Pastor's Blog
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November 5, 2013, 10:19 PM

The Final Visit

I met Art nearly one-year ago.  His daughter’s mother-in-law came into our church in Florida while I was pastor there.  I met and befriended Art’s daughter and son-in-law when they made their annual visit from California to spend a few weeks with family in southwest Florida.  A few months after moving to Decatur, I received an email from Art’s daughter in California telling me her father lived here.  She shared that he had turned his back on God years ago, then she asked if I would go visit him.  In answer to her request, I went to visit Art at his residential care center.  He welcomed me because his daughter had sent me, but within the first ten-minutes of my visit, he let me know he WAS NOT going to attend my church or any church!  I believe I surprised him when I told him that was okay, then asked if he would allow me to come visit him again.  Before I left that first time, he mellowed and let me know I was a “different” kind of preacher than he had met before.  Art openly shared about his life, why he quit attending church, and invited me to come back. 

I tried to touch base with Art from time-to-time.  With each visit, I saw our friendship strengthen.  Three-months ago, I learned he was hospitalized, so I went to visit him.  We talked about any number of things, then Art began to talk about spiritual matters.  He admitted he had been angry at God for years because of his wife’s Alzheimer’s.  I was already aware of this, but it was a significant breakthrough for him to admit it.  I shared that I could have become angry at God for my Mother’s on-going, nine-year battle with Alzheimer’s, but God WAS NOT to blame.  I reminded Art that God gives good things, not bad.  If he really wanted to place blame where it was due and if he wanted to be angry at the one who imposed Alzheimer’s on his wife and on my Mother, he should be angry at Satan.  Art listened intently as I spoke about Satan’s hatred for mankind, then he told me he had never thought of that.  He responded, “I will have to think about that.”   On that visit, Art was as open to accepting Christ as I ever saw him. 

This past Friday evening, I received a phone call from Art’s daughter in California informing me her Dad was once again hospitalized and was in critical condition.  He did not have long to live.  I changed my evening plans and went to visit him in the hospital.  When I entered his room, he loudly stated, “There’s MY Pastor!”  I was shocked at his warm, excited greeting proclaiming me to be HIS Pastor!   He had other family there with him.  We visited and chatted for a while, then I prayed with Art.  I told him I would return the next morning to visit with him.  Because his family was there, I did not talk with Art about his spiritual needs.  I decided to wait until the next morning when I might have one-on-one time with him.  However, early Saturday morning, I was seriously injured in a fiery accident.  My injuries prevented me from getting back to the hospital to visit Art.  Art died on Monday. 

Art knew the way of salvation, but I have no assurance that he prayed to accept Christ before he died.  I was convinced if I had one more opportunity to talk with him, Art would have confessed his sins to the Lord and received God’s forgiveness.  I am dealing with guilt and shame for not talking with him about his soul when I saw him Friday night.  I have carried a burden for Art’s salvation this past year…a burden that has been intense the last few days.  When I learned of his death, I was crushed!  I felt I had failed him.  I thought I had one more visit with him.  I thought there would be another opportunity.  I knew his time was short, but believed I had “tomorrow” to talk with him about eternity.  We had that moment Friday evening, but no other time.  I have asked God to help me be bolder in talking to people about their spiritual needs.  I have asked the Lord to make me constantly aware that my last visit with that person could be my final visit with them.  I dare not miss the opportunities God gives me to share His loving message with those who need Him.  I urge you to seek God's holy boldness to tell others of Christ's forgiveness!  You might be the final voice of hope they will ever hear.  Share His Word with boldness!  This could be your final visit!




November 3, 2013, 11:40 AM

A Miracle of Healing!

(I posted this on Facebook the evening of November 2, 2013, but wanted to share it here as well.  I give God all the praise for His healing and protecting touch!)

