The Pain of Cancer in a Child

Preaching and teaching about handling the trials and tribulations of life is always easier than the day you personally encounter those difficulties. When our family spoke of going to Liberia as missionaries, we were not prepared for the very real eventuality that it came close to taking the life of my daughter and myself.

However, through that painful time, we had a small handful of family and friends who supported us financially as well as in prayer. One of those is my dear friend and close brother in Christ, J.L. Pattison, and his lovely family.

J.L. has been a long-time contributor to this blog since the time that it was Defending Contending. I have had the privilege of being their pastor in the past when we lived in deserts of Nevada, and have watched them grow.

Yet, nothing could have prepared us for the news that we received this last November.

This was the beginning in his words —

On November 15, 2019, an x-ray for persistent leg pain in our five-year-old son’s left leg revealed a large tumor that originated in the bone of the upper portion of his femur. After an MRI, we were told by an oncologist in Reno, Nevada that it is likely Ewing Sarcoma. A week later a biopsy was conducted in Salt Lake City, Utah where we were told it was Osteosarcoma.

With only a 70% survival rate, our family has moved from the mourning phase of this life-shattering news, to the action phase where we are fighting for Kohen’s life.

Kohen is a precious little boy and has one of the sweetest personalities. His brothers and sisters have been very supportive through this painful process, but this is taking a toll on everybody. They are all aware that this cancer may end this little life at the worst scenario, or that during his upcoming surgery in March, may require the amputation of his entire leg.

While J.L. and his family are not perfect, they have learned to depend on the sovereign purposes of He who alone is Perfect in every way. They know that the wrong question is “Why did God…?” The Biblical question that they are praying for strength to ask every day is “God, how will you use this to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ?”

I want to encourage each of you to go to “The Kohen Chronicles” and follow the Pattison’s journey through this valley.

Pray for them. Pray for strength, for grace, for healing, for wisdom for the medical teams, and most of all that God will be glorified through this trial. Send a card or gift to them and to Kohen. Any outpouring of support would be greatly appreciated.

Our hearts ache with each new blogpost. While our tears will never match those of the Pattison family, we know that in Christ we share a bond that is anything but common.

J.L. asked us to hold off until now to share this news, but we will now be posting regular updates to Truth in Grace.

Brother, you and your family are dearly loved! There is nothing else I can say right now, except to share this short poem written many, many years ago by a British minister, and the beautiful hymn from the Gettys.

“We cannot Lord, Thy purpose see,
but all is well, that is done by Thee.”

From Scam Into Blessing

Thirteen years ago this same week, I found myself on a plane headed for the first time to Liberia, West Africa. It was not what I expected, but the Lord brought glory to Himself through the lessons learned.

My second book has been years in the making, and with the professional editing care of my friend and sister in Christ, Sony Elise, it has finally come to fruition. Her editing service can be found, along with her online Christian bookstore at Sony Elise Christian Books. Thank you for the work you provided in helping make this book a reality.

My friend and brother in Christ, Manfred (Stuart Brogden) provided the Foreword to the book. Thank you for being willing to read the early manuscript months ago and taking the time to write a Christ-honoring introduction.

From Scam Into Blessing can be ordered in Kindle format or in paperback form from Amazon.

Book Description:

“The dictionary defines a scam as a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation. Internet technology has changed the world, but it can also change lives. Many believe they cannot live without access to the internet while others use the web as a way of making a living – fraudulently. Scam Into Blessing is the real account of the author’s first trip to Liberia, West Africa. What started as a scam turned into a blessing of epic proportions. Read the exciting adventures of how God sovereignly took what was meant for evil and changed it for good to His honor and glory.

What is New Covenant Theology?

New Covenant Theology is not new theology about the covenants; it is theology about the New Covenant.

In this podcast, I was interviewed for the purpose of explaining what New Covenant Theology is to a brother who is exploring it to see if it aligns with Scripture.

Give it a listen, here.

 

The Man in Romans 7

The Man in Romans 7

In order to rightly understand what Paul taught in the latter part of Romans 7, we need to understand how he described two groups of people earlier in this epistle.

In Rom 3 & 4, Paul is teaching his kinsmen of the flesh why being Jewish is not enough, how children of promise are true Jews. In Rom 5:1-5 he is teaching – again – how those Jewish Christians were reconciled to God: righteous in faith, rejoicing in Christ and our afflictions, grounded in love, and possessed by the Holy Spirit.

