Lost Control, Found Weakness

From my colleague and friend, Ryan DeJonge, on the front lines of mission work:

Source: Lost Control, Found Weakness

Please take some time to follow the above link, read it, or make a note to read it later. You will not only be edified for your own sanctification. You will also learn more about what to pray for missionaries (on the front line in foreign countries) and for pastors (on the front lines of Western culture). I’m learning, too, that God gives us marvelous things to behold when we are at the bottom of ourselves. It’s not that they weren’t there to see before, or were any less marvelous; I just didn’t notice them the same way I do now. “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”–2 Corinthians 12:10 Thank you for sharing this, Ryan. We need to hear it. And we are praying for you, as you pray for us.

 

Published in: on March 14, 2017 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Cross as “Speechless failure”

The most therapeutic exercise for the Christian who is enduring suffering, of whatever sort that might be, is to contemplate the crucifixion of Jesus.

If ever mortal men found a real hero on this earth, those men were disciples. They, indeed, were hero-worshippers. Then think of the horrid shock and shame which overwhelmed them at the Cross. It was no splendid martyrdom for a great cause, no glorious conquest won at the cost of life; no epic to be sung or celebrated. No, the Cross was simply an utter overthrow, a speechless failure. It was all sordid, cruel, criminal, a gross injustice, an intolerable defeat of good by evil, of God by devils…. He their hero, their chosen leader, he was numbered with the transgressors. He was cast out with a curse upon him. Think how loyalty would burn to right this wrong, to clear his memory, to save his reputation, to prove that gross outrage had been done to him, to magnify the life so that the death might be forgotten…. But nothing of the kind seems to have occurred to the Evangelists. They literally glory in the Cross…. They are clear, with an absolute conviction, that the best and most wonderful thing he ever did was… to die a felon’s death, between two robbers. It was their hero’s greatest heroism that he was executed as a common criminal.

–Philip Rhinelander, The Faith of the Cross, cited by Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion

Whatever the Christian may endure, the folly of the cross proves itself ever and again as the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Published in: on February 16, 2017 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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In Christ There Is No East or West

In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts ev’rywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden chord
Close binding all mankind.

Join hands then, children of the faith,
Whate’er your race may be;
Who serves my Father as a child
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet South and North:
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.

WORDS: John Oxenham
MUSIC: Alexander R. Reinagle
ST.PETER
8.6.8.6 (CM.)

 

Published in: on February 15, 2017 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Taste and see that the LORD is good.”

Doing some research on Psalm 34:8-10, I came across this comment by the venerable OT commentator, Franz Delitzsch:

Tasting (γεύσασθαι, Hebr. 6:4f., 1 Pet. 2:3) stands before seeing; for spiritual experience leads to spiritual perception or knowledge, and not vice versâ. Nisi gustaveris, says Bernard, non videbis. David is desirous that others also should experience what he has experienced in order that they may come to know what he has come to know, viz., the goodness of God.

What’s really interesting is what he says in the footnote:

On account of this v. 9, Γεύσασθε καὶ ἴδετε, κ. τ. λ., Ps. 33 (34) was the Communion Psalm of the early church, Constit. Apost. viii. 13, Cyril, Catech. Myst. v. 17.

This has important implications for how the church in general and Christians in particular use and experience the sacraments. So often we flip it the other way around: we think that seeing (knowing, understanding) necessarily precedes experiencing (tasting, enjoying).

The reality is that God provides us and surrounds us with the experience of his love and goodness, long before we ‘get it.’

Published in: on July 5, 2016 at 10:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hughes Oliphant Old (1933-2016)

Today the church on earth has lost one of her best. Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, minister of the Word and Sacraments, finished his earthly sojourn this morning and departed to be with his Lord at the age of 83. Old was arguably one of the most prolific and outstanding patristics and reformed liturgical scholars of our time. While he is probably best known for his prodigious 7-volume magnum opus, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church and Worship that is Reformed According to the Scriptures, he always insisted that his less famous book, Themes and Variations for a Christian Doxology: Some Thoughts on the Theology of Worship, is seminal for understanding everything else that he has written.

His death is also a great personal loss to me. As one of my teachers, Dr. Old became a dear mentor and friend. When I was his student many years ago, he honoured me by inviting me to be his personal assistant for the duration of the course, on account of his debilitating blindness. This meant that I was privileged, among other things, to drive him around, read aloud for him, and join him for meals at his favourite local restaurants. With this privilege came the rare opportunity to have extended conversations with him.

