A God Who Can Heal Your Body, Soul and Mind, Part III

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Cheryl, Micah and Dean being discharged from the hospital together.

This is the third post sharing the testimony of how God supernaturally healed me from cancer. In this post I will share how good so many people were to Cheryl and me. I could not begin to count the number of times people went out of their way to show us their love. In this blog I share how:  I WENT INTO THE HOSPITAL WITH A TUMOR AND LEFT WITH A BABY.

On  Friday, August 22, 1997 Dr. Stout removed my cancer infected right kidney from my body. By every standard the surgery was successful and routine. After a couple of hours in recovery I was sent to a regular room to begin my recovery. In 1997 kidney removal was an invasive surgery that required a massive opening. I spent the weekend showing all my visitors the 35-40 staples that closed my wound. I am told I had non-stop visitors throughout the weekend. I can’t remember all of them because of the pain medicine the doctors had prescribed for me. Though I can’t remember every visitor they all are very special to me. One particular visitor who came to see me the following Monday I will never forget. I had asked my friend and Director of Missions, John Henry, to preach for me on Sunday, August 24 because I would be in the hospital. I remember John Henry coming by to visit with me and praying with me. What he did next I will always remember. John Henry pulled the check out my church had given him for supply preaching both services on Sunday. He endorsed the check and handed it to me saying you guys need this more than me. It was a gesture that impacted me until this very day. It was just one gesture of hundreds that God’s people demonstrated toward us. I am so glad I am a part of the family of God.

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Cheryl and Dean together minutes before Micah’s birth.

I must be honest, I was enjoying all the attention I was getting on the seventh floor at Forrest General Hospital. It seemed I was the center of the universe for a short period of time. All of that changed after lunch on Monday, August 25 when Ms. Cheryl went into labor. Her contractions were far enough apart that she was able to retrieve the items we had packed for her stay in the hospital. Her sister Gail, who likes to take care of everything, was by her side through all this process. The day is kind of a fog for me because that third day after my surgery was the most difficult for me for some reason. When Cheryl returned to the hospital she was ushered into the delivery room where Micah’s arrival was anticipated. One friend, Jipper Williford, came to my room and helped the nurses get all my tubes and machines secure and he rolled me to the delivery room Cheryl was in. I am at a loss for words to describe the agony I was in sitting in the wheelchair beside Cheryl’s bed. Finally, a nurse comes in and shares it will be some time before the birth takes places because the contractions were still far apart. Jipper wheeled me back to my room and put me in bed and hit the morphine button. Again, I will remember his kindness toward me for the rest of my life. A few minutes later as I dozed off my brother, Robert, came to my hospital room to retrieve me. It seems they had discovered for the first time in 9 months of pregnancy that Micah was breached and they were carrying Cheryl to surgery. Jipper and Robert loaded me back up and carried me back down to the delivery room where I held Cheryl’s hand, had prayer with her and watched as they took her to surgery. I could not go into the surgical room because of my condition. That was probably a good thing, Gail went and she could help the doctor if he appeared inept. The waiting room was crowded with family and friends. Word came that Micah had been born and soon the nurses would bring him to the door for us to see. I told all my family and friends while they could all run to the door I was stuck in a wheelchair that I couldn’t move. If they blocked me from being the first to see and  hold my son that would be the last time any of them would get to see Micah. Micah was brought to the door and placed in my lap. For the first time I held my son, Micah Lynwood Stewart. They wheeled me to recovery so I could be with Cheryl for a moment before sending me back to my room. I was convinced I was about to die. Before I left Cheryl’s room she, like so many others, made a gesture that I will never get over. We wanted to name our children Biblical names. Micah was one we both agreed on. I wanted to name my firstborn son, Lynwood, a family name. As we visited for a moment talking about Micah, Cheryl asked if I minded if we named our new son Micah Dean. With all I had gone through the last week and the uncertainty of my health she wanted him to have my name. Looking back on it I believe the truth is she hated  the name Lynwood. Whatever the reason, when we filled out the birth certificate the boy’s name was Micah Dean Stewart. Now maybe some of you will understand why I am apt to call him Micah Dean while the rest of the world calls him Micah.

