godslove

Proof of His Love

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

Life is troublesome, which is to say that much of life is incredibly painful and can cause us to question our most rock-solid convictions.  Christians are not immune to troubles.  Jesus told us plainly that we would have them.

“In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33)

I have had my own troubles over the last year, some of which I have written about, but many others that I haven’t.  These often keep me up at night. They distract me at work. They cause me to stare blankly into space at the dinner table with my family until a child asks, “Daddy, are you okay?” They bring out emotions in me that I’d rather not feel and thoughts that I’d rather not think.

I would like to face all of my problems directly, to confront them and reconcile them.  I would like to deal with them and put them to bed.  I would like to be rid of them quickly and cleanly as soon as they come.

But not all troubles can be fixed and not all wounds heal the way that we’d like them to.  It’s these things, these lingering pains and blights, that bring out the worst in me.

And the worst is not anger.  God has spared me from that disease.  It’s not retaliation. I don’t attack others or lash out at innocent people.  It’s not fear.  I’m not afraid of life’s darkness, to which we’ve all grown accustomed.

No, all of those responses would be bad, but the one that most often threatens me is the one that is worse than all of the others.  It is, I will confess, “doubt”.  In times of trouble, I am often tempted to doubt God’s present love for me.

 

This happens when I begin to wonder whether or not my suffering will do permanent damage to my life – an unbiblical idea, I know, since I will receive a new, incorruptible body and life one day – but a discouraging idea, nonetheless.

Enduring temporary suffering is easy, if we can be confident that no lasting damage will be done.  But when it seems as if the damage will follow us all the way to the grave, we are particularly vulnerable to doubting God’s love.

How could God love me and take me from my small children?  How could God love me and let someone destroy my reputation for offenses I did not commit?  How could God love me and take away all that I’ve worked for in His name?

And though there are perfectly sound doctrinal reasons for trusting God’s love, and though there are many biblical examples of godly men and women who have experienced things far worse than these, this is the wound in my heart that Satan threatens to rip open during troubling times.

And so it is helpful to remember this fact, that God does not set out, each day, to prove His love for me anew. He is not like the man who feels, each day, as if he must convince his wandering wife of his affection.

True, everyday brings infinitely new displays of God’s grace and goodness.  Each breath is a demonstration of God’s longsuffering with sinners who deserve to die.  Every molecule of oxygen that we breathe, every boundary of gravity that orders this universe, every force of friction that keeps tectonic plates from shifting into global apocalypse…these are all displays of God’s grace and kindness toward us.

But when we speak of God’s love, we speak of something that He set out to prove, once and for all, long before I was ever born.  When we speak of God’s love, we need not look to the skies for rainbows or stare into the healthy faces of our children.  When we speak of God’s love, we need only close our eyes and imagine a Righteous Man, sinless, guilty of nothing whatsoever, tortured and crucified in our place.

This act, barbaric and gruesome, is not merely a display of divine grace or kindness or patience (though it is all of those things and more).  This act, as exposed as the naked body of our Lord, is God’s proof to all – ONCE & FOR ALL – that He loves sinners.

And on my darkest day, after sleepless nights, when all my noble goals and desires appear to be crumbling apart through no apparent fault of my own…in my darkest hour, when I am tempted to surrender to doubt and ask, with Job, “Why has the Lord taken away my righteousness?”…

In those times of pain, I must take my eyes, for a moment, OFF of my suffering and tell myself, “This cancer, this trial, this attack, this depravity…this is not the test of God’s love for me.  His love does not hang in the balance of today’s uncertainty.”  He proved His love for me, once and for all, at the cross of Jesus the Christ.

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son… (John 3:16)

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. (1 John 4:9)

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

It’s amazing to me that God’s justice, kindness, goodness, graciousness, and mercy are shown in many different ways throughout the Bible, and these qualities are also plainly evident in the world around me.  But when God set out to prove His love for me, He did it once and for all in the death of Jesus on my behalf.  And over and over again in His Word, He means to tell me plainly, “I love you, Reggie, and I proved it there.”

So I cling to this, and I fight doubt with this.  I bolster my faith and stand firm in my life.  Why did I have cancer?  I don’t know.  Why do I suffer?  I don’t know.  Why is this so painful? I don’t know.

But I know this:  God is not my enemy.  He is my Father who loves me.  And He need not prove His love to me through healing, alleviation of pain, financial prosperity, or towering achievements.  Though I may ask for all of these, His proof of love does not depend upon any of them.

His love was proven in Christ.  It is confirmed by Christ in my heart.  It will be affirmed by Christ when I stand before Him and am welcomed into His kingdom.

That is all we need, Christians.  No other demonstration of love is necessary for us. The cross of Christ is proof enough.

godslove

Sadness, Loss, and Hope at Clyde’s Passing

Our brother, Clyde Hampton, has died.  Our brother, Clyde Hampton, lives.

Today, Friday, October 29th, Clyde won his battle with cancer.  He won his battle with failing kidneys and fatigue, with pain and heart-trouble.  Clyde defeated every enemy with his final breath.

He had been at war for so long.  Like you and I, he fought this enemy called Death from the day he was born.  But unlike most of us, Clyde was constantly harassed by Death.

We, in all of our healthy bodies and day-to-day activities, try to ignore Death.  We act like it’s not there, like it will never come.  We put it out of our minds.  But Clyde fought Death for decades.  It stared him in the face with all of its horrifying and morbid intentions, demanding his attention in the most painful ways.

Death attacked his body.  It struck at his possessions and dreams.  It often stole jobs and joys.  And whenever, by the grace of God, the storm cleared long enough for Clyde to feel normal again, Death reappeared on the horizon with new threats and curses.