 

I experienced a HEALING MIRACLE from God today (November 2, 2013)! This morning our gas fireplace would not ignite. I adjusted it several times, heard the gas flowing, heard it trying to ignite, but no fire. After several minutes of that, I decided to turn it off and forget it. As I reached in to turn off the gas, it ignited. I was hit with a HUGE ball of fire!  It hit me full in the face, neck and arms, knocking me half-way across the den. The brunt of the fireball hit me in & under my chin. I was in some of the most intense pain I have ever experienced! Peggy came running downstairs when she heard the "boom" of the ignited gas, then rushed me to the local Emergency Room.

The Emergency Room staff covered my face, neck, upper chest, and arms with wet compresses.  I somewhat resembled "a mummy."  They continually wet these to relieve my pain.  They did what they could for me, but soon told Peggy they were going to put me in the Intensive Care Unit.  Shortly after they made that decision, they came back to inform Peggy my burns were severe enough that I needed to be sent to Springfield Memorial Hospital's Burn Center. Peggy said the redness and extent of the burns on my face/neck/arms was significant. Although I was given very strong medication for pain, I was still hurting greatly when they loaded me into the ambulance for the trip to Springfield. By the time I was transferred to the Burn Center, a lot of people had been notified of my situation and were praying.

It is an understatement to say "it was a traumatic morning." In the ambulance, I was praying for God to somehow use this situation for His glory.  I affirmed to Him that no matter how this turned out, I was totally His! In the back of that ambulance, God gave me a PEACE that defies description!  I KNEW He was riding with me! When we arrived in Springfield and they took the wet compresses off of my burns, they found my wounds "had changed." Peggy saw the extent of my burns when we were in the Decatur Emergency Room, then saw me when they unwrapped me in Springfield. She was stunned to see the difference! Instead of 3rd-degree burns, an extended stay in the Burn Center, and all the trauma that accompanies such an ordeal...the plastic surgeon who took care of me in Springfield said I had 1st-degree burns, gave me medications, showed Peggy how to care for my wounds, and sent us home! The severely burned/injured man they loaded in the ambulance in Decatur WAS NOT the same man they unloaded in Springfield!  The living God of the Bible touched me and brought healing during that ambulance ride!

I am still burned, singed, hurting, and will be in severe pain the next few days, but they tell me there should be NO PERMANENT DAMAGE! In the midst of my "fiery trial"...literally...I have encountered God today! I am humbled and grateful for His intervention in my life this very day. I praise Jesus Christ for His powerful, healing touch!




October 10, 2013, 4:38 PM

The Final Sermon

One of the stressful events leading up to a surgical procedure is when they inform you of all the things that could GO WRONG.  Although they say there is a “one-in-ninety-million-chance,” they still tell you the risks.  There is certainly a valid reason for them to tell us, but it can be quite unsettling.  As I approach my thyroid surgery six-days from now, one of the “dangers” involves the fact they must navigate through my vocal chords in order to reach my thyroid.  Even if all goes perfectly, my vocal chords will be stretched and bruised, resulting in me being very hoarse the week or two after surgery.  My voice will not be strong enough to preach for 4-6 weeks.  Peggy views this as one of the “perks” of me having this surgery!  She gets a few weeks of sweet silence at home! 

Although the danger to my vocal chords is minimal, the “one-in-ninety-million-chance”  is the surgeon would accidentally slice my vocal chords.  There is a chance the sermon I preach this coming Sunday could be the final sermon I ever preach.  I have not lost any sleep over this nor is it a realistic concern.  Yet the idea has resulted in me re-thinking what I am preaching this Sunday.  If I was never able to preach again, is THIS MESSAGE the one I would want people to remember as my final sermon?  The answer is “Yes!”

A far greater concern for me is that thousands of people go into eternity each week having listened to the final sermon they will ever hear.  What did they do with their final sermon?  Did they embrace the words they heard and move closer to Christ?  Did they hear the message, but choose to ignore its truths?  Did the individuals sit in the service preoccupied with other things and never really listen to the sermon at all?  One day, each of us will hear the final sermon.  What will you do with the sermon you hear this Sunday?  Eternity awaits.  Don’t miss Heaven for the world!




