Tag Archives: faith expressing itself through love

A Time to Rest – Bryan’s medical update

The doctor appointment on Tuesday went quite sideways to expectation. It’s a bit like a “perfect storm” where we came to the top of the wave thinking we might just make it over the crest, only to have our hopes dashed by yet another crushing wave. Such has been this long journey through cancer.

The bottom line is, because fusarium never actually goes away completely, it rules out the possibility of a second transplant, my only small medical hope for a potential cure. In light of my recent test results the prospects of using hypomethylating agents (“soft chemo”) to hold the leukemia at bay makes the doctor “terrified” for the potential “disastrous” effects it could have on my health. In my complex situation, with two terminal illnesses, there is only a slim chance the treatment would give us a little more time and a very large probability that they could actually shorten life because it would present an environment that is more susceptible to infections, including the existing fusarium which continues to persist after nearly 7 months. Each treatment yields ever diminishing prospects and ever-increasing risks. In light of this, the doctor suggests that we might consider enjoying the time that remains, without treatment. Having discussed this and prayed overnight and into today, we are at peace with this.

imageWe’re not giving up. We’re leaving it up to God.

We have persistently and repeatedly pushed against doors that would not budge. We’ve both endured the devastating effects that 3 1/2 years of “treatment” have wreaked on my body. Together we both have fought the good fight and run the hard race. Now, it seems to us, a time to rest and let God do what is best in the grand scheme of things. It’s been in his hands from the beginning and we’ve endeavored to honor him each step of the way, asking only for his perfect will to be done.

We have no real definitive timeline. It could be “weeks or months”. Or, God could still work a miracle. Thanks to those of you who have been praying and fasting to this effect.

Our intent is, as it has been all along, to celebrate the life God has given us, thankful for so very many blessings, and to live with the great purpose to which he has called us. Death is not defeat. For us, death is a graduation from this phase of life to the one in heaven that lasts forever in peace.

We intend to continue to live life fully with purpose and passion. We encourage you to do the same. Trust God. Ask for his very Spirit to teach, guide, comfort, and strengthen you, to follow Jesus daily. After all is accomplished and all is experienced, all that remains and all that counts, is faith, expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

Know how very much we appreciate your ongoing prayers and support. They are a treasure to us.
Bryan and Marcia


Is faith enough?


I was visiting with one of my nurses who (in her words) serves Jesus “in the Catholic tradition.” We discussed the amazing truth of Ephesians 2:8-10:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.We are saved by grace.”


We’re saved by grace, through faith – not works. Yet, our faith leads us to good works. It is why we were created.


Life is tough. Sometimes we feel so beat up by the messiness of ministry and the tediousness of the daily grind, we might want to escape to a secluded place and just focus on growing our faith and prayer life – or just get away from it all! But that’s not why we were created. We were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works” that come though faith. We’re not exempted because of pain or sorrow, regret or self pity. Jesus says “I am the way.” So following him by bonding with others in his name is the way out of our own despair.  It is the healing balm for our wounds.


Faith is the most important thing, if it expresses itself through love. (Galatians 5:6) But faith does not stand alone. Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:5-9 –

“… make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”


When our faith is alive and active, it adds goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love. And our lives change from being “ineffective and unproductive” to being fruitful. You might say, “Well, this is how God made me so get over it!” God loves us too much to leave us where we are. We should expect God to change us to reflect more of these godly qualities in our daily life. These disciplines of living don’t come naturally, rather through faith that his is the better way.


Is faith enough? Yes, because if it is real it will mark your life with all kinds of goodness, self-control, perseverance, and selfless love. Isn’t this the legacy you want to leave? Your new legacy of faith, expressing itself through love, starts today.


The battle for authority


Who has authority in your life? Are you in charge? Or does God have real authority over your problems and struggles? Or maybe someone else pulls the strings that make you feel like a marionette puppet.


Maybe you’ve asked for the Holy Spirit to fill your life. You’ve asked him to give you the eyes of Jesus so you can really notice the people around you and around the world. That sensitivity both empowers us through the Holy Spirit and sometimes can overwhelm us if we step away from the Spirit and try to do things on our own.  I think it is a daily battle for the best and strongest of us. Maybe it’s harder for the strongest of faith, because we start to believe that if we have strong faith it should be strong enough for every trial. But it occurs to me that while faith expressing itself through love IS the only thing that counts (Galatians 5:6) it is not just the faith, but the source and OBJECT of our faith that wins the battle. Scripture reminds us that God himself fights at our side. He has our back and he fights within us too if we let the Spirit do his part.