And Clyde, with Linda beside him, fought Death for all its worth.  He fought with transplants and medicines, with prayer and faith.  He fought with laughter and game and simple pleasure.  He fought with the Word of God, and he fought with determination – God was in control and had forgiven him and loved him, and nothing could take that away.

Surgeries and medicines and organs failed, but faith was a shield that never did.

Now Death has done its worst.  It has robbed Clyde of his body, stolen away the created flesh that gave him a place on this earth.  The body has died…given out…succumbed.  It can carry Clyde no further.

But as Clyde breathed his last breath and the heart stopped beating and the nerves stopped firing and his body went silent, Jesus was there.  And as the body failed, Jesus did not.  Flesh and blood could carry him no further, but Jesus could.

He is not dead.  He rests with Jesus.  He is absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).

But he will not be absent from the body forever.  There is a new body, a redeemed body, coming to Clyde.  He will have a body untouched by cancer; a body with no chance of failure; a perfect body; an eternal body.

And we will see our brother again.  At the return of the Lord, the dead in Christ will rise and meet Him (1 Thess. 4:16).  We will be with Jesus, and we will be with Clyde. And we will always be with Clyde, from that point on, forever and ever.  That is the promise of the Lord Jesus, Himself.  It can be trusted more than any promise from any other person in the world.  A reunion, joyful and never-ending, is coming.

The Bible says that Death has been swallowed up by life through the victory of Jesus, and that we, Christians, are more than conquerors.  Jesus has stood over Death, crushing it and Satan under his foot, taunting them with the words, “Death, where is your sting?  Where is your victory?  I have won!”

And so has Clyde.  Clyde has won.  And we will win, too, if we persevere in the faith to the end.  This is the love of God toward us, through Jesus, His Son.

Clyde has died, but Clyde lives.  And we will be with him again soon.

Please pray for all the families Clyde called his own.  Pray for Linda and Clayton and Tiffany, for the Byrds and Rutans and Belchers and Hamptons.  Ask the Lord to lead you in loving gestures of kindness and compassion.  Hold onto Jesus and trust in God’s goodness to us, His people.

Fan Chat with Sports Illustrated

This won’t be for everyone, but I had the honor of being invited to a fan discussion for Sports Illustrated’s MMQB website.  The discussion was on the Cincinnati Bengals, of which, I am a fan.  If you’d like to read my comments – which are totally about the Bengals – here’s the link:  http://mmqb.si.com/mmqb/2015/10/14/voice-fan-cincinnati-bengals-undefeated-andy-dalton

My Brush With Cancer

As I write this, I’m very sensitive to the fact that a very good friend and brother in Christ is dying from cancer.  He is suffering in a way that I hope I will never suffer, a way that I had hoped he would never suffer.  So I do not want to be melodramatic about my own brush with cancer.  I am not suffering, and I am not (as best we can tell) dying.

But I did have cancer.  That’s what I learned yesterday morning.  This was an unparalleled shock to me and to Allison.  I have never been anything but healthy, and even though I know that previous good health is not an assurance of continuing good health, I think it’s human nature to just assume that if you have always been healthy, you will continue to be healthy.

Unfortunately, that’s not how cancer works.  This post is to update you on what has taken place in my life so far as it concerns this cancer.

As I wrote before, on Labor Day weekend I went to the emergency room with bad stomach pain.  It was determined that I had appendicitis – not the worse case appendicitis, but it needed to be removed.  So, that night they did an emergency appendectomy.

I spent a few days in the hospital.  I recovered quickly.  I went back to work that Friday, and as of today, I feel pretty good.

Yesterday was my scheduled post-op visit with the surgeon who removed my appendix.  He came into the room with another person, which I thought at the time was odd. He checked my incisions, which were fine.  Then he sat me down in a chair, and told me that they had found cancer in my appendix.

Without going into several paragraphs of text here, this had an immediate and unexpected impact on me.  I write this just to help others who may hear the words, “You have cancer.”  I was not at all prepared for feeling the things that I felt and continued to feel over the next 24 hours.  Be very gracious to someone who has recently heard these words.  They are not themselves.

The cancer that I had was extremely rare, called “carcinoid”.  Appendix cancer in general is very rare.  It is normally not discovered unless someone has an appendectomy.  Otherwise, it grows unnoticed, with no symptoms, until it is too late.

Today I learned from my doctor that my carcinoid tumor did not cause my appendicitis.  That developed due to some other infection.  So, both of the surgeons I spoke to, as well as my own local doctor, agree that my appendectomy probably saved my life.  Without the appendicitis and the appendectomy, the cancer would have continued to grow, unnoticed, in my appendix, eventually spreading to my colon and/or my liver.  At which point, the symptoms would have become apparent, but far too late for any reasonable treatment.

“For most cancers,” the doctor told me, “by the time you have symptoms, it is already too late.”

I have learned a lot about myself over the last 24 hours, and I have grown in my faith and understanding of my God, but I will save all of those observations for another day.

What’s important for all of you, my friends and family, to know is that I had cancer, but it was removed with my appendix.  As far as the doctors can tell, I do not have cancer anymore, and there is not a logical reason to anticipate having cancer in the future.  There will be no required testing or scanning moving forward, other than whatever my family doctor decides to pursue.

I am always very hesitant to explain why God does the things that He does.  The truth is, we do not know all the reasons why God does what He does, and the Bible does not encourage us to guess.  It encourages us to trust in His goodness and His promises.

But I will say, that it might be true that God, in kindness to me and my family, allowed me to have appendicitis so that a cancer tumor we knew nothing about would be removed from my body.  If that is true, praise the Lord who is good beyond all measure to His people.

