The Aroma of the Gospel Will Refresh Your Soul

the hope of the believerOur souls breathe better when the air contains the aroma of good news.

But we seldom have the opportunity to breathe such wonderful air. If we are honest, the air we breathe often contains no blessed smell. Our noses know only the stinks of rotting relationships, crummy bank accounts, and guilty consciences that drift up from the basements of our dark hearts.

Naturally, we want the smells gone and light the candles of social media, major news outlets, and human friendship. But as the sounds of the T.V. flood into our ears and the images on our phones capture our eyes, the foul smells of discouragement do not dissipate. They grow because the world is filled with broken people who disagree with our political, economic, and social choices.

John Kransinski of “The Office” fame has tried to counter all foulness of the world with his 15-20 news segments appropriately label “The Good New Network.” He fills the air with positive stories, impromptu weddings, and an overall fun helping of positive goodness. Though delightful, these moments fail to knock out the fouls smells that enrapture our hearts.

We need a stronger, longer lasting aroma. We need the good news of Jesus Christ.

The author of Psalm 107 directs us to that everlasting hope when he calls us to,

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good for his steadfast love endures forever!

And it is not just a hope we passively consume with our eyes and nose; it is a hope we joyfully proclaim to the world with our mouth. The redeemed are to join in on the good news network of Jesus Christ. They are to proclaim the goodness of God, highlighting the great value of public singing, praying, and proclamation. Though pastors should preach, the beauty of the church consists not of one person proclaiming the gospel but of the whole church proclaiming the gospel. Indeed, let the redeemed say so.

Why is the gospel so great?

Why does the aroma of Jesus have such staying power? The aroma of Jesus fills our souls with hope because it is a hope of personal salvation that addresses our sins and every human struggle. God does not save us and then leave us until we get to heaven Heaven. Jesus stays intimately involved in our earthly lives.The redeemed praise God because God has saved them from homelessness, oppression, sickness, and storms. To relight hope in our hearts, we do not need the social media plugins, we need the candle of gospel remembrance.

“He has redeemed them from trouble and gathered them in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.”

To remove the odors of uncertainty, fear, dread, and boredom that stink up our lives, we need to remember the saving power of God. We need to contemplate God’s wondrous works of redemption expressed through his divine justice.

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord. 

Christians Should Be Confident People

confidentChristians should be confident about life.

Such confidence is not derived from ignorance nor from an over appreciation of one’s ability. The faithful Christian is not the person who thinks himself or herself adequate to every task whether that be run-blocking for the New England Patriots or trading commodities in Tokyo. The Scriptures clearly state that God has given people specific talents to specific people for the purpose of blessing humanity. Though equal in value, we are not equal in function.

When God zeros in on his people, the church, he describes them as a body. God designed us to work in unison with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not competent for every task. But we should be confident in the Lord regardless of what we are doing and what is going on around us.

In short, our emotions should be determined by our understanding of the Lord and not our circumstances. And those who understand the power of God cannot help but be confident in their God.

In 1 Samuel 14, Saul and his army had become so petrified that they can no longer act like an army. Their fear is not without merit. The Israel’s army had 3,000 men who had recently assassinated a Philistines governor and his security detail. Responding to Hebrew’s bravado, the Philistines sent 30,000 troops crashing into the Hebrew countryside. Saul’s small and terrified force was no match for the Philistine army. Saul who had boasted of his military muscle only few days earlier now sat motionless. While he waited, His nation and army feel into disarray. People were literally running to the hills for safety. Saul had no hope because his circumstances contained only gloomy clouds of despair.

But not all in the Israelite camp were despairing. In 1 Samuel 14:6 we read,

Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.”

Jonathan knew that God was not limited by Jonathan’s circumstances. God did not need his health, money, power, abilities, or connections to carry out his plans. God rules. He controls the stars, the waves, the hearts of men and women, the birds, and even the tiny blades of grass. God reigns! But God is more than sovereign, God is good! Jonathan’s God had promised never to “abandon you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers, which he swore to them by oath (Deut. 4:31).” Though the odds were stacked against Jonathan, he went forward boldly for he knew the power and character of his God.

