The LORD Has Kept You From Honor

“…the LORD has kept you back from honor.” Numbers 24:11b

At first glance, you might think that this is in response to some sin. The Lord has kept you back from honor… because you have sinned and done evil in His sight. But that wouldn’t be the case. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Balak, king of the Moabites wanted Balaam, a wayward prophet of the Lord to come and curse his enemy. The problem? The enemy was the Children of Israel. They were the chosen people, the people of God.

These are the words of Balak, “The LORD has kept you back from honor.” After asking three different times to curse the people, Balaam actually ended up blessing the people—one time without even being asked! Balak was going to pay Balaam a fortune to curse the people. But now, Balaam wouldn’t receive a penny.

When Balaam was first asked to curse the Children of Israel, he was told by the LORD not to say anything accept what He told him to say. When Balaam spoke to the messengers from Balak, he said that even if the king was to give him a house full of gold, he couldn’t say anything accept what God told him to say. Balaam told Balak again that he could only bless the people because that is what God wanted him to do and to say. Balak then said, “The LORD has kept you back from honor.”

My favorite “go-too” devotional right now is Valley of Vision. Here is a snippet that I read earlier today:

“May thy dear Son preserve me from this present
evil world,
so that its smiles never allure,
nor its frowns terrify,
nor its vices defile,
nor its errors delude me.
May I feel that I am a stranger and a pilgrim
on earth,
declaring plainly that I seek a country,
my title to it becoming daily more clear,
my meetness for it more perfect,
my foretastes of it more abundant;
and whatsoever I do may it be done
in the Saviour’s name.”

—Valley of Vision, “The Savior”

What is it that the world would want you to do that is outside of the word of God? What allurements or delights? If you follow what Christ says, will they say, “The LORD has kept you from honor?” Better to be a person of integrity than to be honored by the world. When the world tempts you with all it’s enchantments, remember your Creator. Remember what God has said and whatsoever you do, may it be done in the Savior’s name.

Blessings,
Steve Marquez

If you have lost hope in whatever you are going through, might I encourage you to visit www.stage4ministries.com where you will find encouragement for your battle? Send us an email and let us know how we can pray for you and what we can do to help.

D.V.

World Giraffe and Kidney Cancer Day

For those of you who know me, you know my story. I am a stage four cancer survivor/battler who endured four surgeries, three of them major, where my left kidney was removed, the cancer later metastasized and then was removed from my nerves, muscles and spine. I have a cage where my L2 and L3 vertebrae were, and metal rods and screws from T10 to my pelvic. The cancer has metastasized again, and is currently in my lungs, last we looked. After 5 immunotherapy treatments this year, the metastatic cancer reduced in the lungs by 50%, which is awesome!

It is interesting that World Giraffe Day and Kidney Cancer Awareness Day are on the same day. During my last surgery, where my vertebrae were removed and hardware placed, surgeons had to deflate one of my lungs, then keep me under close observation, making sure my lung was properly inflating. Nurses did this by waking me every morning at 4am in my ICU recovery room, bringing in a portable X-Ray machine and placing a stiff film board behind my back. Obviously, this was very painful.

The X-Ray machine was a box with a neck that had the x-ray dish (I am guessing) on it where they pointed at me and took the x-rays while laying in my bed. The machine must have been from the children’s area because it had spots all over the box—like a giraffe. After getting these twice, on the third morning I woke up a bit early and saw the nurse in the room. I asked her if they were going to bring the giraffe in this morning. She gave me a puzzled look and asked, “What giraffe?” My wife, who was sitting in the room, said, “Oh, he’s talking about the x-ray machine.” Then the nurse laughed!

My wife went to the gift store and bought me a plush giraffe. It is a reminder of all I went through and that I survived. I told people I hated giraffes because of the x-ray machine. But, in truth, I love giraffes! I am alive today not because I am a good person or because I am strong. I am a weak person. I am alive today because I trust in a strong God. I trusted Him when I found out He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save me from my sins, and I trust Him for what the future holds. I don’t know the day of my death. I know that it must come. But I do know what will happen after death. I have hope. That hope gives me hope in this world as well. I will continue to fight. I will continue to tell of the faithfulness of God even though I have been unfaithful and unworthy of His love.

Someone who was going through a life threatening situation once asked me why God would keep people like her and I around. My response was that God loves us. Not because we were better than anyone else, not because we were so cute, not because we were good people. He loves us just because He loves us. That is all.

