By the end of December last year, it was obvious that the cancer was getting the upper hand. Michael was really struggling physically. As concerned as I was about his health, I was even more concerned about his relationship with God. I wanted both of us to have the certainty that if he lost his battle with cancer, that he'd enjoy eternal life by faith in Christ and that I'd see him again. I'm selfish like that.
At this point, you may be asking yourself why evangelical Christians (like me) are so "narrow minded" about how one gets to Heaven. Don't all "good" people go to Heaven? I know this the way a lot of people think, and I really don't want to engage in a debate about it. But I don't think you can really understand why this was so important to me if you don't understand my belief system. I will tell you that it's because we (evangelical Christians) believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and that it reveals God's plan and purposes for His people past, present, and future.
For instance, we believe the words of Christ in John 14:6:
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."
And the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:8-10:
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”[a](that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
And here's one most of us have heard - John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
I'm not any kind of expert on apologetics, but if you'd like to read more in that vein, I highly recommend Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, by Ravi Zacharias who is, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant Christian writers and speakers alive today.
During this time, I was praying for the Lord to send godly men into Michael's life to share their faith with him. I knew it would mean more to him to hear it from another man he respected than for me to keep bringing it up. This is where Pastor Ray came in to our lives. I had not met Pastor Ray at church, nor did I know who he was as he is not the senior (preaching) pastor at Cottonwood. But, my mother-in-law had met Ray last fall, and she had known his parents for a long time. She had told me about Pastor Ray after meeting him, and he had been in the back of my mind ever since. I truly believe their meeting was no coincidence - it was the hand of God working in our lives.
So, I called Pastor Ray, told him about our situation, and I asked him to come out to the house and meet with us. When I let Michael know that we'd be having a visitor, who it was, and the reason for his visit, he wasn't that enthusiastic. So, I told him that it would also be a blessing for me to meet with Pastor Ray and have him pray with us. I said that I needed this visit, and Michael seemed to understand that.
The first time Pastor Ray came to see us he shared a bit about himself. We knew he was Filipino-American like Michael. We learned that he'd been raised Catholic - like Michael. Right there they had some common ground. He shared with us how as a young man he'd gotten involved with a gang and was living a dangerous life. One night a friend of his was killed in a bar brawl, and that hit Ray like a ton of bricks. He thought That could have been me! Faced with his own mortality, he sought out a friend who was a Christian. That friend shared the gospel with Ray and he committed his life to the Lord. If you met Ray today, you'd never imagine him as some gang banger. He is so approachable, gentle, and compassionate. He has been transformed by the Holy Spirit.
After sharing that much about himself, he asked Michael about his beliefs. Michael didn't really answer the question, but he did say that he'd spent a lot of time in churches as a paid musician and that it all seemed like a big show to him. What he was saying was that he doubted the authenticity of churches and the people in them. Ray briefly addressed that, and then he gently reiterated his initial question to Michael. What did he believe?
To be concluded tomorrow...