“Mommy woke me up super early. It is really super dark outside. We are going to have a super day!”

sunriseWith Emma sitting between them, three-year-old Wilkes and one-year-old Macy were wide-eyed in the backseat of Taylor’s truck as we drove to the airport at 4:00 Saturday morning. They were on the way to visit Kinsey, Jordan, Owen, Keightley, and Susu in Colorado. Somehow I got left out of this trip.

redrocksAfter a great adventure to Golden, Colorado that afternoon, the kids went to bed early Saturday night, but with the two hour time difference, Wilkes and Macy were up at 4:30 Sunday morning. So they drove to Red Rocks Park, just outside of Denver, witnessed a beautiful sunrise and made it back home for church.

four_under_fourWith four kids under four, everyone is having a great adventure. I’m looking forward to hearing Wilkes talk about a “super trip to Wed Wocks Colowado!”

We have a Winter Break next week so I won’t write…

“Just think – you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God Himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure shares with us the life of His Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.”
I Corinthians 1:7-9 (The Message)

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I went to Emory one day last month to get platelets, and instead they put me in the hospital. I argued with Celia, the nurse practitioner, and convinced her I didn’t need to be in the hospital… but she said she needed to talk to Dr. Lonial. He overruled us. “Go talk to Charise,” I pleaded, “Charise always sides with me.” Charise is Dr. Lonial’s assistant and a great friend.

Since December 18, I’ve had several occasions of chills and fevers. They always last five or six hours, then my blood counts crash, then I’ll get platelets and/or blood at the clinic, then I’ll be fine for a few days. Celia appealed to Charise, but she agreed with Dr. Lonial. I was not happy. Daniel, one of my favorite nurses, called the Tower and confirmed I would be in room 903 with a spectacular view of the Atlanta skyline. No view would change my attitude.

Daniel arranged for two young nurses to escort Susan and me from the clinic to the hospital. “Mr. Davis!” one of the young ladies exclaimed, “The last time we met was another time you had to go to the hospital!” Both nurses were kind and cheerful… but I was not.

A nurse and a Physician’s Assistant welcomed us to my room with genuine care and professional courtesy. “I don’t need to be here,” I told them. “When I have the chills and fevers like I did last night, they always go away for several days… I’m fine.” “Well Mr. Davis, we understand how you feel, but we must all follow your doctor’s orders. In a little while, someone will take you downstairs to get a CT Scan then we need to run several blood tests. Your doctors want to find the root cause of these persistent flare-ups.”

Shortly after admission, a woman about my age named Beverly, a native of Jamaica, introduced herself and started giving orders. When I told her I didn’t want to wear her standard hospital socks and I didn’t want to clean my arms, legs, and torso with antiseptic wipes that make you sticky, Beverly responded forcefully with her Jamaican accent: “What do you do?” “I’m a dean of students in a middle school,” I answered. “What? I’m going to tell your students that their dean is uncooperative and disobedient!” I smiled, cracked a joke, and started obeying the lady.

I was stuck. Susan drove home to retrieve some bed clothes and my toothbrush while I submitted to the tests and scans and Beverly’s orders. Susan returned with the stuff; I told her I was fine and that she needed to go home and get some rest. The night nurse was named Stephanie. She was young, full of energy, always smiling, and difficult to give a hard time. “Is that Jesus?” she asked, pointing to a picture on my table. “Yes,” I answered. “I love it! I mean… I love Him!” She made sure I was comfortable and told me “Good night.”

God always talks to me in the hospital, but this night I simply fell asleep with dreams of returning home the next morning. At 11:30, the chills began and I called Stephanie for a warm blanket. Four or five blankets later, the chills ceased and the fevers began. I called Stephanie and she brought some meds. In the wee hours of the morning, I heard God’s comforting voice… only one sentence: “I have you here.”

The next morning, I felt like I had been run over by a truck. The day nurse was named Celeste and she reminded me of our daughter Kinsey. She took care of every need with gentleness and compassion. Dr. Kauffman visited late in the morning and shared that I needed to stay at least another night. The CT Scan revealed I had pneumonia and they wanted to determine the proper antibiotic to combat it. I did not argue. Jewel and Stacey and Maria and the wonderful meal lady and many others made my unplanned hospitalization as pleasant as it could be. Susan of course loves me most and constantly reminded me of God’s providence.

I am re-learning an important truth regarding the One who ‘holds all things together.’ Jesus could have healed me December 18 or before. But Jesus likes to invite others whom He loves to participate in His activity. Just like He allows farmers to grow the food that we thank Him for and parents to raise the future citizens of nations, He permitted all of the people at Emory that I mentioned (and scores more that I did not) to take care of one of His children who argues too much and thinks he has a clue when he really has none. Instead of giving me my way, He surrounded me with the best of helpers to make things better. “Thank you, Lord.”

