Max & Carol Garza – Double Lung Transplant Testimony

Written by Max and Carol Garza

or watch the video testimony at Upwards Church Leander:

https://upwards.church/media/631740-2642532-1599860/greater-confidence-hebrews-4

This is about a real life and death testimony.

My journey began in Feb. 2016-I started noticing symptoms of shortness of breath and chest pains while cutting my lawn as well as doing any physical work, or going to the gym during my lunch hour to exercise.  I remember asking others at the gym who were my age, if they were struggling to catch their breath, and they said no.  This prompted me to seek medical attention.  I first had an exacerbation and ended up in the emergency room at Seton Northwest.  After some tests, they discharged me home saying it was probably anxiety and that they couldn’t find anything wrong.  So, then I continued on with my life, and then in May 2016- I had another episode, and I asked Carol to drive me to the emergency room to the Austin Heart Hospital in Austin.  At the Heart Hospital, they ruled out heart issues and they mentioned that on the chest x-rays that they’ve seen something abnormal and this prompted them to get a CT scan of my lungs to find out what it was.   Then CT scan showed some scarring in both of my lungs.  So, then they decided to do a lung biopsy and sent the samples and other lab work off to the world renowned – Mayo Clinic for the diagnosis.  Mayo Clinic came back with the diagnosis of IPF-Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.  Meaning that they don’t know how I got this – whether genetic or environmental. They did more tests to find the cause and couldn’t find the underlying cause.  My pulmonologist that I met at Austin Heart Hospital called me and Carol to give us the diagnosis. She told us that is was, IPF/ PF is a terminal lung disease and that most people live maybe 1-5 years after diagnosis is made and that the disease can quickly take you faster than cancer.

6 months later-January 2017- I was still taking the medication to stop the scarring but – it wasn’t working.  In fact, it got progressively worse to the point that I needed oxygen and then making the decision to send referrals to transplant center in San Antonio because I thought that San Antonio was close to home and just more convenient.  Instead of me going to a further center.  I was still in denial of my illness because I’ve never been sick before and I thought they just were lying about the diagnosis and that really nothing was wrong with me.  I just couldn’t see that my lungs were sick.

I didn’t realize at that time, that my faith, my trust was being tested and even my confidence in trusting God’s plan was already in place and I just had to let him lead me.

Early 2017, I was sent to the University Transplant Center in San Antonio, to be considered for transplant evaluations.  I went to several appointments there to discuss my case, the transplant process.  The team could see right through me and that I wasn’t ready mentally for the journey.  After several appointments, I was wondering as to why they kept stalling me from moving forward with scheduling.   I received a telephone call from the University Transplant Center Coordinator and was notified that they denied my case for transplant and referred me to be seen in Dallas or in Houston.   I was upset because I didn’t realize that I had to accept my situation, and that they saw right through me-they saw my fears.  I learned that they wanted someone who is going to go all the way through and not be afraid.  They apologized and sent my case off to Dallas and Houston.   I told the coordinator how difficult, that they were making it for me and my family to go out further.  They told me that they don’t give second chances, that you have to be on board or not.  They saw that I hadn’t been.

After that denial in San Antonio, I had no choice but now to get on board because I now realized that I’m sick and facing the biggest battle of my life and now I was on a race against time.   I even had tried to appeal the decision but then accepted the fact to go and proceed with referrals to Dallas and Houston.

But you see, I wasn’t seeing the big picture yet.  I wasn’t seeing God’s plans and all I saw was how am I going to do this on my own.  I wasn’t seeing GOD’S PLANS but only my plans and how I was going to afford this going somewhere else further out away from home.  I wasn’t seeing that God had the perfect transplant team, the perfect hospital, the perfect place to live while there, and of course, the perfect time that this was going to happen.  

Apart from him, we will naturally become impatient when people or situations frustrate us or our circumstances aren’t to our liking.    Patience is a matter of trust in God.  

