24 Hours Until Surgery and Counting (1st April, 2014)
The Lord bless you! I’ve been up since 5am and it’s now 6:50am. I get a light breakfast at 8am after which the ordeal begins. I am therefore seeing how many cups of coffee it’s possible to drink in 3 hours. Answer thus far: quite a lot, and still an hour and 10 minutes to go. Mind you, given I’ll be able to have another one with my breakfast at 8am, then the final answer will be whatever it is by then plus 1.
My usual get-up-and-go is, I have to say, a tad diminished this morning, but I think that’s because the next 24 hours are so daunting in various ways, and especially regarding this potion I have to drink. Double espresso with hot milk on the side, it ain’t! But hey, it’s all part of the cure, so I’ll try and approach it like the finest Arabica blend. I’m actually quite excited about the operation in the sense that being cancer free, which I will be by tomorrow evening, is a rather nice thought. Shame about the subsequent need of chemotherapy, obviously, but we know so many people who have been through this whole caboodle years ago, and who have lived completely normal lives since, so are just encouraged to know that it is for my good.
So it’s a bit like someone who’s excited about going to Disney World, but who is in trepidation concerning flying. Once safely there though, the trepidation is no longer of significance.
Anyway, it’s time for my walk now. Got to keep the old fitness regime up. I’ll get back to you all later and let you know how I’m doing. With the umpteenth cup of coffee at my side and breakfast yet to come, my descent into the seventh circle of hell isn’t really happening just yet. I’ll definitely write y’all when I get there though.
Again, thank you all so much for your love and prayers. That I’m not a complete wreck this morning is testimony to the Lord’s keeping power through those prayers. In fact, now I’ve been up a while, I feel much better. So thank you all.
I’ll get back to y’all later. Take care and God bless.
BJ Again (1st April, 2014)
Well, I’m back from my walk and have just finished my egg on toast and had my last glug of coffee. A feeling of panic has come over me, but it’s nothing to do with operations or cancer and such like, but purely because I can’t envisage 36 hours without even having a cup of coffee, let alone not being able to have anything else either. In fact, I’ve just realized what this is reminding me of. It’s that feeling of utter panic I got having smoked what I knew was going to be my last ever cigarette when I quit smoking all those years ago. (Aaaarrgghhh!!!)
So my descent into the nether regions begins!!!! (Runs from room screaming!!!!)
Seriously though, I have to start drinking that stuff at 10am, and if anything might cause me to run out of humorous comments then that, in such circumstances, could be what does. I am, however, determined not to let it happen. The Lord is here with us, and Belinda and Bethany are with me as well, so if that doesn’t engender good humor on my part then I really don’t know what would.
I think Belinda has already told some of you this, but we discovered last week that our neighbor Paul, who comes to see us everyday that we are at home, is a friend of the anesthetist who is in charge of surgery at the hospital where the operation will be. Paul told him about us and he actually came to see us on Sunday. He’s a lovely guy, and because Paul is such a good friend of his, and because we are such close friends with Paul, he’s going to take personal charge of me once I go in tomorrow, and is even going to see if he can fix me up with a private room after the operation, and get me preferential treatment in general whilst I am there. He is also going to oversee the operation personally and will phone Belinda and Bethany at various points to report on progress, and then phone the moment I am conscious and up and running again after it. This was one of our major concerns as the hospital can hardly be keeping folk informed all the time about everything that’s going on. It’s easy to forget that this is all much harder for Belinda and Bethany than it is for me. So again, the Lord’s hand can be clearly seen on the proceedings. How many people get a personal visit at home from the guy in charge of the operation at the hospital, promising to make everything as easy for us as he possibly can? Obviously, because the operation is a long one (7-8 hours) there’s absolutely no point in Belinda and Bethany being anywhere other than at home, so Dr Zia (that’s his name) intervening for us is a real blessing indeed. And of course, I am always ready and willing to take all the preferential treatment I can get, whether in hospital or anywhere else. (Please feel free to take that as a massive hint for when you next see me!)
So I am one whole hour into the gloom, darkness, terror and foreboding of what is to come – and thus far, it’s not too bad! Not too bad at all! But what, I hear you ask, will it be like in a couple of hours, when all hope is gone, as I imbibe the dreaded elixir that is systematically going to make everything on my inside be on my outside? Well, watch this space, and I’ll let you know!
Bye for now.
First Half Successfully Imbibed (1st April, 2014)
Wow! If NASA ever have problems getting fuel for their rockets and need a new propellant, I’ve got just the stuff for them!
Greetings From the Seventh Circle of Hell (1st April, 2014)
Actually, this isn’t as bad as I feared. I’m definitely getting hungry though, and it’s only 2:30pm, so there’s plenty of scope for getting a bit grumpy later on. (Poor old Belinda and Bethany. Mind you, they are fasting with me, isn’t that lovely? So we can all be grumpy together!) Cheese sandwiches happily accepted. I’ll keep you all posted later though. It might be really bad by then.
Because I haven’t got much else on today I thought I’d do another ‘thought for the day’ type thing, and it’s stemmed from the fact that I was so intrigued by some of the comeback I got to my email on Jesus and Diet. Most of you, because you know me so well, realized that I was just having a bit of fun and making a joke. But there was also some misunderstanding that came from a perception that I was attacking people who embrace certain diets and who make certain lifestyle choices. Believe it or not I actually received the following from a disgruntled reader who roundly rebuked me and maintained that I was, “…on some sort of a tirade against alternative medicine…” and that my email, “…clearly assassinates the lifestyle of some people who choose to maintain a balance of healthy diet…” and that it was, “…a backhanded, cynical, and insidious statement.” The writer then added, presumably just for good measure, “I must now say that anything further from the pen of this man will be ill received due to the spirit and nastiness of such a response.”
Amazing stuff, eh? But then there have always been folk – Christians, sadly, included – who fire from the hip in anger before engaging their brains, and we can only but pray for them, that the Lord brings them to peace and a better place. But extreme though the above response is, it has nevertheless made me want to address something that I believe would positively transform the Christian lives of many folk if they could but only understand and embrace what I’m going to say.
It is a sad the fact that the life expectancy of biblically based house churches is not good, a high percentage folding within a couple of years of starting up. Yet we have been together here in Essex, as just such a church, for three decades; and I want to share with you what is, I think, a very large part of our secret. And it is simply that, from the very start of our church life together, we deliberately and decidedly ensured that we understood from scripture, and sought to put into practice, the vital principle of being able to agree to differ over non-essentials, and to do so with ever increasing and ongoing love and respect for each other.
