Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's That Time Again...

So, it’s that time again.  Tomorrow morning, my brother & I head out to Houston & to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  Tomorrow afternoon is the bloodwork & P.E.T. scan.  Friday is the next most-important-of-my-life Dr. appointment to get the results.

Would you please pray for us this week?

Of course, pray as God leads, but here are some things I’m praying:
--safe travels (my brother, Jim & I are driving out & back)
--peace for Lisa (again, it’s much easier to be the patient than the loved one of the patient!)
--peace for me, especially between the scan & getting the results
--blessing for my HS classmate Donna, who is once again graciously letting us stay in her home.
--that God would magnify Himself & the Gospel through me, whatever the outcome.

Oh, yeah, there’s also this significant prayer request:

The Detailed Schedule:
--Wed 4/25 => Jim is driving from his home in East AL to Hattiesburg
--Thurs 4/26 => Jim & I drive out to Houston; we’ll leave pretty early in the morning
Bloodwork, P.E.T. prep around 2:30, P.E.T. scan at 4:00 (lasts ~45 minutes)
Followed by very serious gluttony, since I’m not allowed to eat anything after 8:00 a.m. Not even chewing gum nor cough drops; water only. 
--Fri 4/27 => 11:00 appointment w/ Dr. Bedekian to get the results.
We'll head back Friday.
--Sat 4:28 => Jim drives back to Montgomery

Thank you SO very much for your prayers, my friends!  They mean so much to us.

Most humbly & sincerely,

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

So, what are your concerns again?

Got word from a long-time friend that her beloved spouse is being sent home from the hospital.
Into Hospice Care. 
They're predicting a couple of weeks until his faith becomes sight. 

What are your concerns again?

This is the culmination of a 10.5-year battle with cancer.

So, what are your concerns again?

They've been married 24 years, & dated 5 years before getting married.  They have children, the youngest of which is in 11th grade.  He's a stud pitcher for the local high school where they live.  This past Tuesday, he threw a no-hitter, which is a pretty amazing feat in baseball.  His Dad watched it live.

Via Skype from his hospital bed.

So, what are your concerns again?

My friend's attitude was once again very upbeat (all things considered), as it has been throughout this hellacious journey.  Ten and a half years of depths & dark nights of the soul that are beyond what most of us can imagine.  Ten and a half years of re-defining good news as "this cycle of chemo/radiation is over.  Rest up so you'll be ready for the next cycle."

So, what are your concerns again?

And yet, in the midst of sharing this with me about her beloved husband, get this:  My friend had only two requests: (1) "Would you please pray for us & our family?  This will be hard."  (2) "How is YOUR health & cancer situation?" 

Yeah...humbling beyond what I can describe here.  (My reaction must be all that pine pollen...or something.)

So, what are your concerns again?

My friend is a woman of considerable Christian faith.  A very deep & close walk with the Lord.  Very faithful in her church involvement.  If yours is a name-it-&-claim-it, formulaic approach to Scripture & faith, you should talk to my friend.  But only if you want to see your theology exposed as very deeply flawed and terribly incomplete.  Oh she wouldn't hammer your incorrect beliefs at all; I would, but she won't.  She's much too gracious & kind.  Just interacting with her, you would see that though she walks through the valley of the shadow of death & has done so for 10 1/2 years, she fears no evil.  She & her husband know the deep comfort of God's rod & staff, even when the medical news is bad.  They know that they have a placed prepared in the presence of their enemies (cancer, in this case), even when it seems the enemy is winning.  They know the goodness & mercy that follow them, even through the deep darkness that is painful & terminal cancer.  They have total confidence that he will soon dwell in the house of the Lord forever, and that one day, she will join him there.  Your "say-these-words & read-these-verses" theology will ring deeply hollow when confronted with the totality of the truths of Christianity as lived out by my friend. 

They've done a remarkable job raising children in a situation that's beyond any parenting situation I have ever faced.

So, what exactly are your concerns again?

Sorrowful, yet rejoicing; grieving but with hope,

p.s. - Would you join me in praying for my friend & her beloved hubby whose departure is at hand, and for their children?  I'll not mention any names, as she is so very humble.  The Lord knows who they are.

p.p.s. - Oh, for a day when a cancer diagnosis is similar to a flu diagnosis: some discomfort, some meds, & then good as new!  *sigh*  As you pray for my friend & her family, would you join me in praying for cancer researchers to find a cure for all forms of cancer?  I join SO MANY cancer patients in thanking you for that prayers.

p.p.p.s. - Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Day After Easter...So What?