So, then I called the pulmonologist in Austin, and told her what happened in San Antonio.  I asked for her to send a good recommendation with my referrals to Dallas and Houston.  My pulmonary dr in Austin, sent off the referrals to both Dallas – as Dallas had 2 centers -UT Southwestern and Baylor.  So one of these two – I was hoping would accept my case and schedule an appointment for evaluations.  Of course, they asked me- what happened in San Antonio.  I told them the truth, I wasn’t ready.  But now I am on board and ready to go through whatever to finish this.  I was accepted and they agreed to take schedule evaluations.  Then I received a telephone call from Houston Methodist while I was in Dallas, to schedule Houston evaluations.  And then I received another telephone call from Dallas, notifying me that my medical insurance company changed and the new insurance company is now out of network for the Dallas centers.  The coordinator in Dallas did notify me that if I were to go with Houston, I probably get lungs before Christmas and this was only late June/July and she predicted that if I went to Houston-bigger center, that I probably get my lungs before Christmas.  And that they wouldn’t be offended if I went on with the decision to go through the evaluations at Houston Methodist because they knew that it was still in network with my insurance company.  I then had to make a decision to either continue on w/ scheduling with the Dallas teams and Houston knowing that it was going to be more expensive with out of network, or just go to the one in Houston.  I decided to cancel Dallas after this and stop evaluation process and move on with Houston Methodist as it was in network for evaluation.  I am now praying that Houston would accept me as a candidate and list me.   I only now had one chance to get listed and that was in Houston.

I arrived in Houston the first week in August 2017 for a week long of evaluations, I met with the team transplant director.  He agreed to start the evaluations for transplant.  He explained to me and my family all the scary possibilities that can happen and the statistics of going through the process like for example, that most don’t survive getting through the transplant evaluations or if you make it through this, then some don’t make it while waiting on the transplant list, and also some don’t make it through the surgery itself off the table or the first-year post transplant.  That almost half of the patients have a 50/50 survival rate.  You could die either way.  I did some research and saw that this was a high volume center meaning that they have more transplants than other centers.  The doctor saw me and said that he reviewed my case and that I had no more time but to go through w/ evaluation because he said that I had about 6 months-2 years life expectancy and I wouldn’t make it to my next birthday if I wasn’t listed – it was August and my birthday is in April.  So , I went through the evaluation process during Aug. Sept., and in October and was finally accepted and approved by the insurance company and the team for transplant listing.   My name was activated on October 12, 2017 with UNOS National Waiting list.  I waited for 31 days on the list after becoming activated.

God gave me scripture then, Proverbs 3:4-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge HIM, and he will direct your paths”.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid

 By the beginning of November 2017-my lung allocation score increased, meaning I was getting sicker and also this made my name more noticeable on the waiting list for donor offers.  My score increase, my need for more oxygen increased, meaning I was getting sicker.   I was told that they hoped I would get the call before Christmas but couldn’t promise me anything as well but to keep being positive.  I learned to trust my doctors just like I had to trust God.

November 13, 2017- I received the call stating that they had a donor match and asked if I would accept the donor offer for lungs.  I accepted the offer after being notified that the lungs were no high risk.  I was notified to get ready and to be at the hospital in 3 hours.  Luckily at that time of the night, traffic wasn’t a problem.

To be honest, I wasn’t even scared, I was just ready for the surgery to happen by now. God gave me perfect peace, HIS PEACE.  God chose me to go through this for his honor and glory.  God created the heavens and the earth and I knew that he would cause me to overcome anything with confidence and not be afraid.  God went through the fire with us, but on fire with him and we came out untouched.

I arrived in Houston, they took me to the back and I’m sitting there in the bed, and then I had lots of doctors and nurses starting to gather around me and the next thing I know they’re checking my vitals, my oxygen levels, getting chest x-rays done, other tests and prepping an IV to start in me.  I was being prepped for a surgery that I didn’t know that may or may not happen.   By this time, more people started to gather around me taking samples of blood, etc., etc. And all I could see was their facial expressions-looking scared for me.  They knew that I was rolling into something I wasn’t sure if I would come out of.  The nurses and doctors made me sign the consent for treatment forms and then notifying me and my family that surgery could last anywhere from 5-10 hours depending if there is complications and the need for blood transfusions, or being put on a heart-lung bypass machine, or even the lungs collapsing.   All the possibilities and gathered my signatures.  Then they took me to the ICU to start me on IV anti-rejection medicine, antifungal meds, antibiotics and so much more.  The doctors/nurses were watching my vitals on the monitor and communicating with the other teams to retrieve the lungs, get them to the OR between the donor hospital and my hospital.   They notified my family that the lungs have arrived and were across the street and that they would be going in first to see if the lungs looked good enough to be moved for transplant.  The surgeon gave his blessing that the lungs were good and received their final blessing and I was then moved into surgery.  Surgery was completed after midnight in the very early hours of November 14th.   I was in ICU for at least almost a week and then moved to the step down unit to the floor after.

