Monday, October 13, 2008

Sooner than later (updated)

ANDREW WRITES:

This cancer is mad, and it just won't go away. I had an MRI yesterday and the doctors are pretty certain that there is cancer in my spine on the back of my neck, and there might be cancer in the base of my neck in the front. The MRI wasn't clear enough to make that determination, but I'm pretty sure there is cancer there as well because I can feel it. Not only is there a sore lump on my neck near my thyroid, my blood tests showed that my thyroid function is pooping out faster than expected. So, it is likely that I have cancer in my neck that is invading the thyroid.

Since the spine cannot be operated on, the doctors say that there really isn't anything I can do at this point but wait and see if it grows in 3 months. I could do a biopsy to confirm it but it is not guaranteed to be conclusive because needle biopsies into the spine are not extremely accurate. Removing a tumor from the front of my neck would require me to lose my voice box and have to breath out of a hole in my neck. Given that there is tumor in my spine, that would be pointless. I might as well keep my voice as long as I can.

So, the reality is that unless God intervenes, I'll probably be leaving this world sooner than later. That doesn't mean that we've given up on fighting cancer, it just means that we're going to think realistically about my situation. Only God knows how long I have left and He might just heal me, or even provide some new alternative therapy that cures me. We've been trying different alternative therepies over the past year, from diet, to aggressive juicing, to supplements, but in the end it is all in God's hands. I'm praying that if God takes me home soon I'll be mentally alert and able to talk until the bitter end.

We talked with Bob, our pastor and brother-in-law, and he helped us think about our priorities better. I think this whole time we've been making survival our top priority and everything else in life secondary. After exhausting all conventional cancer therapies and many natural therapies, I think its time to rethink the game plan. We're still praying about this, but I think quality of life is going to now be top priority, and any treatments will have to fit into that. Therefore, I won't be doing any more major surgeries or chemo treatments unless it will increase my quality of life. I want to spend my last days with my family and prepare them for a life without me.

I feel like there are so many things I want to say but perhaps not enough time to say them. For one thing, I wish I could travel all over the country and see everybody one last time before I go. Maybe that will happen. Or perhaps people could visit.

Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom."

As I meditate on that passage and look back on my life I see so many wrong decisions. I wish I could go back in time and change them. Instead of making a list that could go on and on I need to recognize firstly that God is sovereign over those mistakes, and secondly that each of those mistakes should serve to make me more and more humble, and more and more dependent on forgiveness through Jesus. I take great comfort in the fact that Jesus died for my sins and and forgives me. As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed my transgressions from me (Psalm 103:12).

Looking back, one thing I'll never regret is following Jesus Christ even if it meant hardship. When I was 21 years old God placed in my heart an inescapable desire to follow Him. When I first became a Christian I spent a lot of time reading Paul's letters in the bible and came to believe that the Christian life was often described as a very difficult one. My old small group leader from UCLA emailed me the other day and reminded me about something I had shared in small group as a new Christian. I said something along the lines that suffering was good because God clearly uses it to grow His children, so we ought to ask God to grow us even if it meant we were inviting suffering.

Phil 1:29 says, "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, "

Phil 3:9-11 says, "and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Rom 8:17 says, "and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. .

I deep down had a feeling that God was preparing me for hardship. The other guys in the room thought I was a lunatic because it seemed as if I was asking for suffering. I never asked for suffering, but just desired that God would grow and stretch me and that He would put His name on display in my life. I never would have imagined that this could happen to me, but I think that was the Holy Spirit working in my heart to prepare me for this trial later in life. We all suffer to varying degrees and in varying ways, but God has chosen this particular path for my life that He might conform us all into His image.

In Matthew 16:26 Jesus says, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" It is foolish to waste our lives chasing success and pleasure when we have not dealt with the most important matter at hand - the well being of your soul. Am I prepared to die? What will happen after I die?

Tonight God is impressing upon my heart to warn of the coming judgement. Whether or not you consider yourself a Christian, I ask that you read on. We all need a daily dose of the truth.

The book of Genesis says that God created the entire world including humans and set a standard of morality for His creation to adhere to. All people, even ones who seem really nice on the outside, sin in some way and offend God. We are greedy, we cheat, we exaggerate the truth, a.k.a lie. If you still don't think you've offended a holy God, have you "loved the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and strength" as He commands in Deuteronomy 6:5? Jesus says that is the greatest commandment. Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." God, being a just God, must punish our crimes against Him just like a felon is punished in a human judicial system. But God in His great love for His creation provided a wonderful way out. He punished His own Son, Jesus, in our place!

