“Revived, Resurrected, Recalled”

Nazarene Men’s Retreat, a.m. Session

Delivered by Lay Minister Stephen Lucas,

(Presented at the Lake Placid Camp & Conference Center, starting @ about 9 a.m., Saturday, March 20, 2014, after wonderful Worship in Song Lead by Jesse Attard and his team of Musicians)

(The following has been edited from the “script” developed for presentation and is not a transcript of the actual delivery, but is an attempt to share the sense of what was delivered in a form suitable for reading.)

 

Thank You so much! Please Join Me In prayer:

Father God, Great and Gracious and Holy God, Your Kingdom Come, Lord, Your Will be Done, here in this place and everywhere, Father, and in all of us. 

Holy Spirit… Fill us and use us to Glorify the Father as we use this time to Rest and Recuperate and Regain our strength for the battle that you have called us to fight. 

Speak Thru Me, Holy Spirit, and speak TO each of us that we may become better and truer servants. 

Abide with us and guide us thru this Day and every day, we pray, that we may strengthen and encourage one another, so that we May Stand for you, until YOU Stand again on this Earth, or you relieve us of our Earthly Duties.

It is in Jesus’ great and powerful name that we Pray,

And all God’s men said… AMEN!

 

It’s good to be here with you, today

Truly, for me, it’s good to be anywhere, with anybody, considering I was mostly dead, about 18 months ago.

I’ll going to explain that a little while, but first, and by way of further introduction, I’m going to address some of the other, perhaps more obvious things about me that some of you may be trying to figure out, and some of you may already know.

First, I’m Old.  I’m not complaining, In fact, It’s one of the things high up on my gratitude list. 

Living on this earth long enough to become old is a privilege denied many… it was a privilege denied my son, and many other sons and daughters in this broken world. 

Another obvious thing about me, is this little boo-boo (I pointed to a healing but still red and clearly visable “scrape”)on the top of my head. 

The reason that’s there is that I’m just a little too tall to safely get groceries out of the back of my wife’s S-U-V.

And the reason that the boo-boo is so obvious is that I’m also just a little to tall… for my hair.

Some of you may have seen me ride in last night or seen my motorcycle parked outside, and figured out from that … and from the way I’m dressed (I was wearing jeans, heavy boots and a leather vest over a bright-red shirt), that I’m an Old Biker, and If you looked at that motorcycle you’d know a couple of other things about me…

One is that I like riding motorcycles more than I like washing motorcycles, and another is that I’m an old Soldier. (the motor cycle has several prominent “U.S. Army – Retired” stickers)

But they’re not the most important things.

The most important thing about me… the most important thing in my world … is that the Lord God, creator and sustainer of all things, and deliverer of all good things… The Lord God Almighty… The Lord of Hosts and Savior and comforter of the fallen… He is my Commander and My King.

And, I Know that He Loves me, and that He’s coming to my relief.

And, if that’s not true for you, too, I’m here to help make it come true.

Please, God.

There’s another thing about me, though, that you probably ought to know right up front… I have what’s called A—D… (I stopped speaking and stared out the window, for a moment, then continued)

Oh, yeah… Attention Deficit Disorder … I’m not sure it’s really a disorder, but that’s beside’s the point… the point is … I don’t really multi-task all that well, so I’m not going to try to talk to you about these things that are so important, and try to keep up with running a slide–show at the same time.

So, I’ve printed the scriptures that I’m drawing from in those little handouts (the scripture in the “handout” are reproduced at the end of this text, and hyperlinked in this document) and even printed some headings for them that should help keep both you and me from having to stop and thumb, or scroll, thru a bible or a slide-show to get to the right place. 

We’re going low-tech or at least old-tech.

And, in most cases, I’m not even going to read the scriptures to you, because I’m assuming that you can read.  Plus, you might even want to hang on to those hand-outs so you can do some more study and contemplation of this little talk, sometime when you’re not distracted by thoughts of cardboard boats or the weather, or whatever. 

Also the URL for my website is in there, which has some other sermons and writings, and absolutely nothing for sale.

Now, we call what’s happening here a retreat, and that’s a label that this old soldier likes.

Not the “backing away from an enemy” or the “run away…run away” kind of retreat… we don’t like those at all!

