Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Gospel According to Joe: Reason to Hope

Joe's Sixth Epistle 

Today’s update is brought to you by the following sponsors: my bed, Smart Water®, brothers in Gatesville Penitentiary [Texas], pastors, 2.9, and the number 30.

Today, January 14, 2015, was Chemo # 9. Last week was tolerable because that was Cycle 4 in my regimen, which leaves off the infusion and the massive dose of steroids. But today is Cycle 1, which calls for all the guns and translates typically into four days of survival mode. This, too, shall pass. Believe it or not, I still thank God every day for this lousy cancer. I would not trade anything in my 56 years for what God has taught me and changed in me through this cancer. Nor would my family. For he has revealed to me Himself and like Paul the Apostle, I count all other things as filthy rags in comparison.
Last night was the first night in three months that I got to sleep in my own bed with my own wife! Oh, what a thrill it was to upgrade out of the hospital bed (a lifesaver when I needed it) to our king-size pillow-top bed. I was giddy! The kids thought I was nuts. The things I long for are the simplest things in life—walking outside, listening to a friend over a cup of coffee, throwing a rock in the water, fishing, dancing with my youngest daughter, Kiara . . .
Speaking of simple things in life, I want to take this time to do a commercial. May I recommend Smart Water®? Purity you can taste, hydration you can feel. Before cancer, water was not my drink of choice. Not sure what was, but I know it wasn’t water. I’ve never been a proponent of buying water when it runs freely from the faucet. Until now. It seems that the smart people at Smart Water have figured out how to bottle clouds! I really can taste the difference. And now that I have to consume at least three liters of water daily to keep my kidneys and liver functioning properly, well I am a fan of Smart Water. And if you want a double blessing, buy it at the greatest store ever in the history of the world (according to a good friend): Walgreens!
I have had several requests to forward these updates to others and am happy to, as you instruct, for the Glory of God. Be encouraged not by what I have penned, but rather by the Source of my hope.
Recently I learned from a dear friend that he and about 100 brothers he ministers to in the Gatesville, Texas, penitentiary have been praying for me. I am so humbled, honored and thankful for these men who in the midst of their suffering would consider me. My heart is drawn to them. I find myself praying for them daily and desire to someday greet them in person and pray with them for their deliverance. Before cancer and this great work that the Saviour has done in my life, I never would have dreamed of setting foot inside a prison. Now, I see and know that I am no better than any of my brothers in Gatesville and just as deserving a sentence as any of them—if not to society, then to God. I love these brothers. Will you join me, brothers and sisters in Christ and pray for these men, that their souls will be set free by Jesus?
Thank you, God for showing me the love of a stranger who is suffering perhaps more than I. Oh for the day when we all worship the risen Saviour as free men! Free from the slavery of sin! Oh what a glorious day that will be!
During this journey, I have been encouraged by hundreds of people in so many ways. One small group that has provided me with much encouragement while feeding my soul daily is a handful of pastors. One of these men is my own pastor, whom I love dearly, as he is faithful to the Gospel and preaching verse by verse. Additionally, I have been blessed by four other pastors that minister to me on a regular basis. God has sustained me as they take time to share with me their passion for preaching the Truth and their ability to rightly divide the Word of God. They have spent countless hours with me, either in person or via emails. I thank God for these faithful men. What is amazing to me is that each of these men has a profound ability to preach the Gospel but have been called to, and is faithfully serving in, a “small church”. I often have wondered why God doesn’t call them to “big church” so that many more people can hear truth.
I am starting a new email list for any of you who wish to be included as these men share their truths with me. Leave a “Comment” to this post, and I will send you their updates a couple of times a week. Be sure to include your email address. Please pray for these faithful brothers as they face so many challenges in our culture that despises the preaching of the Gospel.

God has been so faithful to our family through this lousy cancer. We continue to thank God every day for His care and for refining us through this suffering. I have shared much before about how He is using His Church in our lives and we continue to be amazed at the faithfulness of His own. God has left us speechless with the generosity of the faithful. It is so humbling and yet glorious to see His handiwork. Never would I have imagined that I would have been on the receiving end of so much outpouring from His people. I want you to know that we see His glory through your generosity of provisions and prayer. Thank you, saints! Thank You, God!
When I was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer October 22, 2014, they tested marrow and blood to determine what stage I was in. Stage 1 is 0-3.5. Stage 2 is 3.5 to 5.5. Stage 3 is above 5.5 and comes with an average life expectancy of 309 days if untreated. My number came in at 5.9. Honestly, without prayer and treatment I am fairly certain that I would not have made it to Christmas 2014. Now, after three months, thousands of prayers, and nine chemo treatments, my number is 2.9! Praise God! The Doctors are encouraged and they are beginning to talk about bone marrow transplantation. My bones are beginning to heal and my thoughts have turned to survival. I know this disease is incurable, and typical life expectancy is 2-5 years after treatment, but there are plenty of examples of survivors making it 10-15 years. I am thankful for His healing. The pain is tolerable. The chemo is terrible. The future is scary only because I am fearful that all He has taught me will be lost, and my idols, pride, and criticism will creep back in. Please, please pray for me that God will continue to heal my heart as He heals my body.
Lastly, I have a specific rather selfish prayer that I am praying for: that I can be done with chemo in 30 days. Original time frame was six months, but four months sounds much better. Will you pray with me? God doesn’t promise healing or shorter-than-normal chemo. He promises healing to the soul and rest for the weary. He also delights in giving good gifts to His children and glorifying Himself. Perhaps he will delight in granting my request.
I am praying for you as I trust in Christ alone,

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