Sunday, May 27, 2007

Suffering, Prayer, and the Will of God

Just to warn you, this is a long one. I encourage you to take your time with it and really try to understand everything stated. Since the day Baby James was born, Kristal and I have been meditating on what the Word of God has to say about suffering, prayer, and the will of God. One of the things I have come to see during this time is that many have an over-simplified view of suffering. Some attribute suffering solely to Satan. Some attribute it solely to the judgement and/or plan of God. Some attribute it solely to human sin. This post is the result of Kristal and I trying to be faithful to the whole counsel of God's Word. Many may be suspicious of what we are saying because we are a bit detailed about it. However, being detailed is not always bad. Often times, and in this post, detail is the result of attempting to be faithful to the whole counsel of God's Word.

For starters, we must all understand that prayer is real communication. Prayer is not a magic button we push to get stuff. Some people believe that if you pray in a certain way and say just the right words then God will somehow be a bit more apt to answer your prayers. This is downright wrong. Surely there are wrong ways to come to God, but this is not my point. There is no formula to prayer. Prayer is real lively conversation between a finite person saved by grace to an infinitely wonderful, loving, just, faithful, wrathful, merciful, kind Savior who died for sinners. Whenever this aspect of real living conversation is divorced from prayer we miss the whole of what prayer is. Prayer is asking God for stuff, it is petition. God has the perogative to either give what we ask for or deny it. However, we have the knowledge that if God denies us something it is not because He was not able to give it or because He doesn't delight in blessing His kids, but rather because He has something much better in mind. Some people believe that if they pray a certain number of minutes or hours that God is somehow obligated to give them exactly what they asked for. Some people believe that if they end their prayer using the words "in Jesus name" God is somehow obligated to give them exactly what they asked for. Prayer is when a believer desires something and asks the Father in faith knowing that God will not disappoint. Prayer is a believer petitioning the Father for something in faith believing that God's promises are true no matter the outcome.

Think with me for a moment about our situation with Baby James--Kristal and I fervently prayed for 9 whole months that our baby be born healthy. We prayed that our baby be born with no complications. I guarantee that we prayed more before his birth that there be no complications than we have since his birth that he would survive and fully recover from his brain injury. However, Baby James was not born healthy. There were complications with the birth. Do not for one minute think that God did not hear our many many many prayers for Baby James. God did not disappoint Kristal and I. We know that God heard every single prayer we offered up for an uncomplicated delivery. Why then was he born with complications? Did God fail? Did God not answer our prayer? Did Satan get a victory? Were our prayers useless because God was not able to defeat Satan? Did we somehow fail in our praying? We have had so many people over the past few weeks tell us that our baby is going to heal 100%. Their reasoning for this is because everyone is praying. But we all must remember that for 9 whole months we prayed fervently that Baby James be born without complications and yet he was born with complications. So if God did not answer our prayer the way we asked before he was born, how can we have confidence that he is going to answer our prayers the way we ask now that he is born? I am not writing this to bring up doubts in your minds about the power and efficacy of prayer. I am writing this to help us get a biblical view of prayer. How then is this dilemma solved? God promises to answer prayer, yet He seemed to not answer our thousands upon thousands of prayers that Baby James be born without complications. The question is why. Why was this prayer not answered the exact way it was prayed? Many people do not like the thought that this might have happened because God willed it to fulfill His purposes; they do not like this answer because it seems to make God out to be an agent of evil. Others do not like the thought that this might have happened because of the work of Satan; they do not like this answer because it seems to limit the power of God and ruins our hope that God actually can answer our prayers. Still others do not like the thought that this could have been because of human sin; they do not like this answer because it makes God look like an angry cuss.

Why, according to the Bible, was Baby James born the way he was? Why did the Lord not answer our prayers for a uncomplicated delivery the way we asked? Ultimately, Why do bad things happen to God's people in spite of their fervent praying?" I have come up with 7 reasons from the Scriptures. Each reason given is a clear reason given in Scripture why something bad happened to God's children.

Reason #1: It could have been the result of the fall. We know that God cursed mankind as the result of the fall. God specifically told Adam and Eve in Gen 2:15 that if they were to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die. Well, Adam and Eve ate of this tree. When they ate of this tree, God's promise of judgement was enacted upon humanity. Many people have a problem with this because they want to attribute all death and disease to Satan. But to do so would be a mistake. Notice that it was not Satan, but the Lord, who said, "If you eat of it you shall surely die." Death is first and foremost the work of the Lord. It is God's judgement not only against specific individual sins, but also God's judgement against humanity for sin in general--it is the result of the fall. Many have a hard time with this because they want to whole heartedly believe that God would not judge his own people. The common response is this, "What do you mean, I thought God took all judgement toward His own people away on the cross? How are you going to say that an all-loving God would continue to judge His own people?" I can sympathize with this rejection of what I am saying, however I do not think it is biblical. God surely has promised to not judge His own people, but we must make a distinction between temporal/earthly judgement and eternal/hell-bound judgment. God has promised to save his people from Hell, but He has not promised to save us from temporal/earthly judgement. This is why we get all pumped up and thankful when God supernaturally heals--we realize that this is not something He always does. The difference between Christians and non-Christians is that God works his judgement for the good of His children. The judgement of God against non-believers works against them. Do not all Christians die regardless of their piety, prayer life, faith, and good deeds? Every single Christian who has ever walked the face of this earth has died. And if you are still alive, unless you live to see the second coming, you will die as well. Has Satan won a victory every time one of God's kids died? Whenever a person dies, are we to simply attribute it to their lack of faith or prayer? Of course not! Think about the most godly person you know. One thing is true of that person. He/she will die. Why will he/she die? Because God meant what he said when He said, "if you eat of it you shall surely die." Never forget that diseases, wounds, deformities, pain, labor, and death are the work of God's judgement against mankind because of the fall. Of course, He often saves His people through healing, but He never promised to save His people from all diseases in this temporal/earthly life. He has also never promised to save His people from death. He has also never promised to save his female children from His work of judgement expressed through the pain of child birth (Genesis 3:16). How many godly, faithful women do you know who experienced absolutely no pain in labor? He also never promised to save his male children from His work of judgement expressed through the toil of working the ground (Genesis 3:17). This is God's judgement. Yea, judgement that God's children experience even after their conversion.