The next morning everything was different. First of all, no one came to see me again. I was on the seventh floor and Cheryl and Micah were on the fourth floor. My family, friends and church members all came to see Cheryl and Micah and would call me from her room to check on me. I was no longer the center of the universe, Cheryl and Micah were. Secondly, when Dr. Stout came by my room to check on me I wept asking him to guarantee me I was going to live and this cancer would not return. Dr. Stout asked me, “Dwight, what happened to you last night, yesterday when I saw  you it did not matter to you if you lived or died?” I had a son. I wanted to live more than anything. I had held him for a couple of minutes and my perspective had completely changed. Dr. Stout gave me all the assurances he could. As I told him about Cheryl’s surgery Dr. Stout made another tremendous gesture on my behalf. He told me that I was about ready to be discharged but definitely did not need to go home alone. I needed someone to care for me. He said he was going to put on my orders not to discharge me until I did one particular thing. (This one thing will remain between Dr. Stout and myself.) He also said when I did that one thing not to let anyone know until Cheryl was ready to be discharged. That way we could go home together.

Tuesday and Wednesday I began to feel like my old self. I wanted to get out of my room and visit with my family and friends. The nurses on the fourth and seventh floors were so good to us. When I felt well enough they would take me from the seventh floor to the fourth floor to see Cheryl and Micah. When I became tired and began to hurt they would come get me. I am not sure if this violated hospital regulations but they did it. They began delivering my meal trays to Cheryl’s room so I could eat with her and Micah.

Thursday morning we were discharged from the hospital. It was quite a scene. A lot of the staff gathered around to see us off. Cheryl, Micah and me all being rolled out to the waiting vehicles. I came into the hospital with a tumor and left with a baby boy. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” God can do more than we can imagine. If this were the end of the story it would still be a great testimony of God’s goodness. In my next blog I will share about cancer’s return.

A God Who Can Heal Your Body, Soul and Mind, Part II

DR STOUT
Dr. David C. Stout

At 29 years of age and in the best shape I had ever been in I was diagnosed with renal cell cancer. This cancer is a great mystery. Physicians have no idea what causes this cancer and can’t predict how it will behave. Sometimes it will spread quickly and lethally, other times it lies dormant and silent for years maybe even decades before it is discovered. As I said in my previous blog Cheryl was expecting to deliver our first child at any moment when I was diagnosed with this cancer. In this blog I share how:

A STRANGER BECAME MY FRIEND!

That Tuesday had been a whirlwind. I woke anticipating doing a little pastoring and a lot of golfing that day. This was the norm when I was young.  By the end of that day I was alone in a hospital room running through my mind that I had a cancer in my body. After I was admitted to a room I insisted Cheryl go get some rest and she went to her parent’s home for the night. A lady 9 months pregnant did not need to sleep on a couch in a hospital room. As I lay there that night a million thoughts ran through my mind: who was going to preach for me Sunday, how long would I be out of the pulpit, when could I play golf again, how much would this surgery hurt.

I must confess, in all honesty, I was not very concerned at this time. I trust Jesus and was not afraid. I also must say I was disappointed with Cheryl a little. She is the strongest woman I have ever met in my life. Believe me, it is both a good and bad thing for a husband to have a strong wife. However, ever since I was diagnosed with cancer she had been emotional. She was scared I could tell. I concluded I must have had a greater faith than her. I even prayed her faith would increase and she would have peace. Now I know why she was so emotional. She was carrying our son, Micah. He was real to her. She had felt him, fed him and even talked to him. I knew Micah was in her womb but he was not real to me yet. I have learned this truth – children become a reality to moms before they do dads. She was afraid for me and she was afraid for our son she was carrying who was already very real to her.

