Max Lucado’s Newest Book

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“God’s Story, Your Story”

This is the title to one of Max Lucado’s newest books. I’m really excited about this book. As many of you know, all through 2011, I wrote articles on a book called “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel” by Mark Atteberry (click here to access this series). That book has had such a positive impact in my life seeing as I have been living with my muscle disease for four years now. Reading Atteberry’s book gave me the hope and encouragement I needed to be able to walk along this difficult path.

As we came to November last year, I could see that we were nearing the end of writing articles on that book. I wondered what new book I could start to write articles about that met me where I was at in life, plus would be an encouraging book for all of my readers. My wife was the first one to mention Max Lucado’s new book to me. I went online to check it out and immediately I felt a connection to it. Even by just reading the Introduction of the book, I felt certain that this would be an excellent book to read and to write about.

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Let me give you a little more background on my life journey. Then I will tell you why I am excited about exploring Lucado’s book with all of you here on my blog site. Very briefly, I have had the privilege to serve God in quite a variety of missionary and pastoral ministries for over thirty years now. By the time I was 47 years old, I had visited 27 countries and set foot on every continent except Antarctica. (And no, I don’t have a desire to go there.)

Then suddenly in 2008, my muscle disease hit me like a freight train that stopped me dead in my tracks. I had just returned from a very active translation consultant project in Papua New Guinea. Days after getting back to Canada, a few troubling aches and pains flared up over the following six weeks to the point that I was barely able to walk across my living room floor.

Needless to say, the following months, which turned into years, were filled with pain, fatigue, frustration, discouragement and even depression. The turning point came when I participated in a six-week small-group study on learning how to deal with chronic pain. It was at that group that I was introduced to Atteberry’s book. And those two things helped me so much to pull out of my deep despair.

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Lately, I really believe that I have learned how to manage myself well physically by adapting my environment and staying within good boundaries. And I’m also doing quite well emotionally and spiritually. I believe I have for the most part, come out of my wilderness experience and am much more ready to start figuring out how my life will look in the future. I am at the place where I want to see how my life and my illness fit into God’s grand scheme of things.

And that is where Max Lucado’s book comes in. I believe it is time to try once more to see what the bigger picture is, and to do my part that God has designed me for. Actually, I know there are many people who would like to explore this important question. Lucado points this out himself on page 22 in his introductory chapter. He says:

We need to know where we came from. Knowing connects us, links us, bonds us to something greater than we are. Knowing reminds us that we aren’t floating on isolated ponds but on a grand River.

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It is well-known that Lucado is one of today’s most popular Christian authors. In 25 years of writing, he has authored more than sixty books and other various print items. I think what makes him such a good author is how he can creatively weave the story in a simple and humorous manner. But within each story lies a deeper story. And so what makes us laugh and cry from what he writes often softens us and prepares us to hear the deeper spiritual truths he wants us to really hear.

And that is exactly the point of this new book. Lucado knows that as much as we often think our life story is the main story for each one of us, the truth is that our stories are all just a small part of a much bigger Story. And it is when we can get a good grasp on the bigger picture, God’s Story, that we can finally start to make sense of our own lives within the bigger picture. Thus the title, “God’s Story, Your Story.”

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Let me close this article with a quote from page 25 where Lucado briefly touches on the purpose of him writing this new book:

Can you find the plot of a book in one paragraph or hear the flow of a symphony in one measure? Can you uncover the plot of your life by examining your life? By no means. You are so much more than a few days between the womb and the tomb. Your story indwells God’s. This is the great promise of the Bible and the hope of this book.

My hope is that I will do a good job this year as I write an article every second Saturday. And I hope you will enjoy what I write, but also that my articles will help deepen your faith in God. I look forward to the year that lies ahead of us.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

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Holy Spirit Enabled Missionary

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Full-time Missionary Employee Again

It is 2012 and we are staring off the year with me becoming reinstated as a full-time employed missionary. It has been an interesting three years of learning more about what I can do in spite of my muscle disease, and I’m so excited as I prepare to leave for my longest trip to Papua New Guinea since we lived there ten years ago.

In the next few months, I will be busy doing the consultant check on Matthew for a Southeast Asia project, the Gospel of John for two PNG projects, and then the book of Daniel for another project in PNG. Before heading ‘down under’, I have had the joy of teaching part of a week-long intensive training course in Dallas interacting with 16 students who are considering future work with Pioneer Bible Translators.