Friends as we wrestle through life, we should have Jonathan’s confidence times two. Jonathan went forward knowing the promise of God’s power. We go forward having experienced the fullness of God’s power. Jesus has died on the cross for our sins and he has risen from the dead, delivering us from the power of sin. Because of Christ work, Christians have a confidence that atheists, Mormons, and Muslims can never have. We have the confidence of knowing that we are right with God. We know that nothing can change that status. Nothing take away our hope of salvation. As Paul writes in Romans 8:31-38:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christians should be confident people. Even when we feel the pain of cancer, the pressures of being jobless, and hardships that come with broken relationships, we can be confident in the power of Christ.  Like Jonathan, we can say, “Let’s see what glorious thing God will do today!”

Our circumstances do not define us. Our God does!

We should expect our God to work. God hears Jonathan’s expression of faith and gives the prince an incredible victory over the Philistines. Jonathan, his armor bearer, and the discombobulated army of Israelites defeat an army of 30,000 well trained troops. God does the impossible.

God is not done doing the impossible. He has not kicked off his shoes and sat down to play Candy Crush while we eek out an sad existence in the twenty-first century. Paul reminds us that our God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”  Our Lord and savior is still in the business of healing the sick, redeeming the broken, and sanctifying the redeemed. God used Luther to begin the reformation, Wilberforce to overturn slavery, and Jim Eliot to reach the Huaorani people. If you find yourself overwhelmed by circumstances that seem beyond rescue, implore the Lord for help! P. B. Power reminds us, “Man’s expectation is generally a prelude to God’s action.” Expect God things from God! 

This is not to say we expect God to do all our holy will. Yet, we should expect God to do all that is good and all that is best for us. We should always be confident of God’s goodness and love. We should be confident in our God!

Do you have the confidence of Jonathan?

Memo: April’s Breast Cancer Third Update June 2019

breas-cancer-3Our feet have touched the cool soft dirt of hope. This past Wednesday, June 19, April began her hormone therapy.

The preparation for this first day of battle has been vastly extensive, slowly hurried, and ever changing. We have talked with clinics in Virginia, Houston, New York, and Memphis. On multiple occasions, we prepared to head north or south with fully packed suitcases. Then the phone would ring and toss all our nicely folded plans across the floor. We would spend the next 24-48 hours pouring over new medical charts, praying, and rearranging tickets in preparation for a trip West or East. Then April’s phone would buzz again. After a few more conversations, our compass would reveal a completely new and unanticipated direction. Often what seemed a long shot on Monday would become our future on Wednesday and then would disappear from our plans on Thursday.

After three weeks rearranging and repacking, April and I found ourselves headed North to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. We grabbed tickets on a Thursday and arrived in Minnesota the following Monday.

The doctors and medical team at Mayo reviewed April’s medical records. They then performed a bone scan, a biopsy of the cancer in her bones, a genetic test, a CT scan, an X-ray, and multiple blood panels. After examining April’s medical history, the oncologist at Mayo reaffirmed April’s original diagnosis. April has hormone-receptor positive and HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer. The cancer began in her breast about a year ago and then spread (metastasized) throughout her bones. The cancer feeds off the estrogen and progesterone in April’s body. To fight the cancer, April will take pills to stop her body from producing the two hormones. If the pills are successful, April should live another five to six years. Though we were well acquainted with this information prior to our trip, we had hoped for brighter news.

Then the sliver of sunshine that we had been seeking appeared. After the initial review, the oncologist said April was a candidate for the Mayo Clinic Promise study. The observation study would provide April and her doctors with a detailed analysis of April’s tumors’ genetic sequencing for the purpose of, “developing personalized treatment approaches to improve patient outcomes.” In other words, the research team would chart the genetic makeup of April’s tumors for the purpose finding which drugs and treatments would best overcome her unique form of cancer and extend her life. To see April’s cancer in action, the researchers would attempt to grow and then kill April’s unique cancer cells in the laboratory. Though the Promise study does not promise a cure and anticipates of being of more value to the next generation of cancer patients than to April, it did offer April an unmatched level of care and provided us with a slim but very real chance of better treatment options going forward.

Impressed with the research plan and the culture of the Mayo Clinic, April agreed to participate in the study during our first day at the Mayo Clinic. She spent the next four days enduring a long battery of tests to ensure that she qualified for the Promise study.

This past Tuesday (6/18/19), April received the phone call!  She was in! The next day, she swallowed her first hormone pill; she had officially begun the first leg of her cancer treatment.

