Connecting

Charlie and his beautiful wife and two teen-aged daughters picked us up for church last Sunday morning. Friends of Lucy. This was one reason we came to this tourist haven; not just to enjoy the sun, the beautiful Caribbean Sea, which we haven’t seen yet, and to escape the cold of Portland, both weather-wise and spiritually. but to find a church that believes in miracles and one we could be a part of and do something for God.

They met in a rural area, a small, chalk-white building, cut into the tangled jungle, white plastic chairs and Mexican smiles, hugs, and kisses by the dozen. During the worship, Laurie felt faint, so they transported her in her wheelchair to a car parked by the entrance, where she could rest in hear the music. The preaching was mostly in Spanish, but Cecil, a retired airline pilot with Japan Airlines, sat next to me and translated, and then I sent him out to the car to translate for Laurie.

At the end of the service, they carried her in her wheelchair up the nine stone steps back into the church and to the front to be prayed for. The worship and music was intoxicating. They pulled her up from the wheelchair, and with support, she walked for about 10 minutes. If love alone could heal, she was healed a hundred times. She definitely felt a supernatural strength flowing through her body when they prayed, and her legs noticeably strengthened from that point onward.

God heals in several ways. One: Miracles. These are instantaneous, supernatural acts of God. I believe the main reason Western Christianity has gone Laodicean is what I call “the death of Pentecost.” I’ve seen far too many miracles in my own ministry in South Africa, including a dramatic healing of my own back, that doctors said without surgery I might never walk, to ever have doubts on the subjects. Good Christians differ on this doctrine, but to me, it’s not a doctrine but a living reality.  Two: Healing. This is where God heals you quicker than the natural healing process. Three: Doctors. God uses doctors and medicines to heal people. Four: When we get to heaven.

Right now, we are believing for a supernatural healing, as Laurie is doing physical therapy and feeling a little stronger every day, but we’re still believing God for a miracle.

After church, Charlie and his family hosted a food fellowship with half of the church. Laurie was up for eight straight hours, by far her longest.

I’ve posted a video of the church praying for her, which follows:

 

 

 

 

Spiraling

So, who is this woman I married? Shy, a bouncing blonde ponytail, with her vivacious six-year-old​ daughter​, a diligent caretaker of ten ​stray ​kittens. I had no idea​ who she was, not really. ​ What man ​ever​ does​ to begin with​? She loved Jesus, she was so beautiful I wanted to weep, I had two small children left to me by my ​first ​wife’s death from cancer​;​ it was a match that had to be.

Who is she? I asked myself this when, as I was hopping her on one leg to ​her wheelchair,​ she said, cheek to cheek, “I’m glad this has happened.” I rested her against ​a ​wall, “What?” She said it brought us closer together and closer to God. It’s what we wanted. but I thought snork​eling​ on the Caribbean Sea and praying together again in the morning would be sufficient. No half measures with God. Living in Portland was like spiritual Sodom. ​Moving here, ​w​e were volunteering to make our lives available​ to God​ ​and now He is ​preparing us​ for what He has for us.​ I told a friend, jokingly, I wished my blog​ was​ “NOT changing from glory to glory ​TOO​ ​MUCH​,” but he was relentless and responded, “Nothing is too much to be conformed into God’s image.” ​I wanted to tell him to lighten up. ​

