The other day someone asked me if I was still preaching in our church. I had to tell them that since the discovery of oral cancer in me that I've probably not preached more than 4 times in the past 6 months. I am so blessed to see the people of our church step up and share the wonderful, life-changing stories of grace while I've been unable to. I have such a wonderful church! (New Covenant Grace Fellowship in Inverness, FL) I think its rather interesting that a preacher (Me!) is fighting a situation where he can't talk! Of course I'm getting a lot of the "He's gonna hit us with long sermons when he gets back to preaching" type of jokes!
Here is my problem....I can't preach or teach but the Lord just keeps pouring on the revelations of New Covenant Grace. I'm seeing so much lately! It's like I'm asking the Lord to back off as I can't assimilate it all!
Then, like Moses, I sensed that the Lord asked me, "Larry, What is that in your hand?" Remember He asked that of Moses when Moses was giving the excuses to the Lord in setting his people free from Egypt? Moses replied, "It's my rod." It was that rod that when thrown to the ground turned into a serpent. As well it was that same rod that when held over the Red Sea the Sea dried up so the Children of Israel could cross over on dry ground. So when He asked me that question, at first I didn't understand what He was getting at. A preacher's main tool is communication. Yes, it's mostly communication that is oral and that is where I am lacking right now as it often hurts me to talk, thus my "favorite tool" cannot be currently used. However, the Lord was showing me that I can still communicate. My rod of communication currently is writing! Therefore, I'm being challenged to throw that rod on the ground and watch what the Lord does with it!
So, during this time of less oral communication, I'm going to be doing everything in my power to share with any who would be interested, written communication and the message is Grace and More Grace!
Once again the Lord is taking my situation and turning my lemons into lemonade! Glory! I will not be silenced, especially when so many are hungering for the simple truths of New Covenant Grace!
Last Fall I was having a problem with a tooth, my lower last tooth on the left side of my mouth. The tooth was getting loose. In consulting with my dentist I was told that most likely the tooth was dead, thus the looseness. The remedy was to have the tooth pulled and replaced. So in late November the tooth was extracted. Within a couple of weeks there seemed to be a unnatural swelling and pressure in the gum line where the tooth was. I've had enough teeth pulled to know what to expect and this seemed strange. In speaking to my dentist, She told me that when she pulled the tooth she suspected something wrong and suggested a biopsy. The Wednesday before Christmas I went to an oral surgeon for the biopsy and was told that I would not have any results back until after the New Year due to the Lab being closed for the Holidays. On January 2 the Oral Surgeon's office called and I was told that I needed to get there right away. Later that day Corinne and I were told by the Doc that the results came back as Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a form of skin cancer that can grow in the mouth. I was referred to a local oncologist where I was told that the cancer was Stage 2 or a little better, and that I would need several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In the process, prior to radiation it would be required for all of my lower teeth to be extracted because no major dental work can be done for at least two years after radiation and to reduce the risk of a broken jaw bone the teeth should go.
What I've stated above is the simple version. In the midst of all of that there was a lot of pain, both physical and mental. I had to fight with insurance companies, face many, many delays in treatment as a result. However all of that time, I was expecting a miracle to take place. As time progressed the left lower side of my mouth was consumed by the tumor. I had severe pressure, sometimes with uncontrolled bleeding. I recall eating breakfast at a local restaurant and all of a sudden my mouth began bleeding, running out onto my plate. I rushed to the men's room and began rinsing with warm water and my mouth finally stopped bleeding.
The truth was, I needed a miracle! Every day I expected to feel something strange in my mouth, and just spit the tumor onto the ground! I had several pray for me that that would happen. However, it just didn't happen!
As I write this, July 13, 2016, the 7 weeks of daily radiation treatment and many rounds of chemotherapy have been completed. The tumor is probably 85% or better gone, the severe mouth sores which are side effects of both radiation and chemo are about gone. I have a PET Scan scheduled in a month and we will see where we go from there! I am still expecting the miracle! Today very well could be the day that I spit the remaining tumor out! Why not? Giving up is not the answer, for me or for you! Keep expecting your miracle my Friend! No matter what you are going through, keep expecting your miracle.