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!” Romans 11:33-36

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Jesus: So you’ve concluded ‘I am everything’?

Me: Yes, Lord… I believe. Is it true?

Jesus: Ha… it is true! This was Our Father’s will before the creation of the world… and He has also included you in His plan!

Me: I am trying to follow John the Baptist’s example and become less while You become more. I don’t think I’m succeeding though.

Jesus: Well, let Me give you a strategy even better than John’s. Just ‘abide in Me’… or ‘remain in Me’… or better yet, ‘live in Me.’ Remember… ‘I am everything.’

Me: Hmmm… How exactly am I to do this? It sounds a little too simple.

Jesus: First, just believe what I tell you. Have a heart like your little grandchildren and trust completely. Here’s the truth: I am in the Father; you are in Me; and I am in you. When I died, you died. When I was raised, you were raised. When I ascended, you ascended. When the Holy Spirit was poured out, you were a recipient of the Father’s wonderful gift. The Helper lives in your heart and teaches you of Me and enables wonderful fellowship with the Father, Son and Spirit.

Me: That sounds too good to be true. Now exactly how does it all work?

Jesus: The whole human race needs to grasp the goodness of the Father and the beauty of His plan. You don’t have to figure out how it all works… just trust and obey. I am the Vine; you are a branch; Our Father is the Gardener. Live in Me and I will live in you and there will be good fruit. Take joy in the life you’ve been given… it is My life.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” Ephesians 1:3-4

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4

“Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.” John 14:19-20

“Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

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John the Baptist teaches us the proper response when Jesus comes into our lives. Though multitudes flocked to hear him preach and though many repented and were baptized after hearing his message, John constantly proclaimed: “I am not the Messiah. The Greatest is coming!”

It is one thing to realize Jesus is supreme, it is another thing to step aside and let Him rule. John’s followers reported: “The One you baptized is now baptizing more people than you are.” Does this bring disappointment… or jealousy… or bitterness? John responded beautifully: “From now on, He must increase and I must decrease.” (see John 3:22-30)

When we conclude that “Jesus is everything,” we must then trust that the Author and Perfecter of our faith knows what He is doing. After being arrested by King Herod, John sent his followers on a fact-finding mission. “Go ask Jesus if He is really the One or should we expect someone else. I’m sitting in a jail and this doesn’t seem to fit with the coming of a King.” Questions, confusion, doubt… those who decrease and let Christ increase are not exempt from such challenges.

Though He taught about carrying a cross and being misunderstood and losing reputation, it would seem the Lord of lords would arrange a smoother journey for His followers. Jesus answered his older cousin: “The kingdom is advancing. The sick are being healed, the blind can see, captives are being set free, good news is being proclaimed to the poor… don’t fall away because of Me.” (see Luke 7:18-23) Jesus wants us to trust… even when things don’t make sense. “Hang on child. Trust in Me. Everything will be perfect in the very end, but the narrow path you are walking is not easy.”

We’re not told of John’s response, but I think he was encouraged. “OK… I’m not crazy; Jesus is the One. All I really need is You, God. Thank you for Your answer and for Your peace and for Your advancing kingdom. Your will be done… now and forevermore.”

“I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Luke 7:28

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-2

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Kinsey and Jordan took the kids on a train ride in Colorado a few days before they flew to Atlanta for Christmas. As Kinsey told us this story over FaceTime, she asked two-year-old Owen, “Who did we see on the train?” Owen shouted, “Jesus!” Kinsey replied, “Actually, it was Santa Clause, but Owen has learned in church the best answer to any question is: ‘Jesus!’”

A long time ago, I told a church friend my new revelation: “Jim… I know the answer to all the division in Christianity. In fact, this may be the solution to every argument. The answer is ‘Jesus!’” Jim looked at me sympathetically and replied: “Dana, that sounds good… but it will never work.”

I’ve received such corrections many times over the years, but I read a phrase recently from a believer whose message has encouraged multitudes: “There is only Christ – He is everything.” (Colossians 3:11) I thought: “That’s what I believe…” and I looked up the Scripture. Though I could not find find the exact words above, Paul’s message to believers seems clear:

“Christ is all, and is in all.” (NIV)
“Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us.” (NLT)
“Christ is everything. He is in all of us.” (NLV)
“But Christ is in all believers, and Christ is all that is important.” (NCV)
“Christ is everything and in everything.” (GW)
“Christ is all that matters, and He is in all of you.” (ERV)
“From now on, everyone is defined by Christ; everyone is included in Christ.” (MSG)
“Whether a person has Christ is what matters, and He is equally available to all.” (TLB)
“For it is Christ that means everything and He lives in every one of us.” (TPT)
“But the all and in all – Christ.” (YLT)

This understanding does not make life easy, but it gives the solid foundation on which to stand. Let this new year begin and end with the truth God desires for every person to embrace: “My Son is all.”

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the Head of the Body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace though His blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:15-20

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