Alternatively, it might be true that this is the beginning of some great trial in my life…that cancer, or something worse, resurfaces in my body in the years ahead.  If that is true, then praise the Lord who is good beyond all measure to His people.

What else am I to say?

God has always been good to His people, and He will always be good to His people.  There is suffering, and then there is death, but both are swallowed up by life, eternal and incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:54).  We are all dying, but those who have trusted Jesus for forgiveness and life, will live.

So please pray for me, and I will pray for you as the Lord brings you to mind.  And thank God for His goodness to us in both life, and then death, and then life again.

emergency

Emergency Surgery: My Story and Observations from Labor Day Weekend

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

I had a big weekend, and I know a lot of people have been praying for me, so I wanted to write something up to explain what happened, but also so that I can have some record of my thoughts and feelings from this point in my life.  This is important to me, because as I get further and further way from Labor Day 2015, my memory is going to slip a little.  I want to have something written down…something out there.  I want write a blog post about it while it’s fresh in my mind.

So this might be a little long and a little boring.  You don’t have to stick with it to the end.  It’s as much for me and my children as it is for anyone else.  I’m not going to go back and do a lot of editing to clean it up and make sure it flows well.  I’m just going to write it and see what comes out at the end.

Saturday, 9/5/15

I woke up Saturday around 7:00 AM and went to work.  I’d had dinner Thursday night Eric Derr.  I had premarital counseling with Tim and Lydia on Friday.  This hadn’t left much time for sermon preparation, and Sunday morning often feels like a ticking time bomb when you know there’s work left to do.

I already had a pretty bad draft written for the sermon, so that was good and bad – good that I had 11 pages of something to work with, bad that it was in such a rough state.  I went to work for about 2 hours on Saturday, hammering things into place and cutting out the junk.

At 9:00 AM I started to get ready for the cross country meet.  Halle was running in Greenville, and I was really looking forward to it.  On a whim, I decided to go out and do a little running of my own.  I’d been running 1-mile intervals since Monday morning, and I knew it was only going to get hotter as the day went on.  So I threw on some clothes, went outside, and ran a 7:37-mile.

So awesome!  I can’t tell you how long it’d been since I’d run a sub 8-minute mile.  I’ve been secretly hoping to get back to the 5:25 mile I ran in middle school, and this was real progress.  I showered, threw on some new clothes, bragged to my wife (who seemed to care less) and we went to the meet.

Cross-country was great.  Halle was great.  The team was great.  Mickey, Jalynn, Evan, Hannah, Lauren…everybody did well.  We came home, I went back to work on the sermon.  And I started eating.

Now, I’ve been eating healthy…really healthy…for months now.  I’ve lost 30 pounds this year.  But I didn’t eat healthy Saturday.  I had a double cheeseburger from Wendy’s with way too many fries.  I drank a ton of diet pop.  I ate fried foods that evening.  I had nachos with beans and cheese.  I had lots of chips.  I ate bad.

I do this a lot when I’m getting ready for Sunday because unhealthy food is a nice pick-me-up.  It gives you a quick calorie surge of energy, and it breaks the monotony of writing and editing and preparing.  But this was overboard into gluttony.

I went to sleep Saturday night already feeling bad.

Sunday, 9/6/2015

I wasn’t surprised when I woke up at 3:15 AM on Sunday morning.  My stomach didn’t feel good, and with all the calories I’d eaten, my mind was running immediately.  I tried to go back to sleep, but gave up after about 20 minutes and went out to the living room with the laptop.  I worked on the sermon for another 3 hours…overhauled everything.  I felt good about it at the end, and thanked God for getting me up to do the work.

The family started coming awake around 7:00 AM, so I showered, got ready, and went to church.

There were a lot of people at church for a holiday weekend.  Normally, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day spell low-attendance…but not the case that Sunday.  We weren’t packed, but there was a good crowd.

I preached hard on Sunday morning, and didn’t feel bad.  I was sweating a little, but I wasn’t too uncomfortable.  However, when I sat down from the pulpit, I felt sick right away.  Nathan asked us to stand and sing a song from the hymnal in closing.  I sat and sang.  When the service ended, I wanted to stay in the pew, but I made myself stand up front in case anyone was ready to make a decision for the Lord.

After about 10 minutes of standing and talking, I found Allison and asked her to take me home.  My stomach was cramping badly.  I was kicking myself for eating so poorly the day before.  She took me home.  I laid down in bed with some audio commentaries and began to prepare for Sunday evening service.

The pain got worse.  At about 1:30 PM, I decided to close my eyes and try to sleep this off.  Sometimes, if I can sleep on a Sunday afternoon, my body will do a sort of “reset”, and I’ll wake up feeling strong, because I’m usually pretty wasted after preaching the morning service.  However, when I woke up around 2:00, things weren’t getting better.  They were getting worse.

I texted Rodney to see if he’d cover the evening service.  Of course he would, he said.  I should rest.  I thanked him and told him I’d still try to be there.  I felt like a sissy.  This would be the second Sunday evening I’d miss in a few weeks span, and this time I had no one to blame but myself (I thought).  If I hadn’t eaten so poorly the day before, I’d be able to do my job better.

That afternoon the pain in my stomach began to intensify.  I tried to go to the bathroom, but couldn’t.  I tried to throw up.  Couldn’t do that either.

Now, to be honest with you, my stomach has been a real burden for me over the last several years.  And so the pain I was feeling was not unusual.  In fact, the pain on Sunday was not even close to the worst pain I’d had in my stomach – but it was strange that nothing was happening.

Allison went to church with the kids that night at 6:00, while I rolled around in bed.  I kept getting up to throw up, but it was just more heaving with nothing coming out.  The pain was slowly increasing.  At 6:15, I called her home.  I was starting to lose it emotionally.

