July 31, 2009

Sick Call at the Bronx VA

I received an email on Monday, asking if I might be able to help make a visit to someone who was recently admitted to the Veterans Administration Hospital in the Bronx. A friend of the gentleman’s son, attends Times Square Church, where I also attend weekly services. The gentleman asked one of the pastors if someone could pray for the son’s father, maybe even to visit him at the hospital, and so, I received the email request.

After work on Tuesday, I was able to make a visit to the VA Hospital to see Anthony Hayes, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran and this I learned from his son, Kevin, whom I spoke to Monday afternoon on the phone.

Anthony just had surgery within the last day or two to remove cancer from his throat and he was sedated quite well upon my arrival to his room in the ICU/CCU (Cardiac Care Unit) at approximately 7:30 p.m. I was fortunate to receive a brief update on his condition from one of the doctors on duty that evening too.

Anthony eventually woke up and looked over at me to figure out whom I was, so I approached his bedside and introduced myself. I let him know that I am the Chaplain for the Marine Corps League and that I was asked by Times Square Church to make a visit to see him. I also mentioned that a friend of his son Kevin, had asked one of the pastors at the church, if someone could visit and I was asked.

It was not easy for Anthony to communicate since he has a trachea tube inserted in his neck. He tried to though and I tried even harder to understand what he was trying to say. I did learn that he was a veteran of the Vietnam war and that he had served for four years in the Corps and was a Corporal when he was discharged. He also whispered to me that he had three sons and five daughters, eight children altogether!

Anthony had asked how long I served in the Corps and I told him four years also and got out as a Corporal too. He wanted to know what I did while in the Marines and I hesitated briefly knowing what was coming, but said to him, “I was a pogue. I did admin work with a grunt battalion.” Well, as soon as he heard that I was a pogue, Anthony’s face lit up with a smile and he laughed, which is what usually happens when a Marine says they did admin work and was not a regular grunt like the rest of the Marine Corps. I am glad he was able to smile and laugh a bit at my expense and it was well worth it too for this man.

It was difficult for Anthony to talk and I noticed on his monitor that it was showing an irregular heart rate and I guessed that it was probably due to his effort to try and converse with me, yet feeling frustrated that he could not.

Seeing that, I suggested that Anthony relax and just nod his head if he understood what I was saying to him, which he clearly did.

I then proceeded to explain to Anthony that the reason I was there was because his son was concerned about him and that his friend had asked someone from Times Square Church to pray for him and maybe even visit him. I mentioned to him that I was there to share the Gospel with him and that people from Times Square Church as well as others, were praying for him that he might be forgiven of his sins through faith in Jesus Christ.

Since Anthony could not speak clearly due to the trachea tube in his throat, I explained to him that I was going to ask him a few questions and if he would just nod his head if he understood what I was saying. I asked again, if he clearly understood what I was saying right now, to which, he nodded that he did.

I began to say to Anthony that the cancer that was removed from his throat, may be completely removed or the doctor’s were not able to get it all. Either way, there is going to come a time where we are individually going to face God in judgment. I then proceeded to share with Anthony, consciously how every man has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Where man has sinned against God by using His name in vain, stealing anything that does not belong personally to us, or if we have ever hated someone, God considers that to be murder and is deserving to receive the punishment of condemnation in hell. Each of those sins may be valid in you too, as they were to me, until I had understood that Jesus Christ died on a cross for my sins. He suffered a punishment and a death that I deserved, but that God had punished Him, instead of me, where if I had placed my faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins I would be saved from going to hell for eternity.

I asked Anthony if it was a concern to him that his sins were not forgiven by God and he nodded yes. I then asked him if he wanted to receive the forgiveness of his sins and have a clear conscience regarding that tonight, and he nodded yes. I then asked him if he believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, who lived a perfect and sinless life, who was crucified on a cross and rose again three days later, and he nodded yes again.

At this time I shared with Anthony that based on his cognizance and affirmation of what he agreed and believed the Scriptures say concerning Jesus Christ, that evening Anthony Hayes was born again and made into a new creation in Christ, where the old has passed and the new has come.