Reason #2: It could be the result of a lack of faith. After Jesus first started his ministry, He went to His hometown (Nazareth), but he did not do many miracles there (Matthew 13:58). Why did he not do many miracles? Because of their lack of faith. I am not saying that this was the case in our situation, but it is an option. It could be that when Kristal and I prayed for an uncomplicated delivery, God did not answer because of a lack of faith on our part.

Reason #3: It could be the result of a specific sin. After David committed adultery with Bathsheba she became pregnant. To cover up his mistake, David sent Bathsheba's husband to the front lines to be slaughtered. Whatever happened to the child conceived as the result of David's adultery? He died. In 2 Samuel 12:1-22 we see a conversation between David and Nathan. God had Nathan tell David that He was going to judge him for his sin (of adultery and murder) by taking the life of his child. David prayed and prayed and prayed and yet the Lord took the life of his child. Once again, notice that this was not the work of Satan, but rather the work of the Lord. I am not saying that this was the case with our boy, but it is an option. God could have been judging Kristal and I for some specific sin. Once again, I am not saying that this is the case, but I am trying to lay forth all of the reasons why God did not answer someone's prayer the way they wanted Him to. We must remember that God is faithful to both His promises of blessing and judgement. When God promises to meet out judgement, He will bring it about. We always talk about the promise of heaven, but we also must remember that Hell is promised to those who do not turn to Christ in faith. God met out judgement upon David because of the specific sin of adultery.

Reason #4: It could have been the work of Satan. We see in the first chapter of Job a conversation between God and Satan. Satan came to God to ask him permission to bring calamity upon God's most faithful servant. Notice that Satan had to ask God's permission. Throughout the book of Job, anytime Satan wanted to up Job's suffering he had to keep going back to God to get further permission. This is why Satan is described best as a dog on a very short leash. God knew his servant and gave Satan the permission to wreak havoc on Job's family, servants, and property. Here we do see that Satan's plan was death, diseases, and ruin. Baby James' livelihood could have been attacked by Satan. Although this may be the case, we must not overlook the fact that after all of this happened Job said, "The LORD gives and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." The Lord then affirms Job's words by saying, "And in all of this Job did not sin with his lips." You see, the Lord did not simply allow Satan to do this. Job understood that life and death are not ultimately in the hands of Satan, but in the hands of the Lord. As strange and as uncomfortable as it sounds, the Lord caused this calamity to come upon Job. Notice how Job attributes all the deaths in his family to the Lord when he says, "The Lord takes away." He does not say, "Satan takes away." Yet, it was very clear that it was the work of Satan in Chapters 1 and 2. So was it Satan or was it the Lord? I think we have to say that it was both. Both Satan and the Lord caused it. But we must ultimately attribute it to the Lord, because Job did not sin with His lips when he did so. God uses Satan like he used Babylon to destroy Israel. In Jerermiah 51:20-24 the Lord speaks about using the wicked nation of Babylon as a tool of destruction. He actually used Babylon to destroy Israel as a farmer uses a hoe to break up the ground. In Isaiah 10:5 we see that God used Assyria in the same way. It is interesting to point out that after God used Babylon to destroy Israel, He destroyed wicked Babylon for destroying Israel out of an evil heart. Strange, but biblical. This is a good illustration of how God uses Satan to further His purposes. He uses Satan as a tool to bring calamity upon people. This does not mean that God and Satan are partners in crime, but it does mean that God sovereignly uses Satan's work of destruction to fulfill his purposes. This is most clearly evidenced by Satan's evil work of putting Christ on the cross. Although Satan causes trouble everywhere he goes, he cannot escape sovereignty. He cannot escape the Divine plan. Every little thing he does furthers the purpose and plan of God. This does not mean that the Lord is not opposed to Satan. NO! He is opposed to Satan in the same way that He was opposed to Babylon. He is opposed, but God is so wise and big that He has worked the evil actions of Satan into His predetermined plan. Notice that Satan is not even mentioned past Job 2. The rest of the book of Job is about Job blaming God with injustice for causing such destruction to him and his family. Never does God deny that He caused Job's destruction. No, He affirms Job's understanding of His own sovereignty in Job's suffering. His issue with Job is that he is accusing God of injustice. Think with me for a moment about the sin of Judas. Judas handed Christ over to the authorities that they might put Him to death. John 13:2 specifically states that the Devil put it into the heart of Judas to hand Christ over to be killed. So here we see that it was Satan who enticed Judas to sin. However we see in Acts 2:23 and again in 4:28-29 that Jesus was handed over according to the predetermined plan of God, the foreknowledge of God, the hand of God, and the purpose of God. So who did it, Satan or God? Well... both. But the Scriptures seem to put God forward as the primary agent of action. So once again, you see that although Satan was actively involved in the death of Christ, it was ultimately the work of the Lord. I am in no way trying to trivialize the work of Satan, rather I am trying to put it into it's right perspective. Satan truly does work. Satan is a true adversary. It is his work to steal, kill, and destroy. Yes, Satan does have a hand in some of the suffering in the world. Yes, Satan does have a hand in some of the death in the world. Yes, Satan is a true force. However, we must understand the work of Satan in the context of the sovereignty of God. I once heard an excellent illustration describing how the work of Satan fits into the plan and purpose of God: There were once two people who lived next to each other. The one was a Christian and avidly sought a friendship with his neighbor who was a non-believer. The more the believer pursued a friendship, the more his neighbor hated him. The man's anger toward his Christian neighbor grew so great that he decided to go cut down his Christian neighbors' favorite Oak tree in the back of his property. So, he got himself an axe, tromped over to his neighbor's house, and began hacking away. After he finally chopped through the trunk of the big beautiful oak, the tree fell on top of him. He was trapped and could not get away. Later that day the Christian went out back of his house surprised to see his beloved oak chopped down. He quickly ran over to his trapped neighbor. He cried out, "Are you ok? What happened?" His neighbor replied, "I chopped your favorite oak down because I hate you and it fell on me. But I don't care. I would do it again because I hate you." The Christian neighbor then looked at the man with a smile on his face and said, "Sorry that my tree had to fall on you. But thanks! I was planning on cutting it down sometime this week because I was planning on using it to build a deck on the back of my house." You see, in an attempt to do evil against his Christian neighbor, he ended up serving his neighbor. This is a helpful way of looking at the work of Satan in our lives. Satan simply can try and try and try to defeat our Great God, but he cannot. Not only can he not successfully be a threat or a problem for our God, everything he does actually fulfills the purposes of the Lord. This is why in Romans 8:31, Paul says, "if God is for us who can be against us." What Paul is saying is that no one can successfully be against the people of God. How can you successfully be against an infinitely wise, sovereign, and powerful God? Everything Satan does, as strange as it seems, furthers the purpose and plan of our God. Everything Satan did to Christ fulfilled prophecy which proved the validity of the claims of Christ. Yes, Satan could be a factor in our situation, but we must remember that Satan only does that which the Lord allows. We must also remember that God is the ultimate actor on the stage of this earth.

