Cybersalt Shaker

The Cybersalt Shaker features devotionals and commentary written by Pastor Tim.

(September 8, 2003.)

I could not believe my ears. Just days before I had written September's prayer guide cover saying that my family and I had every reason to believe that my daughter was cured of her cancer. Now, we were sitting across from the desk of Dr. von Westarp and he was telling us that there was another suspicious growth, evident on the scan done after radiation treatment, and that more surgery might be required. Unbelievable. Later, I let my good friend in Minneapolis know this twisting wrench of events and he immediately asked if I would like an update put on the prayer request section of his web site. "Jeff," I replied, "There is nothing else to pray." On that day I stopped praying. Since then, however, I have also begun praying too.

That day I stopped praying and telling God what He is able to do and asking Him to do it in the situation before us. During my daughter's first two surgeries, a single radiation treatment, and the days before and after all three of those events, the peace of God guarded my life. Though at times I had touches and tinges of anxiousness, I found it quite easy to rest and trust, and pray again to God - extolling all that He knew was going on and that we were not lost from His sight.

However, weeks after that day, I began to pray again in a different way. Further diagnosis, the confirmation of more cancer, and the scheduling of a more radical and invasive surgery have smashed holes in the walls that guard the city of my life. The peace of Christ is still guarding my heart, but the markets of my mind and the city square of my being have been suffering marauding attacks of fear, anxiety, unsurety and dread of the unknown. My prayers have changed from those belonging to one resting in faith to those of one lifting to God a burden in faith.

I don't know which one of the above best describes you, but I do want you to know that it's OK to be either. For there are times when our past experiences with God are sufficient enough like the present to allow us an easily found rest in Him. Yet there are also times when we've not been this way before and don't have the comfort of seeing our footprints where God has previously walked with us. One time of life is no more spiritually elite than the other and God is the same hearer of prayers from both.

It's just that sometimes we have faith to rest from our praying, and other times we need to have faith to begin.

(August 14, 2003 - for the next in this series of devotions regarding my daughter's cancer click here.)

I would like to begin this devotional by thanking everyone for their calls, cards, kind comments, and especially prayers for my daughter Alyssa during her recent surgery and radiation treatment for thyroid cancer. At this time we have every reason to expect that she is cured.

Close to three weeks after her second surgery, my daughter was given radioactive iodine 131 in pill form and placed in strict isolation for 2 days. Following her return home, we were instructed to stay a metre away from her for 8 more days. Because I myself was born with cancer and received 28 radiation treatments, to my kidneys and surrounding areas at 6 months old, I am under instructions by my doctor to avoid radiation as much as possible. You can imagine that living with a mini Chernobyl (the former Soviet Union's infamous and disastrous nuclear reactor) for over a week was therefore a bit of a challenge for me. Though I wanted to, I could not sit next to my daughter, give her a hug goodnight, or take meals with her. In my heart of hearts I wanted to, but I just could not be near what was emanating out of her.

This whole nuclear avoidance experience gave me new insight into how sin separates us from God. God will not relate personally with any soul that has sin. It's not because sin would damage Him like radiation might me or how kryptonite weakens Superman. No, sin hinders our being in intimate spiritual relationship with God because it is totally contrary to His nature. To let sinful mankind dwell in His presence God would have to pronounce sin good. That just isn't going to happen because in order to do so God's Divine nature (which is the only standard of what is sinful or not) would have to change. And so we see in our world what I experienced in my home for 8 days - a Father's love felt toward a sick child whose condition renders unrestricted relationship impossible.

The solution? Well, for me it was time. For God, however, time is no solution. No amount of time or even eternity itself can make the ones He loves and is separated from better. God's only option is to remove their sin in a way that does not at the same time condone it. Someone has to pay for the sin that God cannot just excuse. That's what God did when He became the only sinless man since the Garden of Eden. Jesus, God become man, took the sin of the whole world upon Himself and died on the cross, paying the penalty we owed. In doing so He opened the door so that anyone believing in Him would be cleansed of the sin that radiates from them and keeps God at a distance. When we trust solely in what Jesus did for us, He completely washes from us the aura of our guilt and the inherited darkness of Adam's original rejection of God.

Because of Jesus, our Father in Heaven need no longer be a Dad at a distance.

(July 1, 2003 - for the next in this series of devotions regarding my daughter's cancer click here.)

The recent diagnosis of the spread of cancer in my 14 year old daughter has left me with a greater than usual burden to write something profound in this space - so here goes:

Life happens.

Let me explain. I don't know how this happens, but sometimes and somehow we believers in Jesus let ourselves slip into some sort of stoned state that sees us going through life as if nothing bad is ever going to happen to us. But, eventually an unexpected layoff, a worse than thought medical diagnosis, a loved one's passing, or something else sad, will slap us back to sobriety. Whatever that slap is, it is most often followed by a hangover sometimes described as a crisis of faith. This crisis is not really one of true faith though. Really it is just a staggering that happens as a result of a crutch of wrong and wishful belief being kicked out from under us.