This is the kind of retreat that soldiers do like.  They would hear it signaled by a bugle call and a cannon firing, on most major army installations, around sundown, almost every day. 

(http://www.music.army.mil/music/buglecalls/retreat.asp )

BOOM!

 

Then, if we were outdoors, we’d face the flagpole and salute as the bugle call “to the color” played .

“To the color” replaces the National Anthem in situations where there’s no band, or it’s just us “army guys” -- so we play it at the end of the day, when we lower the Flag for the Night. 

On the battlefield, “to the color” was used to rally troops… call them together so they could unite against the enemy… to rally the troops to the unit’s colors or to the Battle Standard flying high over the smoke and confusion … to pierce the “fog of war”. 

Remember that idea … we’re going to come back to it.

These bugle calls date from the days of frontier outposts.

Those signals would call in the troops that were outside the Fort or the stockade on local patrols or call in the work or hunting parties that were out doing their duties.

They were called back to “the Fort” so that they rest, resupply, and prepare for the next day’s duties.

And the were called back so that they would have a chance to Confer with their Commanders, before going out again.

So, just like those old soldiers, we’re called to “retreat” and we are called to rally to God’s Standard, who is Jesus the Christ.

We “retreat” to Rest in him, and to confer with Him, so that we may then go back out into the world for him.

He said:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

I want you to notice some things about what Jesus was saying to us there. 

Yes, he promised rest for our souls, but he also promised a yoke for our shoulders and lessons --- what we soldiers call training --- training in how to better follow Him --- training in how to be more like Him.

And, Just as that Battle Standard was “lifted up” above the fog of war so that the soldiers could find their King or their commander, Our Commander and King was lifted up so that we could rally to Him, and win the victory.  (Numbers 21:9; John 3:14-15, Acts 3:26).

So, by all means, let’s rest and recuperate from our duties and our work, let’s play a little, and let’s study and learn a lot, because we got to go back out there, pretty soon, back out into the wild, wild west, and we’ve got to rally against the foe.

We are Priests (1 Peter 2:9), not monks, it’s not for us to hunker down in some fort or cloister ourselves while the battle for men’s souls rages, the Son Of Man has been raised up for the salvation to the world, and we are his messengers and his troops. 

We are supposed to be fighters, followers and protectors, we are called to serve (Matthew 19:29-30, Mark 8:35, Mark 9:35, Matthew 28:19-20 & John 14:15), Not “build an ark” or a fort to hole-up in while people are dying out there. 

And there’s only two kinds of People out there or – in here – no non-combatants. 

We’re either with those who rally to the One has been lifted up for light and love and eternal life, or we’re following our self-will  and lust – which is to say we’re following the one who wants to pull us down to darkness, damnation and death.

This afternoon we’ll talk about some specifics of how we train for the fight, and how we get to re-deploy, not just retreat – re-deploy, which is “army-talk” for “go home”.

But, for now, I’m afraid you’re going to have to hear a bit more about me…

This particular retreat is a pretty big deal for me.

It’s been on my mind in one way or another nearly every day for the last six months, ever since Pastor Trevor asked me to come and speak to you.  I could rarely get thru my morning devotionals and meditations or listen to my Gospel and worship and praise music without out having an “ooh-ooh” moment.

That’s where I go: OOH-OOH… OOH-OOH, OOH-OOH… I gotta tell ‘em about this, or

OOH-OOH… OOH-OOH, OOH-OOH… I gotta tell ‘em about that, or OOH-OOH… OOH-OOH, OOH-OOH…

Sometimes, in my head, it sounded like the chimpanzee compound at the zoo.

And for the last two weeks or so, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, going OOH-OOH, and I’ve actually re-written this presentation several times as late as yesterday…

And I for one have gotten to the place where I just can’t hardly wait to hear what I’m going to say.

Whatever that is, there’s a lot more I’d like to tell you about than I have time to tell to you, so I’d best get about it. 

See, I’ve been on both sides out on that battlefield, and the things I’ve learned since the Lord came and got me and bought me over to the winning side – those things I can’t help but preach about. 

I can guarantee you that you’d get tired of listening before I’d get tired of preaching, because I serve such a awesome God.

But, even though scripture says preaching is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) and even though I can’t do anything else, the things the Lord has taught me as he bought me back to Himself remind me to keep it simple and just “share my experience, strength and hope” as they say in the 12-step recovery programs.