Reason #5: The Lord could have brought this about so that He might bring glory to His name. In John 9, Jesus came into contact with a man who was born blind. When this man met Jesus he was 40. Everyone knew of this man. Everyday as they went to the market place they saw him on the side of the road begging for food, money, and shelter. One day as Jesus and His disciples were walking by this man one of the disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, why was this man born blind? Was it because he sinned, or was it because his parents sinned?" (John 9:1) Jesus' response is not quite what we would expect it to be. He does not attribute this man's blindness to Satan. He does not attribute it to his lack of faith or his lack of prayer. The Lord attributes this man's blindness to Himself. "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:2). The purpose of this man's blindness was to bring glory to God. God desires to show Himself to be the great physician. God loves to flex His muscles. God loves to show off his ability to bring hope to a hopeless situation. In our situation with James, has not God revealed Himself as the one who is mighty to heal? Has He not revealed Himself as the one who cares for us? Has He not revealed Himself as the one who "does what He pleases? (Psalm 115). Baby James' complications were not a mistake. God did not drop the ball. He was creating a situation by which He might get glory. I understand that this is a hard pill to swallow. Many may say, "Jimmy, what are you saying? Are you saying that God orchestrated things to happen the way He did? Are you saying that a loving God put you, your wife, your family, and your baby through large amounts of pain and trauma for the sake of showing off His ability to heal and answer prayer?" To put it a bit bluntly, Yes! That is exactly what I am saying. Never forget that the man Jesus healed was blind for 40 years. He experienced 40 full years of darkness. He experienced 40 years of difficulty. Being blind in the 1st Century is completely different than being blind in the 21st Century. Being blind in the 1st Century meant leading a life hardship and begging. This is not to say that being blind in the 21st century is not fraught with problems, but because of technology, welfare, and a generally more sympathetic society a life plagued with blindness today is much easier. The Lord purposed 40 years of hardship for this man "so that the work of God might be displayed in Him."

Reason #6: The Lord could have brought this about for the simple reason of providence. The Lord has mysterious ways about moving people where He wants them. In Acts 7 we learn about the stoning of one of the spiritual giants of the early church. In Acts 8 we see that on the same day that Stephen was martyred for the faith, "a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem" (Acts 8:2). What was the result of this persecution? Read the rest of Acts 8:2--"all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria." And then we see in 8:4 that "those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." Who would of thought! Persecution, as bad as it was, actually advanced the Gospel. Jesus, addressing the disciples in Acts 1:8, said that they would be "my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Jesus' words were fulfilled when the disciples fled from Jerusalem as a result of persecution. If it were not for the persecution, the majority of the disciples would have remained in Jerusalem. Persecution forced the disciples out to preach the Gospel to the rest of the world. I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord brought this situation about so that Kristal and I may have a Gospel impact on those we would have otherwise not been in contact with. For example, If we had not of gotten pregnant, we would still be in Kansas City and we would not have been in contact with the people we are now in contact with. The Lord moves His people where He wants them so that He might impact specific people in a specific way. Kristal and I have had numerous opportunities to share the Gospel with doctors and nurses that we would not have had if our circumstances were different. Because of the effects of Baby James' injury and disabilities, we will be around people we would not otherwise be around. It is our job as ambassador's for Christ to be faithful evangelists to those the Lord sovereignly puts in our path. Do not think this was a mistake. Do not think that the Lord did not know what He was doing by bringing this all about. He has such wonderful plans for His people. He has His eyes set on specific people and He wants to use us to bring them to the hope of eternal life. The Lord may not move His people where He wants them the way we would choose, but remember that "His ways are not our ways" (Isaiah 55:9).

