Over the past two years my back has gradually gotten worse.  Back in 2000 my 980 pound top secret safe containing 65+ years of paperwork fell on me (a wonderful story of God’s mercy, protection, and faithfulness maybe I will write about the accident) and now I have Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) all along my spinal cord in disc spaces from:  Cervical-3 through Thoracic-12, Lumbar-2 through Lumbar-5, and down in Sacral-1. Unless God does a miracle my DDD will continue to the point some day I might be paralyzed, but if that is what God wants for me I trust I will be able to say glory be to God.  But for now I am able and strong to plod on for Christ. I always say this is just another way God wanted to add more money to my military retirement and now He could be adding more.  Now many would say, God would never do this, well my friend if you serve God long enough and come to know Him in different ways you will come to the conclusion that God does things far above our thinking and for reasons of His own purpose and good pleasure.  But more recently my lower back has really been paining me. So I called my doctor and to make a long story short he scheduled me for a MRI.  After the MRI the technician told me (on a Thursday) the results would be emailed to my doctor the next day.  The next day we were driving from the middle school where I work at onboard the U.S. Marine Corps Base and my doctor called me on my cell phone in great alarm (I could hear the fear in his voice) imploring me to come directly to his office because he wanted to discuss my MRI results.  So we did.  Now I have had many MRIs most just talked about my DDD and listed the disc levels, but this one was much different. The usual discs were discussed, but of note they increased in degeneration and now some have herniated, but what got my doctor so spun up was the radiologist saw something new at the L-5 S-1 spaces. He was not sure what it was so he recommended I undergo another MRI, as soon as possible, this time with an imaging contrast dye that would light up the significant abnormal findings.  So two days later I got another MRI this time with the imaging contrast dye.  And the next day I got a call from my doctor with the bad news. The MRI report said, “I believe this most likely represents a neoplastic process rather than extruded disc tissue and this would most likely represents a nerve root sheath tumor or (another really nasty type of tumor) a Schwannoma.”  I was stunned!  I thought a tumor in my back? I also knew how deadly these two tumors are.  Karen looked at me and I threw her a big smile. I thought what is going on?  At these times we usually run down the typical questions we ask ourselves in our minds, usually ending with did I sin? Again I was stunned.  Now I do not care where you are in God or how much faith you say you have, when your doctor says you have a 10 mm deadly tumor growing in your back and it is growing at an alarming rate fear will gripe your heart and soul.  Now if you are thinking “I would never be afraid” you are either dead (and it does not matter) or just lying to yourself and God.  We all love life, we do not want to die.  Our life is one of the most precious things God has given us and no one in their right mind wants to lose this most precious gift from God.  I will be honest I was shaken and bewildered. I thought of myself is this the man who wrote a book on eight miracles God performed in his life?  Is this the man who has laid hands on people and cast out demons?  Is this the man who has prayed for God to open up wombs and twins were born (not once but three times), has laid hands on people and seen God open eyes and ears, strengthen and heal limbs and hands, who God used to touch lives and hearts where countless 1,000s have been made whole. The answer to all of these questions was yes, yet all of these weird thoughts started running through my head, but at the same time in my heart and in my spirit I heard, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)  There was a battle suddenly raging in me, a battle for my soul and my sanity, but through it all I maintained my composure as I allowed God to strengthen me with might in the inward man where it really matters in times like these.  We as humans seem to be so outward focused, most if not all of our efforts in life seem to be projected in providing for the care and feeding of our outward man at the determent of our inward man where God communicates with us. As I get older the more I seem to want to make this earth my home.  The more I want to have a big comfortable home, a nice truck, a lot of money in the bank, well that is not God’s idea nor plan for us.  But anybody who thinks this way is greedy, selfish, and knows not the God of the Bible.  The writer of Hebrews tells us we are to have the confession of being a “strangers” or “pilgrim” on this earth, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth14For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.”  (Hebrews 11:13)  We must not dig our heels into the earth as we pad our bank accounts and lay up treasures here on earth, but be kingdom focused and too “declare plainly that they seek a country.”   I do not know about you, but when I become concerned about my ease and welfare God’s voice becomes faint in my ears and heart.  And the more I go towards myself and my needs God seems so far from me, distant in my thoughts and prayers.  So our meeting with my doctor ended by him telling me he will schedule me for an appointment with the best neurosurgeon in Greenville.  I thought great we can go see our two boys Dave and Joshua after the appointment.