When Allison got home around 6:30 I was in bad shape.  I was praying for God to take away the pain, and yet, the pain was causing me a sort of panicked hysteria at times.  I had not been able to eat anything since 2:00pm.  I couldn’t go to the bathroom.  I couldn’t throw up.  I didn’t want to be sick, which added to the frustration.  It was Labor Day weekend!  We had a picnic, basketball, games, a nice day with my kids…but this wasn’t going away.

She sat in bed with me in the dark and gently comforted me.  When I am very sick, she does this for me.  She will sit beside me and run her fingers up and down my back, or across my forehead, relaxing me and helping me go to sleep.  That’s my approach to sickness.  If I can just go to sleep, I’ll wake up and things will be okay.

By 8:15, it was clear that the pain was not going to let me go to sleep.  It had now been about 6 hours of intense suffering, and still no change.  At this point, I was beginning to think of the hospital.

I hate hospitals.  I spent months in a hospital as a little boy.  It was traumatic in more ways than one.  I hate paying hospital bills.  But I was getting desperate.

My hope was, if I went to the hospital, they could give me something to help me sleep, and I’d be better the next morning.  I wasn’t running a fever, and I didn’t have any of the pain normally associated with an organ issue, so I wasn’t concerned about it being something more serious.  I just had to be able to go to sleep, or else Labor Day would be ruined.

At 9:00 PM, I crawled out to the van and Allison drove me to Reid.

The staff at Reid took my illness quite seriously, which surprised me.  I’m used to long waits in the waiting room when I go with other people…and honestly, I can’t remember ever going for myself, so I just anticipated it would be a long wait.  It wasn’t.

They immediately put me in a wheelchair.  While we waited a few minutes, a little boy beside me named Angel cried.  I asked his mother what he was there for.  She said it was an ear-ache.  I prayed for him.  I told him, “I’ve prayed for you, little buddy.  The Lord will take care of you.”  He kept crying, uncomforted by my words.  Hopefully he will remember God’s goodness to him at some later point.

In five minutes I was in an emergency room.

By this point, the pain was so bad that I could only sit in one position, keep my eyes closed, and wait.  I was waiting to throw up, or have some bowel-movement, or SOMETHING to alleviate the pain.  The nurse who came in was wonderfully kind.  I was able to tell her about my faith and my pastoring.  She ran through tests, and then she brought back drugs.

I’ve never take drugs before.  I’ve never smoked, drank, or been on a narcotic.  I did not understand the appeal.  However, when she injected this drug into my IV, the pain from my stomach was gone in seconds.  My legs, which had been tensed and shaking, relaxed.  My neck and back relaxed.  I reclined the hospital bed and was able to lay down.  The discomfort in my stomach was still there, but the pain was gone.  It was the most amazing physical thing I’ve ever experienced.

At this point, I believed that I would be able to endure the night…finally go to the bathroom or throw up…my stomach would settle-down, and I would go home.  This was naive, of course, but I still wasn’t running a fever or anything.  I believed my problem to be the over-eating on Saturday.

The doctor came in fairly promptly.  I shared my faith in God with him, invited him to church in New Paris.  He asked me about my sermon that morning.  I told him about forgiveness in Jesus.  He was very kind, and ordered a CT scan.

Before I left for the scan, he placed his hand below my right hip bone and pressed down.  Immediately I felt enormous pain.  That was the first time I began to think, “This might be more serious than stomach sickness.”

The scan went well.  I told both technicians about being a pastor and invited them to church.  I had never been scanned before, but under the relief of the narcotics, it was perfectly fine.  I returned back to the room, and a little while later the doctor returned as well.

My appendix being pulled up through my belly button.

My appendix being pulled up through my belly button.

A bad appendix is 6-mil in size.  My appendix was now 12-mil in size.  I would be having surgery as soon as possible.  Everyone had already been called in.  There was no choice in it.  The doctor left.

Monday, Labor Day, 9/7/2015

There is something strange about having no choices left to make in your life.  I had never been at this point before.  I was in the hospital, and surgery was an hour away.

There was no time left to call anyone, or do anything else with my life.  If surgery went bad, I had seen my children for the last time, my parents for the last time.  And it’s not as if surgery could be delayed.  If I did not have surgery, my appendix would rupture, infection would spread throughout my abdomen, and I would most likely die.

My life had reached a break-point…a stop sign.  That stop sign was surgery.  It was immediately upon me.  I would either continue beyond this stop-sign, or the earthly part of my journey would end here.

I asked Allison for her phone.  I asked her to look away, and then I wrote this email to my own address:

Subject:  In Heaven

As morbid as this may seem, I’m getting ready to go into surgery, and wanted to write something to be read should something go wrong.

Which is silly to say because nothing can truly go “wrong” for me.  My life is hid in the promises of God, who has determined to work all things for my good – even my death, which I hope is still some way off.
And yet, in the event that I’m wrong, let it be known to all that my faith was never in surgeons or hospitals.  I’m grateful for both, but these are just gifts of grace from the Giver of all good things.  My faith is in the hands of my God, and should I see His face for the first time later tonight, it is my enduring wish that all who read this will serve Him with all their hearts.  Let’s look forward, together, to that eternal reunion which we await in hope.
Love and be gracious to my wife and children.
In heaven,
Reggie

I sent the email to my own address and told Allison not to read it, confident she would find it eventually if something awful happened.

As I we waited for surgery, we prayed together in that little room and thanked God for the 14 years of marriage He’s given us, the five children, and the kindness of financial blessing and healthy provisions.  I then thanked Allison for urging me to go to the hospital.

