Tuesday, June 17, 2014

VICTORY is coming!

"But He knoweth the way that
I take; when He hath tried me,
I shall come forth as gold"
(Job 23:10)


The past twenty-two months have been rough. They have been a time of trial and testing. A time of wondering and waiting.  A time of feeling helpless as I watched my sister endure pain and suffering from chemo, side effects of chemo and from the dreaded disease itself that the chemo was seeking to conquer. A time that I certainly don't want to relive. The past  twenty-two months have been a time of putting feet to our faith. 

At the beginning of this journey that started July 30, 2012, God gave me a scripture for my sister. It was Job 23:10. Through His Word, He was telling her, as well as all of her family and loved ones, that He was certainly aware of what she was going through. He knew the path that she was on. It certainly didn't take Him by surprise. But He also was saying that after the time of testing was over, she would emerge as gold. I took that literally and I took that as a promise. 

Every Sunday morning at our church we have a healing service and I began standing in for my sister right after her diagnosis.  Shortly after I began to do this, God impressed upon my heart that she was to write VICTORY on the last page of her journal. I relayed this message to her right after church that day and it took her several weeks to muster up the strength of spirit to do this, but she finally did. And we have been holding on to that revelation from God with a tight grip ever since.

We have been on a roller coaster ride throughout this time. It has been a series of ups and downs. Good news and bad news. Good days and not so good days. Two steps forward and one step back. There have been times where it seemed more like one step forward and two steps back. 

I can't even begin to imagine the emotions that my sister has had to experience. My heart has been so burdened for her and I have felt so helpless much of the time. There has been nothing that I could do other than encourage her with scripture and petition my God for her healing daily. I have cried out on her behalf for almost two years and will continue to do so until the day that her VICTORY becomes reality. 

After a failed stem cell transplant back in April of 2013, my sister felt the agony of defeat. It had been a long and grueling process and we had such high hopes of its success. But ironically, on July 30, 2013 - a year to the day after her initial diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma - she got the news that the transplant was not successful. My mother, my brother-in-law, my sister and I walked out of the hospital almost in stunned silence. We were devastated on the inside, yet none of us was willing to show that devastation to the others. It's almost like we couldn't voice it because we didn't want to hear the words flow from our mouths. 

It was like a bad dream that  we didn't really want to wake up from because we weren't sure of where to go from there. But we did. And we began the next leg of the journey. My sister started a new chemo regimen and the testing and the waiting started all over again. 

The cancer that my sister has manifests itself by producing too many of the same kind of protein. So every few weeks she has specific blood work done to count the number of proteins present in her blood. The blood is sent off to Mayo Clinic and it takes a week or two to get the results back. Waiting and more waiting is the name of the game and it isn't a fun game to play. It gets old fast.

We finally saw a drop in the proteins a tenth of a point at a time. It would go from point 8 to point 7. And then we would see no change for several months. One time it was almost 4 months and no change. But during that time, I kept saying 'No change is good! It means that the chemo is holding the disease at bay!" We kept our focus on God and what He had done thus far. Even throughout all the trials and all the hard times, God had been so faithful to my sister! He had held her and He had carried her and He had strengthened her and He had been her portion and her shield! There were lots of things that could have happened that didn't. We saw His hand on her life over and over again. And I never lost hope. I was still looking to that VICTORY that was coming.

We saw several more drops in her proteins a tenth of a point at a time. The the last one several months ago was down to point 3. When the proteins are down to 0 in her bloodstream, there are still tests that have to be done to test the bone marrow. But we have to take it one step at a time.  

During the past few months, there have been many other problems that my sister has had to deal with. She has developed cataracts on both eyes due to the high doses of steroids that she takes with her chemo.  She has had joint problems in her hand and wrist from the disease itself. She has undergone many painful injections trying to give her some pain relief in her back and hip due to the tumors on her spine from the type of cancer she has. 

The good news? The last MRI showed that she is starting to get some new bone growth on her spine as the dead myeloma cells are being pushed out. That is a huge praise! We will continue to pray for more bone growth and more dead cells! She got her blood work results back today from Mayo and her protein counts are what they call "too low to quantify". What does that mean? It means that our God is working overtime on her healing! It means that if there are protein cells present, the number is so small they couldn't be counted. That, my friends, is a HUGE PRAISE!!! 

Now we watch the numbers over the next several months and then we will go from there. But for now, I am overwhelmed at the goodness of God. I am overwhelmed at the promise of His Word. I can't even being to put into words how grateful I am to my sweet Savior for the love that He has lavished on my sister and my family. He has held us, my friends. He has supported our heads when we didn't think we could hold them up. He has given us the strength to take that next step when we didn't know where to put our foot down. He has encouraged and enlightened and embraced us with the mighty and powerful Hands that created all things. 

And the tears that are falling as I type this are the tears of an unworthy servant of God who is simply a grateful recipient of His generous grace. I am astounded by His love. But I receive it hungrily and I give Him all the praise and glory that is due His Name. 

For now? I praise Him with all the breath that is in me. I continue to believe that He is working a healing in my sister. I grab onto the promise of VICTORY and take that next step forward with Him. He is faithful and He is abundant and He is true. And I love Him with all that is in me.

"I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and He heard
me out of His holy hill." 
(Psalm 3:4)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

who brings us joy?

"Reverential fear of God, mixed with love and 
and astonishment and adoration,  is the 
most enjoyable state and the most purifying
emotion the human soul can know" (A.W. Tozer)


Isn't it awesome to realize that we can enjoy our God?  That is what He intends for us to do! We can enter into a state of enjoyment with Him at any given time in our lives. He desires for us to derive much joy from even the notion of who He is. Just the very mention of His name should fill us with JOY. Just the realization of who He is in the life of a Christian should fill us to overflowing with unspeakable JOY. 

"Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD...." (Isaiah 58:14)

The scriptures tell us to delight ourselves in the LORD! Because the truth is, no human being will ever be able to cause that kind of JOY in our spirits. No human being can ever be to us what God is. We absolutely can not delight in people. People will always let us down. It doesn't matter if it is your spouse or your children or your parents or even your very best friend. At some point in your life all of those will let you down at least one time. It's just the nature of who we are. We are sinful, selfish, prideful, arrogant and spiteful people. And we will disappoint people and we will let them down. 

But God will never let you down. Not one single time. Not ever. He may not always give us everything that we want, but He always supplies all of our needs. He may not answer our prayers the way we want Him to, but He always answers them according to His divine will for our lives. And when that will doesn't match up with our desire, it doesn't mean that He has let us down. It just means that He is protecting us from something that we can't see. It means that He is paving the way to take us on a different journey. A better journey. One that will cause us to delight in Him and be filled with JOY. 

True joy doesn't come from people. It doesn't come from circumstances. It doesn't come from the accumulation of things. True JOY only comes from a personal relationship with Christ. When we keep our focus on God and the things that are spiritual and eternal and kingdom-minded, we will have that inexpressible JOY that comes from walking in the will of God. That contagious JOY that impact those around us. The JOY that is only possible from being in an intimate relationship with Jesus. True JOY comes from the sweet and pure love that God lavishes on His children!

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath
 bestowed upon us, that we should be
 called the sons of God..." (1 John 3:1)

Our eyes must be gazing upon our God in sheer adoration. And astonishment. And fascination at the depth of His lavish love upon us. We must know deep down in our hearts that He is truly the only one who can satisfy us completely and love us unconditionally. When we know that and accept that then we won't be caught off guard when people fail us time after time. And because we are prepared for that to happen, it won't completely devastate our hearts and our spirits. 

Our reason for living is to do the will of God. Our purpose in life is to bring glory and honor to God in all that we say and do. Our lives are all about Jesus. The One who will always be on our side. The One who will always walk beside us. The One who will never let us down. 

And when we truly get that, the mixture of our reverential fear of God and our astonished adoration of Him,  will produce that most enjoyable state of purifying JOY and overwhelming LOVE reserved only for our Creator. Our true JOY only comes from our personal and intimate relationship with our Savior and our LORD.  

Dig deep into the scriptures. Seek His face daily. Fall on your face and cry out to Him in prayer on a regular basis. He will hear the cry of your heart and He will manifest Himself to you and become the JOY that you yearn for in your life. He will become your everything and will satisfy that deep longing in your soul.

"What's taken from us is often painful.
But God can take what is left and make
it powerful" (J. Franklin)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

dining with Jesus

"When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death."
 (Romans 7:5)

As Christians, we must be careful not to let the enemy cause spiritual blindness to overtake us and keep us from seeing our sinful character. We can be blinded to the deep poverty of our own spiritual character of depravity if we don't guard against it. It is so easy to think of ourselves as righteous when the truth is our righteousness only comes from Christ. It only comes from the Spirit of God working in us. Righteousness has nothing to do with us, but everything to do with God at work in us.

 Our flesh is sinful, selfish, wicked and a force to be reckoned with.The flesh will rise up in spiritual pride if left unchecked. And as we grow in our Christian walk, we face increasing danger of spiritual pride. And spiritual pride will lead to spiritual blindness every time!

The good news is that the Holy Spirit enables us to walk not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. His ministry is to help us see our poverty-stricken nature and recognize our depraved state of being. When we are shown this by the Holy Spirit, it is not to lead us into despair, but to lead us into Holiness. He creates in us a hatred for sin and an acute desire to be holy. And we can only see this when the Spirit reveals it to us.

Unless the Spirit is at work within us, our flesh is too strong for us to persevere against the enemy. Our only weapon against the flesh is the Word of God. We must stay deeply embedded in the Scriptures. That is where we will find the standard for God's Holiness.We must read the Word, study the Word, and hear the Word taught so we will be captivated by the moral beauty and perfection of God's holy standard.

"So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves." (Galatians 5:16)

We can't overcome the corruptions of our heart except by the enabling of the Spirit of God. He creates a desire within us to be Holy and then He gives us the spiritual strength to live Holy lives. We can't do it on our own and I don't know why we think that we can. Our flesh is no match against the wiles of the enemy unless we are armored up with the weapon of the Word and clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit. 

We need to be seeking a continual work of the Spirit in our lives. Do we tremble at His Word? Do we pray for Holiness in our lives? Do we desire to be Holy?

If we desire to walk in the Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to be in control of our actions, our words and our thoughts, we must maintain dependency upon Him and His enabling power. The only way we can do this is by prayer and by meditation on the sweet Word of God. We can't walk in the Spirit if we don't know who the Spirit is. We can't walk in the Spirit if we aren't taking the time to clothe ourselves with the Scriptures. We can only walk in the Spirit if we are keeping ourselves immersed in the Word through personal and intimate prayer and study time.There is nothing more important than our relationship with God and His Word. It is life to us!

Do we want to walk in Holiness? We need the spiritual nourishment that God has provided for us in the Holy Scriptures. It's up to us to devour them eagerly and allow them to penetrate deeply so we can apply them to our daily lives. Open the Word and dine with the Savior.

"But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us" (Galatians 5:5)