I finally figured out that nothing in life happens by accident.  As children of God, we know that everything comes our way, its filtered through his hands.  And HE can use whatever we experience to grow us in GRACE, HOLINESS, CONFIDENCE and even

I know that God has built up my confidence that if I can go through a double lung transplant journey.  I can do whatever is given to me.

 

 

 

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Seven Facts About Jesus – Hebrews 1

Hebrews 1: 2-3

2  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
3  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:2-3 (NIV)

  1. Jesus Owns Everything.

He is the heir.  God has given him everything as his inheritance.

People don’t always know what their inheritance will be until someone dies. And then they learn that they got a toaster, their sibling gets the sports car, and the cash.  Jesus made off a bit greater than that, he actually gets everything.

Everything on earth, everything in heaven, he gets it all. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.  He owns it all and secondly He made it all.

2.  Jesus Created The Universe.

Hebrews 1:2 says, “through whom he made the universe.”

The Jews that received this letter knew that God created the universe. When the author named Jesus as creator they immediately understood the implications. Jesus is God.

Remember the first verse of the bible? God created the heaven’s and the earth in Gen 1:1.  Then in Gen 1:26, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.”

Why did God use the plural to describe himself?  God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t just suddenly appear one day, he has always been.

Jesus is part of the mysterious union that we call the Trinity.

It’s important to remember that Jesus made claims about Himself that no other religious leader claimed. He said in John 8, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus was present at the Creation of the Universe. In John 1 the Bible says, “Though him all things were made; without him nothing was made that was made.”

This is supported by what we read in Colossians 1, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17

Not only is Christ the heir and the creator,

  1.  Jesus is the Radiance of God’s Glory.

The word “radiance” refers to the Shekinah glory of God. The word Shekinah means “brilliant shining glory.” It was the word used to describe the presence of God in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Since the Shekinah is no longer in the Temple, the shining presence of God is in Jesus.

I got my dad one of those really bright LED flashlights for Christmas. One of my kids started shining the light in people’s faces.  And you know what they said, “that’s bright!”  What is bright? Is it the bulb or the beams of light?

No one asks that question.  No one says “that bulb is way too bright and it’s sending bright beams into my eyes because the bulb and the light are technically different but practically one in the same.

And so it goes with Jesus. God is glorious and the Son radiates the glory of God. It is truly one of the mysteries of our faith

  1.  Jesus is the Exact Representation of God.

A picture may not always give us an accurate likeness. A lady went to a photography studio to have some pictures made. When she got the proofs, she didn’t like any of them. She stormed back into the studio and said to the photographer, “I don’t like these pictures, they don’t do me justice!” To which the photographer said, “Lady, you don’t need justice, you need mercy!”

God is Spirit, and therefore, He is invisible to the human eye. But God chose to reveal Himself to us, and He did it by putting on flesh and walking in our midst. No man has ever seen God, but many people saw Jesus Christ. But when men looked at Jesus, they saw a good representation of God. Once the apostle Phillip asked of Jesus, “Show us the Father!” Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

  1.  Jesus Sustains Everything

This is supported by what we read in Colossians 1 “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17

Not only is Jesus the creator of all things, the Bible also says, “in him all things hold together” The word is sunestimei, which means “to stick together; to cohere.” It means Jesus is the super glue of all matter. He is the duct tape of the Universe.

Have you ever wondered what keeps the universe together? Why doesn’t the earth go spinning off into space, or why doesn’t the moon crash into the earth? Why doesn’t all of matter just explode or implode into some black hole?

