Beresford here (5th October, 2014)
As ever, thanks for your ongoing prayers. We are doing great and although each treatment gets worse (oh boy, does each treatment get worse) we are nevertheless looking to the Lord and keeping happy. In comparison to the really bad days (and I have just had a few) feeling merely lousy feels great. (I hope that makes sense!) So hey, ten treatments down and two to go! Viewed from one angle this is excellent news, but from another it’s still the equivalent prospect of only having two more beatings from thugs with baseball bats with nails sticking out of them to look forward to. A double-edged sword indeed!
Belinda and Bethany continue to shine, of course, and I shall soon need new sunglasses. They are such a lovely presence when I am curled up, fetal position, in my little pit of suffering and physical – though not mental or spiritual – misery. That I have been so happy and at peace through all this, even though feeling so physically awful much of the time, is a testimony to the Lord’s grace; whereas that I still keep coming up with new jokes all the time (though I do admit to telling the occasional old one) is doubtless just testimony to just how annoying I can be. It is therefore no surprise at all that Belinda and Bethany are so thoroughly sanctified. I have concluded that my sense of humor is there, in the Lord’s economy, for two reasons: One, to keep me going when I would otherwise quit; and two, to sanctify those around me by teaching them patience and forbearance above and beyond the call of duty.
I am pleased to say that I have now completed a batch of articles that will soon be going on our church website. (No, I haven’t been watching Star Trek re-runs all the time!) They are meaty stuff indeed, and I have had plenty of time to just wait prayerfully on the Lord and to receive burdens from him. So expect some heavy duty, but fun, reading. It is no secret that there are things that are very wrong with the Christian Church at large, but my increasing burden is to address some deeply worrying things that are wrong with even so-called biblical churches, and especially with some of their supposed leaders and teachers. So expect some exposing of error in general, and of leadership malpractice and sin in particular. Among them will be a long overdue article in which I set the record straight once and for all concerning some of the rather unpleasant slander that has been circulated concerning me in the last few years by some of these people, so watch this space! (I’ve got to have a bit of fun somehow!!!)
So having either whetted your appetites, or maybe even frightened the life out of you, I shall get back to my pit of suffering. (Do I hear violins?) Belinda and Bethany will be awake soon (they do get up occasionally) so that always helps. Please do keep the prayers coming (and the sympathy, of course) and I’ll send out a notification as soon as those articles are posted. With the treatment due to end by November, and keeping in mind that the medics tell me I’ll need a bit of time to recover from the effects of the chemo, I should be up and running – indeed, downright and unbearably bouncing around like Tigger on steroids – by the New Year. (Everyone here thinks I’m far too optimistic – but hey, what do they know???!!!)
Take care and God bless.
Some Thoughts From a Poor Old Sausage! (18th October, 2014)
Thank you for your ongoing prayers. I have for some time wanted to rise to the challenge of sending out an update, plus some thoughts, whilst in the midst of the worst of a treatment cycle, which is currently the case. This is not, I hope, because of some masochistic streak in me, but rather because I have been wanting to experience something of the Lord’s grace which, for instance, Paul experienced, whereby he could write joyous scripture whilst rotting in a prison cell having been beaten within an inch of his life. Not that I think my plight to be anything other than the merest pale reflection of what he went through, but what I am currently going through is nevertheless the worst thing I have personally ever experienced. I am therefore thrilled that, although this latest treatment is proving vicious in the extreme, and although I am right in the middle of the worst of it and feel unspeakably awful, the Lord has nevertheless woken me in the middle of the night and I am at my laptop just bursting with something joyful to share with you, and it is this.
The insidious nature of cancer, of which, according to the medics, I am now free, is that it is part of oneself. That is, unlike a virus or bacteria, it is not something the body can identify as an invader and therefore marshal its defense mechanisms against, which means the cancer gets a clear run that other diseases are denied. One’s white blood cells will attack and seek to destroy an invading bacterium or virus, but a cancerous cell is as much a part of that body as they are, and so they leave well alone. In other words, to defeat cancer one is entirely dependent on mechanisms that are not a part of the body being affected. The great problem with cancer, therefore, is that it is actually a genuine biological part of the body it is in process of destroying. And what this says to me, by way of parallel, is that, when it comes to the problem we all face spiritually and morally, the simple truth of the matter is that, because we are sinners, our biggest problem is us ourselves. Or to out it another way, my biggest enemy is not the devil, or those who would hurt me in some way, whether physically or otherwise, but myself. I am, indeed, my own worst enemy.
