Latest Entries »

Our God Remembers


Who knows what God has around the corner for you? Or around the calendar?

The story is recorded for us in Esther 2 of a dramatic event:

Esther 2:21- 23 (NIV)- “During the time Mordecai was [on duty] sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthanaand Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry [at the king] and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were impaled on poles. All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.”

If you continue reading in Esther, you will see the spiritual and historical ramifications of this event, and how it affected Mordecai, Esther, and the entire Jewish people under Babylonian captivity.

But what I want you to see for the moment is that although this was a very heroic and noble thing on the part of Mordecai, it was not planned by him, it was not considered what the total outcome would be, it was not thought of concerning what was in it for Mordecai, or any such details.

In fact, it seemed to be a case of Mordecai simply being in the right place at the right time.

This event was reported by Mordecai to Esther, his niece/cousin and the new queen. She, in turn, reported this event to King Xerxes and he immediately dealt punishment to the two offenders; he had them impaled in the pole of a tree. He had this event, including the report from Mordecai recorded in the Book of the Annals. This was important and was a life-and-death matter to the king. But after the offenders’ punishment, Xerxes forgot about it. End of story.

Throughout Scripture we see similar incidences; consider the report of Daniel as he interpreted dreams in the jail—with promises that the dreamers would reveal the deeds of Daniel to the king of the land—but they too, forgot.

As you read these two stories, however, you may quickly notice that as the narrative continues, there is one Main Character Who never forgets. Yes, God never forgets those deeds that we have done—even though they may have been unintentional or “happenstance.”

God would bring Daniel back around and to the mind of the king of Babylon. And as you read further in Esther, you see that through Queen Esther, Xerxes was reminded of the deeds of Mordecai. Xerxes used this remembrance to exalt Mordecai to a place of leadership within the kingdom—and later, to some more exciting details in his life, Esther’s life, and the Jews’ lives. (But most of that is another story for a different time.)

What I want us to see here is this: God does not have a weak memory; He does not forget—especially when He is the One Who has set this entire deal up to start off with. God sees. God knows. God sets men and events in motion to accomplish His Kingdom purposes. And whether we get immediate responses, or weeks-later responses, or years-later responses, or not-in-this-lifetime responses, it does not thwart His plan and purpose, and it does not alter His memory.

You may be in the midst of some circumstance that you had no foreknowledge of. You may have had no intent to find yourself in this place. But know this: our God is able. He is intentional. And His memory is not lax. God WILL see His plan to completion—and you are a part of it.

Philippians 1:6 (NIV)- “… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ –


I remember back on September 11, 2001. I was pastoring in Ashland, OH and was working from the house—and I got phone calls from both of my daughters who were in college in Cleveland, TN. (At the time, our son was a high school student in Ashland.) Because I am not much a news watcher, I had no idea what was taking place, but as both daughters called me, and because they were eight hours away, I suddenly was tremendously aware, alert, scared, and didn’t know what to do – but I was praying up quickly.

It was a terrorist attack on US soil.

And many of us know exactly where we were and what we were doing at the moment.

But again, for me, I was most immediately concerned about my two precious daughters that I could not help nor could I be with them in less than eight hours (and if you remember, there was no air travel for then and the next few days.)

I was aware.

I was alert.

I was scared.

And I didn’t know what to do.

So I did what we all did in that moment.

I prayed.

And I opened up our church and called for a time of prayer for our Ashland community.

And people came.

And people united.

And people prayed.

for a few days

and then life kind of went back to normal—at least as far as church, and prayer, and unity were all concerned.

But for those few days, the indications of revival poked their heads through the soil.

For those few days, unity was important .

For those few days, God was corporately noticed again in our community.

It took a heart-stopping tragedy to get our attention.

It took a moment of apparent eternal destiny to cause us to focus on God.

for a few days.

And things went back to normal (somewhat)

I wonder if it is innate within us that we require tragedy to cause us to focus on God.

I wonder if a date with destiny must be obviously in front of us to compel us to pray with everything within us.

These are a few thoughts to ponder as I present this Scripture to you all—and I ask—what’s it going to take—to get us to pray with such fervor again?

I am praying for revival

For me

for our church

and for our land

Will you join me in prayer?

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV).


Please take several minutes and read this timely message by my friend, Adam Hunter (MSW, LSW, CIC-CSp.). I think it is a timely word for the American Church in 2020. Jim

The Message to the Church in Ephesus

1“Write this letter to the angela of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

2“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. 3You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

4“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!b 5Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. 6But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

7“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

2020: What a year it’s been so far as the chaos continues to snowball.

 First, we are plagued by an incurable virus that seemingly comes out of nowhere, causing death and devastation to millions worldwide.  Out of panic and confusion, decisions are made to stop life as we have always known it, and to make radical changes and sacrifices for the good of humanity.  The economy practically stops altogether except for a few “essential businesses”, leading to a skyrocketing jump in unemployment.  Commodities become rationed as people begin to stockpile, not knowing what’s going to happen next.  We are ordered as a country to not leave our houses, but if we absolutely have to wear masks to protect ourselves and others.  We’re told that the spike in sickness and death to come from this virus needs flattened as soon as possible, and therefore nothing is off the table as far as what measures need taken to protect us all.

If things couldn’t get any worse, a black man is killed by one of the “good guys”, a police officer on duty.  This outrageous act is caught on camera for the whole world to see, and it is indeed horrific.  African-Americans are furious, as it is (understandably going all the way back to Jim Crow) built into their cultural narrative that law enforcement overall should never really be trusted.  Their anger builds into explanations: Since slavery, those in power—white people—have consistently put minorities “in their proper place” even when it would otherwise appear significant progress has been made.  The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s may have seemed to solve overt racism, but nothing has really changed.  The white man continues to keep in place structures and institutions that keep black folks’ down, all the while he denies doing so.  “Racism is behind us,” he might say, but in truth it has only gone underground.

