Thursday, December 2, 2010

Long Overdue

I think I am going to talk some about how sin and cancer share many commonalities. I know, this isn't the bright spot in your day, but there are parallels here that I feel are definitely worth visiting.

When someone finds out that they have cancer, there's the feeling of the heart sinking into the stomach. "Surely there must be some mistake. Me, have cancer? I don't even feel sick."

Unfortunately, this is the same way that we unconsciously see sin. Me a sinner? Come on,, man, I'm not in jail. I've not murdered anyone. I haven't stolen anything. The list can go on. As with cancer, sin is an unseen intruder, eating away at the most vital part of our beings: our conscience.

Leisa's sister-in-law, Judy Lewis, who was probably one of the most Godly women I had the honor of knowing, was diagnosed with uterine cancer back a couple of years ago. She fought valiantly against this unwanted intruder.

Back in 2001, when we moved to the East Tn Mountains, Leisa had asked me What's going to happen when one of our family members back in Georgia gets sick? I told her that we'd cross that proverbial bridge when we got to it.

In July, it became evident that Judy's fight was becoming more and more difficult for her to manage. I saw how this was affecting Leisa, so I told her Why don't you just close out here, pack a few things, and go 'home' where you're most needed right now? So, she went. I remained here in East Tennessee, having work and other things here that I just couldn't tear away from.

She had the 5 youngest kids with her; she would come up to Tennessee only twice during the long months she was in Georgia - I ended up joining her down in Georgia for the month of October. I saw Judy a few times during that month - each time I saw her, I wept inside at how the cancer was taking an obvious toll on her outward appearance. This is a woman who was always the pillar of strength. She was always outdoors doing things with her family - camping, baiting hooks for squeamish children, etc. To see that she'd been reduced to a bedridden invalid was, literally, more than I could bear. selfishly, I told myself that it'd be best to "remember her as she was". As a 12-year Paramedic in downtown Atlanta, I'd seen the worst atrocities that mankind could possibly commit. I'd seen how cancer ravaged person after person. As long as I received my bi-monthly paycheck, I could tolerate dang near anything that came my way. But when it came to my own family, I became like the fainthearted mom who'd pass out with the first sight of blood.

When it was someone I didn't know in Atlanta, it somehow was more bearable. I didn't know these people; I wouldn't carry on an ongoing friendship or relationship with these people; I was there for the immediate crisis, and then gone as soon as patient care was transferred to someone with a higher degree of medical training than I.

Without realizing that they never made it past the plastered ceilings, I'd silently beg God to have mercy on Judy - that if He wasn't going to heal her, that He'd be merciful and take her swiftly. I hated the thought of our precious Judy having to endure the inhumane sufferings that I'd witnessed other cancer patients having to endure.

Someone with a closer relationship to God must have been praying that same prayer, for during the late evening hours of November 5th, Judy quietly slipped off into eternity, and into the waiting arms of Jesus.

During "Family Night" at the funeral home, I witnessed a sight never before seen by these eyes: Quite literally, a sea of people standing in a very long and winding line for hours to pay their last respects to Judy and family. I had no idea that she'd known, or impacted, so many people!

At her funeral, pastor Andy of Shirley Hills Baptist Church/Warner Robins did what I thought was the most outstanding job of preaching a funeral. He'd borrowed her Bible and Journal for a few days - He preached nearly the entire service out of her Journal notes. Judy was someone who truly, whether in public or in the privacy of her own home, absolutely loved her Jesus.

Remembering very scant details of her journal, Judy spent hours praying for people. The one thing that is most clear in my mind are the details of her prayer requests page. She had line after line, page after page of the names of people. The very last 1 or 2 entries were for herself. She told pastor Andy that she had a very hard/difficult time praying for herself, when she knew that there were others "more deserving" of God's attention than her. W-O-W, WHAT A TESTIMONY.

If it were I whose journal was being read, would my pages be filled with "Please God, heal me of this dreaded sickness so that I can watch my children grow up, one day meet my grandchildren, and grow old with my precious Leisa."? Judy definitely lived out the definition of a Proverbs 31 wife/mother.

Upon returning "home" to East Tn (I personally didn't want to leave the state of Georgia), I logged onto my YouTube account and began looking up some old Lester Roloff sermons. For those of you who've never heard of him, Lester Roloff was an Independent Baptist pastor from Corpus Christi, Texas. He had a radio program called "The Family Altar". He also operated several homes for "wayward youth".

He was controversial only in the sense that he refused to accept a state license for his youth homes. His way of thinking was that, since he received neither state nor federal monies, that neither entity had any business poking their nose into the way he operated a church-sanctioned home for youth. (Separation of church/state, y'know?) He had hundreds of thousands of supporters scattered all across this once-great land of ours who stood with him in his position against the State of Texas. (Our family were staunch Roloff supporters.)

As much as he was known for his controversy, he was even better known for the sermons that he preached. One such sermon was Dr. Law & Dr. Grace, which is a very convicting piece of work - one that I'd listened to scores of times in the past.

On Tuesday, November 23, 2010, I tuned in to hear that sermon once again. I'd wanted to hear that great message just one more time - never in a million years thinking that God might have something in it for me.

As I listened to the sermon, something powerful and mighty began to happen right here in the privacy of my own bedroom, with Elijah and Josiah soundly sleeping next to me.


As I listened, I began to realize that I had never truly, totally surrendered my heart to Christ. I'd spent years believing that I was born-again; believing that Christ Jesus resided within me. With tears streaming down my face, the realization dawned on me that I was as far from the Cross of Calvary as one could possibly be.

Condensing what really is a long story, I wept/cried out for Christ to give me a new heart. And you wanna know something really neat? He did exactly as I'd asked! The humility and brokenness was definitely present. I was able, for the first time ever, to see myself truly as Christ saw me: an evil, wicked sinner destined for the pits of a very real place called Hell.

I realize that I have readers here who subscribe to totally different beliefs than I do, and all I can offer you is that I'll pray for you, because I know without a shadow of a doubt that my God is real, my God is THE ONLY God, and that my God IS coming again to call home those who have chosen Him.

To family members who'll read this for the first time, I want to apologize to you for the deception. I really did think that I was saved, but when I realized that I wasn't, I ran (okay, I hopped) as fast as I possibly could to the foot of the cross where Jesus miraculously saved me from eternal death.

No more does doubt reside in this old man's mind - I have a day, time, and place that I can point to the next time that Satan decides to cast doubt in my mind about the validity of my "Salvation experience". I know that I know that I know that Jesus saved me.

I guess Judy's passing had more of an affect on me than even I realized. It forced me to realize that I, too, had cancer. Only, my cancer was worse, as it could have cost me my spiritual life. I'm glad that God diagnosed it and Jesus healed it. Spiritual cancer is cancer of the absolute worst kind, but I know the Great Physician who can totally eradicate it, leaving you with No Evidence of Disease.

For those of you who check my site periodically for an update, I want to thank you for your consistency, and I want to apologize for my inconsistency. I honestly desire to work hard, try harder, to keep this site updated on a fairly regular basis. It sure would be a welcoming sight to receive an email from one or more of you telling me how my site has made an impact on you, or in some way blessed you.

I sincerely love y'all.