On this, World Giraffe Day and Kidney Cancer Awareness Day, may I offer you hope. I thought that if I would just stick my neck out, you might spot the hope I have and make it your own. Message me if I can be of any assistance.

Giraffe photos shot by me at The Living Desert zoo in Palm Desert, California.To keep up with my images, follow me @stmarqphotography on Instagram or Facebook. If you know of anyone who needs hope and would like to be encouraged, follow @stage4ministries on Instagram or Facebook.

Anniversaries…..

On this, the 4 year anniversary of the day Steve received his official stage 3 kidney cancer diagnosis, I wanted to share some prayerful thoughts.

April 21st – 2014 Dr. Tompkins – Confirmed Kidney Cancer, 7cm tumor in kidney by way of CT scan. April 22nd, first meeting with oncologist Dr. Arzoumanian, and another CT scan, this time with contrast. April 23rd, Dr. Arzoumanian confirmed 7cm tumor that had spread to renal vein. Stage 3.

I can’t speak for anyone of the millions of brave cancer survivors and their story, but I can for Steve’s journey.

His journey has been created by our loving God for His purpose, for His kingdom, that He may be glorified in it all, and many given this hope through Steve’s testimony. You see, from the time Steve received his diagnosis of stage 3 renal cell carcinoma; unknown specification, on April , 2014, to his nephrectomy July 2014; it was just a few short months to October and a stage 4 diagnosis. Very rapid. Very aggressive cancer according to pathology.

Instead of surgery, treatment, then cancer free for a long period of time; which has been more of the norm in cancer care past, where one can heal over a period of time and gain physical strength back and live life a little more normal. Steve has been in treatment for cancer ever since October 2014. 3 1/2 years. He’s never been able to have his physical strength back or a time feeling well again. He’s lived in pain through a lot of this time, weak, fatigued and feeling ill often, due to either the treatments or the cancer itself.

Yet God provided the miracle of his being able to walk, which defies medical science. The Lord has enabled him, by His Spirit to get back to pastoring for a couple more years, until he was physically unable to any longer. The Lord gives him the physical strength to be able to teach periodically.

There are literal whole days he has to spend in bed due to extreme fatigue. Some days, just hours. Some days he has enough energy to be up, out and about. Whether he’s in bed with fatigue or a day with enough energy to serve the Lord or enjoy life moments, it’s all in the Lord’s hands.

We have read Streams in the Desert as one of our daily devotions for years. It’s one of our favorites. I had written notes of those 3 days in 2014. (See pic) The verses for these days couldn’t be anymore apropos. The Lord knows what we need.

2 Corinthians is Steve’s Book from the Bible where the Lord has guided him, comforted him, sustained him. I invite you to read it. Sit down with your coffee or tea and meet with the Lord there. He’ll show up, you won’t be disappointed.

I Can Do All Things Through Christ, Who Strengthens Me

A guest post by dear friend, Stephanie Pearson:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“ And He does because I ask Him to and allow Him to daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes with my every breath. For most of my life I knew that verse and thought I understood that verse. It wasn’t until my first child that I really JUST started to understand it’s depth.  I have to start by telling you about my beautiful blue eyed boy that God gifted to me. His Father and I laugh about it when we think back to how unprepared we were to be parents! We thought we were ready and had an idea of what we were doing. HaHa! Little did we know that our first gift was only preparation for what was to come. My first born was showing signs of developmental delays around six months old. By the time he was four he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome which is now known as Autistic Spectrum disorder. Being a parent can be challenging. Being a parent to a boy has it’s own unique set of challenges. Being a parent to a boy with Autism presents a uniquely complicated challenge that to be honest can make you ask God what His return policy is for gifts!  Please don’t get me wrong I love my son to pieces! He has taught his father and I more than we  thought we were capable of learning. He has taught us what it truly means to have the patience of Job and how to love unconditionally. Most importantly he taught us to rely on God….”Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

Like I said, my son was preparation for what was to come. I knew before my second child was born that I wanted her name to be Grace. I knew that I didn’t want it to be her first name. I also didn’t want people to call her Gracie. So my husband and I named our beautiful baby girl Sydnie Grace. At four months old Sydnie Grace had her first Grand-mal seizure. It lasted to the point that she stopped breathing and her heart stopped. I remember being shoved out of the room by a nurse as a crash cart was being brought in and the room was filling up with people in white coats. I remember begging God for His Mercy and His strength to wash over my daughter’s tiny blue body so that she could survive the seizure that was trying to take her life.