From centuries of repressed anger and frustration towards white people, protests begin to break out—not peaceful demonstrations calling for further healing and reconciliation but riots; the burning down of businesses; the confrontations with innocent bystanders; the fights and killings in the name of social justice; the take over of cities by anarchists while law enforcement is ordered by their local officials to stand down.  And if anyone—black or white—takes a stand to call for civility, they are called “Uncle Toms” or “White supremacists”, two of the harshest things to label Americans.

Moving slightly forward in time, some states begin loosening quarantine mandates by gradually allowing businesses and other entities to reopen, but they are required to adhere to strict guidelines for health and safety.  Other states, however, hardly loosen their “stay at home” orders at all, and things continue to spiral downward for the average family.

But, although these health mandates stay in place, questionable exceptions start taking place and other forms of discrimination seem to appear.  Whereas public places—including schools and churches—are still required to adhere to social distancing guidelines or remain closed altogether, the protesters on the streets—at times thousands of them in close proximity to each other—are free to carry forth their violent acts with no concerns of any repercussion or spreading the coronavirus.

Some places that are feeling the greatest effects of the chaos are trying to peaceably resist, or call for a better way—particularly Christians.  In California, for instance, where churches are still required by law to remain closed, some are defying authority and opening their doors for services despite legal action being taken against them.  Worship services have also been taken to outdoor areas where—although they are still being scrutinized for placing people at-risk—many un-churched and in the pit of despair are hearing and accepting the Gospel message.  Lives are being changed in the midst of the darkness.  In the worst affected areas, pockets of revival are breaking forth.

Throughout our country, where fear, desperation, and anger continue to grow amongst its citizens, common people on both sides of the political aisle look around them and realize that something isn’t right:  “Why are things turning the way they are?  Whose fault is it?  Clearly it has to be those in political office.”  Those on the right go onto say, “Thank God Donald Trump is in office; he’s been chosen by God for such a time as this.”  Those on the left retort, “If it weren’t for Donald Trump and his supporters, we wouldn’t be in this mess.  It’s their fault.”

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.

            It is often said that history repeats itself, and amazingly enough that seems to be true.  As Solomon once said, “Nothing is new under the sun,” and those wise words make perfect sense.  Replace the characters and shift the circumstances a bit, but the plot remains the same.  And instead of learning from our mistakes of the past, we continue to do what we always have done, digging ourselves even further into a hole.

            America has always been an exceptional place, but not because it’s necessarily better than any other country.  “America is great, because America is good;” the sole reason for this is building itself upon the reliance of God.  Now, at different times throughout its history, it lost sight of this and wound up in horrible places.  But just before what would otherwise be its final curtain, its citizens would wise up and cry out to Him for deliverance, and through grace alone He would intervene and give another chance to do what is right.

            The freedoms and blessings we have experienced as a nation have been unprecedented, along with the material comforts most all of us enjoy.  Many times, however, it seems that these very things God has blessed us with are what also lead us to our downfall.  We seem to think that the wealth we have created, and the prosperity we have built has come mostly from ourselves and primarily from those we put into political office.  When things start going awry, we start looking for immediate solutions.  We quickly realize that it’s beyond our control, so we look for a “Strongman” to come to the rescue.  We typically put them into political office in order to fix the messes, but oftentimes the messes only get bigger and bigger.

            Particularly for Christians in America, it’s easy to point fingers and say that our elected officials are the ones really to blame, alongside the cultural decay we see around us from those who are antithetical to Judeo-Christian principles.  They are inflicted with demons—we say—and we need to stand for what’s right; we need to fight like crazy to combat the enemy, and put into political office godly men and women who can change our course for the better.

            In 2016, much of the Evangelical base helped vote in someone who went against the grain.  He took stands like no other President, and became the Church’s champion to fight for our rights.  And, although he is belligerent and uncouth, and while we would never treat our opponents the way he treats them through trash talk and bullying, for Donald Trump, it’s OK.  You see, like wicked King Cyrus who God used to deliver the Israelites from destruction, it’s clearly His will to use Trump to deliver we Christians and make the Church great again.

            But it’s now 4-years into Trump’s first term in office.  For his first 3-years many believed the sky was the limit for the good that was being done; however, once 2020 arrived, in only a matter of moments everything turned on its head.  Now, we have Election Day fast approaching.  Whether Trump will continue in office is anyone’s guess.  There is much fear, particularly within many Evangelical circles that if Trump loses, it will be the end of America as we’ve always known it.  All hope would be lost.  But considering how 2020 has turned out with Trump in office, who’s to say that even if he is re-elected more bad things won’t happen?

            In chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, Jesus addressed the different established churches of that time.  He cited both good and bad in all of them.  He encouraged them to continue doing what was right.  He even spoke about challenges each congregation was up against and how they were handling them; he didn’t simply speak in generalities (which speaks volumes in itself about Him being fully aware of all that was going on).  But for those churches that were in the wrong—that had allowed sin to creep in—he called them back to repentance.

            As history and circumstances repeat themselves, so, too, the situations these churches found themselves in are like those that churches in other eras have endured.  Even today, what these churches experienced can be compared to others throughout the world facing the exact same thing.  So, how do the churches in our own country stand in light of this?