I’m going to start with Hope – one of the three things that “remains” (1 Corinthians 13:13)---that lasts forever and ever, Amen?

I ‘m hoping and expecting great things to come out today, because God promises them, and He’s helped me narrow down today’s OOH-OOHs to a Baker’s dozen – down from hundreds. 

 

First and Last, I want to Glorify God.

Say “Glorify God!”

What’s the matter?  Did they run out of coffee this morning?

Say “Glorify God!”

Better

I want to Help Provide “spiritual meat” to nourish R&R “rest & re-creation”

I want to “Glorify God”!

Say “Glorify God!”

I want to Help Recruit Warriors for God’s Army.

And… (Gesture) Glorify God

I want to Help Train warriors for God’s Army.

And… (Gesture) Glorify God

Help Conduct weapons and equipment checks for the warrior’s of God’s Army.

And… (Gesture) Glorify God

I want to Help Deploy the force and rally God’s troops

And… (Gesture) Glorify God

I want to Help Find more deployment opportunities for this old soldier, cause God ain’t relieved me yet.

And… (Gesture) Glorify God

Amen!

As Bill Gaither sang:  I’m “Just an old sinner, Saved by Grace.”  And, I’m just an Old soldier, as we’ve talked about, so that’s one reason I use so many military metaphors .

Christ taught in mainly agrarian metaphors, because He was in the talking to people that were still close to the land.

Paul spoke to the gentiles… with sports and military metaphors, because they were sports fans, and some were conquerors and some were conquered.

Another reason I use military metaphors is because… we’re at war.

And I’m not talking about the latest outbreaks in the long war against militant Islam that been going on since before the United States even existed.

No, what I’m talking about is the longest of all wars … the one that first began when Satan coveted God’s Power and then started a campaign of deceit, deception and distraction by whispering to the mother of us all in the Garden of Eden, and tempting Her and the First Man, too,  into that same sin. (see Genesis 3)

 “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  (Ephesians 6:10-12)

When I say I’m just an old Soldier, perhaps I’m not being a specific enough… what I am is an old sergeant –  a Non-Commissioned Officer… an NCO, specifically a First Sergeant.

And, when it’s time to train for war, you need Sergeants… NCOs

NCOs train troops, including officers, and First Sergeants train NCOs, we train the trainers.

This afternoon we’ll talk more about that, but for right now, I’d like to talk about some of my other roles as a man and boy.

As with all of us, I have many roles and many “jobs”:  not just a Soldier, including Biker, and Husband, and Father, Scholar, and Preacher…

Many roles, but just one man…

Just like the Branches of our Armed Services have many uniforms, but just one allegiance, and just one overarching mission, the defense of this nation.

My first allegiance in whatever role is to the King of Kings, and my overriding mission is to glorify Him.

And in support of that “One Mission”, I have my orders:

19… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  -- (Matthew 28:19-20)

Most of you recognize that it’s called the “Great Commission”

“Commission” comes from an ancient Latin word meaning “to bring together”.

Today, I’d like you to think of as a Co-Mission – a mission, together with our Great Commander

Think of it as a Co-mission with one-another, too. 

For the bonds of love that grow between soldiers that fight side by side are among the closest on this earth, and good training for the kind of friendship and love that our King wants for us to have with Him and each other.

For a big part of my life, I was not a friend of the Lord’s, and not a very good friend to anyone else.

In fact, I was Rotten Man… an Alcoholic, Adulterer, liar, cheat and thief.

Husband?

I’ve had dozens of adulterous relationships, I’ve been divorced twice and married three times, to two women… I was the man women’s mothers warned them about. 

And, If you had a little trouble following the divorce and marriage count… what it means is that I married my First – and Last – wife twice. 

She’s my best friend, after the Lord, and she’s gotten a whole lot better this second time around … or somebody did.

Father? Well, Because of the divorce, and my drunkenness and my cheating on their mother, my own children hated me. 

My youngest daughter didn’t even speak to me for more than three years, and my son died angry and estranged from me.

God in his grace has healed those wounds and used those trials to train us into better servants of Him and others, but there’re some ugly scars.

Biker? 

Well, I have survived… by God’s grace… riding motorcycles over a span of about 50 years, which was long enough to learn from my mistakes and figure out that even experienced riders can make good use of training. 