Wednesday morning around 5:00 a.m. Dr. Stout opened my door and asked, “Dwight are you asleep?” I replied, “Not anymore.”  Dr. Stout walked across my room and leaned against the window and asked how my night went. He asked if I got any sleep. He asked if I ate well. He looked down at his shoes – something was bothering him. I quizzed what was wrong, afraid of what his answer might be. His reply to me made him my friend as long as we both are alive, “Dwight, I didn’t sleep much last night. I thought about you being 29 years old and expecting your first child and I had to diagnose you with cancer. I couldn’t sleep so I wanted to come tell you if you need anything let me know. I am here for you.” Dr. Stout and I grew close over the next 10 years. We have grown apart over the last 7 years but I still love him because of these words he shared with me the very first morning I woke up as a cancer patient and for the friend he has been through the years.

Wednesday and Thursday were a whirlwind of tests. I can remember going to a nuclear imaging test. The technician told me to watch on a monitor as the dye entered my right kidney. The dye flowed through parts of my body I did not recognize. When it reached my right kidney the dye was blocked by the tumor and began backing up. It would have been cool if I had been watching a doctor’s program on television.  The test I disliked the most was the bone scan. I lay flat on my back for what seemed an eternity with my hands tied at my sides not able to move a muscle. An old antiquated looking machine began scanning at my feet. It would scan a section of my body for a few minutes and then move up and scan another section of my body. I want to say everyone  who worked at Hattiesburg Clinic and Forrest General Hospital were diligent to take care of me and make me comfortable. No man could have been treated better. I had a nurse named Hatch who took great care of me post-op. Through the years as I would visit in the hospital as a pastor I would make my way up to the seventh floor to check on Hatch. One day I asked for Hatch and was given the news that this special lady who had nursed so many back to health had her health fail her.  She had finished her race. I can’t speak for anyone else but every health care professional who cared for me was better to me than you could ever dream.

By the end of the day Thursday I was ready for the surgery that would take place the next morning. I had passed blood for three days and this was not something I could get used to. I was ready. I didn’t sleep much the night before the surgery. I was nervous about the pain of recovery. The morning of the surgery all my family, many pastors  and several church congregations gathered at the hospital for my surgery. I was grateful for the expressions of love. One of my church members said when they approached the guest services counter the lady said before they opened their mouth, “Bro. Stewart is on the seventh floor, he must be a popular man.” This outpouring of love says nothing about me but so much about the Godly people I have pastored through the years. A brother who I pastored in a previous church, Kenneth Wells, called Cheryl the day before the surgery and volunteered a kidney if I needed one. First Cor. 13:5 says love is not self-seeking. I experienced that kind of love from so many.

Down the hall and into a holding room I went leaving behind everyone but Cheryl and her sister Gail. They had given me magic elixir to calm my nerves. It must have worked. Cheryl said when Dr. Stout came into the holding room and asked if I had any questions my reply was, “Will I be naked?” He assured me I would be. My reply was, “Don’t let anyone make fun of me, please!” It was great to see Cheryl and Gail and my new friend, Dr. Stout, laughing at me as they wheeled me off to surgery.

In my next blog I will share the results of the surgery and the birth of Micah.

 

A GOD WHO CAN HEAL YOUR BODY, SOUL AND MIND

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Just days before I was diagnosed with cancer and Micah was born.

A few nights ago my wife, Cheryl, brought out some medical records of mine from years ago. We read through those pages remembering both the worst and best of times. Most everyone who knows me has some knowledge of the fact that in 1997 I was diagnosed with renal cell cancer. Over the next two years the cancer spread and doctors pronounced the cancer in my body was incurable and my life would succumb to this disease. God graciously supernaturally healed me of cancer and now in 2015 I am somewhat a picture of health. As I read those pages my heart was stirred to share the good news that God can still heal all of us. I am going to write a few blogs detailing the events surrounding my battle with cancer and the subsequent healing.