Now we are obviously not going to just agree to differ over such things as immorality, or stealing, or telling lies. Indeed, if someone in the church wasn’t repenting of such we would actually dis-fellowship them until such time as they did. Sin is sin, and serious beyond words! So no, I’m not talking about just agreeing to differ over anything and everything, but of learning how to do so concerning matters that are not of biblical and moral imperative, and which are not a matter of chapter and verse, of ‘thou shalt’ or ‘thou shalt not.’ Concerning the very question of diet itself, Paul teaches that folk who eat meat are to receive those who eat only vegetables (and you can’t get more of a dietary contrast than that), and to welcome them, but not for disputes over opinions. (Rom 14v1) In other words, Paul expected them to learn to just agree to differ over matters of diet, thereby maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and not allowing a non-essential, and especially a dietary one, to threaten their unity and love for each other. And of course the list of things that belong in such a category is almost infinitely long, but let me give you a sampling of the kind of stuff I have come across in my travels:
- Special diets
- Observance of special days
- Modes of dress (women wearing trousers or not, or men wearing shorts or not)
- Watching TV
- Watching Star Trek
- Watching films
- Harry Potter
- Going to the cinema or theatre
- Differing understandings of end time events
- Whether a woman’s head covering is a scarf or just her long hair
- Whether the women’s silence in church gatherings is total or partial
- Which translation of the Bible you use
- Whether you speak in tongues and/or believe in the Gifts of the Spirit
- How you home school
- Whether you even home school at all
And so the list could go on. In fact, it could go on, and on, and on, and on and on. Further, it would be different in different cultures, and even throughout different epochs of history, because the point is that our oneness in Jesus and our love for each other should transcend the differences between us that are merely cultural, thereby showing the world that Jesus is precisely bigger than our differences. Again, we are not talking here about black and white chapter and verse issues of sin and righteousness. We are talking about the grey areas in life that scripture not only acknowledges are there, but which it teaches we must handle precisely through the principle of simply agreeing to differ. Or, to put it another way, although we are free to talk about such things should we so desire – assuming, of course, that there is no contentiousness involved – we must never presume to make a moral judgment on each other concerning them, or even try to go all out to change each other’s minds.
Do you disapprove of watching Science Fiction? Of maybe even watching TV at all? Well, that’s absolutely fine. In fact, scripture teaches that if someone knows what is right but doesn’t do it, then that is for him sin. So if you think it’s wrong to watch TV, or that it’s OK to watch nature programming but not Star Trek, then that’s what you must stick by. Not only that, I totally respect you for so doing, and would never think badly of you because of it, or try to change your mind about it. I would happily tell you why I think it’s fine to watch Star Trek, but only if you asked. And even then, I would do so only to inform and to answer your question, and not to seek to persuade you otherwise. But conversely, your side of the deal is that you, likewise, mustn’t think badly of me for being able to do before the Lord what your conscience doesn’t allow you to do, and to honor me just as I honor you. I am utterly convinced that when I watch Star Trek the Lord watches it with me and even enjoys it, and I am glad beyond words that such is the case. Might I be wrong? Yes, of course I might! Any of us could be wrong about anything at any time! But until I am persuaded to the contrary, I will continue to watch Star Trek as unto the Lord, and thank Him for it.
But before you do the old, “Well yes, I do think you’re wrong!” bit, let me ask you: How do you know that you aren’t the one who is wrong? How do you know that the Lord doesn’t like watching Star Trek with me? And of course therein lies the whole point! Without the presence of a verse in scripture stating one way or the other whether the Lord minds His people watching Star Trek, it can only be down to personal conscience and leading…there being no definitive way to know for sure. Failure to understand this leads to various problems, some pertaining to nice Christians and others to nasty ones.
By nice and nasty Christians I mean this: There are believers who are loving and gracious in their Christian walk, and who truly do what they can in order to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. However, there are other Christians who are aggressive and angry, and who, by way of contrast, seem to be always looking for a fight. I’ll deal with them first.
These guys – though some Christian women are like it too, especially in these days of the increasing acceptance by believers of feminism – want everyone to be like them in every regard because they are so convinced they are right about everything all the time. But not only do they see it as their bounden duty to make you like them, they do so by bullying you, and by taking the approach of making any relationship with them dependent on your submission to them. Disagreement is not therefore responded to with gracious and reasoned biblical argument, but rather with the demeaning put down, and with unpleasant personal arguments designed to make perceived opponents look bad, and to feel bad about themselves, and feel intimidated. The above responses to my email are a classic example, of this – the mere anger and petulance of a bully dressed up in supposed biblical argument. There are sadly all too many such believers, driven by anger, bitterness and self-importance, rather than by the grace and meekness of the Lord.
But far more important to me is to encourage the nice Christians regarding this, and to help them understand the way in which such things can affect them wrongly. And what I would say to them is this: If you have a conviction regarding something that isn’t a clear chapter and verse issue, be it concerning diet, or how to best pursue a health regime, or head coverings, or manner of dress – whatever it is, in fact – then be true to that conviction, with boldness, as unto the Lord. Don’t ever be ashamed of it, and don’t ever feel for one moment that you have to justify yourself to anyone concerning it. Stick by your guns until such time as the Lord has persuaded you differently. I don’t mean stick by your guns by being belligerent about whatever it is, I mean stick by your guns in the sense of just quietly living out your conscience and getting on with whatever it is, doing so because you your are honoring the Lord.
This revelation, and it is a revelation from scripture, brings the most wonderful freedom from something which I observe that all too many genuinely lovely and nice Christians suffer from – personal oversensitivity and defensiveness. And although it is more subtle and low-key, such can actually fracture the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace quite as much as the overbearing aggression of the bullyboys.
Think about it! Let’s say you adhere to a particular diet (we’ll go with this because it was the subject of my jokey email) and then someone comes along and says something, or writes something, or implies something that you take as being critical of your chosen approach. What are you going to do? Take offense? Get defensive? Feel insecure?
And of course that’s what the problem actually is…insecurity! Because if you really were strong, and established, and secure in the Lord regarding whatever it might be, then why would you get defensive? Wouldn’t you rather just respond with: “Hmmm! Now there’s something to think about! I’m not convinced yet though….but…oh well, maybe later!” And then you just get on with your day and forget about it. The problem is that so often we take such things personally and get all offended because of our insecurity. So here’s the deal:
If you ever get an email from me, or anyone else, critiquing something that you embrace and believe in, then here’s what to do. Firstly, if it’s from me, it might actually be a bit of fun and not serious at all. (Taking such well intended fun and humor wrong is actually one of the signs that we are suffering from the very insecurity I am talking about.) But let’s assume, secondly, that I am being serious: What then?
Well, be aware that I am, like everyone else, a sinful man who gets a lot of things wrong all the time. Indeed, I virtually define my Christian life as the ongoing process of discovering what I am yet wrong about. Therefore, anything I say, or teach, or write, may be right or it may be wrong; but the point is that that is something you have to determine for yourself. Also, if I am stating something concerning matters that are not black and white chapter and verse issues then, at the very best, I am merely stating my opinion. Therefore, if I have a different opinion to you, be it regarding diet, or homeschooling, or anything else for that matter, then so what? Or, to put it another way, please feel absolutely free to totally disagree with me. Why would I mind you doing that? I MIGHT BE WRONG!!! And even if I did mind you disagreeing with me, which would be a clear sign of a sin problem in me, you are still entirely free to do so.
