What a glorious time of the year! We can truly be conscious of the ultimate blessing that we have each been offered a free gift of eternal life; so simple and yet so profound. No set of behaviors or standards to live up to first…just an acknowledgement that we are in need of “saving”, and the willingness to accept the gift. One man, sent by God himself to sacrifice for all who believe. God coming to us rather than us trying to figure him out and please him….and hope it is enough.
I know that many of my dear friends who read this are not yet ready to agree on these things…but, it is a time when those of us who do….are grateful and passionate about telling others how marvelous and simple it is to have assurance of God’s acceptance and eternity in Heaven. It is often so hard for us as proud humans to accept the fact that God came to earth with a “gift” to us…and that we cannot “take credit” for being “good enough”. (We like “earning” things).
So many in this world are struggling to find meaning in pleasure and power and experiences, and yet ultimately finding little satisfaction and no assurance. When we rest in him and abide in him and seek his purposes and honor his promises…we find life very clear indeed. And yet there is plenty of fun and joy and reward left this side of heaven.
Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.a He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:7-10)
At this time of year I am also reminded of all the wonderful traditions of “Santa” and gifts, and trees…and even of the many friends we have and love that celebrate differently. We wish you all a very joyful season and pray that you will understand better why some of us are so determined not to let the great holiday traditions be lost or minimized as they carry many memories and much good will.….but also to never forget what we are truly celebrating.
Moving along…..I also am keenly aware this month that I am now finishing my second full year of treatments for the unexpected and even unwelcome disease that launched this blog. Part of me is still in shock that I have been forced to endure these past two years after so many decades of health. Part of me is however thankful for this experience, as it has certainly pushed me closer to the Lord in all ways, and my faith and understanding has grown beyond measure. I think some of yours has as well!
If you are still catching up, my adventure began in December 2010 with a swallowing difficulty, and that led quickly to a diagnosis of esophageal Cancer. AAARG! Then it was determined to get treatment in Houston at MD Anderson as they are one of the largest and most respected leading edge centers in the world. The surgery was not nearly as common as we thought, and is said to be second in complexity to only a heart transplant. So….many radiation and chemo treatments later…. and after a complex but successful surgery, I was released back to Atlanta to “recover”.
The adventure continued as they soon discovered a “missed” lymph node that was infected and I was forced to undergo radiation again. Then, the docs discovered a spot on my lower spine and some numbness so I went again to radiation of that area. In the subsequent follow up, they felt that the spine area was calm but they then found metastases in the brain. This led me to a “Gamma Knife” treatment which appeared to halt the tumors, but later they returned and grew again and even spread into the spinal fluid. ….Yowser. What’s up with that?
So, now we are engaged in that battle but we also know that our God has already “won” this one. The enemy is relentless, and would love to distract me and discourage me…NOT. I have endured full brain radiation for ten days and…. in spite of the docs’ insistence….my hair did not ALL fall out. Wispy indeed, but there! (We will embrace any and all encouragements). Then, they surgically implanted a port into my head so they can inject chemo into the spinal fluid…had two of those so far and on the last one they found no active cells in the spinal fluid….again, we accept any good news! Our God is bigger than our problems, and He is mightier than our relentless enemy too.
Does much of this sound scary and unhappy to you? It likely depends a lot on how you see the world…through spiritual eyes, or medical/physical eyes. If we look at what we “see” we can be quite discouraged. If we look through God’s perspective and promises and possibilities….we see with eyes of faith and trust and confidence….in Him.
I don’t see life as a game to win, or a race, or a contest to see who can amass the most pleasure or toys or power etc. I see it as a test, a temporary trust, a preparation for eternity. We are offered eternal life as a gift first, and then an opportunity to seek his Kingdom here on earth and to know him, become more like him, and serve him to the best of our abilities. We are to find his purpose in the skills and opportunities he gives us. We are to “occupy” and live abundantly. We are to seek our rewards in Heaven. We are to love others…all others. If he chooses to prosper us, or favor us, we must give him the glory as the source of all…not be filled with pride over “our” accomplishments. He uses each of us in different ways.
I have really enjoyed studying and learning more about his promises as we sometimes just think we are to “accept” his “will” and circumstances as martyrs, or dutiful “sufferers”, and be passive. I see much in scripture that tells us just the opposite. We have been given authority and power in the Word to call on him and do greater things even than the Son. We are not God….so it is not that…it is simply more than passive acceptance. We have a role and we are asked/commanded to use this power and authority. The scriptures are alive and God honors his word (he watches over it to perform it) when we stand on it and believe it. He promised salvation and eternity, healing, protection, provision, peace, wisdom, joy….but we also need to choose and claim these.