One of the churches Jesus chose to address was in Ephesus.  At first, he spoke highly of them

I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting (Rev. 2:3).

But after stroking them with rightly deserved platitudes, He hit them between the eyes:  “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!  Look how far you have fallen!” (Rev. 2:4-5a).

Bam!  That was a shot across the bow that I’m guessing they didn’t expect was coming!  In present terms, they’d been doing their daily devotions, going to church every Sunday, participating in outreach and ministry, and tithing regularly.  But yet, they ended up missing the mark.  They lost the love and passion they once had in serving God. 

Now, there’s nothing stated specifically on how the Ephesians had lost their “First Love”, or what changes in their behaviors or perceptions led to this happening.  All we know is that it was enough to get the attention of the One whom they were serving.  “Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches” (Rev. 2:5b).  Wow.  That’s some serious stuff right there.  Jesus was saying if they didn’t straighten up and fly right, He was going to remove His Spirit from them; they were essentially going to die off.

So, I now pose the question to the Church in America (myself included): Have we, too, lost our First Love?  Did we become so relaxed in our comforts we began believing we did all these good things ourselves, and that it was not God Himself that brought it to fruition?  And once we saw the bottom start to fall out, we became panicked; and, instead of crying out to God, out of fear we began bashing and ridiculing the other side behind the safety of our electronic devices; we divided further into groups and separated ourselves from each other.  (You don’t love me or EACH OTHER as you did at first!) It never occurred to us that all along we should have been dying to ourselves and putting Him first in all things, just as we longed to do when we first asked Him into our lives.  Instead, we ended up looking towards the idols of power—our elected officials—and cried out to them for help.

So, where does that leave us?  “Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”  Through the eyes of the Gospel, there are things more important than experiencing freedoms found within the Bill of Rights, or even the most impoverished American enjoying materialistic comforts that those in other parts of the world can only dream of (although all of those are indeed wonderful and gifts from God).  Matthew 22:37-40 states Christ’s primary expectations of us

 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Where do our priorities lie?  What if we at least had attitudes like the persecuted Christians in China, who tell us Westerners not to pray that their repression would stop, but that God would continue to use those circumstances to lead others to Him? 

Part of my premise in writing this is not to discourage political activism, electing the right people into office, fighting for what is true and just, or especially to discount our beloved United States Constitution.  All those have been things to make America the wonderful place it is.  But, in a situation like we face now in our country—perhaps the darkest place since its inception—we need to first allow the Holy Spirit to search us, try us, and see if there be any wickedness in us.  If there is, we must repent of it, for the sake of our own relationship with God, others within the Body of Christ, and particularly for those who don’t yet know Christ but are desperate to find Him.  Once that happens, we will truly be empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk blameless in His sight.

If we turn from our wicked ways, does that mean that our nation overall will turn around, and that we will experience peace and prosperity again?  Political and economic rest has never been promised or guaranteed, so that is a a great unknown.  But, the Bible is clear that He will come heal our land spiritually, and Revival—perhaps even a Third Great Awakening—will occur; that is what’s most important.  That’s what makes up the Law and the Prophets.

Search me, O God, and know my heart today,

try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
see if there be some wicked way in me;
cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.

I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
fulfill Thy word and make me pure within;
fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
grant my desire to magnify Thy name.

Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine;
fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
take all my will, my passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.

O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;

send a revival, start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need;

for blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.

Cleanse Me, a hymn by Dr. J. Edwin Orr, of whom Billy Graham called “one of the greatest authorities on the history of revivals in the Protestant world”.


A Word of Encouragement with Pastor Jim

Romans 8:37-39 (NLT) reads

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

As I read that passage, I am firmly reminded that God is firmly committed to us with His love. He will not allow anything to come between His love and us – not even pestilence and disease.

 

Throughout this passage, I see that these things may attempt to separate us from God’s love: death, life, angels, demons, fears for today, worries about tomorrow, powers of hell, power in the sky above, [power] in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation. In addition to those things, I specifically state that viruses (viruii) and lack cannot separate us from His love.

 

God is watching over us in His love. He meets all our needs. Even the psalmist in Psalms 23 reminded us that the Lord is our Shepherd and in Him, there is NO LACK or WANT.

 

I write this today because, my friends, there is no reason for us to walk in fear and trepidation – even through our current situations; God loves us and meets our EVERY need. He walks with us in the midst of whatever place we my find ourselves.

 

I do need to note what I did NOT say: God may or may not deliver us from that place – but He ALWAYS walks in and through them with us.

 

This day, put a renewed trust in Him to walk with you and to surround you with His love. Receive His victory. Receive His love.

 

Pastor Jim

 


Let me start my giving all praise and glory to God as He has walked every step in of this journey with me.

One year ago today I sat in my surgeon’s office as a follow-up to my lumpectomy and was diagnosed with DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) … breast cancer. The story actually started in the spring of 2018 when I discovered a lump in my right breast. After seeing my GYN and having a mammogram and an ultrasound they believed it was probably a contusion that should absorb back into my body over some months.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2019 and the lump was still there. Back to the doctor with another mammogram and ultrasound. This time they are concerned… there a lot of blood flow to the lump so they order a MRI which after some back and forth insurance denied and wanted me referred to a surgeon.

So I find myself in a surgeons office … a God connection for sure. Dr. Robert Maxwell. From the very first day he went above and beyond to take care of me. His excellent care and compassion are unmatched. I had peace when I chose him as my surgeon and from the very first visit through all the twists and turns of this journey that peace has been foundational and solid. Jim & I are so very thankful for him. I found out at that appointment that they had actually discovered a second lump that I wasn’t told about. He immediately contacted a radiologist that he trusts and took my results to look at with her. She recommended a biopsy of both spots. He made a point that she was the only radiologist that I saw throughout this entire process. I’m also thankful for Dr. Ava Powell.