I then prayed for Anthony trusting God and His Holy Spirit to seal his cognizant affirmation of faith in Jesus Christ.

I do not even remember what time it was either but felt that it was time to leave and I wanted Anthony to get back to gaining some rest from his surgery. So I said to him that I would be back again and asked if there was anything I could bring for him on my return visit and he asked for, a black cup of coffee with three sugars. I’ll see if he’s allowed to have that and I’ll bring it the next time I visit him.

To make the night even better, I saw one of our Marine Corps League members Don Shelton, in the ICU/CCU of the Bronx VA Hospital. As I neared walking by his room, I looked in and recognized him and said, “Don, Don Shelton! It’s Kurt Michaelson, the Chaplain from the Marine Corps League.” It didn’t take Don long to remember me and he was quite happy to see me too, as I was to see him.

Don had recently survived a nasty fall at the VA Hospital in Virginia, where he cut his head and nearly bled to death. He went through quite an ordeal back then and there was a time where it looked like he wasn’t going to make it. But thankfully, he has and it has caused him to reflect on that tonight.

Don and I were able to catch up a little bit and he asked me if I could get him two cookies to eat from a package on the counter. I wasn’t sure if he could have cookies so I asked him again and he said it was ok and I checked him again, asking if I should check with the nurses and he said no, that it was ok. So I got him two cookies to snack on, which he dearly enjoyed.

As I knelt down, next to his bed, he said that there was something he wanted to ask me, but couldn’t remember. I asked was it about communion because he had asked about that the last time I was there? He remembered that, but that wasn’t what was on his mind.

I asked him gently, “Is it about death and eternity?” and he looked at me and with a sigh of relief in his voice, he gently said, “Yes.”

I had basically repeated to Don what I had said to Anthony, explaining how we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory by sinning against Him. I then added reading 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 to him as I said, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, do you believe this Don?” Don’s reply was yes.

I asked Don the same questions that I asked Anthony and Don’s reply was identical to Anthony’s. He too wanted peace with God and the forgiveness of his sins, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And so, Don prayed and I followed up with a prayer for him and the salvation of his soul this evening.

Don’s vision is not that great and if the room lights are on, his eyes are often closed because his pupils are so dilated, but the joy he now felt lit up his face as bright as the sun that night and you could hear it in his voice too.

One thing that Don said to me was this, “I’m not afraid anymore because I know that when I take that next step into heaven, I’m going to be alright.” And I said to him, “That is absolutely true Don. Scripture says that when a person becomes born again, a new creation in Christ, they have passed spiritually from death to life and one day, for you Don, you will leave the death of this world and enter life in eternity, in heaven.”


We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 1 John 3:14.
Don and I were holding hands as this was being said and he said to me, “You have no idea how good I feel right now. I feel like a weight has been lifted from me and it feels so good. I’m so glad you were here tonight. Your words were powerful.”

I did not say this to Don, but those were not my words that I spoke to him, it was the Word of God that was spoken to him, as well as to Anthony tonight that brought about the salvation of their souls.

Before I left his room, Don said, “Can I ask one more thing of you?” and I said sure. He said, “Could you get one more cookie for me before you leave?” With joy and a little bit of laughter, I said, “Of course!”

If either of these men were to die that night after I left, they were truly saved by His grace. Both of them will feel so incredibly grateful to God that through repentance and faith in Christ, they have been forgiven of their sins, but also that others were burdened for them and the eternity that awaits them.

I am humbled by what God has done with me and through me Tuesday evening and it just creates a deeper love within me for Him and what He has called me to do and that is win souls to Christ.

I shared this with Kristi that evening as I left the hospital and she was equally excited for the work God had done too. I was just a messenger and there was nothing special about what I said, just that there is something special about what God has said.

I said to Kristi that there was more joy in heaven over these two sinners who repented than a multitude of those who think they do not have to repent before God (Luke 15:7).

As I neared the end of my travel across the Tappan Zee Bridge tonight, I began to think of Scripture that would exemplify what happened tonight and this is what the Holy Spirit reminded me of,

“for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:35-36,40, NKJV.

Semper fi in Christ.

