Jesus My Healer

Jesus-the-Healer-1000x500I know it’s been a while since my last post on this site.  But, I have a fantastic testimony to share.  Some of you may know that I was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer that spread to my lungs in November of 2013.  Since then I have had over 15 procedures to alleviate symptoms caused by tumor blockages in my right lung.  It has caused me to have to be on oxygen at times to have normal breathing.

Well, a week ago I had another CT scan on my lungs.  My oncologist told me that the tumors had shrunk a little since the last scan.  However, my lung doctor told me that the tumors were stable but were once again invading my right bronchial tree.  This is not good.  I was referred to both a radiation oncologist and a thoracic surgeon to discover some treatment options. My radiation oncologist suggested once again using a high dose of radiation directed at the trouble spot to decrease the amount of coughing up blood and open up the airway some more. I will be undergoing the radiation treatment next week.

The thoracic surgeon told me that he thought that any kind of surgery on the affected area would do more damage than good.  It is just too blocked by tumors and they are in a delicate area.  The Lord Jesus knew all about my situation. The night after I saw the surgeon I had a massive cough attack. I began to cough up tissue and blood.  After a few minutes I was just coughing up blood.  This is a scary feeling and most uncomfortable. After about 20 minutes the coughing ceased. I was finally able to lay down and get some sleep overnight.

The next day I checked my oxygen level and it was finally above 90 percent.  I had been on oxygen because my levels were below 90 percent. Now I could stop using the oxygen and I was breathing much better. I was on a call with some friends and the Lord showed me that while the surgeon couldn’t do surgery, He could.  And, apparently he did. I saw an image of the Lord cutting away some of the tumor mass so that I would have an opening to breathe better. The blood that I coughed up was the results of His intervention. While there are still tumors in my lungs, at least now there is an opening that allows me to breathe much better. Thank you Dr. Jesus for your intervention.

 

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Forgiven Much

How much have you been forgiven for? I can say of myself I have been forgiven by the Lord Jesus for a lot. I have recently been reading a book by Frank Viola entitled, “From Eternity to Here”. Last night I read a chapter dealing with the account of Jesus and a woman named Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of Luke chapter 7.  Mary became an uninvited guest at a dinner given by Simon the pharisee for Jesus. She spent all day trying to find Jesus after He had freed her from the many demons that had tormented her. The verse that truly got my attention in this account is found in verse 47. It says, Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

In the past I have not expressed my love for the Lord very often. This verse may explain the reason for this. I have been a Christian for over 30 years, yet I have struggled with believing all that the Lord has done for me. I have spent years living in guilt and shame over my behavior towards myself and others. In reality I had been committing the sin of unbelief in during these years. I could not bring myself to tell the Lord of my love and devotion to Him because I was putting up a wall of unbelief and unforgiveness towards myself and shutting Him out.forgiven

Now in the past year the Lord has been revealing to me who He is in me and who I am in Him. What a wonderful change in perspective. I used to believe that because of my behavior that I was unable to please the Lord.  This is simply not true. I am pleasing to Him always simply because of my faith in Him. He has chosen me to be in Him before the foundation of the world according to Ephesians 1:4.  This is also true of all those who have put their trust in Christ and received His forgiveness of all their sins. What a wonderful Christ!
I love my Lord and I am grateful for all He has forgiven me for. When you realize just how much He has done for you, I believe you will love Him even more than you do today.

Who Am I?

a6586d6ca2096149168d2ab5ae8362b7“What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?”  Psalm 8:4 NKJV

Who am I Lord Jesus that You were mindful of me?  You put my cancer case on the heart of my pulmonologist.  She went to a conference in Maryland and asked all the experts about my case involving a stent that moved from my right lung to my left lung.  She found some great answers and told me she wanted to try again to remove that stent causing my breathing difficulties.  Then one week ago You gave her skill and favor to remove that troublesome stent without any complications to the amazement of myself and my care team.  Now I am breathing better in spite of still having tumors on both lungs.