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

We all need to humbly recognize that we have sinned against God and cry out to Jesus to save us. We can say, "Lord, I know that I have gravely offended You by not worshipping you with my life and not loving You above everything. I have served myself rather than You. I am such a sinner, but I ask that you please rescue me from my sins. I believe that you died on the cross for my sins, so please save me!" This was the cry of my heart in 2001 when God humbled me and showed me my great sinfulness after years of living a selfish life of drugs, pleasure, and self accomplishment. God is faithful to answer those cries.

In addition to recognition of our deep sinfulness and asking Jesus for forgiveness of sins, Jesus also tells us to count the cost of following Him with our life. In Luke 14:27-28 Jesus says that we must consider whether or not we are willing to follow Him unto death, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?"

Jesus says to His followers that they will experience tribulation in John 16:33 says,"In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

Jesus promises that if we give up everything to follow Him on earth, we will gain life everlasting in the new heaven and the new earth. God's plan for my life might result in me losing my life at a younger age, but I can look forward to my reward in the new heaven and new earth where God Himself will wipe away every tear and there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds...This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new " And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." Then He said to me, "It is done I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
- Revelation 20:11-21:8

Here is an old video from March 2008. These were my final words before the last surgery that crippled my speech and swallowing. That cold, wintry, Minnesota night we had no idea what the next 7 months would entail. One thing we knew back then and we still know now is that this trial that we face is a part of a much bigger plan that God has for the world. My prayer is that the world is watching and listening to what God is saying.

video

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Prayer Requests
1) Praise God that we made it through today even though I'm sick again. Grace had supernatural strength to take care of me today.

2) Please pray that the peace of God will rule in our hearts and that God will protect our minds from wandering into useless thoughts.

3) Pray that in 3 months my next scan would reveal nothing in my spine or neck.
4) Pray for my precarious health. I feel terrible as I have a very high fever again, 3rd time in a month. The doctors think that my pneumonia stuck around somehow so I'm on antibiotics again.

5) Pray for wisdom about what to do next. We might try an alternative therapy soon which would take about 3 weeks. Pray that God would make it undeniably clear whether or not we should do it.

30 comments:

  1. You show great wisdom and insight into your situation and the priorities of your life. We should all have more of the faith that you have shown in the providence of God regardless of outcome. Good palliative care can, and should be extremely God-honoring and family-centric.

    What I would give to have more patients who thought like you. Thank you for sharing and being open with your thinking.

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  2. Andrew,
    You are an inspiration to all of us and you are in our hearts and in our prayers.

    Love,
    Elton and Lily

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  3. Andrew, you have such a testimony - it is amazing to watch God give you the grace for each moment. Thank you for reminding us about what truly matters in life. Your children have grown so much and so much has happened since you left Washington, and we rejoice as you rest in His mighty arms. We are praying with you.

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  4. We can (and do) praise God for His care and grace as He continues leading you through this trial. We continue praying for you and appreciate how you help us know just how to pray for you. Philippians 4:6-8 are precious words for all of us to hear over and over.
    Praise God for blessing you with a brother-in-law / pastor who is leading you in truth and godliness, as a shepherd should. You continue to be an instrument in the Redeemer's hand through your testimony of His grace and strength during even the most trying times.
    By His grace,
    Dave and Cynthia

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  5. Andrew and Grace, you're totally in my prayers! Every time I read your blog I can't help but marvel how God has turned your response to your trial into a giant flashing neon sign that highlights the gospel and His grace in every situation, even in the hardest times. What a great God we serve, and what a great testimony you have been and continue to be in magnifying Him!

    Whenever I think of the following verse, I am reminded of you both:
    "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

    You may be the most "perfect" people I know!

    Love you both,
    Doreen

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  6. Andrew and Grace:

    We are praying for you during this difficult season in your lives but rejoicing that you are embracing Colossians 3:1-4.