Normally, when I am sick, I go off by myself so that Allison and the children won’t be disturbed.  I then suffer through the night, and recover the next day.  If not for the Labor Day picnic, this is what I would have done on Sunday night.  I only went to the hospital because I wanted to get better in time for the picnic.  I wanted to at least sit in a lawn chair and enjoy the day with God’s people, even if I would be too weak to actually play.

If I had not gone to the hospital, I might have died.  At the very least, my suffering would have been tremendously worse, with much longer consequences.  I was now very grateful for God’s kindness in compelling me to go.

Then I had a visitor.  Jack, friend for decades, was working at the hospital and had seen my name on a chart.  He had seen that my condition was serious, and so he had come to my room.

I mentioned earlier in this writing that I had eaten dinner with Eric Derr on Thursday.  During that dinner, we had talked about Jack once again.  Eric and I usually talk about Jack when we meet, as we both have prayed for him and longed for him to return to serving the Lord.

On Thursday, Eric had told me that Jack had repented of sin, and was returning to the Lord.  Eric said that he was supposed to be at church on Sunday, and so, Sunday morning I had looked for him eagerly, but he had not come.  Now, during the early morning hours of Monday, the Lord had brought Jack to me through the most phenomenal circumstances.

So Jack and I and Allison sat and talked about him and his life and us and our lives.  We talked about sin and suffering and how much I missed him.  I asked him about what Eric had told me and he said it was true.  I prayed with him.  We fellowshipped together for the first time in years.

Then he was gone.  The nurse returned.  I received more narcotics, mercifully, and soon I was off to surgery.

As I went to surgery, I was in very good spirits, not because I was in an altered state of mind, but because the pain was totally gone.  I talked with the nurses who wheeled me around about church and invited them to come.  I made a point of thanking everyone involved.  I held Allison’s hand.  I even joked occasionally.

reggie-hospital

Allison took this picture minutes before being taken back for surgery. I wanted the kids to know I was not afraid, but was trusting the Lord.

We stopped in a dark room in the heart of the hospital where I was left alone with Allison while final preparations were made.  I held her hand.  We prayed again.  She kissed me…really kissed me.  She has not kissed me like that in a public place since the day we were married.  It is good to be loved like I am loved.  I told her to trust the Lord, to be happy in hope, and to always do what was right.

We did not say “goodbyes”.  We are Christians, and so there are no “goodbyes” for us.

They took me back to the operating room.  Once again I told the staff I was a pastor and invited them to church…”the big church as you come into New Paris down the hill”.  The lady asked me if I had hair on my belly – which seemed strange, but then made sense.  She said they’d shave it off.

She brought out a board and put it on the right side of my bed.  “Put your right arm out here.”  I laid my right arm on the board.  She strapped and tied it down.  “This is so you don’t move it during surgery,” she said.

“I saw this same thing in Braveheart,” I said.  They all laughed.  Those could have been my last words, looking back on it.  I probably should have chosen them more carefully.

They put the oxygen mask on – an uncomfortable thing to be sure.  And I was asleep.

Then I was awake.  Was that it?  Was the surgery over?  It was, they told me.  Okay, then…not dead yet, I guess.

I was not fully conscious for the next several hours, but I remember them taking me to a room.  Nathan, my brother, was there, waiting with Allison for me.  Allison pointed him out to me by saying, “Nathan is here.”

“Sorry to hear that,” I said, jokingly, and I trust it was received the same way.

A fine friend to have, who will come sit with your wife in the middle of the night.  The secondary blessings of being raised in a Christian home continue to pay dividends in my life.  My parents never had money, but their investments in the Word of God have been worth more than gold.

Allison has said that I continued inviting nurses to church after my surgery.  Nathan told me that he expects half the hospital to be there on Sunday.  I don’t remember this after my surgery, but I’m grateful that in my groggy state of mind I spoke God-glorifying invitations to others instead of angry words of frustration and anger.

My dad came to replace Nathan and sat in the room with Allison and I until well into the day.  My mother had watched the children all through the night, undoubtedly praying for me without sleeping or stopping.  On that I would bet my life’s savings.

I slept mostly until the afternoon.

At one point on Monday afternoon I experienced the most pain I have ever had in my life.  When they do a surgery like this one, they blow air into the body so that they have room to operate.  Of course, this air has nowhere to escape after surgery, and has to gradually be absorbed into the body before it can pass out of the system.

A significant amount of air was in my body, or at least, it felt significant.  The pain was unbearable.  I was convulsing, shaking all over, biting down on my lips, begging for help from the nurses who did not have permission to give me any other drugs.

“Please,” I said.  “You have to do something,” I begged through chattering teeth.

They left the room to call the doctor.  Allison held my legs down to the bed so I would not hurt myself.  I closed my eyes and prayed for help.

A few minutes later they returned and gave me two shots of a different drug – a narcotic.  Within seconds the pain was gone, just like it had been the night before.

I have to be honest with you.  I have never understood drug addictions in the past, but I believe I get it now – or at least, I get part of it.  To be given immediate peace and rest, within seconds, is fairly incomparable to anything else I’ve ever experienced in my life.  I even said to Allison, “I wish I had some of those shots on hand for when i get a migraine.”

I will never look at drug addicts the same way again.  It is baffling to me that we have medications that can relieve pain so instantly and thoroughly.  I remained on that narcotic for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, 9/8/2015

There is not much to tell beyond this point.  I began to feel much better the next day. I am generally strong and healthy, and I was not surprised to recover quickly.  The nurses seemed to like having me as a patient.  I was kind, patient, complimentary, and well-mannered.

All day I got up to walk the halls of that hospital floor, and many times I heard the nurses being treated badly, or being asked to do things that would have made me gag.  I felt a lot of sympathy for them.  It struck me that I was probably the rarity, not the norm – that most of their patients were probably not kind, gentle, well-mannered people who are trying to live godly lives to honor Jesus.