I thank You Lord Jesus for Your presence, Your love, and Your healing touch on me.  I am so glad that You are in me and I am in You.  That is why You are mindful of me.

Ephesians 1 Personal Version

I have recently been reading and meditating on Ephesians 1 (NKJV).  I used an ephesians-2-ppt-slide4online Bible website and personalized it.  I found great truth and encouragement from it and I hope you do as well.

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus (Asia Minor), and faithful in Christ Jesus:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Blessed be You the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as You chose me in Him before the foundation of the world, that I should be holy and without blame before You in love, 5 having predestined me to adoption as a son by Jesus Christ to Yourself, according to the good pleasure of Your will, 6 to the praise of the glory of Your grace, by which You made me accepted in the Beloved.

7 In Christ I have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward me in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to me the mystery of Your will, according to Your good pleasure which You purposed in Yourself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times You might gather together in one all things in Christ, both[a] which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.11 In Christ also I have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of You who works all things according to the counsel of Your will,12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

13 In Christ you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who[b] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,18 the eyes of your understanding[c] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all  things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Footnotes:

  1. Ephesians 1:10 NU-Text and M-Text omit both.
  2. Ephesians 1:14 NU-Text reads which.
  3. Ephesians 1:18 NU-Text and M-Text read hearts.

New King James Version (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Organic Expression of Church

448540542_640The joy of meeting together with other members of the body of Christ in a home setting is always refreshing and encouraging for me.  I had the opportunity during my short stay in California on vacation to meet some new believers in their home.  They are friends of another couple that I have known for a number of years now.  I left the institutional church about 3 years ago.  I have chosen to seek out fellowship in a more organic expression.  I found it in home fellowship.  In this gathering there was no agenda, no leader, and no Bible study.  These elements are typical for a small group setting in many institutional churches.

But, in an organic expression of Church in a home setting is very different.  Each person is allowed and encouraged to share what the Lord Jesus is teaching them.  Each person is given the freedom to use their spiritual gifts with the rest of the group.  Instead of a single individual or a select group of individuals only allowed to speak, in an organic church all can speak.  We all shared what Christ was doing in teaching and doing in our lives.  We met for over 3 hours and we didn’t even want to look at our watches to see if we were close to ending.  I can recall many times in the institutional church service where I couldn’t wait for it to end.  I was simply bored with this kind of gathering.

This is a very unique and different way of believers meeting together.  This is the pattern laid out for fellowship and the gathering of believers in the New Testament.  Yet, over the past 1500 years or so we have taken our western viewpoint of the New Testament over first looking at how these gatherings happened at the time it was written.  The early church met in homes not in buildings.  The early church didn’t have paid clergy.  In fact, there was no distinction between leaders and regular believers.  The early church also had no Bible to study.  Most believers were illiterate in the first century.  When they met together they shared Christ and what he was teaching them.  There were no printing presses until the 16th century.  Most house churches probably didn’t even have a single scroll of any Old Testament writings either.

Yet, in the western church today, we have become so Bible dependent that we have lost the simple joy of sharing Christ with one another each time we meet as believers.  If you went to your church service over the weekend and the pastor said there is no sermon today, what would you and others do at the worship service?  Could you simply talk about the Lord Jesus Christ the entire 90 minutes with one another?  I could write further on this subject, but I will end this post here.  I will however continue this topic in future posts.

Gathering Under Christ’s Headship

organic_churchThe next step in this journey was to begin to meet with other believers that have also left the institutional church.  Meeting with others in the body of Christ is very much part of New Testament teaching.  We need one another.  My wife knew an older couple that we could fellowship with.  They had been out of the institutional church for several years.  We began to meet with them on a weekly basis in the beginning.  Our meetings were focused on sharing what Christ had been teaching us, or Scriptures that we were reading. These meetings also had some great food involved as well.  We would sit and talk for several hours, and the time seemed to fly right by.  There was no sermon or teaching given by one individual that would send us straight into nap mode.  We all had the opportunity to share and use our gifts. Our gatherings weren’t run by any one person.

