Dear CRI Partner:
“He must become greater; I must become less.”
—John the Baptist
As many of you know, I recently underwent an allogeneic stem cell transplant in which I received the healthy stem cells of my son Paul Stephen in the hopes that they would overtake my weakened, cancer consumed cells and breathe new life into my broken body. In short, a successful transplant process would result in his cells winning the battle against my own.
I write to you today with wonderful news.
Physically speaking, I no longer have my own blood system. I have the blood system of another, that of my son Paul Stephen, grafted into me, grafted into my marrow, which is producing healthy blood to sustain my body. Physically, I am well on the road to recovery.
With any allogeneic stem cell transplant, however, there is the risk of Host Versus Graft Disease, in which “the donated stem cells view the recipient’s body as foreign, and the donated cells attack the body.”
The physical and spiritual parallels are simply astounding.
As St. Ignatius of Antioch contended, when we become partakers of Christ, “the medicine of immortality” courses through our veins, with the Spirit of Christ engrafted into our soul. However, we still have a sinful nature that seeks self-sufficiency, creating the spiritual equivalent of a Host Versus Graft Disease, in which our sinful tendencies try to supersede the sanctification process of the Savior.
Simply put, sin doesn’t disappear from our lives.
We crave self-sufficiency. The reality is, we are nothing without Christ. Nothing.
I can write these words with certainty because I have seen the end of myself. While in the hospital, I became totally and utterly reliant on others in order to meet my most basic of needs. I came mere seconds from meeting our Maker, were it not for His providential provision in sending my son David to the hospital just in time to find me in the midst of a medical emergency that would send me to the Intensive Care Unit.
As I laid in the ICU on life support, I came to an end of myself, realizing that the illusion of self-sufficiency is just that — an illusion.
The words of C. T. Studd’s epic poem rang through my ears louder than ever. “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
If the Lord would allow me to live, I will loudly proclaim the glory of His name.
After facing a similar bout with death, my father shared a comparable conclusion in a letter written to his mother:
“Unless the heart has died, while we are alive, our hearts long for earth. It is only during sickness that we realize that we are actually in the process of dying, and we become more aware of the possibility of living. Then all our goals, which are no worthy goals, and all the pleasures that do not stand the test of eternity vanish.
“There is only one goal; your heart and mine crave paradise. This craving for paradise is often diminished when we enjoy our health. However, from the shadowy gate of death, the ray of paradise’s light escapes. I had seen heaven opened and the apostles peering down to get me. I was allowed to continue here below. I wanted to be a father to my family, especially for our son Hank, who I knew needed me. The vision never went away. There was much work to be done yet. God spared my life; it was, therefore, no longer my own.”
My father survived this scare with death but carried his encounter with Christ and conveyed it into over 30 years of serving his Savior through a life of ministry.
Without presumption, it has long been my belief that I will not die but live and proclaim the works of the Lord in my life. I will never forget waking up in the middle of the night when I was first diagnosed with cancer and reading the words of the Psalmist,
I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
The Lord has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death. (Psalm 118:17–18)
It wasn’t until I had come to the end of myself that I realized God had been performing serious spiritual surgery on my soul. This spiritual surgery is but a step in the process of sanctification that is experienced by believers being transformed through the process of life in Christ.
However, the Host Versus Graft Disease is a real threat that we all experience in the relentless battle of the human condition after the fall. Yet, unlike the physical failings of our earthly existences, we can be confident that the engrafted life in Christ will carry us to paradise.
God is not interested in healing you physically. He is interested in healing the whole of you — body, soul, and spirit. So you can serve Him wholly.
While battling cancer, I have been sustained by the support of so many fellow believers from around the world who harnessed the most powerful possession humanity holds — prayer.
In turn, it is my heartfelt prayer that you will continue to stand
shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the battle for truth and life!
Decades of ministry have led me — us — to this moment. I believe that the Lord is going to use the ministry of the Christian Research Institute in unprecedented ways, and your partnership, combined with the Lord’s providential guidance, makes all this possible.
I can honestly say that I have never been more excited about a book than I am about my upcoming release, Truth Matters, Life Matters More. It is a vulnerable voyage, detailing my personal pilgrimage from a life devoted to a defense of truth (because truth matters!) to my discovery that life matters more.
Christ is Risen!
Host, Bible Answer Man Broadcast
P.S. Although my newest book was written before my recent hospital ordeal, having narrowly sidestepped my “graduation to glory,” I must confess that the title is now overlaid with a new depth of meaning. That’s why I’d love to send you a copy to express my heartfelt thanks for your support in sustaining all of CRI’s mind-shaping and life-changing outreaches.
For your gift today, I’ll be happy to send you an autographed version of Truth Matters, Life Matters More. And for a special gift of $100 or more, I’ll be pleased to personalize a copy with a message of your choice to you, a loved one, or friend. My deepest thanks for all of the lives impacted each and every day because of your partnership!