I’ve seen Mexican ​men and women​ working incredibly hard here, not always true in America​,​ where their votes are bought by food stamps. I saw a young gay man lounging by the pool. I remembered how I ​used to​ respond in my legalistic, judgmental church days​. That is,​ “If I befriend him, he will think I approve of his life​’s​ choices,” right? ​I know the Scriptures, but since my name isn’t Jesus, I treated him with respect. ​I tried to ​explain to him why Obama was not the savior of the world and why Trump was not the ​Beast of the Book of Revelations, even if he looked and acted the part many times. ​ ​After I was ​more delivered from my judgmentalism, someone​ asked ​me ​what ​I ​would do if a homosexual walked into ​my​ church? I said I would sit him with the rest of the sinners. After all, God hates religious pride above all else.
We were shunned ​by religion ​as if we were gay, Laurie and I, because our sin was equally grievous, at least in the eyes of our church leader: ​we stood on principle against a false religious movement, that was invading by a coup attempt to take over our fellowship in South Africa. ​My church leader at the time sided against us. That was ten years ago, and that didn’t have a happy ending. That is why I write novels on spiritual abuse. My novel, “The Grass that Suffers,” is being readied for publishing, hopefully within a month.

​I guess I’m getting into the habit of naming each blog. “Spiraling,” because after “launching” and “splatting,” we are now spiraling to a place of finding a new and present reality, physically, mentally, and spiritually. On the spiritual side, through our friend Lucy at the hospital, we met a group of beautiful miracle-believing Christians, and went to their church yesterday morning. That will be my next blog. ​

Splat

I’m writing this blog from the intensive care unit of Victoria Hospital in Cancun, Mexico, where my wife, Laurie, is out of the room, having multiple tests done to find out the cause and cure for her stroke. I’m sitting here alone listening to ICU machines making crickets sounds. If you read the last blog, posted in Portland, it was titled “Casting Off.” I wasn’t sure what to call this one since we don’t appear to be “casting” anymore, or at least not with the same exuberance. So, I’ll leave it untitled until one presents itself.
It happened at 2:30 in the morning on our first night here. I heard her cry out and found her on the floor, having collapsed—her entire left side of her body had turned numb as novacane. 9-11, and the ambulance rushed us to a state-run hospital. Not our choice, but it’s where the paramedics took us. State- run hospitals make the American VA hospitals look like the Mayo Clinic.
I first realized that we were in the wrong place when the wheelchair had only one usable footrest and the left wheel slanted at a perilous angle. Most of the blood was from men who obviously got the worst of it in knock-down fights. Thrashing about in the hallway on their gurneys; no one was in a hurry to clean up the splatter. Oh, I’m sorry, you’re reading a travel blog from Cancun and you were looking for hot bodies on the beach that say, “How cool are we?” You wouldn’t really want to see our bodies, anywhere, but we’ll eventually get to the beach.
So, we caught a $600 ambulance ride to a private hospital, where they not only knew how to insert a proper IV but had real equipment and medicine to meet the crisis. That was two days ago and there’s been little physical progress, as I await her return from the MRI. Lack of blood flow to the right side of her brain apparently killed some cells that operate the left side of her body. Fortunately, her face muscles were not affected and she still has a beautiful smile.
This was not the trip we planned: snorkeling in Cozumel, sunsets on the beach, but it’s what we got, and for a reason, which I will explain later when God shows me. But I already have some ideas.
They allowed me to move into her room. With the price we’re paying, it’s the least they could do, but there’s no mini-fridge or microwave and you have to wash out your laundry in the sink. But there’s good AC and I can be close to Laurie. But the next night the hospital filled up and so they accommodated me across the street at the Hacienda Hotel, and thanks to a God-send Christian nurse named Lucy, 20180406_103521 (1)the hospital paid for the first two nights. There have been other angels along the way in this crisis, who aren’t getting their proper due.