A couple years ago, after many years of trying to get together again, he invited me to spend a week with him and his wife at his home in Vermont. They were superb and generous hosts, far beyond what I expected or deserved. We spent time editing a volume that he was working on at the time, talking about my recent dissertation, listening to the music of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck with which he was deeply fascinated and asked me to research and write about for him, and even visiting nearby Northampton, Massachusetts where Jonathan Edwards had once ministered. During his periods of rest, I had full access to his large, well-stocked library and his huge collection of musical recordings. I was again deeply impressed by his humble piety, his brilliant and encyclopaedic mind and his immense wisdom; but most of all by his deep love for the Lord God and his church.

We had planned and hoped to work on a writing and conference project together, but my wife’s cancer diagnosis several months later prevented me from following through. Since my wife’s health is more stable, I had hoped to take up contact with Dr. Old soon again to reassess our plans. God clearly had another plan in mind.

There’s no doubt in my mind that he deeply cherished his final act of public ministry last month: the baptism of his first grandchild. Now he may enjoy the reality that baptism signifies: to be alive with Christ!

Hughes Oliphant Old has fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith (2 Tim 4:7). Farewell, brother! Until we meet again.

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Published in: on May 24, 2016 at 11:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Wounded Healer

An excerpt from Wounded Healer, edited by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, 1994, written by a cancer survivor:

Still it is next to impossible
to do this alone.
We need the loving truth of others to be well.
Inevitably when one is thrust into life,
Into crisis, into transformation
Without notice or instruction
Some come with us and are forever changed
While others watch as we are forced out to sea.
It is the power of love
that enables those who come along
and in truth,
a language of experience is unearthed
that cannot be translated
to those who stay behind.

–Mark Nepo

Published in: on July 25, 2015 at 7:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Death of Stephen

As some tall rock amidst the waves,
The fury of the tempest braves;
While the fierce billows toiling high,
Break at its foot and murm’ring die:

Thus they, who in the Lord confide,
Though foes assault on every side;
Cannot be moved or overthrown,
For Jesus makes their cause his own.

So faithful Stephen, undismayed,
The malice of the Jews surveyed;
The holy joy which filled his breast
A lustre on his face impressed.

Behold! he said, the world of light
Is opened to my strengthened sight;
My glorious Lord appears in view,
That Jesus, whom ye lately slew.

With such a friend and witness near,
No form of death could make him fear;
Calm, amidst show’rs of stones, he kneels,
And only for his murd’rers feels.

May we, by faith, perceive thee thus,
Dear Saviour, ever near to us!
This fight our peace, through life, shall keep,
And death be feared no more than sleep.

–by John Newton

Published in: on June 17, 2015 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chiasm in Acts 6:1-7

Others have probably noticed this, but as I was working on Acts 6:1-7 last week, this chiasm jumped out at me:

A  In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

B  So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.

C  Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them

D  and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

C1 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 

B1  They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

A1  So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Analysis:

A  Church is growing so rapidly that it experiences growing pains

B  Twelve call together all the disciples (church members) to address a pressing need

Twelve ask the disciples to choose seven Spirit-filled and wise men

So that the Twelve can give their full attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word

C1 The disciples choose seven Spirit-filled and wise men

B1 The disciples present these seven men to the apostles, who called them together, for their approval and blessing

A1 Church continues to grow and flourish

A chiasm, among other things, helps the reader to discern (consciously or subconsciously) the center of a given passage, in this case the apostolic task of prayer and the ministry of the word (D), and matters relating to or leading back to that center, in this case, the growth of Christ’s church through the agency of Spirit-filled men, the Twelve and the Seven.

Takeaway? Prayer and the ministry of the word lie at the heart of the life and ministry of the apostolic church. Pastors who believe “one holy catholic and apostolic church” (Nicene Creed) have a duty, then, to give considerable amount of time to both of these. In our rushed, busy culture, it may be necessary for us pastors remind ourselves that we have permission to spend a lot of time praying and preparing sermons. Permission, because it is our duty and holy calling.

Have you ever asked your minister whether he makes enough time, both to pray and to prepare sermons? It may lead to serious reflection on his part if he’s not doing so, or some much-needed affirmation if he is doing so, and in every case–as odd as it sounds–permission to do so.

Published in: on May 25, 2015 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Marina’s Cancer Treatment

Dear friends,

Here’s an update on my wife Marina’s cancer treatment which we shared with our church family today. We’d also like to share this with you, friends and family in other places, with thanks for your caring inquiries and especially for your love and prayers. Through all these, God has cheered and encouraged us immensely.

