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Monday, September 19, 2011

BUMPING INTO GOD Part Two


In my second to last blog, I spent time establishing the fact that God is absolutely involved in our lives, to a greater degree than we give Him credit for. People tend to quote the verse, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," more as a faith builder, or a hope, than a present reality.

Because you are not intentionally, or actively looking for God, does not preclude the fact He is always with you. The realization of this truth can happen in a moment of time, out of no-where, and in a least expected way. You suddenly recognize it was God all along. This amazing reality hits you, "He has been leading and directing my life every day." In this blog, I want to follow up on the last one with a couple of real life examples. These will hopefully help you to see His hand in everything which concerns you.

In the last couple of years, while living in Ukraine, I continuously suffered from low grade headaches. I associated them with, what I believed to be sinus problems, which in turn affected my teeth. There were days I felt like pulling them all out. Have you ever had one of those days? So I went to a Ukrainian, dentist who after X-rays,determined it was an infection in the root. I proceeded to have a root canal, which should have by all intents and purposes resolved the pain problem. Two months later, I was in more pain than ever and swallowing Advil by the handful.

It's crazy how your imagination builds up weird and wonderful scenarios. I began to imagine the Doctor went too far and pierced my sinus sack, or all of the root was not properly removed, or one of the three roots on this particular molar had been missed. I could go on ad-infinitum with vain thoughts and imaginations about my jaw.

I, like many of you, am considered an expert, when it comes to Google, and self diagnoses. Plus, I am no stranger to the dentist's chair. I have spent thousands on trying to correct the poor hygiene practices of my youth. I think I know every dental procedure known to man.

Well, when we were three weeks away from this trip to the states, I told Noline, I should have my tooth X-rayed again, once we arrived in Denver. Sure enough, the Dentist said; "This is one of the most problematic of all the teeth." "You need a 're-do' on that root canal." He would not touch it, and sent me to the experts who perform 'micro-surgery.' Great, all I can see now were $$$ signs. Up to this point, all I know is that I am following a perfectly human deduction of alternatives. You just follow the 'chain-link' of choices and hopefully come to a good conclusion. I was not attributing any of this to the involvement of God.

Once in the chair of the 'micro-surgeon,' he gave me a choice. He could go in through the roots and try to address the infection, which was still there even after the root canal, or he could cut along the tooth and gum line and go after the infection in an exposed format. The tissue would be peeled back revealing the tooth, membrane, bone and sinus area. Gulp, that was a bit more information than I needed. At this point, Noline, tends to get queazy wanting to faint. I on the other hand, want to either see it on video, or have a moment by moment commentary.

He then proceeded to inform me there really was no choice, and all he really needed was my consent to; 'cut,' 'peel,' 'probe,' and 'remove' all infection. It truly was a surreal experience, being highly dosed with a local anesthesia, and then to hear the cutting and feeling the reverberation on my jaw, as he cut, peeled and clipped back my gum.
The end of the story is that the root canal done in Ukraine was good. That was a pleasant relief, because the doctor there is a wonderful and dedicated Christian, and a close friend. But the infection had started at the tip of the root and spread into the bone, destroying much of it's density. It had also begun to spread to the next tooth, so he cleaned that area as well. He redeposited bone into the once infected area and proceeded to sow up the gum. Seven sutures later, penicillin, pain killers, ice packs, and a full set of instructions in hand, and I was on my way to a full healing and recovery.

Stay with me for one more example, and then I will tie it all up for you.

After spending time in Colorado, with family we flew to Boca Raton, to our son and his family. Here in this community is a beloved brother and doctor from Times Square Church. He specializes in mole removal and other types of dermatology. I had a small lesion on my arm and no matter what I tried, it did not heal. There was also a small but noticeable growth on my nose, plus a few other items I felt needed to be looked at. This prompted me, along with my wife, to make an appointment.

After a full body checkup, two biopsies, and 10 blasts of liquid nitrogen to suspicious areas of skin damage, and I was again on my way. He rushed the two skin biopsies to the laboratory, knowing we had a limited time in Florida. Just one day later, his office called to get me into surgery immediately, since he did surgery on Fridays. My report was, Basil cell carcinoma. It is the most common, non-melanoma, cancer in the United States today. Being in a late stage, mine needed to surgically removed at once. My nose was not as bad, and all it needed was a long blast of liquid nitrogen, to freeze off all the sun damaged cells.