So, in order to keep this from being a depressive blog post, let me just say I already see some of God’s hand in allowing this to happen. One: Our family, back in Oregon and Arizona, are praying and texting several times a day. We have good relationships with them, but never this must loving contact. That is good. And friends we haven’t heard from for a while are texting and praying as well. Our youngest daughter, Abby, texted, “Mom, you better get out of that hospital and on the beach soon. I love you so much, and I believe you will recover. Your mind is strong.” Another daughter, Rachel said, “I love you, the kids and I are praying all the time. I’ll get on the plane in a minute and come down there if you need anything.” Being a nurse, she spoke personally to the neurosurgeon and requested all the medical records to make sure the doctors were doing everything right.
Two: Laurie and I came here for change, and there is no doubt that this will change us. Who said change was easy? especially at our age? For all the stress, panic, worry, tears, and what ifs? I know good things will come from all of this. One of my favorite scriptures: Jeremiah 29: “For I now the plans I have for you, plans to bless you, to give you a future and a hope.” And “All things work together for good for those who are called in Christ Jesus.”
I asked her, “Are you afraid of death?” She said she never thought of it. She believes it was everyone’s prayers that gave her the peace of God instead of panic. And then she said she was glad this had happened. She said this while I was hoisting her, hopping on her good foot and clinging to me on the way to the bathroom. And I will tell you why she said that in the next blog.
I can’t wait to get Laurie back, I mean all the way. God is good, many are praying, we covet yours as well.

Casting Off

My wife Laurie and I have decided to join a growing trend of people who sell everything and relocate to a warm, inexpensive country overseas and become “digital nomads.” But not so trendy is the way we’re NOT doing it. There are two basic groups of “nomads”: Young people who have little to get rid of and pack their lives into a backpack and travel the world, financing their journeys through on-line blogs. The second group consists of older people who sell their considerable possessions and house and buy condos in places like Panama or the Bahamas and live off their retirement money.
We don’t exactly belong to either group. Like the young people, we loaded up our backpacks and sold everything (or gave it away). But unlike the young people, we will be living off my Social Security. Our life’s accumulation of worldly wealth sold for a paltry $1,267, and that included two cars and my pastoral library. And unlike the older folks, we don’t have a house to sell and will be renting furnished apartments.
Years ago, I promised my wife, who was born in the Caribbean, that I would take her back there, and so we plan to settle on the Caribbean island of Cozumel, off the Mexican, Yucatan Peninsula. She will snorkel and I will write and market my first novel. And so, we leave in two days each with one back pack and one check in duffel bag full of meds and a CPAP machine.
We are not going just for the less expensive living. We also need a spiritual shakeup. After burning out on American “churchianity,” we find ourselves spiritually depleted and are hoping to attach ourselves to a Christian group that is doing something for God. Having been South African missionaries, we feel we have a lot to offer and are looking for God to open doors of opportunities for us.
And so, I will be blogging our experiences, with pictures, and perhaps paving the way for other seniors to make similar lifestyle changes. Scary, you ask? Everyone we talk to about what we’re doing is excited for us, but I can read the fear on some of their faces. Yes, if it wasn’t a little scary, it wouldn’t be an adventure. But do you know what would be scarier? Staying where we’re at and becoming spiritually, mentally, and physically comatose. Paul said in Eph.6:10, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” Fear immobilizes its victims. Faith pushes beyond and looks for God on the other side. The outcome of our battle rests on God’s performance, not on our strength and abilities.
“Everyone is a hero if you catch them at the right moment.”

What about those who’s round peg doesn’t fit the churchly square?

