Monday, January 11, 2010

A Big Thanks to a Good Friend

Rarely in our lives do we meet individuals who truly impact our lives in the most significant ways. Oh, there may be two or three along the way, but they are few and far between. One of those people in my life is a gentleman whom I’ve known for only a relative short period of time when viewed on the time-line of life. He moved into a corner of my life about eleven years ago and I immediately was impressed by his intelligence and at the way he carried himself. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy; a nuclear submarine engineer; a retired U.S. Navy Commander; and he holds an earned Doctor of Ministry degree: All quite impressive. These however, are not the attributes that caught my attention. Immediately I saw this man as one who walks with God and one who knows not only in whom he believes, but also why he believes. I saw a man whose heart is filled with love for the church, her pastors and uncompromising truth. Over time, this man became my mentor. He allowed me the privilege to walk with him, talk with him, pray with him, and learn from him. He has challenged me when I needed challenged and has been a great encourager in both my life and ministry. He has been a stalwart during troubled times and in many ways I think I have felt much the same way Timothy and Titus must have felt in the presence of the Apostle Paul. Joseph K. Minton has been more than an Associational Missionary to me: He has been, and is my friend. J.K. has now officially retired as the Director of Missions for the Bluebonnet Baptist Association. He will continue in ministry, though in a more vocationally limited way, working with churches which are plateaued or declining. His lovely wife, Ruth, is one of the most gracious ladies I have ever met and she truly deserves more time with her man. Reva, our church and I wish J.K. and Ruth the very best of life in the days ahead and I look forward to some great golf lessons! As Robby Partain takes the mantle of ministry from J.K., we also wish him the best and look forward to working with him and the churches of the Bluebonnet Baptist Association for many years to come.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Name of Jesus: Brit Hume and Tiger Woods

There is and has never been anything more controversial than the name of Jesus. It is the only name given among men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4: 12), but it is also the name that stirs up more animosity than any other. Christians are being persecuted more in America today than at any other time in our nations history, simply because of His wonderful name. If you've never done so, I recommend reading Franklin Graham's book The Name, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002, in which Dr. Graham addresses the bigotry associated with the name of Jesus.

Last week a noble news journalist, Brit Hume, came under attack because he referred to the dreaded "J" word. Actually, he didn't use the name of Jesus directly. He used the word "Christianity", which in our fallen society is disdained as much as "Jesus". I had heard and seen Mr. Hume's remarks several times, but give thanks to one of my parishioners, Bill Wilcox, for forwarding me this Internet link to both his initial remarks and a subsequent interview with Bill O'Reilly. The link is:

Whether or not you like either Brit Hume or Bill O'Rilley, I challenge you to take a few minutes and watch both clips. As Christians of diverse political persuasions, we must rally behind Brit Hume. He has both the right as an American and the mandate as a Christian to lovingly speak the truth about God's love and forgiveness. His invitation to Tiger Woods to explore the grace of God was extended in a non-threatening, non-intrusive manner, but he is coming under great attack. I thank God that in the world of political correctness, there was a man who stood on truth and principle. Pray with me that God will protect Brit Hume, his family and his career. Pray with me that Tiger Woods will hear the invitation with a conviction of heart and turn to Jesus Christ.