As for me, it’s often a daily battle because I so easily slip into the mode that says, “I’ve got this; I can do this on my own.” Or I see all the needs around me and begin thinking it’s my job to fix them all. Not so. Ask the Spirit, “what, if anything do you want me to do? The Spirit doesn’t call us to fix every need. Not every conversation is meant to be a gospel presentation. The Spirit also shows us how to be happy in the Lord, how to relax, how to “Let go and let God.” CS Lewis explains: “We must give our lives for others, but even while we’re doing it, I think we’re meant to enjoy our Lord and, in him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, the birds’ song and the frosty sunrise.” (CS Lewise, The Collected Letters)


I ask that Jesus remind you to let the joy of the Spirit wash over your mind (and mine) with the truth of how very much he loves you, how perfectly worthy and pleasing you are in his sight, because he sees the glory of God in your redeemed spirit. Jesus said, “ALL authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” And BECAUSE that same authority lives in your heart through the person of the Holy Spirit, THAT is precisely the authority that reigns over fear, anxiety, despair, loneliness, guilt, and everything else the enemy throws in our face every day. It is our faith in THAT authority that makes us more than overcomers when we FEEL overwhelmed. It is THAT authority that allows us to be hard pressed but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but NOT destroyed. It’s his authority that overcomes the so called authorities of this world.
Be blessed under and in the authority of Jesus Christ in your every battle and every joy.



When there are no suitable answers


Maybe you saw the news story.


A young couple and their baby died in a bizarre road accident when concrete from an overpass fell onto their car, crushing them instantly. The couple were youth pastors in a nearby church. The couple had written a note earlier on the church website:
“We love to laugh. We are passionate about seeing young people discover the love and grace that Jesus abundantly pours out on them.”


What sense do you make of such senseless tragedy? What would you say to their families and friends, to those who had accepted Jesus into their lives because of their testimony, or those who are still searching?


Would you tell them that God must have been caught unaware, asleep at the wheel?

Would you spout theological answers that this is the result of the fall of man, the train of sin that keeps rolling down the track, taking us all farther than we want to go and costing us more than we want to pay?

Would you talk about suffering that advances the kingdom of God or explain how this is part of God’s divine design?

Would you say that God needed them in heaven or that he was protecting them from some unknown future temptation or prolonged suffering?




Would you say nothing at all, but rather sit quietly and cry with them as you hold their hand?


The truth is, there are answers to explain why bad things happen to good people. But answers aren’t always what we need. What we need is faith, hope, and love. Love is the one supreme command Jesus gave us: Love God and love others. We need love more than answers. There are things we won’t know for sure until we get to heaven. And even if we could speak such divine revelation, would it really calm the grieving soul? Would answers bind up broken hearts? The language grief understands best is faith expressing itself through love.


Faith isn’t fed by answers. Oh, for sure, we want to know! But the essence of our faith is that it believes even when it can’t perceive or understand answers. Faith survives our broken hearts. It supersedes our wounded spirits. Even when we are shocked beyond words, faith believes. No one and no thing can take away our faith, hope, and love, without our consent. When there are no suitable answers to satisfy our minds, these bring us to the heart of God who alone can calm our soul with peace that surpasses understanding.


“Faith is simply breathing the breath that God’s grace supplies.” (John MacArthur)


Breathe the breath of God and let your faith express itself through love, especially when there are no suitable answers.



The only thing that matters


We have really been enjoying reading through the New Testament in our daily devotion reading plan. I’m doing an inductive study, journaling my responses to three questions of each passage:

What does it say?
What does it mean?
How do I apply it to my life?


I am always pleased to rediscover those verses that highlight basic truths for living. We read one of those in Galatians 5. Paul was warning the church (and us!) about being enslaved by the law and the sinful nature (actually our own desires). Pursuing his ‘run the race’ theme he encourages us to stand firm and seek the freedom Christ offers. The part that spoke to me was this summary of the gospel of Jesus in V 6:


“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”


This echoes the consistent message I’ve received through this entire cancer journey. I keep yearning for less of this or more of that. I want to fight but sometimes all I can do and stand firm and let God do the fighting:


“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)


But in my quiet times with God (and some not so quiet ones) I keep hearing this same message, that through it all, the thing that matters most is staying faithful.


I shared this with one of my former students, who has been suffering from a different form of Leukemia for several years. I’ve lost count of the number of chemo cycles she has endured. She writes:

“Four treatments down and ten to go this cycle. Question of the day…..when do you say enough is enough? When do you say I am too tired to keep up this fight, especially when it feels like it really doesn’t matter whether you do or you don’t?”


Looking at her posted photo, I could see the frustration and hopelessness in her eyes. I’ve been there, though I suspect her battle is much more extensive than mine. You’ve been there too. Maybe you are there today. The phrase that catches my attention is “IT FEELS LIKE”. We can’t seem to escape our feelings. After all, the body and soul are constantly interpreting the world to us and clamoring for our attention. Our spirit, united with The Spirit interprets GOD’s reality to us, but so often is out shouted by the cries of our body and soul. The body and soul say, “It feels like it doesn’t matter.” The Spirit says, “The ONLY thing that matters is faith – expressing itself in love.”


Have you ever kept a journal of your daily walk with God? Part of that story is the accounting of your daily experiences as told in a dialog between your body, soul, spirit – and the Spirit of God who reveals guiding truth and sustaining grace and power for living a life defined by love. It is this ongoing dialog that grows and nourishes the only thing that counts:


Faith expressing itself in love.