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Dear Friends and Family in Christ,

I’ve been asked to provide an update about my treatment and condition.  While I can’t maintain a blog at this point, we’d like to share with you some of what’s been happening via this letter, if you are interested.  This kind of thing is a little out of my comfort zone since it is very personal, and especially since there are so many other people who also have significant health issues to deal with, but we’ve been urged to write something for a while so here we go.  Even though we are writing it to you, our immediate church family, you may also share this with anyone else who would like to know and who we may have missed.  We will surely benefit from this sitting down and taking stock as well, since we’ve been in somewhat of a whirlwind over the past months.  It is much like being dropped into a different world when you enter cancer treatment. I miss all of you—cancer treatment is (by necessity) isolating.

First of all, we want to thank you all for the overwhelming outpouring of prayers and cards and support that you have showered on us.  From the very smallest of you on up, you’ve generously kept us in your prayers and thoughts and that has had a profound effect on our lives with the reality of a serious cancer diagnosis.  In answer, God has given us more than we have asked or expected of Him through the heart-wrenching task of explaining our current reality especially to our own young family, our extended family and so many of you who have asked.  Through all the upheaval of the emergency surgery on December 20, the sudden return to hospital on January 1 to deal with a serious infection, and the equally sudden start of chemotherapy on February 7, God has ministered to us in so many ways through many of you.  We have also been so grateful for the generous way in which Cloverdale’s Council has made it clear to Theo that he could focus his attention on myself and our children during this time, and also to Langley’s Council, Pastor Ryan, Pastor Doug and Pastor Visscher for the very generous way in which they have given of themselves to fill in for Theo so that our elders would not have to read.  We are so thankful for all these things.  We are finding His Peace is immeasurable.

Most of you likely know by now that I’ve been receiving chemotherapy treatments for some time.  Back in February, after several weeks of seeing my various doctors and coming to grips with my cancer staging and spread, we began the necessary chemotherapy which it is hoped will eradicate any remaining cancer.  Because I was sick with cancer for a long time before it was diagnosed, and due to the spread of the cancer cells to the surrounding connective tissue, the doctors recommended this as the best course of action.  Receiving this advice was difficult, but we were also very thankful that God made the course of action clear to us and that this treatment is available to us in this province and country.

The chemotherapy itself is administered at The BC Cancer Agency, Surrey Memorial Hospital, in three week “rounds”.  Chemo protocols are set in categories which are tailored to a person’s tumour/cancer type (ie. carcinoma, lymphoma and so on), staging and spread, and eventually to their response to the chemo and tolerance of it’s effects.  Therefore, my chemo protocol may be quite different from that of others with different cancer types, and even from someone else who has colon cancer.  Side effects are also very different from person to person.

Nowadays, at our house, we talk a lot about being “on a week 1” or “on a week 2”.  I receive two separate chemo drugs in my protocol.  The first day of each round starts with an IV chemo infusion that lasts about 3 1/2 hours.  The effects are immediate and can be quite drastic.  Day 1 is a difficult day—the chemo burns my vein going in and proceeds to wreak havoc as it spreads, particularly to my feet and legs, hands and arms and breathing and swallowing.  Both chemo drugs cause neural damage that just happens to be quite severe in my case.  In addition to numbness and muscle spasms in my feet and hands, I also am extremely sensitive to temperature.  I need to be warm above room temperature, and all my food and drink also needs to be above room temperature or hot.  The consequences for getting “too cold” begin with the feeling of an obstruction in my throat/airway (like little wiry hairballs), and prickling in my hands/arms and feet/legs, quickly progressing to throat spasm and the feeling of electrical shocks in my extremities, mouth and face.  I have been assured that my airway will not close completely.  Facial and eye muscles also cramp and spasm—painful and somewhat strange at the same time.  These reactions trigger more persistent nausea which does not respond to medication.  So… I keep warm :).   Just before the IV is administered I begin taking medication to help with nausea as well as a drug meant to augment the chemo’s effectiveness.  This drug causes insomnia (and hyper activity in some people but gladly I don’t suffer from that 🙂 ).  So, for 2 nights I don’t sleep much.  On day 3 the effects wear off and I begin to become exhausted.   I also begin with pills on day 1 which constitute the other chemo drug that I need.  These pills continue on a schedule morning and night for the next two weeks.

Additional medication is needed for nausea, other digestive upsets (sadly, standard fare for almost all chemo patients), heartburn, bleeds, sore mouth, skin problems, infections etc.  There is no medication for the exhaustion, muscle spasms, weakness, loss of balance, lightheadedness, hyper-pigmentation (changing my skin colour) and neuropathy.  Rest is good, but exercise is necessary to keep heart/lungs functioning well while on this chemo.  It can damage them both.  One of Theo’s tasks then is to take me out walking, even when I feel too tired to go, poor man.  Both drugs are neurotoxins among other things.  Theo has to wear gloves if he handles my pills.  It is also a constant battle to keep hydrated and maintain weight.  Even though my hair is falling out,  I will not lose all of my hair.  My (younger) kids thought maybe I could lose just my grey hairs :).