So are you getting the point? The more able and free you are in the Lord to boldly hold to your convictions regarding non black and white chapter and verse issues, the less defensive you will be, and the more open, and respectful of the opinions of others, even when they differ from your opinions, you will become. Isn’t that lovely? Isn’t that freeing? You don’t have to cow-tow to anyone any more. You just have to do what you believe to be right, whatever it is, sticking to it, and not being phased or put out when others, especially those you respect, disagree with you. If they are doing so ungraciously then that is, of course, inexcusable, but we all have differing opinions about this, that and the other, and just need to concentrate on mutual respect for each other rather than our own subjective insecurities.
So hey, if you like to juice, then I’ll happily juice in the Lord all day with you. But if you would rather go to MacDonald’s, then I’ll be equally happily join you there for a Big Mac (yum yum!!!), and can then balance up with some extra broccoli and oatmeal the next day. It’s no big deal! But it is immensely liberating.
I hope I am making this clear, so let’s sum up a bit:
- My email was just a bit of fun
- Don’t take such things personally, no matter how good a reason you think you have to do so
- Whatever we do, let us do it as unto the Lord
- Whatever we don’t do, let us refrain from it as unto the Lord
- Let us learn to rejoice in, and mutually respect, our differing opinions over non-essentials
- Be absolutely secure and established in your convictions in the Lord, and don’t ever feel you need to be defensive with others concerning them. And even if someone does actually attack them, it is purely their problem and not yours. Just hold your peace, let them get on with it, and follow the Lord.
- Our relationships in the Lord are just so much more important than our need to be thought of as being right. As long as it is not a chapter and verse moral issue, there should be nothing about you that could prevent me from happily fellowshipping with you in the Lord, making whatever concessions and allowances I need to in order so to do.
A final thought. One of the most amazing things about the early church was that they deliberately, as a matter of obedience to very command of the Lord, kept Jews and Gentiles mixed in together in the same churches. No two people groups could have been more different in outlook, perspective and culture than Jews and Gentiles at the time the New Testament churches lived in, yet at no point was there any attempt to segregate them, or to separate them from each other, except, that is, by the Circumcision Party, who are anyhow condemned outright by scripture for so doing and for their exclusiveness.
And if the early church could do that, then there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t keep health freaks and pie-lovers together in the same churches without problems. Imagine that, juicers and beer drinkers loving one another and following the Lord and growing in Him together in the same assemblies: KJV-only folk and NIV readers worshipping the Lord together in the same churches: Women who wear trousers and women who believe that to do so is immodest eating the love-feast together: Harry Potter aficionados and C.S. Lewis rejecters reading scripture together.
Now that, my friends, is the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. It can be done! Indeed, it must be done! But it can only happen when we are willing to love Jesus, and each other, more than we do our own subjective opinions.
Take care and God bless.
BJ Update (1st April, 2014)
Thank you again for all your prayers, and special thanks to all those who are actually fasting with me. It really does mean so much to us. It is just coming up to 6pm and I have finished drinking the last of the dreaded potion, Now I just get water get until 6am tomorrow, and then nil by mouth.
It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it was going be, but I am nevertheless wilting a bit now. But hey, it’s a small price to pay for getting better. It’s going to be a few hours yet before I get to bed, but sleep will definitely be sweet tonight. If only I could then just wake up in the recovery room with the operation over.
I am till at peace though with no sense of worry or anxiety. Isn’t the Lord good?
Take care and God bless and maybe I’ll revive a bit soon and write some more.
Update (1st April, 2014)
We got a phone call from Dr Zia a little while ago and it looks like he’s been able to move the operation forward an hour or so. It is obviously good news and another example of the Lord’s hand moving on our behalf. We will now be getting to the hospital around 10am, and they’ll get me prepped immediately and then get on with it.
Take care and God bless.
BJ Again (1st April, 2014)
Goodnight everybody. Thank you all so much for being here with us in the Lord throughout today, and throughout this whole time. I’m off to bed now. Got a tumor to get rid of in the morning!!!
BJ here (2nd April, 2014)
Good morning everyone.
I trust you all slept well. I did, just sadly not for as long as I would have liked. It’s funny what matters at a time like this. If I could have a cup of coffee now I’d be as happy as a lark, but because I can’t I actually feel downright miserable. All for a cup of coffee, eh? Weird!
Nothing profound from me today then, I’m afraid. I’m doing fine. No anxiety, no fear and still very much at peace. (Though I guess that might change a bit later.) But oh my goodness, how I would love a cup of coffee! (As I said, pretty miserable!)
Thanks again for all your prayers and for standing with us through this time. Today is obviously going to be especially tough for Belinda and Bethany, so please remember them and lift them up to the Lord, that they have a peaceful day and don’t fret about me having the operation. I’m probably statistically safer having this procedure than if I was driving a couple of hundred miles somewhere to do some teaching. Isn’t that an amazing thought! (You know, if Belinda and Bethany want to do any fretting then it’s probably best they save it for just how impossible I’m going to be once I get home!)
So hey, catch y’all later. I’ll certainly be up and around this evening after the op, or at least according to the medics I will be, and that suits me just fine, but I don’t know if I’ll have any access to the internet. Probably not! Belinda will doubtless get word out though, so you’ll know once I’m conscious and misbehavin’…oh yes, and drinking coffee!!!!
Take care and God bless.
BJ Update From Belinda (2nd April, 2014)
Dr Zia just rang, BJ is just in recovery…waking up,
it was a very complex operation, i will hear the details tomorrow…
they are still assessing if he needs to go to the high dependancy unit …..similar to intensive care
Dr Zia will ring me in a while, and he hopes BJ can say a quick hello…
drained in Essex….
i will eat something now…feel really sick and lightheaded…
God bless you all…
for those of you who fasted…
may JESUS bless you
Beresford Update for Saturday (5th April, 2014)
Andy and Philippa here. We just heard the day’s update on Beresford from Belinda and are passing it on for her.
Beresford was in awful pain yesterday as the epidural was taken away. Staff finally managed to balance the painkilling drugs by this morning. Obviously, there is still plenty of discomfort but not the level of agony as yesterday.
Today was a bad day for a different reason. His bowel has yet to ‘wake up’ so the sips of water he has been drinking (he hasn’t eaten since Monday) have had nowhere to go. Unfortunately, the tubes which would have drained his stomach to solve this were taken out by an over-enthusiastic doctor on Thursday. So from lunch-time today he was in a bad way with nausea because his stomach was full of acid etc – not good when even laughing is not ideal while everything heals.
Visiting hours are very strict, Belinda has only been able to be with him for a couple of hours each day. Obviously it’s been horrible for her to have to walk out when she can see he is still in pain and needing extra assistance.
Unfortunately, Beresford’s temperature started going up after Belinda left today – it’s one of the main things the staff are closely monitoring due to risk of internal and external infection. The doctor was called; he confirmed Beresford’s suspicion that the staff nurse had put the stomach tube back in incorrectly (overly uncomfortable) and also adjusted the fan. Beresford cooled down but they will be monitoring his temperature through the night.
He even recovered enough to phone home and have conversations with Belinda and Bethany – he hardly could talk while Belinda visited today. Hopefully a new tube will have properly put in by now to take the pressure off his stomach.