Reason #7: This could have happened for the sake of our Spiritual growth. Paul, in Romans 5:3 says, "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Suffering is one of the greatest tools the Lord uses to bring about Christ likeness. It is suffering which reminds us that the treasures that this earth has to offer are incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying. It is suffering which convinces us that it is better to "store up treasures in heaven." It is also in suffering where we find intimacy with our savior Jesus Christ. In Philippians 3 Paul says, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection." So many people stop here and convienently forget to read the rest of the passage which says, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Notice that we fellowship with Christ by "sharing in his sufferings." I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord brought this about so that Kristal and I (and others of course) might grow more and more into the image of Christ. We, as Christians, are not to love trials in and of themselves, but we all ought to love what they bring about in the lives of God's people. The Lord is fashioning Kristal and I into His image, because "suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint" (Romans 5:3-4). Trials for unbelievers work against them, but trials for believers bring about a hope that "does not disappoint."

I know that there are other reasons from the Scriptures, but this was a semi-thorough list of why bad things happen to God's people regardless of their great faith and prayer. Once again this is not to call into question the power and efficacy of prayer. All God's Kids believe that God answers prayer. However all God's kids also believe that not every prayer prayed is answered the exact way it is prayed. The difference between Christians is their belief as to why these prayers are not answered the exact way they are prayed. This is why I wrote this post--so that our idea of how God responds to our praying might be shaped solely by the Word of God. God is faithful to His promises. If God does not answer a prayer the way it is prayed, it is not because God could not deliver. God is not the sort of God who makes promises that He cannot keep. If God does not answer a prayer the way it is prayed, it is not because God has somehow failed to be faithful. In our situation with Baby James, we can be certain of one thing--God was completely faithful to respond to our prayers the way He did. Continue in steadfast prayer for Baby James knowing who God is and how He works. God has not dissapointed us! Pray knowing that God is going to do what is best for His name, His people, and His Gospel. God is so gracious and so kind. God has left a line of communication open for us to cast all our cares upon Him. God is able to do abundantly more than we could ever imagine or ask. God is the most wonderful God. God is in control and nothing stands in His way. He does whatever He pleases. This is a good thing, because He is only pleased by what is best for His name, His people, and His Gospel. Kristal and I have confidence in the fact that God will not disappoint us. Kristal and I have confidence that God answers prayer according to His good, loving, and wise plan. Let us together seek to place our faith in the whole counsel of God's Word. Let this be one of those things that occupies our days for the rest of our lives.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Some Good OLD Quotes

Kristal recieved a super encouraging letter from our good friend Katie. In this letter, Katie shared with Kristal some encouraging quotes from Thomas Watson and Charles Spurgeon. Kristal and I were blessed by them. We trust that you will be blessed by them too. There are quite a few quotes and they are written in old english so get ready.

Thomas Watson "All Things for Good"
Regarding the "promises of God work for good to the godly":
-God does not bring His people into troubles, and leave them there. He will stand by them; He will hold their heads and hearts when they are falling. (16)

The mercies of God work for good to the godly:
-So says a gracious heart, 'Lord, what am I, that it should be better with me than others? That I should drink of the fruit of the vine, when others drink, not only a cup of wormwood, but a cup of blood (or suffering to death). What am I, that I should have those mercies which others want, who are better than I? Lord, why is it, that notwithstanding all my unworthiness, a fresh tide of mercy comes in every day? The mercies of God make a sinner proud, but a saint humble. (17-18)

The evil of affliction works for good to the godly:
-His life, as Calvin says, was a series of sufferings, 'a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief (Isa 53:3). He wept and bled. Was His head crowned with thorns, and do we think to be crowned with roses? It is good to be like Christ, though it be by sufferings. (28)

-If a physician should say to a patient, 'Your body is distempered, and full of bad humours, which must be cleared out, or you die; but I will prescribe physic which, though it may make you sick, yet it will carry away the dregs of your disease, and save your life;' would not this be for the good of the patient? Afflictions are the medicine which God uses to carry off our spiritual diseases; they cure the tympany of pride, the fever of lust, the dropsy of covetousness. Do they not work for good? (29)

-It may be said, how do afflictions make us happy? We reply that, being sactified, they bring us nearer to God. The moon in the full is furthest off from the sun: so are many further off from God in the full-moon of prosperity; afflictions bring them nearer to God. (31)

-God's ways are 'past finding out' (Rom 11:33). They are rather to be admired than fathomed. There is never a providence of God, but has either a mercy or a wonder in it. How stupendous and infinite is that wisdom, that makes the most adverse dispensations work for the good of His children! Learn how little cause we have then to be discontented at outward trials and emergencies! What! Discontented at that which shall do us good! All things shall work for good. There are no sins God's people are more subject to than unbelief and impatience. They are ready either to faint through unbelief, or to fret through impatience. When men fly out against God by discontent or impatience it is a sign they do not believe this text. Discontent is an ungrateful sin, because we have more mercies than afflictions; and it is an irrational sin, because afflictions work for good... Shall we be discontended at that which works for our good. (61)

-When we look upon adverse providences, and see the Lord covering His people with ashes, and
'making them drunk with wormwood' (lam 3:15), we may be ready to call in question the love of God, and to say that He deals harshly with His people. But, oh no, yet God is good to Israel, because He makes all things work for good. Is not He a good God, who turns all to good? He works out sin, and works in grace; is not this good? (62)

-Thus let us endeavor to make the name of God glorious and renowned. If God seeks our good, let us seek His glory. If He makes all things tend to our edification, let us make all things tend to His exaltation. (65)

Charles Spureon, "Beside Still Waters"
-Trials greatly enlarge the soul. Thus I do not want, in my better mind, to escape great trials, since they involve great graces. If my strength shall be as my days (Deut 33:25), then let my days be long and dark, for my strength will be mighty, God will be glorified, and I will be blessed. I earnestly urge every tested Christian to dwell on this truth, for it may be a great comfort. There is love, immortal and unchanging love, in heaven toward you, which will never grow cold. You will be helped. God will sooner cease to be than cease to be faithful. Be of good courage, for today He will stengthen your heart.