My immune system starts to drop in function on day 1 and hits bottom at the end of week 1.  Week 2 and the first part of week 3 require a lot of vigilance to ward off illness, infections and bleeds (platelets drop as well).  I keep an eye on my skin, mouth and temperature, Theo continues to handle household cleanliness, hygiene and hand-washing.  Several times one of our children has been put on antibiotics “just in case”, which means extra visits to the doctor, lab and pharmacy.  By the end of week 3, the hope is that my counts are high enough to start the whole process again.  Usually the last day of week 3 I feel well enough to go to church once and even go outside if it is warm enough out and there is no breeze.  At the end of every week 3 I also have an oncologist appointment and lab work before the OK for the next round.

As a family, I think we are finally settling into this routine.  My sister-in-law has arranged that she or one of her girls come once per week to bring a meal and help with a housework and laundry blitz now that my mom is not here.  Some of you have called/emailed about bringing meals and others have been bringing baking regularly and this has been a huge help for relieving Theo of the planning and preparing so he can get everything else done.  I also appreciate it immensely since I can’t provide the family I love so much with the care I’m used to giving.  I usually cannot prepare any food due to the neuropathy/neuralgia associated with the chemo.   Theo is running around a lot to keep up with the rest of the housework and the needs of the children and myself-both physical and otherwise :).  While we haven’t had any serious illnesses in the family by God’s gracious care (I know there were some pretty nasty flus this year), the ongoing appointments for other issues, this and that and shopping and caring is very busy for him, on top of my care and his other responsibilities.  We covet your prayers for finding the right balance in all these activities along with continuing to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances of my side-effects.

We are also incredibly thankful for the spiritual support and counsel we have received from our parents, our elder and several others as well as all your prayers and the ongoing support of the Langley pastors—you have demonstrated the love of God to us more than we could have expected or would have asked for.  We are acutely aware of the fact that we are by no means the only family who has had to face something like this, and that the suffering in our congregation as well as others, and of so many people in this world is continual.  So while I am unable to “do” much, please know that I and we as a family are also continually bringing you and many others before God in prayer.  We do not want to become completely absorbed in our own story when God’s story is so much bigger.

In the last week of April, I had to undergo a CT colonography in order to determine whether there are any additional tumours in the rest of my digestive tract.  This test was necessary because the colonoscopy in December could not be completed, colonoscopies are too risky to perform right now during chemo and CT scans are limited in what they can show in this situation.  The test took place in a week 3 for me—normally my “rest” week.  While this was a difficult test to prepare for with my chemo side-effects, and the test itself turned out to be very painful resulting in a longer recovery time for the rest of that week, we are very thankful that it was completed and the doctors can now determine more accurately what they are dealing with.  About 2 weeks after the test, we were able to hear results.  We would like to share this good news with you which we just received from my surgeon.  Despite the fact that my cancer had spread in the area around the tumour, based on the colonography no additional tumours have been found inside the colon.  We are very thankful for this news.  God has answered our prayers for calm and peace about the outcome of the test, and He answered those prayers manyfold.  We are now also extremely thankful for His grace with respect to the test results.

Perhaps a good summary of my condition might be to say that I am right now not suffering from my cancer as much as from the side effects of my cancer treatment.  I am in round 5 and have to complete 8 rounds (end of July if all stays on plan) before being reassessed.  Therefore, I am more than half-way now :).  It is difficult, but we are well.  We don’t know what is in the future for our family.  Our eyes are fixed on Christ and He is here with us and God is very, very good to us!

With love for all of you,

Marina, Theo and family

Published in: on May 17, 2015 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

O Food of Men Wayfaring

Sing this to the tune of Genevan Psalm 6

O Food of men wayfaring,
The bread of angels sharing,
O Manna from on high!
We hunger; Lord, supply us,
Nor Thy delights deny us,
Whose hearts to Thee draw nigh.

O stream of love past telling,
O purest fountain, welling
From out the Saviour’s side!
We faint with thirst; revive us,
Of Thine abundance give us,
And all we need provide.

O Jesus, by Thee bidden,
We here proclaim Thee, hidden
Through forms of bread and wine.
Grant when the veil is riven,
We may behold, in heaven,
Thy countenance divine.

Cantus Christi

Published in: on August 17, 2014 at 1:06 pm  Leave a Comment