Friday, February 27, 2015

It Is Well With My Soul

It seems like my heart is drawn to stories of people who have endured great tragedy.  Take for example, Horatio Spafford, a successful lawyer and businessman who lived in the 19th century.  He  had invested in property in the Chicago area.  However, the 1871 Great Chicago Fire ruined him financially.  There was also a downturn in the economy in 1873 which added to his woes.  Planning to travel to Europe with his family, he decided last minute to send his wife and four daughters ahead while he dealt with some business issues in Chicago, planning to meet them at a later time.

Then unspeakable tragedy occurred.  His family's ship, the SS Ville du Havre collided with a vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of his daughters died as their ship sank rapidly.  His wife sent him a chilling telegram, "Saved alone", to tell him of the horrific news.

Mr. Spafford then sailed to Europe.  As he passed the area where his daughters had died, he felt led to write the hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul." This glorious song states:

"When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul."

So hard to focus on just one line of this wonderful hymn.  Yet, as a believer in Jesus, the first verse really captures my attention, urging me in whatever situation, to proclaim "it is well with my soul."  In peaceful times, it is well,  In sorrowful times with waves of grief, it is well.  In good health, it is well.  When dealing with cancer, it is well. 

Furthermore, Kristene DiMarco has an encouraging song, based on Horatio Spafford's old hymn.  She sings how through it all, my eyes are on the Heavenly Father.

 Is it well with your soul?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Looking For That "Joseph" Moment

I love the story of Joseph in the Bible, found in Genesis chapters 37-50.  I admire Joseph for several reasons.  First of all, of the many people listed in the Bible, Joseph is never listed as doing any kind of wrong or making mistakes (such as I have made).  Not that Joseph was sinless, mind you.  He is just described as devout even in the midst of dire circumstances in life.  You could say he made it to the finish line without any blemishes in his faithfulness to God.

In addition, Joseph endured some horrific trials.  As a boy, he was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery and was carried off to Egypt.  Even as he began to become successful in his life, he was wrongly accused of rape and put into prison for multiple years.  I believe I heard someone say he was incarcerated unjustly for well over ten years.  Although he prospered somewhat in the jail, I imagined he wondered if he would ever be released.

Then it happened.  Pharaoh had a series of dreams that no one could interpret.  Joseph had previously interpreted some dreams for some fellow inmates and was summoned by Pharaoh.  With divine wisdom, Joseph described vividly to Pharaoh of the coming famine in Egypt as revealed in his dreams.  This is especially the part or the verses I like:

"So Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are.  You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.'"(Genesis 41:39-40).

Isn't that wonderful?  Joseph went from zero to hero in mere moments, from the jail to the palace, from being a prisoner to being a prime minister.  His transformation is what I call the "Joseph" moment.  Life becomes joyous, all needs are met, living becomes fun again.

We all need these Joseph moments in life.  When dealing with cancer, it's refreshing to hear the doctor say things like, "All scans are clear" or "You've been cured".  No more chemotherapy, no more hair loss, no more fatigue, no more nausea, no more hospitalizations, no more blood transfusions.  Life is good again.

Of course, Joseph moments don't simply apply to cancer.  They can occur in any situation in life when a drastic change is needed.  For example, I know I need a Joseph moment in my finances.  It seems like I'm constantly struggling to pay bills, wondering if I'll ever get ahead, worrying if I'll ever be able to make needed repairs in my home.  You could say I'm in a financial dungeon.

Yet, Joseph had his day, even when things seemed rather hopeless.  Perhaps my day is coming soon as I remain faithful.





 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Hard Work Provides Opportunities For Success

Last night my Bible study group was discussing a passage from Acts chapter 2.  We talked about the beginnings of the modern day church.  According to Acts 2:42, the early Christians did four specific things, that is, they were "continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."  In other words, the development of the church didn't just happen.  It took hard work, commitment, an "all-in" attitude to keep the fire going. 

In most things, success doesn't occur overnight.  I'll give you a modern day example.  My stepson is a great trombone player.  He is currently in graduate school, hoping to teach music in college one day.  He is a gifted instrumentalist, but his performance skills have not magically appeared.  While he was living at our home, he spent countless hours practicing the trombone, sacrificing time for other things to perfect his skill.  The trombone has required total commitment to advance to his level.

So, except for a select few people in life, there really isn't an easy way to success.  Whether this involves overcoming adversity such as cancer or becoming proficient in a musical instrument, hard work provides an opportunity for victory.  One day, the perspiration, the tears, the agonizing choices, the sacrifices, will all pay off.





      

Monday, January 19, 2015

Through It All

I was saddened to hear of the death of Christian singer Andrae Crouch recently.  I had the privilege of hearing him in concert on a couple of occasions when in my teens.  Needless to say, I have multiple favorite songs which Andrae Crouch and The Disciples sang.  One song, in particular, is a great song for enduring hardship entitled, "Through It All."  The powerful lyrics are:

"I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
there's been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.

(Chorus)
Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.

I've been to lots of places,
I've seen a lot of faces,
there's been times I felt so all alone.
But in my lonely hours,  yes, those precious lonely hours,
Jesus lets me know that I was His own

Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.

I thank God for the mountains,
and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I'd never had a problem,
I wouldn't know God could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do.

Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,  through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word."