Suffering sinners can be brutal people.

Late Tuesday night I was sent home.  No lifting objects of any kind for 6-weeks.  No exercise, except light walking.  It’s going to be a while before I run again, but all in all, not too shabby.

Final Thoughts

My plan is to take this Sunday off, and possibly next Sunday as well.  After that, Lord willing, I will resume preaching God’s Word.  Allison and I are very blessed to have Christians praying for us and supporting us in times of need.  Our hope in the Lord Jesus has always prevailed, and it always will.

It struck me that if I had been born during Jesus’ day, I would have died at 32 years old.  My appendix would have ruptured, and I’d have died of a fever like so many others did in ancient times.  Inside my body was a ticking time bomb.  Though everything else was healthy, my appendix had a lifetime of 32-years.  I’ve never smoked, drank, or abused my body at all…but that little organ would have been the end of of me.

Thank God, I’ve been granted more time than that to make a difference for His kingdom.

Don’t waste your life.  You never know when it will be over.  You never know when it will hit a stop sign.  Live every day as unto the Lord of Glory, and die at the appointed time, tired and spent, with no regrets.

-Reggie

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The Life of John G. Paton

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

I have been remarkably blessed by the story of John G. Paton.  The lessons about parenting and prayer alone have been worth the investment of my time.

I first heard about Mr. Paton from Desiring God.  John Piper delivered a powerful biographical message on his life and spurred my search for the autobiography of the man.

I found a free digital version of the book at Amazon.com which you can access by clicking here. I enjoyed it and think it’s well worth your time as well.

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Bee-lieve it. We’re in Trouble.

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

Last night the Associated Press published an article by Seth Borenstein that began with this staggering line:  “More than two out of five American honeybee colonies died in the past year…”

The article reports that since April 2014 beekeepers have lost 42% of their bee colonies.  That’s 42% of all American bee colonies wiped out in 13 months.  That is absolutely staggering.

My daughters would be thrilled to know that there will be far less bees moving forward.  Bees send them running in terror, squealing and screeching their way to safety.  But my oldest has learned how important bees are.  When I asked her recently if she understand what bees did, she answered, “They help the flowers and crops to grow and stuff.”

Well said.  If you’ve forgotten what exactly the bees do, then take a few minutes out of your day and watch the video below:

Bees are essential to our food production processes; absolutely essential!  If we entered a massive drought that prevented rain for months on end, we’d be far better off than if we lost all the bees.

So where are the bees going?  Well, the most likely culprits are the makers of insecticides in the United States of America, and if you don’t know much about the way our country works, let me just say, insecticide makers are huge power-brokers in our world.  They run massive corporations like Bayer, Dupont, and Monsanto.  These are not small companies.  These are giants.

Giant companies like these have the ability to control the press and control the government with big money.  They can make campaign contributions to candidates running for election, but more importantly, they can contribute massive amounts of money to Super PACS that effectively sway public opinion on important candidates and issues.

If a candidate takes their money, he or she is expected to vote their way on all important legislation.  If a candidate doesn’t vote their way as much as they’d like, their money is going to one of their opponents in next election cycle.

Aside from the money, these companies also have massive legal teams that constantly challenge any new regulations that might threaten their bottom-lines.  They win in courtrooms because their lawyers work endlessly on whatever they see as a threat.  Legal fees are not problem for them.  That’s just the cost of doing their business.

They are huge employers of lobbyists, Washington based groups dedicated to swaying votes and legislation one way or another.  These people are not paid to work in the best interest of the country or in the best interest of the world.  They are paid to work in the best interests of Monsanto, Bayer, and Dupont.  They are like the Patriots fan who has convinced himself that Tom Brady didn’t throw deflated footballs.  They’re not paid to be unbiased.  They’re paid to promote the company line.

These companies want their own places in government.  When they support a candidate for office, they expect that candidate to reward them with important positions once they’re elected.  Both Republican and Democratic presidents continue to put employees of these companies in powerful political positions.  Michael Taylor is the most prominent example.  At various times he has been a corporate officer for Monsanto, as well as the presidential appointment to head the FDA.

If it seems odd that an officer of a drug and seed company would be put in charge of regulating all the drug and seed companies, that’s because it is odd.  It’s more than odd.  It’s inexcusably reckless. As this article and many others explain, it’s essentially letting the wolves decide the best way to protect all the chickens.

It should not surprise us that these companies don’t want to take any blame for the disappearance of the bee colonies.  In fact, in the very article that the AP released last night, it’s a Bayer executive who argues against any alarm:

Dick Rogers, chief beekeeper for pesticide-maker Bayer, said the loss figure is “not unusual at all” and said the survey shows an end result of more colonies now than before: 2.74 million hives in 2015, up from 2.64 million in 2014.

So according to a Bayer representative, there’s no reason for any of us to be alarmed!  According to Bayer, we shouldn’t even care that 42% of the bee colonies died last year.  We shouldn’t be worried about the disappearance of bees at all!

Somehow, I’m not reassured.

Is it possible that Mr. Rogers is not being honest with his neighbors?  As the article explains, whenever a bee colony dies, the beekeepers split a healthy colony and replace it.  This means that the replacing colony has fewer bees, undergoes more stress adapting to the new work, and bears less genetic distinction from the previous colony.

In other words, Dick is right when he says that there are more colonies today than in 2014.  But he fails to mention that more than 50% of those colonies are  much weaker than the ones they replaced, and more likely to die themselves.  That’s not exactly an honest representation of the truth, is it?