Here is a good message about what God has for us…..
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:9-10
Imagine that you have never driven a car. You are not aware of all the features of a car. Up to this point, you have had to walk everywhere you go. All you are told is that you are about to receive something that will get you anywhere you need to go. The day arrives and you are given a brand new car. You get in and drive the car. However, the emergency brake is on, preventing you from going faster than 20 miles per hour. No one tells you that you should unlock the brake. Regardless, you are excited because you no longer have to walk to your destination. You are not told that the car has lights, which would allow you to drive at night. Neither are you told about the many other wonderful features of the car. You just know you have a new car that will get you anywhere you want to go at 20 miles per hour. For the rest of your life, you drive this incredible car during the daytime only at 20 miles per hour.
Why would Jesus pray that things in earth would be like they are in Heaven if it were not possible? When Jesus came to earth, He came in order to penetrate the very kingdom of darkness with light. He came to bring healing to sickness, replace sadness with joy, and fill meaninglessness with purpose. He came to change things for the better for a world that had no hope outside of God.
Using the illustration above, Jesus did not come to merely give us a ticket to Heaven (a car that you drive only in the daytime at 20 miles per hour). He came to bring us much more-the Kingdom of God on earth. Nowhere in the Bible will you find the term, gospel of salvation. The Church does not exist for Heaven, but for earth. If it existed only for Heaven, then each of us would immediately be taken to Heaven. There would be no reason for us to remain on earth. So why has God allowed us to receive this new birth and remain on earth? It is so that we might bring the Kingdom of God into our world-our families, our workplace, and our communities.
God wants you to bring the Kingdom of God into the territory He has given you so that His will can be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Your domain is your workplace, family, and community. Ask God to show you how He wants to penetrate the darkness of your domain with His light. Then you will see and experience all the features of this gift that has been given to you.
Well, in spite of our on-going dramas, we have tried to stay engaged and joy-filled as God delivers us in His way and time. We obviously had our American Thanksgiving since I last posted….always a special time to focus on what we have to be thankful for. We had more than 20 family members at the house and a feast of course. Lots of football too. I had to go to Houston the Sunday after so I was there a week as they MRI-ed and implanted the port etc. Then it was home to begin the next protocol with a new Oncologist….that went well except for a bit of a physical drama when I got the chemo as well as some vaccine the same day….maybe too ambitious.
We were scheduled to go to the North American Achievers event in Washington DC that week, and I was forced to skip the Growth Council gathering the day prior…. but managed to get to DC for the main festivities and to see my dear friends and partners again. Amway had elected to honor us with a “Hero Award” for “Generosity” so we felt a bit self-conscious and awkward…but needed to allow so we could highlight what we feel is an important aspect of our business and life priorities. All our Network of Caring partners should share in this! It was quite uplifting …especially as we congratulated the other three honorees for Patriotism, Determination, and Leadership. Perhaps you will see them all as videos were provided.
On the last day, Frank Luntz shocked us with a gift of a famous original Penley painting of Reagan, which was seen on all Frank’s TV shows along with some of this amazing artist’s other works. That was way over the top and we are still stunned at his gesture and generosity. You will see it hung prominently in our home.
The event was culminated as always with a private dinner at Mt Vernon (for nearly 4000 people in large heated tents) and closed with a spectacular fireworks display…Amway always does it right.
As I reflect on these past few weeks, I am again reminded of what a toll my situation has taken on the whole family. Heather and A-K are troopers and have tried to press along with life, as they should. Heather is our travel buddy to Houston for “Moral support” and a little humor for Nancy as we sit with the docs and their happy news. Dave and Jules continue to raise their two amazing girls and enjoy all the specialness of Christmas while dodging some of the questions about Papa. Their business is thriving and they have done a magnificent job of balancing the holidays with their goals in the business. They had a great BBS with Bob Andrews and a Christmas party for their leaders. Then off to Achievers where they seem to know more people than we do now!
Eric and Abbie are making adjustments too and looking for the right focus for 2013. Some new directions for Power Soccer and some fun Bible studies are in the works.