PART I: “It Happened In An Instant.”

On Tuesday morning August 19, 1997 I woke up shortly before 5:00 a.m. It did not take long before I realized something was terribly wrong. In the bathroom I passed nothing but pure blood and a tremendous amount at that. The sight of the blood almost made me faint. After gaining my composure and feeling no pain I shared what was going on with Cheryl and told her to get a shower and get dressed. We didn’t have to be in a hurry because I was in no pain but we had to go to the hospital – something was wrong, bad wrong.

The lack of pain ended while I was in the shower. I have never felt such pain in my life before or since. It felt as if someone had taken a fire poker and stuck it in my right side and it went to my belly button. I was pastoring in a small community, McLain, MS,  about an hour from the hospital. I crawled into Cheryl’s bathroom screaming for her to get dressed. With wet hair and tossed on clothes we left for Hattiesburg, MS and Forrest General Hospital. In August of 1997 Ms. Cheryl and I were 29 years old, we had been married approximately 7 years and she was 9 months pregnant with our first child. Cheryl throwing caution to the wind drove near the 100 mph mark while I screamed. I remember rolling the window down and holding my head out screaming. I remember laying in the floorboard of the car crying to Jesus. I was sure death was imminent.

Arriving at the hospital around 6:00 a.m. we found few people in the emergency room. Seeing I was in bad shape they rushed me to the back and immediately gave me something for the pain. I have no idea what they gave me the first time for the pain but IT WAS GREAT. After the pain eased they began running tests on me.  Everyone was sure that I was suffering from kidney stones and was just acting like a big baby. I will be honest, I was excited about becoming a dad and was so in love with Cheryl for carrying my son that I felt terrible about getting sick while she was expecting to deliver at any moment. I am sure we were a sight, she worried and fussing over me and me worried and fussing over her – once my pain was eased. The plan was to take care of the kidney stones and get me well to tend to my bride and the baby when he came.

That plan changed around 10:00 a.m. when I was introduced to David Stout, M.D. in urology. He poked his head into my cubicle and asked where Cheryl was. Someone had told him Cheryl was due to have a baby any day.  She had gone to get something to eat at my insistence. Dr. Stout said they had found a tumor the size of an orange in my right kidney and they were going to run a couple of tests to determine for certain if it was cancer. He then told me, “Dwight, (no one has my permission to call me Dwight) it is cancer. The tests are a necessary protocol but they will reveal you have renal cell cancer. If Cheryl is alone with you here you need to get in touch with someone to be with her when I come back in a few hours and tell you guys it is cancer.”  I called Cheryl’s sister, Gail Lott, asking her to come be with Cheryl. There was some bad news coming. They rushed me away for a morning of tests.

Shortly after lunch Dr. Stout returned to my cubicle. There with Cheryl and Gail at my head and Dr. Stout at the foot of my bed he shared the news I knew was coming – I was diagnosed with renal cell caner, kidney cancer. The information kind of runs together once you hear those words but I remember hearing Dr. Stout making the following statements.

1) We are going to admit you to make sure the cancer is contained. I am sure it is because your kidneys are contained in a sac and this makes metastasizing a slow process.

2) The pain you have been feeling is the tumor has eaten through the wall in your kidney and filled your urinary tract with scabs. We will need to keep you in the hospital to manage that pain.

3) We will take your kidney out Friday if everything checks out like I think it will.

4) There is a 90% chance this will cure you. 90% of the time if you remove the kidney containing the tumor it is a cure. For this reason if you are going to have cancer this is a good one to have, however, if it does reoccur then the odds of survival drop from 90% to 50%.

I was young and stupid and wanted to appear spiritual. I told Dr. Stout if I lived or died I was a child of God and I was looking forward to going to heaven. I welcomed death and was not afraid of death at all. I quoted him a Scripture being certain I had impressed him with my strength and spirituality.