More Prayer Requests

An update on Mr. Cranky Pants: Things have been going well since I last updated. Baby James is still eating through a bottle, and is still quite a bit more calm than he when we were feeding him with the g-tube. His g-tube site looks quite a bit different from when he pulled it out a week ago. This past week we sort of forced a check up with the nurse practicioner who helped put it in. She said it looked fine, but Kristal and I were still a bit uncomfortable. Yesterday we had an appointment with James' Pediatritian and asked her to take a look. Of course, Mommy knows best. The pediatritian said that there was a small infection. She hooked us up with some antibiotics. Please pray that the infection healscompletely.

Kristal and I have quite a bit to think about before our next appointment with the pediatrition who took care of him while he was in the Intensive Care Unit (which will be this coming wednesday). We are going to talk to her about taking the g-tube out. Please be praying that the Lord gives us and Dr. Rhodes the wisdom to know when it would be best to take it out. We really want it out as soon as possible. However, there is a concern. Most of the doctors we have talked to so far have suggested keeping it in for a few more weeks or months (awww). Kristal and I have noticed that he has been fighting the bottle much more than he has before. Even when Baby James is starving, he will usually take no more than 10 ml without flaking out and turning his head from the bottle. A lot of this could be his brain injury. Of course taking the g-tube out could help his fighting the bottle, but there really is no telling. The last thing we want is to take the tube out and then have to put it back in--putting it back in means another surgery. With all of this in mind, we want to take it out so that he will not be in so much discomfort. No matter what anyone tells you, g-tubes are uncomfortable.

Another thing we will have to talk to Dr. Rhodes about this wednesday is muscle relaxing medicine. Baby James is abnormally stiff. This is something the Doctors have been concerned about since day 1. During our last meeting with Dr. Rhodes, she mentioned something about giving him muscle relaxing medicine to help calm him down. We think this may improve his bottle feeding quite a lot. Much of the reason he has such a hard time with the bottle is because his body tweeks out and he cannot stop it. Also, the doctors are concerned about his muscles being so tense for so long. Try and flex your muscles for more than 30 min at time--good luck. This is what Baby James does though. There are serious long term effects concerning his motor skills if he is too tense for too long. The doctors are taking their time with the muscle relaxing medicine because they don't want push pills if he doesn't need them. Their thought is that Baby James will calm down the more he matures. So far the doctors have been right--he has calmed down quite a lot since we brought him home. However, he is still mega tense. Pray that the Doctors would medicate him correctly.

Also pray for Kristal and I. Both of us have been having stomach issues. I have not felt normal now for over two weeks. I have been abnormally tired and lethargic because of it. My stomach doesn't feel right and my bowels are flipping out. John and Kelly (my in laws) had a flu bug before we brought Baby James home a few weeks ago. I think I might have picked it up from them. Last night Kristal woke up thinking she was going to throw up. Also, pray that Kristal would continue to heal from the delivery. She is still quite sore.

Finally, pray for me that I would do well on my finals. I take them this Tuesday. I have been trying to study, but with everything going on studying has proved to be a bit difficult.

I am almost done with a post entitled "Prayer, Suffering, and the Will of God." I will hopefully post it here in the next day or so. I encourage you all to read it. It is sort of a summary of some things that Kristal and I have been mulling over since the day James was born.

Thank you all for your continued prayers. The Lord has blessed us with the most wonderful friends and family. He has given us the most studly little boy. Please continue to pray for Baby James. I feel like he is at a plateau right now, which is difficult for us. Please pray that he would not regress--this is our worst fear. The Lord has done so many wonderful things. I cannot wait to see what He has in store for Baby James. My prayer is that he would "appear as a torch bearer in the world, holding fast the word of life" (Phil 2:15-16). Oh, and I also pray that he would be a master of the Greek and Hebrew languages.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cars Make Me Sleepy

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Thanks for Praying?!!!!!?!!!!

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Look At Him Go!

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Good News and A Scare

Kristal and I have both good news and a scare. In my last post updated ya'll on Baby James' new eating plan. The throat therapist gave us the go ahead to start experimenting on oral feeding. Well, by the second day of experimenting, he was eating his whole feedings through his mouth. Kristal and I attempted a call back to the throat therapist to see if we could start feeding him with a bottle. Well, she didn't call us back and we got sort of impatient and decided to try feeding him with the bottle. He ended up eating his whole feed with the bottle and loved it. He has been bottle feeding for the past two days and we haven't had to use his g-tube at all. The Lord is answering prayers. He is so mighty and able. Thank you so much for persisting. Now that he is eating through his mouth with the bottle it no longer takes two people to feed him. Also, since he has been feeding through the bottle, he has been much happier. He is still Mr. Cranky Pants, but he is much better. So that is the good news. Now for the Scare. Last night around 9:00 pm Kristal laid James down to change his diaper and his g-tube got pulled out. We immediately rushed to the emergency room. While James was in the ICU the doctors told us over and over that his g-tube would probably end up coming out and then encouraged us not to worry. This bit of information was helpful for us last night, but considering the fact that he has a hole in his belly made things a bit scary. At the emergency room the doctor put it back in and set up an appointment for us on Saturday morning. It was a bit of a scare, but the Lord worked everything out. This morning at his follow up appointment, the doctor said that everything looked fine. Please pray for Baby James that he would continue to feed through his mouth and love it. Also, please pray for me as I am preparing for finals. I am taking them on May 29th. Please pray for Kristal because she is quite tired and is having a hard time getting sleep. Thank you all so much for persisting with us. We love you all.