This song has gained greater meaning for me now that I've been through life-changing cancer and its accompanying hardships, e.g.  chemotherapy, major surgery, etc.  Yet, as Andrae wonderfully proclaims, "Through it all, I've learned to depend upon His word."  Check out this wonderful song below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd247We72Hw


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Trading Loss For Gain

My computer has the option of playing several games when I log on.  As a result, I like to play chess on my computer when I can.  Not that I'm very good.  Yet, it is an interesting game.  If you aren't familiar with chess, the way to victory is to capture the opponent's king.  Each team has a variety of pieces, e.g. pawns, rooks, bishops, queen or king, which can only move certain directions to advance on your opponent.  The queen is the most powerful piece on the board, having the ability to move in all directions and great distances.  Once the king is trapped with no way of escape, the game is over.  "Checkmate" is the term.

Nevertheless, one aspect of chess I have noticed is that no one ever wins the game without losing a few pieces along the way. Sometimes I even willfully give up a lesser piece of the game in order to capture a more powerful piece of my opponent, for example, losing a pawn, rook or bishop is  insignificant if it allows me to take the opponent's queen.  But, the ultimate goal is capturing the king or winning the game, no matter how many pieces I lose or have captured along the way.

When I went through chemotherapy in 2006, the cancer team was amazed that I did not lose all of my hair, a common side effect of many chemotherapy drugs.  My hair did thin considerably but I did keep it for the most part.  But, generally speaking, seeing someone who has lost all of their hair, especially at a younger age, is usually a reliable indicator of going through chemotherapy.  However, for most people, this is a temporary affliction.  The hair usually returns when chemotherapy is completed.  I know my hair returned to its pre-chemotherapy state after my treatments were done.  Yet, for the time being, losing hair is really insignificant compared to the long term goal of eradicating the cancer.

Exchanging profit for loss was probably best stated by Jim Elliot (pictured below), a Christian missionary who was martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956.  He wrote in his journal, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."   Although Jim and three other missionaries were killed, it opened the doors for future evangelistic efforts to these natives in Ecuador.  I believe even one of the men who killed Jim Elliot later came to know Christ....an amazing story.  Heaven's gates were opened to many by the sacrifice of these young missionaries.

As a result, some things in life are worth letting go in order to be triumphant.  Whether its losing some hair, losing a material object, whatever, it is not foolish at all to give up such things as Jim Elliot said.  The end result is glorious victory.  Checkmate!



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Joy To The World

With the advent of the internet, it's absolutely amazing how easy it is to do research on any topic.  I remember as a boy being blessed with some World Book Encyclopedias that my parents had purchased.  As a result, I had easy access to a wealth of information about practically any person, place or thing.

Yet now, finding information is right at my fingertips on any computer, thus allowing me to learn more about general topics in life within mere moments as I make the effort.

For example, with Christmas rapidly approaching, I did some research on perhaps the most popular Christmas carol, "Joy To The World".  This beloved song was penned by Isaac Watts, although the tune is supposed to have originated by George Friedrich Handel. However, I discovered that "Joy To The World" is really not a "Christmas" carol.  Consider how the lyrics do not mention anything associated with the nativity, e.g. the manger, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, wise men, etc. Of course, it does mention "the Lord is come" and "let earth receive her king".  Nevertheless, this song is written more to describe the millennial reign of Christ which will occur after the Great Tribulation.  The Bible describes this future time as a wonderful time of peace and prosperity.  I believe there will be no sin at that time.  This will be a phenomenal, joyful, peaceful time of unprecedented happiness.

Does this mean that "Joy To The World" should be abandoned as a Christmas carol?  Of course not. I think it is certain applicable at Christmastime.  Yet, it has a deeper meaning, a wonderful time of peace on earth with Jesus reigning for one thousand years.  That will be the ultimate Christmas celebration, far beyond the simple annual festivities around December 25th.

Cancer or sickness can also have a deeper meaning, not just a depressive time of debilitating treatments and suffering.  As Joseph said after being reunited with his brothers who had sold him into slavery, "...you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good..." (Genesis 50:20).  As I continue to discover, there are deeper and glorious meanings in life, even beyond beloved Christmas carols.

      

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Resting In The Outcome

Well, college football season is coming to a close soon with end of the year bowl games, championship games, etc.   I enjoy watching games, especially seeing my favorite team on the field. 

Thankfully, with the advent of cable TV and satellite dishes, there are multiple sports channels that I can view at all times of the day.  Some of these channels show replays of my team, giving me a chance to watch games again, to refresh my memory of key plays and to hear the roar of the crowd.

Basically, I only watch replays of games that my team won.   This is advantageous in one simple way.  For example, if my team fumbles, throws an interception, gives up a big play, or even falls behind at times, I don't have to worry.  I know the final outcome.  Even when victory seems almost impossible, I know which team will ultimately prevail.

Sometimes in life I feel like I'm losing.  My health is not as chipper as I want it to be.  My finances are struggling.  My house is falling apart.  And, of course, there is always the mental and emotional concerns regarding cancer.  Although I've been cancer free for years, there is a perpetual cloud hanging over me.  Will it come back?  Will my next CT scan be okay?

Yet, I am not to worry.  Psalms 139:16 says, "...in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them."  In other words, I am not going to die one second before I am supposed to die.  God knows all of my days, every one of them.  Even though life may be rough at times, with God's sovereign will, I'll be around as long as I'm supposed to be.

It's similar to watching a replay of a football game.  Just as I know the outcome or final score, God knows the outcome of my life.  In the meantime, I should just enjoy the game.  Rah! Rah!