Friday, January 2, 2015

The Gospel According to Joe: The Body of Christ at Work

Joe's Second Epistle

I use aliases throughout this series to protect the privacy of Joe, his family, and friends.

Today’s update is brought to you by the Church!

Today is Saturday November 8, 2014. Last Saturday, my cousin Bob and his wife Cici stopped by. It was an encouragement to see them. We always enjoy talking to them. Bob always makes me laugh and raises my spirit. Next time you see Bob ask him to tell you about his dermatologist appointment. I hurt myself laughing.
       I think I missed my first election since being of voting age. I hope they got it done without me this time! I have moved four times in the past two weeks, so I am hoping that the campaign donation requests don’t catch up to me for a while. My sister Martha, who also has been fighting cancer (Breast Cancer) the past nine months warned me that there would be many silver linings along the way, perhaps this was one J       Martha has been such an encouragement to me, and of course now I have so many regrets of not supporting her like I could have because I was “too busy.” God has such a good sense of humor!
       Speaking of God’s humor, let me tell you some funny stories that happened to me just the other day. Monday morning, we were prepared to travel to Indy to begin the process of radiation therapy when Dr. Val called at 7:45 a.m. and told us that he talked with his partner here in Columbus. The Columbus doc could get me in the same day to start the process. We didn’t have to go to Indy! Wow! That would save us approximately 3 hrs. a day of severe discomfort. So, we headed for Columbus hospital for a 1:45pm appointment to do the initial consultation hoping to get started on Wednesday.
       Oh! Back to the funny part. So I got up, took a shower, and was already out of juice. So instead of brushing my teeth I decided to Listerine it. We were still living in the RV [since the new owners of our house had taken possession], and I had this huge bottle of green Listerine. I reached for it and noticed there was another small bottle of clear Listerine. Upon inspection, I learn that it is Ultra Clean 3X, more powerful! I asked Beth if I could use it.
       “Sure go ahead. I’m sure Allie won’t mind”. I took an extra-large swig knowing how bad my breath smells to me, let alone to some unsuspecting doctor or nurse. Upon gargling, I noticed a burning sensation unlike any I had ever experienced before. While said liquid was still in my mouth, I quickly re read the bottle. Yep, Ultra Clean 3X. I held it in my mouth as long as humanly possible, timing the expulsion so perfectly between that fine line of killing every conceivable germ in my mouth and passing out. At this point I begin to see a light of hope at the end of the tunnel. My thoughts turn to Why don’t they just use this stuff for chemo? And then to I bet I have the freshest breath on Earth! After a solid one minute of drooling over the sink, unable to talk, breath or spit I get the bright idea to use the green bottle. It tastes like candy!
       At the hospital, I saw the doc, and he looked over my charts. At that point, he decided to bump all his other patients and put me at the front of the line. It was a long afternoon. I was able to get my first treatment Monday around 5 p.m.
       They focused radiation on my lower back. The x-rays show more issues than you can shake a stick at in my back. An hour after the treatments, the nausea set in. By 8 p.m. I was vomiting every 30 minutes. Beth was able to get some meds for it to subside by about 1 a.m. But not before wrecking my ribs and diaphragm, which is now the source of most of my pain. It was a very hard start to the week.
       Tuesday was new day bringing new hopes. After a night of hardly any sleep and plenty of time for prayer about many things, there was clarity for me as to where we should seek treatment. My good friend Luke had advised me early on, calling it a “no brainer.” It became crystal clear to me now that we needed to stay in Columbus for one reason—our church. For the benefit of our family and the benefit of the church. I know that only you who are in a healthy church will fully understand this. Others will see my decision as stupid, especially since there are treatment centers that specialize in this cancer that have average life expectancy results from 1.9 to 5.7 times better than the average hospital. Indy/Columbus is not one of them.
       I asked Beth to begin working on a place for us to call home. True to form, she began by praying and reading Scripture because that’s who she is everyday, not just when her husband is dying of cancer.
       God worked mightily and swiftly. Beth received a call from her good friend Amanda, with whom we used to go to Church.