Belinda has special permission to go in tomorrow (Sunday) for the day, not just for a couple of hours, to try to get Beresford up and walking. Exercise is very important to ‘wake’ the bowel apparently. Few staff are on duty at weekends so Belinda’s assistance (and company) will be really beneficial to boast his recovery.
Please pray that:
– Beresford will have some proper sleep and rest through the night;
– He will be able to get some energy drinks into him first thing in the morning so that he can move around a bit, he currently has no reserve left;
– His recovery time won’t be delayed by too much even though he had a double surgery in the end;
– Belinda and Bethany will have restful sleep themselves and God would cushion them with His peace. The last few days have been exceedingly traumatic for them.
Do keep encouraging emails coming through for the Jobs – they are much appreciated – but obviously it’s hard for Belinda to send individual responses just now.
Tomorrow is a new day in which hopefully the corner will be turned…
Andy and Philippa
Happy BJ Update (7th April, 2014)
an update on BJ…
The weekend was horrendous for him….I won’t bore you with the details….
It was a huge uphill struggle…
Today we have hit a nice plateau….
Still a long way to go….but we are thankful for a break in the bad weather so to speak…
His colon area is waking up, which is good, we need that to happen…
His stomach is still angry at being mucked around with, but appears to be settling….
He has been able to drink two cups of tea today, and so far, it is not being rejected, or nausea coming…
He was in much better spirits, I helped him have a shave…looks years younger….
You guys don’t know how lucky you are….!! have a shave and look younger, us girls have to work so much harder!!
We cleaned his pegs….(teeth)
splashed a bit of aftershave on, and hey!
He really hopes tomorrow to be able to shower, if I can help him…wont that be good.
So, progress, but a long way to go still…
Please keep praying…
They are hoping he might be good to get home on friday…..Good Friday!
Pray he sleeps well….that has been almost elusive, apart from one night.
Well, my lovely neighbour Nina is about to bring me and Boo plate of roast dinner in…
and Paul, my other neighbour has just brought over a hot apple crumble with custard he made…
Thank you to everyone for all the prayers and practical help….
looking after Bethany while I need to be at the hospital etc…Nicholson and Mowats…God bless you…
Off to eat, and hopefully sleep tonight…
love Belinda and Bethany
First Post-Surgery Word From Beresford (9th April, 2014)
Beresford here (10th April, 2014)
You have doubtless realized from the little one-worder I sent out yesterday that I am now back home. Thank you again for your continued prayers, love and support. It really does mean so much to Belinda, Bethany and myself to know you are all there and cheering us on in the Lord.
You know, all that stuff about the seventh circle of hell turned out to be completely wrong. There are actually several more circles the further in you get. I know because I visited them all. I had absolutely no clue as to what I was going to have to go through for several days after the operation, and have no way to describe it either. Indeed, I have no desire to. I can truly say with the Psalmist that I have made my bed in hell, yet even there the Lord was always with me. However, the operation, though huge, was a success, and I am cancer free. And that, of course, is why the hell you go though must be seen as part of the treatment itself.
I was actually discharged late afternoon yesterday, and to get home to Belinda and Bethany was unspeakably incredible. For the first couple of hours I actually felt really sick because of the whole day of waiting for the hospital to actually release me, during which I hadn’t eaten sufficiently frequently, which produces nausea in anyone in my current condition. However, it soon passed – or rather I soon passed it – and then I felt great, as I still do now, the next morning.
I am up and moving around quite easily, and plan to take frequent walks every day up and down our little backyard, and then daily walks around town probably starting next week. The stricture on actual work, however, remains, and especially on things like housework (vacuuming etc, and anything that involves lifting or carrying such as doing the shopping.) This is obviously of great sadness to me, but I will just have to satisfy myself with catching up with movies and Star Trek whilst Belinda and Bethany do everything else. (I hope they know how to work quietly!)
I’ll leave it there as I have to take things real easy, but I will obviously keep in touch as much as I am able to. Take care and God bless.
Video Update (11th April, 2014)
Some Thoughts (12th April, 2014)
I trust you are all well and blossoming in the Lord. I continue to revel in being at home with Belinda and Bethany, and you will be glad to know that the bell is working out brilliantly! (See video clip!)
The longer I follow the Lord the more I have discovered that, rather than coming into ‘new’ and ‘fresh’ revelation all the time, it is far more about just going deeper and deeper into the ‘old’ stuff you already knew. It’s about the ‘basics’ becoming more and more a reality in our lives. After all, in a marriage how often do you get to learn something completely new about your spouse? Somewhat rarely! But how frequently do you get the chance to love this person more deeply you already know so well? Answer: Every day! Indeed, every hour!
I am not here denigrating growing in knowledge of scripture, learning more and more of it’s content, thereby becoming increasingly understanding of it’s ‘doctrinal’ content. No! Of course not! I am, after all, a Bible Teacher. No, that is vital and there is always so much more to learn from His Word. What I am talking about here though is that rather than being primarily focused on such things – the new, the fresh, the ‘as yet unknown’ – our daily and hourly focus should rather be on whether or not we are growing in being and more loving and godly husbands and wives and parents. Better citizens. Better employers or employees, and better neighbors to those who live next door and just down the street. More likely to say ‘No’ to sin, and ever faster to come clean and confess and repent when we have failed to do so. And quicker, of course, to say that utterly necessary sorry to anyone our sin has touched other than the Lord Himself. It’s about hanging on to Jesus more and more. Crying out to Him, whether in joy or distress, more and more readily, naturally and frequently. In other words, maturity in the Lord isn’t about growing in our knowledge of the Bible and in our understanding of doctrine (though such obviously has an important place), or understanding various ‘issues’ surrounding it’s application in whatever localized culture we are in (though such also has a place), or even becoming more effective in sharing the Lord with those unbelievers around us, it’s rather about growing more and more deeply in the simplicity of increasing obedience to the Lord in the daily round. It’s about swifter repentance upon failure, and ever growing love for those around us in practical terms. It is, after all, what we already know to be true from scripture that presents us with our greatest challenges, not what we do not yet know. I personally encourage knowledge at all levels, but only when people also realize that knowledge is dangerous and can puff you up, and when they have taken adequate precautionary measures to keep themselves humbled before the Lord and others.
And I say all this because people have been asking me if I have learned anything new as a result of this ordeal. It’s a fair question, and on the level of knowledge concerning cancer, and coming to understand a great deal about the medical procedures involved in such, then I have obviously learned new things. I have also learned that I have places that can hurt where I didn’t even know I had places. But then, no one had ever stuck a needle in there before, or a scalpel, or a drip line. But of course this isn’t what the folk who are asking if I have learned anything new are meaning. No, they are asking if I have come into any new spiritual revelation of the Lord, into any new and profound understanding of heretofore hidden truths they might benefit from. And I understand fully why they have asked this, and have no problem with them doing so.