So there I was within a two week period and again under the knife. With my arm and not my jaw this time being anesthetized. I watched a piece of skin the size of a nickel being removed. Then the edges were quarterized, and the cut photographed. he then 'sutured' it up with seven stitches. There will remain just a thin scar along my arm, a reminder to stay out of the sun, or at least go out with SPF 30 or more. Again, I have not attributed any of this to the hand of God leading or directing me. Don't get me wrong. I am always grateful to the Lord and His involvement in my life. I just was not seeing it at this time.

Now let me close this for you. Since the ministry in Ukraine, was going so well, I told Noline I did not feel we needed a vacation. She informed me, in the way only a wife can say it., "I am going to see the grandkids, you can stay if you want to, or you can join me." It sounded like such a wonderful invitation I agreed to go. Actually, I could not stand the thought of her being with the 'grandies' without me.

I had prayed hard, and for a long time to have God heal, what I believed was my sinus issues. Now, pain free in my jaw, and basil carcinoma free on my nose and arm, I only have the scars of 14 sutures to tell the story of how God was answering prayers I had forgotten about.

On this trip, I WAS BUMPING INTO GOD. He was there all along. God, was using Noline, to persuade me to take the vacation. He saw the end result would be healing. So He guides you into His plan. He is answering prayer in the most natural of ways. He used the dental specialist, and the beloved brother and dermatologist, to bring about healing in my body. They were all God's hand in my life. All that was lacking was my recognition of His mighty hand at work in my life. Im not a numerics buff, but it is amazing that there were 7 sutures both in my gum and on my arm. Seven is the number of perfection. Thank you Lord!

What a vacation. You can look at it as a miserable one with so many different visits to the doctor's office; or you can see how we bump into God along the way. His guidance is always good and it gives us the opportunity to give Him the glory.

Take a moment now, and look over your shoulder, and just reflect on how God has been there all the time for you. He has guided your footsteps every day. "I will never leave you or forsake you."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

REMEMBERING 9/11

As an eye witness to the unprecedented attack of the Twin Towers, I want to give you a brief glimpse from my personal perspective, of how God warned and prepared us as a church. Today, on the eve of the tenth year anniversary, my wife and I continue to extend a prayer for strength and comfort to the families who lost loved ones on that day.

As a nation, I think we all grew a little older, and a little wiser on September, 11, 2001. Idyllic life in the United States, was shattered into a thousand pieces in just one hour. Pain, loss and confusion, swept across the country as we all tried to come to terms, and get to grips, with the destruction which happened before our very eyes.

My day had begun early. I was already sitting at my desk which looks out the South / East window. You could clearly see the Empire State Building, standing slightly to my left, and the Twin Towers, which were clearly visible on that magnificent blue skied morning, was on my right. Our apartment was on the 25th floor of the World Wide Plaza. I was at my computer putting the finishing touches to a message I would be preaching in the service that night.

Times Square Church, (TSC) had been experiencing an unusual manifestation of the presence of God. The Holy Spirit was bringing into the sanctuary a stillness, so quiet you could hear a pin drop. A solemnity, so profoundly real, you did not know what to do next in the meeting. You felt if you even breathed too hard, you would break the holy silence. I have never been in meetings like that before or since.

A couple of months earlier when returning from Rochester, NY. with Carter Conlon, senior pastor of TSC, he had read the epistle of Hebrews out loud while I drove. As he read chapter after chapter, the book gripped us with a new sense of urgency. We decided in the automobile that day, we would preach / teach it together with Teresa Conlon, associate pastor at Times Square over the next few months.

This combination of the New Testament's epistle to the Hebrews, being taught, and the breath taking presence of God in the sanctuary, left us all with the distinct knowledge, He was warning us concerning an up coming disaster. No one knew what, when, or where. We just knew in our spirit, we had to be ready as a congregation.

God always warns His people. As a church in the heart of Manhattan, God was preparing us for what was coming. We were listening and were attentive to His promptings. But none of us could have imagined the magnitude of what happened that day.