I am still working on a post answering the question why do bad things happen to God's children. I will hopefully be done with it in the next few days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Good News

We have a praise today. Yesterday we went back to hospital for a check up with the Pediatritians. The report was very good. They said that his excessive crying has a lot to do with his brain injury, but they will not medicate him for that until they are sure, because many babies without brain injuries cry just as much and they don't want to medicate him for no purpose. They were concerned about his muscle tone. The therapist told us that he is overly stiff and strong for his age. This is the result of his seizures and brian injury. Please pray that Baby James would be able to relax his muscles and stretch out. The good news is that throat therapist gave us the go ahead to start feeding him orally little bits at a time. She seemed very confident in his ability to swallow and protect his airway while doing so. She rigged us up a binki with a tube going through it so that he might be able to get super small amounts of milk while he is sucking. She told us to test his ability to eat orally everyday. She recommended that we start with about 5 ml at each feeding to see how he does with it. Well, this morning we tested his ability and he not only took the 5 ml test, he took about 15 on top of that. He ate about 1/3 of his feeding through his mouth and didn't cough, choke, gag, or struggle one time. We are pumped because this means that he is getting closer and closer to getting the tube taken out of his belly. We are going to, at his next feeding, push him a bit more. We are going to give him as much as he can handle through his mouth and then finish off what he can't handle through his g-tube. Our next feeding is in about an hour so really be praying that he can do all 75 ml through his mouth. This is such a huge answer to prayer. We have also been majorly blessed because Baby James seems to be a bit less cranky. We have officially given him the nickname Mr. CrankyPants. He seems to like it. He has been very pleasant to be around today. For those who have had cranky babies, I am sure that you know that it can be difficult to enjoy a baby who never stops crying. Kristal and I are leaning to block it out which is a good tactic. Thank you all so much for praying. Please continue to pray with us for our little guy. He is making progress, but still has a long way to go.

If you haven't noticed, I haven't put much biblical thought up in a while. Well, hold your horses. I have been working on something for the past week. I have been writing something on why bad things happen to God's kids. I really want to make sure that it is clear so I am taking my time with it. I will hopefully finish in the next week or so. In the mean time, ummm.... read your Bibles? Later.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Stink no More

Baby James was really stinky because he wasn't suppose to have a bath for 7 days after his surgery. Well, praise the Lord because today He lifted the stench--he no longer smells like moldy breast milk, which is nice, if you think about it.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Persist With Us

It is so nice to be back home. Baby James was at the Hospital for over 3 weeks. We have not gotten much sleep since we have been home--Baby James has a lot of gas and is in pain all day and all night. If he is awake he is crying. If he is asleep, he is still uncomfortable and wiggles and moves a lot. Please be praying for him that he would get some relief. We had an appointment with our pediatritian today and she hooked us up with some reflux medicine and some new formula that is super easy to digest. Please be praying that this new medicine works well and fast. Also, he has to feed every three hours around the clock, and each feeding takes about an hour and a half, and it takes two people to help feed because feeding through the g-tube is not quite the easiest thing to do. Kristal and I have been getting, on average, about 2 hours of sleep every night since we have been home. We have been blessed though because John and Kelly (my inlaws) have been super duper helpful. During the day Kristal and I will take turns napping while Kelly helps with the feedings. Kristal is still trying to heal from the delivery and I am trying to study for my finals and so really be praying that we would get our z's. The Lord was good to me because the school is allowing me to extend my finals date, which is a huge blessing. This morning the doctor said that James is healing well from his surgery and circumcision--Praise God. Right now the biggest prayer request is that James would get relief from this bad gas that he has been having. Thank you all so much for continuing to pray. Please continue earnestly because Baby James has a long way to go. Times will be much less stressful when he is able to eat orally. Also, be praying that he would fully recover from his brain injury. The doc's say that there is a chance that his motor skills (running, talking, walking etc) could be very poor as a result of his injury. His sucking is getting much much better. He mauls the binki now, which is a huge improvement. Oh, and thanks for praying about his crying! I think you might have taken us a little too seriously when we asked you to pray for that! God sort of over answered that prayer, because, as I said, he never stops crying. Like they always say, "be careful what you ask for." Actually, although his crying is never ending and proves to be a bit overwhelming, it is a blessing. The Doctors were all rejoicing and happy the first time they heard him cry (which, by the way, if I haven't fill you in yet, I was the first one to make him cry and it was the result of a classic "dad doesn't know how to change the baby's diaper" moment--it was pretty funny and typical. I had diaper rash creme all over me and the baby was all wrapped up in cords and everything else was going on). They said that his crying is an indication that he is healing from his brian injury. God is still answering prayer. God's grace is still being lavished on us.

I am a firm believer that God will often times delay an answer to pray to test us to see how much we will persist. He in a sense tests our faith in and dependence upon him. He wants to see if we actually believe that "cares for us." Continue to place your faith in the Infinitely Loving King of Kings and Lord Lords with Kristal and I. Comitt to believing what He has said in His word about Himself. Comitt to taking Him seriously when He says that He cares for us. Comit to believing God, because God has spoken--He has spoken many wonderful things about his power to heal and save. He has spoken many wonderful things about His love and care for sinners. Persisting in prayer is all about believing God. Persisting in prayer is all about believing that God is faithful to His promises. I urge you to persist in prayer on behalf of Baby James.

Baby Sitting 101

Check out the baby in the background. That's right, his life was left in my hands. Oh, and by the way, if I could get a picture closer up to my face you would see that part of my facial hair is coming in gray. GRAY! I thought the grays were suppose to come in later than age 25. Oh well, I guess it is a sign of wisdom (or that I am getting older and dumber.... hmmm--I think you will find your answer by taking another look at the picture).

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Check Out My Crib Yo!

Hangin Out With Mommy

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What Up Dawg?!

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Baby Alert!

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Baby James on the Car Ride Home

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Daddy Hard At Work

This is what daddy was doing when we were in the Koala Suite the other night. I am very efficient.