At this point my life went into a whirlwind of craziness. She did an ultrasound guided biopsy and while looking at the ultrasound she discovered a third spot of concern. So, I had three biopsies that day. And I waited for a follow up with my surgeon.

In the midst of all this I knew God had prepared me for this health challenge. I knew that He was empowering me to choose joy through it all! I had just been studying James 1:2-4 and taught on it at our church. So with Him as my strength I determined to choose joy no matter what came my way. I’m so thankful He prepared me.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

James 1:2-4

At my follow up I found out that two of the lumps where fibrocystic so no reason for concern. The original lump came back as a papilloma which is not cancerous but they were concerned with the size so the recommendation was a lumpectomy. So surgery was scheduled for April 4th.

We prayed and spoke God’s promises over me and sang healing over me believing God for good results while knowing we would choose to trust God no matter what. My surgeon said he was cautiously optimistic that they wouldn’t find anything.

Surgery went well and my follow up was April 9th. I went in strong, believing God for no cancer. But that was not the case. When Dr. Maxwell walked in the room I looked at him and asked if we were smiling today(his reassurance when all was well). He shook his head and I saw the concern in his eyes. He sat down and compassionately gave us the news. DCIS … breast cancer. His concern for me was comforting and his concern for Jim got my heart. He cared for both of us in this process. DCIS… what’s next … the one thing I remember him saying is “if you are going to have breast cancer this is the best kind to get”. Oddly enough I found comfort in that and came back to it many times over the following months.

This appointment was a punch in the stomach but I quickly found my faith legs and determined to choose joy no matter the outcome or circumstances.

After much discussion and information we decided to get a MRI to see if anything else was going on. We just felt that it went from one lump to two to three and we needed to know if there was more lurking and to see if there was anything in the other breast.

I must say that in all of this the MRI was the worst procedure I endured. It wasn’t being in the tunnel … it was the horrible noise! And the lady-like crawling up and over and positioning myself. Humbling to say the least.

I followed up with Dr. Maxwell the next week to find out the MRI showed 3 additional spots of concern. The positive was that the left breast was clear … as Dr. Powell said “it is hanging out minding its own business”.

So back to Dr. Powell for 3 more biopsies. She felt that two of the spots didn’t warrant a biopsy so she only did the one. I followed up with Dr. Maxwell the next week to find out this is another papilloma presenting like the one that had the DCIS.

At this point he was concerned with the many complexities of my case and I was strongly considering a double mastectomy. He suggested that he take my case to conference the next Wednesday where specialists from radiology, oncology and genetics review and discuss the case and give their recommendations. We agreed this was the next best step so he rearranged his schedule to accommodate that conference. And following is one of the things I love about Dr. Maxwell … he told us to keep living and encouraged us to take our scheduled vacation the next week and see him when we returned.

We followed his advice and left for a much needed time in the Outer Banks. We laughed and cried and prayed and trusted and had a lot of fun and relaxed and ate some wonderful seafood! In all of this God surrounded us with his presence. I am so grateful! And my husband covered me … he changed his schedule to be with me for appointments and procedures and tests and surgeries. He held me. He laid hands on me and prayed for me. He loved me completely and made me know that in everything that I am beautiful, desired and valuable. He has been amazing. So we vacationed well and came back ready to move forward in the journey… and to continue to trust God and choose joy.

We are in May now and back from vacation and sitting in Dr. Maxwell’s office. The specialists at conference came back with the same recommendations as he had shared with us at our last appointment. Due to the my complexities and family history they suggest genetic testing. Along with that biopsies of the remaining two spots that Dr. Powell didn’t do previously, removal of the other papilloma, surgery on the original place of the DCIS in an effort to get clean margins … or a mastectomy. If I take the first option I will see a radiology oncologist for radiation treatments and a medical oncologist for hormone therapy (because the cancer was estrogen and progesterone positive …the hormone therapy blocks the hormones to help prevent reoccurrence or new breast cancer). With a mastectomy there would be no radiation treatments unless more cancer was found. There would still be hormone therapy.

This appointment was overwhelming and I’m leaning strongly toward a double mastectomy … especially if the genetics comeback positive for BRCA1 and BRCA2. And a positive would probably lead to a hysterectomy too. He also brought up the option of a second opinion.

Praying for healing and wisdom and good results I find myself seeing the genetic counselor and a plastic surgeon the very next week in Columbus!

I thought the genetic counseling would be easy so I convinced Jim that he didn’t need to come. I was wrong. It was very emotionally draining. But I got through the counseling and had the bloodwork and headed into a 3 week wait for results … a very long 3 weeks!

Then there was the plastic surgeon. I went to Columbus because he supposedly offered more reconstruction options than the plastic surgeon in Mansfield. This wasn’t true. I wasn’t impressed with him at all and was not happy about the outcome. He would not do immediate reconstruction and would not consider it for the future without some major changes. But more than that I didn’t care for his bedside manners and didn’t have peace. I asked Dr. Maxwell to refer me to the plastic surgeon he works with regularly for breast reconstruction.

Now we are in June waiting on genetic results so we can make decisions and move forward. Dr. Maxwell mentioned the Bing Cancer Center in Columbus for a second opinion. You spend about a 1/2 day there where you see a breast cancer doctor who goes over your records and does an examination. He then meets with a multi-specialist team to discuss my case. The team is made of of top specialists in radiology, radiology oncology, medical oncology, genetics, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon and more. Then they all meet with you to share their recommendations. We decided since we were playing the waiting game that we would take that time to get a second opinion. They got me in right away.