My answer, however, is No! Outside of having potentially faced death in a way I have never done before, I can honestly say that I haven’t learned one new thing spiritually from all this at all. But boy oh boy, I sure got opportunity to grow in some stuff I already knew, and got to see the Lord working in me, and challenging me in areas of my life, in the midst of the most desperate and unpleasant circumstances I have ever faced. Let me explain:
The first hours after the operation were not too bad. I remember coming round from the anesthetic and chatting and joking around with the two nurses in the recovery room, and then being taken some hours later to the High Dependency unit, where my memory is that all continued to be well. Indeed, I remember thinking that no one had the right to feel that good after what they had just been through. But then it all changed and I slipped, Dante fashion, into the very circles of hell. And because of one thing; nausea! Nausea of the most terrible kind, plus what was being done to me by the medics in order for them to try and alleviate it. And it went on for two whole long terrible days.
Now we all know that nausea, like a bad toothache, is both unbearable and utterly miserable. A bit like Calvinists and Arminians, they just don’t let up! And I can tell you that for two days I was as miserable and pathetic as a man can be. But then you turn a corner and glimpse, even if momentarily, a light at the end of a tunnel. This is not, after all, or so you tell yourself, going to go on forever. Then you get to the point where the nausea has passed, but returns, ever so slightly, when you have a morsel of bread or sip of water. (Too soon for a 12oz steak with a nice glass of red as yet.) And it’s scary monsters all over again! You gotta eat that morsel and sip that water, but will it bring the nausea back full blown? Aaaarrrgghh!!! But then the finishing line is in sight, and I realize that, as long as I’m not nauseous, they’ll discharge me in two days. Ah, so now the race is really on. Now the game is truly afoot.
By then the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust was making Alcatraz seem like the best hotel anyone could ever wish to stay at. Not because there was anything wrong with it in itself, but because the only thing I did there was to suffer in various ways! So to say I was keen to leave would possibly be the biggest understatement anyone had ever made in the entire solar system. And it all depended on but one thing: me not becoming nauseous again. (And of course there was the gastric bag…but perhaps we won’t go into that here!) So there were all these stages I was going through: nauseous without relief, nauseous with a bit of relief, not nauseous but with anti-nausea measures still in place, not nauseous with the finishing line in sight, and then finally, the if-I-don’t-throw-up-today-I-get-to-go-home-tomorrow stage! This was the context in which the Lord had me look long and hard at something I already knew, indeed, had known my whole Christian life, but obviously needed to know in greater depth. And it was this:
Once the nausea set in there was only one thing I did even more than suffer, and that was to cry out to the Lord. There are many psalms that speak of crying out to him from one’s bed in utter desperation, and whereas I have done that many times before, this soon took on a whole new dimension. Now I really can say, “Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt!” And in this crying out I kept telling Him that I trusted Him, and in my head (not out loud though – imagine the poor nurses and other patients if I’d done it out loud) I just kept saying it over and over and over. But as I did that during those few terrible days, I knew the Lord was responding to my cry, but not quite in the way that I wanted; because He kept responding to me with a question, and it wasn’t one I wanted to hear. He was asking me exactly what I was trusting in Him for?
Now we are all perfectly aware that there is a difference between trusting the Lord for something, and just trusting the Lord in Himself alone irrespective of anything else. Also, in a situation such as I was in, I don’t think there was anything wrong that I was, in effect, praying, “Please Lord, just get me outta here!” What after all, could have been more natural? But the challenge the Lord kept putting to me was simply this: was I more concerned for Him to get me over the nausea, and to therefore get me home, than I was to just trust in Him for Himself alone, even in such an unpleasant situation, and to just honor and obey Him irrespective of the outcome. And I do have to confess that I felt a bit stuck for a while. (The modern way of putting it is, I believe, that I was conflicted. And boy oh boy, if being conflicted made money, I’d be flying First Class from now on!)
I must confess too, because I believe in being open and honest with folk, or at least within reason, that I did get a bit annoyed with the Lord over this (not angry, but definitely annoyed), and that there were moments when my language – though again, thankfully, for the sake of the nurses, not out loud – got a bit colorful. I was obviously repenting of it even as it was happening, and it’s great to know the Lord doesn’t take stuff like that personally, and that He was just readily forgiving me even as it was happening, but I wouldn’t have anyone think that I’ve come out of all this smelling of roses, because I haven’t. (What I was actually smelling of most of the time at that point doesn’t now bear thinking about!) So if you are one of those super-spiritual Christians who just can’t understand how a genuine believer could still be sinning, and are now breathless with shock because you’ve just heard from me that my struggle with sin (unspoken bad language, at that) is as real now as the night I came to know the Lord four decades ago, then just get it over and done with and dis-fellowship me now and I’ll see you in Heaven; even though you probably won’t even be expecting me to be there!
I have to say then that I don’t actually know whether I passed that test in the hospital or not. It’s difficult to tell. But I do know that I did manage in my heart and mind to eventually surrender the whole thing to Him, even as I was going through it, with at least a real and genuine desire to be faithful and obedient, and managed to acknowledge to Him that it would be better for me to stay in hospital and suffer for longer if, by so doing, I was better honoring Him, than to just cut and run, get home sooner and let Him down somewhat. But I don’t know for sure though whether I actually really meant it or not when I agreed to the nausea going on longer, or whether I just prayed that in the desperate hope that He was bluffing and just wanted to hear me agree. (Does the Lord ever bluff? Hmmm!!! Now there’s one for the Calvinists!!!)
So hey, that’s what I learned! But I knew it already, obviously. I just experienced it a bit more deeply. Merely trusting the Lord for something without also, at the same time, just trusting Him unreservedly, irrespective of outcomes, is just another variation of the whole name-it-claim-it and blab-it-grab-it nonsense that those wretched ‘faith teachers’ deceive people with. To just trust the Lord for something when the something is merely for our own benefit is to merely try and use Him like a celestial vending machine. In goes the dollar (trusting Him for something) and out comes the cup of coffee (whatever it is you are trusting Him for.)
There is, of course, nothing wrong with trusting the Lord for this, that and the other. Indeed, He wants us to be so doing as part and parcel of our relationship with Him. But let us make sure that anything like that in our lives is coming out of a deep, submissive and settled underlying overall and unconditional trust in Him for Himself alone, completely irrespective of outcomes, that keeps us at peace, and content, whether He ‘answers’ as we would like Him to or not.
That, I think, is what maturity in the Lord is really about.
Take care and God bless and have a great day.
Some More Thoughts (17th April, 2014)
Thank you so much for your continued love and prayers. All is well here and my recovery does seem to be going remarkably well. Or, to put it another way, I am enjoying myself immensely!
I suppose we all take for granted that we get up in the morning and do whatever the Lord has apportioned us to do. The men-folk go to the office, factory or fields, or whatever, and their wives do the housework and homeschooling! But when something such as has happened to me occurs, then everything is knocked out of kilter and nothing is normal. And for me the primary dislocation, given I am at home with Belinda and Bethany and not away from them, is that I can’t do my work properly. And neither can I travel, this being obviously such a key component of what I do. This obviously involves certain ramifications for me, as well as yet lessons to be learned.
