The Downhill Slide

I have had congestive heart failure for about 6 years now. I can't catch my breath so I speak in short sentences. I can't get to sleep at any regular time so I can't keep appointments and I am always very tired. My arms and legs, feet and hands go numb for a half hour at a time. I am devastated when I catch a cold, sometimes for a month. Fatigue crushes me and no amount of will power can overcome it. Light-headedness sometimes prevents me from getting up out of a chair.
     Social problems are even worse. Going to the movies with my family is difficult at best. Extended trips to the shopping mall are risky business. Family vacations are a dream never to happen again. Even going to a morning church service is difficult. Grocery shopping is like climbing Mount Everest and taking my dog to the vet is a marathon.
     I have other problems that are worse but this is a taste of how my life has changed because I got sick. Yet my life is much easier and better now than ever before; No kidding

The WordA few years ago God gave me a voracious appetite for the Bible. Unknown to me, this was the first sign of God's Holy Spirit giving me a chance at the Jackpot so many seek and so few find - eternal life and peace on earth. Notice the way I group those two gifts together - eternal life and peace on earth. If you've been "saved" but don't have peace in your own personal life, maybe you have turned a deaf ear to the Lord. I know I get hard of hearing regarding God's will for me at times.
     Since this turning point in my life, God has shown me His power and His mercy in ways I can't deny or misunderstand. He is the one true God and He loves me. I was a sinful, proud, stiff-necked, holier than thou jerk. The best way for Jesus to make me look up to His light was to knock me down to my knees, hard.
     I probably won't have an easy death. I don't relish the dying but I know Jesus will be there right in front of me, smiling. He will say, "It's all worth it, my brother. I give you my word." Jesus' word is good enough for me.

Running raggedMy physical abilities have gone downhill and will probably continue to do so. Yet my life is so much better now than when I was well that it blows my mind. When I was healthy but a sinner, I struggled with so many things in my mind and in my heart. I got so angry that an uneasy tightness stayed in my gut for days and days over a single little incident. I screamed and yelled when I should have listened. People were stupid and intentionally cruel to me. Driving was a contest and parenting was a chore. Being married was work and being polite was the definition of stress. Turn to God? Yeah, right. What had He ever done for me?
     Now I'm dying. Every physical act is a struggle but I'm happy. What has God done for me? Wrong question. What hasn't God done for me? What have I done for God? Why has He chosen me to be the object of His grace? These are more realistic questions.

I know the depth of my own unworthiness, so the grace of God showering down upon my head staggers me. I deserve nothing. I have earned nothing. From the standpoint of a perfect and holy God I should not have been saved. I should have been ground under His heel and exterminated. Yet He blesses me daily with love and family and calm and purpose. The fact that I know I am so unworthy and God smiles upon me anyway is proof that God really is a merciful and loving Father. He is worthy of more thanksgiving than I can ever give.
Happy now     Jesus has given me the ability to forgive men and to forgive myself. He didn't teach me a method or tell me a secret - He just gave me the ability straight out. He wanted me to be able to do this and He made it so. My stomach no longer gets queasy. Now I know people act badly because they don't know Jesus. Driving is now just a way to get from one place to another, carefully. Being my daughter's Dad is the thing I enjoy above all other earthly things and it is an honor God has bestowed upon me. Being married is my joy and my wife is the rock upon which I lean. Being polite - weeeelllllll, I'm working on it! Really.

I have discovered that the internal peace Jesus gives me is a constant background feeling in my life as long as I listen to God moving through the universe. That calm disappears when I neglect the Bible and do not pray each day. Going back to basics - the Bible and prayer - always allows Christ to bathe me again in the warm glow of His loving care.
     My life was an uphill struggle. Now it is all downhill; Not physically, although that would be the truth. Spiritually, mentally and emotionally I am going downhill - but in the sense that life is such a pleasant trek with Jesus leading me that it's a breeze. I don't know where He's leading me in this life but I know that it will be "right" and will in the end make me a very happy man. Thankful? More than I can tell you. I would if I could. I just don't have the words.

His peaceThrough God's grace many have received the gift of Jesus and God's Holy Spirit. Yet I am bewildered by the attitudes they display. They ignore the very Spirit that offers them the peace they say they want! One example :
     Usenet newsgroups are discussion forums where people exchange opinions and debate specific topics. I used to search various Christian groups and I tracked them for a couple of weeks hoping to learn from Christians more mature than me. Amazingly, many Christians have learned nothing from the most important library in the world: the New Testament. Like the Pharisees Jesus condemned, people argue over little details and pick apart minor mistakes, all the while ignoring or losing sight of the issue at hand. I did not find a single "Christian" newsgroup where the Spirit of a merciful and loving God was plainly evident.
     The prevailing winds of our society promote an attitude of "I am right and you are wrong." I fall into this trap too and that is when I feel the Spirit fading away, into the unused rooms of my soul. Only through that good old Bible and lots of prayer am I put right by the only man I trust - Jesus. He finds countless ways and times to remind me of His words on the subject:

1st Timothy 6:3-4
If any man teach otherwise and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings.
Matthew 5:13
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor; wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men.
Hebrews 12:14-15
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and therefore many be defiled.
Romans 16:17-18
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
Colossians 4:5-6
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
Romans 14:19
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
2nd Timothy 2:14
Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.
2nd Timothy 3:9
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
Galatians 5:14-15
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Luke 6:27-28
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

Dying for youYou get the idea. Look around you. Go ahead - look. Look at the person next to you, the person in front of you, the person behind you. I mean it, right now, turn around and look at them. Look them in the eye. Jesus Christ loved these people so much He gave both His life and His death for them. That's right, the people in this very room. Treat them well - all of them. They are brothers and sisters we should be grateful to have around us.
     I am a man and therefore weak. That means I ask God for a lot of help. Yet that is not when things go best for me. I am most tuned to His Spirit when I catch myself asking nothing for myself and just praising God for His faithfulness and mercy, for His wisdom and power. At these times my eyes are on the Father and all is fine with my world.

If your life seems hard, blow the dust off that Bible and get busy. If you're already doing that, quit "seeking" and just praise God! That's why we are here - to reflect the glory of the perfect Being. Trust and praise Him and peace will be yours. He desperately wants to give it all to you- joy, patience, love and peace. Give Him the chance. Sing His praises and sing them loud. When you are with others of the body of Christ, remember that Jesus lived and died for them too - we are all made in His image.
     I may not be long for this world and my life may seem rough but I can't think of a single thing for which I can blame God; not one. Every bad thing in my life I have brought on myself. Every single good thing in my life has come as a free gift from the Father of lights. Look at my wife and daughter, and Jesus loves me too. No man ever had it better. Thankful? You'd better believe it!

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