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My trip to PNG starts on January 15th, and after a few days of rest from the journey, I will work with a team checking the second half of the Gospel of John at a mission base up in the highlands. On Feb. 14th, I will fly down from the highlands, and Jill will fly from the capital of PNG so that we end up meeting in Madang where our PBT mission office is located. (How romantic don’t you think, to meet on Valentine’s Day after being apart for six weeks?)

Then, after a few days of rest, I will begin my work of helping as an Advisor to a group of national men to get their rough draft of the Gospel of John into a much clearer and accurate text. It will take up to six weeks to do that, but once it is finished, then they are ready to have a consultant come and check it. After Easter in April, I will work once more as a consultant to help the third language group check their translation of Daniel. It will be the end of April when I finally return to Canada.

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When I requested employment status with PBT Canada, it was a leap of faith in many ways. My struggles with fatigue and pain have prevented me in the past from being able to do full-time work. The S.E. Asia project (which I can work on remotely through Internet connection) allows me to work when I can and rest when I need to and there is plenty of work with just that alone to keep me busy when I am not on a trip to PNG. And it looks like there is a strong possibility that I will also become attached to one of the language projects of PNG as a remote consultant.

We have found that warmer climates make a big difference positively in my daily pain level, and so we were thankful for the opportunity that arose for me to be in Dallas from August until December, and now for the rest of the winter to be in Papua New Guinea. Recently on Facebook, I wrote my status as “I am no longer a disabled missionary; I am a Holy Spirit enabled missionary.” Whatever it takes to get around and do the task, I want to continue working to help others in whatever way I can to know about the wonderful love of Jesus in the language that speaks best to their heart! What a privilege to serve God in this way.

This most recent chapter of my life is now just about to close.  Except for being apart from Jill and the boys for most of the four months, from August until December, it has been good for me to be here in Dallas.  With the heat, my muscles and my body in general have been doing well.  Remember when people were upset during last Summer because it was above 110 F for almost 100 days?  Well, when I went outside, it was like a giant warm blanket was wrapping around me.  And now that it is in the 40’s F here in Dallas, I am eager to get back to PNG where it is always hot and humid.

But that is not the only reason I am looking forward to going back to PNG.  In every language project, we have a group of national men and women to work with.  This helps us to check for fluency and naturalness of the text, as well as the accuracy.  The real joy comes when we get to the last verse of the last chapter and we breath a sigh of relief that all the tedious, day-by-day checking of every work and phrase and sentence of each verse is completed and now we all have one more book of Scripture ready to be published and put into the hands of the people.

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Someone recently asked me this question, “Besides the warm weather, which is good for your muscles, what are you looking forward to the most as you head back to PNG?”  Without even pausing to think about it, I immediately blurted out, “It is seeing the joy, the awe, the reverence and the excitement in the eyes of the national men and women when they get to hold a copy of the corrected Scripture.

Even though it is one of the manuscript copies of the Scripture book, with all the pen and pencil corrections added into the text, and bunches of words and sections have been struck through until new words were found, to them, the manuscript is still the Word of God to them.  They have such high respect for God’s Word, it often puts us to shame.  But as they hold the old beaten up manuscript, they are able to envision the day when they will hold the completed, real copy of the Bible in their language.  Wow!  What an experience.  I thank God that I can be a part of this ministry.

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Make Your Life A Testimony – Pt 1

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We have come to the last chapter in our book that we have studied together this year on The Listening Post.  The title as many of you know is “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel” by Mark Atteberry.  We have journeyed together with the children of Israel through their wilderness wanderings until they came to their Promised Land.  But we have also journeyed together with reflections on life with one another and seen that the God who fulfilled His promises to the Israelites is the same God who fulfills His promises to us in our lives.

This book has had such a profound impact on my life as I have been on my own personal hard road journey living with my muscle disease that flared up 3 ½ years ago.  There have been many difficult days for me along this road.  Even today, I am not feeling well as I have not had a good sleep and battled pain and fatigue for four days now.  But then I remember that my commitment to God is to serve Him, not complain to Him.  And I also remember that God’s promise is that when I am weak, He is strong.  And reflecting on that brought an old hymn below to my mind.

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Before I gave my life to Christ at age 12, I was only concerned about Me.  (But isn’t this the attitude of all children?)  Yet I wonder what kind of adult I would have turned into if Christ had not become my Lord.  I shudder to think about how self-focused and self-serving I would have become.  So I praise God that I heard the Gospel message when I was young and responded to that call.

