Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Good News and Hard News

Below is an adapted version of what I sent to my parents upon recently being diagnosed with a retina disease. We would appreciate your prayers!
-Pastor Ben

Good news and hard news...

The good news is I have an opportunity to draw near to God in a new way. I have a chance to bring honor to God in my response. And I will have more eagerness than ever for heaven and the promise of a new body!

The hard news is I was diagnosed with an "inherited disease of the retina" by Dr. Pete Lagouros at Illinois Eye Center (IEC). I have not done well on the field of vision test for the last 6 years when I've gone to Bard Optical in Washington. Bottom line, I don't have as much peripheral vision as most people. Not a big deal, but the eye doctor at Bard (my friend Mark Hahn who attends church at BCC) has sent me to Illinois Eye Center a few times for further tests and nothing really came of it. I was referred by Dr. Hahn to IEC again this month too as I failed the visual field test again at Bard at my annual appointment. Nothing new. Same old, same old. I thought.

This time, IEC had some more tests to do. Maybe new tech was finally available? Not sure. The lining in parts of my retina are thin. Dr. Lagourus doesn't know why. Again this doesn't cause me much day to day issue yet except for small things like me to not being able to find my mouse on my computer screen easily. Again, I just don't have all my peripheral.

All this to say, there are not concerns with me driving and doing life as usual for now. I'll be going to Iowa City for a more official diagnosis sometime between now and June. I'm waiting on them at this point. There is no treatment now but researchers are getting closer. Getting an official diagnosis will make me a better candidate for treatment when it becomes available. A quick internet search says that some inherited disease of the retina can lead to complete blindness. Not sure if that is the kind I have. Will find out more in Iowa City. My hope is that since my vision has not changed much in the last 6 years, that it won't change much in the next six years and so on.

Makes me long for heaven when I'll get new eyes. Makes me lean in the Lord even more. 

Recently (on the day of my diagnosis), my Facebook memories showed me a post I put up in 2012 that involved then 7 year old, Addy. Here it is:
"On my day off, feeling lazy, don't want to do training run, I say "This is going to be hard." Our Addy says, "Hard is not bad. Hard is just hard." Preach to me, little girl! Preach to me! Bless the Lord!"

Will this be hard? It appears so. It could be years. It could be decades. I trust in a God who cares for me more than I can imagine and is doing this for my good and His glory. 

Romans 8:28 says "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose". 

I'm satisfied in the Lord and Him alone. I've had a pretty good run with pretty good eyes. I can be bitter that I don't get a longer life with good eyes or I can choose to be thankful for the time I've had good vision. I'm choosing, by God's grace, the latter. The former sounds miserable!

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Importance of Obedience

I was recently reading through Romans chapter 1 and came across verses 28-32 and realized the profound impact they have on parents and children in discussing obedience. In these verses, God gives a list consisting of,
"not see fit to acknowledge God, … [given] over to a depraved mind, [doing]things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil,… without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful, [and] give hearty approval to those who practice them."
Right in the middle of the list of all these "very bad things" He also states, "disobedient to parents" (v.30). Often times we take disobedience lightly. With smaller kids we make it more of a joke to laugh about. With older kids we say, "What did you expect, they're a teen." These verses, however give a pretty clear picture of how God views disobedience. It is horrible! It is not a small thing to be joked about or a minor infraction to be ignored. To God it is on the same level as that of "murder" and "hating God." In 1 Sam 15:23a God states, "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry." Very interestingly, both resulted in the same punishment… death (v.32).
Lev 20:27, "Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones, their bloodguiltiness is upon them."
Deut 21:18-21, “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear."
God hates disobedience! There is no other way to say it. He hates it! He hates it so much that he views it as warranting death. Is it any wonder then that Solomon writes, "My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you" (Prov 3:1-2). He recognizes his son's very life hangs in the balance of his obedience to his father's instruction.
There is a contrast to disobediences leading to death as well, however. Paul writes, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“ Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land" (Eph 6:1-3). Thus there is not only a curse for the disobedient, but there is also a promise of blessing for those who obey, namely life and a good one at that.
It is a picture of the carrot and stick… disobedience brings death, obedience brings life.
How does this affect us then?
1)     If you are a child to a parent… take heed. These are very serious and weighty things. Your very life is what we are talking about here. Don't belittle your disobedience. Don't write it off as something everyone does, or as a very small thing. God does not (even if your parents do) and it is to Him you stand accountable.
2)     If you are a parent recognize this is a very serious issue… your child's very life hangs in the balance. Demand obedience, do so consistently. Punish for disobedience, do so consistently. This is not done from a punitive heart upset by how your child makes you look, or because they've bothered you or your little kingdom, but rather for their good. What God calls big sin and treats as big sin you should call and treat the same. On top of this, know your own obedience to God is determined by how you deal with your kids in this (Prov 13:24, 29:17, Eph 6:4).
3)     If you are a parent I would encourage you to present these truths to your kids. Say with Moses, "… I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live… " (Deut 30:19). I would also encourage, that this not just be a onetime conversation either, but should come up regularly in both their times of disobedience and obedience.
Whether you are a disobedient child or a disobedient parent there is hope! We each have a Savior who "was obedient to the point of death" (Phil 2:8) to deal with our disobedience to God and bring us back to Himself (Rom 5:6-9, 2 Cor 5:21, Eph 2:1-10, Heb 4:14-16, 1 Pet 3:18). We need to bring your sin and disobedience to the cross. There is forgiveness, healing, & hope for a rebellious, disobedient heart like yours and mine! (1 John 1:9).

Phil Smith