“God is too wise to be mistaken,
God is too good to be unkind,
So when you don’t understand, when you can’t see His plan,
When you can’t trace His hand, Trust His heart!”

– Babbie Mason & Eddie Carswell

God’s gifts don’t always come wrapped up in cute little packages tied with matching ribbon. Many times, He allows unimaginable pain and suffering, followed by deep excruciating grief. Such is the journey of a friend of Linda and I, Kathy Aldrich Wilkinson. We first met Kathy in 1987 when she and Linda worked together at Brentwood Records in Franklin, TN. Our friendship grew over the next three years as she went on to work closely with Spirit Bound, the group I joined in December of 1987. After moving to Texas in 1990, we lost touch with Kathy, but we thought of her often with fond memories.

In 2007, we found out through Joel Williams, Spirit Bound's manager, that Kathy was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and was not given a good prognosis. Since that time, Kathy has valiantly fought this giant, but sadly, on June 6, 2009, Kathy went home to be with her Lord, leaving her husband Rodney and children, Nathan and Lauren.

So many things come to mind when a dear friend suffers in this way. Many people question why such a dear person and her family has to endure this level of sorrow and pain. While there are no pat or trite answers, the Bible does offer great comfort to those of us left to live life here in this world. The Apostle Paul gave us great hope in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

— I Corinthians 15: 51-58 (English Standard Version)

One statement in Kathy's chronicling of her struggle stood out to me. “We thank the Lord that I've already beaten the odds given to me by the first doctor,” she said. “I believe God is keeping me here to care for my family and to share my story about Him.” Throughout the whole ordeal, Kathy exhibited the grace of God and is now enjoying the reward that her Lord purchased on the cross.

John Piper. a cancer survivor himself, wrote an incredible piece called “Don't Waste Your Cancer,” where he makes ten points as to why pain of this magnitude is a gift to be used for the glory of God. They are as follows:

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.

2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.

3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.

4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.

5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.

6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.

7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.

8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.

10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

The bottom line is that we are not living for this world. If this world was the kingdom that the Lord spoke of, this level of suffering then makes no sense. By showing His grace even through trials, He gives us an incredible longing to be with Him. Last year, when Steven Curtis Chapman lost his 5 year old daughter in a freak accident, I wrote a post entitled “We Can Look To The Future ‘With Hope ‘” with a link to a tribute video to Maria Chapman where I mentioned that it was in the years prior to the accident that God was shaping Steven's theology in order to withstand this tragedy.

So for those of us that remain, if we have trusted Christ in repentance and faith, we will one day see the loved ones that have entered Christ's glory before us and will rejoice in His presence for all of eternity. In the meantime, we need to study His Word and build the rock solid foundation of Biblical theology, worked out every day through prayer and Bible study, and manifesting itself in good works, evangelism, and thanksgiving. It is then we will have our future secure “With Hope!”

(For another incredible journey through the pain of cancer, read the story of Andrew Mark who past away earlier this year from cancer. You can read his wife Grace's journal here.)

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” – Acts 17:11

Robert Tewart has an excellent post today on his Street Fishing blog about Justin Peters excellent seminar “A Call For Discernment” which deals with the “Word Of Faith” movement and it’s dangerous implications affecting the Church and individual Christians alike.

I first met Justin about 3 years ago when he came and conducted his seminar at our church, First Baptist Church of Keller, TX. He is a long time personal friend of my pastor, Keith Sanders and I found him to be an especially effective communicator who relies exclusively on the Bible as his source of truth and presents it without the hype and theatrics that is many itinerate evangelist’s “bread and butter.”

Justin gives a clear presentation of the questionable tactics and spurious doctrines of many of the “Word of Faith” movements most prominent leaders and how they are not only far outside of the teachings of orthodox Christianity, their methods may even be condemning people to lives of hopelessness and despair. What else can a person with a loved one with a major affliction or maybe even their own illness think when these preachers, such as Benny Hinn has said on numerous occasions, that healing is as easy to receive from God as forgiveness is. Not only does that equate healing with justification (a clear heresy), but it places the responsibility of the affliction squarely in the lap of the afflicted! The Bible clearly teaches that it is God who directs the paths of those who belong to Him for His ultimate glory and if He chooses to afflict one of His own, there is a definite plan that will lead to His glorification. We can rest in the fact that even through major affliction we are in the perfect Hands of God Himself.

This becomes so compelling when you realize that Justin suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy. He even considers it to be a vital part of his ministry. His testimony of his own encounter with a WOF evangelist as a teenager is illuminating to say the least.

As a personal note, when Justin was at our church the first time, my 10-year-old son (at the time) listened very intently at every session. He even would pull out Justin’s DVD and watch the seminar again and again. I am convinced that this was a turning point in his young life and has since been a real encouragement to me in his love for lost people and evangelism. Words are simply not adequate enough to express how much I am eternally grateful for the ministry of Justin Peters. I wholeheartedly recommend his ministry and pray that he will be as much of a blessing to you as he has been to my church and my family.

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“I the LORD your God am a jealous God…” – Exodus 20:4

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” – Matthew 16:15

Back in the mid 90s, Joan Osbourne asked the musical question, “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?” To even ask this question is an attempt to bring the concept of an infinite God down to the level of a mere mortal, which is a first step in creating a god in our own image, rather than acknowledging that it is the other way around. You see, we fallen human being have this thing called pride. We think that we are the center of the universe (at least in our own eyes!) and live accordingly. It’s like the old joke that asks, how does a soprano screw in a light bulb? She stands at the top of a ladder and just holds the bulb in the socket because the world revolves around her! (Oh come on, Girls! It’s just a joke! The same could be said for us tenors!)

There are just all kinds of dopey ideas that pass themselves off as so called “Christianity” out there. From Joel Osteen and his “fully loaded” analogy, to Gloria Copeland’s claims that we can command the weather (my question is that if Gloria or Ken Copeland can command the weather, why didn’t they go down to the Gulf coast in 2005 and command Katrina to dissipate? Hmmm??) to Creflo Dollar claiming that since all things reproduce after their own kind, we are little “gods” (never mind that since God is the Creator, he stands outside of His creation, has complete dominion over all of it and is not limited in any way by it. Also, Jesus Christ is the only one mentioned in Scripture as “begotten,” all of the rest of the chosen are “adopted”) to these totally weird followers of John Crowder and Ben Dunn who claim to have the “piggy anointing” or the “squirrel anointing” or even the “pheasant anointing” (if you haven’t seen this train wreck, consider yourself blessed!). The one common thread among all of these shenanigans is that every one of them has man as the central focus and not the honor and glory of Almighty God.

The Exodus reference comes directly from the law given to Moses (that would be the second of the Ten Commandments for our friends in the emergent village!) and is crystal clear in the intention that we are not to fashion any god to suit our own perception of God or even of our desire for God to be what WE want Him to be. God is serious about his Name or His reputation (as the third commandment states) and He will not hold them blameless who defame His Name.

The Name of God is serious business. This is why we need a proper Biblical theology in order to give the Name of God it’s proper reverence and to understand the sinful plight of Man in relation to God. Kevin DeYoung, author of “Why We Are Not Emergents (by Two Guys Who Should Be)” has written a great piece about our perceptions of who Jesus is and why it is so important to answer the question Jesus raised in the Matthew reference “Who do you say that I am?” You can read his piece here.

The bottom line is that many are putting their faith in a “Jesus” of their own making. And any “Jesus” that is not the true “Messiah” is no Savior at all