On June 4th I saw Dr. Villalobos for a second opinion for breast reconstruction. He is a character and I like characters so we connected. This appointment was very positive and gave me some good options.

On June 5th I headed to the Bing Cancer Center. On the way I got a call from the genetic counselor that my genetic testing came back negative. Such relief! And so very thankful to God for this win! And thankful for my daughters!

We spent about a 1/2 day at the Bing! I expected it to be overwhelming and emotionally exhausting but we walked away hopeful but with some things we wanted to get Dr. Maxwell’s thoughts on. He was still where God gave us peace. The Bing doctors recommended re-excision of the original site to try to get clean margins. Sometimes this can take 3 or 4 surgeries. Not a pleasant thought! They recommended no further biopsies of the other two spots and not excising the other papilloma. This was disconcerting … I asked about this several times as I was confused on how we just leave these when we don’t know if they are cancer or not. They also recommended radiation treatments and hormone therapy and weight loss. Or a mastectomy. We left hopeful but confused.

After what seemed like forever for Dr. Maxwell to get all the information from these referrals I finally saw him at the middle of June for what was a long, intense, overwhelming appointment. He was perplexed by the Bing recommendations to not biopsy the other 2 spots nor excise the other papilloma. He didn’t think we could just ignore them and move on. He was so committed to this that he would not be willing to do the surgery and would refer me back to the Bing if I chose this route. This spoke loudly! Jim and I both knew that our peace was keeping me in the care of Dr. Maxwell.

So the next BIG part of the discussion was whether to have additional biopsies, excision of the other papilloma and re-excision of the site of the DCIS to try to get clean margins. Or have a single or double mastectomy. I was very conflicted. Jim was concerned about my emotional well-being if I went the mastectomy route and I understood. It all was just a LOT! Dr. Maxwell suggested he call Dr. Powell to see if she thought she could get what she needed through an ultrasound guided biopsy of the other two spots. So he called and we waited while she reviewed my previous results. She confirmed that she believed she could do it so two more biopsies were scheduled “only with her” Dr. Maxwell impressed on us … “don’t let them schedule you with anyone but Dr. Powell”!

So the next week I’m back for two more biopsies! That makes a total of 6 biopsies! Then a follow up with Dr. Maxwell the next week. This was our “then God stepped in” moment and a u-turn from a mastectomy to another lumpectomy and re-excision to try to get clean margins. The 2 biopsies were both fibrocystic so negative for breast cancer. We celebrated God’s goodness and this win in the battle.

With the following week being a holiday week he had openings to do surgery on 7/5 IF Dr. Powell would be in to do the wire guided excision biopsy to show him where the papilloma was since it was deep. She was working that day! So surgery is scheduled for 7/5! Surgical clearance on 6/28. We put out prayer requests to our army of intercessors. Pray for me – to be cleared for surgery, for successful surgery and quick recovery. For Dr. Maxwell – to be able to get clean margins (he reminded me that many times it can take multiple surgeries to get clean margins and there are times that they just can’t and we would be back at a mastectomy), to guide his hands. For Dr. Powell and all the other medical staff involved in my care for success and wisdom and compassionate care. We are trusting God step by step.

July 5th arrived and I found myself being prepared for a second surgery. It was a good day. Dr. Powell had a little challenge with the wire but she got it. Dr. Maxwell came in to see if I was ready and he asked if we were all prayed up. We said yes and then he asked if we all wanted to pray together before they took me back. Of course we did! After weeks of sharing our trust in God and all the prayers going up for us and for him … praying with him before surgery was so great! I’m thankful God connected us to a surgeon who prays! And I chose being referred to him from a picture and profile and God’s wisdom and peace! Only God!

Surgery went perfect! And I was home recovering quickly. But this surgery knocked me on my butt. I just couldn’t get my mojo back so I was home recuperating for 10 days and slowly got back to normal.

I followed up with Dr. Maxwell two weeks after surgery. I can’t begin to explain how wonderful it was to sit in his office and hear him tell me that the papilloma they removed was benign and that he got clean margins on the original DCIS area… he said they just took their time and got it done. Let me remind you that many time it takes multiple surgeries to get the margins and he was able to get them first time. God answered our prayers! Jim and I are more thankful than we can express for my surgeons excellent care, compassion and kindness! And God has been with me and in me and for me in every big and little thing. I am blessed and so very thankful!

He referred me to Dr. Nabhani for radiation therapy and to Dr. Exten to discuss adjuvant therapy. And he said I’m stuck with him as he would be directing my care and I will see him regularly. For someone who is use to going to see my 2 doctors one time each year this will be a kink in my style as I follow up with multiple doctors on a more consistent basis. Fun stuff! The positive is having exceptional doctors.

Dr. Nabhani was wonderful. He was a bit perplexed after going through my breast cancer journey at the size of the DCIS and all I had endured. He recommended 20 radiation treatments all directed to the area where the cancer was removed. I must say that this was difficult as I experienced medical fatigue that was more than I could have imagined. But through all of it God gave me rest and peace and good health. I only had one small area under my arm where my skin was affected. It was minimal and healed quickly. Again, God carried me.

After completing the radiation treatments I saw Dr. Exten, my medical oncologist to discuss adjuvant therapy. This therapy is to protect me from reoccurring breast cancer or new breast cancer by blocking the estrogen and progesterone that caused the DCIS.