Sydnie Grace will be seventeen years old this year. She was diagnosed at the age of two with Mitochondrial Encephalopathy. At ten years old she was given a primary diagnosis of Dravet Syndrome. She has intractable epilepsy and is severely developmentally delayed. Sydnie will need someone to care for her for the rest of her life. Being her Mom and Caregiver on a daily basis can be overwhelming if I let it.  I am told fairly regularly “I don’t know how you do it?” meaning, how do you take care of someone who can not take care of themselves every day? My answer is always simply, it is not me. I am human, I am not superhuman. If I did not ask and truly allow Christ to strengthen me, I could not do it! There are plenty of days that I am so weary from lack of sleep after a long night of seizures, that I can barely put one foot in front of the other, but I do.  Every day I ask for God to give me Grace to accept whatever challenge may come and the strength to handle it. There is not a day that goes by that does not present some kind of challenge. Some days it is seizures. Some days it is poop!  Yes, poop! Due to the seizures she has Sydnie is incontinent. She learned to use the toilet at about two years old. She knows how to get to the bathroom and what she needs to do but there are some days that her body will not cooperate with her.  So Sydnie has to wear pull-ups daily. A case of the roto virus aka stomach bug becomes a seriously challenging day in my house! Those are known as AKA ‘trick poop days’. That means that somehow everything coming out of my child completely misses the pull-up.  On those days God sends me strength and grace through my daughter. When I discover that she needed to go to the bathroom and didn’t quite make it in time Sydnie will look at me and say “Saawwry”. She says she is sorry not because she thinks she has done something wrong or thinks she is in trouble. She says sorry because she knows it is not something she wanted to happen and she is going to need help. I tell her that I know it was an accident and it is okay!  So precious is that one word ‘sorry’and all that it means coming from her, in that moment my heart is full, my strength renewed and poo is conquered!

She is my heart. She is God’s most perfect gift. She is the reason I learned HOW to allow Christ to strengthen me. As a Mom, as a Caregiver to Special Needs children, I have learned to listen for God in the quiet, as well as the chaos. I also learned that if you focus on listening for Him, you might just hear Him speak through those He entrust you to care for. 😊

Resources

Good resource for family and friends of a loved one battling cancer, from a cancer patients perspective.

Caring for a Loved One With Cancer – by June Hunt

Grateful

Steve spoke at First Love Calvary Chapel in Whittier, CA last night. 4 people dedicated their lives to Christ and we were able to speak with and pray for others.

We are grateful for all the prayers.

Grace, Peace and Joy

Some thoughts I’m impressed upon to share, while sitting in the ER with Steve, Thursday, December 7, 2017.

I’ve been blessed to be asked of late, by many people, how I’m doing through all this. The love is felt from you all!❤️ Thankful and grateful for all you precious people God has placed in our lives.

I needed to sit and reflect a while in order to really give an accurate answer to that.

It will be 4 years next month since Steve first fell ill. Before we knew it was cancer.

(Took 3 months to get the diagnosis).

How am I doing? God has been my Rock, my Strength and Sustainer, my Peace, for which I’m eternally grateful!

Heb. 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

2Cor. 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Rom. 5:2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

2Cor. 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

2Cor. 12:9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

These are precious promises that I hold on to!

I have joy in so many ways. But alongside of it is sorrow. They seem to co-exist within me at this time. It is a paradox, but scripture says:

Psa. 30:5 Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.

Psa. 126:5 Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy.

Hab. 3:18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

John 15:11 ¶ “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

I post these scriptures so all will see Jesus. He is the Author and Finisher of my faith. He is my Savior and I believe His Word.

So, I face those moments, allow that pain and shed a few tears. I allow the sadness. It’s human and God designed us with emotions, but they are just moments. Moments of how our life looks nothing like the life we dreamed of. It died, we mourned, but our eyes and hearts are fixed on Jesus. We believe and know God has something planned that is His best for us. Not what we may think is our best, but His. The best is yet to come. We mourn the loss of health, not being with our children and my parents. We transitioned our church that we planted 15 1/2 years ago. We are sad, because we miss everyone, but we are joyous in its new beginning with Pastor Chris Reif, his wife Heather and 2 precious kiddos.

Our trust and hope are in God! So our thoughts do not linger on worry or the sorrow or pain. Rom. 15:13 ¶ Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. He has made everything beautiful in its time. ~ Ecclesiastes 3

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” ~ John 14:1-4

Don’t know the way? The way is Jesus. John 3:16, John 14:6 Read the Book of John. May you know the One Who is our peace, our joy, our comfort and hope.

In the grip of His grace,

<>< Monica