Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas and Cancer

-Joe Fornear

The Christmas season can be really rough when you’re fighting cancer or grieving great loss. I remember the beginning of my cancer battle on December 23, 2002. I was recovering from a rough surgery to remove a large mass of an unknown cancer from under my arm. The next day, while still feeling the anesthetic and loaded up on pain pills, I forced myself to attend church on Christmas Eve. This was after all the church I had planted and pastored for 12 years. I wanted me and everyone to feel … normal. But normality had gone, and I should not have gone that evening.

My doctor called the next day on Christmas Day to deliver my diagnosis. He was heading out of town for a break and had to wait for the pathology report himself. Still, it remains a painful memory – it “ruined” my Christmas. Then I knew I needed to pick up the phone to tell my parents and siblings that I too had melanoma. I say “too” because my dad was in his last weeks fighting the same disease – metastatic melanoma.

Now I share all of this to connect with those of you who won’t be going to holiday parties or church or who are even in the hospital reading this. You might feel like everyone’s having fun and enjoying themselves and you’re left out and hemmed in to loneliness and darkness. I felt those feelings that Christmas in 2002. But there’s hope – lot’s of it. I so I want to try to help you and me focus on the most important thing about the Christmas season and life, Jesus. Isaiah 9:2 says,

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.

This passage is part of one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry about Christmas, or about anything really, from Isaiah 9:1-7. It sets the context of the oppression and burdens that the people were under when Jesus was born into their country. Yet we too can experience His light and the release from burden and oppression from Jesus! So I want to unwrap this incredible gift of a Person from this passage to help us focus on what it’s all about. Drawing from Isaiah 9:6 & 7 (below in red), I intertwine some brief commentary on what He means or can mean to us (in green).

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;”
Jesus is the Father’s beloved child and Son whom He joyfully gifts to us to become our Savior, Lord, Brother and Friend! Quite a lot of hats He wears and He wears them all extremely well. He is the very best gift God could have ever given!

“And the government will rest on His shoulders;”
He’s got broad shoulders and can carry every load. In this day of flawed leaders, He is and will be the perfect leader of all nations and all beings – including the angels!

“And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,”
He knows exactly what we need. He knows how to let us know what we need. He knows how to teach us to cope while we wait.

“Mighty God,”
He is not a merely a man who understands us, but He willingly shares His Divine power to enable us to cope with humanly impossible circumstances, like cancer, like grief.

“Eternal Father,”
He’s been around forever so He knows how to parent and provide for you and I, His dearly beloved children.

“Prince of Peace.”
He instills, even installs, His perfect peace into our innermost being. He’s the author of the peace which surpasses understanding. It doesn’t make sense to most people!

So though your life might be very difficult right now, seek to set your focus on THE gift, Jesus Christ, and what He has done for you and how much He loves you. You may just find that this Christmas is the deepest and most meaningful of your life!

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Beyond God With Us


-Joe Fornear

During the Christmas season, much is made about Jesus’ name, “Emmanuel,” which means He has come to be with us. And rightly so! It was an incredible expression of love and humility to leave heaven’s comfort to live among us. But there is so much more to the geography of His Presence. 

Diving deeper, we learn He lives “in” or inside of those who believe on Him as Savior (more here on how to believe on Him and invite Him inside you). So, double wow! He came to live on the planet AND to reside within you and me! But wait, there’s more …

Deeper still, not only has Jesus come to live among us and in us, our union with Him is so complete that Paul wrote,

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. – Colossians 3:3-4

And,

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. – Galatians 2:20

It’s almost like we’ve partaken of the divine nature ourselves! Wait, that’s exactly what Peter wrote,

He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature. – 2 Peter 1:4

Our complete union with Him is such an amazing gift to enjoy at Christmas and every day. Let’s explore what this means in our daily lives:

  • Though we may be physically alone, we have the Great Companion to accompany and even more to complete us. We’ve arrived!
  • Though we feel overwhelmed, we have the Great Enabler infusing us with power to take the next step. We’re more than conquerors!
  • Though we beat ourselves up over our sin and weakness, we have the Great Encourager to root for us and lift us up. We are free from sin and condemnation.
  • Though we’re frustrated by our circumstances, the Tranquil One provides us perfect peace deep inside. I found this so true at those times when I leaned on Him during my battle with Stage IV metastatic melanoma cancer.

All of this happens internally! He doesn’t “come down” to earth to answer our prayers now – He springs up from within us to act on our behalf. Him and I are never separate! You and Him are never separate! I want to quit seeing Him as “out there,” rather He’s one with me – “in here”!

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Simply Christmas

– Joe Fornear

As I sat with the Lord a couple weeks ago, I was thinking about the bustle and hustling of Christmas and wanting to rise above all of the noise – with Him. Savior born - 12-21-15And I asked Him for a bottom line about Christmas – from Him. Immediately, a thought popped into my mind that went something like this: “This will ‘make’ your Christmas and give you something to fix on: ‘Without the Savior Jesus, where would you be?'”

I quickly realized apart from His coming and the forgiveness which He later provided at the cross, I would end up spending eternity apart from Him in a place of punishment. Yet Christmas is all about good news for me and for all people of all time:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:10-11.

It’s really very simple. My greatest need is a Savior, and God the Father provided that Savior on the first Christmas! The good news is actually a person. He saves us from the consequences of our sin, from eternal punishment! In fact He offers everlasting treasures and joy in heaven for those who receive Him as Savior (more here on The Two Ways to Get to Heaven). What more could we ask for this Christmas or any time of our lives? So to cut through all of that Christmas and daily noise, focus on this – life is merry when it’s simply about the Savior.