Since I got some formal training, and started sharing that with others, I’ve been able to ride more than 25 years, without being knocked down or run over, and most of those right here in South Florida. And before, In Central America, where the traffic is even crazier.

But, again, God is gracious to me and He let me learn an awful lot about what NOT to do in those first 25 years.  And I’ve got the scars and permanently creaky bones to remind me of those lessons.

Soldier?

For some of my career I was not a very good soldier, If you want more details, see my website. (a posting called “My Life as a REMF”).

Basically for about 14 years, I was self serving drunk, until an one night in 1989 in Camp Casey, Korea, when God’s grace fell on me with the blessing of brokenness and the gift of desperation.  

I was no longer able to drink enough to even temporarily forget my many failures as a man, a soldier, a husband and a father, and I was ready to take my own life rather than continue to try to live with that.

Instead of killing myself I sought help from a group of active and retired soldiers who had found sobriety and spiritual healing in a 12-step fellowship.

The 12 steps they and others taught me, and the training they gave me, eventually, led me back to the foot of the cross.

I asked an old warrior among them to mentor me towards sanity, and spent a late evening explaining to him that I had become an agnostic and even if there was a god, he, she or it couldn’t possible care about some lowly critters like me on some tiny speck of dirt in an obscure part of an apparently huge universe.

He just nodded, and then told me I was either going to have to find a personal God to call on for help, or die, then he wished me a goodnight and started back for his compound. 

Thinking about what he said, I headed for my compound in another direction, then stopped dead in the middle of what is usually the busiest street in Dongduchon, Korea.  Something other than stoplights and someone other than traffic cops kept that street quiet and empty as I breathed a simple but sincere prayer:

“Whoever you are and whatever you are… if you’re there… please help me.”

The answer was immediate and as clear as if spoken in my ears, but it was in my head and my heart.

It wasn’t a hallucination; I’d had them before… this was the voice of a spirit that as was pure and clean as water is wet.

God said to me “Don’t worry Steve; everything is going to be all right.”

And it has been. 

For twenty-seven years now, everything’s been all right.  Actually, it’s always been all right, I just didn’t know it.

Romans 8:28 is real!

“… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And on top of that, He loved me first! 

He Loved me and called me before I knew Him and protected me even while I was his enemy and denying Him.

My alcoholic Father still managed to dedicate me as his as his first born when I was only a few days old.   Like the father of Kunta Kinta did in the TV movie “Roots”, my father told me he lifted me up in his hands and dedicated me to God in the biblical tradition.

As a three year old baby I was taken to the hospital with double pneumonia, and it being 1955… I’ll do the math for you… I’m 64… anyway, in 1955 the wonder drug was penicillin, and they gave may a big dose of it.

Turns out, I’m deathly allergic to Penicillin. 

I went into what they call anaphylactic shock and died… well, my heart stopped beating and I stopped breathing…  Three times… and three times they “brought me back”… pounding on my little chest so long and with such force that they split my breast bone and cracked all my ribs… see, they didn’t have those little shock paddles back then.

But God is good… I don’t remember any of that stuff… I was three… my mother told me the story -- over and over again, actually.

I certainly don’t remember any “tunnels of light” or time in heaven, but the little me had something very special happen to him.

My mom told me that I would tell her, when things got rough in our violent household, “Mommy I don’t like it here, I want to go home”. 

“I want to go home”  As a little kid, I knew this world was not my real home.

We did attend Church pretty regularly, and when I was eleven I became convicted I was a sinner, accepted Christ and was baptized.

But I wandered far away from Lord as a teen, confused and dazed by drugs and doubts and discord in my earthly home. 

I’d be beaten all week and taken to church on Sunday, where I’d sit and listen to five deacons argue 12 different opinions, and of course it was the sixties, so there were hippies and protestors and drugs and riots and war…

I can’t count all the stupid and dangerous thing I did as a confused and drug-addled boy or drunk and foolish man. 

But, like in Donduchon, God, in his mercy, kept me from killing myself or someone else, and eventually, called him back to Him.

Since that time in Korea, I’ve sought to be less and less conformed to the patterns of this world and thought I was doing a pretty good job of transforming my mind to a better understanding of His good and perfect will for me. 