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Were Going Home

Sorry, it has been a while since I have updated. Times have strangely been a bit more stressful over the past week than they have been since the day Baby James was born. Surely things are not as tramatic as they were, but they are more stressful. The reason things are more stressful is because we are getting closer and closer to going home, therefore we have more meetings and busy work than we had before--the nurses have huge lists of things that we have to discuss and sign. The Doctors say that we will be discharged today, which is a blessing. Kristal and I are both super ready to go home. Baby James' surgery is healing well. He had some swelling last night, but it looked normal again this morning. The other night Kristal and I were able to stay in the same room as James with only one late night visit from the nurse. Here at the hospital they have a room called the Koala Suite, which is a room for those who are about to be discharged. We are going home with some equiptment (a feeding pump and a heart/breathing monitor) and so they wanted us to have a chance to use it on our own so that we might be comfortable with it when we get home. I fell asleep at 12:30 am and Kristal didn't fall asleep at all. Baby James is still quite sore from his surgery and is still having an issue with reflux. She held him for the majority of the night. Right now she is taking a nap. Please pray that she would be able to catch up on her sleep. Although we are ready to get home there is a fear of bringing our little guy home. Tomorrow we will be starting our new job as full-time (24-7) nurses. Please pray, because I know that most of you are thinking that this is the normal role of parents when they bring their new born home. But, really, it isn't. The difference is that our new born has a history of seizures, cannot eat through his mouth, has had a surgery on his stomach, has a tube sticking out of his belly, and is in danger of choking on his spit up and getting it in his lungs. Our parenting situation definitely is not as complicated and bad as some, but our situation also is far from stress free. Please pray that his surgery continues to heal well and that he experiences less discomfort. Also pray that Kristal and I would get good sleep. Pray for Baby James, he has been experiencing a lot of discomfort from gas, reflux, and the surgery and he has been hitting himself in the face a lot and his face is getting really raw. We have been putting socks on his hands to keep him from scratching himself, but he is still rubbing his face raw. His whole face is chapped--very uncomfortable. Finally, pray that James would be able to eat through his mouth. Thank you all so much for continuing in prayer.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Our Little Chunker

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Do You Mind?

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Bonding Time

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He is Getting Chunky

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Friday, May 4, 2007

A Successful Surgery

We have good news. Baby James had a smooth sailing surgery. The Doc said that there were no complications. Kristal and I have been by his bedside for the past two hours. He is in quite a lot of discomfort (as you could imagine). Please pray that he would get some relief from the pain. Our little guy, a few days ago, was not ablt to cry. Well, he has been crying for the past 2 hours straight. They gave him the maximum amount of pain killer that they could. I will update in more detail later. Thanks for praying! Praise God for the successful surgery. He is a good Heavenly Father. Please also pray that everything would heal well. If everything heals well the Doc's say that we should be out of the hospital by atleast Monday.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Hello all. Sorry to give you false information before, BUT they changed Baby James' surgery to tomorrow morning rather than this afternoon. They did this to reevaluate what was the best procedure. I will explain in a later post. For now I have to attend to some meetings with the doctors. His surgery is planned for tomorrow morning at 10:00 am eastern standard time. Thank you all so much for praying.

Surgery Day Today

Please pray for Baby James as he has surgery today sometime in the afternoon. I will update the blog when we find out the specific time he has the surgery. Please pray that it would go well and that there would be no complications. Also pray for Kristal and I that we would not get too anxious. Thank you all so much for praying. And thank you for leaving comments encouraging us. Your comments mean more to us than you think. Our biggest fear right now is that since Baby James' life is not on the line anyore that people will be less apt to pray. But this has not been the case. We are still recieving many comments which assure us that our Great Father is still being worn out by prayers for our little guy. Thank you all so much.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Please Pray

Kristal and I have some new news concerning Baby James. But first of all, he is doing very good. He is still slowly progressing with his sucking, gagging, and swallowing, but he is still not to the point where he can eat orally. The Lactation Consultant yesterday attempted to bottle feed him a tiny bit. He was able to get it down, but only after some coughing and choking. We had a little issue with one of the nurses because she tried to feed him orally without letting anyone know about it--including us, the therapist who is working on his sucking, gagging, and swallowing, and (as crazy as it may seem) the doctors. Kristal, being a good mommy, stood up and expressed her disapproval of this. It really was just sort of a strange ordeal, because everything that has happened with the baby so far has been a team effort. All of the doctors and nurses get together and discuss their plan of action. There was no plan discussed for oral feeding at this time, and so when Kristal and I learned that the nurse had done this without discussing it with anyone first, a red flag immediately popped up. The Lord directed us to the right people and they have sort of rectified the situation. We had a consultation with the Surgeon today regarding the G-Tube. Baby James is scheduled to go into surgery Thursday afternoon sometime. We will keep you all posted on this. At first we thought they were going to place the g-tube without surgery, but after talking to the Doctor about it today, it seems much safer to implant it from the outside in by way of an inscision rather than making a hole in his tummy from the inside out. The inscision will be very small and will heal in a matter of days. They have to sedate him for this surgery and so while he is sedated they are going to circumcise him as well. They are thankful that we are circumcising because they are going to be able to take his foreskin and use it to do further tests to make sure his brain injury is not the result of a rare metabolic disorder. They are very sure that his brain injury was caused by birth trauma, but they do not want to leave any stones unturned. Beause James is getting the g-tube does not mean that his ability to eat will in any way be harmed. The g-tube will stay in only as long as it takes for him to eat orally. Once he can get all of his food through his mouth they will take the tube out. We are a bit nervous about the surgery, but we know that a g-tube is much more comfortable for a baby than a feeding tube through the nose, AND we know that as long as he has a tube through his nose he cannot leave the hospital. They are guessing that we will be discharged sometime this weekend or the early part of next week. Please be praying for his surgery. Pray that the Lord would protect our little man while they are working on him. Pray that the Lord would grant the doctors skill, wisdom and precision and that there would be no complications. These two operations are very straight forward and there are very few complications associated with them, but, as with any operations, mistakes can be made. Please also pray, because he needs an IV and the nurses tell us that his veins are hard to find. Please also pray that he handles the anestesia well--that it works and that he he does not have any allergic reactions etc. Please also pray for Kristal and I that we get some sleep. We are ready to go home and are getting stressed with little sleep, tension, anticipation, and information. Also, pray for me because I have to take my finals next week.