       Here are the first words out of her mouth: “Beth, can I help you find a house today?” Who can do this but God? Amanda has only recently become aware of our situation and certainly knew nothing of the decision we’d made 30 min earlier. Amanda began working (or, more accurately, God did) and within two hours she calls Beth back to tell her that by 8 p.m. that very night we can move into a house that would be fully furnished with beds, a hospital bed, recliner, wheel chair, food, appliances, and the necessities to live! Who but God and His Church?
       It turned out that there was a Christian family we met four years ago that was prompted by God (in the middle of the night) to remove their beautiful 5 bedroom home from selling it on the market two months ago in order that they could minister to a family in need. Two months ago! Who but God and His Church?
       Now here is the coolest part. None of these people go to our church. Do you see? God is not only using our church (Bible Baptist, a small but faithful body of 125) but three other churches in our community: Terrace Lake Community Church, Parkside Baptist Church, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, to bless us and provide for our needs. I am so encouraged by the faithfulness of God’s people as they serve in the local church. I have many friends that claim to be believers and yet do not get connected and serve in a local Bible-preaching church. I once was that guy about seven years ago. I could not go through this battle, or life, for that matter, without my church and church family.
       I live to tell you my story and would love to have an honest discussion on the matter. Dying, I am learning brings about the boldness about which Christ instructs us in His Word. And here is the funny part; we are all dying. My window is 5 months to 5 years, but the reality is that you may beat me there! So, please engage me. It truly is the only thing that I am living for, which is to Glorify God and sharing the Gospel.
       So, by Tuesday at 8 p.m., with the help of dozens of people from four churches, we were ready to move out of the RV and into the beautiful home! Beth and the kids met at the house and thanked those moving us in. Tears of joy seeing God’s overwhelming love, protection and provision flow freely from our family as they witness firsthand the hands and feet of God working through His Bride the Church. Words cannot express what my heart feels even now.
       Tuesday was also the day I found out from Allie that the bottle of Ultra Clean 3X Listerine had recently been swapped out with rubbing alcohol! Needless to say I had yet another training session with kids.
       Wednesday was my best day this week! Because of the hospital bed and the new home, I was able to get out of bed without injuring my poor back, and Luke, my good friend and brother in Christ made the trip from his home in Iowa to pray with me and encourage me in the Gospel. Who does these sorts of things? I understand friendships. I understand family but what I am learning is that our brotherhood in Christ is a bond that lasts an eternity and that eternity has begun in this life for true believers. I realize as I am writing there is another church that is supporting us: Luke’s church in Iowa, Oak Hill Baptist.
       Some of you don’t go to church because it’s “full of hypocrites.” Most churches are, at the most, 50% true believers, the rest are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Some of you have been burned by church people.
       One thing I know for certain—there are no perfect churches because they are all filled with wretched sinners like me, but there are churches that preach boldly the Word of God and God has much to say about His church and why you should be serving in one, growing and living out life with fellow believers in the church. He designed it. He calls His Church the Bride of Christ. He has instructed us plainly to be part of a healthy church. Most, if not all, the books in the New Testament were written to the Church, not to individuals. Engage me on this. Search the scriptures. Your eternity hangs in the balance.
       My body continues to wear down. I can see it daily. My zeal for God increases daily. Scripture most days is the only thing that satisfies me and encourages me. When I read Scripture now it truly comes alive! It jumps from the pages in living color. I see it Lord, I finally see and understand! Oh how I pray that you will see it, too. That the God of the universe will save your soul! That the Almighty King of kings and Lord of lords will save you from your religion of works. That your dead faith will be brought to Life by Christ, the only one who can save you. I pray that God will be glorified.
       God is good and worthy of my praise. I thank God daily for this cancer. I pray for Him to use me up for His name’s sake and when He is done, to take me Home. I pray that that day comes quickly.

In Christ alone,

Husband, Father, Friend and Follower of Christ, Saved by His Matchless Grace and Forgiveness by His Death on a Cross for a Wretched Sinner as I.

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