It’s not surprising that the heaviest bee colony losses were in agricultural hubs like Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, and Wisconsin.  Each of those states lost more than 60% of their bee hives since last April.  Can you even wrap your mind around that?  60% of the bees in those places, gone?

The head bee scientist at the USDA, Jeff Pettis, apparently claimed that “last summer’s die off included unusual queen loss and seemed worse in colonies that moved more.”  It’s logical to believe that the colonies that move the most are the colonies exposed to the most insecticides.

But the reality is that no one can definitively prove why the bees are dying.  So long as Bayer, Monsanto, and Dupont can deny any responsibility, they will.

For Christians, this is a reminder of how little we actually control our world.  God made bees to do the job that they do, and they cannot be replaced by man-made robots or lasers or radio waves.  He is the Life-Giver, and yet it’s often uncomfortable for us to be reminded of how much we depend on Him.

For the human side of it, if it turns out that these chemical companies are destroying the bee population, than what a silly lie we’ve all believed about the importance of their work.  The argument has been that without their products, we could never feed the world.  But if those same products are inadvertently killing off the very creatures we depend on to pollinate crops, then they’re marching hundreds of millions of people to hunger and starvation.

They don’t want people thinking about that possibility, but if the bees keep dying, this story will inevitably generate a tremendous amount of buzz.

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Thinking About My Death

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

Yesterday was a perfectly fine day.  It was better than fine.  I preached a sermon that I’ve been waiting some time to preach.  I played basketball in the afternoon, an event I no longer take for granted with how scarcely it happens these days.  I survived the evening service.  I came home to happy children and went to bed at a reasonable time with my wife.

Then I thought about my own death.

I don’t know why I started thinking about my death.  It just happened.  I closed my eyes to go to sleep, and the thought of it came to me:  What would I do if I found I was going to die?

Questions like this haven’t bothered me much lately.  Life is hard and often times unrewarding.  For the last six years or so, I’ve lived predominantly for heavenly reward.  I no longer hoard money or possessions as I used to.  I’m not trying to retire early.  In fact, I no longer plan on retiring at all.  I push myself to work to exhaustion on projects and meetings and jobs that could bring glory to God in His church.

I want to go to bed completely spent, for Jesus’ sake.

So for awhile now, thoughts of my own death have not bothered me much.  I will not miss my family after I die.  I will be with Jesus, and there will be no more sorrow for me.  And I have no other major things in life I would like to accomplish if the Lord decides to call me home.  Now, I have other things I would like to accomplish – but at the top of my list of goals is the desire to be with Jesus.  So I would not delay goal #1 to accomplish #2 or #3.

But last night, when I thought of my own death, I thought of my son.  He is four years old.  He has far more energy than I do and routinely asks me to do things that I am too exhausted to do, or that are hilariously impractical.  It might be 30-degrees outside when he asks if we can go swimming, or it might be pouring rain when he asks if we can ride bikes.  Or I could be flat-out exhausted to the point of a migraine when he asks if we can wrestle, and all I can mange is to tickle him for a few minutes.

I love my son.  I love my daughters as well, all four of them in their own way.  But I am convinced that, should I die, my wife would be for them what they need the most: an example of life and godliness as a woman of our King Jesus.  But who will be that to my son if I am gone?

Last night that question deeply troubled me.

I am sure that there are honorable people in my life who would try to help my son if I were to die, my own father and brother first among others.  But I also know that nothing can replace having a father in the home.  And though I have repeatedly told my wife not to stay single for my sake should something happen to me, I am not convinced she would remarry.

Who will raise my son in my stead?

This troubling thought tormented me for more than a few minutes last night.  And as irrational as it is for me to be concerned about these things at the age of 32 and in relatively good health, I cannot dismiss the notion of it.  People die.  I don’t imagine myself immune to that reality.

Now, from the time my first child was born, I would go into her room, hover over her crib, place my hand on her little belly and pray, “God, please be the Father to my little girl that I cannot be.”  I have repeated that prayer more times than I can count now 11 years into her life.  And I know that the same God who has been faithful to me, will be faithful to my children, should they call upon Him as Lord.

But I want to be there for my son.  I want to be his father, the father that every boy should have.  So I guess I will go to my yearly doctor visits without neglecting them.  I will make sure I go to sleep on time, and not pass the semi-truck who is swerving  slowly in the right lane on I-70 at 6:00 AM.  I won’t climb up ladders that haven’t been anchored properly or eat a diet of foods that come wrapped in paper or cardboard boxes.

But most of all, I will pray for life.  Not necessarily long life, but life just long enough to see my son to manhood.  That would be very generous of God to grant me that much.

And I will try to honor the Lord, so as not to bring His discipline in my life in ways that might hurt my family.  I do not want my life (or theirs) to be cut short because of sin.

And I will not take my days for granted.  I will make time, even now, to be a father to my son.  This does not mean doing all that he wants to do.  That’s not remotely possible, nor would it be good for him.  But I will invest more time into his little life.  I will bring him along with me where I go.  I will show him, by example, how a godly man talks and laughs and works and cries.

I will do these things to the glory of God, in hopes that He will redeem my son’s life from the clutches of sin so that I might spend eternity with him, with Him.

So thinking about death is never enjoyable.  Frankly, it’s often very unsettling and disturbing.  But if being disturbed is what causes me to come to godly convictions, then I will think of death as unto the Lord and remember the words of Paul:

“I say this, my brothers, the time is short…” (1 Cor. 7:29)

Indeed, it is.

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When God Stops the Rain

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

California is in the fourth year of drought.  The video below demonstrates just how serious this problem really is.

Of course, the people of California and the rest of the modern world don’t believe God has anything to do with this.  They blame it on climate change.  Apparently their god has nothing to do with the climate.

