God Still Speaks…
On Monday morning, September 14, 2009, I experienced what a dear friend calls a ‘God-sighting’.
At church services on Sunday, September 13, I first heard the person who would become my dear friend giving her testimony regarding what Jesus Christ had done for her during her struggle with cancer. I was deeply moved as the words of her testimony, and her tears, gave an awesome, noble witness to the power of our God. Given the nature of the cancer with which this woman was afflicted, as surely as there is a God in heaven, she should have died. However, God, by the grace and the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ, according to His plan, preserved her unto life. In so doing, God touched my life.
There are NO accidents. There is NO luck. There IS God.
Later that Sunday morning, I was making my way over to the church worship hall from the coffeehouse on the church grounds when I encountered this woman and her husband. I stopped them and commented to the woman how moved I was by her testimony; she fixed my eyes with the most gentle and beautiful smile from the pure fire that burned within her, and said that she was happy that I had been moved by the Holy Spirit. I looked at her and asked if she would pray for someone that I loved that needed to know Jesus Christ. With immediate concern, putting everything else aside, she asked for the details. Hearing them, she and her husband offered to pray both for me and for the person that I love. Her words were words of understanding, of compassion, gentle streams of wisdom and knowledge, of hope springing eternal, born of the quiet, unshakeable trust she had forged in her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through suffering that few people have had to endure. I was broken to tears at the selfless care that this woman that I did not know freely gave to me. My now dear friend said to me, with the gentlest firmness of purpose, that God would now move in my life; that I would now start to see things happen.
Something did happen.
Even as I prayed with my dear friend for the person that I loved, I knew deep inside myself that something was not right in my faith life; I knew that I was not right with God. I had an addiction to a vice that I knew full well I would not let go of. It was an idol that I had willingly placed before God, an outrage born of years of dedicated practice and deliberate, studied self-delusion. I was, I had come to convince myself, unable to break the hold of this addiction, and indeed that was true… true because I had tried to break its hold by dint of my own power. Of course, all such attempts had ended in utter failure. I went to bed that Sunday night struggling with the vicious memories of cycles of trying to break the hold of this vice, failing to do so, and always feeling helpless and worthless because I could not do so.
In a dream or a vision, I was holding an open Bible, as if studying it. However, I was not alone… I felt the presence of another being above me, and I immediately sensed that this being was disappointed with me. No words were spoken, but I experienced a constant dread, akin to someone who knows that he has done a great wrong, not once but many times. It was at this point that I woke immediately to my alarm… it was Monday morning, September 14, 2009, at 4:15 AM. I no longer experienced constant dread, but in its place was a memory.
I had not been given a specific passage reference, so I opened my Bible to that chapter to see what verse the Holy Spirit would convict me with. That verse was Matthew 16:24…
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
I knew then that I had to put the vice in which I had freely indulged myself for years behind me. What an enormous mountain! I despaired; I wondered how I might set about doing this, for it had always been impossible in the past. It was then that I remembered 2 Corinthians 12:9…
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
It was at that moment that the peace that passes all understanding settled upon me. I wept, and I thanked God that He did not turn His face from me; that He did not forget me. There was an even greater gift, however, as the urge to practice the vice disappeared, as Holy Scripture gives testimony to in 1 Corinthians 10:13…
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
I give my God, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, all the glory. I thank them for bringing my dear friend into my life; because of her devotion to Jesus Christ, He has manifested Himself to me, and showed me what I must do to bring honor and glory to His Name. It is my prayer, my desire, my hope, to be of service to Him until the day that I meet Him, He who gave His life for me, a worthless and wretched sinner, face to face.
Today is September 14, 2010… it is 1 year after my initial encounter with my dear friend, and it is 1 year after giving up alcohol as a routine part of my life.
My dear friend’s cancer has not disappeared… it has spread, metastasizing to both her liver and her lungs. The medicine of this world has done what it can do. Throughout the year of companionship with this precious saint of God that I and many other people have been graced with, I have never once failed to see her overflowing with the full joy of God in her smile, and in her dancing, expressive eyes, proof of the unextinguishable fire of the Holy Spirit burning in her soul. She remains as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside, filled with the peace that passes all understanding, as she continues to bear fruit for God. I am privileged beyond what I deserve when I see what true faith is capable of achieving. At one particular time during the past year, when talking with my dear friend, I was overwhelmed with tears, but she asked me not to cry… and since that time, I have not. My dear friend adds a new dimension to a sentiment that I have spoken before, but before now never really understood… “Keep the things of the world: Give me Jesus.” I, along with a multitude of God’s saints, with all trust in Him through whom everything is possible, place our dear friend in His loving hands, and pray for one thing only: that His just, pure, holy, righteous, majestic and powerful will be done.