A friend of mine noted that Christians who only celebrate their faith on Easter Sunday do not have a faith that's to be taken seriously.  (A severe paraphrase of my friend's words, but it catches the idea.) 

I agree.

I might enlarge the thought that if one's faith is only celebrated & talked about on Easter Sunday and on Christmas Day, that's not really a faith to be taken seriously.

The question to ponder is this: What difference does Easter make on the day after Easter?  Does Easter make a difference at all on the day after Easter?

If the difference is "I'm rested up from the extra day off from work" or "I gotta hit the treadmill because I ate too much yesterday" or "Whew! an 8-month break until the next significant holiday..." then I think we've missed the big E on the eye chart.

But PLEASE don't take my word for it.  Consider:  "Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."  (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)

What's the "therefore" there for?  What does it reference?  It references 57 verses immediately preceding that teach the foundational importance of the resurrection of Jesus to the entirety of the Christian faith.

Note what Paul does NOT say is based on the reality of the resurrection:
--"relax! It's all good."
--"You worked hard to pull off your church's Easter weekend activities; do it again next year & take it easy until then.,"
--"Knowing that in the Lord you never need to lift a finger."

Instead, "be always abounding in the work of the Lord"..."knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."  In other words, always be laboring in the Lord's work.  And as you work, know--be certain--that it's not in vain.

67 years ago today, in the woods of northern Europe, one of my heroes' faith became sight.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged at Flossenburg prison.  Bonhoeffer was many things, but he was first & foremost a pastor.  That Sunday morning, April 9, 1945, he led a worship service for some fellow prisoners.  His two texts: Isaiah 53:5 ("By His stripes we are healed!") and 1 Peter 1:3 ("Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!")  Other prisoners hoped he would lead a second service, but a date with the gallows prevented it.

He was summoned.  He pulled aside a fellow prisoner & said this: "This is the end. For me, the beginning of life." 

Years earlier, he had preached this: "No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence...which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal?  That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up...Why are we so afraid when we think about death?...Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God's Word...Death is grace...Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle, it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace...Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith..."

On April 9, 1945, after years of training pastors & doing significant ministry in Hitler's Nazi regime under threat of imprisonment & death, Bonhoeffer reached the end of his earthly pilgrimage.

He knelt on the floor and prayed fervently.  Outside, he prayed again & then climbed to the gallows, "brave and composed."  According to the camp Doctor at the Nazi camp where Bonhoeffer was executed, "In the almost 50 years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

That April 9 was the day after Easter.  So is this April 9.

Again the question: So What?  What difference does what you celebrated yesterday make this day?  And the next day?  And the next?

Be steadfast...always abounding in the work of the Lord, for truly, it is not in vain!

With hope,

p.s. - I commend to you Eric Metaxas' excellent biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Then Came the Morning

That first Easter Sunday...a day that changed everything!

A day that is the very basis for the Christian faith.  "If Christ is not raised, your faith is futile..." said the apostle Paul.

A day that proves decisively the love and power of God.

As celebrated in this 25-year-old song that still is a goose-bump inducer.  It's Newsong's "Arise, My Love."  Enjoy, and celebrate!

And in this allergy-attack inducer.  Two of the most talented singers to ever take the stage.  Sandy Patti & Larnelle Harris doing "I've Just Seen Jesus."  Enjoy, and celebrate!

And in this old-school acoustic classic.  Don Francisco's "He's Alive" which celebrates the resurrection of Christ through the eyes of Peter.  Enjoy, and celebrate!

Finally, one by a guy whose music had a HUGE impact on my coming back to the faith 30 years ago.  this is Keith Green doing "Easter Song."  Enjoy, and celebrate!  The particular setting is a music club in Los Angeles...NOT a church or a Christian concert.  Thus his explanation @ the beginning.  Enjoy, and celebrate!

Remember, if Christ is not risen, our faith is futile, and we are misrepresenting God Himself!  (1 Corinthians 15:14, 15, 17).  But since He is, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.  (1 Corinthians 15:58)

He is risen!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

He Was Crucified, Dead, & Buried...