In what follows in chapter 5 is an ongoing contrast between unconverted Jews and converted Jews, with an abbreviated history of sin – contrasting the first and last Adams. Throughout this chapter, the redeemed are described as righteous, justified, full of grace, saved from wrath, reconciled to God, having eternal life. The unconverted are described as helpless, ungodly, enemies of God, dead in sin, under judgment, condemned. Quite a difference – worth noting.

Chapter 6 is a continuation of Paul’s argument from the previous chapters, where he encourages the redeemed Jews (this is still his primary audience) are exhorted to walk in grace, not sin. These people are called dead to sin, joined with Christ, crucified with Christ, free from sin, alive to God, under grace, slaves of obedience and righteousness. He tells them – and us – not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies, for, he says, “sin will not rule over you because you are not under law but under grace.” (vs 14) We have new fruit resulting in sanctification and eternal life; we have a new master, grace – no longer slaves to master sin.

The unconverted man in Romans 6 has everything in common with his counterpart in chapter 5; he is in bondage and domination of sin, a slave to sin, ruled by death, obedient to sin, unrighteous, and ruled by sin; under law. This man is obedient to sin, under law not grace, a slave to sin – leading to death, weak in the flesh, morally impure, lawless, producing the fruit of death. Sin is his master, not grace.

The contrast between the unconverted sinner and the redeemed sinner is striking and it’s consistent: the one man is fleshly and full of sin, under the law and breaking the law; the other man is full of the Holy Spirit, rejoicing in all things, dead to sin and the law, producing good fruit unto eternal life.

A couple of observations: contextually, Paul has been describing his kinsmen of the flesh. The man in Romans 7 is a Jew, even though all people can identify with the spiritual struggle portrayed. The pious Jew  would see God’s law, instructions, Scriptures as good and holy even while he would be unable to comply with them.

When we then read about the man in Romans 7:13-24, who does he sound like? Let’s look at a list:

vs 13: dead, sinful

vs 14: of flesh, sold into sin’s power

vs 15 & 16: double minded

vs 17: full of sin

vs 18: no ability to do good

vs 19 -21: captive to evil

vs 22: he agrees, he knows the law of God is good

vs 23: he is a prisoner of sin

vs 24: he is a wretched man

While you and I see some of our Christian life in what Paul wrote about in this passage, it’s clear that this man has nothing in common with the redeemed man Paul described in chapter 5 & 6; but he has everything in common with the unconverted man in those chapters.  The context of the epistle indicates Paul is describing a Jew, not a Gentile, and a Jew that is struggling under a law he knows is good but without the ability to obey from the heart and produce good fruit unto eternal life. The man in Romans 7 does not have the Holy Spirit, but he is of the flesh, captive to evil, a slave to sin, producing fruit unto death.

The change to present tense does not mandate the view that Paul has changed course and began talking about himself as a Christian. It may very well be nothing more than a literary device to make the plight of the man all the more gripping. He is in a very dangerous condition! Present tense does not mandate the view that this man is Paul as a Christian. The description of the man and the larger context of the epistle provide a more sure guide to interpret this passage.

As with all Scripture, we learn from this passage. But we have no more reason to insert ourselves into this passage than we do with Jeremiah 29:11.

Reviving the Complacent Church

Among the suffocating tsunami of lukewarm, sugar-coated, self-help lectures, talks, and messages that ooze like festering leperous sores from countless vapid pulpits (which exist solely to entertain the goats and tickle their itching ears), every now and then a voice pierces that arrogant, self-aggrandizing world of Churchianity to deliver a hard, sobering sermon that the starving sheep are desperate to hear and be nourished on.

This is one of those sermons.

Death of A Missionary

EDITED – If you are interested in helping this family, a GoFundMe account has been set up. Click HERE.

When we departed for Liberia, West Africa in 2012, we had an understanding of the risks. Our family was moving to an area that was 3-hour drive from any other missionaries. We would be living in an old mission house that sat on a hill that was considered to the “Devil’s Hill” due to wicked practices that took place before the first missionaries arrived. Nobody else would live on the hill and many of the villagers would avoid it, especially at night.

To make matters worse, we lived in the heart of what had been rebel-held territory during a very brutal 14-year civil war. The war claimed the lives of approximately 10% of the population of Liberia. The ramifications of that war, which ended around 2004, are still being felt today. Violence and vulgarity were constant reminders of what surrounded us, and ex-rebel soldiers surrounded us on every trip into town.