In the parable of the great banquet in Luke 14, one of the guests commented, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” He says this to elicit Jesus’ opinion on who will be at this heavenly banquet.
They expect Him to respond by saying something like, “Those who precisely keep the Law, they will be worthy.” And the Pharisee’s would have nodded their heads in agreement.  700 years earlier, Isaiah, in the 25th chapter of his prophetic book, says that Gentiles, despised by the Jews of that day, will also be at this banquet. The apocryphal Book of Enoch agrees that Gentiles will be at this banquet, with a slight twist. He says that the angel of death will be there to slay all the Gentiles, and the good Jews will have to wade through the blood to get to the banquet table. The Qumran adds another twist: no one with physical deformities will be allowed at this banquet. Thankfully, Jesus has a different reality on this.
In verse 16-20, the master of the house sends out his servant to gather people for the banquet. People come and are seated in the living area. But when the announcement comes that the food is ready, they get up and leave. One has to go test his oxen, another has to look at a field he just bought, and another just got married. Imagine having guests in your own home doing this. “Excuse me, I have to go and feed my cat.” Or, “I have to go mow the lawn.” They all had flimsy excuses: What? you didn’t test the oxen or look at the field before you bought it? Not likely. The excuses are purposely flimsy. Why? They wanted to humiliate the host.
The host is righteously upset. He’s been humiliated. Insult and injustice causes great anger. And anger generates enormous energy. What is he to do with it? Bible says, “Be angry and sin not.”
The master of the house has every right to retaliate, but he doesn’t. He responds in grace and invites others to come. He uses his energy to invite the poor, maimed, blind, and infirm and yes, even Gentiles. The very ones the religious elite say are not eligible.
He says to “Compel, even force them to come in.” He’s not saying to physically drag them in. The Spanish Inquisition used this terminology to justify their horrific brutalities toward “heretics,” those whom Rome deemed not “Catholic enough.” But the master knew that this third group of invited guests would have a difficult time believing they were worthy to attend such a banquet and would need some strong persuasion. “Are you kidding, you want me at the banquet? Hah, do you know what I’ve done? I don’t even go to your church.”
This latter group was the broken, the abused, the trampled underfoot, the dregs and outcasts of society. The very people the religious elite would cast away and declare as unworthy.
The heavenly banquet has already begun. The religious elite are invited. But if they refuse, or are too proud, Jesus will go to the “common people,” those who “heard Him gladly.” Those who are most convinced of their own worthiness are the least likely to be found at the banquet. Those who are broken, bruised, and used by this world, who can’t believe they’re worthy to attend, are the most likely to be included. Those whose church attendance has been impeccable, whose good works are all up to date, those who have ticked off all the right boxes of religious activity, will consider their ticket successfully punched. Maybe.
But what about those who aren’t on the church membership roles? The ones who aren’t included in Christianity Today or Charisma magazine? What about those who are trying to love God but don’t have a ready audience? What about those who don’t fit the ecclesiastical mold, those who round peg doesn’t fit the churchly square? Those who are bankrupt in the business of the Western church?
In Rev.4:10,11, the twenty-four elders are seen in heaven, falling down before Him
who is seated on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before Him, crying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power…” I believe the saints around the throne of God will do likewise, feeling unworthy to even be there, much less, to be receiving crowns. Will there be those demanding larger crowns there? I think not.

We are instructed, commanded by Jesus to invite people to the banquet. We’re not responsible for them to accept, but we are responsible to invite them. Those who refuse to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” will be cut off. Anyone who doesn’t desire to know the truth has already rejected it. Truth and error are all the same to the spiritually ignorant man, and so he doesn’t value spiritual Truth.
Many people say a person can be saved in any religion if he just follows the “light.” That it doesn’t matter what someone believes as long as he believes something. But in reality, their imagination is making as many roads to heaven as Scripture tells us there are ways to hell.

How do we know the truth? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the way.” The Word declares that anyone who does not hold that truth is marked lost for eternity. He who will not take God before he dies, the devil will take as soon as he dies.” This is why it is critical to know what you believe and why you believe it.

Retiring From Religion

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a crooked lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to obtain eternal life? Sounds like a reasonable question, except it’s a trap. First of all, the lawyer is asking the wrong question: what can anyone do to inherit anything? If you had a rich relative and they died, leaving you an inheritance, the only thing you did to earn it was that you were in that family. When you are saved into God’s family, our inheritance is Eternal Life in heaven. It’s a gift. We can’t “obtain” it by our works. The lawyer asked, “What must I do?” If Jesus were to tell him to jump over a twenty-foot fence, it would be equally impossible.

Jesus doesn’t answer the lawyer directly, but tells him he must, “…love the Lord your God with all his heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and your neighbor as yourself.” Truth: You have to have the love of God in your heart before you can love your neighbor as yourself, especially some “neighbors.”