That’s a question scientists have been studying for many years. They claim all matter large and small is composed of particles, atoms, which are broken down into smaller particles called neutrons, protons and electrons.  Nuclear physicists have discovered even smaller particles called quarks. These quarks provide the cohesion for the atomic structure.

Physics is a very complicated science, but let me give you a physics for dummies review. Scientists have examined what holds matter together and they have come up with a combination of four forces. These are often called the Four Fundamental Forces. They are identified as Electromagnetism, Weak interaction, Strong Interaction, and Gravitation. They don’t really understand HOW and WHY the strong force holds things together; they just know that something or someone is exerting a massive force binding atoms, molecules, and matter.

For decades, Christian scientists have seen a connection between this strong force and Colossians 1:17 where the Bible says that in Jesus, all things hold together.

For thirty years Stanford graduate Dr. Lambert Dolphin performed research in physics. Here’s what he thinks about this strong force: “This passage can be applied to the structure of the atom, for example. The nucleus of every atom is held together by what physicists call ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ forces. God dynamically sustains the universe, including the atoms themselves. They are ‘stable’ only because force from the spiritual realm is being supplied into the physical nuclear binding fields. Whatever we may think of God and physics, the Bible leaves us with no room to doubt that God does care about the sparrow that falls to the ground, the widow, the orphan, and the homeless. He does not lose track of His children and watches over them with infinite, patient, intimate Fatherly care. He sustains the universe by His mighty word of power.” (What Holds the Universe Together?)

Jesus made the world and everything in it, and He sustains it by his power.

  1.  Jesus Provides Purification for our Sins

Hebrews 1:2, “After he had provided purification for sins…” We’re going to see in this book that the blood of bulls and rams could NEVER make atonement for sins. Only a sinless sacrifice could cleanse us.

Let’s think about the words pure and polluted. I wouldn’t drink polluted water; I crave pure water. The problem is we’re all polluted from the inside out: That’s sin. Jesus is the only man who walked on the planet who was morally and spiritually pure. He took our pollution into his pure body and in exchange gave us His purity. His grace; His forgiveness.

We’re all sinners. I’m so glad God didn’t send us a do-it-yourself clean up kit. Although that’s what a lot of people try to do. “I’m going to clean up my act.” We can’t clean up our act. Only the blood of Jesus can clean up our lives.

  1. Jesus Down at the Right Hand of God

This passage concludes with the statement, “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”  I know many travelers in Texas are all excited about the Buc-ee’s service stations. They are huge.  Have you ever asked where are the tables?   There are no tables and no place to sit!  They want you to fill up on gas/food/ and drinks and then keep on moving.   I’m going somewhere with this story. There was something unusual about the Temple in Jerusalem you might not have known about. There were no chairs. There was no place to sit down in the Temple. There were different instruments and implements for worship, but no seats where the priests could sit. The reason was that they never finished their work. They were always making sacrifices and performing the duties—but no sitting down on the job!

But when Jesus made the final sacrifice as our High Priest, He did something no human priest had ever done. He sat down!  He was finished. The job was done! And today, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father waiting the time when the Father says, “Son it’s time for you to go and claim your bride and bring her home!” He sits on a throne in heaven to indicate His absolute authority over the universe. He rules. He reigns!

I heard about a church bulletin that had a typo for that song, the bulletin added an “s” and it said, “Our God resigns!” Nope, He reigns and He’ll never resign!

So what’s the take away truth? Knowing Jesus gives us confidence to live a life of faith.  As our world implodes around us, we must have a faith that can’t be shaken, and that only comes from knowing Jesus.

Darrell

 

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Christ is Greater – Introduction to Hebrews

We’re diving into the wonderful epistle to the Hebrews.  Husbands and wives have you ever had a disagreement over whose job it is to brew the coffee every morning?  The Bible says it’s the husband’s job. This says He-brews, not She-brews!