It is obviously the case that, after the Lord Jesus, Belinda and Bethany come first for me. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind concerning that. Whether before or since Bethany’s birth, as far as I am concerned, family, not ministry, has always been my greatest priority. But with that established, anyone who knows me appreciates that I also live and breathe to help people grow in the Lord, to support and advise them through their difficulties and struggles, and to teach God’s Word as widely, and as comprehensively, as the Lord gives opportunity. In other words, not only am I called to function as an Ephesians 4 pastor/teacher, it is a part of every cell in my body, indeed, part of me to the very depths of my being and I quite simply have to do it. I literally can’t help myself, and as Paul the apostle said of his calling, I am compelled and can do none other. And of course I wouldn’t have it any other way. But now….ah, but now….!!!
Well now, apart from being able to do my correspondence each day (which is actually fairly copious), plus a certain amount of writing (though I am glad to say that the house does keep filling up with folk and that the phone continues to ring a lot), I am pretty much laid aside for the next few weeks, and possibly even months. Not languishing mind you! No, no, no! Remember, I am having a ball! But I am nonetheless not able to properly function as I would normatively. And this is currently underlined, and quite profoundly too, by the simple fact that, had it not been for the cancer, Belinda, Bethany and I would be well and truly embarked on our regular six week Spring teaching trip to the States, and would be travelling all over everywhere, spending time helping people to start churches, helping folk along and encouraging them in existing ones, and speaking at conferences and teaching events etc etc. Plus, of course, just spending time and hanging out with folk who have become the very, very dearest of friends over the considerable number of years we have been doing this. Yet here we are, at home – though quite delightfully – in England. I am therefore learning important things from the Lord as a result.
Firstly, it is an excellent object lesson and reminder to me that I am not indispensable. Not that I have ever actually believed that I was, but then believing something and actually putting it into practice and living it out can be two very different things. So whereas I don’t for one moment believe that I am actually indispensable, except, I hope, to Belinda and Bethany, I am aware that I so often act, think and plan as if I were. It is pride, pure and simple, and it is not always easy to let go of. That my labors do actually help and bless people, or so they tell me, is right and proper, and I would be failing in my duty and calling should I ever fail to perform my function to the utmost of my energy and ability; but of course the test comes when, with the best will in the world, one literally, for whatever reason, just can’t do that. Does one then panic? “It’s all going to fall apart without me.” “If that conference gets cancelled it will never revive again.” “If we don’t get to that church in the next few weeks, Satan will get in and it won’t make it.” “If we don’t see that family soon they’ll fall back into their problems and be overwhelmed.”
And so it goes on. It is, of course, just pride and unbelief, the manifestation of an underlying conviction that it is we, and not the Lord, who hold things together. It is the ridiculous notion that it is we, and not the Lord, who actually matter. From before even the very creation of the universe itself, Jesus knew that I wouldn’t be doing very much for the first few months of 2014, and it was all part of His plan and He created everything accordingly. Isn’t that incredible? He took even that into account, just as He counts every hair on our heads and every bird that falls to the ground. It is, or at least, it is to me, mind blowing in the extreme. It is the sovereignty of God laid bare for all to see, and for all to realize too that we can’t even begin to comprehend either Him or it. It really just boils down to this; the Lord truly does love and treasure little me, just as he truly does love and cherish little you, but when it comes to executing His plan throughout the ages, he really doesn’t need little me, or little you, very much at all. And that both humbles and reassures me. It is right and proper that I, as you, do whatever He would have me do with all my might, yet I don’t need to be worrying that anything actually particularly and thoroughly depends on me. (What a blessed relief!) We get far too big for our boots sometimes, or at least I know I do. (As a quick aside, one of the most profound insights I think the Lord ever shared with me as a young Christian was that He doesn’t, as I originally thought, have any plans, He just has a plan, and that’s completely different! Chew on it for a while, it will addle your brain!)
The second thing I am learning more of though is, I think, of even greater significance; and it is to do with the importance of us not holding on to things, anything, too tightly. What do I mean by this? Becoming a Christian is far more to do with the Lord ‘taking’ us to, and for, Himself, than it is to do with us ‘giving’ ourselves to Him. Indeed, my reading of scripture is that I ‘gave’ myself to Jesus simply because the Father had already ‘given’ me to Him. That is, what I did was merely a consequence, a necessary result, a cause and effect happening, resulting purely from the working of the Holy Spirit in me. What the Lord had already decided and done in eternity, He actuated and realized in practical terms in me the night of my conversion in 1971. Yet I nevertheless, in a way that does have to be said to be truly real, ‘gave’ myself to Him. I genuinely surrendered. I truly repented. I meaningfully and intentionally bowed down and ‘gave’ my life to the Lord. Yet I came to subsequently realize that, although I truly did give myself, and my all, to Him, I did so holding it in a very tightly closed and clenched fist. And the Christian life – our sanctification, if you will – must be understood as being the ongoing process of the Lord gently, but very firmly, prizing open that clenched fist in order to release, and actually take, what we have given in theory, though with genuine and sincere intent, yet still hold on to in practical terms.
This includes, of course, our money, our time, our talents, our skills, our behavior, how we spend our leisure time. It includes, in fact, just about everything; and is, in some ways, the foundation of our ongoing discipleship, and whether or not we will keep going in the Lord or just lag behind and become spiritually stunted. And one of the lessons I have learned over many years is that it is much better, to say nothing of easier and less painful, to truly surrender something to Him, in real and practical terms, whilst it (whatever it is) is still with you, than to have Him, because He loves us so much, and because it has ended up meaning more to us than He does, arrange to actually take it from us through whatever circumstances He chooses. Or, to be in the excellent position that, if He decides to take something away anyhow, for whatever reason, it was already surrendered by you, and you are therefore cool with it and not resentful about, or struggling with, the loss. (Let me give you, as an aside, an example of something in this category that I think the Lord has been doing these last years in the West through economic recessions. I know a lot of Christians who are far too well off and affluent for their own good. They, quite simply, have too much money, and for the simple reason that they keep such a high proportion for themselves rather than giving significant amounts of it away, as scripture teaches they should. And these Christian folk I know, as well as many others in the same boat whom I obviously don’t know personally, lost five, and even six figure, sums overnight in the recent economic crash. Some of them have even had to keep working longer than they had planned because the assets they had set aside for retirement suddenly vanished. And here’s the point! If they had already given this money away, rather than just hoarding it for their future benefit, they wouldn’t be but one penny worse off now (it would still be gone), but great blessing would have been shared around with those who needed it at the time more than they did. Tragically though, it went instead into an economic black hole and into the pockets of unscrupulous government-backed bankers. I have no economic definition for recession because I am not an economist and have little or no understanding concerning such things, but as a Bible teacher I can tell you that at least one aspect of economic recession is the Lord taking from selfish Christians the money they should have been giving away but weren’t. Please don’t get me wrong though! I am not for one moment suggesting that it is wrong to make sensible financial provision for the future, be it retirement or whatever, but there does, if we are the Lord’s people, need to be consideration of the question of proportion in the light of what scripture teaches about sacrificial giving. Neither am I meaning to imply that there is anything wrong with having a nice house or car, because there isn’t. Again, just as long as sacrificial giving is not left out of the equation. After all, just how affluent a lifestyle do we actually want? Dare we ask the Lord in all seriousness if we are, frankly, being just too generous towards ourselves, and not generous enough by far towards others? It’s definitely something to think and pray about. Scripture says a great deal about the importance of real and true sacrificial giving, and it’s an area of teaching that is studiously avoided by all too many of the Lord’s people.)
