s Word to us — that in fact we “know” His voice cf. Jn 10).

P.S. I am a thinker type, which can be good or bad; at the moment it’s not so good. I have a whole month before surgery, and really nothing to do; please pray that I would be able to find something to do to occupy my time, so I don’t have time to think too much. This is one of the reasons I made this list, because when the negative thoughts come in I want the truth of what God has already done to be written down so I can refer to it and find hope! Thank you all . . .

Please pray for Michael Spencer’s family, I just read that he went home to be with the LORD last night. Remember I had previously asked for prayer for him, not to long ago. Anyway, please pray for the peace that surpasses understanding for those Michael left behind (I know of his wife Denise and daughter Noel). Here is a link to the posting that provides notice of Michael’s passing: InternetMonk

I just wanted to ask for special prayer, in advance, for my surgery on May 6th (I know you all are faithful prayer warriors already). That is indeed “D-day,” it’s importance cannot be overemphasized. Here are a few things I really want prayer for:

  • That the surgeon, Dr. Billingsely, will be able to completely remove the tumor and all the affected tissue (he is confident that he can, and a nurse told us today that Billingsley won’t attempt a surgery unless he is sure that he can successfully remove a tumor and all of the cancer — which is very encouraging).
  • That I and my family, on that day, will experience the peace of the LORD; it is a very complicated and involved surgery, slated to last over 5 hrs.
  • That my immediate recovery will go well. I am probably going to be in ICU immediately following the surgery, just for special care (not because I’ll be suspended between life and death or something); I might have a ventilator in (which I’m told they will keep me completely sedated for — please pray I stay completely sedated for that, the idea of waking up with something like that stuffed down my throat frightens me 🙂 ).
  • Following the stay in ICU (which, btw, is not for sure — but if I’m in there, it should be for about 12 to 24 hrs) I will be in the hospital recovering for a week (approx.). Please pray the pain will be minimial, and at the least very manageable. Also pray that I will become very active very quickly, and that I will develop an appetite for hospital food that week (thus far I’ve had problems with that 😉 ).
  • Next I will come home and continue to recover for approx. 6 to 8 weeks. Please pray that I will regain my strength quickly, that I will be patient in that process (I am very impatient with recovery stuff, and become anxious when I’m not recovering at the speed I think I should be).
  • Very importantly, please pray that once this cancer is out, it’s indeed out, and that it will never ever ever ever ever come back again (both my medical oncologist and surgical oncologist believe that my cancer is curable, they have both used this language with me very recently — I believe they are inspired by the LORD on this language 🙂 ). We will be following a diet and some “natural” protocols to help stave off the return of said cancer; most of all we are looking to the LORD to keep it away!
  • Please continue to pray for my family through this process as well. My wife has been an absolute rock (I see the LORD in her in ways I never have before, she amazes me); and my kids are innocently awesome, they both pray for me, and both are trusting that Jesus is going to help me. My son, Jake (he’s 6), often says, when he gets afraid, says: “That Jesus is under control,” and he finds peace in that (I’m glad, because so do I!). Btw, Jake has shared an experience he’s had with an angel coming to him at school and telling him that “his daddy is going to be okay;” it is not like Jakey to make something like this up, so it is neat to see how the Lord is ministering to both of our kids in ways that are best for them and their personalities (btw, I find great solace in the word that Jake received, esp. when the enemy is saying the contrary).
  • Also please pray for continued strength after the surgery and recovery, they are going to want to do a few follow up cycles of chemo after the surgery; just to make sure it’s all dead — and as much as I don’t want more chemo, I think this will be a wise move. Please pray that I will be totally clean (from the surgery), and that the chemo will just be a nice insurance in that regard. Also pray that there aren’t too many cycles involved in this follow up (at least at this point we will be on the healing side of things, so that will make it better).

This is probably enough for now, this whole thing is going to extend out further than we first thought (like probably, at least through July); so finances are going to become an issue once again (we are good through May right now). I just wanted to throw this out there, as we get closer to meeting that need I’ll let you all know where we’re at. Thank you everyone!