One of the scriptures that stuck out to me as I was reading the book of John to Baby James was John 16:21-22. "Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you."

Now of course this verse jumped out at me because we just had a child and I saw Kristal go through labor (which, by the way, for those who have not seen their wives in labor--beware, your wife is much tougher than you think. If she flips out at you in what I would like to term "labor mode," you, my friend, are in a world of hurt). On a serious note this verse offers Chrstians with wonderful hope. I just want to make a few comments on this passage. First of all (and most obviously), notice that Jesus is here comparing the pain and trial of living in a fallen world with the pain and trial of labor. Jesus, up unto this point, has been talking about the horrid life one lives as a follower of Christ. No, don't think I mispoke, the HORRID life one lives as a follower of Christ. When I say "horrid" I do not mean joyless or hopeless. Jesus, in the context of this hunk of Scriptures tells us that "if the world persecuted Me they will persecute you also." In 16:20 he talks about how the world will rejoice and we will grieve. Why do you think Jesus exhorts those who wish to be converted to "count the cost?" Do not misinterpret Jesus' words by spiritualizing them when He exhorts us to "pick up our cross daily." When he said that he literally meant that unless we are suffering for the sake of the Gospel--we are not worthy to be his disciples. As weird as it may sound, if you are not bearing reproach because of the name of Jesus Christ there is something wrong. Jesus, in the sermon on the Mount says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness." The life of a follower of Christ is, according to earthly criteria, horrid. After all, the entire reason why Peter wrote 1 Peter was to encourage the persecuted Christians; the reason the author of Hebrews wrote Hebrews was to encourage the persecuted Christians, the reason John wrote Revelation was in large part to encourage persecuted Christians, it is argued that the main reason Mark wrote his Gospel was to encourage persecuted Christians. This is also a major theme in the book of 2 Corinthians. There were some false teachers in Corinth and the way that Paul goes about showing why they should follow his teaching rather than the teaching of the false teachers is by shedding light on his afflictions on account of the Gospel. (Oh, and don't be mistaken about what that 'thorn" in his flesh was in Chapter 12--it is persecutions--the word "thorn" is the same word used for the 12 inch spike used to nail Christ to the cross, and he explains what his thorn was in the verses following when he says, "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Paul here actually boasts in his afflictions). Persecution is promised to those who are in Christ. Why on earth then would you want to be a Christian? If Christianity is accompanied with such "grief" then why celebrate? Because the pain, agony, heartache, and hunger are worth it. This is the point of the passage. Jesus likens the pain and toil of this earth to the pain and toil of labor. No woman after having her child will say, "Ohhhh, I would throw this baby away in a heart beat if only I could take away the pain that accompanied his coming into the world." NO! The mother takes one look at her new baby and says, "It was worth it!" She does not forget the pain. It does not mean that once the child is in your arms that somehow there was no pain in labor. No, the memory and lasting effects of the pain are still real, however, the pain and grief were worth the child. The pain and grief we go through for the sake of Christ are worth it. When we get to heaven we will all say, "That was worth it."

One more observation. The promise is that our grief will be turned into joy. A couple gets pregnant and even before they have the child they live as though they already had the child. Kristal and I even went so far as to prepare Baby James' room for him two whole months before he was born. We (or I guess Kristal) washed all of his clothes and folded them and set up his room way before he was born. Expecting parents begin to buy things, they begin to think differently and everything even before the child is born. We in the same way WILL be changed by this thought of heaven. We are in a sense expecting--we are expecting a new home in a new place called Heaven. The things of this world tend to shape our perception. We are not to live as though this is all there is. When you have the promise of the child it is not the same thing as having the child, but it is not the same as having nothing. When you get pregnant you actually don’t know if you are going to have the child, but not so with the Spirit bearing witness about the hope of heaven. We KNOW that it is coming. So we also having been promised heaven do not now actually have it now--we have not completely been relieved from the trials of this life, however it is not as though we have nothing. Rather, we have a certainty of heaven based upon the unfalling word of the never-lying always-faithful God who is both Sovereign and Good. We will grieve, but we have this certainty. The woman cannot know the reality of having a child, but she has the testimonies of other mothers. The pain is still as awful, but the pain is lesser because of the hope. When we get to heaven we will not look at this earth and say, "Hey that wasn’t suffering," But we will say, "hey that was worth it." What a terrible thing to be apart from Christ. Look at what we look forward to. (This paragraph is a revised, expanded, and personalized version of my notes from one of my lectures from my Personal Spiritual Disciplines class taught by Dr. Mark Devine at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary).

The exhortation is to be bold in your proclamation of the Gospel. Lose all for the sake of Christ. Proclaim loudly and boldly. Bear the reproach of the Gospel knowing for certain that you do not suffer in vain. You have the hope of heaven. And as the Author of Life says Himself, "and no one can take this joy away from you!" Like a bold mother who wheathers the storm of birth with joy in the midst of pain, wheather the storm of the call of Christ with joy in the midst of pain. Maybe men, just maybe, this section of verses might be best understood by our women. It would be interesting to see some comments from women about how their labor has changed their perspective on anticipating heaven.