Is This How God Feels?

As I write this blog I have now been in the hospital one day shy of two months. Tonight I was told that I would not be seeing the outside of the hospital for some time. I believe that God is going to heal my body, not for my good but for His glory. However the news was a bit disheartening for man who wishes to be back with his family.

My wife came over to the hospital room and we talked about our day. She mentioned that she and the kids went for a walk and what a nice experience it was. The more I thought about that; the more my heart began to break. Life was happening with the people I love the most and “sickness” was keeping us apart.

I thought about what I had missed. I began to hear the sounds of my children voices ringing in my ears. I could feel the texture of their hair at my fingertips. Their soft kisses and the remembrance of their embraces began to wash over me. And sickness was keeping me from it. As the Bible says, I “wept bitterly.” The kind of crying that leaves your ribs hurting, your throat sore and takes you through an entire box of tissue. Still I could not shake the thought; is this how God feels?

Deuteronomy 4:24 says “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Is this how God feels when sickness separate us? I was created by Him and for Him. Is it possible that His heart breaks even more when sickness (i.e. any sin) keeps us from being together?

Keep in mind my illustration falls short. This is my sickness that is keeping me from my children. God is light and in Him there is no darkness. But I couldn’t help think of every bad attitude, arrogant motive or “idol of the heart” that has kept me from just “walking” with Him. About every time I was chasing something to fulfill my life that was not God.

If your reading this today and understand that sickness is keeping you from your heavenly Father know that you can be healed. Ask the Lord to create in you “clean hands and clean heart.” One the desires to see His face and hear His voice. That way you never miss out on a precious stroll.

Because He first loved me,

Nathan

He gives and takes away…

I wanted to take a quick moment to let everyone know how much I appreciate their concern. To know that people are praying for you and rearranging their lives just to bring you help and comfort is incredibly humbling.

I like to keep up with everyone via social media. I’m so very encouraged my so many kind words. I have read a lot of posts where people say that I am a person of great faith. I don’t anyone to misunderstand my “faith” or to think that I am more “brave” that what I am. My faith is not rooted in the belief that God will heal me. My faith is rooted in the belief that God loves me and that He is able to use anything and everything to draw a dying world to Himself. As far as “bravery” is concerned let me be transparent; I have begged God for my life. I don’t mean a quiet, neat little prayer, I mean begged like a child who wants something more than anything else in this world.

However as I think of God as my Father I am comforted by His perfect plan. I love to give my own children good things. When my son and/ or daughters beg me for a good thing I cannot help but readily give in to what they desire. The only time I can say “no” to their request for a “good thing” is if I know that I have a “better thing” in store. Knowing that God loves me perfectly has become my source of strength. Knowing that He withheld nothing, not even His own Son reminds me that God’s plan of redemption is moving forward.

I have spent some of my better hours re-reading the account of Job. Among the “comforts” that I get from reading that text is the revelation of Satan’s limited power and the fact that God allowed Job to endure such a trial because Job was ready for the challenge. I am also intrigued by the relationship between God and Job.

In the first chapter of the book Job makes this statement shortly after losing his wealth and his children.  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” I believe that statement was the “song” of Job’s heart no matter the circumstances of life. Everything that made Job “Job,” was all wrapped up in his relationship with God. Therefore Job could not lose his source of strength even during the trying times of life.

Months ago I asked God to help me show that He was enough for my life. As I sit in this hospital bed I am still very glad I prayed this prayer. The Lord has revealed a lot of areas in my life where I could say that He was enough but I wasn’t living like it. But I have also been reminded over and over again that I am still in process. That He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:6)

Again I thank everyone for their concern for me and especially for my wife and children. I pray that the Lord is at work in your life in a powerful way as He is in my own life. If you have never asked God to be your “everything” I encourage you to do so today. Then you too will know the peace that goes beyond what anyone will understand. (Phil. 4:7)

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis

For Sake of God’s Glory…

ImageThis morning I felt compelled to spend time in the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel. The words of the Prophet Ezekiel are some of the most fascinating and certainly the most bizarre in all of scripture. God uses Ezekiel to represent His beloved nation of Israel. He repeatedly calls Ezekiel “Son of Man” which is a representative title of mankind. The Lord uses Ezekiel to explain his love, wrath and gives them a prophetic glimpse into many things that He will do.

In Ezekiel chapter 36 God gives both Israel (Jews) and Gentiles (Non-Jews) and incredible Word that is a foundation for life today. Ezekiel 36:22 starts like this… “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.” My High School students at Northwoods Church know that any time a passage starts with the words “therefore” there must be some background information that they need to now. The rest of that verse gives a clue to that information. God is going to do something despite the fact that Israel (and us) have “profaned His holy name.” Read the first 21 verses of chapter 36 just to see exactly what Israel had done. God graphically compares their deeds to rags uses during a woman’s menstrual cycle.

That is the bad news. Sin is nasty. We have all profaned the Holy name of God. (Romans 3:22-24, Ephesians 2:1-3) If you or I are ever going to be healed of anything we must fist submit ourselves to the diagnosis.

This round of leukemia is slightly different than my first. It seems that I have caught it a bit earlier. Last time when I was diagnosed I had profuse bleeding from my gums and any sores, I could barely walk, and anything would make me bruise.This time I just felt slightly feverish and a little fatigued. I had to under go about three different test from two different Doctors before everyone was ready to say that my leukemia had returned. Believe you me, if I didn’t really believe that I once again had leukemia there is no way you would have torn me away from my family and gotten me to submit to such a brutal treatment regimen like this chemotherapy. However I am here because I believe the words of the Physicians and see clearly how my life reflects the symptoms of my disease.