After we left my doctor’s office we returned home and later that night I went to the Lord in prayer about what we were told about my MRI results. Now I will be honest I was shaken, but I was not moved.  There is a huge difference.  A tree sways and at times bends in all direction (shaken), but still stays firmly planted in the ground (not moved) and is not moved.  And why?  Because it is anchored into something that is able to hold it and not anchored by something that the tree is able to hold on to.  Do you see the difference?  So too in God, we must be so anchored in Him so that He is able to hold us and not so much that we are able to hold on to Him.  There is a huge difference.  As I waited before the Lord in my spirit I asked God do I have one of these tumors the doctor says and He so clearly, like a bell ringing in the stillness of the night, said, “no my son, all is well.”  My heart leaped within me and my mind should have been at rest and that should have been enough to remove all fear and put me at complete rest, but it was not so.  Now I heard God clearly speak to me (in my spirit), yet seemingly that was not enough for me.  In the Psalms David tells us God knows our frame and I think we most often think God is talking about our physical body, but remember our mind and spirit is also included in our frame.  And, Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. 14For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.’  (Psalms 103:13-14)  God pitied me and knew what I needed to be strengthened me beyond the words of my doctor or beyond the possible cancer that was growing in my back.  As I opened up my Bible the Lord directed me to the Book of John and then to one of my favorite verses in the Bible and what I believe is the format we must flow and operate in for God to be able to bring His good things into our lives. The Bible, God’s word in written form is always something we can count on to hold us in confusing and bewildering times.  In John we read, “Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”  (John 11:40)  Here in this single verse we find the rule of three how faith operates in our lives.  Of course we know the settings and the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, but there is much much more moving and operating here for us to understand and learn. Troubles like these are nothing but lessons for us to learn and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  Here we find Jesus speaking and establishing the first rule, “Said I not unto thee.”  In God whatever we are believing for God must speak it and we must hear it.  My friends, faith is not hoping or claiming the promises (as many Pentecostal denominations teach), but hearing.  Remember, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  (Romans 10:17)  Faith cometh by hearing!  I really like the Greek version of this verse and believe it is much more accurate and correct in application of what the Holy Spirit is looking for in us, “So then faith cometh by hearing a word of God.”  (Romans 10:17 (Greek)) Hearing what?  Your favorite Christian song or someone read the Bible on tape, no we must clearly hear God speak a word to us and in the word God speaks is contained all the faith we will ever need to believe, which is the second rule.  Hearing is a must, but hearing is not enough.  Many people go to church and some truly hear the word of God, but go home unchanged.  After we hear from God we must believe what we heard God say.  Did you know the word “faith’ can be interchanged every time in the Bible with the word “believe”? They are the same word in application and function.  Please notice the biggest word in the Bible “if.” “If” thou believe, believing is not up to God, but up to us.  “If” always pongs the ball into our court and puts the choice and action of receiving, not on God to deliver as most teach, but squarely on us.  It is always God’s intention to give us His good gifts, but it is always our responsibility and duty to believe, what God has told us when He speaks to us, so we can move in the third rule,  “thou shouldest see the glory of God.”  What is the glory of God?  Well, what did God speak to you and what are you believing for?  In the story in John 11 many Christians think the glory of God was to see Lazarus come forth from the tomb, but I would believe it was for Mary, Martha, and all who stood around the tomb to believe Jesus could do what He said He could do.  So too in our lives miracles and such are great to see (usually for non-believers), but God is more concerned about the inward quality of our heart and our character.  God is more concerned about our heart condition than the service we can provide Him, the money we can give Him, or the work we can do for Him.  If God cannot get us to value our heart condition over our service to Him He really cannot use us, we will disqualify ourselves and be found as unfaithful servants.  I know this critical point is not taught in most churches today, but maybe that is why there are so many unfaithful and untrusting stewards in the local Body of Christ.  Oh how I see this point time and time again in my life and how I can be so woefully lacking, Lord have mercy on me.  Anyway when we really see God’s glory all of the other things in our lives just seem to melt away.

When I asked God about cancer possibly growing in my spine He lovingly spoke, “no my son, all is well” now I had to believe to see the glory of God.  It is funny (well maybe strange) when we need to see the glory of God we seem to see everything else, but God’s glory.  This is when we must learn to fine tune and focus our spirit to God’s voice and be able to shut out the distractions of the world and other voices that would take the word of God from our heart and prevent us from dwelling on and in Him.  Oh by the way, the neurosurgeon in Greenville told us the neoplastic tissue the radiologist saw on the MRI was an old hernia that healed over another hernia and probably is just extruded disc tissue, but it absolutely was not a tumor.  I smiled and in my heart as I said under my breath, “Said I not unto thee that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God.” What my friend are you believing for?  Did you hear Him speak?  If not, draw near to His heart, there and only there we can hear His words to us.