But I was the wrong man for the job, I guess, because our gracious Lord gave me some good but hard training in the last couple of years…

Two years ago in February, my Daughter-in-Law came home from a trip to the store to find her husband, our youngest child, dead on the couch where he’d laid down for a nap: He was only 39 and is survived by her and two children, two sisters, his mother and I, and many friends who loved him dearly. 

I loved Him, too, but as I mentioned before, we were estranged, the last time we’d spoken, he was so disrespectful and mocking, I hung up the phone on him.  He called, occasionally, after that, but always spoke to his mother, only.

By now, most people have heard about the “stages of grief” or “stages of coping” model, about how people deal with major life changes or significant events; the stages are usually described as: Shock or Disbelief and Denial; Anger; Bargaining and Guilt; Depression, and finally, Acceptance and Hope.

My experience is this model’s pretty accurate and has taught me to lean on God to get thru these stages pretty quickly.

When my wife called me at my office that February day, she simply said, “Aaron’s dead”.

Denial was immediate.  I remember thinking “I know several ‘Aaron’s”, my grand-daughters friend Erin, and some members of my congregation’s son and brother, Aaron.  For a brief moment, I was hoping that she was speaking of someone else’s daughter or son, not mine. 

But, really, I knew what she meant. 

She told what little she knew and we both started for home from our offices. 

I mounted up on my motorcycle and began the hour-long ride.  For once, I didn’t do that stupid thing where I try to figure something out before I remember to pray; I was praying as I took my leave.  And, once I got rolling I was having a pretty intense conversation with my God. 

I also got angry… not at God, but at my son, for neglecting health issues and for leaving us, among other things.  I went to God in Prayer, and I guess I had a moment of guilt, as I thought about Aaron’s motives for disrespecting me and rejecting me and my beliefs. 

As I’ve told you, I was a pretty rotten Father and Husband to his mother; and he couldn’t seem to forgive. 

I didn’t try to bargain with my Lord; I believe Him to be perfectly just in all things, so my son could be in no better hands than His.

Also, I believe Aaron's no longer mad at me.

The Spirit put scripture into my mind, during that long ride home:

1Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them, do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

I believe God was saying, all of us survive by His grace alone, those of us who are “saved” are saved by grace alone, not by anything we’ve done or stopped doing, and we’re not condemned or redeemed by how we feel, but by his feelings for us, by the Love of God.

My son’s death was not some kind of punishment for him or those that cared about him, but a natural part of life in this broken world. 

In truth, I don’t know what Aaron’s relationship with the Savior was or is.  In truth, I don’t know about anyone’s other than mine; my son could and did say ridiculous and deliberately provocative things to start verbal duels, so that may be all that was happening in our last conversations; I just don’t know. 

His sister told me Aaron was a believer, but whatever the truth of the matter is, I arrived home that day in better relationship with my God than I had before that phone call from Evelyn.  

I was asked during that ride “Do you really trust me?” and I was able to answer “Yes Lord, I really trust You.” 

And when I got home, I took great comfort in hearing about my mother-in-law’s words when she’d heard the news:  “All I know is that God’s more gracious than we can imagine.”

I can testify to that, He is Indeed!

Later that year, about 18 months ago He proved that to me.

A member of our congregation at Redland Church of the Nazarene, Ric Ward, likes to call me “Lazarus”, but I kind of identify with another Bible figure whose name is a whole lot harder to say.

He was the sole survivor of King Saul’s family, Jonathan’s Son, Mephibosheth. 

You can read his story in the Ninth chapter of second Samuel, but here’s the highlights.

Mephibosheth was lame, crippled in both feet, after being dropped when he was a small child.  He was Saul’s grandson -- and Saul had tried to kill David for years.

But, after Saul and Jonathan’s death in battle with the Philistines and David’s ascension to the throne, he searched out Mephibosheth and had him carried to the King’s table, and Mephibosheth dined there for the rest of his life, just like one of the King’s sons.

That song the Jesse sang, “Carried to the Table”, was inspired by that story, remember it?

Here’s part of the lyrics:

Wounded and forsaken, I was shattered by the fall.

Summoned by the King Into the Master's courts,

Lifted by the Savior and cradled in His arms,

I was carried to the table,

Seated where I don't belong,

Carried to the table,

Swept away by His love.