So, the lawyer, looking for some wiggle room asks, “Who is my neighbor?” He draws some careful boundaries about who is neighbor is. To a good Jew, no Gentile could be considered his neighbor. Actually, he believes his “neighbor” could only be another Jew who carefully follows the Law. He thinks he’s covered.

So, Jesus tells the parable: A man is beaten, stripped naked, robbed, and left for dead. A priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan all encounter him. The priest and the Levite, not wanting to defile themselves by touching a dead person, or even a wounded person who is a Gentile, pass on by. The Samaritan stops, treats his wounds, and takes him to an inn to be cared for. Then Jesus asks him, “Which of these three proved to be a neighbor.”

The lawyer is exposed, not only for his prejudice against non-Jews, but by the fact that he can’t ALWAYS love the Lord God with all his heart and strength, and ALWAYS love his neighbor as himself. No one can. It’s an impossible task. Only Jesus Himself could do that. Eternal Life is a gift, not something to be obtained by trying to live up to some impossible standard. We need God to help us to at least be moving in that direction.

“Our task is to encourage others first to let go, to cease striving, to give over this fevered effort of the self-sufficient religionist trying to please an external deity. Count on God knocking on the doors of time. God is the Seeker, and not we alone … I am persuaded that religious people do not with sufficient seriousness count on God as an active factor in the affairs of the world. “Behold I stand at the door and knock,” but too many well-intentioned people are so preoccupied with the clutter of effort to ‘do something for God’ that they don’t hear Him asking that he might do something through them. We may admire the heaven-scaling desires of the tower-builders on the Plain of Shinar, but they would have done better to listen and not drown out the call from heaven with the clang of the mason’s trowel and the creaking of the scaffolding.”

–Thomas R. Kelly

I spent thirty years of my life striving in a religious fellowship as a pastor and missionary, hoping I was “doing enough for God” to be accepted, not just by Him, but sadly, even more so, by my pastor and peers. Although I am grateful for the rich experiences, after leaving that organization I realize God is less concerned by what I’m doing for Him than just allowing Him to love me for who I am. I’m still unlearning all the legalism I thought was pleasing God, and that His love isn’t based on my performance. His salvation and love is a gift, and it’s only cheapened when I think I can earn it.

He who is without sin

The prophet Samuel’s death is recorded in 1 Samuel 25, and most scholars believe that David wrote the rest of that book and 2 Samuel, where he recorded in detail his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. But Ezra, in recording the same events in 1 Chronicles, omits any reference to David’s sin, only stating that “David tarried at Jerusalem.” Ezra didn’t feel it was his place to bring David’s sin to remembrance.

When Noah landed on dry ground after the Flood, he got drunk on some fermented grape juice. Two of his sons, Shem and Japheth, carried a blanket into their father’s tent to cover him, walking backward, so as not to look upon his sin. But Ham brazenly gazed upon his father’s nakedness and possibly mocked him. God cursed Ham for his lack of discretion, but honored Shem and Japheth, not because they ignored their father’s sin, but because it was not their place to expose it.

We once took some recovering addicts from Celebrate Recovery to our church and made the mistake of telling people their status. Later, they asked us not to do this—they didn’t want to be “outed.” If they wanted others to know about their background, that was up to them, not us.

In John 8, the Pharisee’s brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. They wanted her stoned, according to the Law. But Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” Then he stooped down and wrote in the sand, possibly naming their individual sins. Convicted by their conscience, the Pharisee’s dropped their stones and walked away. Jesus asked the woman, “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” When she answered “None,” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Unless your name is Jesus, you don’t have the right to wag your finger and play Holy Spirit with people. Paul said in Galatians 6:1, warning people against correcting people in pride: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a sin, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…”

The Father refuses to look upon our sin without seeing it through the Blood of His Son, that is, through the Mercy Seat. It’s called that for a reason. Only a merciful God, seeing our sin through the Blood, is qualified to “out” us.

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