My first step was a bone density test which came back with me having osteopenia. This begins an Xgrva injection every 6 months to protect my bones while on the adjuvant therapy. Next was a trip to the dentist to be cleared to start the therapy. Then the medication which has so many possible complications … of which I am thankful to report I’ve had none of other than some fatigue. I see Dr. Exten every 3 months. She is a wonderful and caring doctor.

I had another consult with Dr. Villalobos in October to discuss some reconstruction due to a lot is shrinkage from the radiation … I was just looking for some balance. I had no idea what I was going to go through!!! We scheduled the surgery for 12/20 and I was to be feeling well by the time the family came for Christmas which over New Years.

We had a trip scheduled to Israel in November leading a group of 31 from our church. All year I focused on being ready for this trip. I was ready and we had a wonderful trip! So thankful that God gave me health and strength.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving with our family and had so much to be thankful for and prepared for Christmas! December 20th came and I found myself being prepared for surgery again. Surgery went great but the recovery was much harder than anticipated. I had some wonderful people help me wrap and be ready for Christmas with my family. I was even able to attend our Christmas Eve service and participate in it by speaking alongside my husband.

We enjoyed Christmas with the family. I wasn’t 100% but we had a good time with everyone here. It was right after that when I just wasn’t feeling well. Before I knew it I was in the middle of an infection in full force. I was already on antibiotics and they were extended. The day I followed up with Dr. V and his face went gray and they sent me straight over to the surgery center … I knew I was in trouble. We were trusting God…

He flushed out the surgical sight and gave me stronger IV antibiotics. They also cultured the wound and found out the infection was a nasty one… probably hospital acquired and was antibiotic resistant. I went home on antibiotics and was to follow up with him in a week. He called a few days later and wanted to see me earlier. From that visit I was admitted to the hospital where I stayed for 6 days getting very strong IV antibiotics. Here I got to add another doctor to my growing list, Dr. Ezeki, an Infectious Disease Specialist. He is a godly man and a great doctor.

This was suppose to be a simple surgery to make things better and I was facing an infection that wasn’t going away and could threaten my life.

During my stay at the hospital the wound opened up hugely and was so gross and discouraging and scary. I had to find my faith legs again and choose joy when there didn’t seem to be a lot to be joyful about …

I went home on a wet to dry dressing twice each day with a cleanser and medication. I must say that through all of the ups and downs and health challenges my husband has been right there, my support and my rock. But he really lived the “for better, for worse; in sickness and health” part of our vows. He did all the dressing changes which protected me emotionally as I didn’t have to see the wound every day.

At my follow up with Dr. V he scheduled me for another surgery on February 14th to clean out the wound. What a way to spend Valentines Day! This would make 5 surgeries in less than a year. He was always so reassuring that it was all going to be good … He cultured the wound and the one infection had cleared but this time it showed MRSA so I went on a second antibiotic! The antibiotics were taking a toll on my body. After the cleaning of the wound he put on a wound vac which I’ve been on since 2/14 until last week … 3/30. The wound vac did miracles!

I started my second week without the wound vac on 4/6 seeing positive results. If all goes well this week there will be no more wound vac! It has done an amazing job of promoting new tissue growth and closure of the wound! Now my body is healing without it. I can’t believe this journey with the infection and the wound. All of last years challenges with the cancer were nothing compared with this wound and infection storm.

God’s provision has been amazing since I have been out of work since 12/19/19 other than a few hours the week I tried to go back and the infection set in. God has provided through the generosity of people and decisions I made 2 plus years ago and many miracles and answers to prayers.

Today I followed up with the infectious disease specialist who gave a wonderful report and released me from his care! No more infection! Thanking God!

My next step is a skin graft which due to the CoVID-19 pandemic it can’t be done right away. I am on the urgent list and looking at 2-3 weeks until that surgery can be done. For now I’m told to stay home and protect myself from the virus or any other infection.

I will continue to see all my doctors for follow ups … this along with tests and injections and my family doctor and gynecologist. My life will be medically busy for sure. And more sure is God’s presence and healing in my life.

This is one of the promises we have stood for on from day one of this journey and we still stand strong on it today.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not one of all His benefits—

He forgives every one of all my sins, He heals each one of all my diseases,

He redeems my life from the pit and corruption, He beautifies, dignifies, and crowns me with loving-kindness and tender mercy;

He satisfies my mouth, my necessity and desire at my personal age and situation with good so that my youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s – strong, overcoming, soaring!”

Psalm 103:1-5

What a journey this has been and continues to be … a journey of trust and joy.

Thank you to all who of you who has taken this journey with us through prayer, encouragement, visits, cards, food, flowers, gifts and so much more. You have been His hands and feet all over our lives.

Bless the Lord O my soul! Forever grateful. Forever changed. Choosing joy.

~Cheri💜🦋

(The picture is from my doctors visit Thursday … 😷)

#stillbecoming #itsaaprocess #mypassion #HeHealsAllMyDiseases #forevergrateful #foreverchanged #choosingjoy


Quarantined!

I guess a lot of us finally have time to sit and ponder a little. It’s funny how something (such as this current quarantine) that is meant to simply keep us healthy can actually be used not only for protection but for our benefit. I am convinced that many great ideas are squashed because we just don’t take time to sit and think – we’re ALWAYS busy.

And this week, it has occurred to me that quarantines and isolations are nothing new or strange. In fact, what really got me to thinking is the fact that this year, 2020, we cannot celebrate Resurrection Day and Passover as we have in yearstw before – we are quarantined.