    Hal and Cecilie Hays

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  7. I read your blog through my tears. Thank you for your faith. Thank for believing in the sufficiency of your Savior. And not just believing it, but living it out even in the face of death. Praying fervently!
    Janea

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  8. Andrew-around the table this morning after breakfast, I showed the children your video. we then talked about salvation and how we can be rightly related to God, how we can be so sure of our standing before God, and how we can be clothed in Christ's righteousness. It was a wonderful way to use this GOD glorifying trial to impact the next generation to the glory of GOD. Their eyes got big as they watched you speak of God's goodness even in the face of death...Thank you Andrew. You have no idea how big this whole thing is. You are right. God is doing something really huge here. "The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will try my utmost to be that man." DL Moody Praise God for you!

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  9. As I was reading your email, I "happened" to be listening to Enfield (Resolved worship band). I was listening to the song "Anchored." What a perfect song to describe your Faith in The King! While I cannot imagine what you are going through, I rejoice in your faith in our Lord. Your maturity is a constant encouragement to all of us, as well as an unmistakable testimony of the Sovereignty of God!

    Thank you for your willingness to share your suffering and joy with your Spiritual family. What comfort to know that The Master will take care of your family! What a grace that He has given you some time to prepare them for your departure! While we are grieving over the news and apparent will of God, we rejoice in knowing that you will soon see The King! No more fighting, no more pain! Only pure joy in the face of Jesus Christ! I am jealous of you, my friend! But we will join you soon enough!

    Our prayers are with you and your precious family! May your final days be sweet and joy-filled, basking in the glory of the Christ you will soon meet!

    By the way, if you do not own the Enfield CD -- O for that Day, I highly suggest you purchase it on itunes today! It will prepare your heart for Heaven! Plus, every song is pretty good!

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  10. Andrew and Grace, I know God is sovereignly exercising His will and that He is being glorified in all that you are going through (I praise Him that this is for His eternal Kingdom and glory, and not just an embittering useless difficulty), still I am so personally sad that you have more trials to endure. We love you. I am praying for you. Connie A.

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  11. we praise God for your trust in God through this suffering in your life. He is truly showing forth His glory in and through you. we love you guys we are praying fervently on your behalf. In Christs love,
    The Zepedas

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  12. Dear Andrew,

    I just wanted to add this verse that was a part of what we studied Sunday evening:
    Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
    Imagine the dazzling glory of God that will be yours, unclouded by the fall. Our prayers are with you my brother and sister.

    Dave and Cynthia Hildebrand

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  13. Thanks for sharing Andrew. It's so encouraging reading your blog. Kelly and I are praying for you and the family.

    Daniel and Kelly Chan

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  14. Andrew and Grace,

    We love you both very much. Every time you write it makes me love and praise God more.

    Praying for you daily,

    Kim S

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  15. Your blog never ceases to encourage and humble me. Thank you so much for your honest post. It truly leaves me longing for heaven more. Praying for you guys!

    Jane Kim

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  16. Andrew,

    I am blessed to see your courage to stand for the Lord in all seasons. I listened with tears in my eyes as you proclaim the gospel. It is awesome to see the Holy Spirit move in your life and Grace's life also. You are truely one of God's fellow workers (1 Cor 3:6). I am so proud to call you friend and brother.

    We love you.

    Jason Lewis

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  17. Andrew,

    We love you, pray for you and are thankful for God magnifying Himself through you. (You are helping us all to see how incredibly BIG the Lord is and how really, really teeny tiny we all are.)

    Tonight at home group we will pray together for you, Grace and your precious children!

    Love,
    The Magee Family

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  18. Hey Andrew,
    The bravery, honesty, and openness that you and Grace demonstrate always astounds me. I can't even fathom what you and your family have been going through (other than through reading your blogs) but seeing the positive attitude and level-headedness with which you have been fighting this battle is truly inspirational to me. It reminds me that we all are capable of handling the storm when we are faced with it.

    I have recently seen some proof that prayer and positive thinking are truly remarkable and effective. Stu and I will continue to pray for your family and send positive thoughts your way!!!

    Always,
    Sharon V. Hong

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  19. Thank you for continuing to share with us. It has been a great encouragement. We continue to pray for you guys.

    -Steven & Angie

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  20. Andrew and Grace,

    Thank you for your blog. Thank you for being such a clear testimony of Christ during such a difficult trial. We continually pray that God uses your family to His glory, and you are comforted in His sovereignty, love, and grace.

    We love you and pray for you often!