The words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 15:57 are fitting:
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today is October 15, 2010… I received a letter from my dear friend that I knew, at some point, would be coming: the result of an October 11 CAT scan to determine what progress her cancer had made. I had asked her specifically to let me know what the result was, whether good or not so good. I whistled up Outlook, and there was a letter from her! My heart skipped a beat when I saw the Subject:
A Word of Encouragement
People do funny things, sometimes… instead of opening the letter’s content, I immediately got up from my home office chair, and (praising God) went into the kitchen for dinner. Afterward, feeling settled but more than mildly excited and “built up”, I opened the letter for a look-see. Slightly amended for privacy, it read as follows…
Dear friends near and far,
A word of encouragement from the oncologist this morning… the first shred of any good news in 26 months since the onset of my cancer ordeal. The CT scan from this week showed that ALL the tumors in my liver and lungs have shrunk a little, AND there was no sign of any new tumors!!! Like the miners rescued in Chile this week, [husband’s name] and I are humbled and on our knees thanking God for this gift of mercy.
The chemo has been challenging, but God has sustained me beyond any expectations of the medical community. Thank you for your prayers and your thoughtful words of encouragement. Prayer is a powerful tool! My hope is God may be changing His mind not to take me just yet. All praise be to Him!
I immediately responded as follows:
I am overwhelmed… but I am not surprised.
There is only 1 verse that can possibly fit this announcement: John 11:40
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
All my love to both of you… please call [my wife’s name] when you feel able, and let’s celebrate this amazing God of ours.
It has been said that what is impossible for men, is possible with God. He is our Rock and, because He cannot be shaken, we cannot be shaken. Our trust must be in Him, and we must fix our eyes on the One He gave as the author and the perfector of our faith. What more telling words in all of Holy Scripture better describe the constancy of God’s love for us than those found in the book of Lamentations, in the 3rd chapter at verses 22-24?
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Today is August 12, 2011… my dear friend is currently in hospice care, and is close to death. Other than waking up very briefly to take water or other fluids, she sleeps most of the time, although she still recognizes the people who have been a part of her life.
Even as my dear friend’s life in this world ebbs away, I am filled with a deep and abiding joy; many people, I am very sad to say, will find that astounding. They will say ‘How can you feel joy in a situation like that??’ To these people, I say I have joy because as a believer in God the Father Almighty and in His Son our LORD Jesus Christ, I know that my life (indeed the life of any saint of God) is not here: I am a very temporary resident on the earth, and my eternal residence is in the Great City of the New Jerusalem. While I will miss the presence of my dear friend, I know with absolute certainty I will see her again in God’s Kingdom, and I will never be separated from her again. Our tears should be those of joy, not of sorrow, for the One who has gone before us has proven by His resurrection from the dead that all who believe in Him will abide with Him in the presence of the Father and the Holy Ghost of God forever.
If we shed any tears at all, we should shed them for the lost: those who do not believe in God or in the One that He has sent. Our hearts should be burdened for them, and we should do all that is in our power to petition the Holy Ghost of God to convict their hearts for the Savior who has given His life that all might stand blameless before God. What greater gift can be given than the free pardon of sin by the blood of Jesus Christ, that grants to wretched and worthless sinners the precious gift of eternal life? All praise, honor, glory and thanks be to God the Father Almighty!
Today is August 14, 2011… my dear friend passed into God’s loving hands at 11:15 PM.
Dare I comment that I am… jealous?
When one with a Christian world-view looks at the world as it is, one can only desire being with God, rather than being with the world. Holy Scripture states this beautifully and also emphatically:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
My dear friend understood that, at the will of God the Father, there were two alternatives: witness the words of Paul:
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; (Philippians 1: 20-23)
My dear friend, by the will of God and the sacrificial love of her LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, has been given the option which is ‘better by far’. May she enjoy forever her walk with the KING of kings.