Our plan involved spending 4-5 years in the jungle training pastors and starting churches. However, that was cut short when one of my 6 year old daughters and I became deathly ill. There were nights that we thought she would not make it until morning and times like that really make you consider your priorities. A few days later, I spent my first night in a mission clinic being tended to in highly unsanitary conditions. As my fever and delirium grew, I would learn later that another pastor had entered the clinic the same day with the same symptoms. Three days later his wife and family buried him.

Less than three months later, I was diagnosed a second time with a completely different strain of both typhoid and malaria. Much of the time is but a dark cloud over my mind, but I remember the times of pain. The chief physician at the Firestone Plantation hospital informed me that my immune system was shot and I needed to get out of the country. If I did not, my next time would probably be my last.

Heartbroken, we began to make the arrangements to return to the USA. I was leaving behind what I loved, but I still could not help but wonder why I had lived when others had died.

The following year, a severe epidemic of Ebola broke out in the area of villages where we lived and thousands died. During that epidemic, I lost some pastor friends and their wives to the disease.

Since then, I continue to keep my finger on the pulse of the missions world, and the news that I read yesterday brought some painful memories to my mind.

The day started with an email from one of the brothers I trained in Liberia. We had been praying for God’s will to be done in regards to the health of Pastor Harrison Margai. He was the pastor of a brand new church that had been planted in an unreached village. The email informed me that this man had closed his eyes in death and left a wife and children.

Later that day, I read the news of what took place with another missionary in Cameroon, West Africa.

Charles Wesco, a Baptist missionary from Indiana, had surrendered his life to serve the Lord. In particular, he and his wife believed they had been called to minister in the country of Cameroon. After raising funds, they departed just over 2 weeks ago and began the process of settling into their new home with their eight young children.

Yesterday, another missionary was taking this man into town for some supplies. A situation erupted between a separatist faction and Cameroonian soldiers. In the crossfire, a “stray” bullet crashed through a car window and entered the head of Charles Wesco.

In a matter of minutes, this man who loved the Lord went out into eternity. Immediately, the news erupted along with the comments. I read several that were hateful, but some extended sympathy. I finally had to stop as the comments began to infuriate me.

The bottom line is not that this man gave his life needlessly. The bottom line is that God is and always will be sovereign. For reasons that may never be understood, this brother in Christ never planted a church, nor saw a Bible Training institute started in Cameroon. This family is devastated as they face a new life. Soon, they will return back to the US and will try to pick up the pieces. Questions will be asked, and many will never be answered.

Today, many hearts are breaking and while I have connections with others who knew this family, I did not ever have the privilege of meeting them myself. However, I know that one day I will, but before that day comes, this brother has already gone to his reward. He was welcomed with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

We could ask, why, why, why, but it would do no good. There is nothing wrong with seeking the face of God and asking Him for understanding. Where we tend to go wrong though is when we want to question His sovereign purposes. We cannot find fault with the Almighty, but we can learn to trust in His grace and mercy.

In a village close to where we lived in England, there is a cemetery. In the cemetery, a tombstone tells the brief story of a young pastor who lost his infant son and his wife. In the tragedy, this man had inscribed the following words on the tombstone.

“We cannot Lord, Thy purpose see,
But all is well, that’s done by Thee.”

Through what is a tragedy to human eyes, we pray for strength and extreme comfort to be provided to this dear sister, their eight young children, and extended family, friends, and church members.

For those who know the Lord, the Bible is clear that when we become absent from this body, we are forever present with the Lord. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and told them to not only find comfort in these thoughts, but to comfort others as well.

May His will be done and may all find peace through this time of turmoil. Our prayers also go out for the people of Cameroon that they will one day learn of the Prince of Peace, who alone brings salvation.

Sermon: Beyond Comparison.

I am pleased to present a sermon by Matt McCullough entitled Beyond Comparison on a Christian’s temporary light affliction in comparison to the coming glory.

This was a truly timely message for me (from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18) and, I trust, for many of you as well.

The sermon is from Trinity Church in Nashville and is described as:

Paul says the problems we face now can’t compare to the eternal glory we’re promised in Christ. He says we get this truth when we focus not on what we can see but on what we can’t see. But how do we compare what we can see to what we can’t see?

Listen to the sermon, Beyond Comparison here.