But the application here, for me, is this: When it comes to my calling and function, and because Belinda and Bethany accompany me, few things are as satisfying to me as our regular extended teaching trips to America. I love it. I relish it. I flourish in their every aspect, even though it is hard and tiring work. But over the years I have also kept at the forefront of my mind the fact that the Lord might bring such trips to an end at any time. (Remember, none of us are indispensable!) And that thought is, for me, a negative and not a positive. So because I have had so much experience of the Lord getting tough with me (I can be very willful and proud when I want to be), I long ago decided that it was far better for me to ensure that my ministry is always really and truly surrendered to Him, so that if He ever did take it away, whether permanently or temporarily, it wouldn’t be too much of a blow and I would be at peace with it. In other words, I am getting too old to keep having fights with the Lord, which He obviously always wins, and have learned to not give in to my own stupidity in such matters. And when the consultant told me last month that I had cancer and would need major surgery, followed by chemotherapy, it was obviously clear that the Spring trip would have to be cancelled and, very probably, the Fall one too. A whole year, in fact, without travelling to teach, whether in America or any of the other places I go to. But whereas that would, in the natural, and just a few years ago too, have been a terrible blow to me, I was able to share with folk in the church here shortly before my surgery that I was totally at peace about it, and really didn’t mind very much at all. And that is incredible! That really just isn’t me! That is God’s grace at work in a rather difficult and sinfully willful character called Beresford J S Job. There is, quite simply, no other possible explanation. We are obviously sad that it will be so long now before we get to see good friends again Stateside, but far from being gutted, or smarting about it, or struggling with resentment and negative feelings concerning it, as would be the case merely in the natural, I am at peace and happy and content with it. Such is the power of having things, whether our money, time or, in this case, the teaching trips to America that I so love, surrendered to the Lord for Him to do with as He wills.
I am just so thrilled that the Lord has done that in me…and it sure is Him doing it in me and not me doing it in myself. Look, I know me better than any of you guys do, and I’m telling you, not only is there nothing special about me as a Christian, I know full well that I am actually one of the Lord’s ‘problem’ children; so if He can do any of this in my life, then there’s absolutely no reason for it not to be every other Christian’s experience too. It’s just a question of allowing Him to do it in us, and of being honest about our sin with both ourselves, and Him, and, where necessary, with others too, however humbling that may be. So what does this little ‘thought for the day’ actually boil down to? I will tell you: Surrender everything to the Lord and get sanctified! Holiness truly is happiness, whilst disobedience to the Lord, and lack of commitment is, ultimately, misery and depression!
Go on! Treat yourself! Surrender all to Him! You know it makes sense!
Take care and God bless.
Some Musings (21st April, 2-14)
I trust you all had a lovely Easter time, whether you actually celebrate it as such or not. We continue to do fine and my recovery appears to be going brilliantly. According to the literature the medics provided us with one of the potential difficulties after the particular surgery I have been through is that it can take months, and sometimes even years, for one’s insides to get back to normal and for everything to get back to working as it should. In such regard I was easily 80% back to normal even a week ago, and would put that figure at 90% the last 36 hours. I am grateful beyond words that this is the case. Thank you Lord. And thank you all for your ongoing prayers.
I obviously still get tired more quickly than usual, but even that should pass in the next two or three weeks. I’m not going out and about yet outside of medical appointments – though there aren’t any for a while now – because this wouldn’t be a good time for me to catch a cold, or the flu, from anyone, so we are limiting physical contact with folk by having them come to visit us here at home, and even then only if they are clear of symptoms of anything. Again, this will only be for another two or three weeks, but it does seem to us to be the sensible approach for the time being.
I have had it expressed to me from more than one quarter that I have been able to go through this trial with such a chirpy and trusting outlook because I am somehow special, or exceptional, as a Christian, and whereas I am both moved and appreciative than anyone should think such, I do have to say that such really isn’t the reason at all. (I will nevertheless take all the compliments people throw at me. Scripture does say, “Let another’s lips praise you and not your own!” so it’s clear that there’s nothing wrong in appreciating compliments. We must just ensure we don’t ever make ourselves out to be the bees knees and get puffed up and proud.),
There is a verse in scripture that I rather think is one of the biggest ‘secrets’ in the entire sacred text. Not a ‘secret’ in the sense of it being esoteric, or ‘hidden’ and just for an especially inspired and initiated spiritual elite. Of course not! That would be a form of Gnosticism, and although I have actually recently been accused of being a Gnostic you won’t actually meet anyone less inclined Gnostically than I am. Indeed, I am a virtually obsessive scripture-is-the-final-authority-and-you’ve-got-to-sort-out-what-it teaches-for-yourself-and-go-by-what-you-think-it-clearly-says man. No, I mean ‘secret’ merely in the sense that it is a verse that just seems to get completely overlooked. A bit like when someone who has lost weight gets asked what their ‘secret’ is and answers, “Calorie reduction and increased exercise!” It’s obvious to them, because they’ve done it and have lost the weight, but it isn’t always obvious to those looking on. How true it is that it’s often precisely the patently obvious that we overlook, and that the more obvious something is the more likely it is that it gets overlooked! So here is the verse:
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12v11)
The context is that these words come towards the end of the writer establishing that, because the Lord is our Heavenly Father and loves us beyond measure, and because we are therefore His infinitely precious children, He, like any other good Father – and of course He is the One from Whom all Fatherhood is derived – wants us to be good and well behaved children, and not naughty and badly behaved ones. Therefore, as He deems necessary, He chastens us, using whatever circumstances He thinks necessary in order to do so. And these circumstances are primarily the trials and tribulations that James, in his letter, tells us we should welcome as friends. It is therefore the things that happen to us that we don’t particularly like that the Lord most uses to mature and sanctify us, and which provide us with the opportunities we need in order to grow in Him. Which brings us to the ‘secret’ contained in this incredible little verse in the letter to the Hebrews. And the secret is the last part that says, “…to those who have been trained by it.”
Wow! Do you see what that means? Do you get the implication of that! Everything depends on us responding to these trials and difficulties, to this ‘chastening’ (the Greek word means child-training) of the Lord, in the way that we should. But if we respond wrongly, with negativity and complaining, with resentment and kicking against it all, then not only will we not grow, we will actually build a barrier of un-dealt with sin between us and the Lord – just like rebellious children do towards their parents. And of course what this boils down to is simply this: It is entirely up to us whether we respond to difficulties as we should, or whether we are resistant and rebellious and kicking against what the Lord is doing instead. We can bite the bullet and thank the Lord that He is dealing with us, and lay hold of Him to have His way in our lives come what may, or we can kick and scream and fight and resist, not only making our lives harder than they need to be (and not only for ourselves either, but for everyone around us) and get nowhere. It will still be Heaven when we die, of course (Jesus has saved us), but it won’t be growing and maturing in the Lord down here. In other words, we can say with Job, “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him.” and stay surrendered, trusting and obedient, or we can resent what the Lord is doing, fail to surrender and be filled with unbelief and be disobedient instead.