After weeks of packing, unpacking, and repacking, we are overjoyed to be actively battling this horrible disease that has spread upwards to April’s skull and downwards to the top of her left leg.

Moreover, we also excited to be led by the best medical guides possible. We will be checking-in with the research team at Mayo every two months for the next six months to chart the growth of April’s cancer. Then, we will fly to Rochester every three months for the remainder of the study. The study will track April for up to seven years or until the hormone therapy fails and the cancer begins to grow afresh.

img-5216.jpgAdmittedly, there is also a chance our time on this path could be short. Thirty percent of cancer patients who begin this trek encounter the rugged cliff of disappointment associated with the therapy’s failure within the first two months. Those patients who receive no benefit from the hormone therapy will return to home and head off in the direction of chemotherapy.

We do not know how rocky our path will be; we do not know how long we will be on the path.

But we know that our Lord is the good shepherd who leads us to green pastures. We have and will continue to appeal to our great shepherd for help and deliverance as we navigate this twisty path. Even if we encounter dead end after dead end and begin to inch closer towards the Valley of the Shadow of death, we will not lose hope. Our God promises to fight our enemies with his rod and to keep us close to his love with his staff.

Admittedly, the winds of circumstance and emotions regularly swirl around us and whisper thoughts of doom into our ears. At times, we listen to them and neglect the voice of our good Shepherd. Like our first parents in the Garden of Eden, we begin to doubt the goodness of God. But then, we raise our head afresh and remember how our good Shepherd has proved himself over and over again, saving us from our sins, walking with us through the death of our son, and increasing our faith over these last weeks. Truly he is our comfort. Ultimately, we have nothing to fear for our spot in the house of the Lord is not in question. The love of our shepherd is not in doubt.

Moreover, we have everything to hope. God has not promised to heal April directly. Sadly, she is not mentioned by name in the Bible. (Luke, Lily, and I are…but that’s another matter and requires some really bad exegesis…anyway🤪) But, God has promised her and me and all his people that our cups will overflow. Our enemies, April’s cancer, will not have the last word. God tells us that goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives. He promises to do good for April and me. So we boldly ask God to heal April and to do the unexpected so that the whole world may know that our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is the one true God. We confidently ask God to be good to us for he has promised to be our Shepherd.

We have also seen God’s amazing goodness in the faces of our family and friends these last weeks. We have been overwhelmed by the ever-growing number of cards, texts, letters, emails, and Facebook messages. When the days have been dark, the news murky, and the path unclear, your messages full of prayers and Scripture have breathed hope into our souls. We may not have responded to every message and letter. But, we have read them (many more than once). We are thankful for the colorful signatures, the prayers of our former students, the empathy of our peers and the encouragement of those who have a year or two on us. We are thankful to have so many voices constantly reminding our spirits of God’s character!

We are also thankful for the many, many people who have sacrificed for us and our kiddos. Our families and friends have been the hands and feet of Jesus these last few weeks. You have watched our children, covered medical bills, cooked meals, secured hotel rooms, located medical records, and found rental cars. To borrow an expression from the great missionary William Cary, our families, our sweet Amissville Baptist Church Family, our kind friends in Eastman, GA, and our brothers and our sisters who reside everywhere from the Asia to South America have held the rope of ministry tightly as we waded into this trial. Thank you!

Please continue to hold the rope with us and as we continue down this path.

And please continue to pray.

Please pray for April’s healing. In about two months, we will know if the drugs have been effective. Pray that the next CT scans reveal a healing of supernatural proportions.

Pray for our faith. The days can be long and the news troubling. Pray that we will not trust feelings, hunches, or guesses but the character of God as revealed in the Word of God as walk into valleys and stumble over rocks.

Pray that God will bless our family as we seek to create a new normal that revolves around cheese-puffs, diapers, preschool, sermon prep, and cancer pills.

 

Contact Info:

Email us at: biblefighter@gmail.com 

You can reach us via snail-mail at : P.O. Box 637/ Amissville, VA 20106

You are also welcome two reach out to the elders of Amissville Baptist Church, Mark Hockensmith and Bill Brown, at: 540-937-6159.

GOFundMe Page

Though April and I welcome inquirers and emails, calls, and texts of support, they can be overwhelming at times. We appreciate your patience with our responses.

We plan to also keep posting updates here at witkowskiblog.com

Thank you for your love, prayers, and never-ending support.

Sustained By Grace Through Faith,

Peter & April