Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The little blue packet of obedience

This morning I was reading in 1 Samuel 15. An excerpt from verse 22 says, "...Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice..."

It really got me thinking. This week I was talking to a friend of mine who is not a church-goer. He grew up in the Catholic church and has a Christian perspective on life, but he does not go to church. He was talking about how some guys he knows were adamant about abstaining from eating beef during lent while having no trouble chasing after women behind their wives' backs. I thought it was a profound observation. Why would they do this? Because they believe that sacrifice trumps obedience.

Sacrifice is a weak substitute (like equal for sugar) for a living, breathing, real relationship with the Creator of the universe. Even in the Old Testament, the LORD was revealing Himself, speaking to His children and asking for obedience and faith. They ignored him and offered him some token burnt offerings to try and make amends for their disobedience. This passage goes on to say that presumption is iniquity and idolatry. I think this is dangerous because I see a lot of presumption in the Church. We presume that God is pleased with a packed house at church. We presume that our songs are real worship. We presume that God is pleased that we decided to get out of bed and go. Maybe we even presume that because we fast or pray that God will have more grace on us. We presume that giving up beef will make up for cheating on our wife. It's sad that this system didn't work thousands of years ago, and it still doesn't work today.

God is not interested in sacrifices that make us feel better about ourselves. He's not interested in how many people we got to come to church. He's not interested in how well we pulled off a worship experience. I don't think he's using (I know I'm presuming now) the same scale to measure success. The next chapter says "For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." Romans 12 says that worship has nothing to do with an hour and a half on Sundays but the way we live our lives. James 1 says that religion that is valid is taking care of widows and orphans. There's a real danger the week after Easter to feel like we're advancing the Kingdom because our numbers were big. Consequently, do we feel like we're doing less advancing because they won't be back next week?

So, where are we? Are we sacrificing and offering things in an attempt to draw near to God? Or, are we drawing near, listening for the still small voice, and responding in obedience to the sovereign plan of an Almighty God and Creator who loved us enough to come to us. We should stop trying so hard to win his approval by what we're trying to "pull off" and realize that His approval is a gift given to us through His Son, and His sacrifice is what's important. I pray that God would reveal the things we're offering as substitutes for obedience and that we would walk by faith and not by sight - in obedience and not in self-centered sacrifices.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dad's story...

It seems like it's probably time to give all the details of what's been going on with my dad. First of all, thank you for all the prayers, thoughts, and kind words/messages from so many of you. There has been the biggest sense of this burden being shared among so many. Our family has been truly blessed by all of the love and compassion shown to us during the past three weeks.

While Holly and I were in the UK, we got an e-mail message from my mom that my sister and brother-in-law had found Dad passed out at his shop. The report I got was that he was dehydrated, disoriented, and had incredibly high blood sugar. I got that report Wednesday morning England time. So, we began to pray for Dad and went about our day thinking of him often. When we returned, a much more serious e-mail was waiting. He's had a 107.8 temperature all day, blood sugar of 2413, and is not expected to live. The story of us staying and finishing our trip and conference and how the Lord spoke to us and others is an amazing story, but I've chosen not to talk about all of that hear. For now, I'm just going to focus on the Dad's progress and not our own. He went from literally a ZERO percent chance of recovery to SEVENTY percent chance to full recovery. Here's what happened.

Dad had been sick with what he thought was the flu for two weeks. As it turns out, he had gall stones. The gall stones got so bad they shut down his pancreas. He developed severe pancreatitis. As a result his blood sugar skyrocketed to 2413 (his ICU nurse said the highest she had ever heard about was 1700). Needless to say, his body was shutting down - every major organ was being affected. His temperature reached 107.8 for most of a day while he was laying on an ice blanket. People generally don't recover from either of those things. However, an army of people were praying fervently for a miracle. Dad's pastor brought John 11:4 to the table which says, "This sickness will not end in death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” It was prophetic. Any moment, things could've gone bad quickly, but instead every moment he pressed on. He began to improve slowly and steadily. The first week he was heavily sedated because of the pain of the gall stones and the need for his body to conserve energy in order to restore function to his organs. He was on a ventilator, feeding tube, and had a central line. Every day the news wasn't that he was making huge progress, but he wasn't getting worse - which ultimately meant he was improving. We returned home in the middle of the night Thursday the 2nd. Friday morning, I finally made it to the hospital, and dad was sitting up looking at me and asked me how my trip was. He went from the brink of death to this in just under two weeks. They pumped him full of fluids to keep him alive while sedated, but then the fluids were in the way of normal activity, movement, and breathing. They put him on dialysis to remove the fluid from his lungs because his kidneys were not doing their job yet. Every time they would do dialysis, they would take 5 liters of fluid from his body. The fluid was keeping him from breathing well - so he was still on a lot of oxygen. This week he continued the dialysis, and yesterday he called me himself to tell me he was out of the ICU and in a normal room. Shelley and I figured it would be at least another week. We were shocked. He said they're talking about discharging him completely on Saturday. His prognosis is incredibly good, but it will take 6 weeks or so to see if his kidneys will re-boot so to speak. Until then, he will have to be on dialysis. There appears to be no other damage.

It is so humbling to be such a close eyewitness to a miracle of this magnitude. It's been amazing to see the nurses and doctors give glory to God. Most everyone who came to see Dad in the hospital ended up praying with/over him. Everyone was on the same page - this sickness would not end in death.

For those still praying, please continue to pray for his kidneys. It will be complete healing if they kick in on their own.

That's the incredibly short version of the story. To God be the glory.