But get this: Even in this regard, practice makes perfect! So if any of us aren’t yet being properly ‘trained by it’ then we can start right now. Do you remember what David said to King Saul when Israel was running scared of Goliath? Saul mocked the idea that David could defeat Goliath, but of course David wasn’t depending on Himself to do it, but on the Lord. But even so there was another factor that was so important, and David told Saul that the God who had delivered Him from the paw of the lion and bear would deliver from a giant Philistine also. Do you see the point? He had started small in the Lord some years earlier! And so it is with us. Little victories lead to medium-sized victories, which then lead to whacking great big ones. Lions and bears first, and then even Goliath comes tumbling down.
So am I somehow ‘special’ as some so graciously seem to think? The answer is, of course, a resounding No, or at least not in the way they imply. (We are all special in our own way, and it’s obviously not something I have a personal monopoly on!) Am I special then? No! But what I will say is this: Through the years of following the Lord I have quite consciously and deliberately ensured that I do surrender to His dealings in my life and receive them as gifts from His Hand, responding as I should and not rebelling against them. I make no claim to have done this particularly successfully, or even consistently, but I have nevertheless embraced it as part of the general discipline of discipleship equally as much as I have prayer, forgiving those who sin against me, confessing and repenting of my own sin, or any other aspect of Christian discipleship. As a result of this ‘being trained by it’ over many years, I have therefore been ‘delivered’ many times, so to speak, from lions and bears. Therefore, when cancer comes along – quite a biggie in my book and definitely in the Goliath category – one knows how to draw on the Lord’s grace precisely because of one’s ongoing experience of having done so in the past, in order that one’s sin be held back and the Lord’s life and power manifested instead.
Any believer who does what I have done over the years in such regard – and any believer can do it if they so choose, and any believer who isn’t yet doing it can start immediately – will therefore, even if they go through what I have am going through, remain calm and peaceful in the Lord, receiving it all as the Lord’s sovereign will in their lives and looking to Him in trust and thankfulness with a smile. Indeed, whistling even! (For those who haven’t read my book ‘Learning to Whistle! it is available in the Amazon Kindle store. Plug, plug, plug! Roll up! Roll up! Roll up! Get your copy here!)
So no, of course I’m not special. I have simply been trained by the Lord’s discipline in my life due to the fact that I have deliberately, though not very successfully or consistently, surrendered to it, having done everything I could to maintain a correct attitude as I go through it, and confessing and repenting quickly when I haven’t. And there is, of course, absolutely nothing ‘special’ or ‘elitist’ in that. It is something that every believer can do if they only but choose to do so. One of the Psalms says,
“Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you…” (Psalm32v9)
The picture is of a donkey digging it’s heals into the ground and having to be dragged to where it’s going, as opposed to one that is being willingly and contentedly led by it’s Master, thereby getting where it is going in a somewhat more easy and pleasant manner for all concerned, not least of all the donkey. And I know that you and I, because I am writing this to believers, are going to get to Heaven come what may, and that nothing can prevent us from doing so. How could it? Getting to Heaven depends on Jesus, not us, but the issue here is how we are going to get there in the meantime. The problems and difficulties in life that the Lord dishes out just can’t be avoided. (Can you imagine me going home the day the consultant told me I had cancer and trying to decide not to have it? How ridiculous!) The question is therefore, are we going to go to Heaven on a little bit of Heaven, by which I mean remaining in close fellowship with the Lord personally in this life because of our ongoing surrender, trust and obedience, or are we going to live our days kicking and screaming against what we don’t like that we have to go through, full of resentment and not being at peace. Moreover, if we’re not at peace with the Lord and ourselves then we surely won’t be very much at peace with others, and will therefore hardly be good witnesses to the Lord’s grace and holiness to those around us.
There is a rather unusual spider that lives in Europe and Asia called the Water Spider, or the Diving Bell Spider or, for you arachnid specialists and enthusiasts out there, the Argyroneta Aquatica. And it’s unusual because, as its name suggests, it lives entirely underwater. However, this is a bit of a problem because, like all other spiders, it is an air-breather through its spiracles and doesn’t have any gills. How, then, does it breathe? And here is the wonder, and the lesson we all need to learn again and again every day: It traps air from the surface and goes back down into the water living it’s sub-aquatic life inside the bubble of air it got, continuing to renew its supply of oxygen from the place it doesn’t actually live, the surface.
And we, as Christians, are citizens of Heaven, but we live on Planet Earth. We are, whether we like it or not, in the world. We are in this evil, corrupted, sinful, fallen, beautiful, spectacular God-created world, but we are not of it. We are only passing through, but are nevertheless here for the duration of our earthly lives. One day, however, Heaven will enter a newly created Universe and locate itself on a newly created Planet Earth, and God’s home will be one with our home. But not yet…not yet! In the meantime, however, we are in the world, but not of it. So how do we survive and live in holiness and godliness? How do we escape the corruption and contamination of the evil miasma of the sin and depravity that surrounds us, whilst nevertheless enjoying the completely legitimate and God-given beauty and wonder of life in creation? Answer: the Argyroneta Aquatica! Or better still, Homo Heavenatica! We simply live our Christian lives in a bubble of God’s grace and love which we renew from Him, from our true home in Heaven, every day through prayer, trust, obedience, and by willingly receiving from His Hand His every dealing in our lives, and every trial and tribulation He sends, as our friends, in order to keep us hanging on to Him for dear life, and not depending on ourselves or on anything we can do.
Am I special? Yes, just like every one else is to the Lord! Am I special in some ‘special’ way though? Of course not! Heaven forbid! So why have I been so at peace and so happy and joyful through such a difficult trial? Well, I’ve got Belinda and Bethany for a start; but also because I have simply been doing what scripture teaches, something every believer on the face of the earth can equally decide to do as easily as I have done. You see, it just doesn’t depend on us. For our part we must simply decide to obey the Lord, adjust our attitude accordingly, and repent quickly when our attitude reverts back to sinfulness – this being what being ‘trained by it’ actually amounts to. But of course it is He who supplies the grace and power to actually live this out in practical and meaningful terms.
Take care and God bless and have a great day.
Medical Progress Report (21st April, 2014)
BJ is recovering from the surgery and doing OK!!!
BJ Update (22nd April, 2014)
I trust you are all well and blossoming in the Lord. I got a phone call from my cancer nurse today and the news is rather good. It turns out that the tumor is a stage lower than they originally thought, which basically means that my lymph nodes are clear and that there is therefore zero evidence of spread beyond what they already knew about and successfully removed with the surgery. I will be meeting with the consultant on May 2nd and will obviously get further details and information then. It does appear though that they are going to advise that I still have chemotherapy, just to make it 100% sure. It will apparently last for 6 months and should start sometime in May.
So great news to be sure, and of course it means that the consultants original prognosis of a full cure has just massively improved and been fully confirmed. So thanks again for all your prayers.
Take care and God bless.