1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(A little writing therapy for me...)
Laina came home from the hospital two days ago. She is in bed sleeping as I write. The last couple weeks have been rough for us. The doctors were uncertain of what was going on with her body as the cancer has now moved from her brain, lungs and liver to her spine. Each day holds uncertainty and unforeseen trials. Thank you all for your prayers, encouragements and questions. I know we all want to help during this time of testing. Hopefully this blog will answer some of your questions and challenge you as well.
In times of trial, when our faith is tested - how do we endure? Can we stand strong and have peace even though through tears and grief we are weak and broken? Is testing really necessary?
The last two years have been a severe testing for my family and it's continuing to be more difficult daily. I've personally moved through the grieving process a few times - shock and disbelief, anger, bitterness, self examination, fear and even moving through anxiety, depression and despair. There is much we do not understand and so we fall on our faith in Christ and His word. We are human and subject to all of these feelings and emotions.
I've learned that we cannot deny these desires and emotions. We just move through them.
As my eyes focused on our circumstances I felt like I was falling into a deathly trap. Fear and despair were like chains upon my thinking and soul. Then someone gave me a reminder at just the right time. "Have faith, Todd!" Faith is greater than fear." I've also come to a place of surrender before God.
Don't get me wrong, cancer and other types of suffering are grievous and I despise these things that lead to death. Suffering and hardship do cause us to fear. Death and suffering are enemies! Yet we have a loving God who offers us hope in the midst of our trials!
I want you to see this - we have hope! And not just any hope, but a "living hope!" And this hope is obtained by grace (undeserved gift) through faith (belief and assurance in God and His promises) in Jesus." It's not faith in myself or positive thoughts or in faith itself. It's faith in Jesus!
Yes Laina and our family are suffering for a little while. This is a taste of what could be an eternity for anyone without faith in Jesus. Without Jesus there is suffering that has no hope of relief. Yet God in His great love for us reached down, and through His Son Jesus offered Him as a sacrifice that led to the atonement (covering) of our sins and reconciliation with God the Father. All of those bad things we've done have been covered through the suffering and death of Jesus. There is no balancing of good and bad. We have to be all clean and clear before a Holy God. Jesus is the only means by which we can attain our cleansing from sin.
Why am I sharing this talk about Jesus during our time of suffering? Because it is our faith in Him that gives us strength through our weakness and trials. He is acquainted with suffering even to the point of death. But thanks be to God that He has power in the resurrection for all who believe! There is a living hope - Jesus Christ the resurrected one!
Dear friends, it is Laina's and my hope that all who are watching us, learn and grow in the faith that we not only proclaim with our words, but also in our actions. If there is any fruit from our suffering, may it be those who read about and know us:
1. By responding to the extension of God's grace to you through Jesus, believe that by faith in Him your sins are forgiven and that He claims you as a child of God!
2. Turn away from wrong doing; Not just what you think is wrong in your own eyes, but look through God's eyes and His word. He will show you what is true and just.
3. When you believe in Jesus, God Himself puts a seal of approval on you, the promised Holy Spirit. How do you know you have the Holy Spirit? You will confess that Jesus is Lord and Savior and you will start a process that is progressive - sanctification. Basically this means He is making you more and more like Jesus. (Read John 1-3 and 1 John).
4. The church - community of believers is where sanctification is purposed to be most fruitful. Again read John 15; Ephesians 4. Many friends and family who are praying for us say, "I believe in God." Or "I believe in Jesus." But they do not belong to a community of believers. What happens to someone who is apart from the vine and other branches? Read John 15 again. I feel I need to speak more boldly dear friends. As we face suffering and death the Lord's burden for you and your salvation is a burning fire within my heart and soul! I grieve for Laina. But I grieve more for those who don't believe in Jesus or fail to listen to His words.
As Laina and our family suffers we are being sanctified and we bear fruit that is ever-lasting! This is only through the power of God through Christ! It is our hope to see the fruit of our friends and family believing in Jesus and for believing friends to grow in Christ-like maturity. What a blessing it would be for Laina to see people she loves believing in Jesus while she is still living!
Today is the day of salvation (saving)! (Read Hebrews 1-4).
This is a sinful world that is bent on suffering and death. And as it says in the text above,
"...if necessary..." we suffer for a little while. God can make good from our suffering. It is my prayer that the Lord will send His Holy Spirit and touch your life right now. Is it necessary for us to go through this trial so that YOU will be saved?! I don't know. But God knows.
Last night I was talking with Laina and my parents about this topic. Laina said,
"If this suffering causes others to believe and grow in Christ then this is worth it."
She is such a faithful wife, mother and servant of Jesus. I responded, "Yes, maybe this is the Laina revival period in history." She liked that idea. That was last night. Today she is more confused and losing words. The good moments are fleeting, but I hang on to them. I love her. But as the Lord has continued to remind me through this journey, "Keep moving forward." We move forward by faith! And our faith is not without hope, a living hope that is only found in Jesus!
Heavenly Father, glorify your Son Jesus through our suffering, that many may believe and be saved! Oh Lord, I don't want anyone to suffer for eternity without the Hope and Love that you offer. Draw them to You, Lord! Bear fruit as we wait for the redemption of our souls in Christ Jesus. And we do continue to pray for miraculous healing for Laina even now. But if your will is that she comes to your heavenly kingdom we submit to You. Only grant us your Presence so that we have grace, peace and strength for each day. To the praise of Your great name! Amen.
You are loved dear ones.
While Laina and I were dating she happened to see my dresser filled with t-shirts along with a huge tub that was also filled with t-shirts. I hadn't thrown out any t-shirts since I was in elementary school. Hey, they are all good t-shirts and have significance to them. Laina of course thought I had way too many of them. "Forty two t-shirts!" She said, "That's way too many, you'll never wear that many t-shirts!"
I protested as each of them was special to me. Her next argument stopped me. "Well, how about I make you a quilt with 30 of your t-shirts." She suggested. I paused and thought about it and obliged her offer.
Fast forward about 13 years later. Did I have a quilt? No sir. Did I have t-shirts? No, they were all cut up years ago, but never stitched together. That was until a couple weeks ago. Laina and the girls called me into the living room. I knew she was up to something, because several times I asked her what she was doing and she said, "nothing." That is our code for "Hey I've a surprise brewing up for you so give me some space." Kysa and Matea brought me a huge bag and I pulled out this wonderful quilt! Is there another quilt like it? I think not. It's a quilt of many colors and I will cherish it for my lifetime. And one day it will be passed on to our daughters and their families. It's not just a quilt, it's my story. There is everything from my baby blanket to sporting t-shirts, to concert t-shirts, to mission trip shirts to graduation and even a couple of Laina's t-shirts and Kysa's baptism shirt. Kysa and Matea even drew a couple of pictures on two patches as well. Each panel has a story and a memory. It is a very special gift from my wonderful wife. Laina has always been a woman of integrity and she keeps her promises.
Pick a panel and I'll tell you a story. Some of you may even see a panel that you participated in that part of my life. Feel free to post your memories in the comments below. What do you remember?
Thank you to Laina, Kysa, Matea, Krista (Rei), Kara Blake and our small group ladies from Oakwood Church who helped make this possible. There were many hands that had a part in this beautiful work of my life story. Our lives are so interwoven to make a whole story. And if we'll take a moment and get an even bigger picture, we'll see that we are a part of an even bigger story, God's story.
Thank you Laina! What Laina wrote sums up our lives together. She is so insightful and discerning. I am so thankful for a Godly wife, who has integrity, keeps her promises and loves me truly.
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