Monday, February 21, 2011

Don't waste your ________________


Don’t Waste your Cancer
(taken from a John Piper Blog)

A week ago today I received a call from my Dr. telling me that my biopsy came back as cancer.  It has been a whirlwind of a week since that phone call.  It has consisted of a handful of appointments, a PET scan and plenty of prayers and encouraging notes.

One encouraging note was a link to the blog of John Piper, a Christian theologian that was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006.  I thought what he had to say in this blog was very interesting.  I have added some of my thoughts to each point (in italics).

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, He permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, He can stop it or not. If He does not, He has a purpose. Since He is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design.

MY THOUGHTS:  I know God has a plan for my life.  There are days it seems 100% clear and other days (like today) when I am not sure where this is going, but I do know He knows what He is doing.  He has made this cancer a part of me.  It is a part of my overall story.  Just like everything in my past, it makes me who I am.

2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Numbers 23:23). “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 83:11).

MY THOUGHTS:  I love the song by Matt Redman – “Blessed Be Your Name.”  It talks about giving God the glory and praising His name in the good times as well as the bad times.  While “cancer is a gift” is a hard statement to comprehend, it really goes back to #1 – God having a plan for my life.  He can use this to reach others… what a gift that is.  He can open doors with this that I may never have been able to open otherwise.

3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.

The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7).

MY THOUGHTS:  This is something that I have not thought about.  Maybe it’s because there haven’t been any “odds” thrown my way or maybe it’s because I do trust in God, but thinking about some human calculation has never been something that has crossed my mind.

4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.

We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Eccl. 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.

MY THOUGHTS:  Today I sat through a funeral.  I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that the thought of dying didn’t cross my mind.  As a matter of fact, I began planning a possible funeral in my head… right down to possibly video recording my own “final sermon.”  What to say, what to do… the reality is death is real for each and every one of us and when we face something like “cancer” our eyes are opened a little wider to what is to come.

5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
Satan’s and God’s designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ.  “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)

MY THOUGHTS:  The first time I found out I had cancer, life changed for me.   My priorities changed, my thought process changed, my world view changed.  As I look at my life five years later, I have really changed and I feel like I have matured.  I don’t know what is to come five years from now, but I am hoping that I am closer to who God wants me to be.

6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God  It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”

MY THOUGHTS:  One area I saw my life change was in my “reading” about God and learning the realities of God.

7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
This is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.

MY THOUGHTS:  I am an outgoing person, but in all reality, I didn’t want to tell anyone about what was going on.  Why?  Simply put, I don’t like it when people worry about me.  After reading this thought it hit me… this isn’t about what people feel for and about me – but instead how my feelings have changed towards others – and they really have.

8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.

Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don’t waste your cancer grieving as those who don’t have this hope.

MY THOUGHTS:  I have hope.  PERIOD.

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.

Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are.

MY THOUGHTS:  We waste our time and life on such stupid things… things that do not matter and things that are just plain selfish and wrong.  It really is amazing to look at my life through a new lens (again) and understand the trivial nature of some of the stupid things I do.

10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 22:12-13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.

MY THOUGHTS:  Like I said in #1 – God has a plan.  I want everyone to know that I am OK with where I am in life and what Christ is doing in me and through me.  My faith is strong and growing stronger.  God is going to use this for His glory and I am excited to see what that is going to be.

As you read this, you may not understand why God does some things whether in my life or in yours.  You may be battling with your own struggles that you can substitute for the word “cancer” throughout this blog.  Understand that God is in control of your life, just like mine.  Isaiah 55:8 tells us  "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”  Be open to what God can do, no matter the situation.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Friday!!!

Paragon and other followers,
It is Friday and I, for one, am glad this week is almost over.  I am really looking forward to this Sunday at Paragon... our last meeting at Sandia Vista and its Communion Sunday.  I hope you can join us.

On a side note, I appreciate all the prayers and messages of encouragement throughout this week.  It really means a lot to me and my family.  This blog has been a good place for me to keep you up to date with my status but I feel like this needs to stay the church's blog, not my personal one.  So, from here on out, the rest of my updates can be found at the SELLERSFAMILYFIVE blog (linked to the right under "other blogs")  I will try to limit this blog to our church's updates (and there will be a lot over the next weeks and months).

Have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday Morning.
Matt

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A quick video update

Thank you all for your prayers.  Today (Thursday) is the first test (PET Scan) to see where we go from here.  I really hate not knowing what is next but I know God is in control today, just like He has been through my entire life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Valentine's Day to remember


As I write this, Valentine’s Day has come to a close.  This has been a Valentine’s weekend I will cherish and a Valentine’s day I will not ever forget.  Our weekend was filled with special dates with each of our children.  On Sunday, I was lucky enough to accompany my sweet 2 year old princess on a date to Johnny Rockets for a milkshake, Build-a-bear to make a "kittykat" and a ride on the carousel. 

Monday came.  We set out fun valentines for each of the kids this morning and then, sent Camden off to school.  Christy left to take Payton on his date to the aquarium.  Shortly after they got home, a phone call changed the rest of our day.  It was a call we had been anticipating all weekend.  It was my doctor.  Seconds into the call, he broke the news that my cancer was back.

Five years ago, I was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer on my tongue.  I had surgery to cut out the cancer and lost ¼ of my tongue.  In the last couple of months I had been having some discomfort and wanted to get it checked out.  (I normally have a check-up every six months.)  Friday, Christy and I went to the doctor and he took one look at my tongue and requested a biopsy of the spot.  He wasn’t very optimistic.  So we had been waiting for an answer.  The doctor was calling with the results.