There is a teaching that is gaining ground even amongst Christians who are otherwise biblically sound that points out, quite rightly, that in scripture believers are referred to far more frequently as saints (the holy set apart ones) than sinners, but which then, quite wrongly, downplays the fact that our biggest problem is precisely that sinfulness. Indeed, it so emphasizes the presence of the new nature we have in the Lord that one would get the idea that sin is some kind of occasional aberration that is the exception and not the norm. And the reason I think it so important to address this is that I know of quite a few biblically sound believers whose behavior is so blatantly sinful, and their lack of ongoing repentance so blatant, that it can only be that something is preventing their consciences from working as they ought. And I wonder if there is a connection, given that I know that at least some of them buy into this notion. Not, of course, that they are committing adultery, or getting blind drunk, or robbing banks. Of course not! But they are nevertheless rude when it suits them to be, they tell lies, they slander people and completely selfishly put themselves above everyone else. They are angry and act cruelly against those who have annoyed them for whatever reason, and display the arrogance of people who see only the faults of others but not themselves. And then they go and teach that, as believers, we are saints and should therefore concentrate far more on that truth than on us being sinful. Somewhat convenient, do you not think?
So why, then, does scripture refer to us so much more frequently as saints than sinners? Are these folk right after all? Well, the reason, once properly understood, fills me with joy quite as much as being currently full of chemotherapy. And not only is it joyous, it is also, once viewed from the right angle, completely obvious. You see, a godly man who truly loves his wife sees and considers, when he looks upon her or thinks of her, not her faults but her graces. Whilst aware of her failings, just as she is aware of his, he nonetheless sees the wife of his youth and loves her even more because of the passing years spent together. It is an example of the simple biblical fact that love covers a multitude of sins, as well as bearing and believing all things. And outside of the Lord Himself, whom does one believe in more than ones wife or husband? Belinda is a sinner, just like I am, as is too my wonderful daughter, yet without being in denial of that fact in any way, all I see are the two amazing people in my life without whom I could not live.
And such too is the way in which the Lord looks upon us, because He loves us so dearly. I could never put into actual words just how much I love my Belinda and Bethany, so given that I am a mere man, and a sinful one at that, how much more then does the Lord love us, His children? He refers to us as saints in scripture far more than He does sinners simply because He loves us so much and has covered (atoned for) our sins. When He looks upon us He doesn’t concentrate on what is wrong with us as much as He does the fact that we are forgiven and cleansed, and how far we have come in Him in our discipleship. In other words, because of love, and because we do indeed have a new nature that is free from sin as well as the old nature, without denying the presence of the worst, He nevertheless primarily sees the best in us.
If sin is merely an occasional problem for the believer, and if we are so much saints that we are hardly sinners any more, then it really must be said that such was lost on Paul the Apostle. Many years into his discipleship he wrote to Timothy, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1v15) He didn’t write was chief, but am chief. And if a disciple such as he lived with such awareness of his own sinfulness, then how dare such as you or I ever play down our own? To do so is to fall straight into Satan’s snare and to be deceived. Listen to John the Apostle. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1v8) Can you see how unsurprising it is that believers who play down and turn a blind eye to their sinfulness manage to, for instance, so easily tell lies? When one minimizes one’s sinfulness, which is, after all, about the most blatantly obvious thing that characterizes us, then why should any other truth be acknowledged should it not suit one?
But let me end with this: even though we dare not cease our vigilance concerning our sinfulness, or deceive ourselves into thinking it is not particularly a problem, we must do so against the backdrop of the equal truth that the Lord loves His children more than He could put into words – so He died for us instead – and that He thinks we are wonderful, even though He will be as tough as necessary at times in order to precisely get us to be honest about the wrong things in us that we try to deny. If you grasp what I am going to say now it will free you, as it has me, from when the enemy gets you depressed about yourself in a wrong way. The simple truth of the matter is that there is nothing wrong with you except your sin! We really are wonderful in the Lord’s eyes, and He really does love us to bits. And knowing that He’s got the sin thing covered (atoned for) as well is the icing on the cake! However terrible I feel, and I do feel terrible, I cannot but rejoice in this and in Him, and I pray that you can too!
Goodness, the vagaries of life on chemotherapy! It’s now 5am and there’s no way I’ll get back to sleep. Hmmm! Some Star Trek, I think! Not easy, I know, but then someone’s got to do it!
Take care and God bless.