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When God Is Silent… He’s Up to Something

 


Silent
night? Have you ever been up close to a braying donkey? Surrounded by pack animals while delivering a baby, angels appearing to shepherdthe only silence Mary heard seemed to be emanating from God. Hey, whatever happened to that angel’s promise about finding favor with God?

Periods of “silence” are common in the history of God’s relations with man. Yet we always find out later that God was up to something better all along.

  • After David was crowned King, he fled from his enemies for 14 scary years before his kingdom was finally established.
  • The nation of Israel cried out for 400 painful years to be delivered from Egypt’s bondage.
  • The entire human race was subject to a 400 year period of silence during the time between the last Old Testament prophets and the New Testament birth of Jesus.

In all of these cases and so many more, behind the scenes God was working ALL things to the good (Romans 8:28).

Back to Mary. How did she get through her nightmare child birth experience? By focusing, not on the unhealthy conditions of her delivery, but on the promises of God’s glorious goodness delivered through the shepherds:

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart Luke 2:19.

How about us? In our struggles, are we able to look beyond appearances to ponder and treasure His promises? Perhaps long ago you turned away from God – He was just too silent for you. You may be wondering why you’re even still reading. Or perhaps you’re all in with God, but secretly, or not so secretly disillusioned with His current path for you?

This Christmas, God wishes to fan that flicker of hope deep within us all. He is always up to something better! So whether you need to surrender and receive the promised Messiah into your life for the very first time (here’s how – let me know if you do), or you need to be reminded to grab onto His great and precious promises – remember His plans for you are very good. So we end while pondering one of the most hope-filled promises in the Bible:

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” – Jeremiah 29:11.

Are We There Yet?

 

– Joe Fornear

Exhaustion… terrible inconvenience… unsanitary conditions… a nightmare scenario. Maybe God is manger Dec 2014trying to tell us something about life by the circumstances in which our King Jesus entered into our world.

Our journeys can be difficult and lengthy, like Mary’s. On that famous 80 mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem – who said she rode on a donkey? The Bible makes no mention of that. It’s likely Mary walked the entire four to six day trip while nine months pregnant, accounting for why they were such late arrivals in Bethlehem.

Along the way, Mary & Joseph’s nightly visits at “inns” probably entailed staying with animals. By the time Jesus was born in a Bethlehem stable, she may have grown accustomed to living with animals. Still, to the shepherds, a baby lying in a manger was truly a “sign.” In other words, even in that day, this was a “nightmare” delivery for any mom to have to lay her newborn in an animal’s feeding trough. And c’mon, there was room for them at the inn! There was just no room in anyone’s heart to give up their room for this baby to born.

So why did God allow such a distressing entry into the world for His Only Begotten? Sometimes faith is not about securing the removal of trouble, but being secure in the face of trouble.

A familiar Bible verse in 2 Timothy 4:7 uses a verb and noun for the “fight” of faith with a similar Greek root word – agonizo.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.

This word means “to contend earnestly; struggle; labor fervently.” We get our word “agony” from this word! Paul uses it several times to describe his prayer life. Certainly this contending applies to our physical, emotional and spiritual battles against cancer. I put everything I had into my fight and it took it all.

Joe’s full story in book form, My Stronghold, is part of our free gift basket to cancer patients.

Yet folks, until Jesus comes back, this life will have its share of agonizing battles! In Matthew 24, Jesus prophesies a series of cataclysmic tribulations – earthquakes, wars, famines. He calls them “birth pangs” – the “labor” of God’s universe to bring Him forth once for all in glorious fashion. So with bookends of tribulation marking both Jesus’ first and second coming, is it any wonder that “in the meantime” we have troubles? Some day these troubles will go away forever – no more tears or pain – but we’re not there yet.

(More here on how to get to heaven).

Yet rest well in this, my fighting friend, He who suffered much knows how to help those who suffer much. This Christmas lean into Him, earnestly agonize with Him – He gets it.

Dashing Through Expectations

– By Joe Fornear

There’s an old country song entitled, “I Shaved My Legs For This?” Expectations always abound – and of course they’re not always attained. During the end of her pregnancy, Mary probably imagined a glorious birth for her Son. After all, He was the world’s Savior and King. Instead, she was subjected to a long journey away from home, followed by a birth noted by laying her Newborn in an animal’s feed bin. I doubt she signed up for that plan.expectations - 12-20-13

Perhaps this Christmas you find yourself in the wake of some seriously dashed expectations. A diagnosis of cancer for you or a loved one? Been given little hope of survival by doctors? Lost your job? Lost a loved one? Alone? This is not at all how you envisioned spending this Christmas. I was informed of my diagnosis on Christmas Day in 2002, so I can relate to a degree. So how to cope?

  • Realize the Lord truly understands your hurt. He can relate to us. Jesus was totally rejected during His life. His pain was substantial and personal. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”  (Isaiah 53:3).
  • Receive His special graces. Mary treasured each and every promise made about her Son. This gave her a transcending ability to praise along with the shepherds and angels in the midst of dashed expectations (Luke 2:16-20).
  • Remember the pain and tears of this world are only temporary. In 100 years, we will hardly remember the pains that paralyze us today. (More on how to know if you’ll go to heaven). “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Paul says our suffering is temporary and light, compared to the glory to follow. “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Lord, this Christmas and always, help us rise above our expectations to treasure You and Your promises for this life and the next.