Samuel tells us that when this broken man was carried into the presence of the King, he asked:

“What is your servant -- that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

I often wonder the same kind of thing when I think of all the things God’s done for me.

Because, as I told you, before the first of my revivals, I was a dog of a man; broken; fallen; lamed by sin and corruption, but He sought me out , and He had me carried to His table.

And once I was there, HE cradled me in his arms and made me as one of His sons.

Now – He’s revived me again!

Some years ago -- only God knows when -- I developed an aneurysm – a bulging weak-spot in my ascending aorta – that the main artery coming out of the top of my heart. 

A little after five on a Friday evening – the fifth of September – I was leaving work at the military Headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command – when the bulge tore open and I began to “bleed-out” internally.

There’s a well known scripture that’s right for the situation:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death -- I will fear no evil -- for you are with me…

The first divine intervention – my bosses’ words – involved my boss and a bag of recycling; He’d left ahead of me, and I gathered up my trash and recycling, secured our office door … most of our doors have a combination lock like a safe … and took my stuff to the collection points in the nearest break room.

That’s where my “blow-out” happened; struck with extreme pain and weakness, I grabbed a counter, trying not to fall. 

Now, my boss, had gotten all the way to the building’s exit before realizing he still, absentmindedly, had his bag of recycling in his hand.  So, he returned down a long corridor, to our break room -- passing two others along the way – to find me, about to collapse, and he was there, as I kind of slide down a wall, and fell to the floor of the corridor.

For security reasons, we can’t carry cell-phones in the Headquarters, so Bob rushed down our hallway looking for an open office so that he could call nine-one-one, without having to open the combination lock.

What He didn’t realize was that my friends on the Headquarters Guard Force had watched me fall, on one of several rows of monitors in their offices, and immediately picked up the phone and called for an ambulance.  So it was hardly possible for anyone to have dispated an ambulance for me quicker than they did.

And, I’m convinced that there was another reason for my boss to be running down the hall.

Remember, it was late on a Friday afternoon; there was only one open office in the hallway-- the Command Chaplin’s office -- and there was one person working late on a Friday in the Chaplin’s office, a Navy Chief Petty Officer Chaplin’s Assistant, who I’ve known for almost two decades. 

Jennifer came out and held my head in her lap and carried me to the Lord in prayer.

While were waiting, the Lord arranged another little “coincidence” for my benefit, in the form a Combat Veteran Special Forces Doctor coming down the nearby stairs after leaving a late meeting in the command group area… so I had expert first aid from a medical profession only moments after what my family has come to call “the incident” and a Good Christian Friend Praying over me and while we waited for the E-M-Ts, and my friends on the security force ignored a few rules and (probably) broke a few others to guide the ambulance past security screening and close to where I lay, dying.

“Dying” is not an exaggeration; after they got me to the E-R I got sicker and sicker for several hours.  I had no detectable pulse on the left side of my body and had started vomiting and passing blood as my digestive system and intestines shut down and started falling apart. 

I’ve been told about that time but I don’t remember it.

Pastor tells me I looked up at him and said -- “God is Good – all the time” and that when he asked Evelyn what she wanted him to pray for -- she said “God’s will”.  

Anyway, around Midnight, they split my chest open.  Ten or eleven hours later, they closed me up, having repaired the tear and patched a valve in my heart.

During those 10 or eleven hours, they had stopped my heart and circulated my blood with a machine that also cooled my blood and me, down to below room temperature, attempting to slow down brain and tissue damage while they worked to save me. 

As my cardiologist later said, “You’re not really dead until you’re warm and dead”

They also plugged all kinds of tubes and wires in me; another brother-in-Christ says I looked like a computer; because by the time they’d finished patching my heart, it was about the only part of me that was still working; my other “guts” had quit because of blood loss.

For the next five weeks or so, they kept me knocked out, breathing thru a tube in my throat; being fed thru a tube in my stomach; getting dialysis; unable to move; totally incontinent.

Evelyn says I had the easy part: sleeping, while others worried and prayed over me. 

And, me? 

I was resting in the arms of my Lord. 

But, externally, I was in bad shape. Machines were keeping me alive; machines -- and God’s Grace.

Many people from our church came and sat with her and me and prayed, one of them is a nurse, and she said the smell of death was coming off of me.