And then there is dear Nancy! What a two years for her! Maybe harder than on me? When someone you love is experiencing pain or danger, we want to “fix” it. Especially Nancy! She has immersed herself for two years in prayer, fasting, alternative docs, searching the Internet, speaking with other believers, hunting down healing ministries, and seeing that I am cared for ….can anyone be asked to do more? We have been inseparable. We listen to CDs, we listen to Scripture, we listen to praise music, we speak what we want in faith…not what we “see”. It is a lot of “work”, and yet it is what God teaches us to do to draw closer and receive His blessings and strength.
Please continue your prayers for our whole family. They are all in this bucket. We are maintaining joy and expectation and faith…but we are also in a battle together. All of us globally have approached God’s throne with boldness and asked Him to deliver on His promises.
In the midst of it all and the latest chemo-induced issues, we managed to have a great office executive Christmas party at our home, which is an annual tradition. Laughter, gift exchanges (along with lots of stealing), and great food thanks to Kevin! Great diversion.
Then, it was time to finish Christmas shopping and enjoying the fact that we can give nice things to the people we love. Most of us “need” nothing….but, Oh is it a pleasure to be able to give! I can’t wait ‘til Christmas AM to see the faces. We were more careful and conservative this year for sure! We focused much of our past two weeks praying about, and working on, our major giving initiatives of 2012 and then 2013. What a fun privilege it is to know you have been allowed abundance that can be used for God’s purposes and to bless others. Relatively “painless” for people like you and I….but life-changing to others who are hurting or lonely or persecuted.
I sure hope that each of us sees a place that we can relieve some pain or give some encouragement…through time and service…..or through financial gifts. We sure don’t want to be like the rich guy in the Bible that wanted to store up his extra in more barns for afterwards and “security”.
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 12:20).
So, we are very blessed at this time of the year and we see clearly how He has used this attack on my life as a catalyst for all his purposes and plans. Our whole family is on a journey. I also hope that as I share openly with you all, from my unique viewpoint, you will accept the fact that some of us may differ in our world view and philosophy of life and even “spiritual truth”, but in understanding the true Christian forgiveness and love of all God’s children, you can rest assured that none of us thinks less of those not having been received into our spiritual family yet…just prayerfully hoping that we never act in a way that would drive one away from God’s love and forgiveness and all its rewards.
This life often doesn’t make sense. That’s good, or God would be too small for me. In studying his word daily, there is much to discover about what He expects, about His nature, His priorities, His promises, and above all His unexplainable love of His children regardless of our rebellion and pride and stubbornness and sins. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made. When we can rest in His forgiveness, we can come to Him in trust and gratefulness and faith that He will do as He promised…He cannot lie!
A few more thoughts as I know many will still be “confused” by the seeming lack of prayers answered. Healing and deliverance are elusive and complex, There is mainstream medicine which I have taken full advantage of. There is “alternative” therapy which I have embraced as well. There is a great attitude of positive expectancy which always is a factor.
There is scripture and His promises that can be relied on:
“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.” (Psalm 118:17)
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”(Matthew 18:19)
“ Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:14-16)
When we are asked to delay in our desert experiences longer than we ever imagined…we need perspective and patience and lots of faith. I read Spurgeon recently and here is what he said:
“Therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you.” Isaiah 30:18
“God often delays in answering prayer. We have several instances of this in sacred Scripture. Jacob did not get the blessing from the angel until near the dawn of day–he had to wrestle all night for it. The poor woman of Syrophoenicia was answered not a word for a long while. Paul besought the Lord thrice that “the thorn in the flesh” might be taken from him, and he received no assurance that it should be taken away, but instead thereof a promise that God’s grace should be sufficient for him. If thou hast been knocking at the gate of mercy, and hast received no answer, shall I tell thee why the mighty Maker hath not opened the door and let thee in?
Our Father has reasons peculiar to himself for thus keeping us waiting. Sometimes it is to show his power and his sovereignty, that men may know that Jehovah has a right to give or to withhold. More frequently the delay is for our profit. Thou art perhaps kept waiting in order that thy desires may be more fervent. God knows that delay will quicken and increase desire, and that if he keeps thee waiting thou wilt see thy necessity more clearly, and wilt seek more earnestly; and that thou wilt prize the mercy all the more for its long tarrying.
There may also be something wrong in thee which has need to be removed, before the joy of the Lord is given. Perhaps thy views of the Gospel plan are confused, or thou mayest be placing some little reliance on thyself, instead of trusting simply and entirely to the Lord Jesus. Or, God makes thee tarry awhile that he may the more fully display the riches of his grace to thee at last.