We are quarantined much like the Hebrew people were just before they left Egypt. They were quarantined because God had instructed them to come together as individual households, to slaughter a lamb, to gather the shed blood of the lamb, to dip branches of hyssop in the blood, and to paint the lintels of their home. And they were in their homes – quarantined. They were there as a household, sheltered by the marks of the blood of the lamb. They were isolated from other households because God was calling them to this task – not as a nation – but as households, as family units, as peculiarly chosen people – because the Lord God Almighty had chosen to protect them – to keep them from death.

They were quarantined under the marks of the blood of the lamb because the angel of death was passing over their “foreign” land. That angel was bringing death upon the firstborn males of every household that was not marked by the blood. But that angel would not bring harm to the Hebrew peoples who were quarantined under the mark of the blood of the lamb.

This was the first Pesach (or Passover). It was a time of being quarantined. It was not fun. It was not interesting. It was, in fact, a time of difficulty in the midst of their hardship. BUT, as they were isolated as a household under the mark of the blood of the lamb, they were safe. They were protected. They were sheltered. And they were His – chosen by the Lord God Almighty.

Today, we face a different time – in a different situation – WITHOUT all the spiritual understanding and innuendo. We, too, are quarantined – called apart as individual households for the purpose of “flattening the curve” of danger, contagion, and contamination. Ours is not, perhaps, a spiritual venture wherein God separates His chosen people from all the rest. But perhaps, this is a time God has set us aside to think, to rest, to trust, to believe, and to demonstrate to others what obedience to the law of the land and faith in the Lord God Almighty can do for a person. Perhaps, it is filled with spiritual innuendo after all.

So, I encourage all of us today as you perhaps sit at home in quarantine. Please do not find this to be a strange thing. Please do not find it to be a burden. And please do not find in it an occasion to grovel and bemoan your existence. As a believer in Jesus Christ, perhaps you are being quarantined – isolated, if you will – so that you can think, rest, trust, believe, and demonstrate to others what obedience to the law of the land and faith in the Lord God Almighty can do for a person. And could it be that you and I are isolated as a household in faith — under the mark of the blood of THE Lamb. We are safe. We are protected. We are sheltered. And we are His – chosen by the Lord God Almighty.


Overwhelmed???

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with something in your life? In our current, quarantined situation, do you feel overwhelmed? Is fear and/or depression taking root within you?

For the past several days and weeks, we have been continually bombarded with daily news reports of COVID-19. This has seemingly taken the place of war in the Middle East, world-wide terrorism, and the growing threat of militant Islam. (I guess on a side note that this is good news – at least these other issues have moved to the back-burner.)

But you know what, the truth is that we are going about this all wrong!

Oh, but before I go further — then we have movies and books telling us that Christians are all about to escape these life events. That’s what is really scary because such teaching provides a false hope of escapism.

Now I DO believe that Jesus IS COMING to meet His bride BUT…

There are people groups RIGHT NOW facing horrors that many of us cannot even imagine.

Tell the Christians in Syria that they are going to escape the threat and reality of being murdered for their faith. (My friends, they are already facing these threats and realities.)

Tell the families of victims of COVID-19 all over the world (and, at the writing of this encouragement, that number is 19,805 and growing)—tell them that they are going to escape sickness, pain, and death.

We are all looking for a present and future escape …

… and missing the reality of the NOW hope of Jesus Christ.

He is with us when we are overwhelmed.

He is with us when sickness attaches to our bodies.

He is with us when death enters our familial homes.

He is with us when terror strikes.

He is with us regardless of the circumstances and His Word tells us that He never leaves us or forsakes us (Matthew 28:20b).

Again, Jesus IS coming to meet His bride BUT, it is a false hope for us to believe that we (as Americans) are somehow going to escape all of this when Christians all across the earth are facing a NOW reality of these things.

So here is my plea:

 

1) Let’s renew our trust in Christ. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (NLT).

 

2) Let’s pray with a fervency greater than we have ever known. James 5:16 reminds us that God DOES hear the pleas of His people- “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (NLT).

That means that if we will really mean business with God, He means business with us. He hears us. He answers us.

Go ahead, lose sleep while you’re praying.

Go ahead, weep some tears while you’re praying.

Go ahead, see God move while you’re praying.

 

3) Let’s do our part in the trust process. Solomon had just finished the construction of the Temple and God appeared to him in the night with certain words (2 Chronicles 7:11-22). Among these words, God set forth some conditional statements. He told Solomon that there would be times of disaster and horror in the earth. And then He introduced a VERY IMPORTANT word, “Then”.

“Then” means “at that time” or “in that given event.” In other words, God was telling Solomon that difficult times would still be ahead — but that WAS NOT time to turn FROM God; instead, it was time to turn to Him as never before.

2 Chronicles 7:14- “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (NLT).

 

So, God sets this before His chosen people who are called by His Name:

 

  1. We are to humble ourselves. This means that we are to recognize WHO God is and in turn, we are to recognize who we are. We are, in fact, nothing without Him.
  2. We are to pray. Not only are we to speak with God BUT we are to listen to Him, and we are to be willing to respond accordingly to what He speaks to us.
  3. We are to seek God’s face. Remember, this was written to the people who had heard the following blessing often:

‘May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace’ (Numbers 6:24-26 NLT).

The Israelites of old equated the Face of God with the favor and grace of God. In other words, they were to seek His face or His favor in their lives, upon their people, and upon their land.

  1. We are to repent. We are to turn from our wicked ways.

And in this sense, wickedness is further stretched to mean ALL thoughts, words, and actions that are displeasing to God. We are to change our ways of thinking AND our corresponding actions.