The book of Hebrews uses the word “greater” 6 times and “better” 11 times to describe who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

People in our world are asking life’s big questions:

  • Who has the power to help me where I need help?
  • What is God’s plan for my life?
  • Where can I fine true meaning and happiness?
  • Will there be an end to my suffering?
  • How do I know I can put my trust in God?

The book of Hebrews was written to a group of persecuted Christians, Jewish Christians.

They were asking those big questions, because life was very hard.

And so this letter was written; with a clear message for them, but also for us today:  The answer to all of our questions is JESUS!   Jesus is the main topic of Hebrews.

Because Jesus is greater than: fill in the blank.  Jesus is greater than anyone, anything, any idea, any authority, any king, any priest, any prophet, Jesus is simply greater.

And you’ll see that theme developed as we work through this book. Some of us have been attending church a long time.

We may know basic theology. We may know how to navigate a potluck or a communion.

We might even be able to pray in public.

But I’m often amazed at little Christians know about Jesus.   Hebrews will teach us a lot about Jesus.

Only God knows who wrote this book.   Some think it’s Paul, but Paul began every one of his letters by identifying himself in the salutation. Like, “Paul, and apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ to the saints in Corinth.” His usual greeting was “grace and peace be unto you.” This letter has neither his name nor his trademark greeting.

There are many theories about who could be the author of Hebrews. Some speculate Barnabas, Apollos, or even a woman named Priscilla!  I won’t go into the theories because when it comes down to it, God is the author of all of scripture. Whoever may be the writer; he or she got one thing right—that Jesus Christ is GREATER than anything or anyone else

Let’s dive into verse 1

1  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, Hebrews 1:1 (NIV)

God Has Spoken

The author starts with a big picture statement to begin building their case.

In the past, God spoke many times.

When we read that, it immediately raises some questions.

Who Did God Speak To?

This letter is written by a Jewish author to a Jewish people.

And so they write, “our forefathers”.

And any good Jewish man or woman could have immediately pulled up some famous examples.

  • God spoke to Abram saying “Go to the land I will show you.”
  • God spoke to Jacob and said, “I’m changing your name to Israel.”
  • God spoke Moses in a burning bush.
  • God spoke to Adam and Eve, Sarah. He spoke to all kinds of people.

And when we read the Bible we might get the idea that God spoke directly to everyone, but that’s not true.

Most people heard God speak through prophets and priests.

And that’s what vs. 1 tells us. But an important question to ask is

Why Does God Speak To Us?

Lots of reasons! We could suppose God has things he wants us to know. That’s reasonable.

  • At times he spoke to his people to encourage them.
  • At other times he spoke words of correction/judgment to them.
  • He spoke giving them instructions about how to live.

It’s essential to realize that God has spoken to people then and to us today because He wants to know us and be known by us.

Our God is a personal God, that wants a personal relationship with us. That’s why he spoken to us, he not a mystery.

He’s not a concept. He isn’t distant and unavailable.

That’s why he’s spoken!

Imagine if God had remained silent?

  • We wouldn’t know who we are.
  • We wouldn’t know who God is and what he thinks.
  • We would know right from wrong.
  • We wouldn’t have the Scripture.
  • We wouldn’t know how to pray.
  • We wouldn’t exist because God spoke the world into existence.
  • There wouldn’t be hope for hurting people.
  • There wouldn’t be a place to take our doubts and fears.
  • There would be no expectation of anything greater to come if God had not spoken.
  • We’d be empty, alone, afraid, and without faith.

And there are many who live like that right now.

They need to know that God has spoken, and hear what he has to say!

If God spoke many times and in many ways to the Old Testament people.

What did he say?

How could we summarize all that was said in the OId Testament?

  • Every Old Testament book was pointing to something that was coming.
  • Every prophet had something to say about what God was doing.
  • Every the Old Testament book anticipated some new thing that God was preparing.

The prophet Jeremiah was told of a new Covenant nad a new day promised by God.

Verse 2 tell us what you’ve probably already guessed.

2  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… Hebrews 1:2

When we hear Last Days we may start thinking about end times.

But Last Days in our Bibles simply refers to the time from Christ’s ascension to his return.

We are in the last days, or final days. We have been in the last days since Christ ascended into heaven.