In part II I will share how a stranger became my friend.

What It Takes To Be A Hero

brian williamsLast week news broke hot that Brian Williams had been caught red-handed in a lie. He came clean admitting he fabricated a story. In case you have somehow missed this story allow me to share with you a very brief summary. Through the years Williams has told a story about the day he flew aboard a U.S. Army helicopter during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. At a recent Rangers’ game Brian Williams paid tribute to a retired command sergeant major and in doing so made this comment, “The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG,” Williams said on the broadcast. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.” Servicemen have come forward saying Williams’ Chinook was never shot down. Read the STARS AND STRIPES article.

I want to be clear that my post in no way is intended to take shots at Brian Williams. He lied; I know he lied. His lie is especially frustrating to me as the son of a deceased career military man who served during WW II and Korea. It is also especially frustrating because one of my church members, David Morris, was flying missions aboard a Chinook in Iraq during that time. Our church prayed continually for his safety. As frustrating as it  may be to me that Williams lied I am not interested in insulting him or denigrating him in any way. I am a flawed man and Williams is a flawed man. I pray for his soul to be redeemed by Jesus Christ. Having established what this blog is not about allow me to share with you what it is about. Williams suffers from what most of us have suffered with at some time in our lives. He wanted to be a hero. Let me unpack a few thoughts.

1. Some people just have something that is different from the rest of us.

In I Samuel 17 we read of a giant, Goliath,  which scholars say stood anywhere from 7 to 9 feet tall. He stood before the camp of Israel and insulted the armies and the God of Israel. I Samuel 17:24 says, “And all the men of Israel when they saw the man, fled and they were sore afraid.” In verse 45 David, the young lad, says, “Thou comest to me with a sword and with a spear and with a shield but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, who thou hast defiled.”

While all others ran, David stood. Some said the giant was too big to hit; David said he was too big to miss. Policemen, firemen, soldiers, secret service and many others run to trouble while the rest are running from the trouble.  These people are special for what they do and they certainly have something different from the rest of us.

2. Self-promotion is nothing new.

In Genesis 3 Eve wanted to be like God and have wisdom so she eats of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Most everyone faces the temptation to improve their stature in the eyes of others. Some will work hard to improve themselves while others may exaggerate about their accomplishments and deeds for the purpose of impressing people. In the New Testament we see a great example of this in Acts 5:1-11. Ananias and his wife Sapphira sell a piece of property and give a portion of that money to the church. However, they claimed they gave the entire sum of money they received for the land. They lied to win stature in the eyes of the early believers. In Acts 4:36, 37 we read about Barnabas being called,  “The Son of Encouragement” because he sold property and gave the money to the apostles. Ananias ans Sapphira wanted to be well-known like Barnabas but rather than paying the price to help others they lied and self-promoted.

3. Christians are to never have a hero complex.

Philippians 2:3 reads, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” We should never practice false humility. It would be ridiculous for Tiger Woods to feign humility and say he is not a good golfer. However, we should not be about self-promotion either. Christians should esteem others before themselves. Instead of building ourselves up we should encourage others and edify the body of Christ. Rather than looking for qualities about ourselves to promote we should look for the best in others to build up and encourage with.

4. Christians have one hero – Jesus Christ.

One wonderful thing about the Bible is that it reveals flaws in all the great people of God. Abraham lied, Noah got drunk, Jacob lied and cheated, Moses couldn’t control his temper and Peter denied Jesus three times. The Bible seems to be a collection of random stories about events in the lives of individuals. A collection of narratives if you will. However, we must always keep our eyes on the metanarrative of the Bible. A metanarrative in the simplest terms is the meaning or explanation of many little stories. The metanarrative of the Bible is the redemptive work of God in humans. This is ultimately fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is our hero. While reading about David, Daniel, Elijah we see their flaws and this reminds of the metanarrative of the Bible – God is redeeming human beings.

I take no pleasure in Brian Williams’ disgrace. As a matter of fact, I would love to introduce him to my hero.

