More Thoughts From the Hospital Bed

I’m home from the hospital now,  off of bed-rest, and gradually getting back to work.  Praise the Lord!

Following up from my last blog entry, I was in the hospital for 8 days, having experienced what the Doctors are calling a Spontaneous Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak.  Essentially, for some unknown reason, I developed a lead in the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord, resulting in excruciating headaches whenever I was in an upright position.  The fix for the leak was a Blood Patch, which is a lot like putting goop in your tires to fix a leak.  It has been over a week now since I’ve had a headache, and I’m slowly returning to a semblance of normalcy.

In the moments of clarity while resting in the hospital (when the narcotics had worn off), I had some insights from the hospital bed I thought worth sharing regarding hospital visits.

1. I cannot overstate the Importance of a Hospital Visit.

If you’ve ever been in the hospital for any amount of time, you know how wonderful it is to have someone stop in for a visit.  Seeing a familiar face at the door, a friend stopping by to brighten the day, a brother visiting with a word of encouragement – that visit is crucial.  I’ve made it a habit to visit my church members when I know they’re in the hospital, now I understand just how important that visit really is.  You don’t have to stay long, there’s no need to linger.  Just a quick visit can make the world of difference.

Elders and Deacons have a special duty to visit those in need, to pray  for healing and encouragement, but this does not absolve all Christians from their responsibility for demonstrate compassion and care to those in need. You don’t have to be ordained or commissioned by the church to be an ambassador of the hope we share in Jesus Christ.  If you know of someone in the hospital, or someone who is home and alone, and you are able, call upon them and bring the joy and peace of the fellowship of the body of Christ.

2. Don’t worry about what you will say…

Jesus told his disciples not to worry about what they will say when they are under trial by the authorities, for the Spirit will give them the words to speak.  I think this also applies to our visits in the hospital.  Don’t worry about what you will say or do, God will give you the words.  You don’t have to have a speech prepared.  You especially don’t have to have any answers about what’s happening or why.  Come with words of care, and with a word of promise.

One of the best visits I had was with a friend who came to sit beside my hospital bed and just read scripture.  Because of the nature of my headaches, reading was rather painful, so I was unable to even take up Scripture to read for myself.  So my friend sat by the bed and read the Bible, a verse here or there, a whole chapter from the Psalm and Romans.  There was no sermon, no instruction, but there was tremendous blessing in hearing the Word of God.

Before you visit, bookmark a few psalms, or some of your favorite passages, and pick a few to read and share.  You may never know how God may work through His Word, but you know that His word is full of promise and hope.

3. Pray

James tells us that the “prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).  This doesn’t mean that you need to come with a rehearsed or well-polished prayer, or that your prayer will always be followed by a great working of power.  But when you offer a prayer from the heart, a prayer that comes from a praying heart, great things are already at work. You are entreating before God on behalf of someone else.  You are sharing your faith in God’s strong and sovereign care. You are trusting God for provision, for health, for hope, for peace.  These are mighty things, and can do more than you will ever know.

Visit, share the word of God, and pray.  One of the greatest acts of compassion is just that simple.  I cannot begin to express what it meant to have friends come by to visit and to pray with and for me while I was in the hospital, and I cannot thank you enough.  Let us endeavor to show one another our care and concern through these simple acts, that we might encourage one another in times of need.

SDG

Fasting From Communion with God

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me shall not hunger,
and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
(John 6:35)

I’ve been reading through the biography of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish Presbyterian Minister in the 1830’s.  The biographical sketch of his life is filled with excerpts from his daily journals and insights into his heart and mind for ministry.  It is fascinating (and somewhat comforting) to read of another pastor from an entirely different time and place, who also struggled with a sense of never making the most of his time, who felt terribly unqualified for the high calling of ministry were it not for the Sovereign Grace of God, and whose greatest joy was to bring glory to God in sharing the Gospel.

Something struck me, though, as I was reading, that made me stop and think about my life in comparison with M’Cheyne’s.  Early on there was this summary of the young pastor’s ministry:

From the first he fed others by what he himself was feeding upon. His preaching was in a manner the development of his soul’s experience. It was a giving out of the inward life. He loved to come up from the pastures wherein the Chief Shepherd had met him—to lead the flock entrusted to his care to the spots where he found nourishment.

(Bonar, Andrew A. Memoirs and Remains of R.M.M’Cheyne. (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1978)pg. 36.)

I have shared before my daily Scripture reading practice.  I encourage everyone to read daily from the Word of God, and to read in a way that lets the Word really sink in, soaking the mind and soul with God’s revelation.  There are a variety of reading programs out there, but the one I prefer, actually, was developed by M’Cheyne.  In this program, you read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice per year, reading about four chapters a day, taken from different parts of the Bible.

I share this, not necessarily as an advertisement for the reading plan (though you can go here to find out more).  No, I share this to warn you of a hazard of such a plan.  Reading God’s Word ought to draw you deeper into the presence of God, knowing His will, revealing His love, and strengthening your faith.  There is deep, nourishing, life-giving power in His Word.  Still, sometimes having a reading plan before you makes you want to read to “get it done” so you can move on to the next thing.

How often do we read our Bibles, check the reading off the “To-Do List” for the day, close the book and move on?  Are we just grazing in the grass, never really getting down to the roots?  I have to admit, there are a lot of days when that’s all my Bible reading really is – just something to do.  I skim the surface of the page, my eyes see the words, but the words never really touch my heart.

How can I expect to feed the flock unless I am first fed by the Word?  If I am not sharing from the deep experience of my soul, if I am not “giving out of the inward life,” then the best I can give is but an anemic, watered-down, half-life of the Gospel.  If I am not fed in the pasture where my Chief Shepherd as met me, how can I ever hope to lead others.

I read that M’Cheyne would rise well before the break of day to worship and fellowship in the communion with God, singing Psalms and hymns and reading God’s word.  That time in devotion would so prepare him for the day that all of his studies, all of his conversations, all of his leisure, was permeated with the fragrance of the Gospel.  He had been to the feast, and he was sharing the portion of the table of the Lord.

Why do we, why do I, fast from such a blessed fellowship today?  Why do we starve ourselves spiritually, content to live of the scraps and droppings that fall before us, when we have been invited to the feast?  God sets before us in His Word a smorgasbord of all the most soul-satisfying, life-giving truth that our hearts hunger for, and we ask for the “weight-watchers” menu.   When we deprive ourselves of all that God offers us, we are essentially telling God we don’t need Him nor what He gives, and we’d rather do this life on our own and in our own way.  (“How’s that working for you?” – Dr. Phil)

The simple truth of the matter is, God is God, and we are not.  He provides our daily bread.  He spins the planets and keeps them going.  Without Him, we can do nothing.  We cannot survive without every good gift that comes from His hand.  And yet, at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11), and God would not have us famished spiritually.  Rather, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” (Eph 1:3).

Pull up to the table, to the feast of the Lord, and drink deep the blessing of His Word.  Let His Word teach you, correct you, fill you, strengthen you; until His Word gives light to all of yours.  Let your reading time, may my reading time, be a time of sweet communion in the Lord’s presence that give grace and substance to every endeavor through the day.

SDG