July 22, 2009

"I am married unto you." Jeremiah 3:14

Since I am 30 days away from getting married, today's devotional reading from Charles Spurgeon is very appropriate and so I share it with you.

Christ Jesus is joined unto his people in marriage-union. In love he espoused his Church as a chaste virgin, long before she fell under the yoke of bondage. Full of burning affection he toiled, like Jacob for Rachel, until the whole of her purchase-money had been paid, and now, having sought her by his Spirit, and brought her to know and love him, he awaits the glorious hour when their mutual bliss shall be consummated at the marriage-supper of the Lamb. Not yet hath the glorious Bridegroom presented his betrothed, perfected and complete, before the Majesty of heaven; not yet hath she actually entered upon the enjoyment of her dignities as his wife and queen: she is as yet a wanderer in a world of woe, a dweller in the tents of Kedar; but she is even now the bride, the spouse of Jesus, dear to his heart, precious in his sight, written on his hands, and united with his person. On earth he exercises towards her all the affectionate offices of Husband. He makes rich provision for her wants, pays all her debts, allows her to assume his name, and to share in all his wealth. Nor will he ever act otherwise to her. The word divorce he will never mention, for “He hateth putting away.” Death must sever the conjugal tie between the most loving mortals, but it cannot divide the links of this immortal marriage. In heaven they marry not, but are as the angels of God; yet there is this one marvellous exception to the rule, for in Heaven Christ and his Church shall celebrate their joyous nuptials. This affinity as it is more lasting, so is it more near than earthly wedlock. Let the love of husband be never so pure and fervent, it is but a faint picture of the flame which burns in the heart of Jesus. Passing all human union is that mystical cleaving unto the Church, for which Christ left his Father, and became one flesh with her.

Morning devotional reading written by Charles Spurgeon.

July 11, 2009

Prayer: The Key of the Day, The Lock of the Night

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up. Psalm 5:3.

יהוה בקר תשׁמע קולי בקר אערך־לך ואצפה׃

tsaphah 'arak boqer qol shama' boqer Adonai

(Remember, Hebrew is read from right to left)


I went to bed late last night, a little after midnight and I was still thinking about the death of one of our Marine Corps League members, Charlie Williams. It wasn’t that long ago that I had visited Charlie, but recently I was feeling a need to visit him again, since it had been a while when I had last seen him. I am so disappointed that I hadn’t been back to visit him more often while he was at the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital.

I did not intend to get up a 0500 this morning, but the Lord woke me up with two consecutive dreams that troubled me greatly. I will withhold from disclosing what those two dreams were about until they come to pass.

I knew that I could not just return back to sleep and since the dreams affected me emotionally, I knew that the best thing I could do was to go and spend some time in prayer. At 5:00 a.m. there isn’t much to disturb you when you pray, but the pleasant sounds of the birds chirping in the morning as they too waken to a new day, waiting for the sun to come up.

How awesome it is, even now at such an early hour of the day, to be able to spend time with God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

As I think about it, some people, maybe many, complain of being too tired or too busy to pray, but throughout the book of Revelation there are angles and elders around the throne of God praising and worshipping Him constantly, not resting day or night saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8)

I like what Charles Spurgeon says below that “prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.” There is no better way to begin the day, than to get it started with God and there is no better way to finish the day, than to end it with God, in prayer.

This has really brought a new understanding to me regarding prayer and the importance of it on a daily basis, in the morning and in the evening, as well as throughout the day, but not in haste.


Lord, I thank you that you have heard me this morning and I pray Lord that this evening will be the same as it was when my day began, with You, each day and every day.


The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon, Psalm 5:3.

Observe, this is not so much a prayer as a resolution, “'My voice shalt thou hear,' I will not be dumb, I will not be silent, I will not withhold my speech, I will cry to thee, for the fire that dwells within compels me to pray.” We can sooner die than live without prayer. None of God's children are possessed with a dumb devil.

“In the morning.” This is the fittest time for intercourse with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. While the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul. Let us give to God the mornings of our days and the morning of our lives. Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night. Devotion should be both the morning star and the evening star.