It's Saturday.  On Friday, after sham "trials," he was horribly tortured, mocked, shamed, and painfully executed.  At his side was another man undergoing the same execution, although not unjustly.  That guy's prayer near the end of his life is the core prayer of all believers: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Here's one of my favorite songs, "Thief" by Third Day.  Every time I hear this song, I'm taken back to a lonely windswept hill outside of Jerusalem a couple thousand years ago. And I always wonder where I, Mike Madaris, would've been were I present that day.  I'm pretty sure I would have been among the mockers, if not one of the thieves, or perhaps even Barabbas.  This video is Third Day performing "Thief" live.  Enjoy, and be humbled.

One more from the perspective of the thief.  This is Steven Curtis Chapman's "This is How Love Wins" from The Story CDs.  I love Steven's music & his story.  And I really love this song, as it applies the thief's perspective to all of us.  Haunting...and so very triumphant.  "In the presence of my King, I cannot fall upon my knees; I cannot carry you to your instead will carry me back home..."

And then there's another of my favorite songs, "It is Finished" by Petra.  Petra's music is significant to my own spiritual journey.  Good rock music that flows from a deep faith.  I saw them in concert twice, & they were just fantastic.  This song is just one of my many favorite Petra songs.  The link goes to the original with Greg Volz singing; when I saw Petra, John Schlitt was the singer; both are good, but they rocked a bit heavier with John.  Still, I like this version because it includes the lyrics.  Enjoy, and be humbled.

I'll close this one with a couple of quotes. 

First, one from my former pastor, Tony Merida: "For God so loved the world that He was silent when the Son asked for another way."

Second, this chill-bump inducer from Scotty Ward Smith's Twitter feed that captures what happened on Friday & Saturday of that first Easter week.  "His mother grieved, His friends scattered...but Heaven just started counting to three."

He was crucified, dead & buried.  He's not dead & buried any more.  He is risen!  (But that's getting ahead of ourselves a bit...)  Not "it is started"...but It. Is. Finished! 

Humbled by Good Friday,

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Heading into Easter...

Continuing with the week's theme of what my former pastor calls "theology you can take home," I wanted to share another couple of songs that have been on my mind this week.  (And on my ipod too!)

The first is one of my favorite songs for many years.  Sandy Patti is just one of those singers.  Reportedly a vocal range of over four octaves, and control throughout the entire range.  But as awesome as her talents are, that's not really why I'm posting this.  Did you ever hear a song & wonder what the writer was experiencing when s/he wrote it?  I heard a story about the great songwriter Bill Gaither being asked if he had written a particular song; Bill's great answer: "No, I wasn't listening that day."  And did you ever wish you could see a writer hear his/her work performed in public?  This is that video.  It's a gathering of music greats of various ages, all sitting around in a room as Sandy sings.  But the videographer regularly captures the writer of the song, Dottie Rambo, being overcome as she listens.  You'll see a dark-haired woman shaking her head on amazement; that's her.  (Dottie has now beheld him; her faith is now sight. Can't wait to thank her for listening so well as she wrote this & other songs!)  You'll see others in the crowd being similarly overcome.  And if you were sitting in my home office, you'd have just seen me overcome...By the way, you'll see Sandy signing the words throughout; for years she would close out her concerts with this song.  And she would invite hearing-impaired people forward to the stage, where they would sign the song together.  Talk about being overcome with emotion!

As we head into Good Friday & Easter weekend, I wanted to remind us that one day, We Shall Behold Him.  I can't wait!  Maranatha!

And then there's this one, that I've featured here before.  As of this morning, I have an unblemished, perfect record.  Every single time I've watched this, my allergies kick in suddenly.  *blush*  I can't help but note that the writer, Bill Gaither (1st guy singing) and Marshall Hall (2nd guy) have difficulty getting through their lines because of emotions.  Despite having sung this many times, they're still caught up in what they're singing.  As they should be.  As we all should be. (I've sung this in my car, and have yet to make it all the way through.)

As we move into the end of Easter week, don't forget a couple of key things: 1) He was & is worthy of praise & adoration.  2) He was slain.  Dead.  Buried.  But Hallelujah!  He wasn't that way but for a couple of days!

Humbled by pondering His worth, & eager to join the angels & saints of all ages in worship that is not tainted by sin any more,

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


As noted Monday, Easter week causes me to ponder deeply my theology & faith. 

As, I believe, it should for all of us, Christian or not.