And it was only a few years after making that decision to make Jesus my Lord that He showed me that my life was to be fully dedicated to serving Him in mission work around the world.  I have never thought of my years of service for Him to be my “duty” or my “repayment” for the salvation He offered me. Rather, it has always been my joy and privilege to offer my life as a thanks offering back to Him.

1.  Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

2.  Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

3.  Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

As I consider the years that I have been in ministry and mission work up until my disease become evident, I feel that my commitment to serve Christ was in some ways easy for me. Like the first three verses of this hymn mention, I gladly gave Him what was not difficult to give.  I would go, I would reach out, I would sing for Jesus.  And I would enjoy myself as I went along on this adventure in life.

But it in these past 3 ½ years, I have found that serving the Lord had to become a regular choice, as I could choose to give in to the disease and decide the effort to go half way around the world to do our mission work was not worth it.  Even more basic than that, I had to choose to praise God and thank Him for each day that I woke up, no matter whether I “felt” good at the start of the day or not.  Living for Christ is giving all of me over to Him, my mind, my will and my heart.

4.  Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

5.  Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

6.  Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

I found that my world shrunk for me all the way down to little more than my living room.  With little to do, and little ability to do much more than sit in my recliner chair and become even more attached to my computer, I could have literally turned into a “couch potato”.  But God was not finished with me yet.  Through encouragement from my wife and others, we found ways for me to still serve God, even sitting in my own living room.

Through modern technology, I am still able to work on translation projects that are on the other side of the world.  With modern medicine to manage the pain, and rapid transport to get me to other countries, I set myself up in a different recliner and keep on being active in this mission ministry.  But God also opened up this ministry of blogging so that I could encourage others to believe that if God can use me and bless me as He has in spite of my limitations, then He can do this for anyone.

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Back to Atteberry and his last chapter, he tells us that when we have broken through from the barren wilderness of our hard road experience, we need to set up a memorial, as a testimony to others that God is faithful and will carry us through.  And I believe that is what this blog site has become for me.  I sit down and write three articles a week and memorialize all the good things that God has done for me and is still doing for me.  My prayer is that my writings, my memorial stones, have brought honor to God, and been an encouragement to all my readers.

God Allows My Disease To Strike

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Who Am I?  Part 25

In the last article about my life journey, I shared how I felt about becoming trained to be a Bible Translation Consultant.  (Read it here.)  By the time I had finished my training, I truly felt that I had found my real calling in life.  Everything else that had happened previously in my life all seems to make sense now.  All the education, the traveling, the mission experiences, being a deep thinker and having an analytical mind.  All of this would be useful experiences and skills to draw upon to help me be a good consultant.

And then my muscle disease hit.  And I mean this quite literally, for within days of returning from a consultant trip to Papua New Guinea, I was knocked off my feet and could barely walk across my living room floor.  When I first got back from PNG and started having aches and pains in my hips, I figured that I had just over worked myself.  It had been a hectic six weeks of work, with running through airports both going and coming, and I had been doing 12 – 14 hours of language work in the last week I was there in PNG.

But the aches and pain spread through most of my lower body, as well as weakened my arms and chest, to the point that I had to grab on to walls, chairs, ledges or anything there was to make my way slowly across the living room floor area.  Obviously all of us were very concerned and wondered what was wrong with me.  But I think the greater shock to us was just how rapidly my body deteriorated.  In just six weeks, I went from being a globe-trotter to distant countries, to being crippled up in my own home.

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Within three weeks of coming home from PNG, I was at my doctor’s office and asking him to help find out the cause of these increased aches and pains.  This led to the normal blood tests and screening for any unusual tropical disease.  But they showed nothing unusual.  And the symptoms got worse.  This led me to be seen by a rheumatologist and also my GP ordered for me to have a variety of deep x-rays and bone scans to be done.  Nothing was discovered, and my symptoms got worse.

Then I saw a neurologist.  He quickly made the assessment that I was not facing a neurological disorder, but rather a muscular disorder, and specifically a mitochondrial disease.  What’s most interesting about this doctor is that he just happened to be the same neurologist who had seen my sister 30 years prior to seeing me.  He had diagnosed my sister as having a mitochondrial myopathy back then, and now believed that the disease which had led to my sister’s death at age 32 was now manifesting itself in me.