If we merely read our English version, and want an explanation of these two sentences, we find it in the figure of an archer, “I will direct my prayer unto thee, “I will put my prayer upon the bow, I will direct it towards heaven, and then when I have shot up my arrow, I will look up to see where it has gone. But the Hebrew has a still fuller meaning than this - “I will direct my prayer.” It is the word that is used for the laying in order of the wood and the pieces of the victim upon the altar, and it is used also for the putting of the shewbread upon the table. It means just this: “I will arrange my prayer before thee;” I will lay it out upon the altar in the morning, just as the priest lays out the morning sacrifice. I will arrange my prayer; or, as old Master Trapp has it, “I will marshal up my prayers, “I will put them in order, call up all my powers, and bid them stand in their proper places, that I may pray with all my might, and pray acceptably.

“And will look up,” or, as the Hebrew might better be translated, “'I will look out,' I will look out for the answer; after I have prayed, I will expect that the blessing shall come.” It is a word that is used in another place where we read of those who watched for the morning. So will I watch for thine answer, O my Lord! I will spread out my prayer like the victim on the altar, and I will look up, and expect to receive the answer by fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice.


Two questions are suggested by the last part of this verse. Do we not miss very much of the sweetness and efficacy of prayer by a want of careful meditation before it, and of hopeful expectation after it? We too often rush into the presence of God without forethought or humility. We are live men who present themselves before a king without a petition, and what wonder is it that we often miss the end of prayer? We should be careful to keep the stream of meditation always running; for this is the water to drive the mill of prayer. It is idle to pull up the flood-gates of a dry brook, and then hope to see the wheel revolve. Prayer without fervency is like hunting with a dead dog, and prayer without preparation is hawking with a blind falcon. Prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit, but he works by means. God made man, but he used the dust of the earth as a material: the Holy Ghost is the author of prayer, but he employs the thoughts of a fervent soul as the gold with which to fashion the vessel. Let not our prayers and praises be the flashes of a hot and hasty brain, but the steady burning of a well-kindled fire.

But, furthermore, do we not forget to watch the result of our supplications? We are like the ostrich, which lays her eggs and looks not for her young. We sow the seed, and are too idle to seek a harvest. How can we expect the Lord to open the windows of his grace, and pour us out a blessing, if we will not open the windows of expectation and look up for the promised favour? Let holy preparation link hands with patient expectation, and we shall have far larger answers to our prayers.


Reference

Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Verson 7.8) [Computer software].

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

July 10, 2009

Finding rest for your soul means coming to Christ with your sin

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30, King James Version.

The word yoke in Greek is the word zugos ζυγός (dzoo-gos'), which comes from the root of ζεύγνυμι zeugnumi (to join, especially by a "yoke"); a coupling, that is, (figuratively) servitude (a law or obligation); also (literally) the beam of the balance (as connecting the scales): - pair of balances, yoke.

In a literal sense, a yoke was used upon oxen to guide them together as the fields were plowed for farming. Egyptian monuments show a yoke that consisted of a straight bar fastened to the foreheads of the cattle at the root of the horns, and such yokes were no doubt used in Palestine also; but the more usual form was one that rested on the neck (ISBE).

In a figurative sense, the use of "yoke" in the sense of "servitude" is intensely obvious (compare especially Jeremiah 27, 28). Attention needs to be called only to Lamentations 3:27, where "disciplining sorrow" is meant, and to Jeremiah 5:5, where the phrase is a figure for "the law of God." This last use became popular with the Jews at a later period and it is found, e.g. in Apocrypha Baruch 41:3; Psalter of Solomon 7:9; 17:32; Ab. iii. 7,. and in this sense the phrase is employed. by Christ in Matthew 11:29 f. "My yoke" here means "the service of God as I teach it" (the common interpretation, "the sorrows that I bear," is utterly irrelevant) and the emphasis is on "my." The contrast is not between "yoke" and "no yoke," but between "my teaching" (light yoke) and "the current scribal teaching'; (heavy yoke) (ISBE).

Undestanding the difference between the two forms of yoke, helps us to understand this more clearly.

