Last October I had the great joy of attending the Deeper Conference (run by Way of the Master) in Atlanta. It was an awesome conference featuring speakers Paul Washer, Ken Ham, Marshall Foster, Johnny Hunt, Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, Todd Friel, and Emeal "EZ" Zwayne. At the end of the conference many of the attendees gathered to hit the downtown area of Atlanta to preach open air and witness.
I have listened to Todd Friel on his radio show Wretched Radio (formerly Way of the Master Radio) for 3 years and I was thrilled to not only meet Todd for the first time but to also drive into Atlanta with him. Also in our car was a pastor from Pittsburgh called Ralph. Ralph witnessed fervently all night and the fact that he was usually the last to finish witnessing attested to his desperation to reach the lost. It is great to know that there are still many low profile pastors out there faithfully serving God and carrying out the Great Commission.
At the end of the night we all said our goodbyes. But within several weeks I recieved an e-mail from Ralph . . .
Hey Cameron! I was the guy in the back seat with you and Todd from the 500 outreach. I just wanted to send you an e-mail to let you know that I am praying for your ministry. I have continued to read your blog daily and have found it to be a blessing. I pray that the Lord continues to use you in a greater way. You have been blessed with many talents and gifts. From the brief time in Atlanta I know that you want to glorify God with your heart, mind, soul, and strength. The day after the outreach I drove back home 12 hours. I was home for 1 hour and had a stroke that paralyzed my right side. I also lost my speech. While I was in the hospital I used the passion that I saw exhibited that night by both you and Todd as motivation to draw strength from. I have to say "Thank You!" May the Lord bless you and your family.
Considering Ralph's condition I was humbled by his willingness to be such an encouragement. I shudder to think how much selflessness I would display in that situation. I wrote back asking Ralph for updates on his condition. He wrote back . . .
Hey Cameron, I been getting better. The doctors have me going to physical therapy to get my strength back. I only have about 1/3 the strength in my right side. My speech is better and my memory is improving. I was able to witness to all the doctors and nurses in the hospital. Many came to tears so I was grateful that the Lord provided me the opportunity.
I am so inspired and honored to know Ralph. Instead of wallowing in a situation and asking for God to remove the trial, Ralph used it to glorify God and witness to his doctor who had a far greater physical ailment than Ralph - the wrath of God abiding on him (John 3:36).
I am all for praying for the sick and wholeheartedly believe that God still heals. But in a consumer driven society I believe we can sometimes obscure the most important need, that of righteousness found only in Christ, by making people's felt needs our first port of call. If their "felt needs" are fully met initially they can end up worshipping the "Problem Solver" rather that the "Rightoeusness Giver". I know this today because many modern churches are full of people who have realised their satisfaction in healing, love, acceptance, and community but without hungering and thirsting after the righteousness found only in Christ. May we tread with wisdom and care in this matter. We should be salt and light in a fallen world and we are compelled to love selflessly and sacrificially as our Lord commanded us - but beware lest you become the doctor who binds up wounds and never treats the cancer.
Ralph has a serious medical condition and I can only hope and pray that I would exhibit half as much godly character as Ralph did in that hospital. Ralph sent a message loud and clear to the doctors and nurses in that hospital . . .
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)
The medical staff in that hospital would have been strongly reminded that no matter how many lives they save, those lives (and their own) are still ultimately subject to the law of sin and death. Doctors can only temporarily save a life - and only God can save a soul. It is a powerful truth we should regularly remind the surrounding world of.
Ralph has since found out that his condition is more serious than first thought. Please pray for him and send notes of encouragement as comments under this post. Ralph is a regular reader of this blog and he will get to read them. If you are a member of Ralph's church count yourself very blessed to have a shepherd of this calibre. People like Ralph are the real heroes this side of eternity.
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