Worse than any physical disease we have all profaned the name of a Holy, Holy, Holy God. (Isaiah 6:3) The question you and I must ask ourselves is this, “Have I ever seen my own sin in the light of God’s holiness and perfection.” I would go so far to say that if you have never wept over your own personal sin you probably have never actually seen how bad it is. I encourage you to remember that mankind was created for fellowship with the God of this universe yet we have chosen rebellion. Just like a child who would wish you dead but love to have your “stuff,” we have all spit in God’s face yet openly delighted in the “gifts” that He gives. (Luke 15)

So where is our hope to found? Before we address the “how” in healing let’s talk about the “why.” Look again at the Word of the Lord in verse 22, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name.” What God is doing and has done is not for our sake but for the sake of His character. We are the walking dead. We make no invitation towards God. He does the seeking. He does the revealing. He does the healing!!

If you are looking in a Bible at Ezekiel 36, go down to verse 25. The Lord says,  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.” The Lord is giving them the ritual found in the Mosaic Law by which they must be cleaned after touching something dead. In other words we have all clung to idols which are lifeless. Our heart’s desire for money, sex and power and even “health” has replaced our desire for life in found in God. We have been clinging to death hoping it can save us. Anyone police officer who has spent time in the presence of death knows that the smell clings to you. The same is true in the spiritual realm.

But the Lord is faithful!!! Here goes, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Not for our sake but for His sake he will give us a heart of flesh.

Ask a heart transplant patient how they know for sure they have a new heart. They will probably note that they have some necessary scars from the removal of their old heart. But they will mostly talk about how their new heart works where their old heart did not. Same is true when we receive a new heart through faith in Jesus Christ. We begin to love what He loves. We are passionate for that which He is passionate. God’s Word is better than the counterfeits of this life.Every person around us is seen as someone for whom Christ died. We have been transformed!! Not because we walked down some aisle or prayed some rote prayer or even because we got wet in a baptistery. We know we have been rescued because we have the evidence of a new heart.

Next we experience a desire for “spiritual discipline.” “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” A new heart causes this. I encourage you to stop trying to be a “good” and beg God for a new heart; one that He will use for His own glory and for His own sake.Then you can stop living a life of fear! You too can walk through any valley surrounding by “unknowns” and “dark shadows” knowing that your new heart is evidence that you have indeed been redeemed. Don’t wait till tomorrow. Beg the Lord to change your life today!!!

The God of Comfort

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So the blog is now up and running. I am now at M.D. Anderson down in Houston, TX. I have a PICC line installed and my chemotherapy is well underway.

I decided before I came down here that would like to keep a blog. One, because I’ve never done it before. Two, because it is a good way to relay information on a mass scale. But the most important reason for me is share what God has been doing in my heart.

I feel it would a waste of my “platform” if I did not take the opportunity to try and teach biblical truths. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Over the past couple of days I have had a number of conversations with people who wrestle with God’s role in my relapse of leukemia. Their view of God is that somehow trouble has arisen unbeknownst to God and it is now our “duty” to remind God of what He needs to do.

Let me say very lovingly and humbly that such a view a God brings me no comfort. I do believe in the power of true prayer.(James 5:16)  But how could I find myself engaged in true worship of God who is “surprised” by things such as cancer, natural disasters and the like?

Let me share with you a couple passages from the Christian Bible that, as they harmonize together, bring me great comfort during the is time.

The first is found towards the end of the New Testament. Jesus’ close friend writes these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “ Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

In other words the very nature and essence of God is love. Therefore we can know that God does not act out of character; He always acts out of love. Not the way we define love but the way pure definition of love that is God Himself. Even in this passage the act of love moves God the Father to crush His only son for the sake of those who rebel against Him. In a fallen world is most reasonable for us to expect pain as God works out His perfect plan. (1 John 4:8-10)

The second “passage of peace” is from the Old Testament. In what we call the 55th chapter written from the prophet Isaiah the Lord gives us a little insight into the “learning curve” between Himself and ourselves. He writes this, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) For those of your reading who either have or have had small children you should understand this passage. When it comes to your child you can either explain electricity and heating coils and why the oven is able to get to a 450 degrees Fahrenheit in matter of minutes or can simply tell them not to touch it. You can explain to them nutrition and what will happen to their bodies if they choose to eat the whole box of cookies or can just tell them not to eat it.When they ask “why” your best hope might be to appeal to your love for them.Our problem really is found in the fact that we think we are intelligent.We are not. Often times the Lord just needs to remind us that He not only operates out of love but He is love. Many times that makes His ways so far above ours that it simply cannot be explained.

The last passage the brings me comfort is also from the prophet Isaiah. I will admit that when we search the scriptures for “comfort verses” this one is not usually high on the list. In Isaiah 45 God is dealing with Cyrus whom he has used to discipline His beloved nation who are descendants of Jacob or Israel. During the passage God tells the prophet to make this statement, “I am the Lord, and there is no other besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.There you have it ladies and gentlemen. The “God of calm and calamity.” Don’t let some “health and wealth” theologian twist this verse. It really says what it really says. In other words God stands right in the middle of my leukemia relapse having the power to keep it from happening but choosing not to do so for His own good reason.

God is bringing leukemia back into my life for reasons that most of us cannot understand. But His nature is love. I don’t have to understand the “why” but, by grace, I can know and hold the hand of “who.” The One who loved me and gave Himself up for me even while I will still a sinner. (Romans 5:8)

My hope and prayer for you today is that you have this sort of peace and understanding. Maybe you’re in touch office, feeling small in a cubicle, in a ministry that seems lifeless, riding in a police car, “eyeballed” by those who hate you or staying at home with children who test your very being. Remember that the Creator of the Universe is at work today. His ways are high, His sovereignty is sure and His motive is pure.

Because He first loved me,

Nathan