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And it was at that moment that I first went into major denial.  I said to myself, “There’s no way I can have the same debilitating disease that my sister had!”  In fact, back in the 70’s, after having done muscle biopsies on Lorna, then my mom, and even my grandmother, they saw there was something wrong and which was getting progressively worse each generation.  But they assured us all back then that this was a female disease only.  So there was no concern or thought that I or my brothers would be affected by the disease.

Well, they know better now.  While it is still true that this mitochondrial myopathy is female linked, they now know that a mother can pass on the disease to all of her children, and her daughter will most likely pass it on to her children.  So that means that all of my mother’s sons (me and my two brothers) can receive what they found, a mutation on the DNA of our mitochondria, but we should not be able to pass it on to our sons.  I pray that is true, since Jill and I have two sons.

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So how did this all affect me and my translation ministry?  Well, to be honest, it just about devastated me emotionally.  And it pretty much put a screeching halt on many of our ministry plans.  I cancelled one trip I had planned to go on to Africa for a month to help teach nationals how to become Bible translators.  I did go ahead along with Jill in the fall of ’08 to PNG for a short 4 week trip to check some Scriptures.  We went over to PNG still under a cloud of uncertainty of what the disease was and did not get my full diagnosis until after the trip.

The more important question in this whole situation was “Where was God in all of this?”  Some people automatically thought it was terrible that I would be struck down with this in the prime of my life and what looked like the highest peak of my missionary career.  But you know, I don’t ever remember asking God the question of “Why me Lord?”  I’ve come to learn long ago that just because we are Christians does not mean we are immune to the catastrophes and the ailments that go along with being a part of this fallen world.

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Actually, I was able to see God’s hand was upon me in a positive way when I stepped back to look at things.  First, we were back in Canada when the disease struck.  It would have been terrible if it had hit me while we were in Africa the year before.  Secondly, we found out that this disease usually shows up in puberty.  So God allowed me to have 48 good years before it hit.  And finally, Calgary just happens to have one of the best geneticists in the world who diagnosed me and is trying all he can do to help me.

This is part one of my “disease story”.  Come back in two weeks to read part two and see what great things have occurred since God first allowed this disease to surface and affect me.  There is a lot of good news to come.

Talk About Your Dreams For God

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Keep Your Dream Alive – Part 1

“Can you remember a time before you landed in the wilderness when your dream seemed to be on the verge of coming true? Were you excitedly making plans and working hard to prepare for a lifetime of happiness? Did you feel as if you had the world by the tail, that all the pieces were falling into place and nothing could stop you? Are you now feeling dazed and confused, wondering what in the world went wrong?”

This is one of the opening paragraphs of Chapter 11 of Mark Atteberry’s book, “Walking with God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“. There have been many other chapters in this book that have contained great words of wisdom and advice, such as: travel along your hard road with good, trustworthy friends; expect detours but keep on walking; trust God, go at His pace and worship Him as you travel along. But this chapter seems to me to be written especially for me and my family. Let me explain.

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In a previous article, (“A Stricken Father“), I tell about the joy of finally becoming a Bible translator, and then experiencing the pain of watching my son suffer a major illness and being pulled out of our translation project in Papua New Guinea. Our story gets better as we were able to return to overseas mission work in 2006. We served with Pioneer Bible Translators for a year and a half in East Africa, but we didn’t quite capture the same level of joy and fulfillment that we had experienced in PNG. Before we left Africa in mid-2007, I had been in dialogue with a number of our PBT leaders in Canada, the United States, and also some of our overseas Branch Directors.

As a result of these discussions, a very exciting picture of opportunities and possibilities begin to emerge. My Canadian Board and I talked about me helping to recruit, organize and expand PBT Canada. The Dallas office wanted me to come periodically to train new missionaries, just like the East Africa Branch wanted me to train national men and women to do Bible translation.

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The door to PNG opened up again as they invited me to come over and be trained to become a translation consultant and check Scriptures before they were published. This would open up the possibility of coming annually or semi-annually to PNG and work with many different translation projects. There was even one more fascinating role that the new President of PBT-US had asked me to consider doing, to act as the facilitator to help open a new country for field operations in South Asia.

As the year 2008 began, it seemed to me that God had arranged all of the skills I had and the training and experiences that I had gone through, to put me in a place where I would be used by God as a Bible translator and linguist literally in countries and continents all over the world. Two months later though, in March 2008, the symptoms of my disease began to manifest themselves and in just six weeks I went from being a globe-trotting translator to not being able to walk across my living room floor. All my dreams and hopes of this promising future were shattered and almost died.