In meeting like this, we grew to have a close bond with not only this couple, but their family as well.  In time, another younger couple joined our fellowship and made it even richer.  The husband was a musician and would lead us in worship songs.  This made our meetings even better.  We had no leader or pastor to lead our meetings.  Jesus Christ was our leader and we followed His lead.  I would consider the older couple as elders, but this was only natural for them with their wisdom and experience. After experiencing this form of “organic church”, I cannot see myself ever returning to the institutional church.

I have recently relocated on my own to Arizona due to a change in my family situation.  I have looked into finding an “organic church” meeting with the help of Milt Rodriguez of www.therebuilders.org.  So far there aren’t any meetings in my area.  Perhaps it is time that I should begin one, Lord willing.  I still meet via Google Hangouts with the older couple on a weekly basis.  While we aren’t in the same room, the rich fellowship is the same.  I can see in my own life, how the Lord is helping me to know Him in a deeper way and to rely on Him for all my needs.  He has shown me that He “is my life” as quoted in Galatians 2:20.  Conventional thinking would say that I should be going backwards in my relationship with Christ by not being in the institutional church.  I would say that it is just the opposite, and would invite anyone to step out of the institution and into a deeper walk with Christ.

Getting Kicked Out of Church

For the next few years I was in a smaller mega church where I met my wife.  After about 2 years both of us felt as if churchsomething was missing at this church.  The sermons seemed to be the same messages from a few months ago.  The outline changed a bit but it was the same stuff.  I was tired of designing worship services to attract the unchurched.  We both felt that we needed a change.  We sought out a church that was closer to our home and we found one nearby.  After attending there for a while, my wife began to volunteer in the office and worked closely with the lead pastor.

The pastor invited a “prophet” named Clint Glenny to come and speak each night for a week.  Brother Clint shared a lot about the end times and the state of the church in the U.S.  The messages resonated with me, and I looked forward to each meeting.  We had the opportunity to have dinner with he and his wife and we were able to be encouraged by it.  He suggested we read a book by Frank Viola and George Barna called, “Pagan Christianity?”.

Then my wife began to have some tension with the lead pastor.  We scheduled a meeting with he and his associate to discuss matters and hopefully find some resolution. This meeting did not go well for either side.  The pastor told us that if we could not submit to his leadership then we would need to leave.  It felt to me like I was being kicked out of a church.  I had never been kicked out of a church in all my life as a Christian.  I felt totally out of my element.

The first couple of Sunday mornings I was a nervous wreck.  I didn’t feel comfortable with not going to church.  I decided to purchase the book “Pagan Christianity?”  This helped me to do something in the meantime.  As I poured through this book, I began to see the origins of some of the traditions that we have accepted over the past 1800 years.  Many practices and traditions of the modern western church do not line up with the New Testament teaching.  Well, some would quote many a verse to prove that they are.  But when you look at these same verses in context, they show that the modern western church is way off base.

(to be continued…)

Venturing Out

3d91289c38b6fa8a3a903566b5571c8c_viewThis is a brief account of this man’s journey from being firmly rooted into the institutional church to leaving the institution and coming to know Christ in a real way for the first time in a very long time.  It would seem to many that this concept of leaving “church” and truly finding Christ is backwards.  Now, I didn’t leave the Church, because I am always a part or member of the body of Christ, thus I am the Church.  But I did leave what is called the “institutional church”. Now I define the “institutional” church as those churches that are under the leadership of a pastor or priest and meet in a building on a weekly basis.  The alternative, as I will explain later is “organic church”.  This is a gathering of believers under the headship of Jesus Christ alone.

I have been a Christian since 1982.  I was a sophomore in high school when I went to a New Year’s eve event at a small church I was attending.  They were showing a Billy Graham film and I heard the Gospel message for the first time.  Two days later I received the Lord into my life on a hill just off of a local beach in California.  This is the very short version of my testimony. The pastor of this local church after interacting with me for a year told me he believed I was called to full time ministry.  So after graduating high school, I set off for Bible college in Indiana.  After one semester I decided it wasn’t for me and returned to California.