I think we race past Good Friday for a couple of reasons. First, it's just plain icky & gross, especially when one understands all the incredibly-brutal physical aspects of crucifixion. We don't like to talk about it. Second, we minimize it in a nearly Gnostic way: "well yeah, but Jesus was God, so He didn't really get hurt on that first Good Friday; it was just His body." Wrong! All that He was experienced all that crucifixion was. Including agonizing suffering and death.

But there's a third reason I think we race past Good Friday. Way down deep inside of ourselves, we don't really think the crucifixion of Jesus was necessary. Even us Christians. (Stay with me!) In our heart of hearts, we don't really think we're THAT bad. Sure, we "mess up" now & then; some more often than others. But to think we're really NOT good after all? That we're NOT righteous folks who just goof a little bit? To imagine that we need more than just an attitude adjustment or a "little help here"? Those things can't possibly be true.

And yet, they are true. The problem is--to me anyway--we start from the wrong place in two directions. First, we start with a very small view of God and therefore of His righteousness & holiness. It's as if God is merely this really-cool, super-strong buddy who never goofs like we do. Now, my own favorite name of God in all of Scripture is Jehovah Shammah which basically means, "The Lord Who is Present." I love the immanence & closeness with which God draws near to us. But be not mistaken: God is so much more than just my super-cool friend & homeboy that the comparison quickly becomes ludicrous. And His righteousness & holiness are so far beyond anything we've ever seen or been that we can't even imagine. Among the many benefits of reading the Old Testament is gaining a great appreciation for God's holiness & righteousness. Moses was told that if any of the people of Israel touched the mountain where God was speaking with Moses, they would die. Later, the temple was constructed with a progressive set of barriers at least in part to protect the people from being undone by the holiness of God. "No man can see me and live..." I could go on, but you get the idea.

Second, we start with a very grand view of ourselves. We're not really that bad. We "make mistakes" and "apologize to any who were offended." (Aside: that is really not an apology at all.  No remorse, no repentance; basically, "if you're so small as to have been offended, then I'll sigh at you & say you shouldn't have.)  We certainly don't see ourselves as unrighteous, sinful people needing not just help but redemption. We are helpless. When Isaiah saw the glory of God, he said "woe is me! I am undone...for I am a man of unclean lips & I live among a people of unclean lips..." When Peter caught just a glimpse of Jesus' majesty, he said "Go away from me, for I am a sinful man."

Which is why I so love the lyrics of this song. It's very sad, echoing a heart cry buried deep within us all. How could I have done so much wrong? How can I have a relationship with you, Jehovah Shammah? How could an awesome, holy, righteous God like You, who knows & sees all that I am still say I'm good? As the song says, "Could there be something more?"

Yes there could. Yes there can.

Start with right thinking about God. Not as we re-make him, but as He is described in Scripture (which is FAR more awesome & wonderful than any god I could imagine!). And move from there to right thinking about you (& me!) and about our (unpopular word alert!) sinfulness.

And then try to grasp the unfathomable love that was demonstrated on a hill outside of Jerusalem on a Friday a couple of millenia ago.

This particular song is on a collection Lisa bought me for Christmas.  The idea is to capture the whole of the Bible's story (It's based on an attempt to do so in literary form.  I was underwhelmed by that attempt, for what it's worth.)  Some of the songs on the CD are just OK, but some are just fantastic.

This one took a couple of listens for me, but I really love it.  (It's Adam & Eve speaking to God after their sin.)  The lyrics are haunting and simply fantastic.  It's also Mike Madaris speaking to God after MY sin. 

"To feel your breath when branches move...take one more sunset walk with you"..."Can't imagine how you could see all of me and say 'It's Good.'"

Don't race past Friday!

p.s. - The song is 6 minutes long & is found here. Freshen up your coffee & enjoy! 

Monday, April 02, 2012

Man of Sorrows, What a Name!

Been pondering some songs & hymns lately while teaching through Romans & as Easter approaches. Then we sang this yesterday a.m. @ Church; turns out, it's hard for the Powerpoint guy to keep up when the screen goes all blurry early in the song.  Must have been the humidity...or something.  *sheepish smile*

Don't race past the Ephesians 2:1-3 part of your spiritual journey in your hurry to get to Ephesians 2:4 & following!  Don't skip the horror of the cross in your eagerness to get to the empty tomb!  Don't miss the overriding purpose of Jesus' coming in your excitement about "Surely I am with you always."

Your fellow "ruined sinner,"

p.s. - 6:20 in length; words included. Freshen up your coffee & be blessed and humbled.