John MacArthur writes in his sermon titled, "Jesus' Personal Invitation, Part 2", "The Jews used the phrase “the yoke” to refer to entering into submission to something. That’s why Peter used it in Acts as I read earlier about the yoke that the Pharisees put on people that they can’t bear.
Acts 15:10 - Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

"The yoke is that which causes submission. And Jesus says When you come to Me you must come with a submissive heart. You must come to take a yoke."

MacArthur further adds, "in extrabiblical writings, for example, Sirach records this statement, “Put your neck under the yoke and let your soul receive instruction.” And that pretty well typifies how the Jews saw the yoke. It was a yoke of instruction. They talked about the yoke of the torah...the yoke of the law, the yoke of the commandments, the yoke of God. And that is what our Lord is asking them to do, He is saying, take My yoke upon you. And then He adds this phrase: “And learn from Me,” it is a yoke of submission to His Lordship, to His teaching, to His instruction. It is a yoke that implies obedience. And I believe true salvation occurs when you in your desperation turn from sin to Christ with a willingness to have Him take control of your life. I don’t think, therefore, that you can take Jesus as Savior and not as Lord."

It is now a bit easier to undestand what Jesus is saying in this passage and what he was speaking of specifically.

The Law, the Torah, was a burden for people to follow, especially when there were 613 laws that were established and it was nearly impossible for anyone to be found perfect concerning obedience to the Law.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."

Where we could not fulfill the requirements of the Law, Jesus did. He did not destroy those requirements, He fulfilled them. All of them.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30, King James Version.

Remember the thief on the cross who was crucified next to Jesus? The one with a repentant heart, recognized that he deserved the just punishment of his sin by being crucified and he asked Jesus to remember him when He entered into his kingdom. Jesus then followed with His reply saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43, NKJV)

As I read other commentaries regarding this passage, I found this one from Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary the most profound. When we closely study the Scripture, especially what Jesus is saying in Matthew 11:28-30, He is talking about giving rest to the soul that has been burdened by the performance of attempting to keep the Law, the Ten Commandments and the burden to feel that an adequate amount of good works will suffice for God's approval and their entrance into His eternal Kingdom.

"Those who labour to establish their own righteousness also labour in vain. The convinced sinner is heavy-laden with guilt and terror; and the tempted and afflicted believer has labours and burdens. Christ invites all to come to him for rest to their souls. He alone gives this invitation; men come to him, when, feeling their guilt and misery, and believing his love and power to help, they seek him in fervent prayer. Thus it is the duty and interest of weary and heavy-laden sinners, to come to Jesus Christ. This is the gospel call; Whoever will, let him come. All who thus come will receive rest as Christ's gift, and obtain peace and comfort in their hearts. But in coming to him they must take his yoke, and submit to his authority. They must learn of him all things, as to their comfort and obedience. He accepts the willing servant, however imperfect the services. Here we may find rest for our souls, and here only. Nor need we fear his yoke. His commandments are holy, just, and good. It requires self-denial, and exposes to difficulties, but this is abundantly repaid, even in this world, by inward peace and joy. It is a yoke that is lined with love. So powerful are the assistances he gives us, so suitable the encouragements, and so strong the consolations to be found in the way of duty, that we may truly say, it is a yoke of pleasantness. The way of duty is the way of rest. The truths Christ teaches are such as we may venture our souls upon. Such is the Redeemer's mercy; and why should the labouring and burdened sinner seek for rest from any other quarter? Let us come to him daily, for deliverance from wrath and guilt, from sin and Satan, from all our cares, fears, and sorrows. But forced obedience, far from being easy and light, is a heavy burden. In vain do we draw near to Jesus with our lips, while the heart is far from him. Then come to Jesus to find rest for your souls."

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, Matthew 11:25-30.


Reference

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, e-Sword.

MacArthur, John. Jesus' Personal Invitation, Part 2. Retrieved on July 10, 2009 from http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/2289

Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Verson 7.8) [Computer software].

Christian Persecution Hits All-Time High Worldwide: Report

This morning, I read a story titled,  Christian Persecution Hits All-Time High Worldwide: Report , which is  about how much the persecutio...