    Love,
    Ben & Pat

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  21. Andrew and Grace,

    Thank you for being living examples of the Gospel. You continue to convict and encourage me. Thank you for your trust in the Lord and for seeking to keep your eyes on the big picture of God's eternal plan of redemption. Only heaven will reveal all that the Lord has done and will continue to do through your lives.

    We all have a lot to learn from you both. Every one of us has our days numbered, though some of us are less aware. May we learn from your examples to make the most of the time the Lord has entrusted to us here. And to share the great hope we have in Christ.

    Thank you for encouraging me to worship my God all the more and praise Him for the grace He gives to each of us in our trials. Your are proving His sufficiency as you lean on Him for all you need each day. You two are so magnifying the Grace of our God. I am praying for you.

    Amanda

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  22. Continuing to pray for you guys.

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  23. I cant think of any words to comfort you more than is already exceedingly evident that the Holy Spirit is comforting you with the truth of the Gospel through which we have joy in both times of blessing and times of suffering. Thank you again for sharing your struggles with us, and allowing us all to see more of God's grace and the hope we have in Jesus through your lives.

    I'm sure youre already doing this because your love and openness to each other comes across so clearly in your sharings. but if i can share 1 thing with you in this time of uncertainty it would be, whether you have many years left together or few, talk about EVERYTHING together: your moments of weakness and despair, what might or might not be in the future, fears, hopes for each other, happy times, sad times, anything that has been unsaid in the past, etc. and love each other and your family without restraint.

    I hope and pray you won't have to walk down a similar path as Esther and I have walked any time soon. But recently I realized what a blessing it is that I can look back at my time with Esther with little regret, and can move forward with little regret also because I know her wishes for me. Wasn't sure if I should share..some people like input from others and some don't (especially the unsolicited kind). So I tried to keep it short. Hope it is helpful rather than hurtful.

    If you ever need to talk with someone who has shared similar experiences and has had to make similar tough decisions, feel free to contact me (ruprider@gmail)..or not..thats totally fine too.

    Praying for healing, wisdom, health, strength, peace and joy.

    Rupert

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  24. Dear Andrew and Grace,

    Your blog is amazingly encouraging, and very painful to read through. I still know both of you as the down-to-earth humble servants from Grace On Campus. I am honestly saddened by the turn of events-- and, i admit, worried too. But your words not only reflect an undying faith, but even a God-given strength as well. Thank you for staying strong and honoring Him in all seasons of your lives. To merely say that you are role models of faith to me would not do justice. I will be praying for a miraculous cure and, above all, for His glory as you have so reminded me to do.

    --Manoj

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  25. Andrew & Grace,
    From the first day we met you, Glenn and I have been in deep awe of your unshakeable faith and ability to simply trust in God through all situations. Through your trials we have watched as God deepened your faith even more and as we see the mighty work He has done in strengthening your family, I cannot help but rejoice at the graciousness He has bestowed on you all. That you still love and serve the Lord, that you are not consumed with bitterness, that you can still find peace in His Word, and are eager to reach a fallen world with His good news... what a testimony and example you have given the rest of us as we stumble through our own "trials" consumed with self-pity and doubt yet never experiencing even a fraction of the suffering you have undergone.
    Continue to rest in Him and His strength and know that you are always in our prayers.
    -Glenn & Erica Wainwright

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  26. Andrew, our 12 yr old daughter was at prayer meeting last night with Mark, and she has really been struggling with things in her life right now. We were so encouraged that tonite at family worship she actually said she had a praise to report and it was that you and Grace have really been an encouragment to her. She struggles with a lot of fear and anxiety so this is really a big praise for us. Thank you Lord!

    Kim S

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  27. Andrew,
    Our church has been praying for you in Virginia. We are friends of Rick and Julie Clark. I have been so blessed by your blogs and especially by your video. I praise God for you and your family. Your bold witness is far reaching and is glorifying to God. Thank you for posting the specific prayer requests and for sharing this experience with others. May God give you peace and continue to be with you in a mighty way.
    Denise Johnson, Calvary Memorial Church, Roanoke, VA

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  28. Hi Andrew and Grace,

    I am in Birmingham, AL, and followed a link from teampyro.blogspot to your journal. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all you've written here. May the Lord bless, encourage, strengthen and protect you as you follow your Lord on this road marked with so much suffering. You are precious people.

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  29. I will continue to pray for you and your family. Your faith is an inspiration to me.

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