everything

The One who voluntarily made Himself nothing is now everything!

“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

He is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Lion of Judah, the Mighty One. He is the Savior who calls us friends and intercedes at the right hand of the Father. His Spirit lives in us and He bestows every spiritual blessing. He is the Vine and we are the branches who receive His redemption, righteousness, holiness, and wisdom. He is our peace, our life… He is everything.

It is hard to believe that we are at the end of another school year. I want to thank my faithful friend Steve Wolf for helping with another year of writing. The Wolfs live in Colorado so I hope to see more of them after Kinsey, Jordan, and Owen move to Denver.

I plan to leave with a group from church for Ecuador this Sunday. It looks like I will need to return early to begin a cutting-edge trial at Emory called CAR T-cell therapy. T-cells are cells in our immune system that will be harvested from my blood and shipped to a laboratory for treatment. The treated cells will then be frozen and sent back to Emory for me to receive after a dose of chemotherapy.

The theory is that these weaponized CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cells will multiply in my blood and then attack and destroy the multiple myeloma cells. I will be hospitalized two weeks for this process to take place. If the plan works, I’ll be cancer free with no need to take drugs.

I’ve told God to feel free to heal me without the scientific drama, but He is the Potter… If He brings me through the imminent tests, a wedding I am to officiate tomorrow, a short trip to the Andes, a daughter’s move to Denver, and a crazy-sounding experimental plan to fight blood cancer… it will be a summer to remember. Whatever happens, we know: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1-2)

As always, Susan and I cherish your prayers. Have a great June and July!

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the Potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

“It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” I Corinthians 1:30

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advantage

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:3-8)

How many times in His life on earth could Jesus have used equality with God to His own advantage? He was the Son; He was in the beginning; all things made had been created through Him; He had all power… and yet He gave it up and “made Himself nothing.” He chose not to use His Divinity to His own advantage.

“I will not turn stones to bread to satisfy My hunger. I will not jump off the pinnacle of the Temple to prove who I am. I’ll be content to live without a place to lay My head. I’ll let people scorn Me, lie about Me, and call Me demon-possessed. I’ll accept injustice in order to complete My purpose. And rather than call ten thousand angels to rescue Me from the Cross, I’ll offer My life as a ransom for you.”

Paul reasons that our life in Christ should result in a willingness to give up our advantage and “shine like stars in the universe” as we “hold out the word of life.” (see Philippians 2:16)

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

As we live in Christ… and as Christ lives in us… this is what God is producing in His children.

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care — then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.” Philippians 2:1-8 — The Message

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mothers

ultrasoundWilkes turned three years old in March; Macy turns one today; Owen turns two at the end of June. This is a picture of Kinsey and Jordan’s second child ten weeks after conception. She is due November 1… they will be living in Denver.

In all the discussions and debates about abortion over the decades of my lifetime, I’ve never heard any voice dispute an obvious fact: “If I had been eliminated at any stage of development in my mother’s womb, I would never have been born.”

As a midwife, Kinsey is particularly attuned to the stages of pregnancy and the changing life that is growing daily inside of her. As a mother, she is wondering how she’ll have the capacity to love another child like she loves Owen.

Her sister-in-law Emma can tell her she needs not worry… her love for Macy is just as great as it is for Wilkes. Susan attests to the same truth… her love for Taylor, Kinsey, and Karlyn is constant.

And my mom would share that God gives the capacity to love four children with the love only a mother understands. She has loved all four of us beyond the days we were under her roof, through our ups and downs and to this day. She is the best.