It came back as cancer, again.  As he told me, I tried to be strong… I tried to not let it bother me as Christy watched my reaction.  I failed.  I cried and emotions flooded my mind. Christy and I sat on the couch and cried.  Our tears turned into blank stares and questions trying to figure out what the next few months would hold for our family.  I picked up the phone to call two very important men in my life, my dad and Christy’s dad.  I didn’t know how or if I was even going to be able to tell them.  I tried to compose myself.  If there ever is a good time to be told you have cancer, right now was not it--not on Valentines Day after a great day with my family; not with so many things going on in my life.  From family to church… this isn’t something else I want to have to deal with right now, but I don’t have a choice in the matter.  Maybe it is for the better.  God does everything for a reason and even though I don’t know that reason today, I know there is a purpose behind it.

As I got this disturbing news, my mind was bombarded with questions.  I am sure you have lots of questions too.  The following weeks will have much in store for my family and me.  I will be having a PETscan to make sure the cancer isn’t anywhere else in my body.  I will also undergo another surgery as well as radiation.  I want to remind you and assure you that God doesn’t need me to continue to do great things at Paragon Church.  It’s His church and His plans.  We will press on toward the goal before us.  This is just a minor bump in the road. 

Our family covets your prayers during this time.

Jim Cartwright sent me this story today and I felt it was a good story to share with you.  It comes from Max Lucado’s book Come Thirsty.  (copyright Thomas Nelson, 2004)

The Woodcutter’s Wisdom (by Max Lucado – from Come Thirsty)

Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before—such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.
People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?” The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.
One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”
The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”
The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.”
The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”
The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.
After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”
The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?
“Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”
“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.
The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.
“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”
The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.”
It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.
“You were right, old man,” they wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Your son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”
The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”
The old man was right. We only have a fragment. Life’s mishaps and horrors are only a page out of a grand book. We must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must reserve judgment on life’s storms until we know the whole story.

I don’t know where the woodcutter learned his patience. Perhaps from another woodcutter in Galilee. For it was the Carpenter who said it best:  “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6:34)

He should know. He is the Author of our story. And he has already written the final chapter.





Wednesday, February 9, 2011

TEAM not ME


Three days ago the Green Bay Packers became the Super Bowl Champions of the NFL for the fourth time (13th time as NFL title holders).  To say the least, I was excited (and still am).   It was a good game but was a lot closer than I wanted it to be.  After they won, I watched all of the post game celebrations, post game interviews, and even watched Aaron Rodgers on Late Night with David Letterman (cant even guess when the last time I watched a late night comedian was).  There is one thing that stood out to me though as I watched all of the players and coaches talk about the game… CLASS. 

Now you may not be a fan of the Packers, but I don’t think you need to be a fan of a team to realize what people make up that team.  For instance, I am not a Steelers fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I like the class that their coach, Mike Tomlin, showed both before and after the game.  He just oozed professionalism.  Looking at the Packers – so many players on that team are not EGO MANIACS.  I have never seen Rodgers bash Brett Favre (and reporters gave him ample opportunity).  During the game, I never saw Rodgers yell at his receivers that consistently dropped the ball (I was yelling at them from my comfy couch but that is an entirely different story).  I didn’t see a single player getting down on another or trying to hog the spotlight.  They were working together for one goal and it was fun to watch.  It brought a spotlight to what football should be about – “TEAM” not “ME."  That had to be a hard mentality to keep when you are surrounded by people telling you how amazing you are for making it to the Super Bowl.

With all the hype and craziness grew heading into the Super Bowl, one quote from Vince Lombardi stuck in my mind… “Football is blocking and tackling.  Everything else is mythology.”  How true that is… in everything we know and do.  Most things in life are pretty basic and we like to over complicate them with what we think or what someone else thinks.

Getting back to the basics.  What a novel idea.  Think about that with Christianity for just a second… what are the basics?  Do you know them?  Many people don’t because we have littered the basics with the junk of what we think or what someone else thinks.  These are the basics of Christianity… “Love God, Love others” or if you want to word it a little  bit different… “Know Him, make Him known”  or even more like our slogan “be changed (by God)… Go change the world”.  There are so many ways to word it but it boils down to being a disciple of Christ and making disciples of Christ.

It is that simple.   If we focus on the basics and get rid of the junk (or as the book of Hebrews says in chapter 12 vs 1 – the sin that so easily entangles), if we stop stabbing people in the back to make ourselves feel better or look better, if we stop crushing our brothers and sisters in Christ with our words (to them and about them) – if we truly stop worrying about the “ME” and focus on the “TEAM” we will see a victory that none of us could ever imagine.

This past Sunday we saw what happened when a team worked together for one goal… a championship.  We have a goal set in front of us (a 2020 goal) and we need to be working together to reach that goal.

We need your help, are you in?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl Sermon

Due to the fact we are unable to meet as a church this Sunday, we are bringing the message to you.

Have a great Sunday and we will see you on February 13th for the beginning of the "Love is..." series.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Video Blog

February 3, 2011 - Video Blog
Make sure to visit Scott's Worship Blog to watch his updated video blog.
Paragon Video Blog 2.3.11 from Paragon Church on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A great week

It's Super Bowl week... and for the last 14 years I didn't care too much about who was in it (the only exception might be when the AZ Cardinals were in it a few years ago)

This year is different.  As you may know, the Green Bay Packers have made it to the Super Bowl.  I am excited... almost giddy.

But I must admit, what happens in the Super Bowl this Sunday really won't compare with what happened last Sunday at Paragon.

Last week was amazing.  We saw FOUR people give their lives over to Christ in the morning... and SIX people get baptized at the Rio Rancho Aquatic Center (pics to come).

God has been doing some amazing things and I am looking forward to the next weeks and months to see what He is going to do next.