David Wilkerson, a watchman, called and anointed to bring warning after warning to the church, confirmed this was God clearly speaking to us through a Holy Ghost hush. Pastor Dave, years ago recognized the Western church in many cases, had lost it's spiritual compass and true moral moorings. He saw much of it heading into the Laodicean debacle. Laodicea, a first century church, had equated worldly riches with spiritual riches. God had called it wretched, naked, and blind. Yet He stood at the door and knocked, and if anyone would hear Him, He would come in, and fellowship with them, and them with Him. We were having quiet but divine fellowship and we were hearing Him.

The phone rang! Surprised, I picked it up answering the call. It was a friend of ours in Colorado. I stopped working on my message. I gazed out the window watching workers on a building a couple of blocks to the south of us. Then I saw it. It was a passenger plane flying way too low passing on the north side of the Empire State Building. With my friend still on the phone I yelled to Noline; "The plane is too low, the plane is too low. I think the pilot is going to land it in the Hudson." She ran to join me. I was now standing and I dropped the phone on the desk, and ran to the living room window which faces directly south.

I watched, dumb founded, as the aircraft banked sharply to the left and continued flying down the Hudson river. It kept that arched turn as it then flew directly into the North Tower. The ball of fire which immediately erupted was so huge, it completely engulfed the top of the Tower. From that 25th floor, we saw the South Tower hit and then both Towers collapse. My son who had an appointment that day in the North Tower, was now with us. His appointment was for 10am, he said he could not get an earlier slot, otherwise he would have been in the Tower. Thank God, Deryk was one of the fortunate, that day.

As a church, we assembled a crew in minutes. They had blankets, water and sandwiches, ready to take to the first responders at ground zero. Our feeding van we use to take food to the homeless on the streets of Manhattan, was now parked as close as permissible to the disaster area. From there a team of volunteers worked tirelessly handing out water and sandwiches to any and all who needed.

The church opened it's doors to, "come one, come all." Anyone and everyone who wandered up from downtown, was welcomed with open arms. Throughout the ordeal, we joined the thousands of others across the city who gave everything they could to help in the disaster.

In the subsequent trauma of those affected by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Times Square Church, was one of many who hosted on site training to help counsel those who were immediately affected by 9/11.

We remember those who died that day, we remember them all. The innocent and the brave. We salute you. You will not be forgotten, you will always be honored by us. May the families who lost loved ones feel the warmth of our prayers, and take courage in this day of remembrance.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bumping Into God

Hello dear readers, I'm away from my computer and using a recently purchased ipad. I am still navigating around the so called "user friendly Apple gaget," so I regret there are no pictures on this blog. Now you are welcome to write and let me know how to retrieve them and place them in the blog. Thanks. Also, please excuse long paragraphs. I have them clearly delineated in the rough draft, but for some reason they do not show in the posting. Oh, well. I can't believe how fast time has flown. It seems like just the other day I was on the overnight train from Ivano Fronkivsk, to Kiev. It was Memorial day and the beginning of summer. I was snacking on Russian salted string cheese as the train rocked back and forth. Now, suddenly, we are already at the end of the summer. We are celebrating Labor day with the great American cookout. Beef hamburgers and of course the famous favorite for children and adult alike, the "hotdog," with ketchup, mustard and relish. As a family we will be contributing to the amazing national statistic of over 800 hotdogs a second being consumed on this day.

Presently, we are sitting in our son and daughter in-law's air conditioned home in Florida. In this part of the country the rules of summer do not apply. Summer is not over here, we are still putting SPF 30 on our untanned skin to protect us from the intensity of the sun.

Noline and I have been vacationing with our family Stateside for the last month, hence the vacation from the blog. We started out with our daughter and her family up in a cabin nestled in the foothills of the awesome Rocky Mountains. We took time out to preach for Gary Wilkerson, at The Springs Church, in Colorado Springs. And now after some time in Florida, we will return to Ukraine and to the revival meetings in Ivano. It has been a wonderful time relaxing with some of our favorite little people, the grandchildren.