The God that Christians worship, however, repeatedly claims responsibility for the weather (Gen 6, Ex. 9, Josh 10, 1 Sam 7, 12, 2 Sam 21, 1 Kings 8, 16, Hosea 13, Amos 4, Jonah 1, etc, etc, etc).  It’s beyond me to know why God has let a drought come over California for the past 4 years, and I don’t care to guess.  But I certainly believe He’s in control of it and that the rain (or lack thereof) remains in His jurisdiction.

On a side note, it’s pretty remarkable that this kind of an epic drought isn’t being treated like major news.  Outside of California it’s hardly even discussed.  Sporting events, social issues, and television shows dominate airwaves, but the fact that it’s not raining in one of the world’s most prominent places is barely mentioned.

Since 2012, the state has been literally dying.  Golf courses are still watered and the lawns are kept green, but the video above demonstrates the undeniable consequences of the drought.  Wells are drying up.  Entire communities are having water trucked to them each week.  Lakes have turned into ponds, and the state’s poorest populations are the ones who suffer most.

In the video above, the governor of California is confronted by the fact that the agricultural industry, responsible for growing food and supplying many low-income jobs, has not had their water cut off yet.  That’s right – the people of California are beginning to demand that their farmers let the crops die and food production be significantly scaled back.

And all of this is a sobering reminder of God’s power.  But it’s also more than that.

It’s a demonstration of how far we’ve come as human beings from acknowledging that an all-powerful “god” even exists.  Just a generation ago, national figures would be calling for our country to pray in the face of many modern-day troubles, including this drought.  But those days are gone, replaced by a time when religion (specifically Christianity) is mocked and scorned.  Christians are spoken of with the same ridicule that one might expect to be directed towards morons and clowns.

God has been dismissed.  He is no longer considered a significant factor in anything.

He is not considered or acknowledged in any form of national policy.  We do not think of Him before we go to war, before we sign agreements, before we change laws, or before we spend money.  We are not quite ready to strike His name from our currency and Pledge of Allegiance, but we have certainly struck God, Himself, from any position of influence.

In God’s book of wisdom we come upon the following counsel:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)”

But we prefer the polar opposite of this wisdom.  We prefer to acknowledge Him in absolutely nothing, to direct our own paths, and to imagine that He does not mind being ignored out of existence.

This cannot continue.  It is an impossibility.  God will not be forever ignored.  One way or another, He will be glorified as Creator and Sovereign Lord.  He will not be despised forever.  That is the message repeatedly issued throughout Scripture.

And so when we think of four-year droughts, climate changes, strange weather patterns, and when we think of hostile enemies, lawlessness, and great economic suffering, we should remember that God is not dead, nor does He sleep.

We would do well to remember the northern Kingdom of Israel, which in a short 80 years went from dedicating the Temple to the Lord under the reign of Solomon, to worshiping golden calves and the Baals.

That’s right – it was only 80 years from Solomon to Ahab and Jezebel.  Time flies when you’re embracing heresy.

They went from strict laws forbidding sexual impurity to widespread homosexuality and adultery.  They went from a holy priesthood ordained by God through the tribe of Levi, to a sacrilegious priesthood of people consisting of anyone who wanted to be a priest and had the right connections.  They went from justice and integrity to the murder of Naboth for a pretty vineyard.

Nothing quite sums up the state of the kingdom like 2 Kings, chapter 1, when King Ahaziah – the son of Ahab and Jezebel – became gravely injured to the point of death.  But rather than going to Elijah, he sent his messengers to Ekron, the land of the Philistines, to seek the wisdom of Beelzebub.

He preferred the “Lord of Flies” to the Lord Jehovah.

2 Kings 1:6 – “Thus says the LORD: ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?”

The tragedy of the United States of America is that we once celebrated the idea that God will hear our prayers and bless those who honor Him.  But now we don’t even bother to pray, let alone attempt to honor a God who seems at odds with our own ideas of morality.  Who is God to tell us what’s right and wrong?

This seems incredibly arrogant, and incredibly stupid of us – to put God in a position where His only recourse would seem to be supernatural judgment.  Maybe that’s why God has stopped the rain in California.  Maybe not.

But the Lord of Glory will only be robbed of it for so long…

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Easter Prayer

by Reggie Osborne II
Follow @reggieosborne on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or Google+.

O Father, forgive my sins.

And thank you for Jesus, whose loving and tender hands You saw fit to bind; whose head You saw fit to wound; whose heart You saw fit to pierce.

What sorrow to look upon Your only Son, innocent and kind, gentle and sweet, and to know that He must die.

And to see His skin split open, and to hear His crying, and to watch Him ruined beyond recognition, this man who you knew in His mother’s womb – this boy You call Your own – this child You fathered. What gruesomeness is this? What cruelty is this?

It is not Your gruesomeness. It’s mine. It is not Your cruelty. It’s my own.

He was wounded for my transgressions. He has suffered for my sins. You have laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

It has pleased you, Father, to break your little boy for me. Did you not know how unworthy I am of this? Has this not been a disappointing trade, his life for mine?

Did you not know how little I would live up to such a thing as this? I am not worth the price! Would that I could go back and beg You to stop, to lower the knife, to leave me in sin – for this would be justice.

You have not given me justice, but mercy. You have exchanged anger for grace and wrath for love. With innocent blood you have redeemed me from hands of death. At the price of an only son, you have bought a worthless sinner.

Oh that I would not disappoint you! Oh that I will, somehow, be granted strength to merit some fraction of this exchange, for truly it is far beyond my own power to earn any part of this.

I will sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. He has redeemed me to God with His blood. He is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. He has borne our sin on His shoulders, and by His stripes, we are healed.

“Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever.

“Amen.”

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