  1. And in turn, God will heal our land.

 

Now, many would tell us that this is Old Testament and therefore, no longer applicable to God’s people. But Jesus NEVER disavowed the Old Testament; in fact, He Himself told us that He came to fulfill or complete the Old Covenant. And His continual quoting and referencing of the Old Testament clearly indicates His approval of what was written therein.

 

So, when we are overwhelmed, when we are diseased, when we are threatened, when we are fearful — it is not time to look for the big escape. It is not time to put our trust in the doctors or in the military (although we ARE thankful for both the medical profession AND the military profession.) Instead, it is time to put our trust in Him.

 

Will you join me in taking this endeavor to task — to humbling ourselves and recognizing His magnitude and simultaneously, our smallness — to praying to Him with a preparedness to listen to and to obey — to seeking His face, grace, and favor — and to repenting of ALL of our sins, wrong-doings, wasted words, and uncontrolled thoughts.

 

We live in a world of uncertainty — and we DO look forward to being with Jesus soon — but let’s NOT wait until that time of His returning to do something.

 

Let’s not get caught up so much in watching for His return that we forget to maintain a close relationship with Him today.

 

Let’s do something NOW!

 

Let’s stay prepared NOW!

 

Hope in the future is always a NOW hope.

 

Hope in Christ is ALWAYS in anticipation of Christ fulfilling His promises as revealed in His Word.

 

Let’s trust HIM!

 

Let’s put our hope in Him … Now!


Announcement re: Church Cancellations

Dear Ontario Christian Fellowship Family,

We love you dearly and, as pastors and leadership team, we want to offer reassurance and guidance concerning the Coronavirus issue. Let us ALL be reminded, at all times, that we are to walk in faith and wisdom.

President Trump, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, and the CDC have issued various statements this week concerning mass gatherings. Officially, groups of 50 or more individuals are banned from congregating. (And again, as per last week, this announcement DOES NOT affect churches or other religious gatherings.) BUT, they are also strongly recommending that we keep groups to 10 or less. WE think there is wisdom in heeding this information AND, as a church, we are supportive of the leaders God has placed in authority over us. As such, we are taking the following precautions:

We are cancelling services for the next two weeks. (This statement refers to March 22 and 29.) We will then move on a week-by-week evaluation as more information becomes available. In the meantime, we understand that this is, perhaps, an opportunity for the Church to be the Church and to step out beyond its walls and into our community.

Here’s what you can do:

You can join our online community through our Facebook page or our website: www.OCFChurch.org. You can join the preaching portion of Sunday’s service on FaceBook Live around 11:00 AM Sunday.

We have Pastors, Elders, and Deacons who will be calling on you to check up on you, see what you might have need of, and take prayer requests.

In the meantime, please contact us and let us know your prayer requests so we can pray for you.

We love you and look forward to seeing you again really soon.

We are convinced that ‘this too shall pass’, but we want to operate in a spirit of wisdom in order to protect those in our church family who may be vulnerable to this virus. And, we want to protect our medical services so that they will have the needed supplies WHEN they need them; we do not want to over-burden the medical aspect of our community. Again, these precautions are being implemented with a spirit of love and wisdom, not fear and anxiety.

We look forward to worshiping online with you this Sunday. These are great days filled with great opportunities!

Pastor Jim and the entire Leadership Team


Dear Ontario Christian Fellowship Family,

We love you dearly and, as pastors and leadership team, we want to offer reassurance and guidance concerning the Coronavirus issue. Let us ALL be reminded, at all times, that we are to walk in faith and wisdom.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statement Thursday banning mass gatherings of 100 or more individuals. This announcement DOES NOT affect churches or other religious gatherings. Additionally, in a meeting with faith-based leaders, US Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, stated “don’t panic … stop buying masks … wash your hands. And, stop shaking hands in church.” We are heeding his advice and taking the following precautions:

We are asking, if you have any type of flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, fever, nausea, achiness, or if you have been in contact with anyone who has or is suspected of having this virus, or if you have recently traveled to any country where there is a major Coronavirus outbreak, please stay home.

If you are elderly or battling serious health issues such as Diabetes, serious infections, or other reduced-immuno-defense issues, you might be wise to stay home as well.

If you cannot attend one of the regular services, you can join our online community through our Facebook page or our website:

www.OCFChurch.org  . You can join the preaching portion of Sunday’s service on FaceBook Live around 11:00 AM Sunday.  (Again, we will have our normally scheduled 9:00 AM and 10:30 AM services in-house — on-line is simply an alternative for those who cannot attend.)

Please contact us and let us know your prayer requests so we can pray for you. We love you and we look forward to seeing you again really soon.

Also, we are reminding all of our staff and volunteers to be extra mindful of good hygiene practices – especially concerning those who are serving our infants, children, and/or elderly members.

We further recommend that all greetings, for this awkward period of time, should be limited to verbal greetings instead of handshakes and hugs. This pertains to all ministry areas.

We are convinced that ‘this too shall pass’, but we want to operate in a spirit of wisdom in order to protect those in our church family who may be vulnerable to this virus. Again, these precautions are being implemented with a spirit of love and wisdom, not fear and anxiety.

We look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday. These are great days filled with great opportunities!

 

Pastor Jim and the entire Leadership Team

A Visitation to Worship


Does it ever bother you that God doesn’t accept all sacrifices (See Cain and Abel)?

It certainly bothers me — not from the standpoint of God BUT, from the standpoint of me.

I want my worship to be pure and holy– from a proper motive — and received by God–but do I sometimes simply just go through the motions?

Something to think about.
Jim