I have often spoken of the concept of "bumping into God." These are unplanned meetings with God which are unprecedented and unpredictable. For example, Joshua, while walking toward Jericho, on a recce to determine just how to conquer the city, met with the Son of God. Just maybe, it was in the cool of the evening as he walked (A favorite time with God and Adam) in the lengthening shadows of his surroundings toward the ominous walled fortress. There, standing alone, was a man with a drawn sword. "Friend or foe?" Joshua cried out. Little did he know at the time this was going to be a "bump into God moment." And that is how most of our meetings with God are. We are surprised by the moment, and only in retrospect do we recognize it was God we bumped into. Most call that significant meeting of Joshua's a 'Theophany,' and I tend to agree with them. I believe it is here where he receives heavens directions of toppling those impenetrable walls.

Saul of Tarsus, is another example of "bumping into God." On his way to persecute renegade Christians in Damascus, he is knocked to the ground by light. The voice of the Son of God is both intimidating and intimate. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" "Who are you Lord, and what do you want me to do?" Replied the smitten Pharisee. It is in this "bump with God" that turns a murderer into a missionary extraordinaire.

The bible is full of amazing stories concerning men and women who, 'bumped into God,' and their lives were instantly changed and forever. But don't get me wrong, you are going to need courage to head off into the sunset with God when He bumps into the mundaness of your everyday life. "Many are called, but few are chosen," declares the scriptures. Another translation says it this way; "many are called but few prove themselves to be chosen." In other words, few respond with the boldness needed to be outrageous for God.
Just sit back and take another hard look at the strategy given to Joshua on how to defeat this barricaded enemy. Think about it for a moment. After that meeting in the wilderness with a man and his drawn sword, Joshua had to then follow the directives which were given to him. By the way, this my interpretation of this meeting with Christ in the desert and Joshua. I believe it was at that same meeting in the desert where Joshua hears how the city will fall. He was told to simply march around the walls for seven days and then shout on the seventh and at that moment, they would crumple and fall straight down. Yikes! Easy to read this story, but it is another thing to believe it could really happen this way. Place yourself into Joshua's shoes. Would you have believed a complete stranger in an uninhabited wasteland by simply walking and shouting your victory would be accomplished? That act of faith on Joshua's part could not have been easily manufactured. It had to of come from a meeting with God. Without "bumping into God" we will never be able to do or see the impossible take place.

Being more practical than spiritual I can easily see the utter complexity of taking a few million plus people around a stone fortress and telling them that after six days those walls are going to come down. I can hear the chatter going on in the tents that night before the first day of marching around Jericho. "What do you think the people in the city are going to think of us?" "No doubt they are going to say we are nothing more than a bunch of fanatical heretics, following a leader who does not really have a battle plan." Listen to me today. Unless you see these stories in real life drama, which they are, you are never going to believe that God can bring down your walled cities. You will always succumb to being a hearer and not a doer of the word. To be a leader, even if it is only to your own family, you must meet with God. It does not have to have the dramatics of a Joshua meeting Christ in the desert, or a Saul knocked down to the ground on the road to Damascus. It can be as simple as sitting in a service and the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart as was the case with us living in Africa. In the late 1970's there was a visiting guest speaker from the States. I do not remember the message, but I do remember the voice of the Spirit saying, "you will be going to the United States." That was it, not a huge bump from God, but enough to make me sit up and listen. On the way home that day I said to Noline, I had a strange feeling in the service today. She said she did as well. I said, "You tell me first." She said, "No, you tell me first." I then said, "I brought up the subject so you go first." She said, "OK, OK, this is what I sensed, I felt the Lord saying we would be going to the United States." "Me too!" I exclaimed. Then three years or so later we were on a plane with a one way ticket heading to the US. Yes, you could buy one way tickets in those days believe it or not. We landed in Chicago's O'Hare International airport, and ended up pastoring a church in Sioux Falls, SD. All because we "bumped into God" in a small house gathering to hear a speaker from the good O'l US of A. Today is Labor Day. We celebrate the worker. Commissioned a national holiday in 1882. The first Monday on September, 5th was selected as it was halfway between Independence day and Thanksgiving day. It was designed to give the hard working man or woman an honorable day of rest from their labor. And that is exactly what faith is. It is REST from our labors and trusting in the power of God to do the impossible. So we might be enjoying the well deserved break form our labors today, but don't forget this national holiday has a spiritual counterpart. Hebrew 4:11 "Let us labor therefore to enter into His rest." A great play on words from a mighty God who is not only able to deliver, He wants to deliver us from all our fears.