Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Walking with Integrity Despite Circumstances

Charles Spurgeon and I often spend time together in the morning. Here is what he told me today:
Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer.

True. I sneezed and rubbed red eyes. Hay fever might not encompass all the suffering about which Spurgeon was warning. However, since my cancer treatment is yet to come, the hay fever is the cause of greater suffering at the moment.

Yesterday was my day at the abortion center sidewalk where I see a lot of suffering as I urge women to choose life. It was an atypical Monday. Few interactions and no babies were saved that we know of. One of the women came towards me, and I was hoping she was going to go on our free mobile ultrasound RV. Nope. She wanted to argue.

"My body, my choice," she said. (Like I haven't heard that one once or twice, or three billion times.)
"Except it's not your body that you're making the choice about. It's the baby's body, which has completely distinct and separate DNA from yours. The baby has no choice."
She repeated the mantra.
"Do you believe in God?" I asked.
"Of course!" she said. (Pardon me, but that doesn't seem as obvious as she indicated when about to violently end the life of her own baby.)
"What do you think God would have you do?"
"He wouldn't have me bring a child into the world I can't afford!" (PS- the shining car fancier than mine by far made that statement a little disingenuous.)
"Oh really? Where is that in the Bible? I don't recall seeing 'thou shalt not murder unless you are in difficult circumstances.'"
She cut off our discussion then.

Yesterday morning before going to the sidewalk, I read a Bible study by CS Lewis. One of his statements stopped me in my tracks:

God’s presence is not the same as the feeling of God’s presence and He may be doing most for us when we think He is doing least.

 So many of our despairing times or our disastrous decisions occur because we feel God has abandoned us or doesn't care. Maybe He doesn't notice as we willfully disregard what He has clearly commanded. We may not feel His presence, but that doesn't mean He isn't there, and it doesn't mean He isn't working. It certainly doesn't mean He is ignorant of our choices to follow Him or not.

As I prepared for my time of ministry, after reading CS Lewis, I read Psalm 41. I could not get over how perfectly God was addressing multiple concerns of mine that would impact me that day. First, look at how the Psalm begins: Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the LORD delivers them in times of trouble. 

The "my body, my choice" crowd certainly has no regard for the weak. I pity the abortion-minded mama when she is in times of trouble and calls upon the Lord she claims to know yet so blatantly disregards. 
I read on, and came to these verses:
7 All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying,

8 “A vile disease has afflicted him; he will never get up from the place where he lies.”

9 Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.
10 But may you have mercy on me, LORD
Now I considered my own "vile disease" which has afflicted me. (Not hayfever...cancer...but hayfever is vile too.) Cancer has invaded my body, and I suppose it would be easy for onlookers to say I am cursed. My circumstances are certainly not what I would desire, but that doesn't change my eternal destiny. Circumstances should never affect our response to God. No matter what, our purpose on earth is to glorify God. We cannot glorify Him by justifying our disobedience to His commands. Or by sugarcoating what we are doing. Some object to the use of the word 'murder' in describing abortion. The life of an innocent human being is being violently ended at the hands of a stronger human being. What else is it if not murder? I have been less inclined to sanitize what happens there, especially on days like Monday when there were so many women there to abort that they had to park in the overflow lot.
And now, the best part of the Psalm. The end of Psalm 41 reminds me of why we should rise above our circumstances and walk justly before God:
12 Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.
13 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.
If we walk with integrity before God, He upholds us, and we are ushered into His presence for all eternity. How I wish I could have convinced the young mama of this truth. 

Integrity is rarely tested when all is going swimmingly. Integrity is doing the right thing when your world is crumbling.
I had packed my kayak in my car, knowing my kayaking days are numbered this season. I have another biopsy Wednesday that will sideline me for another week, and then I presume some sort of surgery after that with 6-8 weeks recovery. Since Monday was the one beautiful day forecast for the week, I hurried off to Lake Wylie after my time on the sidewalk.

As I rolled about on the waves in my beloved kayak (thank you Mom and Dad!), I sang praises to God. I may have cancer, but I am the blessed one. I pity that abortion-minded mama who will go home and tonight will lie in the darkness with no one to shield her from her conscience, her actions, and God's presence. 

None of us are sinless, but if we have turned to God and believe what Jesus did on our behalf, we no longer are condemned. Sin is overcome, not by our power, but by the atoning death of Jesus our Lord. I pray that young mama who killed her child will come to that understanding. Great suffering awaits her. There are always consequences of sin.
My circumstances stink. However, my hope and my goal is to walk with integrity before my God, and magnify His name despite my circumstances. Eternity awaits.
Psalm 41
Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;
the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
The Lord sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.

As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die, and his name perish?”
And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words,
while his heart gathers iniquity;
when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
All who hate me whisper together about me;
they imagine the worst for me.

They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him;
he will not rise again from where he lies.”
Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who late my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
10  But you, O Lord, be gracious to me,
and raise me up, that I may repay them!

11  By this I know that you delight in me:
my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
12  But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
and set me in your presence forever.

13  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
Amen and Amen.

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