September 29, 2013, 8:19 AM

There's A Heart Problem

To look at me, I appear to be healthy.  I am not overweight.  I have been an athlete most of my life.  I exercise regularly.  I have had few medical problems in my lifetime and rarely get sick (allergies excluded).  Nearly six-months ago when I was diagnosed with pre-cancerous nodules in my thyroid gland, I was surprised.  Having dealt with this four-years ago, I knew what to expect…I thought.  As I prepared for the upcoming surgery, one thing I did not anticipate was ‘heart problems.’  Because one portion of my family has a genetic heart condition, my heart has been checked frequently over the years, but has always been healthy and strong.  I have never had heart-related issues and certainly did not expect any now.  All of life was suddenly rearranged because of ‘heart problems.’  Life cannot move forward for me until the ‘heart problems’ are addressed.  The potential cancer in my body cannot be dealt with until my ‘heart problems’ are remedied.  Nothing can be made right until my heart is made right.

The same is true with each of us spiritually.  Nothing in life can be what God intends for it to be until our ‘spiritual heart,’ i.e. our soul and core of who we are, is right with God.  We can be faithful church attendees, serve in leadership at our church, know every church song by heart, appear to be a model churchman, yet if our ‘spiritual heart’ is not made right, NOTHING will be right with God!  We can try to ignore or deny our ‘spiritual heart problems’, telling ourselves it is not so bad, but the result will be intensified spiritual decline.  The wise choice is to admit our ‘spiritual heart problems’ to the Lord, seek His touch, and allow Him to do the work needing to be done within us.  Confession of our need is the first step to spiritual healing.  However, the second step requires us calling on God, repenting of our sin, and obeying Him in every area of life.

The healing of my physical heart is going to require me to endure some pain, possibly make lifestyle adjustments, and live a bit differently than I have in the past.  It will take effort, commitment, and dedication to doing what I know will keep me healthy.  The same is true of our “spiritual health.”  Living as a Christ-follower means a life-change which affects every segment of who we are.  There may be a little inconvenience along the way, but the abundant life we receive in return far outweighs any sacrifice we might have to make.  Choose to live “spiritually healthy” with NO ‘heart problems.’




September 22, 2013, 10:18 PM

Expect The Unexpected

Surgery was scheduled.  I was mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared.  19-hours before I was to arrive at the hospital, I received a phone call from my surgeon’s nurse informing me my surgery was CANCELED!  I was not pleased!   After weeks of waiting, I was ready to “have my throat sliced” and have my thyroid operation.  I was mentally prepared to be laid-up for a few weeks as I began the recovery process.  The cancelation was quite literally due to my honesty.  When I was interviewed by the pre-op nurse, I mentioned my primary care doctor had recently discovered a heart murmur.   The anesthesia team refused to clear me for surgery until my heart condition was defined and proven to be benign.  Instead of having thyroid surgery, I have spent the last few weeks undergoing tests on my heart.  With my family history of heart problems, this is not something I can dismiss lightly.  I have had a number of heart-related medical exams in the past, all showing that I have a very strong, healthy heart.  What was different for me this time is the recurring, intense tightness and pain in my chest.  As of this writing, I have not heard any results from my testing.  I choose to assume that “no news is good news!” 

Life does not always go as expected.  Frequently, the “unexpected” seems to be the norm.  While I do not like surprises, I have learned how to deal with the “unexpected” events of life.  I live with everything fully surrendered to Jesus Christ, including all those “unknowns”  I will eventually face.  There is an old song I recall from my childhood which says in part, “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand.  But I know Who holds tomorrow and I know Who holds my hand.”  As long as I live in a growing, close relationship with Jesus Christ, I can have the confidence of knowing that He will take care of all the “unexpected” things that come my way.  Whether I must have heart surgery before I can have thyroid surgery, it really does not matter.  I am fully in His care. 


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