However, if the miracle doesn't come, please enter into the place of rest that you can only find through the finished works of Christ on His cross! Remember He said, "It is finished!" That means that He is not going to do it for you, He already has! So you don't have beg, plead or do anything else to see God do something for you! Early on in this cancer battle Corinne and I came to peace about seeking medical treatment and following the advice of our doctors. I made it very clear that I didn't want to hear about how many "healing verses" I needed to confess every day! I didn't want to hear about eating certain diets, drinking certain fluids, etc. I, actually we, just planned on following the leading of the Holy Spirit, to just rest in God's love through a difficult time in our lives. The peace we both have is just out of the box! I have watched many cancer patients over the years work themselves into a frenzy trying to do everything right in order to obtain their miracle. That is works and it will only lead to condemnation!
In the middle of this battle Corinne and I have peace, lots of it! Do I want it to end right now? You've got that right Bubba! However, we have peace, boat loads of peace! In all of this we have been able to obtain rest, lots of it! I've been able to minister to many and it's going to get better and better!
I'm not out of the woods yet! However, as I look back over the past several months, I see that I have changed. I'm not the same person, husband, father and pastor that I used to be. I've grown in God's perfect love and acceptance and I look forward to sharing that with many. Hey, I never want to go through this again! Yet, it has been a good thing for me to go through! You may not understand what I just said, but I am seeing the lemonade that God has made out of some lemons. Isn't that a miracle? I believe it is!
So, I will believe that you get your miracle the moment you read this post. If it doesn't come, I'm standing with you at your Lemonade Stand! Glory!
Here is a truth that most Pastors won't tell you.....YOU DON'T HAVE TO ATTEND CHURCH IN ORDER TO BE A CHRISTIAN! That's right, God is NOT keeping track of your church attendance!
True Christianity is based upon our relationship with our loving God and NOT by the things we do or don't do! I wrote on my Facebook Timeline this morning, "Holiness is not based on what we do or don't do, but rather it is based by who we are!" God makes us holy and our church attendance really doesn't effect this at all. Yet, religion makes church attendance almost mandatory!
Now, before your think that I've really sipped a cog today, please let me say....I LOVE ATTENDING CHURCH! Now in all fairness, allow me to more properly define that statement. I should say, "I love attending our church!" Now this is not based on me being the senior pastor, rather it's based on my understanding of God's grace, our church's teaching on God's grace, and my relationship with God and with His Kids who also attend our church. Every time our group gathers we have fun! That's right....we have fun! I look forward to laughing and even crying with our awesome group. Often we even go out to eat after the service just so the fellowship and fun can continue! The motto of our church (New Covenant Grace Fellowship of Inverness, Florida) is, "Our goal is for people to feel better about themselves when they leave than when they arrived!"
Now to be honest, there are some churches, maybe more than "some," that I wouldn't attend either. I often tell people if their only choice is a legalistic, very religious church they would be better off staying home than attending. I certainly would not want my children attending a church like that. Why teach them a false gospel! You heard me, legalism and religion equate to a false gospel! Again, I'm probably not making some pastors very happy right now, but why teach our children something that is not correct and something that they will one day have to unlearn?
Now here is a little test for you.....This is a way to know that you are in the right church or not....Are you constantly taught that you have to do things to become righteous and holy or are you taught that God has made you righteous and holy? Are you taught to do more, work harder to please God or are you taught to rest, that God is already pleased with you through the finished works of Christ on His cross? Here is a word of advice...If you are being taught to "do, do, do" then my advice is to "run, run, run!"
Here is a great verse to back up what I'm saying: Galatians 2:16 (NLT), "Yet we know that a person is made right (righteous) with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus so so that we might be made right (righteous) with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will every be made right with God by obeying the law." Now this is a message that our church teaches all the time. When people begin understanding this they really do leave our church feeling better about themselves when they leave! Glory!!