The Old Testament people were living in the days of God’s promises…when he was preparing people for something new.

The writer of Hebrews says the waiting is over! God has spoken again, to us, with something new to say.

What Has God Spoken To Us?

The final word: Jesus.

Throughout history God’s main communication method was through the Old Testament prophets. But once Jesus came to planet earth God said, “This is my final way to talk to you, through my Son, Jesus.”

Since Jesus, there have been others who have claimed they got the final message. Six hundred years after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, an Arabian man named Muhammad claimed to have received a final message from God. He wrote it down in the Qur’an. He claimed his revelation superseded that of Isa, or Jesus, who was considered a great prophet.

In 1830, Joseph Smith claimed he received a more final revelation from God, a new gospel.  It is called the Book of Mormon. But with apologies to our friends the Muslims and the Mormons, Jesus is the final Word from God.

God is still giving fresh new illumination to the study of His Word, but it’s important to understand that God isn’t giving in any new revelation of His Word. So when we hear anyone saying “God told me something” we should be very skeptical unless what they say completely agrees with scripture.

The Old Testament is about promises and the New Testament is the fulfillment of those promises.

In the Old Testament God spoke many times in many ways, in the New Testament God has spoken to us by His Son. One message through one messenger….Jesus Christ.

We’re going to see a bunch of this kind of “then and now” comparisons in the book of Hebrews.

And what we’ll discover is that everything God promised in the Old Testament was fulfilled in persona and work of Jesus Christ!

That means that Jesus is:  a big deal.

In these last days, God has given us the last word, and it’s a word about his Son, Jesus.

In the next post we will see 7 Facts about Jesus.

Darrell

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The Power of Love

Do you remember the 80’s song, “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis?  Here’s a few of the lyrics:

The power of love is a curious thing
Make a one man weep, make another man sing
Change a heart to a little white dove
More than a feeling, that’s the power of love

Love is powerful.

The Bible has a lot to say about love. In fact, from beginning to end that is its theme – God’s love for each of us, & our love for Him, which results in our loving one another. God has a lot to say about love.

But so does the world. The problem is that the world doesn’t say the same thing that the Bible says. And because we hear the world say so much about love, we tend to get the two mixed up.

In a “Dear Abby” column in the news-papers, a man wrote: “Dear Abby, I am in love & I am having affairs with two different women other than my wife. I love my wife, but I love these other women too. Please tell me what to do, but don’t give me any of that ‘morality’ stuff.” Signed: “Too much love for only one.”

I think Abby’s answer was “classic.” She wrote: “Dear ‘Too much love for only one.’ The only difference between humans & animals is morality. So you need to write to a veterinarian.”

I think Abby got her point across. We have been made in the image of God, & God expects better of us than to fashion our lives according to the instincts of a beastly nature.

Sometimes our children understand love better than we do.

Some children were asked what love is. Their answers were interesting:

One said, “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you’ve left him alone all day.”

Another said, “Love is when my mommy makes a cup of coffee for my daddy & takes a little sip before she gives it to him to make sure it tastes okay.”

One boy said, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

Another thoughtfully responded, “You really shouldn’t say, ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it you should say it a lot, because people forget.”

And finally, 7 year old Bobby said, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents & listen.”

So let’s consider once again what the Bible has to say about some of the attributes of Christian love.

As we continue our study of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth we come to the 13th chapter, verses that are the best known when it comes to describing the power of love.

This is a very popular chapter.  Prime Minister Tony Blair read it at the funeral for Princess Diana.  It’s a passage that has become a staple at weddings. I’ve heard it read at many weddings.  Most people should be very familiar with these words.

1  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Why is Love Powerful?

Love is the greatest gift.   

To give us a little context: I Corinthians Chapter 12 focuses on spiritual gifts.  In the passage above, I underlined the spiritual gifts mentioned. Chapter 14 goes into some of the problems the Corinthians have with their gifts. Chapter 13 is sandwiched in between—and Paul was inspired to do it this way to underscore the truth that if we get love wrong—we get spiritual gifts wrong. In fact, Paul says that without Godly love—self-sacrificing love—all other things—including wonderful things like helping the poor—are nothing. Teaching as well-spoken as that of Apollos is just noise unless every word is prompted by love. Even faith and hope is empty without love. I’m reminded of something Richard McBrien wrote: “Love is the soul of Christian existence; it is the heart of every other Christian virtue.  For example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement—fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love.”