I Hear It Everyday And It’s Still Wrong

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I love church. I love going to church. I can’t wait for the next time the church gathers so I can enjoy my church family. In particular I love the church in America. Almost everything I have God has provided me through a local church. For this reason, I have strong opinions about the church. I hear something on a regular basis that is just wrong. I hear almost everyday someone say something like, “Preacher, I don’t have to go to church to be close to God” or “Going to church is really not that important.” On the surface this sounds reasonable. The Catholic Church has made the church the vehicle of salvation. We Protestants bristle at such a thought, so much that we may have allowed a non-Biblical teaching to blossom – the notion that church attendance is not very important. Church attendance is vital to the believer.

1. Scripture is clear God’s people are to come together in worship.

Examine a few passages that make this truth crystal clear:                                                                   “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.'” Psalm 122:1                       “I will give Thee thanks in the great congregation; I will praise Thee among a mighty throng.” Psalm 35:18                                                                                                                                                   “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, In the company of the upright and in the assembly.”  Psalm 111:1                                                                                                              Acts 2:46 reads, “And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.”

You would be hard pressed to find a passage to use as a legitimate reason not to come together with believers to worship.

2. Your church attendance may stir others up for greatness.

Most believers are familiar with Hebrews 11:25 which reads, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”

This verse cannot be ripped from context. Look at verse 24, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”

We are challenged in the 24th verse to stir others up to love and to good works. The author of Hebrews then flows into verse 25 by instructing the believer not to skip assembling together. We are to encourage others according to verse 24. When we skip church we often will discourage other believers. Our worship is not to be a selfish matter. We are to join others in worship and in doing so we may stir them up to greatness. Many times I have heard someone tell another person, “Your faithfulness to the church has impacted my life.” I have never heard anyone say, “Your absence from church has made a positive impact on my life.”

3. In the New Testament the emphasis is on the local church and not the universal church.

Many laypeople have some confusion over the local, visible church and the universal, invisible church. When you read the word “church” in the New Testament you are reading the Greek word “ekklesia.” This word is used 150 times in the New Testament and is translated church or assembly each time. Ekklesia means a called out assembly. Today we often speak of a local church as being part of the church of Christ. We see each local congregation being one part of the church of Christ which when added together the sum of the parts make up the church of God.  This is a foreign concept to the New Testament. Each local congregation is spoken of as the whole. Examine I Cor. 1:2 as Paul begins his letter to the Corinthians, “To the church of God at Corinth…” Paul is writing as if the entire church of God is found in one place – Corinth. This is significant. To see ourselves as part of the church universal and thus be comfortable with not being part of a “called out assembly” is a departure from New Testament teaching that “church” is a called out local assembly.

4. Finally, there is confusion over general and particular revelation.

I often hear people speak of knowing God through general revelation, that is through nature. People that do not find church that important often speak of knowing and understanding God through His creation. We can learn of God through the sunrise and sunset, by standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or looking at the clear, blue/green waters of the Caribbean. However, that knowledge is limited. Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His invisible power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Paul says we can learn enough about God through creation that mankind is without excuse. Everyone can see there is a God. However, that is about all you can learn about God through general revelation.

You can learn so much more about God from particular revelation. Particular revelation is God revealing Himself to certain men in such a way we can learn more about God. The Bible is the record of these particular revelations. Through the Bible we can learn of the crucifixion, resurrection and second coming of Jesus. We can learn of the virgin birth and God destroying the world with a flood. We can learn of sweet forgiveness and coming judgment. None of these can be learned through general revelation. Believers should desire to come together to worship God and hear a God-called man teach on the particular revelation of God. This is so much more exciting/beneficial than simply knowing God as Creator.

Today many in the church are satisfied with being part of the invisible church and knowing of God through general revelation. I believe the Bible teaches being part of a called out assembly and learning of the particular revelation of God is far better. I love church.