Friday, January 1, 2010

God Is Good -- Health Issues

During the first week of July '09 I was diagnosed with diabetes, in a rather unusual manner. It was a little scary, at first, but God is good and all is well now. With a good doctor, some oral medication, lifestyle adjustments, a wonderfully understanding and supportive wife, and the hand of God, all is under control. I've taken up golf (or hacking, as it's called in my case) and look forward to a great 2010.
I am making this post simply because in recent days many of my friends have found out about my situation and inquired about just what happened. This is an article first published in our church newsletter, The Trumpet Call, and it pretty much explains it all.
August 2009
I rarely use this space to address personal issues, but on this occasion I take liberty. On Thursday, July 2, my life forever changed. I know that Philippians 4:6 says, “do not be anxious about anything” and 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” but on this day these passages would become more than preaching points. They would become tests of my faith.
Let’s go back to late last summer. I made my annual pilgrimage to the doctor for my annual checkup. Everything looked good except one thing. My blood sugar level was at the high end of the acceptable range. My doctor, who is a fine Christian man, sternly advised me to lose about twenty pounds and said with the weight loss and good eating habits we should see the blood sugar level come down. I tried, really tried to be a good boy. With Reva’s help, we stopped eating dinner at 9:00 p.m., at least on most nights. I began eating a small breakfast and making lunch my “big meal” of the day. Supper was generally soup or salad and before long I started losing weight: a little at first and then my body caught onto what I was doing and the pounds began to drop more quickly. I lost thirty pounds and thought I was doing well. Then it happened.
Over a short period of time some physiological changes began to take place in my body. My mouth became very dry and as many of you noticed I began to carry a glass of water into the pulpit with me just to make it through the sermon. I drank more water than usual, a lot more, but really didn’t think much about it. More frequent trips to the restroom came quickly, but hey, it was not big deal. After all, I was drinking much more water. Reva began to get concerned. Guys, don’t you hate it when your wife gets concerned about you?
We had planned a trip to Cozumel in July with our airfare and condo prepaid. We looked forward to spending the time together and exploring the reefs once again, but this time with our new underwater digital camera. We had big plans. Well, because of her concern for my health, she began to nag, and pray. She wanted me to go to the doctor and get checked out, “just in case,” she said. Of course, being a man, I said I’d just wait until my annual physical in August. After all, I didn’t feel bad so why go to the doctor. The dry mouth was being handled adequately by simply drinking more water. No big deal, right?
Reva’s prayers and nagging would not diminish, so finally I made an appointment with my doctor on, you guessed it, Thursday, July 2. It was a terrible day. I had spent much of the day visiting with church members and dealing with various issues of a pastoral nature. That, is not bad, just a little stressful but then as I was about to leave for my doctor’s appointment, my car would not move out of “park.” It was 104 degrees and I couldn’t get the gear shift to move. I laid on the floorboard, trying to evaluate the problem to no avail. Finally, I called the doctor to tell them I couldn’t get there on time, hoping they’d say we’d reschedule after my return from Cozumel. But no, they said to come on in as soon as possible and they’d wait on me. My secretary, Tammy, was gracious enough to take me to the doctor and I arrived thirty minutes late. The nurse came in and asked me why I was there. “Wife nagging,” I replied. She laughed and then I told her my symptoms. “Uh-oh” she said. “Sounds like diabetes.” That’s not what I wanted to hear, but “hey,” I thought, “I’m controlling this with diet and weight loss.” She took a urine sample and then pricked my finger for a quick blood test. After metering the blood, she turned and walked out of the room without saying a word. Less than thirty seconds later the door swung open and the doctor came in. “Are you having chest pains?” were the first words out of his mouth. Not, “hey, Mitch how are you doing” or “what’s up today, man.” He seemed hurried, almost in a frenzy and really out of character. My response to his question was a simple “no,” and then in hurried succession he asked, “Chest pains?” “Dizziness?” “Numbness in your arms or legs?” And each time my response was “no.” Then he repeated each question with the attached phrase “are you sure?” to which I responded, “I’m sure, doc. I feel fine. My mouth is just dry.”
The doctor quickly ordered up an EKG, checked me from one end to the other, then ordered a battery of blood tests. I went to the hospital (the only lab still open at this late hour) and had blood drawn while Reva went to have a couple of prescriptions filled. I was to take one pill immediately and one the next morning, then return to the doctor’s office at 11:30 the next morning. I did exactly what the doctor ordered and listened to Reva ask me, “now aren’t you glad you listened to me.”
The next morning, Friday, July 3rd, I returned to the doctor’s office, this time on time. The nurse came in, took my blood pressure and again pricked my finger for a blood sugar test. Again, she left without saying a word. The doctor entered. This time he was not in such a hurry. He was, in fact, rather laid back with a funny look on his face. It wasn’t a look of worry; maybe perplexed. He sat down on his little doctor stool and laid his clipboard which held my charts on the examination table beside me. He shook his head and said, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” Then he went back through the list of questions again, “Chest pains....Abdominal pains...etc.?” Same questions. Same answers. Then came the wallop I wasn’t ready for. The doctor said, “the normal range for one’s blood sugar level tops out at 110 and yours was at 925 yesterday when you had your blood drawn. This is not compatible with human life. Right now your blood sugar level is at 550, and you should be in a coma. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”
You could have blown me over with a straw. “What are you saying?” I asked. He responded, “you have diabetes, big time and we’ve got to get this under control immediately.” “What do you mean?” I innocently, or stupidly asked.
“I mean I’ve never seen anyone with this high of blood sugar level that was still talking. Above 400 people grow delirious, fall into a coma and by the time it reaches where you were yesterday, they die,” said the doctor.
“Well, you’ve got to do something quick” I said, “we’re leaving for Cozumel to go diving on the 14th.”
The doctor replies, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.” He then talked to me about the seriousness of the condition, and particularly at the levels I was experiencing. He told me that only God could have protected me with the levels of blood sugar I was having and that even though I hadn’t realized it, I had been at death’s door. What he was saying began to sink in and suddenly my world came crashing in. What if Reva hadn’t been so persistent in making me go to the doctor? What if we’d been in Mexico and something tragic would have happened? What if I never had an opportunity to hold her again, or kiss my daughters, or play horsey with my grandchildren? What if . . . what if . . . what if? My life had changed and the anxiety was overwhelming. Questions swirled in my mind and as I shared with Reva what all the doctor had said we both became emotional. We would get through this together, we promised one another and we reassured one another that God would never leave us nor forsake us. We prayed together and in at least a small way began the process of casting our anxieties upon him. The scriptures had become very personalized, and suddenly buildings, programs, and even “church” became less important. I’m here at FHBC until the Lord moves me or calls me home, or until you fire me, but on July 2,2009 everything in my life changed and I hope you’ll understand.
Fast forward one week. Things are changing and getting better. Blood sugar levels are not where they need to be, but they are much better and the doctor has cleared us to go on vacation. We’re learning to adjust diet, perform personal blood tests, and do all the other things associated with this new challenge. We know that God is our keeper and we are so grateful that even when we were totally unaware and I was too stupid to understand the warning signs, our God was watching over me and protecting me. Every day is indeed a gift from God!