When we believe that God says "A" is true and it becomes obvious that "A" is not true, we are faced with a choice of choosing between believing in God or our beliefs. The Bible says that God loves me and my wife and our other two kids. It also says that He loves my eldest daughter. That hardship, or trial, or sickness, or tragedy will never wash up upon the shores of our life is nowhere written in the Bible. I know this for sure because if it did our present life would be proof that the Bible was lying.

Which brings me back to "life happens." The reality of the Christian life is that in this world Christians share the road with drunk drivers, breath airborne chemicals and germs, get bitten by West Nile infected mosquitoes, lose their jobs to downsizing, and experience contact with many other woe causing elements and events that make up the human experience on earth. The Bible contains no promise that "life" will not happen to us. However, it does contain promises that God is with us (Psalm 139) and that He will never leave us (Matthew 28:20, John 14:18, Hebrews 13:5). Yes, life happens but God is with us. He is there with us in the delivery room as well as the x-ray room. He is there when we marry and He is there if our spouse is unfaithful. He is there when we land the job of our dreams and He is there when it's a job just to dream!

Life happens. Well good for life! God is there, God is there, God is there.

The return of December marks the season when many will observe Christmas with the trimming of a tree in their living room, the hanging of colourful lights around their homes, and the decorating of their life with the poor. Let me explain what I mean.

In recent years a local business has contacted me to help them find a family who could use a helping hand at Christmas. That sounds noble and innocent enough, but I have always steered these festive philanthropists to families in the community because I haven't wanted to subject our own church attendees to their giving. We, the church, help them ourselves anyway.

My concern about these holiday helpers is their motives. Take, for example, one manager with whom I spoke mere hours before they imparted their gifts to the poor family I introduced them to. This manager was telling me how she was going to go to the family's home with age, gender, and size relative gifts for the children as well as taking along all the supplies and ingredients for making a large turkey dinner. Rare wintry weather (we are in Victoria after all) was in the forecast and this caused her anticipation to grow and peak as she excitedly drew the thankful picture she surmised would be this family's response. She ended her hopeful description by asking me longingly, "Do you think they might even cry?" My first thought was to reply, "Well maybe, but if they don't you can always pinch them." But I held my tongue.

In reality it was this woman who needed to be pinched. She wasn't giving to lift others up. Neither were her actions compelled by compassion for the less fortunate. No she, like so many, was making the poor part of a magical Christmas so she could get the maximum warm fuzzies possible on December 25th. That poor family might just as well have been hanging on her tree or at least encased in a big snow globe in her living room.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not saying, "Don't give to the poor this Christmas." Neither am I saying that everyone who does so is only doing so for selfish reasons. I am saying, though, that how we remember the poor at Christmas may be more of a measure of our keeping of the emotive holiday traditions of men than a measure of our true compassion, sacrifice, and love for the poor.

The measure of that may have to wait until sometime into January because, for some, charity begins after Christmas.

Pastor Tim Davis, Copyright 2004
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Last year our part of the world experienced a serious drought. To help with water conservation I set up a plastic rain barrel. This year, with the drought a distant memory, it has been nicely filled barrel with reserves for watering plants and casual drinking for our dog in the backyard.

However, there was one problem that arose. The plentiful volume of water in the barrel also provided an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes by the hundreds. To solve this problem I bought some pond goldfish for about nine dollars and put them in the barrel. They loved the larvae and ate them up like popcorn. But after three days they ran out so I went to the pet store and bought them some fish food that cost close to six dollars. To protect my investment, I also put an old screen over the barrel to keep the fish from jumping out. Now not only do we not use the captured water for watering plants (because the fish need it) but the screen keeps our dog from her casual drinking.

The above illustrates a phenomena that happens at many churches. It all begins with a crisis and need to be met (the drought and the need to save water). In the process of meeting the need in question a problem arises (mosquito larvae in the water) and a program is developed (my fish in the barrel) to help manage it so the original mission can continue. Unfortunately, though, when the program is successful and no longer needed, many churches are so enamoured with it that they begin spending their time, money and effort in keeping it going (buying fish food and putting a screen on the barrel) while they abandon their original goal altogether (conserving water).

Proof of this phenomena in ecclesiastical circles abounds. Take for instance one particular denomination who championed the Sunday Evening service as an opportunity to invite unbelievers to church and hear the Gospel. Today these Gospel meetings continue even though there is seldom any unbelievers in attendance. Instead of trying a new program or method to reach out to the lost, they have become worshippers of their program. Take also the example of one church that converted their sanctuary into a multipurpose hall so their children's programs would have room to meet. Upon the completing of the nice, new edifice, some in the church sought to restrict what kind of activity could take place in order to protect its nice new appearance. Along the way in their program to build for ministry they had become programmed to sacrifice ministry for their building.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not against preaching the Gospel when there are people around that have never heard it. And I certainly don't think that church buildings should just be wantonly abused. I just think that when a program has served its purpose it should be put to rest. In the end, to keep doing some ineffective program out of habit, or for the sake of nostalgia, makes about as much sense as putting fish in a rain barrel.

Pastor Tim Davis, Copyright 2005
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