“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

The last nine months have been very difficult, but God has given me some special gifts this Christmas. The first gift is obvious: Valerie is still with me, and the prognosis is good ! In fact, she wrote a special post for Facebook that many liked, and they requested that it be included in this church newsletter. The second gift is special: our grandson will be moving to Sister Bay this January (Andrew and Bethany will be living here while he pursues his Master of Divinity). The third gift is you! You have helped us through this with your gifts of time, talent, and resources, all without missing a beat when it comes to the churches ministry. Today shoeboxes are being packed for Operation Christmas Child. Next week 73 meals will be prepared for Thanksgiving. Next month Bridges will receive a $10,000 donation thanks to your generosity during our August fundraiser. But the fourth gift is the most important: Jesus Christ. When we believe in Jesus He takes away the debt we owe because of our sin and we are adopted into God’s family! But, just because the eternal consequences of our debt have been taken away, that doesn’t mean we still don’t struggle with sin. And here is where Valerie can provide some unique insights…

Nobody willingly signs up for cancer.

I have been diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma (LMS). A fancy word for a rare, chronic disease. A mutation of “normal” cells within soft tissues in my body. There is no cure for LMS – only solutions. The one gold standard permanent solution is to surgically remove it before it has a chance to spread. And even after that, there is no way to tell if it spread without the passage of time. There are “treatments” to perhaps add time, quality of life or a better outcome to surgery. But unseen, the cells multiply, rapidly as my kind of LMS is a “high grade” disease. All I can do is vigilantly examine myself, isolate any bumps, have scans quarterly and see if anything grows. Watch and wait. Then see the surgeon.

But as many of you ladies know, in our Bible studies, I have always compared sin with cancer. You either have it or you don’t. There are not levels of contamination. It is or isn’t. We as humans have sin. We know that it is a fact if we are in the lease bit self-aware or believe the Bible to be true. We are born with it. Ironically, my life has sort of become a living picture of dealing with “sin”. Please indulge me for a few moments with this imperfect, but perhaps useful analogy.

LMS – causes death (90-95% of the time patients eventually succumb)
SIN – causes spiritual and physical death (100% of the time)

LMS – often misdiagnosed, mistreated, ignored – and then causes death more quickly.
SIN – often excused, rationalized, ignored – causes moral breakdown, pain and death.

LMS – best cure is to remove surgically, treatments only offer short term solutions.
SIN – best cure is to remove with the blood of Jesus, other solutions are only short term solutions at best.

LMS – patients often fall into depression and feel hopeless about their situation.
SIN – people are powerless and hopeless about their own situation.

LMS – patients don’t “feel” sick or look sick until the disease has spread.
SIN – people don’t “feel” sinful or that they have a problem until it is often too big to handle.

LMS – patients can ignore the advice of the doctors and surgeons who are trying to help, even to the point of believing that the medical community is “against” them or trying to harm them.
SIN – people have become very distrustful of the Bible, pastors, teachers who dare tell them they have a problem and are just trying to keep them from having “fun” or just being “normal”.

LMS – the patient should have frequent examinations/scans to check for progression or reoccurrence of disease.
SIN – people need to be vigilant and ask God to frequently check us and see if there be any wicked way or thought in us.

LMS – patients have to learn to enjoy the moments – small, good, precious moments of health and remember them when times are difficult fighting the disease.
SIN – people need to learn to remember all the victories, all the small whispers, all the positive moments with God. It encourages us when we are struggling with sin.

LMS – other people are filled with platitudes and advice for the patient. All has to be sifted against the truth of the disease
SIN – the world around us has all kinds of self-help, pseudo religious advice, excuses. All has to be sifted against the truth of the Bible.

LMS – life is about more than just staying alive. It is about living.
SIN – life is about more than just surviving. It is about abundant life here and in heaven with Him.

I battle LMS, but we all battle SIN. Relentless, invasive, fast growing sin.

Only the Great Surgeon can cure us by removing it Himself. I have lost my hair, gained many scars, hope to see little James graduate from high school and feel much more “mature” (read old) than I should at this age of my life. But these things are small compared to what sin has done to our homes, communities, nation and world as it continues its relentless march. Anger, despair, determination, hate or any other human reaction cannot cure the world of its disease. Only God can. And one day, He will take those of us who rely on Him, and not ourselves, to His home, heaven.

Revelation 21:3-4 “And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them and be their God; and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, or crying, nor pain, any more; the first things are passed away.”

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