Then a few years later I returned to the same church and began my journey as a youth pastor.  I volunteered and worked with junior high and high school students for a number of years. In 1999 I was given the opportunity to be a credentialed minister in the Church of God (Anderson, IN) and become the associate pastor of a church in San Jose, CA.  I thought I was finally fulfilling the Lord’s call on my life by being an official pastor.  This position also allowed me to team up with my former youth pastor and friend, who was the lead pastor of this particular church.  It was a small congregation of about 150 people.  The focus was on being a seeker sensitive church that modeled the principles of Saddleback Church, lead by Rick Warren.

After a few years at this church I came to realize that my own personal issues were getting in the way of effectively ministering to people, so I resigned.  I attended a local seeker sensitive mega church for a few years.  It was during this period that I decided to go back to school to finish my bachelors degree in Christian Leadership with the hopes of returning to vocational ministry. There was one course in particular that I can see was the catalyst for planting the seed of moving me out of the institutional church.  It was a course of developing a Biblical worldview.  The textbooks and discussions on this topic caused me to question how “church” was being done in the U.S.  I had pastored in a seeker sensitive model, but I was coming to realize that this doesn’t line up with the model given in the new testament.  I saw my need to repent of preaching messages and using scriptures out of their intended context.  I was more interested in verses that fit my neat outline versus what those verses really meant.

(to be continued in Part 2)

The “Branding” of a Pastor or Church


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I recently came across this article posted at wnd.com.  I remember hearing a speech from the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower about the rise and danger of the “military industrial complex”.  This article makes me think about the rise and danger of the “evangelical industrial complex”.

http://www.wnd.com/2013/07/pastor-inc-takes-over-the-american-church/?cat_orig=diversions

I would agree with most of this article.  If you have walked into a “Christian” book store lately you have seen all of the books by Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, etc.  These mega pastors have all become a branding icon rather than simply being leaders of a local church.  This is another glaring example of how the “institutional” church has been lead astray from the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Religion or Relationship?

“If you want to be a good Christian and please the Lord, then you need to read your Bible everyday.”  “If you really want SpiritualDisciplinesCollage1-300x240
to grow in your faith you need to volunteer on a ministry team at church.”  “If you’re not witnessing to your unsaved co-workers and family regularly you aren’t very mature as a Christian.”

I have been around church folk long enough to hear these comments in my 30 years as a Christian.  Over the years I have heard comments like this and found myself feeling guilty for not measuring up to someone who I perceived as being more “mature” than myself.  These thoughts of not doing enough, combined with my “habitual sins” have left me feeling so far away from experiencing God’s love and the presence of Christ, my savior.  I have discovered over the last year that I have been practicing the religion of Christianity rather than the relationship with Jesus Christ.

Thankfully, the Lord has revealed to me some of the reasons behind my keeping my distance from Him.  It revolves around fear and guilt.  Now, generally speaking most religions of the world are based upon a works based system of pleasing their god.  There is a natural fear of the consequences of not doing enough to earn your way to heaven, nirvana, or some other after life idea.  Yet, in the western institutional church, there is still a level of doing good works to please God on top of trusting in Christ for salvation.  Granted, works will be a natural outflow of gratitude towards Christ for salvation, but it shouldn’t be a series of “have to’s” to be followed.  A dear friend of mine reminded me recently, “If you have to do something for Christ, then it isn’t of Christ.”  What this means is, any service we do for our Lord should be motivated purely out of our love and devotion to Him rather than a out of duty.

The antidote for this mindset of guilt and doing things out of a sense of duty is to be reminded of His love and complete forgiveness.  For myself, it also means forgiving myself for my past failures and accepting His perfect forgiveness.  More on this in future post.

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.  Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”  1 John 4:17-18 NLT

Are you practicing the religion of the Christian life or living Christianity through a vital relationship with Christ?