The ability a mother has to love is a God-given gift that blesses the world. When Jesus cried for Jerusalem in His last days on earth, He likened His desire to that of a mother hen’s. This love led Him to the cross where He made the ultimate sacrifice to rescue all God’s children.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37

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future

The news show 60 Minutes recently had an interesting piece entitled The Future Factory about a research lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hugh Herr, who heads the Biomechatronics group at MIT, stated, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

As a teenager, Hugh was gaining a reputation as one of the top rock climbers in the United States. In 1982 at age seventeen, he was caught in a storm with a fellow climber on Mount Washington in New Hampshire and endured four subzero days before being rescued. Due to frostbite, both his legs were amputated below the knee. Not being deterred by what others said, Hugh quickly invented prostheses that enabled him to climb again. After receiving graduate degrees from MIT, Dr. Herr has continued to advance the capabilities of technology for amputees.

I am also a beneficiary of research. My doctor at Emory is one of the world leaders in developing ways to defeat multiple myeloma. We are currently discussing options for me as the drug I’ve taken for almost two years has lost effectiveness. Susan and I appreciate your prayers.

Other pursuits highlighted in The Future Factory almost defy imagination, but one quote caught my attention on 60 Minutes. In describing the building where research is done and ‘impossibilities’ are pursued by 230 graduate students, the reporter said it was a “six-story tower of Babel.”

The story of Babel is the history of God’s judgment on humanity after the flood who were saying to one another, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves…” (Genesis 11:4) God confused their language… which stopped the completion of the city. “That is why it was called Babel [which sounds like the Hebrew word for confused] — because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:9)

Why, I asked myself, did the reporter describe the MIT research building as a tower of Babel? God can judge motives and intentions, but it is important for us to remember lessons from Scripture so we will not misplace trust or allegiance. Regarding Babel, Michael Youssef writes, “It is not the height of the tower that is significant. It’s the purpose of the tower. The Babylonians were building the tower of Babel as a monument to their own brilliance and glory.”

It is an easy trap to fall into: “I want to be the best ever!” God asks, “Why? Do you want others to look at you and say, ‘Wow!’? Have you not realized My Son’s secret was becoming nothing so all could know Me?”

God alone knows the future. When Jesus returns, may He find a Church consumed with Him and nothing else.

“Now listen, all who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” James 4:13-15

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8

(Quote from The Hidden Enemy by Michael Youssef, 2018, p 163)

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objective

Perhaps there is no more well-known Christian testimony than that of the apostle Paul, recorded in Acts 9. In Acts 22, while under arrest, Paul defends himself in Jerusalem by recounting what happened to him on the road to Damascus… a city very much in the news today.

I don’t think Paul’s only objective was to escape imprisonment; he wanted people to know that his message of Jesus the Christ is true and life changing. “Look, my bothers, I used to be just like you! I was taught the Scriptures by the finest teachers and I was zealous for God. I even persecuted those who claimed Jesus to be Messiah. I held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, and when he said he saw Jesus standing by the throne of God, I thought he blasphemed. But then that same Jesus appeared to me and my life has never been the same.”

When God gives us a story to tell, humility must be our trademark. Pride prevents us from confessing our wrongs or admitting our confusion or sharing errors in thinking. The servant of God must be willing to be real with others and to embrace weakness. Paul knew he was not a ‘changed man’ because of his heritage or brilliance or effort… he was saved by grace.

The greatest result of any testimony is for others to see Jesus for who He is and be drawn to the Father by the loving Holy Spirit. Paul did not want to gain prestige for himself… he wanted all to know that the Jesus he once persecuted is the risen King of kings who will soon return to this earth. He wanted every listener to believe his story and put faith in the Son of God.

“Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about Me.” (Acts 22:18) The Lord simply told Paul what we know is true: many will not believe. But does that prevent us from sharing the truth? Why did Paul go from town to town proclaiming a message he knew would get him in trouble? Why did he endure beatings, arrests, and imprisonment?

It is true that God called him and sent him, but Paul understood as well as anyone that had he not been confronted by the Lord, he would have been lost. Paul told his story and explained the Gospel because he wanted everyone to have eternal life. What he had been freely given, he wanted to give to others. When this is our objective, God receives honor and glory.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” I Timothy 1:15-17

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