I finally figured out just how bad it was after some of my guts started working again and I got out of the ICU and all those that came to see me would say some version the same thing:

“Oh!  You look so much better!”

Now, by that time; I’d seen a mirror, so, I knew that I looked like death warmed over… like a concentration camp survivor, because of extreme muscle wasting… so I must have looked REALLY bad before that.

After they woke me up, and after they stopped giving me heavy-duty drugs that caused me to be paranoid and hallucinating and out touch with the reality of the Love and the Grace of God; after that stupid and crazy time, I began to contemplate what had happened and I began to testify, to just about everybody, about what God had done for me.

I’d tell them: God just kicked my feet out from under me, but then He caught me as I fell. 

It was wonderful to be cradled in His arms, and it changed me from the man I was before, and I think that was the point.

As my mind began to clear, a scripture started running thru my head, over and over.

It’s in the ninth chapter of Matthew, starting at verse 10: 

10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy -- not sacrifice.’  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

After some prayer and meditation, I think got the part about the sick people. 

I think the Lord was trying to tell me that I had begun to think I was “healthy”.  I had become “Righteous”,  thinking that morning and evening prayer; meditation; Bible study; faithful Church attendance and tithing; all my “religious” practices, had somehow made me “well”.

But really, I was lamed by my self-righteousness.

And the other part; well… it was fairly obvious to me that I was more like the Pharisees than the people at the table with Jesus.

So, I went to the writing of Hosea as my Lord had commanded and read the scripture he’d quoted, and I began to understand.

The whole of Hosea 6:6 is:

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

It’s not that these things that I do and intend keep doing are wrong things, not at all.

But there’s nothing in my renewed life – my resurrected life -- there’s nothing more important than telling everyone about the Love and the forgiveness and the grace of my God.

There’s nothing more important than Glorifying Him.

I have a seat at His table, and I must remember that I couldn’t get there on my own.

I was carried there, like Mephibosheth, and I must remember that; and sometimes, I must testify how He let me come back, kind of like Lazarus, so that I can Give God the Glory.

I don’t understand such mercy and grace, but I do know, God is good, and God is great, beyond my understanding (Isaiah 55:7-9)

7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  -- Isaiah 55:7-9 (NIV)

I will forsake my wicked ways and my unrighteous thoughts and turn to Him.  He has had unspeakable mercy on me… He is more gracious than I can understand… he has pardoned and sanctified me.

I now how yet another new life, a New mission and a new “objective”.

In this afternoon’s session:  we talk about that mission and objectives and the Techniques, Tactics, Procedures (TTPs) we can use to accomplish them, but for now, go out and get some of that “good training” in fellowship and partnership and have fun!

And remember “Safety Fourth!” (I’ll explain that this afternoon)

 


 

References and Scriptures

“Retreat and Rest”

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

 – Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)

“Christ Raised Up”

9So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. -- Numbers 21:9

14”…Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”  -- John 3:14-15

26“…When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”  --Acts 3:26

 “Priest’s and Servants”

9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  -- 1 Peter 2:9

“Go Out!”

29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wifeor children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.  -- Matthew 19:29-30 (NIV)

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  -- Matthew 28:19-20

35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.  -- Mark 8:35

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  -- Mark 9:35 (NIV)

15 “If you love me, keep my commands.  – John 14:15

“Preaching”

22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. -- 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (NIV)

“Hope”

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  -- 1 Corinthians 13:13

“The Longest War”

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  -- Ephesians 6:10-17 (NIV)

“The Great Commission

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  -- Matthew 28:19-20

Brotherhood

10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. – Romans 12:10

24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.  -- 1 Corinthians 10:24

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:1-4

Speaker’s Website

www.becomingwholly.info

“God’s Loving Grace”

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  -- Romans 8:28

 

3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. -- Jeremiah 31:3

We love because he first loved us   -- 1 John 4:19

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  -- Romans 12:2

“Dedication of the firstborn”

“Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.” -- Exodus 13:2

“Coping with the Death of Others”

1Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them, do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  -- Luke 13:1- 5

“The Incident”

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

-- Psalm 23:4

 “10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy -- not sacrifice.’  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 -- Matthew 9:10-13

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”  -- Hosea 6:6

7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  -- Isaiah 55:7-9 (NIV)