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Let me turn the focus off of me and turn it now on to my two sons. In these past few years, they too have had some of their own dreams and hopes, which up until recently were also seemingly being thwarted. My older son went to Bible college and was nurturing a dream of working with children and teenagers. He talked of possibly completing a degree and then working as a Youth Pastor. Unfortunately, he did not get a lot of encouragement from some people to pursue this dream,.

But even more significantly, the post-cancer fatigue that he is experiencing is limiting him right now from working at any full-time job. My younger son, as you may have read from previous articles, had held for a long time the hope and dream of entering into the Canadian Army. He believed that he was meant to have a military life and career.

It was offered to him in September 2009, but in a moment of doubt and not feeling ready at age 18 to be a soldier, he passed on the invitation. Upon more reflection for six months, he decided that the Army was for him, but positions were filled by then and for more than a year there wasn’t even any hope given to him that he would get another invitation.

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And so for three years, everyone in my immediate family (including my wife who has had her own dreams unrealized) has had to walk by faith and not by sight, trusting in God that He will one day bring our dreams to fruition. What helps us as Christians is that we believe these dreams of a more fulfilling future have been planted within us by God Himself who designed us to be this way.

Atteberry is right in his introduction of this chapter as he recounts the life story of Caleb in the Bible in that his dreams were only deferred, pushed into the future, not defeated. Remember how Caleb had been one of the 12 spies who surveyed the land of Palestine, the land which flowed with milk and honey. But because of the sin of the people, it would be 40 years until Caleb was able to claim the promise of this portion of land.  And so we will pick up this message in keeping your dreams alive in Part Two which will be published in two weeks from now.

Thanking God Through The Pain

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Praising The Lord

Life can be difficult. Life can be painful. How should we respond? How do you respond when life just wears you down? There are lots of ways that we can respond, but let me suggest that the best way is to praise and thank the Lord. And for those of us who are musically inclined, carrying around a song in our mind, in our hearts and even on our lips can be a very good thing. Here is a chorus that came to my mind:

I want to praise you Lord, much more than I do.
I want to praise you Lord, much more than I do.
Learn to seek your face, and the glory of your grace,
I want to praise you.

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For the second and third verse of this chorus, you substitute the word “love” and then “serve” so that we sing “I want to praise you Lord… I want to love you Lord… I want to serve you Lord”. This is a very simple chorus, but it certainly can affect your attitude and your outlook on life. Now let me give you the background of what happened in these past few days so that you can see why this song would be such a powerful song for me.

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Two Sundays ago, I had what I call a “fatigue episode”. Many of you may already know that I deal with a muscle disease on a daily basis. If not, you could go back and read my article from last July entitled “God and My Muscle Disease,” but make sure that you read the next article entitled, “Holy Spirit Enabled Missionary.” From these articles, you will be able to appreciate the challenges that I face, but also how God has become more real and more special to me.

Anyways, let me tell you about Sunday. In the previous week, the muscles in my legs had become more and more tightly knotted up. This would make it difficult to sleep and so it was getting harder to recharge my internal battery. I was able to take a long afternoon rest on Sunday, but when I woke up, I found that I had great difficulty in getting my arms and legs to move. I had literally “fatigued out”.

So there I was lying in bed and mentally saying, “Okay body, wake up!” First came my left hand, and it was kind of fascinating to watch it wave around. Then I would look at my right hand, and it just lay there. Next came my legs, then both hands, and finally my full arms. It took me over 45 minutes to fully get out of bed. I took it really easy that night and the next day, as it was clear that I had done too much in the previous week and needed to recharge my battery.

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Two days after this, I was able to get my regular massage therapy done on my legs and this has helped tremendously to allow me to rest and sleep better so that my internal battery would not be so run down on the following day. But I must say that the massage sessions are extremely painful as the therapist has to slowly work deep down and muscle by muscle to work out those tight knotted areas.

What I think is really worth sharing though, is the discussion that I had with a colleague of mine on the day after my “fatigue episode” and also with the massage therapist. Both of them wanted to know what I had thought and what I had felt during that time period. I will admit that part of me got worried, but I also had a very interesting conversation with God.

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When I realized that most of my body would not move after I woke up, part of me wondered about the idea of how I would respond if in fact I was paralyzed. And the answer that came immediately to my mind was this: “Well, at least I’m alive.” Then my hand moved, and I thought, “Thank you Lord. At least I have one hand now that works.” And it continued like this until I was finally able to get out of bed.