Like the Corinthians we need this power in our lives in order for us to be effective as Christians—and as a church. But to be more specific, we don’t need power, at least power as we define it and I say that because we usually equate power with control.  But for the Christian true power is not being in control, but rather under the control of a power much greater than us—namely, God.

To quote another part of that Huey Lewis song, “With a little help from above, you feel the power of love.” And Lewis is right because that’s the way it works. We experience the true power of love when we put God in control of our lives. We feel the power of love when Christ becomes greater and we become less. It is impossible for you and me to love in the ways described in this love chapter—without Jesus in us—empowering us to do so.

In the Greek language there are four kinds of love. There’s phileo — the love between brothers or friends.  There’s storge – the love of a family or a community. There’s eros — a physical love.  And finally there’s agape — a self-sacrificing kind of love.  The first three are common in this world—but the last is rare. Agape is the love used in this passage. It’s a no strings type of love.  It’s a choice.  Agape is a love that works for the good of the one loved even if it costs the love-er everything.

What does love look like?

4  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I John 4: 16 says, “God is love.”   Sometimes I put God where it says, love.  God is patient, God is kind.

Love Overcomes Evil

One of my favorite illustrations of the nature of love is to think about the fake plastic food that we find in displays at the store. Sometimes they are very real looking. I remember picking up a block of cheese, only to discover it was not real cheese. It was rubber! Let’s say we look at a barbecue grill and there is a steak on it.  We can’t tell whether it is real or not. One way to test it is to light up the grill and start grilling the steak. If it were a real steak, what would happen? It would first start to sizzle. It would let off a pleasing aroma. Juices would start running off the steak as it begins to turn into a golden brown color. Our stomach would start growling as we anticipate a good steak. Now, let’s say it is a plastic steak. What would happen then? It sure wouldn’t sizzle, but would start to melt. Instead of a pleasing aroma, it would let off toxic fumes. Instead of your stomach growling, we would probably get sick to our stomachs at the fumes. Instead of turning brown, the steak would melt and turn into an ugly, sticking, useless black lump of burnt plastic.

That is the different between “real” love, the love of God, and other kinds of love. When the heat gets turned up, when things get ugly, when it gets hard, self-defined plastic love gets ugly. It can even make you sick.

As Christians, we have a high standard of what love is.  Love is patient.  How do we know if we have patience unless it is tested?   We see what’s inside of us when heat is turned up! Then we see what is there and it will cause us to pray more, depend on Christ more.

For the last aspect of love, Let me close with this story that illustrates it:

Back in 1994 in Oceanside, CA doctors discovered a lymphoma in 5th grader Ian O’Gorman’s small intestine. They operated and removed a malignant tumor and then began an 8 week chemotherapy treatment.

Back in his 5th grade class, 10-year-old Kyle Hanslik realized that Ian would lose all of his hair. “The last thing he would want is to not fit in, to be made fun of” Kyle said, and he began to talk to the other boys in the class. Then (with their parents permission) all 13 boys in the class went down to the barbershop and had their heads shaved so their sick friend wouldn’t feel out of place.

The boys’ teacher, Jim Alter, was so inspired that he, too, shaved his head.

When they visited young Ian in the hospital, he knew they cared for him.

Those boys and their teacher had faith in the doctors.

They hoped for their friend’s recovery.

But what made the real difference for little Ian was that they loved him so much they were willing to do something to show him how much they cared.

13  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Love is lasting.

In the song, “The power of Love” Huey Lewis writes, “love might just save your life.”  Our response to the love of God in sending Jesus WILL save our life. Christ has the power to forgive all our sins, to take away the sting of death. Christ has the power to give our life abundance and purpose.  Will you join me in responding to the love of Jesus today?  I need Jesus power to love my wife, children and people in my life.  How about you?

Darrell

 

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