Thy prayers are all filed in heaven, and if not immediately answered they are certainly not forgotten, but in a little while shall be fulfilled to thy delight and satisfaction. Let not despair make thee silent, but continue instant in earnest supplication.”
Anyone out there wrestling with doubt? It is always present as it is a favorite tool of our enemy. Listen to this….
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mk 9:24 NIV
Here is another question to consider: What is “walking by sight”? (See 2Co 5:7). It’s living your life based on how things look to the natural eye. It’s deciding and acting in accord with your perceptions and circumstances, rather than God’s Word. It’s being dictated to by your feelings and thoughts. Your thoughts and feelings are—yours! Examine them. Don’t let them hijack you. Use your spirit-controlled temperament to bring them under control. Too often we are sandwiched between faith and doubt, in a “catch-22” between what our transformed spirit says and what our carnal mind says.
One day a distraught father brought his son to Jesus for healing. Jesus told him, “Everything is possible for one who believes” (Mk 9:23 NIV). At that point the boy’s father said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” At times we experience both faith and doubt. This man was honest about his doubts, yet Jesus still worked a miracle for him. If he had needed correction, Jesus would have corrected him. If his faith was not genuine, the Lord would have known it. But Jesus accepted his declaration of faith, despite his doubts.
There are three lessons here for us:
- Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your doubts.
- Don’t let your doubts overrule your faith. God’s Word in the matter is God’s will for you; stand on it.
- Hand your doubts over to the Lord and say, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” How long does it take to learn to walk by faith? A lifetime!
Apply these principles to all your challenges and doubts!!
I am still learning that, in our business, we so often are tempted to rely on the skills and resources that we have been given and depended on so long. The more we succeed, the more we can be led to believe we did it ourselves. There is a better way however….still fruitful indeed, but where we trust our Lord as the director and finisher.
“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD” (Isa 31:1).
It is human nature to want to use whatever means available to us to succeed. However, a conflict arises when we place our total trust in ourselves instead of God. The idea of maintaining a proper balance between trust and obedience to God versus placing an over dependence upon our natural skill and resources has created problems since Genesis. We are prone to build strong defenses through our natural gifts to avoid failure and use all of our might to be successful in our endeavors. However, this can often be done at the expense of the supernatural in our lives.
When it comes to receiving from God, it is important we don’t make the same mistake Moses made when God told him to speak to the rock in order to receive water for the people. Instead, He struck the rock and failed to enter the Promised Land. The people of Israel often fell back to trusting in their own abilities and God had to send a reproof into their lives.
How do we avoid the trap and maintain a proper balance between the natural and the spiritual? The rule of thumb is to submit every activity to God and use your skill as God directs you. Be sensitive to God’s leading in all your activities. Avoid trying to build resources for the sake of insulating yourself against calamity which is rooted in fear.
Finally, follow Solomon’s advice: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov 3:5-6).
“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel'” (2 Samuel 7:8).
David was nearing the end of his life. The prophet Nathan was responding to David’s idea to build a temple where the Ark of the Covenant would stay. God reminded David through the prophet of his roots and where He had brought him. God took David from the fields of pasturing sheep to pastoring a nation. God reminded David that He cut off all of David’s enemies for his sake and the sake of his nation. David never lost a battle.
Have you ever felt tempted to look at your accomplishments with pride as if you were the reason for your success? Have you ever thought your prosperity was due to your ingenuity? Has your material success been a testimony to others that God is the ruler of all aspects of your life, even the material side?
The greatest temptation some of us will ever face is pride of ownership. If we think our success is a result of our own effort we affront God and open the door to pride. “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor” (Prov 29:23).
Success can be a greater test than adversity. “Not every man can carry a full cup. Sudden elevation frequently leads to pride and a fall. The most exacting test of all to survive is prosperity,” said Oswald Chambers. Success can be a breeding ground for complacency with God and pride of ownership.
Do you have a proper understanding of who you are? Do you understand that it is God who has given you the ability to work and achieve? He is the source of all good things. Ask God today if your life models this belief.
I am also learning that in ALL areas, it is critical to begin and end with PRAISE AND THINKKSGIVING!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:4-5
So, we come to another year and I have just shared some of my most recent thoughts as my journey continues. God is certainly working in my life. I feel stronger than ever about my friends and global “family”, and pray daily for the strength and opportunity to serve Him (and all of you) in a greater way as He leads me to new understandings and greater appreciation for my blessings.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year!