And so I shared this experience and my thoughts with my colleague and with my therapist. Even now, with all the restrictions and the barriers that this muscle disease has imposed upon my life, I am finding more and more each day that I am thanking and praising the Lord for what I can do, and not focusing in on what I cannot do.

There I was then, three days after having this fatigue episode, and as I was thinking about the Lord the chorus that I included above came to my mind. As Scripture says, our days are numbered and there is nothing that we can do to add to the number of our days. But we can choose what we do with our days. What I think is important is that we realize that we are just passing through this life. In fact, this life is the training ground for how we will spend our lives in eternity.

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I think that it all comes back to the attitude, and it reminds me of the simple poem that says:

Two men stuck behind prison bars;
One saw mud, the other saw stars.

As for me, I choose to be like the second man. How about you?

Blessed Be His Name

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My Attitude Towards Illness

In this article, I will try to express and explain what I think and believe about illness.  This is quite relevant to our family situation, considering that our older boy, Eric, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2002 and had to go through 30 months of chemotherapy, and now I am diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease that produces pain and fatigue every day, and limits my walking to about 1,000 steps per day (about 700 meters).

Actually, I will limit myself to just share my heart on this matter.  If I tried to attempt to explain pain and suffering, I would simply end up added another book to the already endless mountain of theological and philosophical volumes on this topic.  So I will simply reflect on our situation and intersperse the words to a song that has become more and more meaningful to me.  It is the song “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman.

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If we go all the way back to the book of Genesis, we see that from the very beginning, God intended that Mankind was meant to interact with and have a full and vibrant relationship with God.  That is the story of Adam and Eve and God in the Garden of Eden.  But when the choice was made to disobey God, then the perfect relationships between God and man, between men, and between mankind and the world was broken.

The consequence of that sin (spiritually), resulted in suffering and death (first physically, and then spiritually).  I believe that from Adam and Eve, right up until you and me today, goodness and perfection was intended for all of us, but inherited sin from the beginning plus our own sins today results in us having only glimpses of this perfection, but more often offers us pain and suffering in this life.

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One of the question I would ask all of us is this: “What should our attitude be, whether we have those moments of pure joy in this world, or if we are experiencing the pain that comes from being a part of this broken world?  Read the first part of Matt Redman’s song:

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

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I believe that after the fundamental questions have been answered positively (there is a God, and I should submit to His lordship over my life), the second response I think ought to be one of praise and honor to God.  Our suffering is not caused by God (as some think that He does this so that we will become “stronger”), but from a fallen world and sin.

But God loved us so much He did not let us stay in that state of sin.  He sent His own Son, Jesus, to take the full brunt of the penalty and suffering of sin away from us.  Although the spiritual penalty of sin has been removed (eternity in Hell) for those who have faith in Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross, that does not mean that all the physical consequences of sickness and death are finished.

We certainly can rejoice on one hand for the spiritual victory that is ours as true believers in Christ, but the hope for complete physical renewal and the promise of a new heaven and earth will have to remain until the end of time itself.  Reflect on the second part of the song now:

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

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And that brings me now to this personal question: “How do I respond when my son gets a disease and could have died, and even now suffers from some post-cancer issues?”  And “How do I respond to God with regards to the muscle disease He has “allowed” me to get in these recent years?”  Should I attach my attitudes to my circumstances? (i.e. when all is good, I am happy in life and I like my God, but when things are bad, I am very unhappy and I am mad at God.)

Of course this is not the answer.  That is so ethnocentric: “Why did you do this to me God?”  No, rather than blaming God for the situation, and asking “Why?”, I look to God in the midst of the situation, and ask “How?”  How God do you want me to act or react?  How God are you going to bring out good from this, as you promise in Romans 8:28?  How God can I bring glory and honor back to You in this situation?

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And I recognize that “God sends rain on the just and the unjust”, and so when He give us good things, I say “Thank you.”  And when He allows bad things, I still say “Thank you.”  Its the big picture which counts.  God is still God of the Universe, and He died to save me from my sin.  I will praise Him always:

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

http://www.lyricsbox.com/matt-redman-lyrics-blessed-be-your-name-pfs45jc.html

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And one final word to consider comes from the book of Job.  I don’t think it can be said any more wisely or simpler than this:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
(Job 1:21-22)

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